The Daily Record and the Paisley Daily Express, based in Glasgow, Scotland, made it possible for a sex crime victim to be identified, the press regulator found. By doing so, the two news outlets broke the press regulator’s editorial standards and, more generally, the accepted best practices for media ethics. Both Glasgow newspapers are owned by Trinity Mirror.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation’s guidelines ban the identification of any “children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offenses.” Outside of direct identification, IPSO also warns against using terms like “incest” or providing information that identifies how the sex crime victim and the accused know each other as that can provide enough information for readers to conclude who the victim is. Any sexual assault victims, however, cannot be named, regardless of age.
In order to protect the privacy of the sex crime victim, IPSO didn’t identify the dates or headlines of the articles in question, but IPSO ruled that two articles in each the Paisley Daily Express and the Daily Record violated those guidelines. The first article in each publication reported on a man having “pleaded guilty to sexual offences against a young child,” and the second reported on the sentencing. But, in both publications, both articles gave the months and years when the sexual offenses happened, how old the victim was, and other information about the crime and victim, like what prompted the victim to speak up.
Both newspapers stood by their reporting as part of “the principle of open justice” — essentially, saying the press has the right to report on crimes and that some information must be included. They also argued they did intentionally try to protect the victim by not reporting all of the information available.
IPSO agreed that under “the principle of open justice,” it was fair game to report on the case, the sentencing and the accused. But, both publications went too far by providing information that would make it possible to identify the victim.
“The detail the articles contained about the circumstances in which the defendant committed some of the offences could only reasonably be applied to a relatively narrow class of individuals,” IPSO ruled. “When reported alongside the age of the victim, and the time frames for the offences, these details, taken together, represented material which was likely to contribute to the identification of the victim.”
Interestingly, because the victim was not a minor at the time of the news reports or prosecution, IPSO cleared both outlets of breaking guidelines for reporting on children in sex cases. That said, IPSO ruled both broke the guidelines pertaining to victims of sexual assault.
Both publications had to publish the rulings on their website’s homepage for 24 hours and post the ruling on its website. iMediaEthics has contacted the parent company for both publications, Trinity Mirror, to ask how if any articles were unpublished or edited because of the complaints and how many complaints the papers received.