DoE in photography enforcement

Alan in Belfast reports that the DoE have emailed him requesting that he remove a picture of Edwin Poots and his daughter.

Firstly, this picture was taken in a public place, does the law or anything else prohibit taking and publishing pictures taken in a public place? Secondly, Alan blogged the picture on June 27th. Edwin Poots became Environment Minister on July 1st. Do all images ever taken of Edwin Poots now fall under the remit of DoE Information Officers?

  • Michael, is the presence of Edwin’s daughter the problem?

  • Nothing illegal about taking pictures of children. and in this case, the child’s face is obscured.

    If it was a newspaper it would be different and pcc code would apply… but its not, so it doesn’t.

  • Unless Mr Poots was on Executive business, I am not sure why departmental resource is being used on a matter that I would have thought fell outside its remit. Alan should question the authority of the DoE to make such a request and why it is considered a departmental matter. That would be interesting.

    If it is an issue of the child in the photo, then I would have thought a request from Mr Poots to Alan would have been dealt with appropriately.

  • test

    Don’t like keeping a pic with a kid in it. The child, is entitled to privacy, and Poots is right to demand it. Force it if he has to.

  • Mark McGregor

    Easy enough to crop the child out of the photo but I’d like to see the source of the request being challenged too.

  • Seceder

    I find the DoE and in this case the DUP members sensitivity quite touching and I agree politicians children should not be part of the members political life nor should they be used as political campaigns

    Pity then that in the past DUP figures have thought that other politicians families etc have been fair game both for attack, public comment and in some cases physical attacks – Banbridge Election Count for example or various protests outside politicians homes

  • Michael Shilliday

    I think that there are two important things here.

    One is the fact that the DoE sought to censor a picture of their Minister taken and published the week before he took up office, so there is no chance whatsoever that he could have been on departmental business.

    Second, Alan has taken care to blur the image of Edwin’s daughter, as the picture was about his relationship to the arguments about creationism. Perhaps the image could have been obscured more, but care was taken nonetheless.

  • AlanAlan

    You should have asked the parent for signed permission to publish the child’s photo, whether the child is recognizable or not. You do not know how that child may be recognizable to others – through dress, hair style, height etc Or any mixture of these,

    You should take the photo down or doctor it to remove the child altogether. That will still leave the issue of departmental issue to be addressed.

  • AlanAlan,
    Why signed permission? as courtesy? the picture hardly focuses on the kid.

    I don’t understand why any permission is needed for that photo.

  • 6countyprod

    I’m looking forward to seeing photographs linked from Slugger to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness’s children. I’ve always wondered what they looked like. If they have any, that is.

    Anyone think it will ever happen?

  • Mark McGregor


    I think the Data Protection Act comes in as the child is identifiable, hasn’t consented and Alan and that part of the picture don’t seem to fall into any exempt catagory.

    I also think common decency would make anyone remove an unauthorised photo of a child (or crop that element) and I hope Alan gets on it.

    Still leaves where the request came from open to investigation.

  • [i]I’m looking forward to seeing photographs linked from Slugger to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness’s children. [/i]

    You need to get out more: there are hundreds of pictures of Gerry Adams’ son in the public domain given that he was a moderately successful gaelic footballer over recent years, while I remember not so long ago seeing detailed pictures of the wedding of Martin McGuinness’ daughter in many of the Irish Sundays.

    Keep your eyes open and you never know what you might see.

    [i]I’ve always wondered what they looked like… Anyone think it will ever happen? [/i]

    Well wonder no more!!!!!! It’s happening right now!!!!

  • Sneakers O’Toole


    Martin McGuinness’s daughters have been in the Derry Journal a couple of times. Well known for being easy on the eye they are, too.

  • Sneakers O’Toole

    Oops. Pat the baker beat me to it.

  • alan56

    The issue is the child who is persumably under 16.
    She should not be there without permission of parent/guardian unless that permission is implicit ie standing posing for a photo.
    Still it would be good to know more about where the request came from and who authorised it.

  • Rory Carr

    I can well understand how widespread dissemination of this photograoh might bring embarrassment to the child.

    Imagine that you are a schoolkid and then all your mates at school find out that your da is Edwin Poots!

    Cringe-making, man!

  • 6countyprod

    Thanks for the links, guys. I forgot that Adams and McGuinness are old men now and do not have young children.

  • Yes, they truly are occupied6countyprod. Apologies that I wasn’t able to find any pictures of, as the Daily Mirror put it, “Blonde beauty” Grainne McGuinness. She is, from memory, as Sneakers said “well known for being easy on the eye.”

    Have to side with the majority opinion on this issue: the picture shouldn’t have been used without permission, although the source of the request demands further investigation.

  • willis

    Any chance we could be able to stop looking at Ian Paisley’s son?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    As far as I can see, Alan is well within the Press Complaint Commission’s Code of Practice, and probably doesn’t breach any real laws either.

    The child’s face has also been blurred, which is common practice in the media, and goes beyond the code. Nor was the girl identified as the daughter in the blog, she is not inside school, nor is she wearing her uniform. (Had she been, it could be argued that this is a form of identification. I think the DPA is more concerned with photos in schools and school-related activities, identification through uniforms etc, Mark, but I’m willing to be corrected.)

    Mr Poots is entitled to ask for the photo to be taken down, but given the above, I don’t think he needs to be too bothered if it isn’t.

    On the other hand, the girl’s presence doesn’t add anything to the photo or what he’s trying to say, and I can’t say I wouldn’t be annoyed if the same thing happened to my own child.

    And who wouldn’t expect a father to try and protect his daughter’s privacy, whether the photo is legal or not?

    However I don’t think I’d have any grounds for complaint.

    I realise that the PCC doesn’t apply to personal blogs (although I think it DOES apply to a newspaper’s website), but it’s a reasonable guide.

    Permission for taking the picture in a public place is not required, and I don’t think that the child’s privacy been intruded upon or any law broken. Alan has acted responsibly – but if I was in his position, as a father myself, I’d probably cut the child out.

    Mr Poots might like to consider one thing though – if he’d contacted Alan personally instead of getting a Stormont spin doctor to do the dirty work, and asked him directly as the girl’s father instead of as a government minister using a lacky to crop her from the photo, would the result have been different?

    I suppose only Alan can answer that.

    Anyway, the PCC code states –


    i) Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.

    ii) A child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.

    iii) Pupils must not be approached or photographed at school without the permission of the school authorities.

    iv) Minors must not be paid for material involving children’s welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child’s interest.

    v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life.

  • law

    Er, child protection laws perhaps? Unless the face of the child was blurred then you cannot use the picture.

    You shouldn’t be using the pic anyway without the permission of the parent.

  • Belfast Gonzo


    Name the law, and how it is being breached then.

    The photo in question is similar to how paparazzi photos are published in the tabloids every single day, eg celebs carrying their child, with the child’s face blurred.

    The moral argument is far more compelling than any legal one (and none has been made yet).

  • Michael Shilliday

    First, the Data Protection Act does not cover images at all. It covers information about people held in automated or semi automated filing systems.

    Second the case law seems to be hazy. The most relavant case seems to be Von Hannover vs Germany in which it was found that the public figure and their child do deserve privacy, however there is a question about the meaning of the photograph in that judgement. Ie it is not reasonable to publish a picture of a child in order to draw unreasonable attention to that child. Here if you apply a test of, would Alan have published the photograph is the child had not appeared or had been on the other side of Edwin, the answer is clearly yes. The first mention of the child being his daughter is by the Department’s press officer.

    Which raises the actually salient point – a government official seeking action on a photograph taken and published before the person in question was a Minister.

  • I’m on holiday, so GPRS isn’t the easiest way to get online!

    I’ve explained some of the detail at the bottom of the original post. I don’t believe there was any need for permission for a photo taken in a public place.

    However, fundamentally, the image was eventually explained as “causing distress” to the minister (I think in his role as a father) – and I’ve sympathy with that.

    I’ve no idea why it was appropriate for a departmental press office to communicate this distress – particularly when they didn’t mention distress in the original take down email, but that’s for others to take up. Seems like a department either rewriting online history for a minister who wasn’t the minister when the photo was taken, or a department representing a minister’s personal wishes.

    But I’m on holiday, so have no need to prolong the distraction. So against my better judgement- but purely on the basis it was causing personal distress – I’ve cut the girl out of the picture on the blog.

    Presumably lots of newspapers and online news bulletins will also be combed for things the DOE find inappropriate now that Edwin Poots is in office.

  • Belfast Gonzo


    Agree with everything apart from the first two (potentially contradictory?) sentences. AFAIK, the DPA has the potential to cover images, especially if the person can be identified. However, it’s probably still theoretical. I can’t see it applying in the circumstances we’re discussing.

  • Michael Shilliday

    The section of the DPA in question. There was no processing by Alan. No permission is required to take or publish any photograph, child involved or not, under the DPA.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    OK, I’ll have to bow to your superior knowledge on this one.

  • Ironically, the same logic applies to the Sunday Life and Belfast Telegraph running two photos of my daughter on three occasions over six days to illustrate a recent topical story. Now one difference is that although she was visible – the central subject of the shots – she was unnamed, and neither of he parents were in the shot or identified.

    But I fully accept that the photographer didn’t need permission to use his telephoto lens to take the pictures from the other side of the crowd. And neither did the newspapers to print them in colour on three (so far) occasions. (I can’t be bothered to officially complain about the dodgy captions!) I have to graciously live with all the people who’ve cut out her picture from the papers and given us a copy, or mentioned to other relatives how cute she looked. And neither did the TV cameras have to ask permission to pan around the event and record who was there.

    No data protection, child protection, personal privacy issues.

    If I didn’t want to be identified, and didn’t want my daughter to be spotted, then I shouldn’t have gone.

  • sj1

    Alan as a parent, the fact that you didn’t complain about your own child in the media isn’t grounds for feeling sore about Poots. We’re all different. I’ve never personally signed anything that came back from my kids school to let their image be used in the public press or online either. The reason, I feel there are too many perverts about. I would have complained to the Sunday paper, not that it would have done much good after the fact. Not going to events isn’t an option either. The best bet at these events where the press attend is to go to the photographer and tell him you do not want your child photographed.

    I remember once taking my young daughter in toa shop changing room in Belfast to try on some clothes and there was a young girl in there with her dad, and her dad’s mate or partner or what ever. Anyway since it was a mixed changing room and not much privacy I went to the assistant and got the geezers turfed out.

    The problem is everybody now needs to be pro active about their kids safety, they can’t leave it to others to be decent.

    I agree with poots and even if the e mail didn’t mention the distress, it ought to have been obvious once pointed out, a blind man could have seen it.

    Anyway you’ve cropped it now and that is the main thing.

  • Shutterbug

    “I’ve never personally signed anything that came back from my kids school to let their image be used in the public press or online either.”

    Completely off-topic, but indulge me on this.

    I was recently asked by a PTA to come and do some shots of an event they were holding. When I asked if all the necessary permissions had been granted, a teacher suddenly remembered that one child had been refused permission from their parents to be in any official school photography. And them’s the rules.

    Every time this kid’s mates gathered for a photo, they tried to get in the picture, and I had to turn them away. Nice one, parents! “No, sorry, you won’t be in the local paper with all your wee friends.”

    The degree and extent to which we cocoon our children is incredible. My tuppence worth? Poots is a public figure. He’s in a public place. He’s fair game. His daughter, not so, but only by dint of the photographer’s personal responsibility. Alan didn’t break any laws. Gonzo nails it with “Poots could have contacted Alan”.

    In a completely different league, I wonder how Cartier Bresson’s “Rue Mouffetard” would have turned out if the photographer had stopped mid-shot to see if a permission slip had been signed? Or if McCurry’s portrait of Sharbat Gula would have been front page of the National Geographic if he’d gone to find her parents first?

    sj1, nip over to flickr and type in “children” and “candid”, as I just have. Millions of them there, and not a permission slip to be seen, more than likely. Perhaps someone should contact all their parents, just in case….

  • 6countyprod

    I should learn to keep quiet. Here are some pics of ‘the Doc’ showing off his first great grandchild.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Martin McGuinness’s daughters have been in the Derry Journal a couple of times.”

    Not just the Journal either, Grainne was featured in the Daily Telegraph a few years ago.

    A very pretty girl indeed, I believe she gets it from her mother’s people.

  • Scamallach

    There seem to be a lot of people on here who haven’t even read Alan’s original blog. He clearly states that the original photo had the child blurred out already. This is a massive overreaction by Poots and the DoE.

    Rory Carr – Poots isn’t a very common surname, and NI is a very small place, so I would imagine all her class mates know exactly who her da is already.