MPs lobby Blunkett on sex crime anonymity

Jo Dillon,Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 02 March 2003 01:00

David Blunkett is considering giving anonymity to people accused of sex offences, following pressure from a group of senior MPs.

The Home Affairs Select Committee will put down an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill – to be debated by MPs within weeks – to stop the media naming people arrested or charged with sex crimes until they are found guilty.

Their campaign follows the coverage of allegations of child abuse made against the television presenter Matthew Kelly, which were dropped by police last week.

Chris Mullin MP, the committee chairman, said people accused of sex crimes, particularly against children, were "vilified and stigmatised" even more than those accused – and later acquitted – of murder.

He said the committee wanted to "test" the idea of anonymity by putting down the amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, arguing there was clearly a case for people's identities to be protected until they had been found guilty of sexual crimes. "The publicity of the accusation can do irreparable damage to a person's reputation," he said.

Mr Blunkett, the Home Secretary, is unconvinced of the need to change the law in this way, but has made it clear he will listen to the concerns raised by Mr Mullin and others.

But a Home Office spokeswoman said: "We don't believe there is any justification for those accused of sex offences to be singled out for special protection while other defendants, including those accused of murder, could be identified."