PCC Upholds Intrusion-into-Grief Complaint Against Daily Record

The Daily Record has had a complaint made against it upheld by the Press Complaints Commission.

It follows the reporting of the death of a young person in Edinburgh and the complaint was from the person's aunt, who claimed a photograph in the paper of the deceased – wrapped in sheeting – was insensitive and had caused distress to both the person's family and friends.

The complaint was considered under Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editor's Code of Practice.

Says the PCC: “[The aunt] was particularly concerned that the outline of his arms and body could be seen in the photograph. The newspaper was apologetic for the distress the photograph had caused, but did not accept that it had breached the terms of the Editors' Code. It argued that the body was covered and had been found in a public place [on a footpath close to Arthur's Seat, in the capital]. It had removed the photograph from the online version of the article, and offered to publish an apology to the family.”

Added the PCC: “The Commission acknowledged that newspapers are entitled to report on tragic events which take place in public, and recognised the legitimacy of reporting that a body had been found. However, it did not consider that there was a justification for the very specific nature of the photograph. The outline of the body through the sheeting would have been, it said, visible to readers, and it could well understand why this had caused the complainant and her family such distress. As a result, the Code's requirement to handle publication 'sensitively' had not been met.”

In a statement accompanying the PCC's adjudication, PCC director, Stephen Abell, is quoted as saying: “Tragic stories such as this raise difficult questions for editors, who need to strike the correct balance between publishing information about a death for their readers at the same time as handling publication with due sensitivity. This was a difficult case, but the Commission ruled that the use of the image crossed a line. The adjudication is an important addition to the PCC's case law under Clause 5 of the Editors' Code, and editors should learn the lesson from it.”