PCC upholds complaint against Daily Record after publication of photograph of dead man
The Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint against the Daily Record after it published a photograph of the body of a man - who had died in a road traffic accident the day before - in the vehicle in which he had died.
The man's wife complained that the photograph was graphic (it clearly showed the man's injured face) and had caused severe shock and upset to her family. The newspaper apologised immediately and unreservedly to the family, explaining that it had not realised that the image had included the deceased man. It took a number of steps to attempt to remedy the situation: it issued new rules to its picture desk and production staff regarding the use of photographs with graphic content to ensure the error would not happen again; it published a page 2 apology (the wording of which was negotiated via the PCC and agreed with the family); and it offered to meet the complainant so that the editor could apologise in person.
The Commission found a clear breach of Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors' Code of Practice. It ruled that the publication of such an explicit image so soon after the death did not meet the Code's requirement on handling publication sensitively. Although the Commission acknowledged that the publication of the photograph was inadvertent, and that the newspaper's response had been "appropriate and responsible", it ruled that the breach "was not capable of remedy". It upheld the complaint as a result.
Charlotte Dewar, Head of Complaints and Pre-publication Services said: "Clause 5 of the Editors' Code is designed to protect people when they are at their most vulnerable. This case illustrated how a failure to ensure sensitive handling in the report of a recent death - however inadvertent - can cause serious pain to those involved. As the Commission recognised in its ruling, once this has happened it can be very difficult or even impossible to remedy the harm done".
Notes to editors
2. The Editors' Code of Practice can be read in full here. Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) reads as follows:
i) In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings, such as inquests.
*ii) When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.
3. For more information, please contact Jonathan Collett on 020 7438 1246 or 07740 896805, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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