LK (a minor) and MK –v- Three Media Outlets
A judgment was given by the High Court in this breach of privacy claim on 3 November 2010.1 RDJ represented one of the Defendants.
Each of the Defendants had published short reports of a guilty plea by a person, D, who pleaded guilty to the rape and sexual assault of a female and male respectively on certain dates. The victims' (Plaintiffs) names and addresses were not published. The Plaintiffs' claimed that they were entitled to damages as a result of a breach of Section 7 of the Rape Act 1981 (as amended) and for breach of their constitutional right to privacy. Section 7 provides that "....after a person is charged with a sexual assault offence no matter likely to lead members of the public to identify a person as the Complainant... shall be published...". The Plaintiffs produced witnesses from the village in which they had lived who gave evidence that they had identified the Plaintiffs from the Defendants' publications having earlier witnessed Garda visits to the houses of both the victims and the convicted person.
The Defendants argued that they could not have anticipated that the information published was likely to lead to the victims being identified.
In finding for the Defendants, the Judge made a number of important points which can be summarised as follows:-
There is a public interest in identifying and naming convicted sex offenders. This public interest should not be at the expense of a Complainant's right to privacy and anonymity which continues after the accused person has been convicted. In certain circumstances the Court can lawfully restrict the publication of the identity of a convicted person in order to prevent a victim being identified. The test on whether a publication is "likely" to lead to a Complainant being identified is whether there is "a real risk that the Complainant would be identified in the minds of the public if the information was published". If it can be shown that a Court Reporter was aware or ought to have been aware that the publication was likely to lead members of the public to identify the Complainant e.g. if the convicted person was a relative or neighbour of the victim, then that could be a breach of Section 7 which could lead to an entitlement to damages arising from a breach of the Complainant's constitutional right to privacy. The Judge stated in this regard that if the report stated that the victims of the crimes also lived in the...