PCC raps Sunday World over bukkake sex craze reports

Belfast-based weekly the Sunday World has been censured by the PCC for a “bad editorial lapse” concerning two articles which exposed a “shocking new group sex craze”.

The two September 2009 reports were headlined “Private members club” and “Bukkake gigolo” and were about a “sex craze” called “bukkake”.

A man, who has not been named, complained to the Press Complaints Commission saying the articles breached clause 1 of the Editors’ Code(accuracy), clause 3 (privacy) and clause 10 (subterfuge).

Following an undercover investigation, the Sunday World reported that the man “charged an entrance fee to attend such events and made ‘big money’ doing so” the paper said that he and his wife were a “sex-for-sale couple” and that he was a “secret male escort/gigolo”.

The man said he organised the events, which were not illegal, as a hobby and that he did not profit from them. He voiced concern that the newspaper had used subterfuge as part of its investigation. The Sunday World coverage featured stills from footage shot using a hidden camera by the newspaper’s undercover reporter who had attended part of one event.

The Sunday World told the PCC in its defence that there were strong grounds to believe that the complainant organised such events as part of a business. It said the reporter had been obliged to pay in order to attend the event in question and that the public availability of footage taken from such events on the internet meant that they could not be considered to be private.

It told the PCC that a senior medical officer had said that the participants were at risk from sexually transmitted diseases.

Upholding the man’s complaint, the PCC said: “While the newspaper was entitled to report on the sex industry in its local area, and offer its own robust comment and criticism about some of the associated practices, it was not free to pursue any journalistic approach to do so. There had to be sufficient public interest to justify the conduct of the journalists and the content of the articles.

“On this occasion, the reporter had used a hidden camera to film the complainant, without his consent, in a private place in which a number of participants were about to be involved in consensual, legal sexual activity. The newspaper had used stills from this footage in its articles.

“Both the filming and the published images constituted a serious intrusion, which required a high level of public interest to justify. The newspaper could not reach that level in its defence, arguing only that practice of bukkake raised a possible health risk.

“The commission took that into account, but did not believe this defence was able to justify specifically the use of the hidden camera on this occasion. The newspaper was in a position to expose the existence of bukkake parties (and the attendant health risks) without using such undercover footage.

“The newspaper had also not provided sufficient evidence to support its assertion that the complainant was making ‘big money’ from bukkake events. It had not provided any evidence at all that the complainant hired himself out as a ‘gigolo’, or that his wife had ‘paid-for sex with strangers’.

“This case revealed a bad editorial lapse on the part of the newspaper, compounded by an unacceptably slow response to the PCC investigation.”

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