Greater Manchester Police have given an update to the investigation into Manchester United footballer Mason Greenwood who was arrested on suspicion of rape and assault yesterday. Greenwood has not responded to the allegations made on social media.
‘Detectives have been granted additional time to speak to a man in his 20s who is being held on suspicion of rape and assault of a woman,’ a statement from GMP read. ‘Inquiries are ongoing and the victim is being offered specialist support. We remind people to avoid any commentary or sharing of images that could compromise the victim's right to lifelong anonymity, or risk prejudicing a live investigation with active proceedings.’
Their statement comes at a vital time, as Google Trends shows that there has been a 950% rise in searches for the phrase ‘Mason Greenwood rape video’ in the past 24 hours. Other rising search terms include ‘Mason Greenwood tape recording’ and ‘Mason Greenwood audio script’.
It seems as though people are still seeking out the videos that led to Mason’s arrest yesterday, which were posted to his alleged victim’s Instagram account. However, as confirmed by police, there are a number of reasons not to share those images or videos.
Most importantly because the alleged victim has a right to anonymity. Under UK law, all victims of sexual offences are automatically guaranteed anonymity for life from the moment they make an allegation that they are the victim of a sexual offence.
‘A victim is guaranteed anonymity even when someone else accuses the defendant of the offence,’ the independent press standards organisation explains. ‘In Scotland, the law is different but the practice of respecting anonymity is the same.’
Regardless of whether you have been made aware of the alleged victim’s name or not, no one should be sharing it in future with respect to this law. Particularly since someone close to the victim was initially quoted by the Daily Mail saying that the videos shared online were as a result of phone-hacking. If this claim is proven to be true, the person alleging this crime never waived their right to anonymity by going public with this allegation.
Beyond respecting the alleged victim and UK law, any sharing of evidence in a criminal investigation can prejudice proceedings. That means that even if you’re sharing something with intent to support an alleged victim, it could be harming their ability to seek justice by creating an environment where the defendant cannot receive a fair trial and the court case thus must be thrown out.
Among all of this, we must also remember that images and videos such as those being shared over the weekend can be incredibly hard to see. Seeking them out through Google might be a choice, but few are able to control what appears on their social media. You have no idea what your followers might have experienced in respect to an investigation like this, nor how viewing said images or audio recordings could impact their emotional wellbeing.
This is a complex and harrowing allegation, one that must be treated with utmost sensitivity. So if you see the videos shared online, remember that.