Daily Telegraph: accused of intruding into privacy of boy at care home
The Press Complaints Commission, normally vigilant in protecting the welfare of children, has chosen not to uphold a complaint against The Daily Telegraph provoked by an article about a Hampshire children’s care home.
While the commission emphasised that it would continue to protect the interests of "the vulnerable, especially children", in the very specific circumstances of the Telegraph case it found there had been no breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
The complaint was about a story headlined "The lost children", published in The Daily Telegraph on 17 March, in which a woman said the newspaper had intruded into her young son’s privacy.
The article recounted the experiences of a journalist from the newspaper, who had spent a long weekend visiting a children’s care home in Hampshire. It included descriptions of some of the children at the home and details of their individual circumstances, as well as photographs of some of the residents and care workers. The woman, through her solicitors, said that details of her young son’s situation were included in the article without permission and that photographs of him had been taken and published without her consent or that of anyone at the home. The newspaper said that the complainant’s son had not been interviewed and emphasised that it had not named him or the care home. It said it had the permission of the home manager to take pictures of him provided that he was not identifiable and he was not.
Members of staff at the home claimed contemporaneous notes showed they would be able to approve the article before publication. The Telegraph disputed this, suggesting the notes demonstrated that staff had been aware that photos were taken and were happy about the situation. The manager of the home claimed she had informed the newspaper’s journalists that consent had not been provided for the complainant’s son to be interviewed or photographed. The newspaper stated that at no point had its staff been told that the complainant’s son could not be photographed, only that his identity must be disguised.
While the commission felt a great deal of sympathy for the complainant, since her wishes did not seem to have been followed, it could not conclude, without firm evidence, that the journalists had been aware of her requirements. It did not make a finding on this point.
However, it did not consider the photographs jeopardised the boy’s welfare and there had clearly been no interview of the boy.
"The boy would not be identifiable to anybody unless they were already aware of his very specific situation. His name, and the name of the home, had been altered, the story of the fictional ‘Christopher’ was not identical to his and none of the published photos showed his face," said the commission.
By Jean Morgan