It’s an argument that has been discussed for many years now, but seems to circulate the internet for a week or two before something else takes the limelight: should people accused of rape receive anonymity until convicted?
The argument has been raised again after 21 year old Durham University student Louis Richardson was cleared of rape by a panel of jurors, after just 3 hours of deliberating. His family described the past 15 months as ‘absolute hell’ and thanked the jury for justice.
The history student was accused of raping one woman whilst she was intoxicated, and another woman as she lay ill at a house party. After the allegations were made, he was suspended from his studies and forced to step down from his union society position, damaging not only his character but also his reputation and education.
A young man’s reputation has been destroyed due to the social stigma being accused of rape brings. Even though in the eyes of the law you are innocent until proven guilty, this doesn’t prevent the public from seeing red and judging you purely on accusations. Surely there can be nothing damaging if someone accused of a sex crime is allowed anonymity until they are convicted?
That being said, in the case of Louis Richardson – though he was eventually cleared of all charges – a second alleged victim came forward with allegations of inappropriate touching after 2 universities published details about the first alleged attack. If the courage of a genuine victim stepping out of the shadows encourages other fearful or threatened victims to do the same, justice may be served to serial rapists and help to bring peace to all victims involved.
But is life really damaged to the point of no return when accused of rape? I turn my attention to some celebrities who have been accused and cleared of rape, and whose lives have resumed as normal after their cases were cleared – names like Coronation Street actors Michael Le Vell in 2013 and Bill Roache in 2014. There are also celebrities who are convicted rapists, yet return to normality and are even still praised, such as Mike Tyson.
But not everyone is a famous boxer. In June of 2015, 17 year old Jay Cheshire was cleared of his rape accusation after it was retracted. Devastatingly, however, 2 weeks later the teenager was found hanging from a tree in his local park. Karin, Jay’s mother, described him as a sensitive young man who had found it difficult to cope with the police investigation, “He was absolutely distraught”.
This was just one of the cases which lead to the creation of accused.me.uk, where those falsely accused of sexual assault can seek guidance and advice, as well as maintain their mental well being.
If you know you’re guilty, please admit your offences early on, and spare your accuser the experience of having to give evidence against you in a trial
Anonymity would help those individuals who have a false rape claim made against them, but according to the Home Office, only 3% of rape allegations are false. Yet there seems to be a misconception that false accusations are not uncommon and happen quite regularly, coming from scorned ex-lovers as well as people who might regret their sexual activities.
We must also consider that just because someone is found not guilty of rape, it doesn’t always mean they didn’t commit the crime. What’s worse is that anyone whose rapist is not convicted actually faces the prospect of being accused of making a false allegation and prosecuted themselves – as if it wasn’t difficult enough to come forward in these situations.
With just 2% of rapists serving any time in jail, do victims really need more negative press which accuses them of being liars until proven otherwise?
I began writing this article with a very one sided opinion, however it’s now clear to me that there’s a wide spectrum of for and against arguments. Ultimately, I think it should all come down to individual cases and for people to have rational reasoning and thinking, but until this is spoken about more openly in the public, nothing may change at all.[interaction id=”5696cdac94a522de05817968″]