Pair in Wigan dock for naming rape complainant

Two women found themselves in the dock after breaking the law by naming a woman who alleged she had been raped.

Friday, 2nd August 2019, 3:54 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd August 2019, 4:54 pm
They appeared at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates' Court

People who claim they have been the victim of a sexual offence are granted anonymity for life, even if no-one is convicted of the offence.

But Nichola Wallace, 42, and Natalie Watkinson, 32, ignored this by naming a rape complainant in posts on Facebook.

The pair were both charged with breaching the terms of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 and appeared at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court to answer the charges.

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Wallace, of St Mark’s Avenue, Newtown, pleaded guilty to identifying a sex offence complainant in a Facebook post on February 14.

Watkinson, of Buchanan Road, Worsley Hall, admitted committing the same offence on February 28.

They both published information which was likely to lead to members of the public identifying the woman, that is her name.

Magistrates decided to punish the pair by giving them both hefty bills to pay.

Wallace was ordered to pay a £391 fine and £39 victim surcharge, while Watkinson must pay a £120 fine and £30 victim surcharge. They were also both told to pay £85 towards prosecution costs.

It follows an allegation of rape against Thomas Kennedy, who was found not guilty by a jury after a five-day trial at Bolton Crown Court earlier this year.

Mr Kennedy told this newspaper how he lost his home, car and job after spending six months remanded in custody following arrest at the home of his partner.

Police were investigating what they were told was a brutal sex attack, but Mr Kennedy told the jury he had consensual sex with the complainant and was cleared of rape.

The law grants anonymity to everyone who says they have been the victim of a sex crime, meaning anything that identifies them, such as their name, address, place of work and photograph must not be published.

This applies from the moment the claim is made and remains in place regardless of the allegation being later withdrawn, police being told, an alleged offender being prosecuted and whether anyone is convicted.

There are only certain circumstances in which complainants can be identified, which includes if they choose to waive their anonymity by written consent.

They can also be named if they are prosecuted for making a false allegation - something which has not happened in this case.

A Facebook spokeswoman said: “Facebook has a set of Community Standards that outline the kind of sharing that is allowed on our platform. This includes the requirement to comply with local law. As soon as we become aware of content that violates our standards, we act to make sure that it is quickly removed.”