The Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint against the Barking and Dagenham Recorder and issued a stern reminder about privacy laws after the paper published photographs of a police raid on a woman’s home.
A journalist from the paper accompanied police on the raid, which was intended to recover stolen goods.
No stolen items were found on the raid, and this was made clear in the article published on 15 May 2008, headlined “Police raids in hunt for stolen sat-navs”. But it wasl illustrated with photographs of the property as well as a pixellated photograph of the complainant’s 17-year-old son in handcuffs in his bedroom.
The unnamed female complainant said the newspaper had breached clause three (privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice and claimed that people had recognised her property and her son and that she was concerned that the reporter and photographer had been on her property taking photos without consent.
The commission rejected the newspaper’s defence that it had been invited to accompany the police and said it was the responsibility of the editor to get consent for publication or ‘otherwise to comply with the code when deciding which material to publish”, and said that the editor had been guilty of ‘an error of judgement”.
The PCC also rejected the paper’s claims it had taken steps to ensure the complainant; her son and her address were not identified, and added that there was no public interest defence for publishing the photographs as no stolen goods were found and no arrests were made.
The commission said: ‘Taking and publishing the photograph of the inside of the complainant’s home was clearly very intrusive, regardless of whether or not [her son]’s face had been obscured in the published picture”.
ACPO guidance on media coverage of police raids
In a reminder to editors that they ‘cannot invade a person’s privacy with impunity just because they have the consent of the police”, the commission expressed its concern that this ruling came after a similar ruling in July against the Scarborough Evening News for publishing an online video that showed the interior of a woman’s home during a police raid.
The current guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers states that entry on to private property by the media cannot be authorised by the police, the police will not seek permission on behalf of the media and it is the responsibility of the media to seek permission from the owner to enter the property.