Government scraps anonymity pledge for rape accused
Friday 12 November 2010
The Government today abandoned its pledge to grant anonymity to men charged with rape in England and Wales.
Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said there was not sufficient evidence to justify the move.
The decision to scrap the proposal, which was included in the Government's coalition agreement in May, follows criticism from women's groups.
Mr Blunt said: "The Coalition Government made it clear from the outset that it would proceed with defendant anonymity in rape cases only if the evidence justifying it was clear and sound, and in the absence of any such finding it has reached the conclusion that the proposal does not stand on its merits.
"It will not, therefore, be proceeded with further."
He went on: "The assessment has found insufficient reliable empirical evidence on which to base an informed decision on the value of providing anonymity to rape defendants.
"Evidence is lacking in a number of key areas, in particular, whether the inability to publicise a person's identity will prevent further witnesses to a known offence from coming forward, or further unknown offences by the same person from coming to light."
Mr Blunt added: "The Government's commitment to give anonymity to teachers accused by pupils, and take other measures to protect against false accusations, is separate.
"We will announce the outcome of that work, which is being led by the Department for Education, in due course."
In May, campaigners lashed out at the Government after it made the surprise pledge to ban the identification of men accused of rape.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition said it wanted to extend anonymity in rape cases from victims to include defendants.
The move would have turned the clock back to the 1970s when the Sexual Offences Act introduced anonymity for those accused of rape, something later repealed.
But it went against recommendations made by Lady Stern, who said independent research should first be done into the scale and nature of false rape allegations.
In her review of rape and the criminal justice system published in March, Lady Stern said there was little information about the number of false allegations.
She said some reports suggested as many as one in 10 reports of rape could be false, but police and solicitors said they encountered cases extremely rarely.
Lady Stern said: "We make no recommendation on anonymity for defendants but note that it is often raised and the concerns will undoubtedly continue.
"A full examination of the issues would be helpful to the debate."
In 2003, the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee recommended rape suspects were given anonymity until charged, something that effectively takes place now.
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