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Weekly rapped over sex case reporting by regulator

IPSO_logo_newA weekly newspaper has been rapped by the press regulator after a sex trial defendant complained it had implied a specific connection between him and the alleged victim.

The man, who was found not guilty after being accused of a sexual offence involving a child, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Wilts & Gloucestershire Standard had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 7 (Children in sex cases) and Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) in four articles published in 2015.

The complainant was concerned that the articles had contained details, including a paraphrased quotation from the proceedings, which implied the connection.

As he was named in the articles, he said this could lead readers to identify the child.

The man’s partner also complained that the articles breached Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Code because his identification intruded into her private life.

The complainant was further concerned that omission of details from the case, in order to protect the child’s identity, meant that the articles presented a partial account of his conduct which was misleading.

The newspaper said that it had taken appropriate care to ensure that the child was not identifiable from its coverage of the trial. The quotation did not imply a link between the complainant and the alleged victim.

It added that in appearing before the court accused of a crime the man had no reasonable expectation of privacy, that the woman was not mentioned in the articles and the incidental effect on her of the publication of her partner’s address was outweighed by the prevailing public interest in open justice.

IPSO found the Standard had been entitled to cover the case, identify the defendant and include his partial address in the copy – in order to distinguish him from others who might share his name.

However, the inclusion of the paraphrased comments in the online version of one article, which strongly implied a specific connection between the child and the complainant, was highly concerning and demonstrated a significant failure on the newspaper’s part.

IPSO found breaches of Clause 7 and Clause 11 on this point, and ordered the Standard to publish the committee’s adjudication on its website.

The complaints under Clauses 1 and 3 were not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.