Government U-turn on anonymity for rape defendants

The Coalition Government has backtracked on their plans to give anonymity to rape defendants after their plans earlier this year were met with widespread opposition.

Catherine McKinnell Shadow Solicitor General said:

“This u-turn from the Government is welcome and not before time. If these plans had been enacted it would have sent a clear message to juries in rape cases that the rape victim is not to be believed. It would also have potentially discouraged victims from coming forward in rape cases. There was clear evidence to suggest this change would be harmful and it is unclear why David Cameron and Nick Clegg even included this dangerous idea in their coalition agreement.
Despite this being a high profile issue hotly campaigned on by women’s groups and MP’s in parliament, the plan to abandon the policy was shamefully released in a written ministerial statement late on Friday avoiding publicity of the Governments clear backtracking on this issue. Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice Crispin Blunt stated “The assessment has found insufficient reliable empirical evidence on which to base an informed decision on the value of providing anonymity to rape defendants. Evidence is lacking in a number of key areas, in particular, whether the inability to publicise a person’s identity will prevent further witnesses to a known offence from coming forward, or further unknown offences by the same person from coming to light.”

Shadow Minister for Women and Equality, Yvette Cooper said:

“It is about time the government has finally dropped this unfair plan, thanks to pressure from women’s groups, police officers and other campaigners. The government should never have proposed this in the first place. It was a deeply unfair plan to single out rape defendants to remain anonymous. It is clear there is a real problem with both Conservative and Liberal Democrat Ministers attitude to women. As well as this rape plan, they are opposing European action on human trafficking, weakening action on domestic violence and cutting far more in the spending review from women than from men.”
The full written statement can be viewed at http://hcl1.hclibrary.parliament.uk/general_pdf/ministerialstatements/Nov1210/wms1.pdf