Northern Ireland

Sunday World censured by PCC for secret filming

The Sunday World newspaper has been strongly criticised by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) for the way it investigated a sex party in Belfast.

The paper used a hidden camera to film participants and the pictures were published in September 2009.

The PCC said such a "serious intrusion" could be not be justified because there was insufficient public interest.

The PCC said the paper had committed a "bad editorial lapse" and had also been slow to respond to its investigation.

The Sunday World sells about 70,000 copies every Sunday in Northern Ireland.

The commission said that the paper was entitled to report on the sex industry and offer robust criticism and commentary.

However, it said it was in a position to report on these matters without using undercover footage.

Consensual

It said there had to be sufficient public interest to justify the conduct of journalists and the content of articles.

On the occasion in question a reporter had used a hidden camera to film a man without his consent in a private place where a number of people were about to be involved in legal, consensual activities.

After publication of two articles, the man complained to the PCC saying the stories were inaccurate, intrusive and that the newspaper had used hidden cameras in a way that breached the Editor's Code of Practice.

The PCC ruled that both the filming and the published images could only be justified if they were addressing a matter where there was "a high level of public interest."

The Sunday World had argued that it was a public interest matter because the activities at the party raised a possible public heath risk.

The PCC said it did not believe that defence was able to justify the use of a hidden camera.

The commission also ruled that the paper had not provided sufficient evidence to support a series of assertions it had made about the complainant and his wife.

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