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PCC: case would normally have amounted to an intrusion

Credit: PCC
The Press Complaints Commission has made an "unusual and difficult" ruling, finding that a man's privacy was not breached by a Glasgow Evening Times photograph of him smoking from a shisha pipe inside a local cafe.

The complaint arose from a misunderstanding between the photographer and the man about whether he would be identifiable in the picture.

The man complained under clause three (privacy) of the editors' code of practice, after two photos of him were used to illustrate an article about a "crackdown" by Glasgow city council on shisha cafes flouting the smoking ban.

The complainant said he had been assured by the photographer that he would be "out of focus" and had understood from this that he would not be identifiable.

While the focus of the photographs was on the pipe, the man could still clearly be identified. The Evening Times denied that the photographer had misled the man.

The PCC said that if an individual has consented to be photographed in a private place on condition that he will not be identifiable, publication of a photograph in which he was identifiable "would normally amount to an intrusion".

However, in this case, it said it could not establish whether the photographer had assured the man he would not be identified.

Instead, the photographer had used a phrase that had confused the complaint. The PCC did not uphold the complaint but stressed the need to "take steps to ensure that any conditions or assurances are clearly agreed in advance".

PCC head of complaints Charlotte Dewar said in a release: "This was an unusual and difficult case for the commission. Its ruling draws attention to the importance of 'full and open communication' about the taking of photographs, particularly if they show an individual in a private place."

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