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Papers cleared over "unnecessary naming" claim

Two newspapers that named an assault victim and her 15-year-old daughter have been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Press Complaints Commission.

The Harrogate Advertiser and Knaresborough Post ran a story ‘Man fractured girl’s arm as he attacked mum’ after a court hearing.

But the victim complained the papers had unnecessarily named her and her daughter in breach of Clause 10 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The newspapers said that it was necessary to identify both the complainant and her daughter in order to provide a full and fair report of court proceedings.

They felt it was important to report, for example, the domestic context of the attack to explain the relatively lenient punishment received by the defendant.

But the assault victim argued that the defendant was not normally known by the name stated in court – so they would not have been identified if they not been named in the papers.

The article reported that her partner had pleaded guilty to assaulting her and unlawfully wounding her daughter.

The newspapers also argued that withholding the victims’ names would not have avoided identification.

A truly anonymous report would have had to have omitted such pertinent details as the complainant’s relationship with the defendant, her daughter’s age, and the injury sustained, without any certainty that neither would have been identified in a “small community such as Knaresborough”.

The complainant also claimed the papers were in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) as she had said she would ‘stand by’ her partner only if he continued to receive treatment for his mental health problems, and by omitting this point the report of the case was misleading.

However, the newspapers said that this had not been referred to in court, although they would ensure that if stated in any future trial the complainant’s position on this point would be made clear.

Both complaints were rejected by the PCC, which said that the circumstances of the incident were so specific that if reported in full readers would have been likely to identify the complainant and her daughter as a result of a jigsaw of facts, and not solely by publication of their names.

It also said that as the complainant was, regrettably, a central figure in the case brought against her partner, it did not consider that the newspaper should have sought permission to identify her, particularly as she had already been named in open court.

And in relation to naming the daughter, the Commission considered that the newspapers had paid sufficient regard to the position of the child in accordance with the terms of the Code and noted that no reporting restrictions had been imposed by the court.

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