PCC rules police raid coverage did not violate privacy

PCC rules that privacy rights don't attach to someone who has been the subject of a police raid.

Plymouth businessman Luke Dann took exception to coverage in The (Plymouth) Herald about a raid on his property and search of his cars by dozens of police officers. The raid did not result in any charges but the issue here is - given there was no charge, was it right for the press to report the raid on his property.

Dann argued that the paper was not entitled to report on the raid and that it was an invasion of his privacy.

Not so ruled the PCC which upheld the paper's position that the raid was a very public affair and as such was a legitimate subject to report on.

Mediabeak agrees - the raid was a public event or an action carried out in public view and as such should be open to be reported on at a factual level - in other words there is nothing wrong with reporting the fact of the raid provided that if, as is suggested in this case, there is no subsequent arrest or case, the reporting of the raid does not infer that the person(s) being raided are guilty of any wrongdoing.

Dann sought to rely on privacy but the paper did not divulge any information or pictures from inside his property so there was nothing published that could not have been veiwed or recorded by anyone who may (theoretically) have been standing on the street at the time of the raid. So nothing that was beyond the public domain was reported on.

The fact - even reported as fact - of a raid can be seen or have a prejudicial and invasive effect on the individual involved. However, it would be wrong to suppress the reporting of such fact as if there is a public raid or investigation then the public (who pay for the police conducting the raid) have a right to know what and why their money is being spent on.

Where an investigated or 'invaded' individual has nothing to hide then they can turn the raid or investigation into a positive for them by acknowledging the investigation and showing that it cleared as opposed to implicated them.

From a privacy point of view both the self regulatory press rules and the European Convention provide for the right and its protection BUT such provision is subject to intrusion or invasion of it being 'unwarranted' or 'unjustified' - so a raid may well be justified even where the person being raided is shown to be perfectly innocent.

Mediabeak concludes the key issue here is that yes, the press should be allowed to report on such raids or similar investigations BUT the contentious issue for those being investigated is that where the investigation being reported on does not result in any proceedings or highlight any wrongdoing then it is very unlikely the press will run a follow-up story along the lines that 'Raid proves local businessman innocent' etc. Bottom line is that the public has a right to know what is going on in its communities but that in the modern multimedia, multi-platform age it is no longer a question of a newspaper controlling the media agenda. The press will print what sells and that is not necessarily consistent with what might be the story or answer to it an individual is seeking to sell. Solution = capture and create your own online space that you can use for 'official' announcements.

Full PCC ruling HERE

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