PCC: News Shopper wrong to publish crime scene pics which identified rape victim

The News Shopper in south London has been censured by the Press Complaints Commission after publishing crime scene photos which led to the identification of the victim of a sexual assault in breach of Clause 11 of the Editors’ Code.

The article reported that police had launched an investigation following an allegation of rape. The online version of the article included a photograph of the site of the incident, which was the complainant’s home, and video footage showing forensic officers entering the property.

The article named the general locality and also identified shop fronts which meant the home could be identified.

The woman who was attacked complained that the article had been seen by friends and relatives who had then contacted her about the matter. She told the PCC that it was “inconceivable that the newspaper had not considered that her identification was a likely consequence of its coverage”.

The newspaper said it had initially been alerted to the police activity by a member of the public and after obtaining footage of the scene, it contacted the police for information about the incident, who had confirmed that an allegation of rape was under investigation.

The News Shopper said that when the police advised journalists the rape was alleged to have happened at the complainant's home, the images and video were removed.

While the newspaper said it accepted that it published information which had led to the complainant’s identification and offered to apologise privately to her for the distress the article had caused, it said it did not see how it could have acted differently without more information from the police.

The PCC said: “While the Commission noted the newspaper’s position that it had not been advised of the complainant’s connection to the property where the alleged attack had occurred, it emphasised that the responsibility for published material lay with the editor. The images and video plainly had the potential to contribute to identification of the victim, and the Commission therefore upheld the complaint about the online coverage.”

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