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11.08.2016

UK: Ruling against inadvertently identifying a victim of sexual assault based on social media image

by Cristina Bachmeier
In its decision in early March, the Westminster Magistrates Court found a British newspaper, The Sun, guilty of breaking the Sexual Offence (Amendment) Act after inadvertently identifying a victim of sexual assault.

The newspaper published a picture, which had been obtained from the social media platform Facebook, showing the victim together with the prominent perpetrator. The image of the victim had been heavily obscured by the newspaper and the article contained a warning that identification of the victim online and on social media would be followed by prosecution. The newspaper even included examples of convictions regarding identification of victims of sexual assault. Nevertheless, the victim was identified online by fellow Facebook users as the photo was visible from a private Facebook account.

In its ruling, the Court stated that although the newspaper took extensive steps to obscure the identity of the victim, including altering hair color, clothing and image background, and did not realize the full extent of the action at the time, the fact remained that the original photograph was most likely to have been seen on social media by others and therefore, the victim was likely to be identified.

The newspaper has been convicted to pay £ 1,300 costs and £ 1,000 in compensation.

Av. Cristina Bachmeier, LL.M. (Media Law), Saarbrücken/Berlin

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