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Watchdog throws out fresh complaint over naming of child victims

A second family whose child was the alleged victim of an assault have had their complaint about a regional newspaper naming their daughter dismissed.

HTFP reported last month how the Independent Press Standards Organisation had rejected a complaint made against the Evesham Journal by a 13-year-old girl’s father after finding it had taken quick and decisive action once it was made aware of the child’s age.

IPSO has now rejected another complaint about the same series of crimes after the mother of another girl took issue with coverage by the Journal’s Newsquest sister daily the Worcester News.

The watchdog again found in favour of the newspaper after finding its journalists had dealt with the matter as soon as it was aware of the matter.

Complaining under Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 6 (Children), and Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, the woman, whose name has been kept anonymous by IPSO, she said that it was only once the police had become involved that the publication had removed the name of her daughter, and that it had ignored calls from another parent acting on her behalf.

The woman claimed her daughter was easily identifiable from the story to others in her community and that it had caused her undue stress and intrusion, that her child’s name had previously appeared in the publication in another context and that, therefore, the publication should have been aware that she was under the age of 18.

She further noted that the publication had not apologised, which she considered disrespectful to her daughter and herself.

Denying any breach of Code, the News noted that there is no automatic right to anonymity for children in court cases and said that it was not aware at the time of publication that the complainant’s daughter was under the age of 18.

It did not accept that it had ignored calls from any individual about the matter, having responded to two calls left on its voicemail on the morning after the story’s publication and called back requesting a call back to discuss the matter further.

The News also said that it had not removed the girl’s name because it had been asked to do so by the police, instead having done so once it became aware that some of the alleged victims were children.

Finally, the paper added it had no way of knowing whether the woman’s daughter was the same individual they had previously referenced, or just someone of the same name.

IPSO noted that the child’s age had not been referenced in the court listing document which gave her name as the alleged victim of a crime and that – while she had appeared in a previous story published by the newspaper – the newspaper could not reasonably have known that this was the same individual.

The Committee was satisfied that the action of removing all names from the story demonstrated a particular regard being paid to the potentially vulnerable position of child victims of crime, given that it was unsure of the ages of the victims and had therefore chosen to remove all names rather than risk continuing to publish the name of a child.

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