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Complainant Name:
Mr and Mrs C J Sweet

Clauses Noted: 6

Publication: Evening Standard

Complaint:

Mr and Mrs C J Sweet of London SW11, complained that an article in the Evening Standard on 17 March 2000 headlined “Party animals” contained an interview with their son which had taken place without their consent in breach of Clause 6 (Children) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint is upheld.

The complaint concerned a feature in ES Magazine on children’s parties, including a party for 12 to 13 year-olds attended by the complainants’ son and his friends. The complainants objected that the piece included an unauthorised interview with their son on subjects involving his welfare. Their consent had not been sought and the publication of the interview had caused distress and embarrassment. The complainants said that neither they, nor anyone on their behalf, had given express or tacit permission for the interview and photographs to take place or for publication to follow. The organisers of the party were not authorised to give such permission.

The newspaper considered that they had obtained proper consent, from parents or other adults responsible for the children, to carry out the interviews and take the photographs. The party was organised by a professional company. In view of the age of the children, the party organisers considered themselves to be in loco parentis and kept a close eye on what was going on throughout. The party organisers had invited the newspaper to attend and had informed every parent at the door of their presence and intention to interview the children. No one objected. The children were interviewed in groups on their thoughts about the party. The comments made by the complainants’ son could not reasonably be considered embarrassing or damaging to his welfare.

Decision:
Upheld

Adjudication:

Clause 6 of the Code affords protection to children from unnecessary intrusion and states clearly that journalists must not interview or photograph children under the age of 16 on subjects involving their welfare in the absence of consent from a parent or other responsible adult. The Commission considered that the subject matter on which the complainant’s son was interviewed was of a potentially embarrassing nature and in view of some of the remarks he was quoted as making, the newspaper should have taken particular care to ensure that his parents consented to publication. The Commission did not consider that it was sufficient to rely on the arrangements made by the party organisers who, although they may have been responsible for the security of the children during the evening, could not have been fully in loco parentis.

Report:
50



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