Azana Francis rejects a call for those accused of sex crimes to remain anonymous until the verdict is brought in.
At the very moment when accusations of paedophile rings and unholy cover-ups have never been more frequent, some MPs have been calling for sex crime suspects to remain anonymous until proven guilty. They say this is to prevent the proliferation of false allegations, further inflated by the celebrity of the alleged abuser. I say it sounds like a convenient cloak for another round of cover-ups.
Just before Parliament was prorogued to allow for the general election, a group of MPs suggested a statutory ban on identifying those arrested for sexual offences in England and Wales. This in turn would ban any publication, broadcaster or the victims themselves from breaking the news by naming those involved.
Such legislation would surely mean we wouldn’t even know it was Lord Janner who has been repeatedly accused of sex crimes, now that he has been deemed unfit to stand trial. Where’s the justice in that?
The same goes for Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith – given that neither of them are around to stand trial, ipso facto they cannot be found guilty. Under the terms of the proposed legislation, this also means they would never have been named.
Victims who suffer abuse from a young age are often scarred, scared and ashamed. If we add to this the idea of the abuser being a powerful public figure with the reputation, fan base and loyalty of the establishment, how can we expect these victims to come forward without being able to enlist the help of the media in publicising their plight? But perhaps that’s the point, they don’t want victims coming forward and they certainly don’t want the press searching for skeletons in the cupboard.
In 1989 when Sydney Cooke was eventually jailed for the rape and manslaughter of East London teenager Jason Swift, having previously established a paedophile base camp on the Kingsmead Estate in Hackney, the trial was reported – but it never became a national issue.
We have come a long way since then, but the proposed legislation would signal a return to covering up child sex abuse – just at the time when are as close as we ever have been to knowing the full extent of establishment involvement.