Thursday, 10 November 2016

For the BBC: No, there should not be anonymity for rape defendants

Yesterday I was meant to be on BBC News talking about anonymity for rape defendants.

But then TRUMP happened. And the news cycle changed and they didn't want me on the news anymore. 

However, this is what I was planning on saying. The questions suggested to me were:

  • Should there be anonymity for rape defendants?
  • But isn't there more stigma attached to rape than other crimes?
  • Do you empathise with Farooq Siddique

No, I do not think we should have anonymity for rape defendants. 

Firstly because research from the police, from academics and from anecdotal evidence all points to the fact that naming men accused of rape supports open justice and improves women’s and men’s access to justice. 

I’d like to give two very important examples of this. 

The first was the John Worboys case - surely one of the most devastating and serious serial rape cases of recent times. It took a long time for the Met to take action but when they finally did, it was naming Worboys and releasing some details that meant more and more women came forward and they were able to gather the evidence they needed to charge him. The process of naming him changed this from being seen as a series of random attacks, and led to the conviction and sentencing of a serial rapist. 

The second case I’d like to mention is of Stuart Hall. After he was convicted, the police made a clear statement in support of naming him as an alleged offender. They made the point that if they had not named him, other victims would not have come forward and they would not have been able to convict him. 

Without naming Hall and Worboys, these serial sex offenders would still be free and their victims would not have had justice. Worboys raped dozens of women. How many more women would he have raped if he had not been named, if women had not then been able to come forward, and he been convicted. Hall’s victims would have been in the same situation as Savile’s - their abuser dead, their access to justice cut off. 

It’s not just me saying this. It’s the police, it’s academic research, it’s lawyers like Keir Starmer. 

It’s argued that men accused of rape should have anonymity because there is more stigma attached to rape than other crimes. 

Well, I would argue there should be stigma attached. But I’d also argue that there isn’t that much stigma attached to committing rape - if there were, then it would not be so terrifyingly common. 

It’s estimated that 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year, and there are 450,000 sexual offences committed in England and Wales every year. Of those rapes, only around 10-15% are reported, and of that 10-15% only 6.5% are convicted. So out of 85,000 women raped, only around 5,000 men will be found guilty. 

Most men who rape get away with it and most men who rape know they will get away with it. 

We only have to look at how celebrity men who abuse women are treated to understand that rape does not carry a huge stigma. 

After all, this week has proven that you can be accused of rape and sexual assault multiple times and still be elected to be the most powerful man in the world. 

So don't tell me that being accused of sexual offences gets in the way of a man's success. Not today. 

Of course I have empathy for the ordeal Mr Siddique has been through. However I think it’s important to note that he has seen justice done. The police dealt with a complaint, there wasn’t evidence to uphold it, and he is free to go. The due process of the law as been followed as it should be and if he chooses to press charges against his accuser then it will be followed in her case too. 

There are tens of thousands of women and men who will not see justice done - women and men who have been raped this year who will never get justice. They will be living with the emotional, physical and financial impact of being raped - from PTSD to sexual health complications. They will never get justice for what was done to them. 

As a feminist, but also as a human being, I have to fight to protect the laws that encourage access to open justice for all victims of crime. We cannot change laws that will restrict justice to those women and men who are already so unlikely to see their perpetrators in jail. 

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