Anonymity for rape defendants splits Commons on gender lines, as LibCons shirk formal consultation

// 9 July 2010

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UPDATE: Apparently Ken Clarke has put a correction on record that he meant to extend his concern to “acquitted” not “convicted” rapists – via @gorilerof3b

No formal consultation will be held on proposals to grant anonymity to rape defendants, the Telegraph is reporting.

Meanwhile, some women MPs on the Tory backbenches spoke out against the move and threatened to vote against their government’s measure.

Louise Bagshawe, Conservative MP for Corby, said that by: “singling out rape in this way ministers are sending a negative signal about women and those who accuse men of rape”.

Anna Soubry, a Tory MP and former criminal barrister, said she had defended many men accused of rape, and that it was “without a doubt” the case that when an accused’s name was made public other victims often came forward.

She warned that the Government’s plans could leave the Conservative Party open to the accusation that it did not believe in the “proper prosecution” of people accused of rape.

Also for the Tories, Sarah Wollaston, a former forensic medical examiner for Devon and Cornwall Police, said that the “vast majority” of rape crimes went unreported for fear of reprisal, not being believed, misplaced feelings of guilt, or wanting to forget.

She added that many rapists were serial offenders known to the police and warned ministers against adding a “further barrier” to women coming forward and making allegations.

Female Labour MPs also voiced their opposition to the plans. Maria Eagle, the shadow justice minister, said: “One of the reasons people fear that introducing anonymity for defendants just in rape cases will deter reporting by victims is because one is singling out that particular crime for this treatment.

“If one were to suggest extending anonymity to all defendants it might not have that same impact. But by singling out this one particular offence, you are in danger of sending a clear signal to victims: you will not be believed.”

Meanwhile, The Partisan has a long but interesting post which postulates some of the ideological reasons the Liberal Democrats are supporting this dangerous measure, and how

a coalition including progressives and ultra-right wingers led by a man who thinks women’s rights may be desirable but are trivial creates ideal conditions for misogynistic law making

[SEE UPDATE ABOVE: Ken Clarke has issued a correction and apparently misspoke] Refusing the Default continues to cover this issue in detail, including the frankly outrageous statements being made in the parliamentary debates. I couldn’t help but highlight this particularly offensive comment by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, in which he bemoans the ordeal suffered by convicted, yes, convicted, rapists:

We shall also have to consider the arguments on the other side, where a woman can make an anonymous complaint, the man can eventually be convicted, after going through a long and probably rather destructive ordeal, and the woman retains her anonymity as she walks away, with her ex-boyfriend or ex-husband left to live with the consequences.

For shame.

Comments From You

JenniferRuth // Posted 9 July 2010 at 11:52 am

This whole thing makes me so angry I don’t trust myself to comment on it sensibly.

Theresa May has been awfully silent on this. As Equality’s Minister I would expect her to be giving this issue much more of her attention.

nonnymouse // Posted 9 July 2010 at 12:05 pm

If they cared about falsely accused people whose lives are “destroyed” then they’d be giving anonymity to people accused of child abuse, who are far more vilified than rapists, but they’re not giving anonymity to people accused of child abuse because protecting a falsely accused minority isn’t what men who support rape culture are interested in. They’re interested in supporting the male privilege of raping women without consequences.

earwicga // Posted 9 July 2010 at 12:37 pm

“UPDATE: Apparently Ken Clarke has put a correction on record that he meant to extend his concern to “acquitted” not “convicted” rapists – via @gorilerof3b”

When you watch the video of Ken Clarke making this statement, he starts to say ‘aquitted’ and corrects himself to say ‘convicted’. The man is a very experienced MP and I refuse to believe he made a mistake. He corrected his comment to ‘convicted’ because he sympathises with ‘convicted’ rapists and not rape victims.

A J // Posted 9 July 2010 at 12:42 pm

The proposal seems to be to grant anonymity up until the point of charge, NOT to defendants post-charge.

That’s a fairly massive difference. I can’t say I have a massive objection to pre-charge anonymity. Though it’s definitely something that should be applied rather wider than just rape or sexual offences.

As for why the Lib Dems support it – well, it’s their party policy, as specifically voted for at their conference. So that’ll be why.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 9 July 2010 at 12:53 pm

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has made an outrageous statement with no evidence whatsoever supporting his claim. Given he is Justice Secretary, Clarke should be better informed. He clearly needs to read this link concerning numbers of women falsely accusing men of sexual violence. This report details numbers of women falsely charging men with rape remains at between 2-8% which is much less than the numbers of men routinely committing sexual violence against women. Each year men subject approximately 80,000 women to rape and other forms of sexual violence. This is an approximation because it is widely accepted women do not routinely report whenever a male decides to inflict violence on them.

Clearly men’s pseudo rights and interests must continue to outweigh women’s and girls’ human rights.

This is what happens when we do not challenge or believe male supremacy no longer exists – we have proposed legislation ensuring men’s rights and men’s power remains unchallenged and in fact enforced.

What next I wonder? Male-dominated government will propose repealing laws concerning male sexual harassment of women within the workplace? After all innumerable numbers of male employees and male employers must be subjected to women falsely accusing them of male sexual harassment and male abuse of power must they not?

Or how about repealing all laws giving women ownership of property, decrminalising marital rape. Creating laws making it legal for men to ‘own women and children.’ Too fantastical to contemplate? Perhaps not, given we now have a misogynistic male-dominated coalition government which is determined to eliminate the tiny gains women have achieved with regards to their human rights.

Remember men’s rights and men’s interests must always supercede women’s rights and interests.

katyhalo // Posted 9 July 2010 at 5:41 pm

I wrote to my MP (also a female Tory backbencher) about this horrible proposal when it was first publicised, and she also indicated in her response that she wasn’t happy about the idea. Hopefully there will be enough people willing to make a fuss on the government benches that this can get stopped short.

kinelfire // Posted 9 July 2010 at 9:07 pm

Would it be so difficult to allow the complainants to decide whether or not they wanted their attacker to be publicly named? I realise that those raped are merely witnesses to the crime, in legal terms, but I’ve read compelling arguments for both extending anonimity and for keeping things as they currently are.

Of course, if it came down to it, I know that I would be in favour of still naming rapists. I’m disgusted by this government’s choice of priorities and actions since getting in – that this is one of the first things they’ve chosen to do speaks volumes about their intentions while in power.

makomk // Posted 10 July 2010 at 5:18 pm

earwicga: doesn’t make all that much sense in the context. The Government is currently only considering anonymity for suspects before they’re charged, and the most that’s been considered is anonymity prior to conviction. Neither of these help convicted rapists, but they do benefit uncharged and acquitted suspects respectively.

cim // Posted 12 July 2010 at 8:18 am

Jennifer Ruth: I can only describe the behaviour of both Equalities Ministers as “hiding”. There are Parliamentary questions to them on the 22nd, which should give some chance to force at least one of them to answer.

A J: “I can’t say I have a massive objection to pre-charge anonymity.”

The problem with pre-charge anonymity is that unless it is exceptionally carefully drafted it could prevent the police releasing identifying information – e-fits, descriptions, names, etc. – in the attempt to catch a suspect. There have been a couple of cases very recently of serious violent offenders where the police have quite rightly released information like that pre-arrest. It’s rare that they do so, but they need to be able to when necessary.

“As for why the Lib Dems support it – well, it’s their party policy, as specifically voted for at their conference.”

That’s not really an answer. Why did they – a party that claims to be for equality and against privilege – vote for it at conference?

Jess McCabe // Posted 12 July 2010 at 9:29 am

The problem with anonymity precharge is that it’s a needless restriction on freedom of the press; remember that once someone has been charged of a crime in this country up until the trial reporting is virtually impossible.

I suppose it depends on how much you trust the criminal justice system to operate in these cases isolated from the scrutiny of the press.

I don’t.

Amy // Posted 12 July 2010 at 10:38 am

I wrote to my MP in York, Hugh Bayley about this, and asked him to sign EDM 105 ( which now has 100 signatures (including my MP’s). The EDM text reads:

That this House believes that the Government’s proposal to grant anonymity to defendants in rape cases sends a message to juries and rape victims that the victim is not to be believed; fears that this could inhibit the effective prosecution of serial rapists; is further concerned that this will reverse the progress made on the prosecution of rape cases noted in the independent Stern Review; is further concerned that the Government has put forward the proposal without any research, evidence or examination of these issues; and calls on the Government to withdraw its proposal.

I would encourage people to press their MPs to sign this EDM which will hopefully put some pressure on the coalition.

sianmarie // Posted 12 July 2010 at 10:58 am

i have written two letters to my MP and he still hasn’t signed the EDM at last count.

i feel ashamed that i voted for him. betrayed and angry as hell.

Kate // Posted 12 July 2010 at 4:02 pm

I wrote to my MP (female Tory backbencher, newly elected) and still haven’t had a response. I hope she will be anti and I really hope they do get a free vote on this.

It is ludicrous that it is in the government programme. There are some interesting reports coming out now that the Lib Dems didn’t actually request its insertion. The Tory policy team were tasked with looking for any acceptable areas of common ground and trawled this off the Lib Dem website. It made its way onto a list and both parties assumed the other was pushing it and neither was sufficiently minded to object to it.

I scoffed at the time of the negotiations when people complained that there were no women in the negotiations teams. It bothered me but I didn’t think it really mattered. Wrong! I honestly believe/hope that if Lynne Featherstone or Theresa May had been in the room then it wouldn’t have sat on the table without being questioned.

Incidentally the Commons is dividing on gender lines on this. For anyone who is doubting why we need more women in politics, this is why!

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