In the Netherlands, convicts and persons of interest in relations to a crime have their last names truncated in published news articles – for example "John D." – but I know that this is not the case across the world.

What forms of anonymization (for lack of a better term) are used in other countries, in particular the United States and United Kingdom?


Speaking as someone from the UK, I don't believe there is any such anonymity here. The suspect will be named as soon as the press finds out what their name is. The only exception is when they're under a certain age (either 16 or 18), in which case they will be introduced as "a 1X-year-old suspect, who cannot be named for legal reasons".

The US is much the same, with the caveat that the suspect's middle name will usually be reported as well. This isn't to differentiate them from anyone with the same first and last name, but simply because it's their full legal name - thanks to Alexander for correcting me on that one. Sometimes, their nickname will also be included if it's common enough (i.e. George "Baby Face" Nelson).

| improve this answer | |
  • Thanks, this is enough to keep me going with the story I'm currently writing! :) – ThePsionic Apr 23 '18 at 16:45
  • 2
    In US, people are referred to by their legal names, and it would be unusual and even potentially illegal to drop middle name when a person has it. Even a nickname, if a person is usually known by it, will be included in quotation marks, like Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán. – Alexander Apr 23 '18 at 17:40

@F1Krazy does have a good answer but I'd like to add a few things.

The age in U.S. is whether the accused is being tried as an Adult or as a Juvenile. The former is named and the latter is not. There are cases as young as 13 that have been tried as Adults and this is usually based on both age at time of crime and seriousness of crime.

Since all charges in the United States are public record, it's fairly easy to find out the find out the name of the accused. Until they are tried and found guilty, the individual will be reported as "The Accused [criminal]." So you would have John Smith, The Accused Murderer". This is due to how courts work in the United States. First, refering to them as "Accused" or "Suspected" is a way to avoid one of the few times a Defamaition Case can be very much in the favor. As U.S. courts assume that the accused is innocent until the prosecution is guilty, refering to him as "John Smith the Murderer" before the verdict could open you up to a defimation suit from "John Smith, the Accused Murderer." Additionally, as the trial is decided by a jury of (usually) local peers, this could give John Smith grounds for appeal and dismissal of charges if he is found guilty, since he can argue that the press labled him as guilty and poisoned the jury pool. The judge may even grant Mr. Smith a "Change of Venue" so he will be tried away from the community and get a better chance of getting off.

While middle names are occasionally reported, it's not as common as @F1Krazy would have you believe. Typically it's reserved for Serial Killers (John Wayne Gayce or Lee Boyd Malvo) or Policial Assassins and Attempted Assissins (John Wilks Booth (Lincoln), Lee Harvey Oswald (Kennedy), James Earl Ray (MLK)). Though this is hardly a fast rule. Serial Killer Jeffery Dalmer and Ted Bundy were so notorious for their crimes that you can refer to them as Dalmer and Bundy in modern reporting and be fairly certain everyone knows who you're referring to, even though both are dead. The aforementioned Lee Boyd Malvo can also be referred to as just Malvo. Similarly, Presidential Candidate Robert Kennedy's assassin is Sirhan Sirhan because of just how bizarre the first name was... and that it was also the last name. President Reagan's assassin is John Hinkley Junior, which kinda fits the classic three name killer... but Junior is only denoting he's the son of a man with the same full name... and that is by far not the weirdest thing one could say about Hinkley.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.