Last year, we reported that nine individuals were ordered to pay compensation for naming the victim in the Ched Evans rape case. Initially there was confusion as to whether the sentences imposed were fines, compensation, or a mixture of the two.
Reports later confirmed that the £624 figure was a Compensation Order.
Today we learn from news reports that Alexandria Hewitt, aged 19, admitted identifying the victim on Facebook and Twitter. She had initially pleaded not guilty, according to the BBC report.
The offence admitted is contrary to Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 s 1. Section 1 prohibits the publication of the name (amongst other things) of an alleged victim of certain offences for their lifetime, if it may lead to the public to identify that person.
It was said of Hewitt that she did not realise that what she had done was illegal, and that she felt that the victim ought to be named. She later accepted that her comments were inappropriate.
The figure of compensation is the same as the others who pleaded guilty in November. The costs order was presumably ordered against Hewitt and not the nine others who had previously pleaded guilty in order to reflect the time and money that her initial plea of not guilty had caused.
Another consideration is that it was said on Hewitt’s behalf that she had initially denied the charge because of a question over whether comments sent only to friends on Facebook constituted public comments.
Having obtained clarification it was now clear that an offence had been committed, he said. In such situations, the reduction in sentence for a guilty plea (starting at 1/3, and reducing the further down the process one gets) can be withheld. This is because where further information is necessary before it is reasonable to expect a defendant to plead guilty, it would not be fair to reduce the credit open to them if they were to plead guilty. After all, would it be right to induce Hewitt to plead guilty (by reducing her credit for a guilty plea) if she wasn’t sure that she was guilty of the offence? I think not.
District Judge Andrew Shaw, who previously sentenced the other two women and seven men who named the rape victim, said the only penalty open to him was a fine.
“You identified a victim of rape without considering the consequences and without a full understanding of exactly what you were doing,” he told Hewitt.