Sex offences are viewed throughout our society here in the UK as a crimen exceptum and they carry a particular stigma. I, myself, was accused by a pair of lying opportunists in 2012 of having 'touched them inappropriately' in the school shower room, when I was a teacher at the school where they were pupils, back in the early 1980s. Their lies were seen for what they were by a unanimous jury in a matter of minutes, but only after I had spent 672 days on bail in the full ghastly glare of publicity. There was not a scintilla of truth in what they had claimed but, nevertheless, those preposterous claims, apart from destroying a highly successful teaching career, will be linked to me for the rest of my life due to the indelible online footprint. While I live with references to these false allegations for evermore, my perfidious accusers can continue their own lives with both anonymity and impunity. Is this fair?
Work that would have been coming Mr. Williams' way will be diverted elsewhere; comments will be made behind his back that 'there's no smoke without fire' and there will be the predictable vile comments issuing from the keyboards of those malicious trolls on the net, who will enthusiastically offer their opinions as to why he should have been found guilty and locked up at the very least. Whenever anyone 'googles' Mr. Williams' name, instead of immediately finding references to all the splendid songs he wrote and performed for our immense pleasure, at the top of the search engine findings there will be multiple references to the fact 'Oritse Williams has appeared in a court of law, charged with raping a young woman'. He'll never escape his connection with this alleged crime and his descendants will have to bat off comments even after he has joined the choir invisible.
In short, although an innocent man, Mr. Williams, talented musician and performer, is inextricably linked to the repellent topic of rape for the rest of his life.
I would argue that - if the evidence is strong enough - a jury will convict even on a single charge and, once the offender is found guilty, his or her name will be widely reported. Then, if there other victims, they can step forward if that is their wish. Besides which, even if an accused person is granted anonymity until a court verdict, those who live locally to him or her are likely to hear about the complaint by word of mouth as soon as the person is arrested.
The questions are as follows: i) are we prepared to continue to ruin innocent people's lives in order to give support to complainants, on the chance there might be others who have suffered at the hands of the accused? ii) are these innocent, unconvicted people just collateral damage in our desire to make it as easy as possible to have real culprits brought to justice? Besides which, there are obvious dangers in the common police practice of trawling, and advertising, for fresh complainants to step forward, particularly in a country which hands out enormous amounts of money in compensation to those claiming abuse.
|Sir Cliff Richard|
The unjust, abhorrent police practice of the 'fly paper' technique has to stop. I refer to the common m.o. of the police of arresting someone, leaking the person's identity to the press, endlessly re-bailing him or her, all in a bid to secure more complainants (where there's no 'quality' evidence, the police endeavour to make up for it in 'quantity' so-called evidence). The damage to the accused is both cruel and irreparable.
If a judge feels a suspect could well be responsible for multiple offences, then, on a case by case basis, that judge can make a decision to have the accused person's identity disclosed, as sometimes happens with children who have been accused of a heinous crime.
Few MPs take an interest in the unedifying topic of false sexual allegations and anonymity for the person accused, as it's unlikely to secure for them many votes. Far better to keep to campaigning about issues such as the inordinate number of pot holes in our roads: much safer ground (if you'll excuse the pun). Nevertheless, publication of an innocent person's name in relation to a sexual allegation is catastrophic for the person concerned, as poor Mr. Oritsé Williams knows all too well. It's an issue which needs to be attended to before even more innocent people have their lives utterly ruined through no fault of their own.