PCC upholds complaint against Scottish Sun following complaint from Sir Chris Hoy’s family
The PCC has upheld a complaint against The Scottish Sun, after it decided to publish photographs of grieving family members at the funeral of Sir Chris Hoy's uncle, despite mourners having made clear that the photographer's presence was unwelcome.
The complaint to the PCC was made on behalf of the Hoy family by Rosemary MacLeod, who said that publication of a photograph showing the deceased's widow being comforted after the service was grossly intrusive in breach of Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors' Code of Practice. The family were also concerned about references in the article to the eulogy, which demonstrated that a reporter had attended the service, and about the presence in the church grounds of a photographer during the service.
The newspaper apologised for the distress caused to the Hoy family, but said that the attendance of Sir Chris at the funeral had made it newsworthy. It had sent a freelance reporter and a photographer to cover the occasion respectfully, and at a distance. It said the photographer had left the church grounds after he was approached by a mourner; the photographs in question had been taken from the street. When later asked by another person who had attended the service to leave the family alone, he left the area. The newspaper offered to write a letter of apology to the family and removed the photograph from the online article as a means of trying to resolve the complaint.
The Commission ruled that the two approaches made by mourners regarding the photographer's presence were a clear indication that the family was unlikely to welcome the publication of the photographs. In light of this, the decision by the newspaper to publish the image of Sir Chris' aunt being comforted after the service "represented a clear failure to handle publication sensitively", in breach of Clause 5 of the Code. It said that the presence of a well-known individual at the funeral "did not in any way lessen the newspaper's obligation under Clause 5", and ruled that the newspaper ought to have recognised that the family's wishes should be respected at such a difficult time.
Charlotte Dewar, Head of Complaints and Pre-publication Services, said: "One of the aims of the Code is to ensure that at times of great distress, family members are protected from unnecessary concern about press intrusion. While some families welcome coverage of funerals, for many others, such services are extremely private events, as was the case here. The Commission's ruling reminds editors of the need to take account of this as part of their general obligation under Clause 5 to handle the publication of such stories with sensitivity."
Notes to editors:
1. To read the adjudication, which was published in Sunday's edition of the newspaper (and online), please click here.
2. For more information, please contact Jonathan Collett on firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 7438 1246 or 07740 896805.
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