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Complainant Name:
Christine Hussain

Clauses Noted: 11

Publication: Herald & Post (Luton)


Christine Hussain, an Independent Sexual Violence Adviser at the Emerald Centre Sexual Assault Referral Centre, complained on behalf of a client of the Centre to the Press Complaints Commission that an article published in the Herald and Post (Luton) in 2012 included details about her that breached Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

The article was a report of trial proceedings in which the defendant faced counts of rape and sexual assault, and several other charges. It included the victim's age; the fact that she had come to the UK from abroad to study; her country of origin; the approximate date and location of her arrival; the name of the placement agency she had used; the name of the institution at which she was studying; how she had met her attacker; and references to her living arrangements and professional aspirations. The newspaper's publisher had pleaded guilty to naming a victim of sexual assault in breach of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 in connection with the incident. It had issued a public apology to the victim and paid compensation to her along with a fine to the court, prosecution costs and a victim surcharge. The Commission issued its ruling on the matter following the conclusion of these proceedings.

The complainant said that the article had identified her client as a victim of sexual assault. The placement agency was well-established within the victim's ethnic community, and the victim was widely known to have used it because this was a common subject of discussion. The article had also made clear roughly when the complainant had come to the UK. Fewer than 15 people had been part of this "intake", all of whom were studying at the same institution, and most of whom were living in the same area. Anyone within her ethnic community or who knew her through the educational institution would "easily" identify her.

The newspaper was initially of the view that it had done everything required by the law and the Editors' Code of Practice, to avoid identifying the victim but subsequently accepted, as part of the legal proceedings, that the article had had this effect. It conducted a review of its court reporting practices and issued new guidance requiring regular assessment of staff entrusted with handling court copy, refresher training where appropriate, and extra checks in cases involving children or allegations of sexual assault.



Clause 11 requires that "the press must not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is adequate justification and they are legally free to do so".

While the Commission recognises that in some instances it can be difficult for editors to strike a balance between including details that enable readers to understand the crime with which a defendant has been charged and omitting those likely to contribute to the identification of the victim, in this instance the newspaper had published material that went well beyond the threshold set by Clause 11. In particular, the identification of the agency the victim had used - in the context of the other details included in the article - was very likely to contribute to her identification.

The article raised a clear breach of Clause 11, and the Commission upheld the complaint.

Date Published:

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