A woman was accused of stalking a man who she then accused of rape. In reporting on a stalking charge, is it OK to name the woman, who says she is a rape victim?
While the UK law guarantees anonymity to sexual assault victims, it was OK for UK news outlets to name the woman, the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation ruled. “In law, and under the Code, victims of sexual assault are granted anonymity in reports of criminal proceedings which are brought against a defendant for alleged sexual offences,” IPSO explained. “The law allows victims of sexual assault to be identified in legal proceedings in which a defendant is not being tried for an offence of sexual assault, but with which the victim is involved.”
The woman, who was granted anonymity by IPSO in her complaints, complained about the Mail Online, Daily Express and Sun‘s stories about the court trial concerning the stalking allegations against her. In addition, she argued the articles were inaccurate because she thought they suggested she dropped the rape allegation, when instead she said the police decided not to pursue the matter. She also said she accused the man of rape while she was still dating the man, not after their relationship.
iMediaEthics has written to all three outlets.
The Mail said its article reported on open court proceedings, and that the rape allegation was relevant to the stalking trial. The Mail did offer to edit its story to clarify the timeline of the rape allegation being dropped. IPSO explained, “The publication said that the allegation of rape, made in conjunction with the harassing telephone calls, would have undoubtedly formed part of the conduct which distressed the victim.”
The Express and Sun argued their reports were accurate and noted that the judge in the case didn’t issue any reporting restrictions.
IPSO found all three news outlets’ reports were in the public interest, noting that “part of the prosecution’s case against her was the allegation of sexual assault which she had made against the man.”
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