Changing Faces’ Chief Executive Dr James Partridge OBE has referred the Daily Express to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) over a ‘deeply offensive’ photo gallery published today.
The gallery, titled ’39 of the world’s worst mugshots’, featured images taken from police and prison custody. Whilst some of the people depicted had significant tattoos and piercings, a significant number had marks, scars or conditions that affect their appearance.
In one example, a woman with a significant birthmark to her face was given the caption ‘this woman looks like she should be on the cast of The Walking Dead’.
The detail of the eight images to which we have specifically objected is:
- Image 1 is of a man who appears to have had surgery to his head leaving him with a significant disfigurement. The caption is “Given that he’s only got half a head, this man’s looking pretty serene”.
- Image 6 is of a woman with a growth to the side of her face and around her eye. The caption is “Girl or alien? we can’t quite tell…”
- Image 14 is of a man with a significant growth to his forehead. The caption is “This man gives a new meaning to the term “bubble head””.
- Image 15 is of a man with a scar to his forehead and an unusual colour to his eyes. The caption is “This guy’s just creepy”.
- Image 18 is of a man who appears to have a missing left eye. The caption is “Those are some weird looking contact lenses”.
- Image 23 is of a man with strabismus which means his eyes are not aligned. The caption is “His eye’s got a mind of its own”.
- Image 30 is of a woman with a port wine stain on her lower face. The caption is “This woman looks like she should be on the cast of The Walking Dead”.
- Image 38 is of a man with a number of missing teeth. The caption is “We bet he wishes he’d had braces when he was a kid”.
Dr Partridge has written to Sir Alan Moses, Chair of IPSO, saying:
That the subjects of these images appear to be in legal custody or have been convicted of a crime does not legitimise in any way the use of prejudicial and discriminatory remarks about their appearance. As the Editors’ Code clearly states: “the press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s … physical or mental illness or disability
He went on to say:
We believe that press features such as this are wholly unacceptable as they can legitimise … bullying and abuse, and can also lead to an incorrect assumption that criminal behaviour could be linked to a person’s appearance.
Changing Faces – which publishes guidelines for journalists on how to report stories that relate to disfigurement – has asked for the feature to be removed from the Express website.