The Daily Telegraph published a pixelated photograph of a 15-year-old sexual assault victim of soccer player Adam Johnson earlier this year. Now, the newspaper’s publisher has to pay an £80,000 fine. The Telegraph Media Group admitted it was wrong and also has to pay the victim £10,000. Johnson was convicted in 2015 for having sexual activity with a child and pleaded guilty to another count of sexual activity with a child and a charge of grooming. (Gromming is, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, “when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking.”)
“It is a criminal offence under the Sexual Offences Act to identify any alleged victim of a sexual offence unless that person has waived their right to lifelong anonymity,” the Guardian reported.
A Telegraph spokesperson told iMediaEthics by e-mail:
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“As we made clear in Court, we have apologised unreservedly to the victim for the distress she has been caused. The picture should not have been published and we have put in place robust procedures to ensure that such an error can never happen again.”
The Guardian noted that the year before, the Sun published the same pixelated photograph from the girl’s Facebook page but only had to pay a £5,000 fine because the penalty was stiffened shortly thereafter. In that case, David Dinsmore, the Chief Operating Officer for News UK, had published the photograph when he was the editor of the Sun. Because of a paperwork error, as iMediaEthics reported at the time, the Sun/News UK wasn’t prosecuted — only Dinsmore was.