Howard stands by naming of rape case defendants: Home Secretary backs existing law after review

THE LAW allowing defendants in sex cases to be named while their alleged victim's identity is protected will not change, Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, said yesterday.

He was satisfied the law ensured a 'proper balance between the principle of open justice on the one hand, and on the other the need to ensure victims of sexual offences are encouraged to come forward'.

Mr Howard's decision followed his review of the issue of anonymity after concern over the case of Austen Donnellan, the student at King's College, London, cleared last October of raping a student who claimed he violated her as she lay drunk and unconscious after a Christmas party.

Mr Howard said he was not persuaded that defendants in cases involving sexual offences should be treated differently from those charged with other serious crimes who feared their reputation would be damaged.

'In a system of open justice, some discomfort for defendants who are subsequently acquitted is inevitable,' he said.

'But openness is essential to the maintenance of public confidence in the criminal justice system and ensures that information that might encourage further witnesses to come forward is publicly available.

'I do not consider there is a special case for infringing that principle in relation to defendants in sexual offence cases either as a matter of general application or of judicial discretion in the individual case.'

He maintained the identity of victims must be protected.

'Even with anonymity, a criminal trial is a particularly harrowing process for the victim of a sexual offence and I believe that any diminution in the protection currently available, or doubts about the certainty of the protection, would be likely to increase the number of sexual offences that go unreported and unpunished.

'The law already allows for the prosecution of complainants whose accusations amount to perjury or an attempt to pervert the course of justice, and in those circumstances the rules relating to anonymity no longer apply.'

Anonymity for victims was introduced under the 1976 Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, which also gave protection to defendants from the moment they were accused of rape until conviction. But growing disquiet over the anonymity rule for defendants led to its abolition in the 1988 Criminal Justice Act.

The 1988 Act also closed a loophole that had meant victims' anonymity only came into force when a person was accused of the rape. The gap was highlighted in the Ealing Vicarage rape case when the rape victim was identified while police were tracking down her assailants.

The 1992 Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act extended protection to other victims of sexual offences.

Jennifer Temkin, professor of law at Sussex University and author of Rape and the Legal Process, welcomed the Home Secretary's decision. Altering the balance would have 'put the clock back on rape'.

Professor Temkin said that after the Donnellan case there were suggestions that women should be named if the defendant was acquitted. But that would have been 'a terrible deterrent to women to come forward'.

She said it would also have been difficult to justify singling out one group of defendants for protection.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Support) - £29,000

£29000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Suppor...

Recruitment Genius: Laser Games Supervisor

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PPC Executive / Manager

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A PPC Executive/Manager is requ...

Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WMS Operations

£55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WM...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness