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Court rules Facebook not covered by anonymity order

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A legal loophole has allowed a stalker who posted the name of his 15-year-old victim on Facebook to escape a conviction for breaching an anonymity order.

Hungarian national Roland Der, 21, was banned from Abingdon in Oxfordshire and given a two-year suspended sentence at Oxford Crown Court last November after admitting harassing the teenager by bombarding her with sexual images, texts and letters.

anonymity orderThe court had earlier made an order under section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 protecting her anonymity.

Following a hearing in August, Der posted the report of his case from the Oxford Mail on the newspaper’s Facebook page, adding the girl’s name to the post. Her name was on the site for around 20 minutes.

The Oxford Mail reported that Der was prosecuted for breaching the anonymity order, but he was acquitted at a hearing this month at Oxford Magistrates’ Court as the court was told that the law covers reports of court cases only in newspapers, and radio and television broadcasts, and does not extend to social media or the internet.

The Ministry of Justice said it is considering amending section 39 or enacting in its place section 45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, which refers to ‘any publication’ rather than newspaper or media reports.

Justice minister Jeremy Wright said: ‘Under-18s can be some of the most vulnerable people in society and need to be protected during the court process, whether they are victims, witnesses or defendants. This is why we are currently reviewing the existing law on reporting restrictions in cases involving young people, to make sure it reflects changing trends in reporting, such as the use of social media. However it is important that the courts, on a case-by-case basis, continue to strike a balance between protecting young people and open justice when considering if someone under 18 can be publicly identified.’

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