Now that the trial of former Lostprophets frontman Ian Watkins is over, I feel safe enough to be able to mention the topic. I am not going to talk about the depravity in this case as I could never cope with doing that, but instead I’m going to talk about the law: in this case media law.
Now, a strict eye-opening year of learning media law back in uni, coupled with my trusty McNae, equipped me with enough knowledge of how not to be (much of) a twat online. From contempt of court, to anonymity orders, to copyright law, to coroners rules, media law is a minefield – best believe that’s just the tip of the iceberg – and statute exists to ensure the smooth running of the justice system. How just this system is, well that’s another conversation which I refuse to look at here, but I digress. What has become increasingly obvious in the world of social media is the distinct lack of awareness to these laws.
Unfortunately Peaches Geldof appears to have not been privy to any of the relevant legislation, as demonstrated by her tweeting while the case was live*. Though she apologised, Peaches may now face criminal charges for naming the two women whose babies were abused by Ian Watkins – the women also happened to be defendants in the case.
We see this a lot of the time in the UK. People get (rightly) outraged by the supposed protection defendants in court cases receive. However this was not the case (excuse the pun) here. These women did not receive anonymity for the sake of it, they received anonymity to protect the identities of their children.
You see, victims and alleged victims of sexual offences, from groping to rape, are granted lifetime anonymity under Section 1 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. That’s the victims. If that means that a defendant isn’t to be named because they are related to that victim (and identifying that relative would thus identify said victim) then the defendant is not to be named.
We’ve seen people on social media platforms be completely ignorant of this and other legislation relating to anonymity and contempt laws. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking seriously about including some explicit law classes in schools, especially in this era of open social media. That’s why in some ways I feel sorry for people, because I was not aware of these laws until I did my post grad. Then in other cases I’m not sorry at all, because a normal human being would just mind their business. The Attorney General Dominic Grieve has been flexing his muscles since being in the role, and he must have caught wind of the tweet, as the CPS tweeted soon after.
Peaches Geldof is listed as a journalist when you Google her, but no journo worth their salt disobeys trusty McNae.
*Sidenote: a case is deemed to be ‘live’ from the moment of arrest, but there are other times too, so double check.