Google is back in the limelight, for all the wrong reasons, and by all accounts they are struggling with even the most basic form of protection for their many users. Their latest problem is the ease with which surfers can discover the identity of rape ‘victims’, aka complainants, if they choose to do so, thereby circumventing the protection afforded to them by the courts.
Anonymity for rape victims, whether their complaints are real or fabricated, remains a lively topic as it has been for many years. The arguments are well rehearsed, the main one being that rape victims are less likely to report the offence if their identity is known.
For my part, I have never been persuaded of the wisdom of this approach. The ordeal of reliving the dastardly act in court is the main reason why victims do not come forward, it’s got nothing to do with identity, and on that score, I doubt if the ordeal is made any easier if the jury know the victim as Miss ‘A’ rather than Dolores del Rio.
Men and women regardless of their sexual proclivities are supposed to be equal, and this applies at all levels of life, whether in the workplace or out and about. But in relation to rape allegations, this equality does not apply, as the accused is routinely named and shamed, and has no protection from exposure in the Press, or Social Media, or in a court of law.
The recent cases where wholly innocent men were falsely accused of rape have been fully documented. The Clown Prosecution Service has, as always, come up with wholly implausible reasons for charging these men in the first place, and I have already commented on this in an earlier blog. But until these men were formally acquitted, they were paraded in public as rapists, a classic case of guilty until proven innocent. This public parade was permitted because these men were not afforded the same anonymity as their accusers. In one case, the young man in question abandoned his university career because of the unbearable strain of being falsely accused and having to wait an eternity before the injustice was righted.
I therefore fully support the lobby which advocates equality in allegations of rape between the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator until the legal process has run its course.
The other thing I find uncomfortable is the fact that in most cases where the complainant admits lying, nothing is done about it, despite the fact that on any view, she is guilty of attempting to pervert the course of public justice. And to make matters worse, her anonymity runs for the rest of her miserable life, pace such help as Google can unwittingly provide.
This approach cannot be right, it certainly cannot be fair, and it brings the criminal justice system into disrepute. I therefore propose that a senior judge should consider the question of continuing anonymity, and it will be for the ‘victim’ to show cause why this protection should remain. Were I in loco judiciaris, I would need a lot of persuading.