It was OK for the Sun to publish footage taken in prison of UK soccer player Adam Johnson, who was convicted of child sexual activity, talking about the case.
The video showed Johnson saying he didn’t rape the girl in question and that “I wish I f***ing did for six year,” referring to his six year prison sentence. Johnson was convicted in 2016 of sexual activity with a child, and pleaded guilty to grooming and kissing her.
Johnson’s father, David Johnson, complained to the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation over articles in the Sun, Sun on Sunday, and Mail Online.
Johnson’s father complained about the Sun calling his son a “paedophile” or “paedo,” and claimed it was invasive to publish on footage taken with a hidden device.
The Sun said it didn’t ask anyone to take surreptitious footage of Johnson, but instead it publish the footage which was provided by a third party and was in the public interest. According to IPSO, the paper argued,
“Adam Johnson was a famous footballer who had been convicted of sexual offences against a minor during a high-profile trial. It said that during the trial, Mr Johnson had told the court that he was ashamed of himself and that he accepted full responsibility, and apologised for his actions. It argued that his contrition had contributed to his relatively low sentence of six years and had provided him with the opportunity to go to a “soft” jail. “
IPSO found that Johnson likely had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the prison, but since his comments were made to other inmates and conflicted with his court comments, it was in the public interest to report on them. Given Johnson’s conviction related to sexual activity with a minor, it was fair to call him a “paedo” or “paedophile,” the press regulator found.
In 2016, the former editor for the Sun, David Dinsmore, was convicted for identifying Johnson’s teen victim with a photo that wasn’t pixelated and changed enough. The UK has a law against identifying sexual assault victims.
The Telegraph also was fined for publishing a pixelated photo of the girl.