By Terrileigh Wilkinson
A SEXUAL violence support group in West Yorkshire has dismissed calls for people accused of sexual crimes to be granted anonymity.
The charity Support After Rape and Sexual Violence Leeds believes changing the law to protect the identity of alleged perpetrators could deter the number of victims who come forward.
Catriona Palin, a development coordinator for SARSVL, said: “We feel the campaign to reintroduce anonymity for those charged with rape is based on a wrongly held belief that there are a large number of false allegations made about this kind of crime.
“The truth is that rape and sexual assault are significantly under-reported crimes and one thing that does encourage those affected to come forward to police, is seeing the perpetrator under investigation.
“Therefore granting anonymity to those accused of these crimes may further reduce reporting on an already under-reported crime.
“We support women and girls who have been affected by sexual violence of any kind, whether they choose to report this to the police or not.”
In 1970, the government legalised the anonymity for rape complainants and defendants but later repealed the protection of defendants.
The current law protects the identity of a complainant in sexual offence cases, but the identity of an accused is only protected in exceptional circumstances.
The result can lead to the accused to be featured in the media before, and during, court proceedings.
Sir Cliff Richard was accused of historical sex offences against four men and became the subject of intense press scrutiny in 2014. The singer is now lobbying MPs for a change in the law after the case against him was dropped on the grounds of insufficient evidence in June.
The granting of anonymity to the accused would protect the identity of suspects who are not charged with the offence, meaning the accused would be protected from the media and hate crime.
A spokesman from the NSPCC said: “It is important that the rule of law is upheld, which is innocent until proven guilty.
“Widespread media coverage of identified suspects ahead of conviction can make that principle feel undermined.
“However, on rare occasions the police may feel it is in the public interest to identify suspects, so that others may come forward with evidence that builds a stronger case, but those are decisions for the police based on individual investigations.”
A spokeswoman from Beaumont Legal in Leeds believes naming someone who is not charged is damaging.
She said: “I think people shouldn’t get named until they have actually been charged. Revealing someone’s name is nearly close to taking someone’s liberty by putting them in prison for the actual offence.
“I think there should be a ban on naming people who are merely accused and not charged. But for those charged, they should definitely be named.”
West Yorkshire Police’s most recent statistics show that the percentage of crimes that they said required no further action after initial complaint stands at 75% and the accused who were ultimately not prosecuted is 22% of those investigated.