Bradford MPs divided on anonymity for men accused of rape in wake of William Roache trial (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Bradford MPs divided on anonymity for men accused of rape in wake of William Roache trial
The debate about whether people accused of rape should have anonymity has divided opinion among Bradford MPs.
The issue is back in the spotlight following the high-profile acquittal of Coronation Street stalwart William Roache.
The actor was cleared at Preston Crown Court on Wednesday of committing historic sex offences against five women, following a four week trial.
Bradford West MP George Galloway thrashed out the “tricky” issue during Thursday’s broadcast of Question Time.
“When accusations are made and the accused is named, sometimes people come forward with evidence and other allegations. So such a measure would mitigate against that,” he said, adding that he thought the matter would “return to the agenda in a very big way.”
Yesterday he said: “There should be anonymity for accused in sex cases unless there is an overwhelming reason why not.
“It is a difficult issue.”
This case has given ammunition to those calling for a fresh look at the question of anonymity and that might not be a bad thing.”
Bradford East MP David Ward agreed it was a difficult issue, but said those standing trial for other crimes did not have anonymity, so why should rape be any different. He said if a victim saw someone else had accused her attacker of rape, she was more likely to come forward.
“It’s very much an unreported crime and women for obvious reasons are often very, very reluctant to come forward and on the basis that people are innocent until proven guilty, I actually do not support the anonymity,” the Lib Dem MP said.
Shipley MP Philip Davies agreed and said open justice was vital.
“It must be terrible to be accused of rape if you didn’t do it,” he said.
“I can barely think of anything worse to be accused of. But on balance I do think people should be named.”
“I don’t really want police and state to be able to round people up and try them without anybody knowing about it. That’s the type of thing that used to happen in the Soviet Union.”
Keighley MP Kris Hopkins said: “While some women undoubtedly do come forward to make false allegations for malicious purposes, their number is completely outweighed by those whose cases are genuine.”
The End Violence Against Women Coalition and Rape Crisis England and Wales dismissed ideas that fake accusations of rape are common.
“A CPS report last year found that so-called fake allegations of rape are very rare,” a spokesman said, adding that high-profile reporting of rape cases often led to a spike in calls to Rape Crisis.
“Acquittals of high-profile men are usually followed by calls for a change in the law on anonymity for defendants. We repeat, legal experts have concluded this would have a negative impact on access to justice for rape victims,” the spokesman said.
Keighley MP Kris Hopkins said: “I believe the current system works well.
“Whilst I have every sympathy with the ordeal faced by defendants who are ultimately found to be innocent, on balance, I would not be in favour of change.”
The Bradford Rape Crisis Helpline can be contacted on (01274) 308270 or by texting 07435 752975.
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