Police told journalists not to name murdered rape victim

Police warned journalists not to identify an elderly woman who had been raped and murdered when the man accused of the crime appeared in court – and claimed, incorrectly that the court had imposed an anonymity order.

But the court had made no order – and the victim’s death meant that she was no longer protected by the lifelong anonymity given by law.

Dyfed Powys Police issued the warning in a press release emailed to journalists on 27 January.

A man had appeared in cour, charged with rape and murder – something which the force’s press office had confirmed in an earlier press release.

But the force claimed that Llanelli magistrates had made an order prohibiting reporting of the fact that the victim, 67-year-old grandmother Irene Lawless, had been raped, claiming that the order was intended to protect her family from further distress.

In fact the court had not made any such order, although it had considered doing so following an application by the Crown prosecution Service.

After queries were raised by Press Association reporter Ben Wright, Dyfed Powys Police issued another press release saying that in fact no anonymity order had been made.

A Dyfed Powys Police spokeswoman said: “It was not an appropriate order to be made. It was an error on our part to send out the message saying there was an anonymity order.

“But we have had a case in which a rape victim has been named, so we have just sometimes sent a reminder, because you do get some very inexperienced journalists.”

The Crown Prosecution Service was asked about the application for anonymity for the victim, but did not respond.

The victims of sexual offences are given automatic anonymity under section 4 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1976 and section 1 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. But the anonymity, which they may waive, or which a court may lift in certain circumstances, lasts only for their lifetimes.

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