Local paper rapped over online video of woman's house


The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has used its powers over newspaper web content to uphold a complaint against the Scarborough Evening News.

Carolyn Popple's home was raided by police, who invited the newspaper along. Still pictures were taken and published in the newspaper and video footage of the inside of Popple's house was published on the paper's website.

The newspaper included the footage and pictures in its coverage of a series of police drugs raids even though Popple was never charged. The police had told her that a small amount of cannabis had been found in the house but she said she did not know how it got there.

The Scarborough Evening News said that the police had invited it to cover the raid, and that there was a public interest in the showing of the footage and photographs because drugs had been found at the house.

"Showing a video and publishing a picture of the interior of the complainant’s house, without her consent, was clearly highly intrusive, particularly when the coverage contained information likely to identify her address," said the PCC's ruling. "The fact that the police had invited the newspaper on the raid explained how the footage had been obtained, but it did not absolve the editor of responsibility for ensuring that the subsequent publication of the material complied with the Code."

The PCC is the newspaper industry's self-regulatory body, holding member publishers to its Code of Conduct. Since February 2007 it has regulated not just printed content but also audio and video content published online under the editorial direction of newspaper staff. It does not regulate user-submitted and unedited content.

"The relevant consideration was whether there was a sufficient public interest in the story to justify the degree of intrusion," said the PCC ruling.

"The Commission considered that, while it may have been in the public interest to illustrate the police campaign against drugs, insufficient regard had been paid to the complainant’s right to privacy in this case. Showing the video of the complainant’s home involved a degree of intrusion that was out of proportion to any such public interest," it said.

The PCC has already admonished another newspaper on the basis of its regulation of online video content. It told the Hamilton Advertiser last year that it had broken its code when it published a full, unedited video of an unruly local classroom.

It said the publication of that video invaded the privacy of pupils in the classroom.