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Anonymity for defendants
#1
The debate on anonymity for defendants in sex offence trials, most commonly alleged rape, has been a hotly debated subject in the recent past and I'd like to distil some of the various strands of the debate.

Under the current arrangement, the identity of any defendant will be  formally announced when their name is read out in court at a remand hearing. In reality it is likely to have  already been leaked to the media via the general public or more likely the Police, a practise which is all too common and should be deplored.

The main argument for naming the defendant is that more potential victims in serial abuse cases are likely to come forward if a name is in the public domain. I understand this has indeed triggered other victims to come forward in some high-profile trails and increased the likelihood of securing a conviction.

The victims of rape are by contrast granted almost total anonymity irrespective of the out-come of the trial.

Much of the debate on anonymity for defendants has come from a handful of high-profile acquittals, when in fact far too few rape cases come to trial, and 60% of cases end in a conviction, although this figure is below previous highs.
The Police and procecutors still have much work to do to ensure the sympathetic treatment of victims, and to mitigate the stigma and hostility victims meet when making accusations. 

Our adversarial, as opposed to a fact finding orientated legal systems leads to confrontational cross examining of victims, which has in itself has sparked a debate about the legal process and conduct of trials.

Perhaps the issue should really how we treat defendants after a trial, particularly having often spent a protracted period on remand, only for a case to collapse or be quitted, as happens in about 40% of cases.

There is no currently compensation for time spent on remand, and as Alan Davies found out, his own political party has reduced the re-payment of legal expenses to legal aid rates, which means somebody is unlikely to get back more than half their costs.

Another issue is that somebody is never found innocent; legally the case against them was not proven. I would presume this would allow prosecution in incident involving perjury or perverting the course of justice. This still leaves a question mark over their aquittal.

I am aware of two cases where young men have spent 9 months on remand accused of rape, only for the cases to collapse within days. One involved a first year undergraduate, and a Police office involved in the case stated that he considered that the defendants life had been ruined by the accusation. 

The stigma of arrest, remand and aquittal will remain with these two young men for life, and would have almost certainly prevent the later from returning to university, as most institutions would almost certainly decline his application.

In these cases, as with any other acquittals the establishment needs to be more forth coming with comprehensive compensation, rather than just sending people on there way with a ruined life and potentially crippling debts.

As has been pointed out before, having been accused of a crime, a defendant is effectively left to his own resources and has no choice but to fight their case against a criminal justice system with unlimited resources and the power to employ the top barristers and Queens Council for which cost is no object.

I therefore believe that any policy would be better directed towards both better justice both for victims and those
acquitted, rather than focussing on the issue of  anonymity in isolation.
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Messages In This Thread
Anonymity for defendants - by ReadingLib - 11-07-2015, 02:16 PM
RE: Anonymity for defendants - by NigelGB - 11-13-2015, 08:35 PM

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