Breaking victims anonymity rights is not the right of a Tweeter (23 April 2012)

Twitter is a great tool.  It’s a great place to share, promote and meet.  It’s a great place to debate and discuss.  

Recently though, it’s become, sadly, a place where people hiding behind their keyboard, and often a nickname, write things that they believe should be “out there” with no regard for the people they are writing about and, it seems, no regard for the law.

I am, of course, referring to the past 24-48 hours on Twitter where a handful of people have decided that a young girls name should be bandied about because they didn’t like the fact that a footballer was found guilty on Friday of raping her.

What these Tweeters perhaps didn’t realise in their fury is that victims in rape cases have their anonymity protected by law and the only way their names can, or should be released is with their consent.  This girl didn’t give her consent and now her name has been spread across the Internet and along with it some, quite frankly, disgusting comments about the girl.  I’m not going to post any of these comments but I will point out that today, even after North Wales Police warned that they were investigating the case, still her name was bandied about and her reputation called into question.

This is the statement from North Wales Police;

This is a statement in relation to the comments which have been made on social media sites following the sentencing of Ched Evans for rape.
DCI Steve Williams said: ”North Wales Police are aware of reports of comments on social media sites and are collating all relevant information which is currently being reviewed.
“As and when criminal offences are identified on such websites they will be dealt with robustly and arrest made if appropriate and the offenders will be brought to justice. We find this to be profoundly disturbing and are determined to seek out those responsible.
“I would advise people who post such status and tweets to consider the implications of their action and those who add comments to appreciate that they may be condoning such behaviour and contributing to the continued trauma upon this young woman.“

North Wales Police are investigating a real crime here, yet still people think they can post her name on Twitter because it’s…Twitter.  Twitter is a public forum.  Not the pub.  Those who Tweeted the victims name may well have been Tweeting their friends, but it’s not private like a text, it’s public and they have broken the law.

I don’t really know why those who have named the victim and said derogatory things about her have done so.  No good has come out of it.  There’s certainly no benefit for the footballer Ched Evans.  His sentence won’t be reduced and, if he’s sensible, he won’t see this as a sign of support.  

Instead, there is now a victim who, aside from dealing with what happened on the night in question, now has to deal with accusations, her character being defamed and with people knowing who she is when really, all she’d want is to try and put her life back together.

There is one point I have read today, from a Tweeter who wasn’t taking part in the above, who asked why the defendant didn’t have a right anonymity throughout the court case.