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Complainant Name:
Messrs Carter Hodge, on behalf of a rape victim

Clauses Noted: 11

Publication: Ellesmere Port Standard


Messrs Carter Hodge, Solicitors of Wirral, Merseyside, complained on behalf of a rape victim that an article in the Ellesmere Port Standard in September 1997 headlined "Rapist is jailed for seven years" included details which identified the victim of the rape in breach of Clause 14 (Victims of sexual assault) of the Code of Practice.

The court report included the name of the defendant, stated that the assaults occurred at the victim's home and gave the area where she lived. It also stated that one assault took place whilst a child slept upstairs and that the victim was not a stranger to the defendant. The complainants said that all this information was sufficient for those who lived in the vicinity to identify the victim.

The newspaper said they understood how distressing the circumstances must have been for the victim but believed they had taken care to ensure there was insufficient information in the report to identify the victim. The area referred to had a population of over 16,000. It had been the main argument of the defence that the victim was known to the defendant and this point was therefore included in the report for fairness.



The Commission recognised that the newspaper was entitled to publish what was said in open court, but also that the stipulation of the Code required some self restraint in doing so. The report did not name the victim and the newspaper clearly believed it had taken care to ensure that there was not sufficient detail to identify the victim. However, Clause 14 states quite clearly that the press should not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is adequate justification and, by law, they are free to do so. The Commission considered that although no individual detail in the report would on its own have identified the victim, the details together might have contributed to such identification.

The complaint was upheld. However, it was clear to the Commission that the breach of the Code - which has specific and strict requirements - had been unintentional and the Commission therefore decided not to censure the editor.


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