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    Friday, 5 October 2007

    PCC clears newspaper's use of YouTube footage showing juvenile criminality

    In its second ruling on the use of video footage by newspapers online, the PCC has dismissed a father's claim that a newspaper's use of YouTube video of his son's criminal misbehaviour breached clause 6 (Children) of the Editors' Code (1). The footage showed the boy and others throwing firebombs at a passing train; it has been uploaded to YouTube by the children themselves. The Northwich Guardian had embedded the footage in its online provision, and used stills in its print edition.

    The Commission explained that the Code does not include a blanket ban on publishing photographs or stories about children without consent. It considered that it was in the public interest to publicise the incident in question, which was of a serious and anti-social nature and had been committed by individuals who were over the age of criminal responsibility. Together with the fact that the footage had been placed voluntarily in the public domain by the complainant’s son, this justified the conclusion that the information was not private. The NG's action had been "an entirely legitimate journalistic exercise".

    The Commission also noted that "it would have been contrary to any common sense or fairness for the Commission to afford greater protection to the youths in this case than to other law-abiding children... [given the] circumstances where innocuous pictures taken of children in public places do not normally breach the Code". This nods in the direction of the High Court ruling in the recent JK Rowling case, although this judgment is subject to appeal. Moreover, the Commission was rightly adamant that it should do nothing to undermine the right of the Press to scrutinise anti-social or criminal activity outside of situations were specific legal restrictions applied (eg contempt).

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