A 15-year-old robbery victim was left distressed and anxious after he was named in his local newspaper. His father had talked to the paper and gave the boy’s personal details, assuming they would be kept confidential as a matter of course. But IPSO found no breach of the Editor’s Code, partly because the father had already posted the sensitive information on Facebook. The paper said it would not have wilfully caused distress had the family’s wishes been clear. 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 journalist crowd-funded an appeal after reporting restrictions were imposed in an adoption case, without the media being given the chance to challenge them – as the law requires. Her victory meant she was able to expose “weak evidence” used put a child in care. Read more.
A star of the TV show Shameless put out Facebook pleas for free legal help after being summoned to the High Court, apparently in relation to an image of the killer Jon Venables that circulated on social media. An injunction makes it a serious crime to publish images of Venables, who killed toddler Jamie Bulger when he was ten years old. See the Liverpool Echo story here.
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.
Child murders Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were tried in an adult court and publicly named by a judge when convicted; but on release, they were given new identities to protect them from attack. When Venables was jailed again in February 2018, The Sun ran a feature on the six criminals in Britain who had closely guarded, lifelong anonymity. Read it here.