So today the blogosphere has been wrring and grrring over Con Dem plans to grant anonimity to rape victims. Harpymarx and Jess McCabe on the F word, and others have articulated their opposition to it.
I must say that in some ways I have been disappointed with the scope of the discussion so far. This is a subject which raises genuinely difficult issues about how we balance the rights of citizens convicted of no crime, with the need to deliver open justice. These issues are sidestepped by the excessive focus on whether those accused of rape get special treatment, insofar as those accused of other crimes do not have their anonimity protected. To much is at stake here for this issue to be reduced to one of consistency. And while opponents of the measure have asserted that more people are falsely accused of insurance fraud, it is hard to remember anybody being physically attacked and spat at in the street for fiddling their claims.
Equally the assertions that this proposed law sends out the “wrong message” leave me rather cold. Despite 13 years of silly new labour legislation, the point of laws is not to send out messages. In this matter even more than others, the actual impact on peoples lives matters far more.
So why do I oppose this measure? Firstly, because it will make a difficult-to-prosecute crime even more difficult to prosecute. As has been noted, taxi-driver-rapist john worboys may never have been convicted if many women had not come forward when details of his case were made public.
Secondly I think the British public are more intelligent than the thinking behind this laws implies. Yes, as I have noted, there have been cases of falsely accused being attacked. Yet I think that the vast majority of people are capable of differentiating between an accusation and a conviction. As such , we the people, are capable of dealing reasonably with the news that such-and-such a person has been accused of rape. We are mature enough to benefit from open justice.
More however might well be done to support those falsely accused. The fact that many real rapes do not result in conviction does not negate that fact that false claims exist, or lessen the pain they cause. One thing I might suggest is that something is done about the pitiful sentences sometimes given to false accusers. Last year, scumbag Sarah Jane Hilliard recieved a suspended sentence after putting a local man through hell with a false accusation. Considering the enormous suffering that false accusers are attempting to bring to their victims – possible life imprisonment and a permanently fucked up life – 10 years should be standard.
Equally if the Con Dems were serious about supporting the falsely accused they would scrap the Vetting And Barring Scheme. Under this scheme – which aims to protect children and vulnerable adults – people can have their careers ended and their lives ruined for sexual offences they have been found not guilty of, so long as the “balance of probabilities” are stacked against them.
Moves such as these would show genuine and necessary support for those falsely accused, without undermining the even more necessary prosecution of real rapists.