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Complainant Name:
Mr Rod McLean

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Daily Record


Mr Rod McLean of the Arbroath Lifeboat Station crew complained to the Press Complaints Commission that a photograph published by the Daily Record on 26 February 2014 had been altered in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The newspaper had failed to take care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information in breach of Clause 1(i) and had published the photograph in a significantly misleading manner, but had offered sufficient action to remedy the breach.

The article reported that the crew of the Arbroath Lifeboat Station had been nominated for the newspaper's Emergency Hero Award after saving the lives of two men who had found themselves in difficulty while jet skiing. The complainant said that the newspaper had breached Clause 1 by altering the accompanying photograph of the crew by removing one of its members, who had had played a vital role in the rescue.

The newspaper said that the crew member had been removed from the image following legal advice. This related to the fact that, at the time of publication, he was the defendant in criminal proceedings concerning fish poaching, to which he had later pleaded guilty. It argued that the alteration of the photograph was justified on this basis. However, the newspaper offered to publish a clarification, to explain to readers that the image had been altered, the reasons for this alteration, and the fact that the crew member concerned had played an important role in the rescue.

Sufficient remedial action offered


Clause 1 (i) states that the press "must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading, or distorted information including pictures". This does not prevent the alteration of images, including when undertaken to comply with legal obligations. However, where a newspaper has significantly amended an image, the Code requires that readers are informed of the change. This is a matter of principle, to which the Commission attaches high importance.

Readers are entitled to trust that published photographs are an accurate depiction of what was before the camera. In this instance, the precise line-up of men shown in the photograph was of particular significance as they were not named in the coverage; the photograph was the only means by which the men involved were identified. In the context of a photograph used to illustrate a news story, the newspaper had significantly distorted the image. It was therefore obliged to make readers aware that it had been altered in order to avoid misleading them, and its failure to do so breached Clause 1 (i). In the Commission's view, however, the clarification offered was sufficient to comply with the newspaper's obligations under Clause 1 (ii) and remedy the initial breach. This should be published without delay; there were no further issues to pursue under Clause 1.

Relevant rulings

A man v Luton on Sunday (2003)

Date Published:

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