Ministry of Justice promises review after campaign to protect sex victims

THE Ministry of Justice has promised a review after The Comet revealed that the names of victims of sexual offences – who by law should be protected by lifetime anonymity – are being circulated by the court service.

In July, The Comet reported that Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is emailing daily court lists, which are not encrypted, to organisations which include local authorities, charities, radio stations, newspapers, news agencies, the NHS, police and probation service.

These court lists name alleged victims of sexual offences who, under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992, are protected by lifetime anonymity.

The Comet discovered that the distribution list is not even kept up-to-date and, as well as named individuals, the court lists are sent to central email addresses, making it difficult to monitor who is accessing them.

Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, contacted the Attorney General “to request this serious breach was reviewed urgently”.

In a letter to Mr McPartland, the Minister of State for Justice, the Right Honourable Lord Tom McNally, has written: “In light of the newspaper’s campaign, I can confirm that HMCTS will be reviewing and reissuing its guidance to local court managers.”

Mr McPartland said: “This should be considered a successful outcome.

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“However, I will be pressing the minister to ensure that victims of sexual offences are given the lifetime anonymity that Parliament intended them to have.”