Covering Sex Offences Notes

  • When a person is a victim of a sexual offence, such as rape, sexual assault, they are automatically given life long anonymity by the court under the Sexual Offences Amendments Act 1992
  • Under Section One of the Sexual Offences Amendment Act 1992 after an allegation of a sex offence has been made it is illegal to include in any publication any matter which is likely to lead members of the public to identify, during his or her lifetime, the person who is the victim/allaged victim of that offence
  • the ban includeds:
  • – the  name 
  • the address
  • – the identity of any school or other education establishment attended by them
  • – the identify of his or her work
  • – any still or moving picture of him of her
  • the order starts from the moment an allegation is made by the alleged victim or anyone else, even if no one is charged, and it is automatic
  • it remains in place regardless of weather the allegation in a later withdrawn, or weather the police are told, whether an offender is prosecuted and whether anyone us convicted
  • it applies to babies or adults with mental incapacity and anyone who cannot complain for themselves
  • you have to be aware of jig-saw identification
  • Parliament gave victims anonymity in 1976 to save them the embarrassment and trauma of giving evidence in court.
  • it applies to crime stories, reports of trials and civil cases

Fro example a woman who alleges she was raped sues her rapist in a civil court cannot name her even if she loses her case.

If you cover an employment tribunal where an employee alleges sexual harassment they have anonymity.

Jigsaw Indentification

  • Section One of the Act bans publication of matter that is ‘likely to lead’ to identification
  • Naming a large school and saying the victim was a pupil is unlikely to lead to identification but if you include other information saying they were a 14 year old violinist might
  • You have to be careful how other media organisations cover the same rape case. For example you may report the victim as a mum-of-three from east Hull, the radio may report she is a nurse and the television says it is a 31 year-old then her colleagues might identify her and you would all breach the act
  • In reports about allegations of abuse within a family the media organisations should agree beforehand either name the adult defendant and omit the relationship to the child or not identify the adult defendant and describe the abuse.
  • Also the Editors Code of Practice forbids the identification of a child in sex cases
  •  Some media organisations have been fined for inadvertently publishing material which inadvertently breaches it
  • In 2006 the Daily Telegraph was fined £2000 and ordered to pay £5000 compensation for breaching it and the Daily Express was fined £2700 and ordered to pay £10000 compensation after they published pictures of a servicewoman who claimed she had been sexually assaulted
  • In some circumstance the order can be lifted or varied to enable the media to report a case
  • Clause 11 of the Editors Code of Practice says the press must not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is antiquate justification and they are legally free to do so
  • Clause 7 of the Editors Code of Practice says the press must not, even if legally free to do so, identify children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences
  • There are only four ways you can identify a sex victim and that is:
  • if they die
  • if they sign a waiver to lift their anonymity
  • if they have lied and made false allegations
  • if they are convicted of a crime and use the fact they were a victim of a sex offence as mitigation