Clauses Noted: 5
Publication: The Scottish Sun
Mrs Rosemary MacLeod complained to the Press Complaints Commission on behalf of the Hoy family that an article headlined "Tears for Hoy uncle at funeral in Edinburgh", published in The Scottish Sun on 18 November 2012, raised a breach of Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief and shock) of the Editors' Code of Practice.
The complaint was upheld.
The article reported that Sir Chris Hoy had attended the funeral of his uncle, Derek Hoy, and contained details of the eulogy. It was accompanied by photographs of the mourners, including Mr Hoy's widow, outside the church.
The complainant said that the publication of the photograph of Mr Hoy's widow had grossly intruded into her privacy. The photographer had been present in the church grounds during the service and had been asked by a family member to leave the family alone a number of times. He had subsequently left the grounds and had apparently taken the photographs under complaint from the street. He had then been asked again to leave and had done so. The complainant was also concerned about references in the article to the eulogy, which demonstrated that the reporter had attended the service.
The newspaper apologised for the distress caused to the family but stated that the attendance of Sir Chris made the funeral newsworthy. It had sent a freelance reporter and photographer to cover the service, respectfully and at a distance. The photographer had entered the church grounds during the service in order to take shelter under a tree. Following an approach from a mourner - who had informed him he was being "disrespectful" - the photographer had left the grounds, and the photographs under complaint had been taken after the service from the street. After a further approach from a mourner asking him to "leave the family alone", he had left the area. The newspaper acknowledged that the reporter had attended the service, sitting at the back of the church, but said he had taken this step to ensure that the story was accurate and that it was able to publish the best possible tribute to Mr Hoy. It took steps to resolve the complaint, which included the removal of the photograph from the online article and an offer to write a letter of apology to the Hoy family.
Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) states that "in cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively".
While some families consider the funeral of loved ones to be a public celebration of their lives and welcome members of the press, for many it is an intensely private event. Repeated approaches by mourners at the funeral to the photographer regarding his presence were a clear indication that the family was unlikely to welcome the publication of photographs. The newspaper should have paid strong regard to this. Funerals are inevitably a difficult time for families, and they should not have to be concerned about the publication of photographs taken against their wishes at such a time.
The presence of a well-known individual at the service did not in any way lessen the newspaper's obligation under Clause 5. The publication of images of Mr Hoy's widow being comforted after the service represented a clear failure to handle publication sensitively, which was compounded by the publication of details of the eulogy. While it appeared that the reporter had acted discreetly while at the service, his unsolicited presence at a private event represented a further intrusion into the family's grief. The Commission welcomed the newspaper's efforts to resolve the matter, but upheld the complaint.
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