08 March 2016

The Sun

David Dinsmore, former editor of The Sun, has been found guilty of breaching the sexual offences act, in a case related to footballer Adam Johnson's conviction for sexual activity with a child. Dinsmore, who is now Chief Operating Officer of The Sun's publisher, News UK, was order to pay £1,000 in damages. The publisher was not prosecuted, as police mistakenly filed charges against News Corp, which is not liable.

The Sun published a photograph of Johnson and his fifteen-year-old victim on 4th March last year, two days after Johnson was arrested. The photo was taken from the teenager's Facebook page; her face was pixelated, though the court ruled that anyone who had seen the image on Facebook could have recognised it when it appeared in The Sun.

The photograph was heavily edited before it was printed, to the extent that it could plausibly be called a photomontage rather than a single image. Apart from the pixelation, the victim's face was airbrushed, her hair was artificially shortened and coloured, the lower portion was cropped, and the background was completely replaced. (The new background was taken from a photograph of Irish President Michael Higgins at a park in Dublin.)

The Sun labelled the photo a "PICTURE EXCLUSIVE", with a headline inaccurately describing the girl as someone Johnson had "bedded". The Sun's sensationalising of the photograph was inappropriate, and the newspaper removed the article and photo from its website following complaints from readers.

The day after Johnson was convicted, The Daily Telegraph also printed the photograph (3rd March, on page eight), almost exactly a year after The Sun did so. The Telegraph pixelated the victim's face and hair, though their photo was otherwise unaltered, with none of the changes made by The Sun. The Telegraph is not facing prosecution, despite publishing the photo after charges were brought against The Sun. Like The Sun, The Telegraph has also removed the image from its website.