Victims of active court cases – and, in some cases, defendants too – could face additional trauma if their identity is leaked by irresponsible social media users.
The warning came from Commissioner of Police, Atlee Rodney, this morning who spoke to Observer about why police issued a statement yesterday urging the public to tread carefully when commenting on court matters online.
Particular sensitivity is needed in sexual offence cases, along with matters involving children. The law prohibits the names of both victims and a defendant in a sexual offence case from being identified. A defendant can only be named if convicted.
“The after effects of identifying a person on such a heinous crime like that and the person is not convicted and you are exposing them does not do any good to the person and society,” Rodney explained.
“Same thing goes for the victim. If you expose the victim of such a traumatic experience and persons can easily identify them and point fingers at them, you are creating much more hardship for them even long after the incident and long after the judicial process.
“So there is a responsibility from the law and from us as a society to protect these people.”
He also reminded the public that sharing details online could affect the judicial process by prejudicing a potential juror – and could even see the case thrown out if the accused is not deemed to have had a fair trial.
The Commissioner added that such actions could result in jail time and heavy fines as stipulated under the Sexual Offences Act.