Caroline Flint: Anonymity is an enemy of justice

Rape trials

Share
Related Topics

Every 34 minutes a rape is reported to the police in the UK. Many more go unreported. Rape devastates women's lives. It destroys communities and damages society. And yet tens of thousands of rapists are getting away with it every year – going uncaught and unpunished, denying their victims dignity and justice.

So what does our coalition's programme for government plan to do about it? Its solution is to protect the identities of defendants in rape trials – a policy that appeared in neither the Conservative nor the Liberal Democrat election manifesto. In just nine blunt words they exposed the true nature of their relentlessly vaunted modern, progressive credentials – no mention of increasing convictions rates, no plan of action for delivering justice for rape victims, just one short, sinister sentence about protecting the rights of those accused of rape.

Turning their back on the steady progress over the past decade, with more rapes being reported to the police, more rapists being brought to justice and better support for rape victims, the Government has pulled off a remarkable feat of assembling a new coalition of women's groups, police officers, criminal justice practitioners and the judiciary itself united in its opposition to these dangerous proposals.

What we know is that many rapists are serial offenders – their trail of victims often runs into double digits. It's often only the publicity about a rape charge that leads other victims to come forward. When the taxi driver John Worboys was arrested for a string of sex attacks in 2008, for instance, 85 other women came forward to say that they too had been attacked by him. Offering attackers the blanket of anonymity will prevent other victims from getting the justice they deserve and hinder the police from protecting the public.

More perniciously, singling out rape defendants carries the clear inference that rape victims are less reliable, less credible and less trustworthy than victims of other violent crimes, such as domestic violence or child abuse. It is a policy that reinforces the myth that women who report rape are lying and gives succour to those reactionary forces who peddle the same old lies about women being responsible for being raped.

No one doubts the damage that false allegations cause – innocent men find their lives turned upside down, police time is wasted, public money misused and the vast, overwhelming majority of genuine victims find it more difficult to convince juries of their case. But in the most recent and authoritative report, Baroness Stern could find no evidence that the incidence of false allegations was higher in rape cases than in any other crime.

In any case, the law already deals with those who lodge malicious complaints against others; making a false allegation is perverting the course of justice and those who do it can, and do, receive substantial prison sentences.

The only other possible justification is that the stigma associated with being accused of rape is of a different order to that associated with any other serious, violent or sexual offence. Why else would the Government distinguish those accused of rape from those accused of any other crime? But unless you seriously think that paedophiles and murderers are really better thought of than rapists, or consider it more socially acceptable to sexually abuse a child or kill a pensioner in cold blood, you can't have anonymity in rape cases without granting anonymity across the board – a principle totally alien to our system of open, transparent justice.

The newspapers might give more column inches to the tiny number of false allegations than to the plight of the thousands of women raped every year, but the real injustice here is not the rights of defendants but the scandalously low levels of convictions in rape cases. Our priority must be delivering justice for victims of rape and protecting the public from dangerous offenders. So come on, Mr Cameron, think again.

Caroline Flint is the Labour MP for Don Valley and has an adjournment debate in the House of Commons tonight, opposing the Government's plans to grant anonymity to defendants in rape trials.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A sculpture illustrating the WW1 Christmas Truce football match in Liverpool  

It's been 100 years since the Christmas Truce, but football is still changing the world

Jim Murphy and Dan Jarvis
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there