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Regional daily rapped after sex assault victim identified

A regional daily has been rapped after a victim of sexual assault claimed that details it published in a court report identified her.

The Press Complaints Commission ruled that a South Wales Argus report on a case in which the defendant was charged with rape and sexual assault had contained details which contributed to the woman’s identification.

These included the victim’s age, the fact that she had come to the UK from abroad to study, her country of origin, the approximate date and location of her arrival in the UK, the name of the institution where she was studying, how she had met her attacker and references to her living arrangements and professional aspirations.

Christine Hussain, an independent sexual violence adviser at the Emerald Centre Sexual Assault Referral Centre, complained on behalf of a client to the PCC that the article breached Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The complainant said that the article had contributed to her client’s identification as the victim and she was particularly concerned that it had included her country of origin and details of her study.

In its response, the paper said that it took seriously its responsibility to ensure the anonymity of victims of sexual assault, and it believed that it had met that obligation in this instance.

It said the court case had been of interest to its readers because the defendant was from the local area and it had published copy supplied by a news agency in good faith.

Its initial report named the educational institution where the victim was studying but the agency and newspaper had agreed to omit this from subsequent reports, after a request by the police and the victim.

But the PCC upheld the complaint and said the details in the article were “strongly likely” to lead to her identification, especially the information about the victim’s travel to the UK and her education.

The article was one of four under complaint that had been published on the same day about the case, each of which included different aspects of the information heard in court.

In its adjudication, the PCC said: “The Commission understands that it can be difficult in such cases for editors to strike a balance between including details that will enable readers to understand the crime with which the defendant is charged, and omitting those likely to contribute to the victim’s identification in breach of Clause 11.

“The Commission acknowledged that the newspaper had taken some steps to remove identifying detail from its report, and that it had complied with a request by the victim and police to remove a further detail.

“Nonetheless, it considered that taken together the details in the article – and particularly the information about the victim’s travel to the UK and her education – were strongly likely to contribute to her identification.”

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  • June 3, 2013 at 9:11 am

    ‘Published copy supplied by a news agency in good faith’.

    Absolutely astonishing.

    So the newsdesk and/or subs didn’t read this before it was published?

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