Press Complaints Commission
spacer spacer
SEARCH FOR     Or try the cases search  
Cases Banner
Making a complaint
Code of Practice Information
Code Advice

Complainant Name:
Mr Mick Price

Clauses Noted: 1, 6, 10

Publication: The Observer


Mr Mick Price, Head of Youth and Community at Kent County Council, Mr Keith Sansum, Chair of Archers Court Youth Centre, Mr and Mrs Tridgell of Dover and Mr M Bonnage of Dover complained that an article in The Observer on 21 November 1999 headlined "Teenagekicks" contained inaccuracies, intruded without consent into the privacy of children at the youth centre and that photographs were obtained by misrepresentation in breach of Clauses 1 (Accuracy), 6 (Children) and 11 (Misrepresentation) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint under Clause 6 (Children) is upheld.

The Observer Life magazine published photographs of children between the ages of 12 and 16 taken at three different youth centre discos. The photographs were accompanied by text commenting in general terms about adolescence. The children were not named but were clearly identifiable to those who knew them.

The complainants, who are the parents of some of the children photographed and representatives of one of the youth centres featured, said that the newspaper did not have proper permission to publish the photographs. The photographer told the youth worker at the centre that she was a student and wished to take photographs for her portfolio. The youth worker gave her permission to do so, provided the children agreed. He said that no mention was ever made of the photographs being published. The complainants said that the photographs were obtained through subterfuge, intruded into the children's privacy, and gave the inaccurate impression that the centre allows children to consume alcohol.

The newspaper said that the freelance photographer is a student and the photographs were for her portfolio. However, she maintained that she had mentioned to the youth worker the possibility that the photographs might also appear in a national newspaper. Prior to publication, the editor of the magazine, the picture editor and the assistant editor checked with the photographer that she had permission to take the photographs. Most student photographic portfolios are, in any case, published in some form, and these photographs had already appeared in other publications covering new graduate talent.



The Commission noted that there was no dispute that the photographer had identified herself to the youth worker. Therefore it did not find a breach of Clause 11. The photographs from the various youth centres were clearly labelled. None of the children in photographs from Archers Court Youth Centre were depicted consuming alcohol and the text made clear that alcohol is banned. There was therefore no breach of Clause 1.

The purpose of Clause 6 of the Code is to protect the welfare of children under the age of 16 - and that means that newspapers should take particular care to seek full and proper consent when publishing pictures of children which might embarrass them, interrupt their schooling or damage their welfare in some other way. In this case the pictures - which were of an embarrassing nature - could clearly have had such an impact on the children's welfare.

It was not disputed that the photographer had approached the senior youth and community worker at the centre about taking photographs. Whether or not she had mentioned the possibility of the photographs being published, the onus was on the newspaper to carry out the appropriate checks prior to publication. It appeared that the newspaper had relied solely on the word and recollection of the freelance student photographer that permission had been given for the photographs to appear in a national newspaper. In view of the protection afforded to children under Clause 6, the Commission considered that the newspaper should have been more thorough in its pre-publication checks and should have contacted the youth centres involved.


<< Go Back
Home ] Cases ] Site map ]