Calls for anonymity in rape cases rejected

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The Independent Online

The Home Office rejected calls last night for a change in the law to give anonymity for rape defendants in the wake of the John Leslie case, despite a call for Parliament to examine the issue from the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf.

Lord Woolf was speaking after the decision yesterday by the Crown Prosecution Service to drop two charges of indecent assault against the television presenter because of undisclosed "new information" provided by the alleged victim.

Although the Home Office said ministers did not favour a change in the law, because of the difficulties of successful implementation, a spokeswoman suggested existing guidelines could be tightened so that sex case suspects could only be named once charges are brought, a recommendation made by the all-party Home Affairs Select Committee.

An emotional Mr Leslie, 38, of west London, former co-presenter of GMTV's This Morning, speaking outside Southwark Crown Court, said he and his family had "been to hell and back" in the past 10 months, adding: "I am an innocent man. I've maintained my innocence throughout and today it has been justified. We always believed that justice would prevail and the truth would out.''

Mr Leslie has been the subject of intense media speculation, including allegations of assault by a number of women, after he was publicly linked last autumn to an alleged rape of the television presenter Ulrika Jonsson in 1988. He was not investigated over that claim but was eventually charged last month with two offences relating to a 1997 incident involving another woman.

Lord Woolf said there was a "very fine balance" on whether people accused of rape should be exposed to publicity. "The situation has got to be kept under continual review. Where the balance should be, would be helped by being clarified by Parliament," he said.