The Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint against the Maidenhead Advertiser for publishing a photograph of a thirteen-year old girl without consent.
In its defence the newspaper said the photograph came from a news agency and it believed consent had been given – only to later learn it was taken from Facebook without consent.
The article was published on 21 July following the death of Michael Payne when he jumped into the Thames to save his thirteen-year-old daughter.
It featured a photograph of the child in a bathing costume hugging her father.
The girl’s mother, Sharon Clark, complained to the PCC that the photograph used in the story – headlined “Dad dies trying to save daughter” – caused ‘considerable distress” and had been published without consent, in breach of Clause 6 of the Editors’ Code of Conduct.
The newspaper, which is owned by the Louis Baylis Charitable Trust, accepted a breach of the code and apologised privately to the family.
The PCC ruled the newspaper had a responsibility to check consent had been obtained and that this was ‘particularly important given the nature of the story and the child’s age”.
The watchdog welcomed the steps that the newspaper had taken but ruled that ‘there could be no proper remedy because of the seriousness of the breach”.
Clause 6 (ii) of the Code states that “a child under 16 must not be photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents”.
A complaint against The Daily Telegraph about publication of the same photograph was resolved between the parties prior to the commission being asked to rule on the matter.
The PCC noted that in addition to an apology the newspaper met the complainant’s request for a ‘goodwill payment”
It said: ‘The complainant’s decision to accept the resolution meant that her case against the Daily Telegraph was withdrawn having been settled, but this ruling makes clear the PCC’s position that the photograph raised a breach of the code.
‘It agreed that the chairman would follow up the complaint by writing to the newspaper directly.”
Commenting on the decision PCC director Stephen Abell added: “The issue of consent is crucial in any story which involves the welfare of a child, and particularly so in this case where the circumstances were so sensitive.
‘The responsibility lies with the newspaper or magazine to ascertain who is the competent authority to grant consent, and ensure that the correct procedures are followed.
‘The image in this case was clearly intrusive, and the Commission felt that its publication raised a serious breach of the code.”