This one is going to cause all sorts of shouting matches.
Defendants in rape cases are to be granted anonymity in an unexpected move that women’s groups immediately branded an insult.
The proposal provoked anger among campaigners. Ruth Hall, of Women Against Rape, said that the decision was an insult and a backlash against the rising number of rape reports. “More attention needs to be paid to the 94 per cent of reported cases that do not end in conviction rather than the few that are false,” she said. “If men accused of rape got special rights to anonymity, it would reinforce the misconception that lots of women who report rape are lying. False rape allegations are extremely rare but receive disproportionate publicity.”
Well, yes and no. We\’ve just had a report by Baroness Stern into the number of false allegations of rape.
Other findings in her wide-ranging report include:
:: as many as one in ten rape allegations could be false
Now we don\’t know this, this is true. \”Further research\” is required as the saying goes.
We\’ve also got this:
The peer did not single out individuals for criticism but concluded: \”It is clear to us that the way the six per cent conviction rate figures has been able to dominate the public discourse on rape, without explanation, analysis and context, is extremely unhelpful.
\”There is anecdotal evidence that it may well have discouraged some victims from reporting.\”
She added: \”Some have found it helpful as a campaigning tool in arguing for an improvement in the way rape cases are dealt with.
\”Others found it misleading and deeply unhelpful in building confidence in victims and increasing the number of cases reported to the police that could possibly go forward to a prosecution.\”
She said the way the conviction rate was calculated was \”unusual\” and not done for any other crime.
In contrast the rate of conviction once someone has been charged with rape is 58 per cent.
A report in to the effectiveness of juries, published by the Ministry of Justice last month, confirmed that rapists are more likely to be convicted than acquitted, with higher success rates than those for rates for grievous bodily harm, threats to kill, manslaughter and attempted murder.
But let us return to anonymity. To be known as someone who has been raped is, however much being the victim of a violent or sexual crime should not be, to suffer a blow to one\’s reputation. This is why anonymity is given (indeed, strictly enforced) for such victims.
It is also true that to be accused of rape incurs such a blow: even if subsequently cleared during investigation or found not guilty in a court. And this is where it all gets a little utilitarian.
If, of rapes reported, only 6% end up with actual proof that a rape occured and that x,y or z actually did it, yet the number of false accusations at the beginning of that process is 10%….well, we\’re back in this better 100 guilty go free than one innocent be punished, aren\’t we?
Quite where we\’d draw the line is one of them Sorites things. but if false accusations are higher than the number we can actually prove then joint anonymity seems the right response to me.