A weekly newspaper has been rapped by the Press Complaints Commission after it published information which had the potential to identify a child sex abuse victim.
The Staffordshire Newsletter reported that a man had been sent to prison after admitting charges of sexual activity with a child, with its article containing reference to the victim’s gender, age and the period of abuse.
A complaint was made to the PCC by the grandfather of the child, who said the inclusion of these details was very likely to have identified the victim to people in the local community, while he was also concerned a photo of the perpetrator had been published.
The PCC upheld the complaint on the basis that details in the article had the potential to imply the connection between the accused and his victim.
It comes after the watchdog last week said it would be issuing new guidance to the industry to prevent victims of sexual assault being identified after a similar breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice by Dundee-based title The Courier.
In the case involving the Newsletter, the grandfather was concerned that the identity of the victim had become common knowledge at the child’s school and in the local community.
Responding to the complaint, the newspaper said it was at liberty to publish the name and photo of the convicted man.
It said it had not been privy to information about the connection between the victim and the abuser as copy had been supplied by a reliable outside agency.
In upholding the complaint, the PCC said the paper was entitled to publish the name and photo of the convicted man.
But it said the Clause 7 of the Code, which says children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in sexual offences must not be identified, made it clear nothing must imply the relationship between the accused and the child.
In its adjudication, the Commission said details in the report, including comments made by the judge and prosecuting counsel, clearly had the potential to imply the connection between the accused and his victim.
It said: “Overall, the Commission did not agree that the newspaper had taken sufficient care to avoid this implication.
“While it may not have known the full facts about the case, it was the newspaper’s responsibility – not the court’s or the police’s or an outside agency’s – to take every possible step to avoid identification.
“This it had failed to do and the result was a serious, albeit inadvertent, error.”