Belfast Telegraph apologises over pictures taken at child's funeral without consent of family

The Belfast Telegraph has apologised after a complaint that a photographer hid in a churchyard to get a picture of a child’s coffin entering a church.

The child’s godmother Shauna O’Neill complained to press regulator IPSO on behalf of her mother Bridgina Kinney saying the title breached the following clauses of the Editors’ Code:

  • Clause 1 (Accuracy)
  • Clause 2 (Privacy)
  • Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)
  • Clause 6 (Children)
  • And Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge).

The story headlined “Hundreds pack church as meningitis victim Bronagh is laid to rest” was published on 23 February 2017.

The article reported on her funeral, including details of the service. It was accompanied by a picture of Brónagh, and a picture of her coffin being carried into the church.

The complainant said that a journalist had hidden in the graveyard, from where he took the picture of the coffin entering the church.

She said the journalist then proceeded uninvited into the church, where he was asked to leave by those attending.

She said the journalist claimed he had been given permission to attend by the family, but this was not the case.

She also raised concerns that the journalist took a copy of the mass booklet, from where the newspaper obtained the photograph of Brónagh. And she said the newspaper published the photograph taken of the coffin entering the church, which she said included a ten-year-old boy.

The article also allegedly contained a number of inaccuracies about the funeral service.

The Belfast telegraph said the freelance photographer who had attended the funeral was not on church property when he took the picture of the coffin entering the church and had not hidden in the graveyard.

It said the photographer was approached by an individual outside the church and asked if the family were aware that he was present. He said he was not sure, but told the person she could contact the newspaper’s picture desk if she was concerned.

The newspaper said that the photographer entered the foyer, asked for an order of service, in accordance with normal practice, and left. It said that at no point was the photographer asked to leave, nor did he pretend to be a member of the congregation.

It said that when it became aware the family objected to the use of Brónagh’s image, it removed it from online editions. It said that the image of the coffin entering the church was a normal feature of coverage of funerals.

IPSO has not published an adjudication because the family was satisfied with the following published apology.

Headed APOLOGY: MRS GINA KINNEY, it said:

“In our edition of February 23, we carried a report on the funeral of Brónagh Kinney in Cushendall, which included a picture of Brónagh, which had appeared on the order of service. We were unaware that the family did not want this image to be published more widely.

“Our article also included a picture of the cortege entering the church.

“It has come to our attention that a child who was part of funeral procession was photographed without the necessary consent being given. We apologise to Mrs Gina Kinney and the family for any further distress that was caused by our use of these pictures.

“As a gesture of goodwill, the newspaper also offered to make a donation to a charity nominated by the Kinney family.”

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