Ruling

03568-15 A man v Surrey Advertiser

    • Date complaint received

      15th October 2015

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      11 Victims of sexual assault

Decision of the Complaints Committee

03568-15 A man v Surrey Advertiser

Summary of complaint 

1. A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Surrey Advertiser had breached Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) in two articles published in 2015.

 

2. The articles reported on the trial of a man for sexual offences against teenage boys that had taken place over a number of decades. One of the articles included details which narrowed the  time period in which one of the assaults was alleged to have taken place; this time period was many years ago.

 

3. The complainant said that the articles had contained details which would be likely to contribute to his identification as a victim of sexual assault. This included the defendant’s role in a named organisation, and information about the timeframes in which the defendant was said to have committed the crimes. In addition, the complainant explained that at the time of publication, there was information on the internet which provided details of his connection with the named organisation. After the publication of the first article, the complainant raised these concerns with the publication directly.  After the publication of the second article, the complainant raised these concerns with the prosecution. The complainant said that the judge then issued a memorandum to all local papers in relation to the jigsaw identification of the victims in the case. The complainant said that during court proceedings, the judge made clear to the reporters present that naming the organisation was a form of jigsaw identification.

 

4. The newspaper said that it did not believe it was possible to identify the complainant from its coverage of the case, and denied that there was a breach of the Code. It said that the information the article included about one of the victims could apply equally to a number of individuals. It noted that the second article made clear that more than one individual shared the connection with the defendant which had enabled him to commit the alleged crime.  It denied that the information about the complainant on the internet rendered the details in the articles likely to contribute to the identification of the complainant. It said that seven days after the publication of the second article, the requirements of s.1 (1) of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 were set out in writing at the request of a journalist in court. This was originally made as an order, which was later set aside as, while the judge was permitted to give guidance, the legislation did not provide for the judge to do so in the form of an order. The newspaper said that in its further coverage of the case, the judge’s guidance was kept in mind, but it denied the articles published prior to the judge’s guidance breached the requirements of the Editors’ Code.

 

Relevant Code Provisions

5. Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault)

 

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.

 

Findings of the Committee

6. The Committee acknowledged that this had been a difficult time for the complainant, but considered that the details included in the articles were not likely to contribute to his identification as a victim of sexual assault. The details they provided on the relationship between the defendant and his victim, in the context of their mutual connection with the named organisation, could apply to a number of individuals over a time period taking place many years ago. The information available on the internet did not alter the fact that the details provided in the articles could apply to a number of individuals; as such, it did not significantly alter the likelihood that the information in the articles would contribute to the complainant’s identification. There was no breach of Clause 11.

 

Conclusions

7. The complaint was not upheld.

 

Remedial Action Required

N/A

 

Date complaint received: 11/05/2015

Date decision issued: 15/10/2015