The Staffordshire Newsletter has become the second newspaper in a week to be censured by the Press Complaints Commission for potentially identifying a victim of child sex abuse.
In its court report on a man imprisoned for child sex offences, the Newsletter published the victim’s age, gender and the period when the abuse took place.
The victim’s grandfather complained to the PCC alleging the details led to his grandchild being identified at school and in the local community, in breach of clause 7 (children in sex cases) and clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
While the PCC accepted the weekly paper may not have known the full facts about the case, it concluded that ‘it was the newspaper’s responsibility – not the court’s or the police’s or an outside agency’s – to take every possible step to avoid identification”, adding: ‘This it had failed to do and the result was a serious, albeit inadvertent, error.”
It comes after the Dundee-based Courier & Advertiser was found to have published material likely to identify two young victims of sexual assault last week, when the PCC announced it was issuing new industry guidelines.
Explaining its decision to uphold the complaint against the Newsletter, the PCC said: ‘In upholding the complaint, the PCC made clear that the newspaper was absolutely entitled to publish the name and photograph of the convicted man.
‘However, the requirements of the Editors’ Code of Practice in this area of reporting are stringent. In addition to the general requirement not to identify victims of sexual assault set out in clause 11, clause 7 of the code states that the press ‘must not, even if legally free to do so, identify children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences’.
‘The code then makes clear how this obligation can be met, including the following: ‘care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child’.
‘As the commission noted in its adjudication: ‘This places a considerable onus on editors to consider how the information they publish might enable those who know the accused to work out the identity of the victim.'”