The Press Complaints Commission today ruled that The Sun was wrong to secretly film a convicted paedophile at work in a supermarket because there was no public interest in revealing his job – despite ruling that the story as a whole was legitimate.
It is the first national newspaper video to result in a PCC adjudication.
A reporter from The Sun had filmed the man making a delivery to a children’s nursery, months after he was found guilty of making and distributing pornographic images of children and put on the Sex Offenders’ Register.
The PCC ruled that this aspect of the story, which was published online on 21 February, had clear public interest and there was “considerable public interest in the story as a whole”, but it said that to film him at work was unjustified.
It was a breach of article 10 of the Editors’ Code of Practice, which bans the use of clandestine listening and filming devices except where there is clear public interest.
The Sun argued that its story was valid but still decided to take down the footage from its website prior to today’s ruling.
The complaint to the PCC was made by the sex offender’s mother.
The PCC’s adjudication said: ‘The commission concluded that there was a considerable public interest justification for the story as a whole, given that the complainant’s son had made a delivery – as part of his job – to a children’s nursery following his conviction for distributing, making and possessing pornographic images of children. The newspaper was entitled to highlight, and comment robustly on, this situation.
‘It was more difficult, however, to justify the taking and use of the audiovisual footage of the complainant’s son at work in the supermarket, given that the public interest element of the story related only to the delivery to the nursery.
‘The commission has always said that there must be a powerful public interest justification for the use of undercover filming. On this occasion, there was no dispute that he worked for the supermarket, and the footage was not necessary to prove it. There was therefore insufficient justification for the subterfuge, and the result was a breach of Clause 10 of the Code on this one specific point.”