Last month we asked this question of our readers and contributors. Thank you to all who responded.
There have been some very high profile sex cases recently, including Harvey Weinstein, Huw Edwards and Russell Brand. The majority of sex cases, however, are not celebrity led. Northern Ireland has just implemented a law to give anonymity to those suspected of sex offences until they are actually charged, a right already given to those making the allegations. Should anonymity in these sorts of cases be the law in all countries?
Yes. RUDY GARABUSHDI
Yes. CHRISTINE CORDERY
Yes. A MARCHANT
Yes. Allegations of sexual misconduct have a far reaching effect socially. If allegations are disproved, even those with high profiles have difficulty overcoming the “no smoke without fire” attitude. It is well nigh impossible for others. GLENN HOLMES
I think there needs to be a change in the law to prevent the kind of “trial by media” circus we have recently seen in both the Brand and Schofield cases in particular. It’s all outside the normal “due process” of the law, which in its most extreme vox populi form ends up with people being strung up from trees. Without the law ultimately you have anarchy.
I’d like to see a change in the law such that a) the media are precluded from broadcasting or publishing allegations, particularly where these are likely to be prosecutable and/or b) where there is a danger of significant psychological harm to any of the parties involved that is out of proportion to the ‘public interest’.
The latter provision would need some sort of legal adjudication obviously but it should be borne in mind that, in the Schofield case, the media furore affected the “victim” and in the end all Schofield was guilty of was poor judgement and lying to Holly Willoughby. Also recently (I can’t recollect the details at the time of writing) there was a woman who took her own life due to the media onslaught in her own case.
Having said all that, women’s rights advocates make the telling point that the current rape conviction rate is a paltry 9% and that many women (the majority of the victims) are very reluctant to come forward, but are very often encouraged to do so because of publicity. I’d argue that that is less of a reason for allowing a dysfunctional media feeding frenzy, and more one for improving the education of boys in particular, and the whole administrative and legal infrastructure for dealing with sexual crimes.
Finally, there is a disturbing aspect to all this, namely that in all well publicised celebrity cases, the allegations have surfaced long after the fact – in Saville’s case after he had died. It says something about our society that we allow power, money and celebrity to trump dealing with perpetrators of sexual abuse in a timely manner and that’s something we all need to reflect on. JOHN BERNARD
YES. This will help to stop the right wing Tory owned media from attacking people who stand up against them and are probably totally innocent. If their names are published prior to any court proceedings, then they run the risk of being ruined. This is of course what the authoritarian establishment is working for in these cases. MILES FIELDING
Yes. Far too much trial by media happening. DHARMA
I think that anonymity should be the default position, although there should possibly be an option where a court can lift this and name the person, if identifying them is necessary to conduct the enquiry. MALCOLM JAMES
It is obvious that names should remain anonymous until found guilty in a court of law. The recent trials by media of famous people have been used as a diversion by nefarious governments to disguise their actions. Speculation is not journalism but a sign of a corrupt capitalist captured media doing the bidding of government. DAVID STIRRUP
Yes. Trial by corporate media is no justice. JAN
Yes. The stigma suffered by accusation is never fully erased by exoneration. The left in particular must remember the hard lessons of the Corbyn witch hunt, and it’s been disheartening to see goldfish soft-lefties jump on the ‘Brandwagon’. Anti-Establishment figures will always be first in line for the most castigatory trials by media, so protecting the principle of anonymity is protecting ourselves from future smears. Let the condemnation follow conviction, as it should. LYSANDER HARDY-PEARCE
Socialist of many years. Former Labour member. Currently presenter of The Socialist Hour.