By Mandy Garner, @workmumontherun
At 9.45pm on 19th February my 20-year-old daughter Anisha was catapulted out of this world when a driver doing over 60mph in a 30mph zone drove down the middle of the road that she was crossing and threw her up into the air “like a rag doll”, according to press reports.
We were informed at 2am. At noon the next day, the Mail Online, having purchased the CCTV footage of the incident from a local shop, posted it online under the headline “EXCLUSIVE: Shocking moment young woman is killed by speeding hit-and-run driver escaping police – as she is flung 20 feet into the air and lands in front of horrified onlookers at London bus stop”.
We had barely told our three other children what had happened. The police had told the Mail not to publish, but they refused and went ahead. The police then asked for a few hours to let the family know what the Mail was planning to do.
They allowed the police one hour.
In fact, I maintain that the police did not inform us – I would have remembered mainly because I am a journalist – although it would have made no difference to the Mail posting the video.
I didn’t even know about the video until my brother, who saw it, informed me that he had made a complaint. My stepbrother in the US and my brother in law also mentioned that they saw it – it was embedded in a story and automatically loaded when you accessed it via mobile – and that it was not something they would want us to see.
“What if my children had seen it?”
The Mail eventually took down the video two days after posting it, in response to my brother’s complaint, presumably after they had got all the clicks they wanted.
What if my children had seen it or people at their schools had shared it? Video images tend to stick in the mind.
I complained to IPSO – the press complaints body – under the intrusion into grief clause, Clause 4. I thought it was a clear case of clickbait.
But I did not anticipate that I would be in for months of exchanges with the Mail Online, with them going off at a tangent about whether or not the police had warned us that they would post the video and presumably whether or not I was lying when I said they didn’t, about how they had ‘sensitively’ edited the video to fade out just before the impact, how they had done it to bring forward witnesses and jog people’s memories [in fact there were many witnesses, none of whom would have needed their memory jogging, given the horrific nature of the incident], etc, etc.
Part of me questioned my own reaction to this.
“How much did they get out of turning my daughter’s death into voyeurism?”
As I say, I am a journalist, and the police were involved – there is an independent police investigation. But I spoke to my brothers who saw it and I looked at the headline again. There is nothing in that headline that suggests an interest in bringing forward witnesses. I do not think that it was necessary to post the video to bring forward witnesses. I have asked the Mail Online how many clicks they got on that story with the video in it compared with to without; how much did they get out of turning my daughter’s death into voyeurism? But they won’t say.
If they had truly wanted to bring witnesses forward, why not talk to us and get our agreement? Had there been a need for more witnesses to come forward we would have been first in line to want to encourage that.
Nevertheless, the ‘justifications’ the Mail gave were enough to get it cleared of any breach of Clause 4 and so they will do this again, to another family, with impunity. In fact, they cited a previous case to justify this one.
IPSO also said that the video was grainy so you couldn’t tell it was our daughter. This is despite it being in a story that was all about what happened to her and even though my brother, who complained, clearly knew who it was. It seems to me to be a ludicrous defence.
“It seems to me that Clause 4 [intrusion into grief] is almost entirely pointless”
After the ruling was published, I stayed up late checking IPSO’s rulings on Clause 4 in the last five years. I had already been told that not many people come forward under Clause 4. I’m not surprised because the extended process of going through this while grieving makes it very distressing. In fact, I found only one case where a breach had been found under Clause 4 in the last five years – it again involved the Mail Online, only this time they admitted the video was included ‘in error’ and they could not justify it at all.
It seems to me that Clause 4 is almost entirely pointless. IPSO have since come back to me about all the other things they do around bereavement, but none of that deals with my concerns about the ruling and their apparent inability to deal with clickbait in these circumstances. There is an appeal – they call it an independent review – but they don’t point out very clearly what this involves or that you only have 14 days to file for it.
“The only way they can improve it is if IPSO were less weak and actually did its job”
IPSO have written to me to ask if I can suggest ways of making the process less distressing and maybe train staff. I have answered that they could make it clearer how long the process is and how pointless to set expectations. But really the only way they can improve it is if IPSO were less weak and actually did its job and upheld press standards.
I took this case out as a journalist because I want the press to be better.
This, to me, is clearly a gratuitous use of video in accidents.
The police told me that they have been on the scene of accidents where people have been filming the last moments of a victim on their phones and have complained when they have been told to show a bit of respect.
Surely, clickbait press reports only encourage this?
I know this has been happening for many years. But it hasn’t been happening to me personally so, now that it is, I intend to do my utmost to point out that it is wrong.
“Freedom comes with responsibility”
I am not a person to throw in the towel. Probably I should. No doubt it is better to focus on my daughter’s life and I am trying to do this, but I guess one of the parts of being a journalist that has always appealed to me is the campaigning part. In fact, I started my career as a human rights campaigner, ironically for press freedom, but freedom comes with responsibility, accountability and a duty to admit when you get it wrong so you can do better.
Mandy is the editor of the “Working Mums” website, where she has also written about her experience.