Anonymity for rape suspects 'U-turn'

Plans to change the law to grant anonymity to men charged with rape in England and Wales have apparently been dropped by the Ministry of Justice.

The ministry said it had not ruled out anonymity between arrest and charge. The plan to grant anonymity to rape suspects was a surprise inclusion in the Government's coalition agreement in May. But Justice minister Crispin Blunt has said he would rather put pressure on the media not to name suspects than bring in a new law.

Labour welcomed the apparent U-turn but criticised the Government's handling of the issue. Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman said: "It is really lamentable that they could think of something as important as prosecuting rape, that they should just do a proposal on the back of an envelope."

The issue had not been in the Conservative or Liberal Democrat election manifestos, although it had been Lib Dem policy since 2006. The coalition agreement pledged to "extend anonymity in rape cases to defendants", with ministers stressing the need to "protect anyone who may be wrongly accused from harmful stigma".

Campaign group Women Against Rape said they were "glad the Government has been forced to back down".