Anonymity privacy and freedom. The topic of anonymity

Anonymity is a very conflicting yet contentious
issue in regard to suspects and defendants when it comes to rape complaints. It
raises concerns within law in terms of finding the balance between the main
principles of the justice system, open justice and the safeguard of various
human rights particularly when it comes to privacy and freedom. The topic of
anonymity has been debated extensively over matters like protection of
identities of witnesses and victims from the public and also shielding the
identity of witness from the defence. 1


There’s been a question on the complaint and
defendant anonymity. In this case back in 1976 Anonymity in rape cases were
seen to begin this particular year. And at the same time there was a debate in
parliament and it was decided to introduce anonymity for those accused of rape
as well, it was said that If they were going to have anonymity of people
defendants then anonymity of those accused, it was prohibited as police were
not able to find out who they were. The police were inhibited from finding

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For example, in cases such as The Heilbron Committee
(1975) which was the rationale for granting anonymity to complainants in rape
cases, stating that “public knowledge of the indignity which the complainant
has suffered in being raped may be extremely distressing and even positively
harmful, and the risk of such public knowledge can operate as a severe
deterrent to bringing proceedings…”2

Anonymity is evident in the Sexual Offences
(Amendment) Act 1976 ss. 4-6, under s4. It states that “after a person is
accused of a rape offence no matter likely to lead members of the public to
identify a woman as the complainant in relation to that accusation shall either
be published in England and Wales in a written publication available to the
public or to be broadcast in England and Wales except as authorised by a
direction given in pursuance of this section” 3.

In terms of this act, it is clear that anonymity is available for complainants
back in 1976.  Under s.6 states the
anonymity of defendants in rape etc. cases, which establishes that a person who
is accused of rape no matter likely to lead members of the public to identify
him as the person against whom the accusation and if ever published in a
written publication available to the public or be broadcast in England and
Wales except “(a) as authorised by a direction given in pursuance of this
section, or by section 4(7)(a) of this Act as applied by subsection (6) of this
section; or (b) after he has been convicted of the offence at a trial before
the Crown Court. 4

Criminal Justice Act 1988 s.158(5) states that
Section 6 (anonymity of defendants in rape etc. cases) shall cease to have
effect. Which means that there is no such thing as anonymity within defendants.

And that is how it was back in 1988 and still today.


There is a case where suspects/defendants have
anonymity, in today’s time, compliance all have lifetime anonymity as soon as
they report to the police, but suspects and defendants don’t but there are
exceptions, and under the Education Act 2011 s.135,
we see that Teachers are the exception.  In
this case we see that “Allegations of offences committed by teachers in England
and Wales applies where a person who is employed or engaged as a teacher at a
school is the subject of an allegation falling within s2. (a) it is an
allegation that the person is or may be guilty of a relevant criminal offence,
and (b) it is made by or on behalf of a registered pupil at school.”6
There are other ways in which anonymity is exempted such as in the use of Social
Media, social media is open to the public and is used by many, the case of Ched
Evan’s in terms of his rape case, as news broke out about the “tenth person fined
for naming victim”. The purpose of anonymity is to not let anyone know who the
person involved was, and in this case, a lot of people were naming and
therefore fined on behalf of breach towards anonymity in rape cases. Another recognised
case which situated on the use of social media is the Ian Watkins case, he is
currently serving 52 years, convicted for indirect identification, two women in
the case were also convicted, they were the mothers of the two children who
were sexually abused on the basis of these people weren’t being named and it
was all because of the protection of the children, this is where anonymity is
important, as it uses protection towards peoples identify and their life and future
where could be impacted if anonymity did not occur.


With regards to distinguishing suspects and defendant’s
anonymity, to be able to distinguish suspect/defendant there is the ability to
know who is who, for instance, a suspect is someone who is suspected of a
crime, and a defendant is when a suspect becomes charged by the crime. in fact,
the question stands on whether they should be treated differently. It allows
the police to publicise particular people they want to speak to. In
establishing this, the question on whether anonymity for suspects inhibit the
police, as more evidence to identify the defendant and allowing them to give
information. In the case of Stuart Hall, who was an entertainer in the 70’s who
was accused of rape, and was publicised, people then came forward and he was
convicted on multiple accounts. As per John Worboys case, he opposed anonymity,
and an example of him featured on TV, as a suspect after that people came
forward, and the publicity surrounded. He lured women in his black cab, and he
would drug and sexual assault them. This is where it is important that Police
can distinguish the anonymity of the suspect and defendant. Anonymity should
start now and should end when somebody is convicted.


The Government Anonymity Proposal 2012 stated “We
will extend anonymity in rape cases to defendants” 7
the coalition government’s case for change infers 3 arguments, the equality
argument, which is clear, in terms of equality within the persons involved. There
is the false allegations argument, there are a lot of false allegations in rape
cases, in reality we don’t know how many rape allegations there are, and it is
very difficult to identify false allegations and to be able to know, we would
need definitive data. And the last argument is The stigma argument, the stigma
for example beating their wives, child or terrorists, there are arguments on
both sides, empirical arguments are just the beginning, is there enough
compelling arguments and evidence, when accusations are made it can result into
misconduct, so in this case there has to be a level of contextual evidence and
truth. Open justice is very important and a lot of people say that the law
should not change when it comes to open justice, it promotes victim confidence
in the criminal justice system and allows justice to be seen to be done. Some worry
that anonymity would lead to ‘secret charges’ there are protection in place for
defendants, including rules on crime reporting that restrict what can be reported
during a trial. 8 naming
defendants can also enable, or in some cases encourage, other potential victims
and witnesses to come forward to report offences. 9
The Parliamentary debate took place and all arguments took place, and resulted
that they had disagreed on the issue, therefore the Ministry of Justice was
asked to do a valuation, and there was not enough evidence to support the
proposal, due to gaps in evidence, the government withdrew the proposal so at
this current moment, there is no anonymity.  10
it has been noted that the debate seems likely that it will continue. 11


In terms of anonymity, I believe it should start
when the person is accused of rape as it is easy to write publications or point
the finger at someone however if there are no legal and hard evidence to
support that they are guilty then anonymity shouldn’t be in place. In the
matter of the quote, I also agree that anonymity should end when the person is
convicted or charged of the offence.


1 Rape, defendant anonymity and human rights: adopting a
“wider perspective”










10 Ministry of Justice, Providing Anonymity
to those accused of Rape: An Assessment of Evidence (2010)