The South Wales Guardian has been censured by the Press Complaints Commission for publishing a photograph of a young child without permission of its adoptive parents.
The parents, through Carmarthenshire County Council, complained that an article, headed “My Maxine is not evil – mum”, and published on 4 August included a photograph of their daughter when she was aged thirteen months.
The article was an interview with the mother of a woman who had been convicted of murder in 2008.
In the course of the interview she had spoken about her daughter’s appeal and the adoption of her daughter’s child as a result of the conviction.
The child’s new parents told the press watchdog they had not consented to publication of the photograph, and were concerned that the child – who was now three years old – had been identified as a result.
The newspaper told the PCC the photograph had been authorised by the child’s biological mother and grandmother.
It also argued that the information about the child had not been unduly intrusive, and that the consequences of the crime committed by the child’s mother – as well as the actions of social services with regard to the adoption – were a legitimate subject for public scrutiny.
Clause 6 of the Editors’ Code states: ‘A child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.”
Despite the paper’s stance, the PCC ruled yesterday that the South Wales Guardian had breached reporting guidelines as the photograph, given the context of the article, clearly involved the child’s welfare.
In addition, consent of the custodial parents had not been obtained before publication and there was not an exceptional public interest to justify use of the photo.
Stephen Abell, director of the PCC, said: “The editors’ code correctly goes to exceptional lengths to safeguard children and provides them with strong protection from intrusive attention.
‘A breach of the code such as this would require an exceptional public interest to override the normally paramount interests of the child.
‘In this case, the commission did not consider that there were exceptional public interest grounds specifically to justify the publication of the picture – even though it did recognise there was a general public interest in the story.
‘The complaint was upheld as a result”.