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Press watchdog backs daily after sex victim claims she was identified

NewIPSOThe press watchdog has backed a regional daily after a sex assault victim claimed she had been identified as a result of a story it published.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has rejected a complaint from the woman, who claimed details included in a Lancashire Telegraph court report had led to her identification as a victim in the case by members of her small local community.

The Telegraph reported that an individual, who was not named in IPSO’s ruling, had received a custodial sentence after being convicted of sexual offences against three children who, at the time of the offences 20 years ago, were all “under the age of 16″.

The Blackburn-based newspaper included the name of the town in which the offences took place, as well as the name of the street on which the defendant formerly lived.

It had also reported quotes from a statement read out by the complainant during proceedings which detailed the impact the offences had made on her both professionally and personally, including the impact on her mental health.

Complaining under Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, the woman claimed the inclusion of details about the impact the offences had made on her career meant the Telegraph had failed to protect her identity as a victim of sexual assault.

She said she had been identified as the victim in the case by members of her small local community who had worked out who she was by putting the details contained in the article together, adding the disclosure of this information was deeply upsetting and an unjustified intrusion into her privacy.

The Telegraph expressed regret that the woman had been upset by the coverage, but said it was entitled to report on cases in accordance with the principle of open justice.

The paper provided explanations to IPSO as to why it did not believe that the specific pieces of information identified by the victim were likely to lead to her identification, adding the quotes from her statement were published in good faith in order to highlight the impact of the offending.

IPSO offered its condolences to the woman for the distressing circumstances which brought about her complaint and acknowledged that identifying the defendant in a case may lead to speculation from members of the public on the identity of their victims, particularly within small communities.

However, it found the Telegraph explained to readers the facts of the case and had taken care not to disclose further details regarding the victims.

IPSO further found the details from her statement which were published could apply to a relatively broad class of individuals, and so it was reasonable to find that reporting the quotes was not likely to lead to her identification as a victim of sexual assault.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.