There were moves last week in the House of Lords to shield those accused of sexual offences from media interest, giving them anonymity until they have been formally charged. An amendment to the Police and Crime Bill to make the change was introduced on Wednesday 16th November. Following briefing from EVAW, it was opposed by both the Conservatives and Labour.
Speaking at the debate last week, Home Office Minister, Baroness Williams of Trafford said:
“We must not undermine victims’ confidence in our response to sexual offences. Agreeing this amendment could send a message to sexual offence victims that they are less likely to be believed than victims of any other crime. This would be an undeniably retrograde step.”
Opposition Spokesman, Lord Rosser agreed, saying: “Many of Jimmy Savile’s victims said they thought they were the only ones, and doubted whether anyone would have believed them if they had come forward, bearing in mind the celebrity status of the offender. The position, and their approach, changed somewhat when they found out, through the absence of pre-charge anonymity, that they were not the only ones.”
Rachel Krys, co-director of EVAW added: “We welcome the Government and Opposition’s strong stance on this issue. Singling out sexual offences for these special measures contributes to an unhelpful air of secrecy around a huge national problem affecting many thousands of women. There is no data to support the view that survivors of sexual crimes are more likely to make false allegations than any other group, and it would be bad policy making to legislate as if there were.”