Remove newspaper reports about a court case
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What to do if your criminal case appears in the Google searches when you were not guilty
The press in the UK is free to report on legal proceedings provided the reporting is fair and accurate. This means that even if you had been found not guilty following a criminal case, articles about your court case might still appear in Google searches. You can, however, have those articles removed from Google searches.
Our client Dan (not his real name) was a successful businessman based in Newcastle, who had been happily married for the best part of fourteen years with two young children. Some seventeen years ago he had been falsely accused of sexual assault, of which he was charged and then later acquitted as it emerged that the accuser had been lying and concocted the story to damage Dan’s reputation as a budding businessman at the time. Naturally, articles were published nationally both in print and online detailing the alleged assault and trial.
These articles remained on the internet and were available to see for many years. A few years on, Dan discovered that a disgruntled ex-employee was telling current employees and other associates to Google his name, to reveal the articles which had reported the alleged assault and trial that took place over seventeen years ago.
The ex-employee that had been dismissed was evidently bitter about being fired and in retaliation was attempting to defame Dan by encouraging the circulation of outdated and false news concerning him. As a result of the ex-employee’s actions, who were constantly researching Dan's name, the articles began to rank high on Google searches relating to Dan’s name and his business.
Dan was extremely concerned about the detrimental impact this might have on both his personal and professional life. His two children were young and impressionable and the risk of them being exposed to the articles through friends at school held dire consequences. His reputation amongst employees and associates was being tarnished and as a result, friendships and business relations were becoming strained. Lastly, his wife was becoming extremely distressed with news circulating around town, coming back to haunt them.
Dan was innocent and had not committed the alleged wrongdoing, yet he was having to deal with the repercussions of an event he had not even committed. Acknowledging that action needed to be taken, Dan contacted our law firm seeking help to remove the outdated articles from the internet.
There are circumstances where, even if the press publication about you is true, you will have a legal right to remove news articles from Google searches. This will often be the case with a not guilty verdict following a criminal case.
Our expert lawyers advised Dan that he had a fundamental right to exercise a private life, of which the publishers of the articles must respect. Publishers must strike a balance as to what content should be kept private to protect an individual and what amounts to public interest and publication.
The legal right to a private life is contained and protected in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This article states that individuals have the right to live their life privately without government interference. Courts have broadly interpreted this definition and consequently are able to apply it to many things for example, one’s sexual orientation, lifestyle, personal identity as well as the prevention of media intervention in one’s life. Evidently, in Dan’s case his right to a private life had been breached as the articles posted on the websites were causing severe disruptions to his personal life. The article related to a historic allegation, of which took place seventeen years ago to which he had been cleared.
The information held no current relevance in being accessible online especially as the accuser had confessed to the court that she fabricated the story and Dan had been cleared of all allegations. The article now served one purpose and one purpose alone- to defame Dan and cause havoc in all aspects of his life. Our lawyers advised Dan that we would be able to assist him with the removal of the articles from public sight. We first communicated with the publishers of the articles directly and sought to have the articles deleted, explaining the harmful effect they had on Dan and his life.
The publishers refused to remove the articles on the basis that they had a right to report legal proceedings, the content was factually correct at the time, and they were therefore entitled to retain the articles online. There is no denying that the publishers had a right to all the above under journalistic exemptions contained by the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018. However, the content of the articles was now outdated, factually untrue and unfair- thereby justifying its removal.
Using the right to be forgotten to ensure the delisting of newspaper articles about a court case, could often be an effective method to have historical information about you removed from public sight.
In the case of Dan, our lawyers consequently contacted Google and requested the articles be de-listed from their search results detailing the consequences they bore on our client. Google agreed to our request and had the articles de-listed from its search results. Our client, Dan was extremely satisfied with the results we were able to provide in having the search results de-listed. He was able to lead his life peacefully once again without the concerns of falsified allegations being widely available on the internet.
Every case of a de-listing search results from search engines is an important case for me. I deeply believe that everyone deserves a second change in life and that this is particularly true where the individual finds himself in the middle of a storm that involves no wrongdoing. A newspaper report about a criminal court case would nearly always feels like a stain on your character because people tend to believe that there is no smoke without a fire and very few bother to investigate a matter beyond a summary that is provided in a newspaper article.
Luckily for them, an application under a right to be forgotten can help remove links to those newspaper articles that often are so harmful. Having worked on hundreds of cases of this nature, I am pleased that the process that the firm has developed to de-list newspaper articles from Google is effective and that it has allowed me to help individuals such as Dan and his family.
If you find that the press has published articles about a criminal case where you had been found not guilty, or where your not guilt criminal case is coming up on Google searches, you should seek legal advice and a specialist lawyer, following a review of your individual matter, will be able to, in most cases, to help you remove all mentions of your criminal case from Google searches.