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Newspaper failed to protect sex assault victim’s identity, rules watchdog

A daily newspaper published details which could have led to a sex assault victim’s identification, the press watchdog has ruled.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has rapped the Daily Record for publishing too much detail in two articles about a court case.

The Glasgow-based Record reported that an individual had pleaded guilty to sexual offences against a young child, and that he had subsequently been given a jail sentence for the offences.

But an unnamed man complained to IPSO about the stories, claiming the Record had failed to protect the identity of the victim.

Sex offence victim

The stories included details about the victim and their family’s response to the abuse, including the age at which they contacted the police and what had caused them to do so.

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 7 (Children in sex cases), and Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, the man claimed the article contained graphic detail about the nature of the offences, which he said should not have been repeated outside of the court hearing, adding the publication of the defendant’s explanations for his actions were incorrect and had caused considerable distress to the victim.

He added he was concerned that the inclusion of comments from a charity quoted in the second article suggested they were directly involved in the case, which was inaccurate.

The Record said that in accordance with the principle of open justice it is essential that the press are able to report on court cases such as this, adding that it was necessary to include certain details to inform the public as to how the offences occurred.

The paper provided explanations as to why it did not believe that the specific pieces of information identified by the complainant were likely to contribute to the identification of the victim, but said it had taken active steps to omit certain details from the articles to reduce the possibility of the victim being identified.

IPSO wrote its ruling in general terms in order to avoid the inclusion of information which could identify a victim of sexual assault.

The Committee acknowledged the Record had taken steps to comply with its obligation not to publish material likely to contribute to the identification of the victim, but considered that the detail the articles contained about the circumstances in which the defendant committed some of the offences could only reasonably be applied to a relatively narrow class of individuals.

When reported alongside the age of the victim, and the time frames for the offences, IPSO found these details, taken together, represented material which was likely to contribute to the identification of the victim.

All of the complainant’s other points were dismissed.

The complaint was upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.