The Independent Press Standards Organisation cleared the Edinburgh Evening News, Glasgow daily The Herald, and The Scotsman of any wrongdoing over their reporting of a court case in which a woman was cleared of sexual assault after being accused of rubbing her breasts against a man at a party.
However, complaints were upheld against both the Scottish edition of The Times and the Daily Record, which had both named the alleged victim in their coverage of the same case.
The man complained against all five titles under Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply), Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Harassment) and Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
In the case of the Evening News and the Scotsman, the man said although the paper had not named him, the fact it mentioned that he, the defendant and a third party knew each other at the time of the incident, the estate where it allegedly took place and his age had identified him in breach of Clause 11.
A similar complaint, barring that of the publication of his age, was made against The Herald.
He further claimed the fact he was named in reports by other newspapers meant he could be identified by the trio’s reporting of the case, regardless of the fact they had not named him themselves.
The complainant also said that all five articles had been biased towards the defendant and included claims made in evidence which the complainant said were inaccurate,that he had not been offered a right to reply to the allegations, that the article revealed that he had been sexually assaulted, which was private information, and that publication of the article constituted harassment.
The terms of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992, which provides for automatic anonymity for victims of specified sexual offences against the law of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, did not apply as it was a report of offences against Scottish law.
In response, Johnston Press sister titles The Scotsman and the Evening News said their reports contained so little detail that it would be impossible for anyone without prior knowledge of the case to identify the complainant.
The Herald said it not believe that a general reader would have been able to identify the complainant, although it said that, because of the nature of the case, some people in the local community would already have known of the complainant’s involvement because it had been heard in court that discussion of the incident locally had prompted the complainant to contact police.
The newspaper also noted that the sheriff, in his judgment, had said that he could not find beyond reasonable doubt that the alleged offender was guilty of a criminal assault, “far less a sexual one.”
IPSO found both The Times and the Daily Record had breached of Clauses 3 and 11 in naming the complainant, but did not uphold the complaints against the other three titles.
The full adjudications can be read here.