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Evening Post told to pay out £7,000 after report identifies sex victims

The Lancashire Evening Post has been fined £3,000 and ordered to pay a further £4,000 compensation to two women it identified as the victims of sexual offences.

The fines were imposed in relation to a report of one of a series of court proceedings involving a brothel in a Lancashire town which appeared in the newspaper in April.

The company admitted two charges under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992, which gives lifelong anonymity to the victims and alleged victims of sexual offences. Two similar charges against the newspaper’s editorial director, Simon Reynolds, were withdrawn.

Media Lawyer reports that the report of the trial in which the women were identified as witnesses was prepared in ignorance of the fact that an earlier trial had been told that they were the victims of sex trafficking offences, which were introduced in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The Crown Prosecution Service told Preston Magistrates’ Court that the report naming the two women victims and detailing their evidence appeared in the newspaper in April, and on its website – which led to it being reported in Brazil.

A CPS spokeswoman said: “As a result of the story further reports have been made in Brazil resulting in embarrassment and distress to the victims.

Afterwards, the newspaper issued a statement saying: “Lancashire Evening Post Ltd, publisher of the Lancashire Evening Post, has pleaded guilty to two offences under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 following the identification of two victim of sexual offences.

“At the same time, Simon Reynolds, editorial director of the Lancashire Evening Post, pleaded not guilty to two similar charges, and the Crown has withdrawn these charges.

“Lancashire Evening Post Ltd was fined a total of £3,000 for the two offences and ordered to pay compensation totalling £4,000 to the two women, and costs of £45, at Preston Magistrates Court on December 11.

“District Judge Peter Ward said he was satisfied that neither Mr Reynolds nor the newspaper had recognised the women as victims, and added: ‘The article was not recklessly or deliberately published – it was through the process of putting together the story and deadlines’.”

A trial linked to the other proceedings concerning the brothel is due to take place soon. The newspaper intends to report the proceedings at which it was fined after the conclusion of the linked trial.