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Complainant Name:
Miss Sharon Clark

Clauses Noted: 6

Publication: Maidenhead Advertiser


Miss Sharon Clark complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined "Dad dies trying to save daughter", published in the Maidenhead Advertiser on 21 July 2011, included a photograph of her daughter without consent in breach of Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

The article reported on the death of Michael Payne who had died after jumping into the Thames to save his thirteen-year-old daughter. The article had included a photograph of the girl with her father. The complainant, the child's mother, said that she had not given consent for the photograph of her daughter to appear and the article had caused significant distress to her and her family.

The newspaper said that the photograph had been provided by a news agency and it had understood at the time that the relevant consent had been given. After receiving the complaint, it had been informed that the photograph had been obtained from Facebook and no consent had been obtained. The newspaper accepted a breach of Clause 6 and apologised to the family in the form of a private letter. It was unable to agree to her request for a goodwill payment, however.

The complainant did not accept the newspaper's apology.



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".

The article in this case clearly related to the welfare of the complainant's daughter: it had reported how her father had lost his life while trying to save her. The photograph showed the complainant's daughter in a bathing costume hugging her father.

In the context of the story, this was plainly an intrusive image. It was the newspaper's responsibility to check that the relevant consent had been obtained for the publication of the photograph, especially given the age of the girl and the tragedy she had just suffered. It had not done so and had therefore clearly breached the terms of Clause 6. Given the nature of the breach, the Commission did not consider that it could be properly remedied after the event. While the Commission welcomed the newspaper's immediate acknowledgement of this, and its letter of apology, the complaint was still upheld.


The Commission also received a complaint about the publication of the same photograph in The Daily Telegraph on 16 July 2011, which raised a breach of the Code for the reasons stated above. In addition to an apology, the newspaper met the complainant's request for a goodwill payment and the complaint was resolved privately between the parties prior to the Commission being asked to rule on the matter.

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

Date Published:

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