Resolution Statement 17021-17 Survivors Network v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      12th October 2017

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      11 Victims of sexual assault, 7 Children in sex cases

Resolution Statement 17021-17 Survivors Network v Mail Online 

1. An Independent Sexual Violence Advisor at the Survivors Network complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation on behalf of a child that Mail Online breached Clause 7 (Children in sex cases) and Clause 11 (Victims of Sexual Assault) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article published in July 2017.

2. The article reported on the trial of a person charged with raping the child. In reporting the comments of a witness, the article referred to the first name of the child. The article contained details of the offences.

3. The complainant said that by reporting the child’s first name, the publication had breached Clause 7 and Clause 11 of the Code. The complainant emphasised the level of anxiety and distress this would have caused. She said that the article contained an unnecessary amount of information, which was not in the public interest.

4. The publication said it offered its sincere apologies for the human error that led to the publication of the first name of the victim. It said that article was subject to its usual processes designed to ensure compliance with the Editor’s Code of Practice – including going through the legal department. It said that unfortunately on this occasion, due to human error, the inclusion of the first name of the victim was not noticed. It said that as soon it was made aware of the error, the article was amended and the detail removed. Although it acknowledged the seriousness of the error, it said that publication of the first name alone did not necessarily identify the victim.

Relevant Code provisions

5. Clause 7 (Children in sex cases)

The press must not, even if legally free to do so, identify children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences.

In any press report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child -

i) The child must not be identified.

ii) The adult may be identified.

iii) The word "incest" must not be used where a child victim might be identified.

iv) Care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child.

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.

Mediated outcome

6. In this case, IPSO deemed its earlier involvement essential. During IPSO’s investigation of the complaint, the publication offered to send a private letter of apology to the family of the victim, to amend the online article to remove the information the complainant was concerned was unnecessary, to instruct staff not to repeat this detail in future articles on the case, and to make a donation to a charity of the family’s choosing.

7. The complainant said that the family accepted this offer of resolution. 

8. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.

Date complaint received: 25/07/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 29/08/2017