Sky News has apologised over an error which led to one of Max Clifford's victims being named in a recorded broadcast of his appeal against his eight year jail sentence for sex offences. (Picture: Max Clifford, Reuters)
The woman, who has lifelong anonymity under the terms of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992, complained to the police when she heard her name 17 minutes into an edited clip which went out on Sky's website on October 10.
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Sky was contacted and the clip was taken down within the hour.
The incident had "significantly affected" the woman who was extremely upset, said Lord Justice Treacy in the Court of Appeal yesterday.
Sky's counsel, Adrienne Page QC, claimed that the maximum number of viewers was five – including the victim – and that the broadcaster had immediately apologised to the victim and to the court and put additional safeguards in place to prevent a repetition.
The judge said it was not for him to determine whether an offence had been committed, as that was a matter for a court if a prosecution was brought.
But, while the question of whether any action was taken remained a matter for the Attorney General, he did not consider it necessary, having considered all the material, to refer the matter to him.
Page expressed Sky's "profound regret and dismay" at the incident and its "profound sympathy" for the woman, and its understanding of the distress she had been caused.
She said that despite repeated careful checks, neither the video journalist in court nor an editor had detected the name being mentioned inadvertently by a barrister during the appeal – despite repeated careful checks.
Since the incident, Sky had decided that, in cases involving sexual offences, there should be no coverage or footage other than of the judgment of the court.
It also intended to ensure that any future footage was cleared by an experienced producer and a qualified lawyer.
"Lessons have been learned from this incident. If there is a passage of speech which is indecipherable, one needs to look at it with particular care," Page said.
In his ruling, Lord Justice Treacy said: "The slip made by counsel was unfortunate but was not unlawful.
"The restriction under the Act is of the reporting of court proceedings. The responsibility for compliance with the Act is solely that of the publisher or broadcaster as counsel has readily acknowledged on behalf of Sky.
"That responsibility is or should be well understood and was accepted by broadcasters when TV transmissions were permitted to take place in this court."
He welcomed Sky's sincere apologies to the victim and the extra safeguards which should minimise the possibility of a repetition.