Pressure grows for anonymity of accused in sex crime cases

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The Independent Online

As yet another high-profile allegation of a sexual offence collapses before it gets to trial, the pressure to guarantee anonymity to men and women accused of such crimes grows.

John Leslie is just the latest personality to be branded a suspected sex offender and to have to endure "kiss and tell" stories of former girlfriends and alleged victims published in the tabloids. Mr Leslie has hinted at possible legal action against newspapers and broadcasters who may have overstepped the law in covering the case.

Anonymity will be at the centre of a political battle between the Commons and the Lords in the autumn. The Government is determined to overturn a clause inserted in the new Sexual Offences Bill that would protect the identity of anyone accused of a sexual offence.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, argues that giving defendants accused of serious sexual offences anonymity would mean treating them in a more favourable way than defendants accused of crimes such as murder or manslaughter.

The Home Office is in discussions with police, newspaper editors and broadcasters about restricting the publication of the names of suspects being investigated for alleged sex offences until charges are brought.