A stalker who posted the name of his 15-year-old victim on a newspaper's Facebook page escaped a conviction for breaching an anonymity order intended to protect her from publicity because the law only covers reports of court cases in newspapers and radio and television broadcasts.
Hungarian national Roland Der, 21, was banned from the town of Abingdon and given a two-year suspended sentence at Oxford Crown Court in November last year after having admitted harassing the teenager by bombarding her with a barrage of sexual images, text and letters.
The court had earlier made an order under section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 giving the girl anonymity.
But after a hearing in August last year Der, formally of Swinburne Road, Abingdon, posted the Oxford Mail report on the newspaper's Facebook feed and put the girl's name at the end, where it remained for some 20 minutes.
He was prosecuted for breaching the section 39 order but Oxford Magistrates acquitted him at a hearing on 2 January.
The Oxford Mail reported that William Chipperfield, prosecuting, told the court: "He [Der] cut and pasted that story from the Oxford Mail website and used the Oxford Mail Facebook stream, which is a forum for the readers of the Oxford Mail to post comments. The story itself, because it concerned a young person, did not name that person.
"However, the cut and paste story on the Oxford Mail Facebook stream had the victim's name added on the end. The Crown says that was a breach of an order of this court made under Section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933."
But Ronan McCann, defending, told the court: "What the terms of the order state are that no newspaper report will carry the details of the relevant individual.
"It has been interpreted to confirm that social media is not covered by the wording of the statute."
Bench chairman Linda Goffey said: "This is a very difficult situation that is going to come up in relation to social media.
"We feel in this case that Section 39 was not contravened. It was not a newspaper report," the Oxford Mail reported.
He pointed out that while section 39 as first enacted referred to an order that "no newspaper report" of the proceedings should include information which would identify the juvenile covered, its range was extended to cover television and radio broadcasts by section 57 (4) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1963.
"But there has been no extension of section 39 to apply to any other form of report, such as one made in the social media or the internet,"
He added: "It is not necessary in this application for me to decide what is the scope of the 1933 Act, and I do not do so. It is sufficient that I should decide, as I do, that there is force in the argument that section 39 of the 1933 Act may not give the court jurisdiction to prohibit the making of a report otherwise than in a newspaper or a sound or television broadcast."
The Ministry of Justice is understood to be aware of the problem, and is considering tackling it either by amending section 39 or by enacting in its place section 45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, which refers to "in any publication" rather than newspaper or media reports.