Daily Mail fined for pixelated image of alleged paedophile ring victim

Daily Mail fined for pixelated image of alleged paedophile ring victim

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Introduction

We looked a few months ago at the case of the Sun journalist who was convicted of an offence under s1 Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992.

This provides that “neither the name nor address, and no still or moving picture, of that person shall during that person’s lifetime … be published in England and Wales in a written publication available to the public“. 

The interpretation section, s6, says that “picture” includes a likeness however produced“.

It was confirmed in the case of O’Riordan v DPP [2005] EWHC 1240 (Admin) that this is a ‘strict liability’ offence.

Further, under s1(2) “no matter likely to lead members of the public to identify a person as the person against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed (“the complainant”) shall during the complainant’s lifetime“.

Well, on 12th May 2016 another member of the ‘street of shame’ was up before the beak for a similar breach.

 

Facts

Operation Midland, The controversial (and expensive) enquiry as to the alleged paedophile ring featuring politicians and other celebrities, has attracted a huge amount of public interest.

Last September, the Daily Mail published an article about ‘Nick’, the alleged victim, entitled “Nick – victim or fantasist?”. This had a pixelated image of Nick, as well as containing ‘some personal details’ of him.

It seems that there were two charges. Presumably one related to the image, and the other to the ‘personal details’ contained in the article (s1(1) and s1(2) as set out above).

The Mail pleaded guilty.

 

Sentence

Here, Associated Newspapers (the company that owns and publishes the Daily Mail) were fined £40,000. An eye-watering amount for you and I, even if it may not have that much of an impact on the newspaper’s bottom line.

How does the Court set a fine for this offence? There isn’t any real guidance. There is in relation to fining companies for Health & Safety breaches for example, and although the offence is different, the basic approach is probably pretty similar.

The District Judge said that although the article itself was in the public interest, the “offence is serious and I am particularly concerned about the damage to public confidence that complainants’ identities will be protected”.

 

Comment

When we looked at it before, we did raise a slight concern as to whether the offence should cover a pixelated image. I remain to be convinced that that is the case but given that far better legal minds than me have considered this, I accept that my view is probably not correct.

The other matter, the details that could have lead to Nick’s identification, is much more straightforward, and no complaint could be made about that allegation or conviction.

As to the level of the fine? The DJ has a wide level of discretion, but it may be time that a higher court does give some guidance. Especially as this issue is likely to arise more and more frequently in this internet age.

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Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Where does that leave the powers that be in charge of the Newspaper Library at Colindale if I ask for the Daily Hate Mail for the month in question and they let me read it?

  2. It would seem from everything I’ve read recently that this man “Nick” has been shown to be a fantasist and many good innocent people have been dragged through the legal system because of the decision of Inspector Knacker to believe everything he says without any corroboration, or even some kind of basic fact check. In that light, the DM’s actions seem pretty harmless in comparison.

    @Andrew – “Daily Hate Mail ” – really ? And you Guardianistas are of course in no way self righteous, morally superior and hypocritical in any way.

  3. I like the Guardian as much as I like the Daily Mail, Captain!

    The Mail has two good features and one use. The good features are its gardening column and its Sudokus. As for its only real use, you can get a better product from the supermarket in a number of pastel shades.

    You are of course right – it has to happen sometimes, congratulations – about Nick.

  4. @Andrew

    I am right of course as you know I always am. In fact put down your Skinny Latte, and just give me a round of applause. Go on you know you want to.

    I’m sure you can get bigger squares out of the Guardian anyway.

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