UK Police Planning To Arrest Twitter Users For Mentioning The Name Of A Rape Victim

from the free-speech? dept

The UK apparently has a law that protects the identity of the victims of sexual assault and rape. It's understandable why such laws exist. However, once a name gets out, as it has in a recent high profile case involving footballer Ched Evans (sentenced to five years in jail for raping a woman), does it really make sense to arrest Twitter users for mentioning her name? Now, this is no Ryan Giggs-type case, despite the superficial similarities. This does involve the victim of a horrific crime. However, at some point, you have to come to terms with reality, and recognize that even if you don't want the name out there, it's out there. Apparently it was such common knowledge that the name was trending as one of the most popular topics on Twitter. At that point, what good does arresting Twitter users do? It doesn't put the genie back in the bottle, and it's unlikely to make people not share other names. It just enrages people for telling them they can't talk about something they want to talk about.

The laws on these types of issues were designed to prevent the press from broadcasting the name. The problem here is that in the internet age, we've all become the press -- even as most people think of these tools as being more like a typical conversation. And that's where the law breaks down. While it may be legal to arrest folks on Twitter for mentioning this woman's name, it clearly goes beyond the purpose or intent of the law, and doesn't seem to do much good.

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  1. icon
    G Thompson (profile), 26 Apr 2012 @ 9:52pm

    Re: Free speech

    The victims name was NOT stated in public court, if stated at all it is stated in closed court and only heard by the court, defence, prosecution, and maybe jury (though sometimes even the jury is denied the name).

    Rape (sexual assault) being a highly contentious issue on all sides is one of the main areas of law within Commonwealth Countries (UK/AU/NZ/CAN) where victims identities (and all other identifiers) are fully protected under gag orders. In the case of the UK this is for the life of the victim as it should be.

    Minors (Children & Young persons) have a similar law protecting their names and anything they might have been involved in within Criminal law proceedings.

    It's not a matter of censorship, and definitely doesn't come under Freedom of Speech (a USA only concept) it's a matter of common sense, protection of the innocent and something the large majority of reasonable people actually agree with.

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