A journalist who was attacked by a man later convicted of drugging and raping more than 100 men told HoldTheFrontPage.com how he gave up his automatic right of anonymity in order to write about his experience – to help other victims. Read more here.
IPSO rejected a complaint from pop star Jamelia after she was named in a newspaper report about her estranged step-brother, who was convicted of murder. The Editor’s Code says relatives of criminals should not normally be identified unless relevant. The paper said there was a public interest because the killer was only the second person in the UK to stand trial under a pseudonym. Significantly, he named the star in his application for reporting restrictions, saying the case was receiving heavy media coverage because she was a “close relation”. Read more here.
The Manchester Evening News chose not to challenge an unusual decision to extend a reporting restriction on naming rapist Reynhard Sinaga when was convicted of assaulting 48 men. He was believed to have many other victims who may not have known they had been drugged and assaulted. Police applied for restrictions to protect those unknown victims. Unusually, a decision was taken to keep the restrictions in place until sentencing, after Christmas, because “there were concerns about the availability for counselling services over the holiday period,” wrote reporter Beth Abitt. A rare case of a paper deciding suppression was in the public interest, perhaps. Read more.
Young journalists are warned they might breach a child’s anonymity by naming the school they attend. It is routine practice to avoid doing so. But in a case involving a teacher who had sex with a public, a reporter persuaded a judge that in a large school, the risk was tiny. He said there was a strong public interest in naming the teacher – and the judge agreed. But the important thing is that the reporter warned the judge in advance. Note that in other cases, judges have decided that it is the media that must decide what is safe – and face the consequences if they are wrong. Read more.
A reporter has told how an unnamed court clerk tried to stop him reporting a knife crime trial: wrongly claiming there was a reporting restriction in place, and wrongly saying this meant the reporter could not cover the case at all. A Section 45 order was subsequently imposed to protect the teenage defendant’s identity: the reporter said that when he tried to challenge it, the clerk ignored his request to address the judge. The reporter won the day: the judge lifted the order so the 17-year-old could be named. Read more here (note that the facts in the story have not been verified for this website).
A judge declined to lift a temporary injunction preventing the media from naming two girls who carried out a brutal murder when they were only 13 and 14. Both had now turned 18, the age when teenagers’ right to anonymity would normally end. They were tried in an adult court with no automatic anonymity, but an injunction was put in place to protect them. The Press Association applied to have it lifted, but a judge extended the ban pending psychiatric reports. The court heard one of the girls had tried several times to kill herself. Read more.
Tina Malone, a star of the TV soap Shameless, was fined £10,000 and given a suspended prison sentence for sharing a Facebook post. It purported to reveal the current identity of Jon Venables, one of two men who, as 10-year-old boys, had killed the toddler Jamie Bulger. An injunction bans anyone in the world from revealing their current names or showing pictures of them – partly to protect innocent people whose pictures might be published in error. Read more.
Talkradio host James Whale said he was “devastated” that listeners were upset by an interview in which he challenged a sex assault victim for not pressing her case – saying her attacker could strike again. It was seen as victim-blaming. The victim was a contributor who unexpectedly revealed she had been attacked. Ofcom said Whale’s “significant lack of sensitivity” could discourage sex offence victims from talking about their experiences. The complaint was dealt with under the Harm and Offence section of the Ofcom Code. Read more.
A rape victim “went into meltdown” when she heard her identity revealed on the BBC Asian Network, a court heard. The reporter knew she had a right to anonymity but wrongly assumed the name used in court was a pseudonym. The editor who approved the script was tried for breaching her anonymity but cleared by a judge for his “honest mistake”. But the case raises several interesting points for journalism students:
- The editor, not the BBC, was charged
- Pseudonyms are not used in court
- The reporter had never covered a court case – and the editor didn’t know
- The reporter was distressed by the error
- No BBC editor had been charged before
Note also that the case was heard by a judge, sitting in a magistrates’ court.
Had the BBC itself been charged, the outcome might have been different. Or might not.
Read the BBC report here.
The 24-hour shutdown of Gatwick Airport, caused by a drone, became a media law story when a man and woman were wrongly arrested for causing the havoc – and their names were widely published. The Mail on Sunday splash headline read: “Are these the morons who ruined Christmas?”
One commentator quoted by Press Gazette said their case had echoes of the coverage of the arrest of Sir Cliff Richard, for which he was awarded £210,000 damages against the BBC. He was never charged. The case reshaped the landscape regarding privacy and media freedom.
In a Guardian blog, Professor Roy Greenslade said the affair was reminiscent of the case of Christopher Jefferies, the innocent man who suffered character assassination in the media after being briefly detained in connection with a Bristol murder. But he also noted the public interest in disclosure.
The same Press Gazette report quoted Gill Phillips, the Guardian’s director of editorial legal services, warning that privacy claims were now taking the place of defamation cases – with smaller but still punitive costs involved. Privacy cases offered no defence of truth, and ambiguity over the potential defence of public interest.