Page last updated at 01:21 GMT, Tuesday, 3 November 2009

New life for man cleared of rape

By Paul Deal
BBC News

Hands holding passport
Peter Bacon hopes that, with his new passport, he can start life afresh

Peter Bacon will set off for the airport next month for a flight to Malaysia. But it won't be Peter Bacon who will step off the plane at the other end.

Mr Bacon, a 27-year-old graduate from Canterbury in Kent, says the stigma of being wrongly accused of rape has led him to create a new identity and make a fresh start thousands of miles from Britain.

In March, a jury at Winchester Crown Court heard that a woman was so drunk that she was incapable of giving consent to sex and that Mr Bacon took advantage.

He insisted that the woman had consented. The jury returned a unanimous not guilty verdict in 45 minutes.

Since then, Mr Bacon has been busy reinventing himself.

'Nightmarish'

Speaking to Victoria Derbyshire on BBC Radio 5 live, he said: "I've changed my name by deed poll now - the whole name.

"I've changed my passport, my taxes, my National Insurance, my NHS records. Everything, basically."

He has set up new Facebook and Hotmail accounts - and his degree certificate bears his new name.

Rape survivors and alleged rapists are both entitled to justice. But justice means convicting the men who commit rape
Ruth Hall, Women Against Rape

"I enquired about name changing on certificates before I graduated. Because, apparently, your degree certificate is a historical document, they will not change your name; it's impossible. So, if I didn't do it before graduation, then I couldn't do it.

"My name has come up a few times since the original newspaper interest died down. My name is going to keep on coming up and I'd rather move away and start again, I suppose.

"You've still got your name connected to it. Just to have it connected to something like that is bad, terrible, nightmarish. It doesn't matter what the outcome was."

Mr Bacon said he felt like an innocent man "but punished all the same... it just seems like a load of doors have closed to me because of this, even though I've done nothing wrong".

'Traumatic'

In August, a former Emmerdale actor, Lewis Linford, was cleared of sexually assaulting a woman at a nightclub in Hull, East Yorkshire.

Lawyer Nick Freeman, who represented him, believes the law that allows rape defendants to be named while their alleged victims remain anonymous should be reviewed.

Nick Freeman
[Lewis Linford] was a completely innocent victim whose life was traumatised by a fabricated allegation
Nick Freeman, who represented Lewis Linford

Mr Freeman said: "Those who are investigated and charged in such cases should be given the same protection as the complainant until such time as they are convicted.

"The judge should always retain the discretion to lift the veil of anonymity in deserving cases prior to conviction.

"If you have a serial sex offender, they shouldn't be able to hide behind anonymity so as not to impede police investigations.

"Counsel should be able to apply to the judge for anonymity to be lifted and he would grant it or deny it.

"In the case of Lewis Linford, the jury was out for just seven minutes, so he got a lot of positive publicity and sympathy.

"But it had an extremely traumatic effect on him and his family - emotionally, physically and financially. He was a completely innocent victim whose life was traumatised by a fabricated allegation.

"She was entitled to remain anonymous while he was subjected to the full glare of publicity."

Break away

Women Against Rape does not share Mr Freeman's view about anonymity for men accused of rape.

Ruth Hall, from the campaign group, said: "Most rapists are serial rapists. Many rape cases could be won if more than one woman came forward to give evidence."

She said if suspects were given anonymity, police would not be able to find other alleged victims.

Ms Hall said: "Rape survivors and alleged rapists are both entitled to justice. But justice means convicting the men who commit rape.

"We have sympathy for anyone accused of something they didn't do, but that applies to all crimes.

"Rape survivors need anonymity or no-one would come forward to report rape."

While the debate goes on about the rights and wrongs of anonymity, Peter Bacon has decided it is time to leave Britain. But why Malaysia?

"It's getting a new start really, isn't it? A lot of people here know me as Peter Bacon. I'd like to go to a place where nobody knows me and I can start using my new name, start a new Facebook group, just rebuild a life really.

"I'm surrounded by too many people who know me as Peter Bacon.

"But I think as soon as I get to the airport with my passport and I'm boarding the plane then I'll think 'that's it, there is no more Peter Bacon from now'.

"So hopefully, I'll be starting my life again completely afresh. It should be good."



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SEE ALSO
Sex case actor's anonymity plea
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Lib Dems vote for rape anonymity
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