The Sun has said it "didn't get it right" with a front page story reporting on a four-year-old boy with the mark of the "devil" following a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
The 29 July story was brought to the attention of the new press regulator by Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, who complained under clause 6 (children) of the Editors' Code of Practice.
- February 10, 2020
- January 3, 2020
- January 2, 2020
IPSO reported yesterday that the issue had been "resolved", pointing to a statement published on page two of The Sun today.
The newspaper has also pledged to give "especial consideration" to front page stories about children in the future.
The paper said: "The Sun is proud of our record standing up for children and we believe we make a real difference.
"We have listened to the concerns about a story we ran on 29th July headlined 'Boy, 4, has mark of devil' and we accept that, on this occasion, we didn't get it right.
"As a result, we have tightened our procedures on all stories involving children, including the issue of paying parents."
Dr Wollaston had said she was concerned that The Sun's story, about a "devil mark" on a four-year-old child, would have a possible impact on the child concerned, but might also encourage others to come forward with similar stories on the basis that they could be paid.
She did not believe that publication was in the child's interests, and felt the newspaper should have been more careful in presenting the story.
She was particularly concerned about the references to the devil and the occult in relation to a clearly identified child – and the story's appearance on the front page only exacerbated these concerns.
In response, The Sun met both Dr Wollaston and the Children's Commissioner for England, Dr Maggie Atkinson, and explained the circumstances around the story.
The newspaper said the parents – who had approached it via an agency – were paid.
It recognised the concerns expressed, the difficulties inherent in balancing duties of care with freedoms of publication, and reviewed its internal procedures.
The IPSO website reported: "As a result, The Sun committed to ensuring that, in future: all significant stories involving minors should be discussed and approved by the legal and managing editors' office; any front page coverage of children will be given especial consideration with regard to the interests of the child; and payments involving children would be signed off by the legal and managing editors' office."
It added that The Sun had said that much of this reflected current practice, but it had now become part of formal procedure.
It also accepted that the presentation of its story raised valid issues, that there were legitimate concerns around the tone and prominence, which were had been intended as light-hearted and fanciful, but had been clearly received by many in a different spirit.
The website said The Sun had also said that it would not pay for images that might improperly impact on a child's welfare.