Newspaper slammed for naming rape victim

The Sunderland Echo has been harshly criticised in court and ordered to pay £5,000 after identifying a rape victim in a report.

The paper, published by Johnston Press's North East Press division, was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay the victim £2,500 after breaching sections one and five of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992.

In its report, the Echo named the rapist who, it later emerged, was related to the victim, making it possible for family members, friends and colleagues to know who the victim was.

Judge Beatrice Bolton raised the complaint during the trial at Newcastle Crown Court in the spring, and requested Northumbria Police investigate the breach.

She said: "I've not seen such reporting in this area in any case I've been involved with. Normally when the local press wish to report a case, they ask the court's advice. I'm shocked and astonished that a local paper should report this matter in this way."

Editor Rob Lawson told Press Gazette: "This is a reminder to all editors of the inherent dangers of court copy. We need to be constantly scrutinising any stories that come in from court."

Detective Sergeant Nicola Musgrove said: "This investigation came about because the trial judge was appalled that a rape victim had been identified from a description in the Sunderland Echo.

"This is a reminder for all editors and their staff that they must not publish anything which could lead to the identification of a victim of sexual assault.

Although this woman was not named in the report, the way she was described led to her being identified by those who knew her.

"She and her family had already suffered badly from the rape itself and were doubly damaged by the newspaper reporting.

"I hope the compensation awarded by the court will go towards helping her recover from her ordeal."

Police interviewed a number of people under caution and forwarded a case file to the Crown Prosecution Service before the Attorney General decided to prosecute.

Media lawyer for Foot Anstey, Cathryn Smith, said: "There are always going to be mistakes made because of human error. The more serious the nature of the breach the more likely it is that proceedings will be commenced and it doesn't come more

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