Camberley title breached code with teen illness story

The Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint against a local newspaper for failing to get parental consent before publishing an article about a 13-year-old girl with chronic fatigue syndrome.

The Camberley News and Mail reported on a fundraising effort by one of the girl’s friends for M.E. Research UK and included a photograph of the two girls, with their names and details of the medical condition.

Her parents complained that they had not given consent for their daughter’s name and photo to be used. They said they had previously chosen to inform people of her condition only when necessary, and the article had therefore caused great distress.

The News and Mail apologised and said it had wanted to support the fundraising effort. The photographer who attended the event had been given information about the disease by the girl’s friend and had not realised it was confidential.

The PCC said in its ruling today that there was “significant potential for intrusion” and said “appropriate checks” should have be made before publication.

The commission “expressed concern that the photographer had apparently acted on an assumption that the information was not confidential, without verifying this”.

The article was found to be in breach of Clause 3 (privacy) and Clause 6 (children) of the Editors’ Code.

PCC head of complaints and pre-publication services, Charlotte Dewar, said: “The publication of medical details poses a serious potential for intrusion, and the issue of consent is critical.

“In this instance, there was an additional factor: the information related to a child, who receives additional protection from intrusion under the terms of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

“The Commission accepted that the newspaper had intended only to support a local cause, but its failure to obtain proper consent from the child’s parents for the publication of information about her condition led to an unfortunate breach of the Code.”

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