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Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: My Lords, there is a sensible justification. There is the principle of open justice in which we should believe, and that anonymity should be rare and only in the most exceptional circumstances drawn down on someone involved in the system. There is anonymity in relation to children and for rape victims because of the terrible stigma and the problem of getting women to come forward and going through the process.
I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, to the extent that there should be anonymity until the point of charging. There has been ignominy and scarring on the lives of people when no charge has been forthcoming, but when in the run-up to a charge, there is huge speculation in the newspapers. That damages people's lives.
However, once someone is charged, it is important, as with any other serious crime, that there is no anonymity because, as the police have found from experience, it is one of the ways in which evidence comes forward. Witnesses come forward saying, "I was also raped by this man". It happens particularly in relation to cases involving medical practitioners. A charge brought against a medical practitioner unearths many other instances of abuse.
I strongly urge that this House does not consider allowing anonymity for anyone who is charged with rape. But the Government might look sensitively at the issue of whether someone should be covered with anonymity until the point of being charged.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, from these Benches we support the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. We strongly believe in equality under the law. In the exceptional circumstance referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, the complainant has anonymity. However, an exceptional amount of stigma attaches to a person who is accused and charged with rape, but who may eventually be proved innocent.
I raised this subject at Second Reading, as did the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. It is important when making new law that is designed to increase the number of sound convictions for rape that we are seen to be as fair to the defendant as we are to the complainant. I recall
The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, said that others may come forward. If someone has a complaint, he or she should make it. It is rare for people to come forward when there is publicity. It is much more important that both the defendant and the complainant are treated equally in these exceptional circumstances. That is why we support the amendment.
Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: My Lords, perhaps I may raise one matter. When talking about equality before the law, it is important to look beyond the courtroom door. We have come to understand that formal equality does not do justice. To create formal equality and not take account of the inequalities in our society beyond the courtroom door creates greater injustice. To treat as equal those who are unequal only creates further injustice.
The point at issue is that we created protection for women because without it women would not come forward. The reason that women will come forward when they see that a man has been charged with rape is because they are confident that they will not be so readily disbelieved if he is clearly doing it to other women. Almost every woman in those circumstances is most concerned to protect other women. The majority of people when interviewed say, "I want to make sure that it doesn't happen to anybody else".
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, first let me respond to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy. She said that justice does not end at the courtroom door. But that is why the defendant needs to have the same protection as the complainant. I am absolutely in favour of doing everything possible to encourage women to come forward when they have been raped. I have enormous sympathy for them. However, we cannot give them that encouragement at the expense of a possible lifetime stigma for an innocent person. That is why we support the amendment.
Baroness Noakes: My Lords, we have considerable sympathy with the amendment. The issue of the stigma associated with an accusation of rape is so important that there should be measures to protect defendants. Of course there is a question of balance, as there is in many matters arising from the Bill. In certain circumstances, there may be a need to get women to come forward about offences involving a defendant, but that must be balanced against the need for fairness to the defendant.
To my mind, the amendment before us does not deal with all the problems, because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of the Shaws, pointed out, the biggest problems relate to the publicity that may occur before charge where it is much more difficult to provide remedy in the Bill. In recent cases involving Mr John Leslie and Mr and Mrs Neil Hamilton, they were subjected to appalling adverse publicity with no charges pressed. But there are people who will always say, "There is no smoke without fire". The intention behind the amendment is wholly laudable. I hope that the Government will say that they are prepared to consider introducing a provision to deal with the issue both pre-charge and during the course of a case, once it is decided to press a charge.
The real problem is not tackled by the amendment as drafted. It is the pre-trial publicity that causes the great problems to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, referred. I am sure that his amendment could be redrafted in some way clearly to cover that.
When charges are made and we get to trial, it is a question of reciprocity of treatment. If there is anonymity for the complainant, there should certainly be anonymity for the accused. My noble friend Lady Noakes is right: that should receive further government consideration. In certain circumstances, the damage done to a man or woman's reputation is terrific. At present, there is no way that one can escape those consequences.
Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I am deeply tempted to support the amendment because I have worked with men who have been falsely accused, as well as with women who have not won their cases in court. However, I must stand today with the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, simply because it is the existence of anonymity for women that has brought more women forward. There is no doubt that other victims come forward when cases are being heard.
I was impressed by the earlier suggestion of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, that those groups of women have enormous power and can so influence the press. My experience is that those women are emotionally frail. Although we are here debating in good, clear, intellectual terms with lawyersI chance my arm again by speaking in this hornet's nest of lawyersit is the sheer emotion, depression and subjection that those women experience that means that they do not come forward, but if someone else comes forward, they will clearly find some support.
Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, I, too, ask my noble and learned friend to respond to the spirit of the amendment and to consider what the Government can do to provide what is clearly needed: some protection for those who are not subsequently charged, as well as those who are awaiting trial. That is a real problem. As noble Lords have said, whether or not there is ultimately a charge, reputations are wrongly ruined and a great degree of suffering is caused. Perhaps my noble and learned friend will be sympathetic to what the House would like done.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, I hope that the Minister will take the amendment away and even consider the half-way house suggestion of anonymity beyond the point of charge. I prefer the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, but if that cannot be agreed to, some form of anonymity post-charge should be considered.
Some men in such situations are driven not just to the point of, but to actual, suicide. I cannot think of anything more dreadful to someone who is completely innocent and vexatiously charged with such a serious offence than having to live through the kind of publicity that goes with it. We should not underestimate the effect of that.
I am reminded of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, who for a long periodin all about a year, I thinkstood by a young student who was vexatiously charged with a serious sex offence about two or three years after the offence was meant to have occurred. The charge turned out to be vexatious. The support given that young man by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, kept him sane throughout that period.
I personally know of a senior American military person who invited some friends to spend an evening and the night with his children. Two of the girls accused him of having entered their bedroom in the night with no clothes on and having touched them. He was given the choice of all that going public if a complaint was made and risking the downside of the attendant publicity, or returning to America out of uniform and out of the service as a senior officer.
He was innocent, but he took that choice: he went back to America; he could not convince anyone of his innocence. He was the father of two girls and held a respected position. He returned to America but, during the following two years, the girls admitted that they had cooked it up.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, who said that the damage done to such people lasts for their lifetime. I am fairly certain that the Minister will not accept the noble and learned Lord's amendment, but, along with many others, I implore him to think hard of some way to minimise adverse publicity on some innocent people. If they ultimately turn out to be guilty, they will receive all the publicity that they
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