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Rape Defendant Anonymity in the UK. The case for and against.

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posted on Jan, 25 2016 @ 04:33 PM
Anonymity in criminal proceedings raises questions relating to the process of justice and human rights. The anonymity afforded to victims of sexual offences is clearly in the public interest. In the UK over the last few years there have been calls for rape defendants to be given the same anonymity.

Maura McGowan QC, the chairwoman of the Bar Council suggested in 2013 that men accused of rape should receive anonymity. It is pertinent to mention that the Sexual Offences Act Amendment in 1976 introduced anonymity for those accused of rape although it was later repealed. The issue was debated in 2010 with Crispin Blunt, the Justice Minister at the time, stating the government's aim was to strengthen anonymity up to the point of charge. Following a heated debate in the House of Commons it was abandoned.

The main argument put forward for rape defendant anonymity relates to the presumption of innocence and the social stigma that impacts on the individuals life in a profound way. In the UK, numerous rape defendants where no charges were brought say this never goes away. This is a valid argument and there is also the issue of false accusation. A news search shows both the BBC and The Guardian support rape defendant anonymity.

The main arguments against anonymity are:

It would deter victims in general from coming forward.

Rapists rarely have one victim. If the case has weak evidence, public disclosure can encourage new victims to come forward.

It would reinforce the misconception that lots of women who report rape are lying.

The anonymity issue was discussed by Luke Gittos, law editor of Spike magazine recently and he raises some excellent points.

Some say defendant anonymity would help to support the presumption of innocence. Actually, it would do the opposite. Consider the idea that defendant anonymity should remain until a defendant is charged. This proposal raises a question: why should a decision to charge someone mean that their rights as a citizen change? A defendant after charge is just as innocent as a defendant prior to charge. By allowing anonymity only until charge, we would reinforce the idea that being charged somehow makes you less innocent than before. This doesn’t support the presumption of innocence; it undermines it.

Mr Gittos explains how "conviction rate" is relevant to this issue.

It’s an important number. It shows the rate by which the CPS and the police are making decisions which cohere with the judgement of the public, as embodied in the jury. A high conviction rate means that the jury is agreeing more often with the state’s application of the law.

So today, the CPS is charging more cases but getting a lower ratio of convictions overall. Anonymity would compound this problem, by further removing the decision-making around these prosecutions from public scrutiny. There would be a clear temptation on the part of both the CPS and the police to continue to charge more and more cases on weaker evidence, in the knowledge that their cases would be played out away from the public gaze. The prosecutorial authorities need to know that their decisions will be scrutinised.

Anonymity merely creates a climate in which the CPS is better able to charge more people in the hope of improving the conviction rate. Anonymity will not prevent the disastrous impact that such an approach to prosecuting these cases can have on the lives of both defendants and complainants.

Defendant anonymity is a terrible idea in whatever form it takes. It is only being seriously thought about because of a cultural abandonment of the presumption of innocence around rape. It is foolish, and dangerous, to think that the problems arising from our abandonment of that enlightened principle can be solved by sacrificing universal ideals of justice for some pragmatic tweaks to the system.

Why rape defendants shouldn’t be anonymous

I supported rape defendant anonymity but Mr Gittos has made me question this stance. He has also made me aware that my support was based purely on emotional reasoning.

posted on Jan, 25 2016 @ 04:56 PM
What needs to be sorted out is the publics reaction to such things.
As you point out, we are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, and yet for the very large majority, simply hearing about it on the tv is evidence enough!

IMO, both should have anonymity if they request it.

posted on Jan, 25 2016 @ 05:39 PM
There's definitely a case for it. There also needs to be a review of mandatory sentencing for those that are found guilty of making a false allegation as well.

posted on Jan, 25 2016 @ 05:43 PM

originally posted by: VoidHawk
What needs to be sorted out is the publics reaction to such things.
As you point out, we are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, and yet for the very large majority, simply hearing about it on the tv is evidence enough!

IMO, both should have anonymity if they request it.

Wholeheartedly agree. Though we can't change how the public react to such things due to the culture of hanging them out to dry before the verdict is even in, we can change the ability for both parties to be annonymous. It definatly has my vote.

People have had their career ruined by the accuations alone, it brakes any kind of trust if you don't know the person directly as there is always that thought in the back of ones mind "what if he wasn't innocent"

posted on Jan, 26 2016 @ 02:16 AM
a reply to: Morrad

I believe that it is folly to hide the identity of a rape suspect, a person held on suspicion of rape, or indeed a person being charged, or tried for rape.

The reason I say this is as follows.

People who commit sexual offences are rarely singular offenders. They very likely have other victims, ones who have not come forward. Because the modus operandi of sexual offences can usually be boiled down to "forcing someone into a sexual act, who does not want to be involved with that act" it is often the details, the very minute details of an offence or offender that make it possible for their other victims to be identified.

The worst offenders tend to be those who make attempts to hide their identity from their victims, those who cover their faces, or induce the victim to close their eyes on pain of death or disfigurement, or drug them into immobility and unconsciousness. Now, in these cases, identifying the defendant makes little sense, because in those cases where the victim has not seen the attackers face, and all the evidence in the case will be physical and forensic, what the defendant looks like is immaterial. Their voice would be more instructive to a potential witness, or other victim, than their appearance.

But these types of offences are amongst the most serious, and thankfully, far less common than the sort of offence which involves a victim being simply overpowered, and assaulted, with no particular effort made to hide the attackers identity. In these cases, where a sexual assault or rape has occurred, and the victim recalls the face of their attacker, it is absolutely vital that other potential victims come forward, and in order to ensure that this can happen, the identity of, or at least a photograph of the attacker should be made public.

It is worth remembering that naming the suspect does not necessarily make a great deal of difference to anything. What does make a difference is their face being shown in the press, on television, and other media, so that anyone who recognises a person who assaulted them by looking at that image, can get in touch with the CPS or the police, and actually report what they know.

Of course, this is rather moot, because in many rape investigations involving an actual hunt for a rapist, as opposed to the rapist being served up on a platter for them (by a victim who knew the attacker for example), an efit image will normally be generated, or CCTV footage shown, which would help to identify the attacker, in the absence of the police having a name for the suspect as a result of the testimony of the victim.

In some cases therefore, the defendant will be known to the press because of an appeal in the papers, television or other media, well before they ever get captured, let alone charged with a crime. This all seems, therefore, to be somewhat moot.

posted on Jan, 26 2016 @ 08:06 AM
This morning I was thinking about rape defendants where there is insufficient evidence to prosecute and false rape accusations are not pursued by the police. I looked into this and found reports saying this is very rare. In 2014 the Guardian reported 109 women being prosecuted for false rape claims in five years, a mean average of 21.8 per year.

This chart shows the percentage of rape charges that were dropped 2012/2013.

In the 12 months to March 2013, there were about 10,000 recorded rapes of adults in England and Wales, and 6,000 recorded rapes of children

In England and Wales, cases dropped is 12% on average which is 1200 cases.

8800 cases with a conviction rate running at approximately 60% equals 5280 successful charges.

So in 2012-13 there were approximately 10,000 cases. 1200 cases were dropped and 3520 cases were unsuccessful.

4720 unsuccessful rape allegations with only 22 (approx) being charged with false rape allegation.

Obviously false rape allegation has to be looked at on a case to case basis although I am surprised this figure is not higher.

I would be interested to see if this figure has increased since 2013.

BBC source

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