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Complainant Name:
Ms June McKibbin

Clauses Noted: 1, 3

Publication: Sunday World


Ms June McKibbin complained to the Press Complaints Commission, via solicitors, that an article headlined "Deadly duo...woman knows who killed my brother", published by the Sunday World on 16 June 2013, had intruded into her private life in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

The article reported claims made by the sister of a murder victim that the complainant might have information about her brother's death because of her past friendship with a woman named Nuella Fitchie, now deceased, who was suspected of involvement in the crime. It was illustrated with a photograph of the complainant and Ms Fitchie, both of whom were topless and sitting by a swimming pool. The complainant explained that this was a private photograph, taken whilst she was on holiday with Ms Fitchie a number of years ago, which had gone missing while being stored at a friend's house in the late nineties. It had previously been published by the Sunday World, but she had made no complaint at that time as she had left the country and felt powerless to address the issue. The complainant said that the publication of the photograph was intrusive and embarrassing, particularly alongside derogatory references to her as a "bimbo".

The newspaper said that the complaint was spurious, noting that no complaint had been raised in relation to the previous publication of the image. It provided copies of the historical coverage, published in 2008, and an extract from a book written by its Editor and published in 2001, in which the photograph had been published alongside various allegations about the complainant. The photograph had been provided by a confidential source. Nonetheless, in an effort to resolve the complaint it offered an assurance that it would not re-use the portion of the image that showed the complainant.



Clause 3 (Privacy) sets out that "editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent". This was unquestionably a personal photograph, published without consent. While there was a potential public interest in the publication of a photograph that demonstrated the nature of the relationship between the complainant and Ms Fitchie, this did not extend to its publication in unpixelated form, which was likely to cause the complainant gratuitous embarrassment and upset - as it had done - and did not serve any legitimate aim.

The Commission has recognised in the past that, on occasion, potentially intrusive material can be so well-established in the public domain through prior publication that censure for further re-publication is untenable. The Code provides for such a finding, as it states that the Commission will "consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain". On this occasion, however, the prior publication was limited: two previous occasions over the course of a decade, both connected with the newspaper under complaint. This fell well short of justifying its re-use. To rule otherwise might imply that a publication was entitled to rely on a historical intrusion in support of a current one, which could not be correct. The complaint was upheld.


The complainant said that article had contained information which was inaccurate and misleading, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The complaint was not upheld.

The complainant said that the suggestion that she had information relevant to the investigation of a serious crime was inaccurate.

The newspaper said it had simply reported the victim's sister's opinion following the collapse of the trial of an individual accused of her brother's murder. It had not presented this as fact, and the article had not suggested that the complainant was in any way involved with the crime beyond her known association with Ms Fitchie.


The Commission acknowledged the complainant's position that she had no information relevant to the investigation into the murder. However, this allegation had clearly been distinguished within the article as the victim's sister's opinion, based on the complainant's connection to Ms Fitchie, alongside other facts about the complainant which were already in the public domain and not in dispute. The allegation did not include any claim the complainant had herself been involved in the commission of a crime, and there was no suggestion that it was accepted by the complainant. In the context of the long-running investigations into the murder, readers would not have been significantly misled. There was no breach of Clause 1.

Related rulings:

Minogue v Daily Mirror / Daily Record (2010)

A woman v Daily Mirror / Worksop Guardian (2005)

Pirie v News of the World (2000)

Date Published:

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