Lynne Featherstone

MP for Hornsey and Wood Green

my blog
Lynne's Parliament and Haringey Diary, established 2003

Rape anonymity

The accused in rape cases is going to be given anonymity. We have anonymity for the victim – but until now – the accused has been named. Now – it will only be following conviction that the perpetrator will be named.

It is clearly appalling for someone who is innocent to find their life and reputation ruined by false accusation and trial – but the issue is much wider than that.

Yes – 60% of  rape cases that come to court lead to conviction. But the cases that end up in court are the tip of the rape iceberg. Only 6% of reported rapes lead to conviction. So there’s one hell of a gap between what is happening out there – compared with the ability to bring these cases to justice.

The British Crime survey says that one in every twenty-four women will suffer rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes. Their figures show that only 11 per cent of rapes or attempted rapes are even reported to the police.

Fri 21 May 2010
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Comments

  1. Alex Walker says:

    Comment 2 (due to spm protection)
    Yes, I want women to come forward and to notify the authorities of rape. I do not want them to wait for others to make the case for them. Once the alleged offender has been found guilty – by all means let his name be made public. If other women, at this point, should then come forward to make complaint – let them do so. Please do not use the argument that by having anonymity for all, you reduce the amount of women coming forward with allegations. If a woman has been raped let her go to the authorities immediately and the due process of law can then take place. I welcome anonymity for both the accused and the accuser in rape cases.

  2. Alex Walker says:

    Yes, I want women to come forward and to notify the authorities of rape. I do not want them to wait for others to make the case for them. Once the alleged offender has been found guilty – by all means let his name be made public. If other women, at this point, should then come forward to make complaint – let them do so. Please do not use the argument that by having anonymity for all, you reduce the amount of women coming forward with allegations. If a woman has been raped let her go to the authorities immediately and the due process of law can then take place. I welcome anonymity for both the accused and the accuser in rape cases.

  3. Alex Walker says:

    Yes, I want women to come forward and to notify the authorities of rape. I do not want them to wait for others to make the case for them. Once the alleged offender has been found guilty – by all means let his name be made public. If other women, at this point, should then come forward to make complaint – let them do so.

  4. Alex Walker says:

    Please do not use the argument that by having anonymity for all, you reduce the amount of women coming forward with allegations. If a woman has been raped let her go to the authorities immediately and the due process of law can then take place. I welcome anonymity for both the accused and the accuser in rape cases.

  5. Harriet Harms Man says:

    “With so many issues to be tackled on criminal justice why chose this one at this time?”

    Maybe the new government wants to save lives and put a stop to the deaths resulting from false allegations? – both by vigilante attacks and suicides

    The longer this law is delayed, the more innocent people die. There was an example of such a death mentioned in the newspapers just yesterday (though as always in such cases the BBC, the Guardian and the Independent all totally ignored the story despite it’s huge topical significance). Some links:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/7759943/Medical-student-cleared-of-raping-woman-whose-earlier-claim-drove-man-to-suicide.html

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1280926/Student-cleared-rape-emerges-second-man-committed-suicide-falsely-accused-woman.html

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2985512/Womans-rape-lie-led-to-suicide.html

  6. JLB says:

    This blog post doesn’t even make sense- why do you mention that only 6% of reported cases end in conviction- providing anonymity for defendants is not a policy that will help drive the conviction rate.

    I’m glad to see that 53 MPs have already signed an EDM against this move. The police are speaking out against this move. Women’s groups are speak out against this move. Nobody with a detailed understanding of the “rape iceberg” in this country are supporting this proposal.

  7. Harriet Harms Man says:

    “providing anonymity for defendants is not a policy that will help drive the conviction rate”

    Well it might not help the conviction rate hugely, but certainly will improve the conversion rate. Such a law reduces the power of false rape accusers meaning they are less able to ruin their victims lives as they can no longer use the media/government in their sick campaigns. Therefore the number of cases of false accusations should reduce slightly, which of course means a higher proportion of successes.

    We really need to get away from this 6% figure – it is so misleading lumping in the false rape cases with genuine ones. For example, Sir Ian Blair published a ground breaking book stating that false rape allegations made up 50% to 70% of cases. Taking his higher figure means that even with a completely perfect police force and 24/7 CCTV of everyone you’re still no going to get more than 30% of allegations leading to a conviction.

    Thanks for mention those signing an early day motion – they must clearly be the 53 most idiotic people in Parliament.

  8. Valerie says:

    But a rape case that doesn’t end in a conviction can’t automatically be described as a false allegation.

    A Home Office study from 2005 (the Kelly, Lovett and Regan report) found that of 216 reported cases that could be classified as false accusations – 8% of the total reported – there were 39 named suspects, arrests were made in six cases and charges were brought in just 2. In other words, 2 out of 216 cases went before the stage of charges being laid. Unsurprisingly, the police are pretty good at weeding out false accusations at an early stage.

    One more thing – if lack of anonymity really represented a breach of defendants’ human rights (to a fair trial or to innocence until proven guilty) you’d have thought someone would have brought and won a case under the Human Rights Act by now. Defendants have, after all, brought cases under the HRA stating that they’re not getting a fair trial because of the ban on cross-examination on the complainant’s past sexual history. The fact that no one has won a case on the anonymity issue suggests that the case that defendants aren’t getting a fair trial is pretty weak.

  9. Harriet Harms Man says:

    “But a rape case that doesn’t end in a conviction can’t automatically be described as a false allegation. ”

    Yes but that’s not the issue. People like Lynne are currently lumping in all the cases of false accusation with genuine r@pes and then complaining about the lower proportion of cases resulting in convictions. The situation is the exact opposite to what you suggest.

    As for the the lack of cases resulting in charges for false rape – quite frankly the police don’t’ take the issue at all seriously and many of the guilty parties end up with a slap on the wrist. Yes police are failing genuine r@pe vicitms in a good few cases but it’s pretty clear they also fail victims of false r@pe to an even greater extent.

    “The fact that no one has won a case on the anonymity issue suggests that the case that defendants aren’t getting a fair trial is pretty weak.”

    You’ve completely missed the point here. No one is complaining about process within court and people receiving a fair trial. The biggest issue is that of people’s lives once they actually leave the court room. The fact that 40% of cases result in an acquittal means those people almost certainly did get a fair trial, but their names have already been splashed all over the papers and many people in their community believe them to be guilty regardless of the evidence. They’ve probably been attacked in the street, lost their job or had bricks thrown at their houses. Some will even end up leaving the country or taking their own lives not because of the trial itself, but because of they way they are treated by society and because the much of the media always report the false allegations far more widely than the actual truth.

  10. Valerie says:

    You can pursue a case under the HRA saying that your right to be innocent until proven guilty has been infringed as a result of lack of anonymity, though – however, no one has. If there were a good case, I think someone would have brought it and won it by now.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not underestimating what it’s like to be an innocent party acquitted after a rape trial, and I totally understand the fear that it could happen to you or someone close to you – but also, some rapists are acquitted and go on to rape again.

  11. nick b says:

    Lynne – Can you confirm David Cameron during PMQ’s? He made it clear he favours anonymity for defendants, but only up to charges being brought. As I understand the logic, the accused would be protected from false accusations, whilst the case is being established, but once charges are laid the full oxygen of publicity would still encourage others to come forward.
    What a shame Harriet Harman didn’t listen to Cameron, she could have got this nailed. She must learn how to go off script!
    BTW – where do you stand on this one?

  12. Quietzapple says:

    Still waiting to hear how defendant anonymity at any stage will be enforced.

  13. Leonora Harrington says:

    What most people don’t realise is the impact that naming someone has on the accused immediate family, most have a wife, children who also as a result of a false allegation lose everything and all suffer unimaginably as a result of a good headline, it can’t be retracted, once named innocent or guilty in the eyes of the community you are 100% guilty.

  14. Robert Whiston says:

    As someone who has advised various Home Office, sentencing panels and LCD committees over more than 10 years let’s look at the numbers free from political spin.
    Two years ago you would not have found a politician or a recalcitrant Home Office to admit that over 50% of rape cases lead to a conviction (and always have done). So that’s a gain for common sense.
    But as for it being “the tip of the rape iceberg”, think again. This argument is like the Susan Brownmiller ‘only 2%’ statement which then everyone feels they have to repeat in order not to look out of step (the same syndrome happened with Betsy Stanko and the “1 in 4″).
    The reason why “only 6%” of reported rapes lead to conviction is very simple; over 50% are unfounded; many lack evidence to convict and unless you want the whole justice system to be based on unsupported assertions then one has to live with the fact that some cases can’t be processed.
    Some accused who are guilty will be acquitted and some who are innocent will be sent down. Then there are around 11% where there is an acquittal.
    But it is the 55% of rape claims that are unfounded and are retracted (in strict accordance with HO guidellines) that should concern any reasonable person – not the 6% which is a red herring.
    So there is no “hell of a gap” and never has been if one studies the numbers and the processes. I am only too pleased that after more than 10 years the HO has seen the light and now accept my conviction rate basis.
    One has to ask whether it is futile to legislate for Victorian morals standards when the lifestyle of girls today couldn’t be further removed. Is this middle class educated women from ‘middle England’ seeking to imposed what they think should be happening on the streets and in the moral lives of the younger generation ? There has never been a problem bringing culprits and cases to justice where the evidence, be it rape or car theft, supports such a claim.
    We either have “one rule of law for all”, or we have no justice system at all.

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