Should defendants as well as victims be provided with anonymity in cases and investigations concerning rape?

Anonymity of rape victims

It is a well established legal principle under the laws of England and Wales that those individuals who have been the subject of a rape under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 should be provided with anonymity during the investigations and subsequent case.

What is meant by the term anonymity?

If an individual has a right of anonymity it means that they have a right to remain anonymous to the general public, this means that they will be unable to be named in any reports which are released to the general public through the press.

What is the reasoning behind the principle of anonymity?

The main reason behind this principle was the factor that it was felt that the victim has already suffered the physical and emotional abuse following the rape that if allegations concerning her sexual history, behaviour, clothing or even questions that she may have asked for it were aired in the media then she would be forced to suffer even more emotional abuse.

Being named acting as a deterrent to come forward and report the crime

If the victim felt that following the reporting of their case in the press there would be certain issues dredged up about their character then this may be seen as a real deterrent for reporting the case in the first place.

The law regarding anonymity of rape victims is therefore in place to provide the victim with the adequate protection which they require but also to ensure that the case will be reported in the first place and also that the victim will appear in court during the trial.

Is there a situation whereby it is felt that anonymity for the victim in rape cases should not apply?

When dealing with such a criminal act it should always be assumed that the victim is telling the truth, however, this is not always the case. During a recent case in 2006 a woman falsely accused a man of rape with this becoming apparent in the appeal following a prison sentence with the man successfully acquitted of all charges. However, the woman who falsely accused him was provided with anonymity whereas he was not meaning that his name has been dragged through the mud due to her false accusations but when it was found that it was in fact the woman who was at fault she was still able to be protected. Many feel that in this situation the anonymity should be lifted.

Is the defendant in a criminal case of rape able to remain anonymous?

Under the current Criminal Justice System operated in England and Wales the defendant in a rape case is not provided with anonymity.

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For more information on:

  • Will anonymity apply once the defendant has been convicted?
  • What is the reasoning behind providing the defendant with anonymity?
  • Has it always been the case that the defendant was able to be named in the case?
  • What was the main reason for the law being changed?
  • Has the recent stated planned change to the law been met with criticism?
  • Why would this be the case?
  • Has there been any other criticism of the proposed change in the law?
  • When will these laws come into place?