Anonymity for rape defendants splits Commons on gender lines, as LibCons shirk formal consultation
Jess McCabe // 9 July 2010
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.