A newspaper's publication of images depicting survivors of the Dunblane massacre - plucked from social networking websites - breached the press watchdog's code of conduct.

A newspaper’s publication of images depicting survivors of the Dunblane massacre – plucked from social networking websites – breached the press watchdog’s code of conduct.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) today ruled that the Scottish Sunday Express committed a ‘serious error of judgement’ by publishing photos of the survivors of the 1996 Dunblane shooting, even though the images and boys’ identities were already in the public domain.

The newspaper report, on 8 March, claimed to show the boys, now teenagers, as ‘foul-mouthed’ youths who ‘boast about sex, brawls and drink-fuelled antics’.

Issuing new guidelines, the PCC said it is normally acceptable to publish images from social networking sites when the individual concerned has come to public attention ‘as a result of their own actions, or are otherwise relevant to an incident currently in the news when they may expect to be the subject of some media scrutiny’.

However, the PCC ruled that, in this case, the people concerned had done nothing to warrant media scrutiny, and the images appeared to have been taken ‘out of context and presented in a way that was designed to humiliate or embarrass them’.

The news comes just a day after the private lives of the family of the next head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, were exposed on Facebook – and published by the media – for all to see.

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