Contempt: newspaper editor fined for risking identification of sex offence victim

The editor of The Ceredigion Herald, Thomas Sinclair, has been ordered to pay a total of £3,650 in fines and compensation after being found guilty of publishing an article that risked identifying the victim of a sexual offence. Mr Sinclair had denied that the article created such a risk and has said he will appeal the conviction.

Section 1(2) Sexual Offences Amendment Act 1992 prohibits the publication of anything that is likely to lead members of the public to identify the victim of a sexual offence, during the lifetime of that person. The article in question, which was published on 24 June 2016, reported the details of the relationship between a man convicted of voyeurism and the victim of the offence. The Judge found that this, together with other details in the article, meant there was a real risk of jigsaw identification of the victim, particularly given the small community in which the defendant lived.
The Judge underlined the importance of anonymity for victims of sexual offences, saying:

‘The protection of victims of sexual offences is a matter of considerable concern… This court must be mindful of the real psychological harm to the victim, harm confirmed by this victim in her victim impact statement…. This offence has enormous potential to undermine the confidence of victims reporting sexual offences.’

Sinclair said he regretted that the article had ‘slipped through the net’, but denied that it created a risk of identification. He pointed to the low circulation figures for the newspaper – only 450 people, or 0.68% of the county’s population, read the newspaper. Sinclair said he did not have a particular role in the creation of the article and had ‘skim read it at best’.

The judge fined Mr Sinclair £1,500 and ordered him to pay £1,500 to the victim in compensation, costs of £500 and a surcharge of £150.

After the hearing, Mr Sinclair maintained that he thought the article created no risk, and said he would be appealing both his conviction and sentence.

Mr Sinclair was previously fined £500, as editor of The Pembrokeshire Herald, for naming a 17-year-old who appeared in the Youth Court – a report of this can be found in Zoom-In Winter 2016.