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Rape anonymity

I have just read on the BBC news site that the Government has abandoned it's pledge to grant anonymity for men accused of rape.

This was always a controversial  proposal and I was very surprised when it was included within the coalition agreement as it was always something that would attract little vocal support from the public and was always going to come in from intense criticism by a number of women's groups.

Personally, I think that rape is one of the few offences where an accused's identity should be protected.  Not because the identity of the complainant is protected, but because there are real cases every year where either a completely false allegation is made or where the wrong person is identified, accused and subsequently cleared of the offence.

Being falsely accused of rape, or indeed any sexual offence, is a stigma that sticks to the accused even after their innocence has been proven.  Anybody who pays attention to the newspapers and press cannot help but notice that cases making front page news are suddenly relegated to a footnote on page 18, if they are reported at all, after an acquittal.


I acted as Counsel in a fraud case that was briefly very high profile as being the biggest fraud against the UK Government in history.  Sky News followed the case every day taking interviews with the officers so they could make a one-hour documentary on it and it made the front page of a number of national papers.  When we were acquitted, Sky turned the case into a minor part of another documentary and not one of the papers reported our client's acquittal!

Personally, I think that the press should be barred from naming anybody involved in a sexual case (unless such naming is necessary, for example, in order to appeal for assistance locating a suspect, etc.).  Once somebody pleads guilty or is convicted then I see no reason at all that their names and photos should not be published for all to see.

Comments

  1. Why should the accused's identity not be protected in every case, no matter what the offence? (Except as you note above.) False allegations are made, and erroneous charges brought, across the whole spectrum of offences. Now in most such cases the stain on the accused's name isn't as great as it is for rape; but why should there be any stain at all on people who get acquitted?

    It doesn't seem that long ago that the press were restricted to reporting "a Birmingham man, aged 35" -- why was that changed?

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  2. I couldn't tell you why it was changed. Parliament did enact a provision to prevent the press reporting the names of any suspect aged under 18-years whether before or after charge; however, in the 10-years since it was enacted no Government has seen fit to actually invoke the section, which gives an idea of how Governments view suspects.

    If i were guessing, I'd have to say that all Governments want to look tough on crime and you don't look tough on crime when the Sun reports that you are protecting the identity of "crooks". Regardless of any facts, if it looks bad on a front page then it's pretty unlikely to happen unless the Government cannot avoid it.

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  3. There's another report in today's Daily Mail of a woman being jailed for a false allegation of rape. And the following police quote.
    "We treat every allegation seriously and will investigate thoroughly and without prejudice."
    They automatically believe the woman, disbelieve the man who says it was consensual sex and arrest him. If that isn't prejudice, what is?

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  4. Ed (not Bystander)13 November 2010 at 03:00

    If they automatically believed it, that would be prejudice. They take it seriously and investigate. Don't go imposing your preconceptions on what is said.

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  5. Of course accused males in rape trials should be anonymous - as a woman I am fed up with the bleating of the feminist/victims lobby. Many women (including myself) have experienced drunken/drugged sex and thought "ugh" the next morning but the fashion for screaming rape because we feel ashamed of ourselves is unhelpful to the prosecution of the genuine cases.

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  6. Anon @ 17.51 so you are saying that someone who is too drunk or drugged to consent to sex should be presumed to have consented?

    If you consented to sex, and then through "ugh", then that is not rape. Do you have evidence to sugegst that there is some 'fashion' for alleging rape in those circumstances? Because most of the cases I have seen reported concern situations where someone has not given consent but that the rapist has assumed that because she had been drinikning / flirting with him there was some kind of implication that it would be OK to have sex as well.

    If you did not actively consent then it is irrelevent as to whether you were drunk, or on drugs, you didn't give your consent and anyone who nevertheless went ahead and had sex with you committed rape. You of coruse have the option to choose to to take the matter further, but suggesting that a rape allegation in such circumstances would be wrong or would be down to embarrassment is just another form of victim-blaming. It's equivalent to saying that a woman who was wearing a short skirt, or who had had lots of partners if to blame if she is raped.

    So far as anonymity is concerned, I would agree that a false or unproven allegation of a crime can be hugely damaging - and with sexual offences more than most other kinds - there are always those who will say there's no smoke without fire. The problem is in accurately identifying cases where identification of a suspect or accused person will be needed - one way round it may be to limit the use of naming a suspect or defendent, while allowing limited other information - e.g. age, general appearance, features of the crime - which of course in iteself creates problems of potetntialyl casting suspicion on other people who fit the general discription but are wholly innocent.

    Persoanlly, i would tend towards the view that names should not be publicised without a court order, until someone is convicted, but as such a move is likely to be seen as 'sopft of criminals' by the Daily Mail brigade I can't see it happeneing.

    Bagpuss

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  7. I say publish the accused's - and defendants - names and full details of all evidence offered in prosecution - and defence - with a full explanation of how the verdict - either way - was reached.

    There is virtually zero confidence in the justice system. It'd be More than in the public interest to see just how justice is served.

    Just because someone is found Not Guilty does not mean they did not do it. We want to see - in detail please - how on earth some people get away with it or end up being accused in the first place.

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  8. We live in a country where the percentage of actual prosecution and conviction rates for rape cases is still outstandingly low.

    We live in a society where some sectors will at best ostracise or at work kill a woman for bringing a rape to the attention of the law, and where women in every class and social grouping risk being stigmatised for being raped.

    We live where it's women who are told all the time "PROTECT YOURSELF! don't walk in certain places or in certain ways or in certain clothes or you'll get raped": whereas saying to men: "hey! don't rape! if she's in the dark, don't rape her; if she's flirting but ends up saying no, don't rape her; don't drug her with Rohypnol and rape her, just don't rape" is seen as some kind of feminazi propaganda. Women should curtail their civil liberties because That's Men for You.

    When there are an untoward number of rape convictions later shown to be wrongly decided I'll start thinking the names of the accused should be protected.

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  9. We also live in a country where constantly telling women, "Don't commit genocide! Don't defraud people! Stop molesting children!" would also look a bit odd. Believe it or not, fewer than 50% of men commit rape, or want to commit rape. Significantly fewer. You odd, damaged individual.

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