The Daily Record has been censured by the Press Complaints Commission for publishing a photo of man killed in a car crash.
The man’s wife, Laura McQueen, complained to the press watchdog that the photo was ‘graphic’– clearly showing the dead man’s face – and said it had caused ‘severe shock and upset to her family”.
Her complaint under Clause 5, intrusion into grief or shock, of the Editors’ Code of Practice was upheld.
The picture was published on 16 December 2011 in a story headlined ‘Two die in lorry, car and minibus pile-up”, reporting on a traffic accident the day before in which McQueen’s husband and another man were killed.
When she complained the Record made an ‘immediate and unreserved’apology to the family, claiming it had been published through error and that staff ‘had not realised that the image included the complainant’s husband”.
It later issued new rules to its picture desk and production staff on the use of photos featuring graphic content ‘to ensure that such an error would not recur”.
It also published an apology on page two of the paper, the wording of which had been agreed with the family through the PCC, illustrated with a picture of Mr McQueen chosen by the family.
The paper’s editor also offered to meet McQueen to apologise in person, but according to the PCC she ‘remained distressed by the newspaper’s error and did not consider she had received meaningful redress”.
In its adjudication, the PCC said both parties accepted the use of an “explicit image of the complainant’s husband the day after his death had been a grievous error”, but the commission accepted it had been published inadvertently.
Despite this, it concluded that its publication did not represent ‘sensitive handling”, as required by the code, and amounted to a ‘clear breach”.
‘The sole remaining question for the Commission was whether the steps taken by the newspaper had represented a sufficient remedy to this breach,’the PCC said.
‘The newspaper had responded rapidly once it was aware of the situation and had published a prominent apology to the family; its editor had offered to meet family members in person to apologise; and it had tightened its procedures to prevent such an error from recurring.
‘The commission considered that this had been an appropriate and responsible reaction to the issues raised by the complaint and the distress caused to the complainant.
‘Nonetheless, in all the circumstances of this case, it concluded that the action taken by the newspaper was insufficient to remedy the breach of the code; and moreover, that the breach on this occasion was not capable of remedy.
‘There was therefore an outstanding breach of the code, and the complaint was upheld.”
In October 2011 the paper had a similar complaint upheld when it published a photograph of a man whose body was found near Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.