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PA law man overturns order on rape case anonymity

The Press Association has succeeded in overturning a ruling banning the media from naming a convicted rapist for fear that it might identify the victim.

Court of appeal judges ruled that courts have no power to make orders giving defendants in rape cases anonymity following a challenge by PA’s legal editor, Mike Dodd.

It followed an earlier ruling at Cambridge Crown Court which banned the media from identifying a rapist who had just been jailed because of the risk that naming him might lead to his victim being identified.

Victims of rape and other sexual offences are given lifelong anonymity under section 1 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992.

PA appealed against the order on the grounds that the 1992 Act gave the judge no power to make the anonymity order.

Mike argued that the responsibility for ensuring the lifelong anonymity granted to victims of certain offences under the 1992 Act rested with editors, and those reporting any trial, not with the court.

The press, he said, was well aware that breaching the anonymity provisions was a criminal offence, and editors were also reminded of their responsibilities by the Editors’ Code of Practice.

He also argued as Parliament had considered and rejected the reintroduction of anonymity for defendants in cases involving sexual crime, it was not open to the court to achieve the same result by way of an injunction.

Mike emphasised that PA’s interest was not in the particular trial itself, but that the issue was of major importance to the press.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, sitting with Lord Justice Gross and Mr Justice Mitting, allowed the appeal against the order.

Lord Judge said:  “What cannot be found in the Act is the conferring of any express power on the court to make an order restricting publication of the defendant’s name in order to protect or enforce a complainant’s right to anonymity.

“It was for the press to decide how appropriately to report the case so as to ensure the anonymity of the complainant: it was not for the court to instruct the press how to do so by making an order which in effect imposed a blanket prohibition against publication of the defendant’s name.”