The government plans to grant defendants in rape trial anonymity, according to their coalition programme for government.
Details are slight, by which I mean one line saying:
We will extend anonymity in rape cases to defendants.
As the Press Gazette notes:
Such a change will have a sweeping effect on the way journalists report on such cases, rendering them difficult to cover until an alleged rapist has been convicted.
The Gazette goes on list a number of high profile rape cases where the defendant was found not guilty, such as Jack Tweed, Craig Charles and Quinten Hann.
However, as Kate points out, reporting of the arrest of taxi driver John Worboys led to many more women coming forward to report to the police that he had attacked them as well – he was found guilty of 12 rapes, but the police received reports from 85 women.
Good news is that the coalition document also proposes funding for up to 15 new rape crisis centres, and arrangements to put funding for rape crisis on a stable footing. However, there is nothing in the coalition document about any other changes to make a dent in the appallingly low rape conviction rate. David Cameron has spoken out against the low rape conviction rate. Yet the coalition document’s sole mention of reform in rape trials would introduce special protections for defendants in rape cases, which would surely cause an uproar if applied to other crimes.
As Ruth Hall from Women Against Rape notes:
Of course, being wrongly accused is a terrible ordeal but the same can be said of being wrongly accused of murder, theft, fraud or any other serious offence. We are against a special case where men accused of rape are singled out for special protection.
There is a Facebook group set up to oppose this plan.