MPs call for anonymity of defendants in rape cases

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Rape suspects and those accused of other sex offences should be given the same right to anonymity as their victims, a cross-party committee of MPs recommended yesterday.

Rape suspects and those accused of other sex offences should be given the same right to anonymity as their victims, a cross-party committee of MPs recommended yesterday.

The case for reform gained momentum this year after a number of trials in which sportsmen were acquitted over rape allegations made by women whose identities remained secret.

Earlier this year the snooker player Quinten Hann was acquitted of charges of rape after a six-day hearing at the Old Bailey. His barrister, Rachel Lawrence, argued that to protect his reputation he should not have been named. In August a rugby player, Hywel Jenkins, was cleared in five minutes on similar charges after the Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence to bring the case to trial.

Members of the Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs, which was reporting on the Criminal Justice Bill, said they believed there was a case for "extending the reporting restrictions, which preserve the anonymity of victims of sexual offences, to persons accused of those offences".

They concluded: "In our view, there are grounds for distinguishing this category of crime from other crime."

They said the damage to those who are never charged, or subsequently acquitted, can be permanent.

The Government said it was unconvinced there was a case for granting a right of anonymity to a class of defendant which was not available to others.

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