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Island sex offender wants Google link removed

The Google takedown claim

The Google takedown claim

Here’s an interesting development, particularly given current threats to press freedom that already exist on the Isle of Man.

I’ve not seen one of these before, although I do try to keep an eye on Manx links Google’s removing. It’s a defamation claim from a convicted sex offender.

He wants a Manx Radio report on his crimes stricken from Google searches.

I’m not aware of any such claim ever having been made before, and I have one or two problems with it.

The background is that a man from Douglas admitted two counts of procuring acts of gross indecency, and two of having unlawful sex with girls under 16.

He was duly sentenced – but now, six year later, he’s obviously finding the Manx Radio story is the first thing that pops up when someone Googles his name.

The claim

About a fortnight ago, he applied to Google to have the link to Manx Radio’s story stricken from the search engine’s results.

And his reasoning?

The convictions detailed in the Web article are spent under the rehabilitation of offenders act 1974 and having them still available to the public breaches part 8 of this act and also by definition is a defamatory act. It is detrimental to my future career prospects and also to my future life both personal and professional.

Here’s the whole thing:

The Google takedown claim

The Google takedown claim

There’s also a link to the article, which I’m not going to post here for legal reasons I’ll go into a little later. You can, however, find the claim via the Lumen Database, which tracks takedown requests to Google.

The first law flaw

My first difficulty is the legislation quoted. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 is a UK law. In the Isle of Man, it took a lot longer to pass laws which were aimed at giving people a second chance after they paid for their crimes.

On the Island, the relevant law is the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 2001. Section 3(1) makes it an offence to publish or broadcast a spent conviction.

That’s why I’ve no intention of identifying the person involved here.

But that’s not the only difficulty he faces with his claim, which so far hasn’t been honoured by Google – searching for his name still shows the story as the top result.

They’ve all got it infamy

There’s also the claim having the story still available “by definition is a defamatory act”.

This, quite simply, is not true. There are very well-established precedents in the UK that say having a story in an archive – online or otherwise – is not a breach of rehabilitation legislation.

Consider: every time a conviction was spent (and so, in the eyes of the law, simply didn’t exist any more and never happened to begin with), would a newspaper have to visit every library which had a copy of the paper that carried the story to expunge it from record?

No. And the same principle applies here.

The law says writing about the conviction now would be illegal, not that history needs rewriting.

Career smear

There’s also this:

It is detrimental to my future career prospects and also to my future life both personal and professional.

While I can understand that, there are several schools of thought here.

First and foremost is concern for his victims. I daresay his crimes were detrimental to their future lives, both personal and professional. Crying for sympathy in this way demeans what happened to them.

And as for being detrimental to future career prospects, let’s bear in mind this was only around six years ago. It’s not exactly ancient history. If I were a potential employer, I’d certainly be interested to know an applicant had admitted sex crimes against children.

Putting it all behind him

I’m not a particularly bloodthirsty “hang ’em high” sort of person. I accept people do need to put their past behind them and get on with their lives once they’ve paid the price for their crimes.

But so far the media outlet involved hasn’t deleted the story. I don’t know whether they’ve been asked, but I suspect not – and even if they had been, I doubt they’d have agreed.

It’s a little bit worrying that he’s gone to Google, with spurious claims about laws he obviously doesn’t understand, to try to have that story buried.

If I admit I haven’t been exactly keeping an eye on the Lumen Database in the past, that’s something that’ll certainly change in future.

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