Hull Daily Mail breached Editors' Code with photo of paedophile clown

A regional newspaper has been reprimanded after publishing a picture of a convicted paedophile with two children unrelated to his crimes.

The Hull Daily Mail published an article online on 9 December last year headlined “Kids entertainer ‘Bobby Bubbles’ raped child who ‘thought she was in love’ with him”.

It reported that the man was well known in the local area as a children’s entertainer and clown, and that he regularly came into contact with children in his work.

While there was no issue with the print version, the online article on Hull Live included a picture of the disgraced entertainer at the opening of a venue with two children.

The children’s faces were pixelated, but their bodies and hair were not.

The image appeared in the Google search results for the newspaper, as well on social media posts.

The mother of the two children pictured complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, saying they were still identifiable as the photograph had been taken at the opening of a venue in 2017 and had been widely circulated.

She told IPSO she had been contacted by many people who were familiar with the image and recognised her children.

She added that the image of the children was taken in the context of a fun day, and she did not consent to its use in the context of a court report.

When she contacted the newspaper directly, it cropped her children from the image.

However, she said that the image had been widely shared on social media by this point.

The woman said her children had been distressed and confused by the use of the photograph to illustrate a court report of a convicted paedophile.

She also said that other children at school and extra-curricular clubs had been able to identify them and had asked them about the article.

She added that the the photo in conjunction with the headline gave the impression that her daughter was the victim of the convicted man.

Many people had contacted her to ask whether this was the case, causing her and her daughter much distress, she said.

The Hull Daily Mail denied any breach of the Editors’ Code.

It apologised for any distress caused and added that the image was cropped after the woman made contact.

The newspaper said parental consent for the photo’s publication had been gained at the time it was taken.

It said that any child who had been able to identify the children must also have read the full article and therefore understood that the victim was now an adult and so could not be the girl pictured.

It further added republishing the picture could not be seen as an intrusion into their privacy, and did not accept the children were identifiable.

IPSO said that while parental consent had been given for the original purpose of the photograph, the use of it in the context of a court report about a convicted paedophile raised issues regarding the welfare of a child.

The committee said that as the children were identified by their peers their school lives had been interfered with, resulting in a breach of Clause 6 (children) of the code.

However, the mother’s complaints regarding privacy and accuracy, over the inaccurate impression of the photo and headline together, were dismissed.

IPSO ordered the Hull Daily Mail to publish an adjudication online with a link to it (including the headline) on its website homepage for 24 hours, as well as a link on the social media channels where the photo appeared.

Read the full IPSO ruling here.

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