Debate in Reveal Magazine (21-27 January 2012)
NO – says Lisa Longstaff, spokeswoman for Women against Rape
Men accused of rape are not a special case. But if all defendants got anonymity, open justice would end, yet that is our biggest protection against the abuse of power.
Anonymity for men was introduced in 1976 and quashed in 1988. Police say it hampers investigations and prevents appeals for victims of serial rapists. In 2012, the Government tried to reintroduce anonymity. Fortunately they were defeated.
Their proposal relied on the myth that women are quick to lie about rape. In fact, the opposite is true – the British Crime Survey found that 90 per cent of victims never report rape. Those who do are often disbelieved or dismissed by police and prosecutors. Many are pressed to retract their statements.
The conviction rate for reported rape remains a shameful 6.7 percent. Worse – any woman whose rapist is not convicted can be accused of making a false allegation and prosecuted, especially if she has reported rape in the past. Home Office research estimates false allegations at three percent. Yet the illusion is that false allegations are widespread and that men are the real victims, not women.
Rape is common and deeply traumatic. Proposals to grant anonymity to men accused of rape are fuelling a backlash against rape victims. More are discouraged from reporting attacks for fear of being disbelieved and prosecuted while their attackers remain free to rape again. This is the real injustice that must be stopped.
YES – says celebrity lawyer Nick Freeman
In sex cases, there isn’t a level playing field. Currently only the complainant has the right to remain anonymous. These offences are unique as they carry a stigma that can scar like no other and the public and media appetite for details is huge. However, when a defendant is acquitted, or not even charged, the coverage tends to be small. Consequently, some people will never learn for the discontinuance or acquittal. The stigma not only affects the accused but can also have very serious adverse effect upon his/her family.
The law should be changed so that all defendants and their accusers remain anonymous – only the guilty should be identified. The judge should also have a right – after a trial which has resulted in an acquittal – to name the accuser if it is clear that the allegations are lies.
The Michael Le Vell case is a good example of why we need change. He was subject to false and malicious accusations and yet he was never even charged.
No doubt everyone will have a view and that illustrates the problem perfectly. Here is an innocent actor who has had to publicly face these disgusting allegations. Why should anybody have an entitlement to know about them, let alone express a view? The higher the defendant’s profile, the greater potential for damage.
I cannot see how providing this veil of anonymity can in any way disadvantage or prejudice the prosecution process. It can only lead to healthier justice with the guilty being convicted and the innocent remaining anonymous.