(Glasgow High Court. Copyright Stephen Sweeney)
The Sun has labelled an innocent 21-year-old man a child rapist in a typically sensationalist report on a court case in Glasgow this week.
The tabloid’s headline was the worst of a sorry bunch concerning the court case of Polish-born student Daniel Cieslak, who had consensual sex aged 19 with a 12-year-old girl who he believed to be 16.
The girl in question has never claimed that the sex was non-consensual. However, she confided to her sister a few days later that she was worried she might be pregnant and her GP told her to contact the police. Cieslak, who broke down in tears when told by the police of the girl’s true age, pleaded guilty to rape as girls under 13 are considered by the law to be too young to give consent. However, he maintained the sex was consensual.
He was found not guilty of rape after the judge considered the evidence, which included the fact that all witnesses to the case and the police believed that the girl was aged at least 16 by appearance, and that the girl has never claimed the sex was non-consensual and had shown no signs of distress or concern at any time.
The judge also said that there was no suggestion of ‘predatory conduct or grooming or manipulation or deception’.
However, this didn’t stop The Sun covering the story with the headline ‘CHILD RAPIST WALKS FREE’, writing that ‘man who admits raping schoolgirl, 12, walks free from court because he thought she was 16’.
The Sun was not alone with its misleading clickbait-style headline, it was merely the worst offender. The Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Metro, the Daily Mirror and the Independent all went with headlines that misleadingly state that Cieslak raped or admitted raping the girl.
A number of the articles led with the angle of ‘over-lenient judge allows rapist to go free’. But, whatever the wrongs of getting yourself into the position of having sex with someone of that age (no matter how old they look), to treat the guy as a sex offender who gets to walk free because of silly liberal judges is to completely misreport the story.
Cieslak met the girl and her friend in 2015 at a taxi rank in Edinburgh at 4am after a night out. The three then went to a house party together where Cieslak and the girl ended up having sex.
The judge said that Cieslak had been ‘subject to considerable pressure and distress from the burden of this prosecution’. He dropped out of a architectural engineering course at Napier University as a result of the stress.
No doubt seeing his name in the likes of The Sun next to headlines saying ‘child rapist’ is just what he needs as he tries to put it all behind him and get on with his life.
Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.