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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map