Change in rape law 'might deter real complaints'
By Robert Verkaik, Legal Affairs Correspondent The Independent
13 January 2001
A new law to grant anonymity to accused rapists might
deter women from making genuine complaints of rape,
Ann Widdecombe, the shadow Home Secretary, said
Her comment clashed with the view of the Director of
Public Prosecutions, David Calvert-Smith QC, who
supported a possible change. He had said a case could
be made for the limited protection of the identity of
accused rapists and alleged child abusers. He would not
stand in the way of a change.
But Miss Widdecombe said: "There may be a case for
looking at a change but we must also recognise there
have been convictions that might not have happened if
the defendant had not been publicly identified."
Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on
home affairs, said a woman's anonymity in rape cases
was the exception to the general rule of openness in
court and further exceptions should be "treated with
Michael Schwartz, the solicitor who represented Mick
Hucknall, the lead singer with the band Simply Red,
when he was being investigated for a false allegation of
rape last year, said there was a clear case for changing
the law now because men also deserved the "benefit of
He added: "The slur of being accused of rape stays with
you a long time ... and the scope for mischief-making
follows from a lack of anonymity."
Mary Cunneen, associate director of the civil rights
group Liberty, said: "The principle of open justice
requires that defendants in rape and child abuse cases
should be treated no differently to defendants in any
other criminal case. But the stigma that remains attached
to people who are acquitted has to be a major concern."
The Home Office said the Government was committed
to open justice and was aware of concerns about false
rape allegations. But ministers were not planning a
change in law
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This Page was added on 3rd February, 2001