PCC raps Take a Break for identifying sex abuse victim

Victim identification is one of the key areas of reporting restrictions and one of the most basic mistakes a reporter can make with some of the most upsetting consequences for the victim.

In this case Take a Break magazine had run a touching real-life story about two sisters who has been abused by their stepfather when they were younger. The issue was that only one of the sisters had agreed to tell her story and be identified. So when the magazine ran the story identifying both sisters and including a photograph, this caused great upset to the sister that had sought anonymity.

It appears that the editor of the paper had relied on the reporter who had assured them that they had indeed obtained permission from both sisters. An apologetic editor immediately admitted the failings to the PCC and undertook editorial measures to ensure there would not be a repeat of such failing. For the reporter in question it was probably a career-limiting decision not to fully check and gain express permission from their sources - and pretend to their editor they had.

The PCC upheld the complaint under Clauses 3 (Privacy) and 11 (Victims of sexual assault) of the PCC Editors' Code.

Journalists and editors have to take great care when it comes to victim identification and even where they might have thought they are acting within the rules and had not sought to identify a victim and identification can still come about - see this previous PCC adjudication

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