A newspaper’s coverage of court proceedings in which a man admitted
sexual offences against a young child contained so many details that
they were likely to lead to the victim’s identification, the Independent
Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has said.
It upheld a complaint that that an article published in the
Glasgow-based Evening Times this year breached Clause 11 of the Editors’
Code of Practice, covering victims of sexual assault.
But it rejected complaints that the report also breached Clauses 1, 2
and 7, covering accuracy, privacy, and children in sex cases.
The article, which reported that an individual had pleaded guilty to
sexual offences against a young child, included details of the period over which the offences occurred, the victim’s age when the offences began and ended, and the victim’s current age.
It also reported the circumstances in which the defendant came into
contact with the victim, gave details as to the nature of the offences,
and reported the defendant’s comments about the offences.
The complainant said that including certain details from the court
hearing – including the circumstances in which the defendant and victim
came into contact, and the date range for the offences – the newspaper
failed to protect the victim’s identity.
The article also contained graphic detail about the nature of the
offences, which he said should not have been repeated outside of the
court hearing, the man said.
The newspaper said that while the detail in the article might be
distressing, it was a report of court proceedings which contained
sufficient detail to allow readers to understand the offence.
It explained why it did not believe that the specific pieces of
information identified by the complainant were likely to contribute to
the identification of the victim.
IPSO’s complaints committee, which said its decision was written in
general terms to avoid including material which could identify a victim
of sexual assault, said that in accordance with the principle of open
justice, the newspaper was entitled to report on the case and to
identify the defendant, including by publishing his image.
Clause 11 required that it did not publish material likely to contribute
to identification of the victim.
But details in the article about the circumstances in which the
defendant came into contact with the victim were of the kind likely to
be known within the victim’s community – and when reported alongside the victim’s age and the time frames for the offences, represented material which was likely to contribute to identification of the victim.
It said Clause 7 related to the identification of children who were
victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences – in this case the
offences were committed when the victim was a child, but as the victim
was an adult at the time of publication Clause 7 was not engaged, but
their right to anonymity was protected by Clause 11.
The details about the nature of the offences were extremely sensitive,
but were heard in in court, and the newspaper was entitled to report
these in accordance with the principle of open justice, so reporting
them did not breach Clause 2.
The complainant had not identified an alleged inaccuracy in the article,
and there was no breach of Clause 1.
The committee required the newspaper to publish the adjudication, the
terms of which it dictated, on its website.