Police blunder sees Oxford Mail and BBC identify wrong man as rapist

The BBC and a regional newspaper illustrated a court case of a man pleading to rape and firearms charges with a photograph of the wrong man after it was supplied to them by the local police force. 

Thames Valley police issued the photograph purporting to be Daniel Rodriguez of Morton Avenue, Kidlington, Oxfordshire, following the hearing at Oxford Crown Court last week.

The BBC website and the Oxford Mail carried a report of the court case and illustrated it with the police-supplied photograph. However the man in the photograph was not the Rodriguez involved in the case. 

The image was of a man with a similar name from South Wales, not connected in any way with the rape or firearms charges.

The Rodriguez who pleaded guilty at Oxford Crown Court was involved in a 12-hour siege with police in July.

He also admitted three counts of raping a woman and assault during a separate incident.

He will be appear at Oxford Crown Court on 5 December for sentencing.

The BBC website carried  the following clarification:

AMENDMENT: Earlier versions of this story carried an image, as supplied by Thames Valley Police and published in good faith, of a man not connected to this case. The correct image has now been added.

Meanwhile the Oxford Mail carried this apology:

Thames Valley Police supplied us with a picture today saying it was Daniel Rodriguez that was published in good faith with this story. In fact it was a different man called Daniel Rodriguez-Lay, 32, and we wish to state categorically the image published earlier today was not of the defendant and apologise sincerely to Mr Rodriguez-Lay. The picture attached to this story now is the correct man.

Thames Valley Police told Press Gazette: "Following the conviction of Daniel Rodriguez on Friday (18/10) the picture of another man was sent out by the press bureau at Thames Valley Police by mistake. Two media organisations then published the picture in good faith. The man incorrectly identified in the picture contacted Thames Valley Police who in turn contacted the media to inform them of the mistake and ask them to remove the photo immediately.

"The correct picture has now been circulated and Thames Valley Police is now in the process of reviewing its procedures in respect of the identification and distribution of offenders photographs. Thames Valley Police has apologised unreservedly for the error.”

According to one legal expert contacted by Press Gazette, the BBC and Oxford Mail should be safe from the threat of legal action.

Sarah Branthwaite, a solicitor with Foot Anstey based in Bristol, said: "The BBC and the Oxford Mail would be able to claim qualified privilege concerning publication of the photograph. They took measures to rectify the situation as soon as they were notified of the mistake.

"We had a case where the police had sent out the wrong photograph to a newspaper and we were able to defend it on the basis of qualified privilege."

Branthwaite said Thames Valley Police could face a case from the man who was wrongly identified in the photograph. 

She said under the Offer of Amends scheme in the 1996 Defamation Act an immediate apology will see a 50 percent reduction in the size of damages.

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