The Strathspey & Badenoch Herald intruded into the grief of an under-age sexual assault victim and published information which could have identified her, breaching three clauses of the Press Complaints Commission Code.
Following a complaint from the victim’s mother, the PCC said today that the paper breached clauses 11 (victims of sexual assault), clause 5 (intrusion into grief and shock) and clause 6 (children).
The article reported the conviction of a man for sexual offences against under-age girls.
The mother of one of his victims complained that the level of detail – in particular the reference to a visible injury previously suffered by her daughter, coupled with the location and time in which she and the man in question had first met – would have assisted those in her small community in identifying her daughter.
The newspaper said it did not believe that any detail in the article would have led to the identification of the girl. The article did not disclose her name, address or school.
It argued that the town in which the incidents took place was a busy holiday resort with hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, and said that the family did not live there. The article was a fair and accurate account of court proceedings, it said.
The PCC said: ‘While the information about the girl’s injury may have seemed to some to be insignificant, it was a superfluous but specific detail which the Commission was persuaded could have been sufficient to identify her, or confirm the suspicions of those who already knew something about the case.
‘While the editor arguably had a difficult job to do in striking the balance between what was legitimate detail and what was likely to contribute to the girl’s identification, the Commission considered that he could have taken greater care in this case by omitting the reference to the injury.”