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Weekly did not identify child sex abuse victim, watchdog rules

NewIPSOA weekly newspaper did not identify a child sex abuse victim in its coverage of their abuser’s case, the press watchdog has ruled.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has found in favour of the Hertfordshire Mercury after a complaint from the victim’s family.

The family claimed readers would be able to identify the young child because the Mercury had reported their precise age, the time frame in which the abuse took place and reference to the frequency of the abuse.

Complaining under Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief and shock) and Clause 7 (Children in sex cases) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, they added other factors which could have led to the victim being identified included reporting the town the assaults took place in and the identity of the person who had reported the defendant to the police.

Denying a breach of Code, the Mercury said nothing in the report either identified the child or implied their identity.

It noted that the standard wording of orders made by the court under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 regarding publicity of victims is that “no matter may be published that would identify them, including their name, address, any educational establishment or any workplace they attend, and any picture of them” and said that age was not one of these features, while that none of the prohibited features had been published in the article.

The Mercury added that the town referred to in the story had a population of over 33,500 and said that, while people may have been able to guess the victim, this was not due to the information contained in the story, and that people may come to their own conclusions outside of the publication.

IPSO found that while the article did contain some information about the young victim and the circumstances in which the abuse took place, it had omitted a number of pertinent details which may have led readers to identify the victim.

Having reviewed the details that had been included, it concluded that the Mercury did not identify the victim.

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