DPP backs anonymity for defendants in sex cases
By Robert Verkaik, Legal Affairs Correspondent The Independent
12 January 2001
The law should be changed to grant anonymity to
people accused of rape and child abuse, the Director of
Public Prosecutions believes.
While David Calvert-Smith's comments fall short of a
direct call for such a move, his views have enraged
women's groups and reopened a debate among the legal
profession as to whether defendants in sex cases should
have the same protection as their alleged victims.
Asked whether he would support a change in the law
Mr Calvert-Smith, head of the Crown Prosecution
Service, said: "I would certainly not oppose such a
proposal... It would not make the life of a prosecutor
any more difficult, and a case could be made [for
granting anonymity until conviction] for those accused of
rape or other sexual offences like child abuse which is
just as damaging to a person."
By making it clear that conviction rates in rape cases –
currently running at about 10 per cent of all complaints –
would not be affected by giving anonymity to
defendants, Mr Calvert-Smith has removed the main
obstacle to change.
A spokesman for the CPS said yesterday that cases
such as those involving Mick Hucknall, the singer with
the band Simply Red, had raised the profile of the issue.
Mr Hucknall was arrested by Surrey police after being
falsely accused of rape in November.
The acquittal last month of David Jones, the former
manager of Southampton Football Club, who was
charged with child abuse, also prompted calls for the
identity of defendants to be protected until an offence
had been proved.
Groups representing rape victims said they were
angered by Mr Calvert-Smith's comments. A
spokeswoman for Women Against Rape said: "The
consequence of being accused of any serious crime can
be devastating. We are against a special case where
men accused of rape are singled out for special
She said women needed protection because rape was a
"unique" crime and they would not come forward to
report rape without it.
She said Mr Calvert-Smith's comments would send the
wrong signals to rapists.
The Labour MP Robin Corbett, chairman of the
Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs,
welcomed the DPP's comments. Mr Corbett, who
helped introduce a 1976 Act which granted anonymity
to alleged rapists as well their victims, said: "It appears
clear to me if you give the victim anonymity then you
should also give it to the accused up until conviction."
He added that an acquittal was not enough to repair the
damage to the reputation ofa person accused of rape or
other sex crimes.
He said the right to anonymity had been "given away" in
1988 when the Conservatives gave the media the
freedom to identify those accused of rape.
The Law Society said yesterday that it was time the law
was reviewed. Malcolm Fowler, chairman of the
society's criminal law committee, said there was a
"powerful argument" under the Human Rights Act for
named defendants to claim, in cases where the
complainant was not identified, that their rights had been
Article six of the European Convention on Human
Rights gave defendants the right to an impartial trial, he
said, and identifying one party and not the other might
create a perception of unfairness.
Stephen Kramer QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar
Association, agreed that a change in the law merited
A Home Office spokesman said ministers were "aware
of the concern" but had no plans to change the law at
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