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Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
Should sex accused get anonymity?
The Hamiltons and Quentin Hann
Named and shamed: The Hamiltons and Quentin Hann
Those cleared of sex attacks say they are the victims of a system that refuses them the benefit of the anonymity afforded the complainant. Should both parties remain nameless?

Even those who do not follow snooker may now have heard of Quentin Hann, the Australian star ranked 14th in the world. But not for his skill on the snooker table.

Instead, Mr Hann has become known as a man accused - and cleared - of raping a woman he met while out on the town last October.


A lot of people will still wrongly believe him to be a rapist

Roger Gale
His acquittal has sparked calls for a change in the law on anonymity in rape cases. At present, the accused is named but not the victim.

Roger Gale, Conservative MP for North Thanet, said on Wednesday that the accused should be given the right to anonymity until conviction.

"Mr Hann has been rightly acquitted but the fact remains that a lot of people will still wrongly believe him to be a rapist," he said.

media coverage of the alleged attacks
The Hamiltons' accuser went public
The former Tory minister Neil Hamilton and his wife, Christine, faced a similar ordeal last year. The police found no evidence to support allegations of a sex attack, but not before the Hamiltons found themselves at the centre of a media circus.

The issue may be addressed when the next Criminal Justice Bill comes before Parliament. A consultation document is due to be released in the near future, after which the bill will go before the House.

But if the Scottish experience is anything to go by, any moves to grant accused sex attackers anonymity could be defeated.

Rough justice

Earlier this year, MSPs voted against just such a proposal. Deputy Justice Minister Dr Richard Simpson said that it could undermine the system of open justice.

"If the rape accused were given anonymity it could be difficult to resist this for those charged with other offences regarded by the public as serious."


Other victims could not come forward to help the police with their experiences

Barbara Hewson
Police and human rights lawyers, too, have said that it is not in the public interest to prosecute anonymous people.

And in some cases the only way an allegation has stuck is when other victims have come forward once the name has been released.

Lawyer Barbara Hewson has said: "If the police were after someone who they suspected of being a serial attacker and they could not name him when he was being prosecuted, it would actually have a negative effect."

"People who may well have been victims of this assailant would not know that he had been charged with an offence and could not come forward to help the police with their own experiences."

In 1976, Labour drew up legislation that made it an offence to name either the rape victim or the alleged perpetrator of the crime. But the clause guarding the anonymity of the accused was dropped by the Conservative government in the mid-1980s.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
Rape trials
Should all parties remain anonymous?
See also:

02 Jul 02 | England
06 Mar 02 | Scotland
27 Jul 00 | Scotland
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