Bar Council chairwoman says sex suspects 'should not be named'

First published in News News Shopper: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

PEOPLE accused of sex crimes should have their identities protected until they are convicted, a senior lawyer has said.

Under current legislation, people who complain they have been the victims of sexual offences automatically receive anonymity, but suspects do not.

Maura McGowan, chairwoman of the Bar Council, believes the law should be changed because allegations of a sexual nature "carry such a stigma".

"Until they they have been proven to have done something as awful as this - I think there is a strong argument in cases of this sort, because they carry such stigma with them, to maintain the defendant's anonymity, until he is convicted," she told BBC Radio 5.

"But once the defendant is convicted then of course everything should be open to scrutiny and to the public.”

Ms McGowan conceded there were arguments on both sides, for the naming of a suspect and for keeping them anonymous until proven guilty.

She said that in the past, when people accused of sex crimes had been granted anonymity, there was a sense that it gave them too much protection.

"There is obviously a public interest in open justice," she said. "People would say that they are entitled to know not simply who's convicted but who's been accused."

Ms McGowan cited the case of Jimmy Savile as representing the benefit of suspects being named. "In a case like that, people would say, if one complainant comes forward against a person it might give other people who don't know her, but who went through the same experience the courage to come forward as well," she said.

Ms McGowan's stance was backed by Terry Harrison, who was falsely accused of rape five years ago and contemplated suicide because of the abuse he suffered after he was named in the media.

He told the BBC: "If the person has done the crime as heinous as that (rape), then they should be named and shamed, I agree, but not until they've actually been done for it."

What do you think? Should sex crime defendants remain anonymous until they are convicted?

Comments (6)

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5:45pm Sun 17 Feb 13

Oldchap says...

I actually agree - there have been a number of cases where a false allegation has been made

One was a man met a girl at a club, back to his place & had consensual sex. Next day she realised her husband wouldn't be please so she claimed rape

The alleged rapist was named in court - the "victim" confessed she'd made it up but he lost his job & had problems getting another as people thought no smoke without fire......
I actually agree - there have been a number of cases where a false allegation has been made One was a man met a girl at a club, back to his place & had consensual sex. Next day she realised her husband wouldn't be please so she claimed rape The alleged rapist was named in court - the "victim" confessed she'd made it up but he lost his job & had problems getting another as people thought no smoke without fire...... Oldchap
  • Score: 0

6:03pm Sun 17 Feb 13

madras says...

I agree - innocent until proven guilty and no reason to be 'named and shamed' unless guilty...
I agree - innocent until proven guilty and no reason to be 'named and shamed' unless guilty... madras
  • Score: 0

7:10am Mon 18 Feb 13

Inspirationalady28 says...

I agree too, not just for alleged sexual offences but for all criminal activities. People have lost their jobs, homes and family before being given a fair trial, only to be proven innocent at the end. But if this were to happen the media wouldn't have much to report!
I agree too, not just for alleged sexual offences but for all criminal activities. People have lost their jobs, homes and family before being given a fair trial, only to be proven innocent at the end. But if this were to happen the media wouldn't have much to report! Inspirationalady28
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7:55am Mon 18 Feb 13

glenn_london says...

Totally agree, there are a lot of lives ruined by alleged victims who have remained anonymous, even when people have been cleared their lives are still blighted. Lets hope this actually becomes law, and protects innocent people.
Totally agree, there are a lot of lives ruined by alleged victims who have remained anonymous, even when people have been cleared their lives are still blighted. Lets hope this actually becomes law, and protects innocent people. glenn_london
  • Score: 0

1:24pm Mon 18 Feb 13

justjackuk says...

Equally Agree ! ..
Equally Agree ! .. justjackuk
  • Score: 0

3:48pm Mon 18 Feb 13

concerned.erith says...

far too many times someone has been accused, named then cleared - by then the damage has been done.

However, I would like named and shamed those who falsely accuse and have them pay compensation to their victim (the person they accused).

This might make they think again about lying.
far too many times someone has been accused, named then cleared - by then the damage has been done. However, I would like named and shamed those who falsely accuse and have them pay compensation to their victim (the person they accused). This might make they think again about lying. concerned.erith
  • Score: 0

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