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Complainant Name:
Messrs Philpott Platt Niblett & Wight, on behalf of a young woman

Clauses Noted: 11

Publication: Clydebank Post


Messrs Philpott Platt Niblett & Wight, solicitors, of Clydebank, complained on behalf of a young woman who had been the victim of a rape and sexual assault, that a court report of the trial in the Clydebank Post on 10 July 1997 identified her in breach of Clause 12 (Victims of sexual assault) of the Code of Practice. The report described the time and place of the attack, giving details of the complainant's ordeal. It also described her distinctive clothing, her occupation and her hobby which were all connected, and which she considered made her immediately recognisable to anyone who knew her in the area.



The Commission noted that the newspaper had since expressed its regret that any attendant court publicity should have caused the complainant further distress, and also its explanation that it had taken trouble not to publish material which it believed would lead to identification. The newspaper said it had followed usual practice in making no reference whatsoever to where the young woman lived and did not consider that readers had reason to conclude that she was local. Furthermore, the newspaper had not considered that her clothing had been sufficiently unusual as to identify her.

The Commission regretted that the complainant's solicitors had delayed in making contact at an earlier stage in the correspondence. However, the subject matter of the complaint was serious and despite the lapse in time, the editor had helpfully agreed to co-operate. The Commission therefore proceeded under Clause 12 of the Code, which prohibits identification of victims or publication of material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is adequate justification.

When making its assessment the Commission took into account that the story originated from a reputable agency and was published in good faith. However, the newspaper should have realised - in view of the unusual nature of the complainant's clothing - that the information from the agency gave a large number of clues for the complainant's identification. It was clear to the Commission that the article had as a result included sufficient information for those in the local area to identify the complainant. The Code had therefore been breached and the complaint was upheld.


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