Sun's Undercover Story & Video on Cop Selling Threesomes Fair Game, UK Press Regulator says - iMediaEthics
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It wasn’t an invasion of privacy for the UK Sun to go undercover and report that a police officer out on disability was “selling threesomes with his girlfriend for £210 an hour,” the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation ruled.

The Sun‘s Dec. 3 article, “Sicknote Cop Sells Threesomes,” revealed that the Sussex police officer, who was out of work on sick leave, and his girlfriend had an ad on an escort site offering threesomes in exchange for cash. The officer, Daniel Moss, complained to the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation over the article, which included a two-and-one-half-minute video  from hidden camera footage at the officer’s home.

Moss didn’t complain that the reporting was inaccurate, though. He only complained that it was an invasion of privacy and harassment. Moss told IPSO he didn’t list his name on the escort website, that he wasn’t a public figure, and that the escort ad and profile was his girlfriend’s.  “He said he was present at the flat in order to assist his girlfriend. He said he did not handle the money, and was not running a business from the address.”

The Sun argued the story was in the public interest because the police officer could be blackmailed and the actions would break police standards. Further, The Sun explained it used the hidden camera to provide evidence and documentation that the police officer was involved. And, since the services took place in the home, The Sun said it wasn’t an invasion of privacy to record what happened inside the home. Finally, The Sun noted that it didn’t show any “sexual activity,” only documentation of payment and police officer’s presence.

The Sun noted that what they did was not illegal since their actions were in private and “it is only an offence to solicit in a public place or to profit from prostitution by running a brothel or pimping.” Moss was suspended and then fired after a public gross misconduct hearing following the news story’s revelations, the Sussex Police stated in a December press release.

iMediaEthics asked the Sussex Police about Moss’s status. A spokesperson confirmed that Moss was fired, but not because of the story. “He was already under investigation by Sussex Police Professional Standards Department when the story appeared,” the police told iMediaEthics. The police provided a statement from Sussex Police’s Professional Standards Department’s Detective Chief Inspector Nick Wainwright that reads, “Ex-PC Moss, who was on long-term sick leave, ostensibly for a stress-related illness, was still able to offer himself as being available to perform sexual services for payment, which is clearly completely out of keeping with his role that others uphold with pride, integrity and with the trust of the public whom they serve.”

IPSO agreed the article was in the public interest, that The Sun was “justified” in taking the undercover reporting to prove the police officer was involved, and that the undercover video wasn’t an invasion of privacy given that the officer’s home was used as a place of business.

“The public place trust in the police to conduct themselves in accordance with the police code of ethics and there was a clear public interest in verifying the claims of the source, in confirming the complainant’s identity as a serving police officer and in establishing the extent of his participation in the alleged activities,” IPSO ruled. “There was also a clear public interest in establishing whether the complainant’s conduct exposed him to potential blackmail as a result of engaging in the sale of sexual services to strangers.”

iMediaEthics has written to The Sun to ask for a response to the ruling. We were unable to locate any LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter account for Moss to seek comment.

The UK press regulator IPSO regulates approximately 2,500 UK newspapers and magazines, and can investigate and require member publications to publish corrections or rulings. Anyone can complain to IPSO about any member publication possibly breaking IPSO’s Editors’ Code of Practice within four months of an article’s publication.  To submit a complaint about any IPSO member, go here to the IPSO website. Other press regulators and councils operate under their own rules.

Previous cases where IPSO ruled a publication violated someone’s privacy include when the UK Express and OK! magazine published photos of Prince George on a motorbike, and when the UK Mail Online published photos of Princess Beatrice in a bikini on vacation.

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Sun’s Undercover Story & Video on Cop Selling Threesomes Fair Game, UK Press Regulator says

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