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Page last updated at 18:24 GMT, Friday, 9 July 2010 19:24 UK

MP objects to plan to give rape suspects anonymity

Sarah Wollaston
Sarah Wollaston MP is concerned by plans to give rape suspects anonymity

The government has confirmed a commitment to give privacy to people who are accused of rape until they are charged. Ministers say the change would protect men, and women, from false allegations.

But critics say giving anonymity to defendants would send the wrong message to the victims of sex offences and could lead to an increase in rape.

The Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre in Cornwall helps around 2,000 women a year. The centre's director, Maggie Parks, is concerned about the coalition commitment to give anonymity to rape defendants:

"They are giving a very strong message to women and to girls that you are not believed when you report a rape.

"It's a message we must not be giving out in a climate where only a small percentage of victims feels they can go forward and report their rape."

On Thursday, in the Commons, there was some support for the Justice Minister as he made the case for the plans to protect people who are falsely accused of rape. The Conservative MP for Hexham, Guy Opperman said:

"There is rightly considerable concern that people who are acquitted of certain offences should not have their lives ruined."

But the Conservative MP for Totnes, Sarah Wollaston, was sceptical, referring to her experience as a police surgeon examining women who'd been raped:

"Many of them told me that the reason they were going through what is, quite frankly, a very unpleasant examination after a horrendous experience was not for themselves, but because they believed that it would protect other women.

"I ask the Minister to consider why those women would report a rape if they thought that there was no possibility that other women might benefit."

The Minister said there would be consultation over the summer before an announcement in the Autumn. Sarah Wollaston said members should be given a free vote on the issue.

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