Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Press Complaints Commission Upholds Complaint Against Sun Newspaper Regarding Secret Footage on Website

The Press Complaints Commission has criticized the Sun newspaper for posting footage of a supermarket employee on its website; the employee is on the Sex Offenders Registry and the Sun had secretly filmed him at his workplace. The PCC ruled that the Sun had breached Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Code of Practice.

The Commission concluded that there was a considerable public interest justification for the story as a whole, given that the complainant’s son had made a delivery – as part of his job – to a children’s nursery following his conviction for distributing, making and possessing pornographic images of children. The newspaper was entitled to highlight, and comment robustly on, this situation.

It was more difficult, however, to justify the taking and use of the audiovisual footage of the complainant’s son at work in the supermarket, given that the public interest element of the story related only to the delivery to the nursery. The Commission has always said that there must be a powerful public interest justification for the use of undercover filming. On this occasion, there was no dispute that he worked for the supermarket, and the footage was not necessary to prove it. There was therefore insufficient justification for the subterfuge, and the result was a breach of Clause 10 of the Code on this one specific point.

The Commission rejected other points of complaint about the article itself, which also appeared in the newspaper.
Read more here and here in a Guardian story.

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