Even though news outlets typically do not name sexual assault victims, the Sun‘s decision to name and identify a woman who claims she is a sexual assault victim wasn’t a violation of UK journalism standards, the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation ruled.
The reason the Sun was in the clear, IPSO explained, is because the woman was on trial for assault and for wasting the police’s time. She was accused by police of assaulting the man who she claimed assaulted her, and of falsifying the sexual assault report. She was later acquitted.
IPSO did not name the woman who complained.
“While the Committee acknowledged the complainant’s position that she was a victim of sexual assault and therefore should not have been identified, the terms of Clause 11 make clear that victims can be identified by publications when there is adequate justification and they are legally free to do so,” IPSO said. “In this instance, the publication had outlined that legal anonymity does not apply to the reporting of other criminal proceedings involving the victim.”
Clause 11 of the IPSO code states,
“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.”
Further, IPSO noted there is public interest in reporting on the case in open court. “The article was a contemporaneous report of a court case in which the complainant was facing charges of assault and wasting police time,” IPSO said. “Where the allegation of sexual assault was central to these ongoing proceedings, the Committee was satisfied that the publication was justified in identifying the complainant as an alleged victim of sexual assault.”
It was also OK for the Sun to publish photos taken of the woman outside court because they didn’t invade her privacy, were taken in public, and illustrated the article. The Sun declined to comment to iMediaEthics about the ruling.
The woman also complained that the article was inaccurate because it reported on the prosecution’s claims, but IPSO rejected that complaint because the article accurately reported on an ongoing court case. Further, IPSO noted that the Sun reporter in a follow-up article said that the charges against the woman were dismissed.
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