Rape Accused Should Remain Anonymous Until Charged, MPs Say
The Debrief: Maybe the conviction rate should get better first?
A group of MPs have today advised that people accused of sexual offences, even rape, should be allowed to be anonymous until they’re charged with the alleged crime of rape.
The Home Affairs Select Committee advised in a report that it was: ‘in the interests of the police, post-Leveson, to demonstrate that they understand the level of public distrust that has built up over the informal relationship between the police and the media.’
Which basically means, a lot of men accused of sexual offences have been very upset by the publicity brought to them by the allegations and spoken to MPs about getting it changed. At the moment, the very second someone is arrested for a sexual offence, their details can be passed from the police to the press.
It’s worth noting a couple of things, though. Rape and sexual offence victims regularly feel like they can’t report what’s happened to them for fear of not being believed.
Jill Seward, a rape survivor, who’s waived her anonymity (all victims of sexual offences have a right to anonymity) told the BBC that in no other crime would the alleged assailant be allowed to keep their name secret, and that making a special case for them ‘implies that victims are lying’.
Plus, there have been many instances where it was only when allegations of someone being a sex offender became public that other people felt comfortable enough to come forward and be believed. Not just about that particular attacker (though this is an effective way of discovering serial sex offenders), but about other attackers.
Did you know that ever since publicity was drawn to Jimmy Savile’s hundreds of sex offences and rapes, the reporting rate in the UK has gone up? (According to the Office for National Statistics’ last figures on rape, reporting of rape has gone up by 29%.)
Incidentally, the government is facing a tricky time as it’s been alleged that several previous party members have been involved in cases of paedophilic sex abuse and cover-ups dating back to the early 1980s.
OK, so we get that rape is a really serious allegation that can damage the accused if it’s not true. But if it’s really such a damaging accusation, then the crime deserves a higher reporting rate and a much higher conviction rate than just 60%.
With that in mind, is it really time to give suspects anonymity?
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