A freelance reporter for the Daily Mail “unwittingly revealed the names of potential” sexual assault victims to the alleged victims’ parents and friend, the Mail admitted. Distancing itself from the freelancer’s actions, the Mail said it was not aware that the freelancer identified the alleged victims.
“Victims of sexual assault are granted anonymity both in law, and under the Code, in any reports of a criminal trial for sexual offenses,” press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation noted. By identifying the alleged victims, the Mail made a “gross intrusion into their private lives.”
The admission came after the Warwickshire Police complained to IPSO on behalf of the three alleged victims.
The breach of privacy involved three alleged victims. The freelancer contacted a friend of two of these people, who are siblings, and showed that friend a list of potential victims, according to the siblings. (The freelancer said he didn’t “deliberately” show the list of victims but that the friend may have seen the list on his phone). The third alleged victim said the freelancer contacted their parents, though the reporter claimed he was just trying to locate the alleged victim and did not tell the parents about the allegations. All three victims told IPSO they hadn’t told their parents about being victims.
The Mail defended its freelancer, saying that if victims were unintentionally identified, it would be in the public interest because the newspaper was trying to report “fully on an important and controversial case,” IPSO reported. But, the Mail offered to privately apologize and donate to charity to rectify the matter.
The Mail provided iMediaEthics with a copy of its print version of the newspaper’s publication of the IPSO adjudication, posted below. The Warwickshire Police declined to comment to iMediaEthics.
IPSO reviewed the complaint and found the Mail broke the code. “The reporter should have been acutely aware that, in contacting third parties about the complainants, there was a risk that he would identify them as victims,” IPSO explained. Because the reporter told the parents and friend that the complainants were linked to a “well-known criminal case,” the reporter thus identified them as potential or actual victims.
As such, the Mail has to publish the ruling in print and online. iMediaEthics has written to the Mail to ask if it will continue to use that freelancer.