Irish News doesn’t always err on the side of caution

The Irish News photo coverage of the third arrest at Thursday’s RNU protest at Alliance HQ was a tale of two halves – while they decided to hide the identities of the PSNI officers arresting a 16 year old, they didn’t give that same protection to the arrested youth.

When UTV covered this story (TV coverage available via link), before the Irish News would have gone to press, they protected the identity of the minor along with those of the police (neither outlet protected the identities of the adults arrested – and legally there was no consideration that should lead them to consider that).

While there is no absolute legal compulsion to automatically mask the identities of police officers, in this case both media outlets decided to err on the side of caution and protect the public servants – which could be questioned as the defence of ‘reasonable excuse’ to any attempt to use anti-terrorism legislation for publishing photographs seems available to a reputable media outlet covering a public order incident.

UTV erred on the side of caution with images of the youth being arrested, disguising his identity, they may have assumed after he was charged he was in the Youth Court system and therefore automatically benefited from legal protection over having his identity revealed (relevant legislation).

If a young person charged with an offence, they will usually appear before a youth court

Members of the public are not allowed in a youth court to listen to the case, nor can the identity or photograph of any young person concerned in the trial be published in the press.

I’ve attempted to seek clarification on why the Irish News did not apply the same caution over identifying the youth as they did for the police (the level of caution UTV deemed necessary) unfortunately I didn’t receive a reply, though they did respond to Mick. The image remains available via their digital edition and while I have access to it I cannot reproduce due to copyright issues and a small concern over possibly leaving the site vulnerable to contempt of court.

It would have been interesting to find out why the Irish News was/is sensitive when it comes to publishing legitimate photographs of the PSNI in action and at the same time has no sensitivity about publishing a photograph of a young person facing criminal charges.

ADDS: In the Policing Board report Human Rights Thematic Enquiry Children & Young People (huge PDF, that bizarrely doesn’t permit copying) extensive consideration was given to the legal and Human Rights concerns that arise in publishing details/photographs of young people suspected of criminal offences. Amongst numerous conclusions they had this to say:

If the suspect is a child, the level of protection afforded is greater still. The privacy of a child or young person should be very carefully protected and very great weight must be given to the welfare of the child or young person. Dispensing with the young person’s prima facie right to privacy (for example for the purposes of more easily identifying suspects) by the release of images of children wanted for questioning is a decision which is difficult to justify save in exceptional cases where the safety of the general public is at stake.

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