Sex crime suspects naming ban could be in place before year's end

A ban on naming sex crime suspects unless they are charged could be in place by the end of the year.
Sir Cliff Richard (left) and Paul Gambaccini. Picture: Press Association.Sir Cliff Richard (left) and Paul Gambaccini. Picture: Press Association.
Sir Cliff Richard (left) and Paul Gambaccini. Picture: Press Association.

Former police officer Brian Paddick is leading proposals for a change in the law after he saw broadcaster Paul Gambaccini spend a year on bail accused of historical sex offences before the presenter was told he would face no action.

Sir Cliff Richard, who faced a televised police raid on his home before he too was informed that there was insufficient evidence to proceed, and Gambaccini will address MPs and peers about their ordeals on Monday.

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Lady Brittan, the widow of Tory MP Leon Brittan who was investigated as part of a doomed Scotland Yard inquiry into claims of a Westminster paedophile ring, will also speak.

In March she was told that her late husband would have had no case to answer over the claims, and received an apology for the force's failure to tell Lord Brittan before he died that he would face no further action over a separate claim.

Lord Paddick said: "Particularly in the wake of the Jimmy Savile revelations, most people are very well aware of the impact historical child abuse has had on the survivors of such offences, but the meeting is to give parliamentarians the opportunity to hear from those who have been affected by being falsely accused of such offences.

"No matter who they are - whether they are a local school teacher whose arrest makes it into the local newspaper, or whether it's somebody like Cliff Richard, who has never been arrested but the allegations against him were all over the BBC and the national media, clearly it can have a devastating effect both on the individual's reputation and potentially on their careers.

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"The higher the public profile the more devastating the impact can be because of the weight of publicity that is given to it."

The proposal to amend the Policing and Crime Bill would make it illegal for anyone to publicly name someone arrested on suspicion of a sex crime, unless they were charged.

But Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, the firm which represented victims including those of Rolf Harris and Max Clifford, said the publicity gave those targeted the confidence to come forward.

He said: "We have seen countless times how perpetrators isolate their victims, make them think no one will believe them and that it would be their word against the abuser's. It is only following publicity around an arrest, and realising there were others, that some victims have felt able to come forward.

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"Many dangerous offenders are only behind bars now because more victims came forward once the offender had been named following arrest. This strengthened the case significantly and resulted in conviction.

"It is a difficult balancing act because false allegations are damaging to those named, but they are rare, and on balance, justice is far better served under the current system."

Although police do not routinely name on arrest, with both Clifford and Harris publicity after they were questioned led further victims to come forward.

Lord Paddick maintains that more survivors are encouraged to come forward after a suspect has been charged and appeared in court, rather than on arrest.

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The idea of a ban has been supported by current Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, who is Britain's most senior police officer.

Former chief constable of British Transport Police Andy Trotter is backing the amendment, and will also speak at the meeting on Monday.

Sir Cliff was the subject of a long-running South Yorkshire Police investigation, which centred on accusations dating between 1958 and 1983 made by four men.

A police raid on his Berkshire home was televised and he is suing the BBC and South Yorkshire Police over the live coverage of the swoop.

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He was never arrested, and earlier this year prosecutors announced that no charges were to be brought as a result of the inquiry. Last month a review confirmed that the decision was correct.

Gambaccini was kept on police bail for 12 months after being arrested on suspicion of historical sex offences in 2013, before being told he would not be charged.

He described the Operation Yewtree investigation against him as a "witch-hunt" that ate away at the idea of "innocent until proven guilty".

The End Violence Against Women Coalition wrote an open letter to Sir Cliff, Gambaccini and Nigel Evans, the former Commons deputy speaker who was cleared by a jury of sex offence allegations in 2014, urging them to abandon the campaign.

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Co-directors of the campaign Sarah Green and Rachel Krys said: "We want more discussion of rape and justice, not less. We want more openness and ever better practice by police and the courts in rape cases. We want the media to change the way it reports on rape.

"We desperately need a huge increase in provision of specialist counselling and support services for survivors of sexual abuse. And in the long term, we don't want anonymity for defendants because we don't want it for those who allege rape either - because one day we will have eradicated the shame of being raped, and made this offence one which can be openly tested in court like all others."