Legal insight for journalists from one of the UK's leading legal trainers

Legal quiz: Can you spot all the reporting restrictions covering the story of Goldilocks and the three bears?

 

You can get in the Christmas mood (whatever that is) by testing your legal and ethical knowledge on this breaking story - about a little girl called Goldilocks and an encounter with three bears.

Read it first and then list the potential dangers

Compare your answers with these:

Defamation – publishing a report that suggests Goldilocks committed criminal offences.

Contempt – Goldilocks appears to have committed several crimes: theft of porridge; criminal damage to Baby bear’s chair; and offences under the Sexual Offences Act (stay with me here …). She is now on the run. Proceedings are active if a warrant for her arrest has been issued. However it is safe to publish a police appeal for help and to report the crimes. It’s safe to use Goldilocks’ photo or e-fit until she’s arrested. Check Goldilocks’ age – if she is under 10, she cannot be charged with a criminal offence.

Child anonymity: If Baby Bear is under 16, he should not be named under the PCC Code, as he is a victim of crime. Bear in mind that bear years are 3.5 x human ones.

Sexual Offences – The fact Goldilocks slept in Baby Bear’s bed means there may be offences under the SOA 2003 (An offence leading to a sexual offence … don’t ask about the others). So Baby Bear gets lifelong anonymity, and you may not be able to name Mr and Mrs Bear as it could lead to Baby bear’s ID being revealed

Child protection: Goldilocks may be a vulnerable child and subject to a care order or may even be a ward of court. Check with social services. If she’s subject to any care-bear proceedings, you cannot name her or use any of her detail leading to her ID without consent of the court.

Overall conclusion: you can only report the BARE facts … ie – bugger all. No names of any bears, nor their address, nor Goldilocks’ name or ID details, or allegations of what she did.

All of which proves that even the most innocent stories are fraught with legal and ethical dangers.

If you spotted all dangers, you get a free copy of the Leveson report.

If you didn’t, you get two copies.

Happy Christmas!

Cleland Thom is bearing up as a trainer and consultant in media law

 

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