BARRISTER and Ribble Valley councillor Ken Hind has backed his MP Nigel Evans’s call for anonymity to be granted to defendants in sex abuse cases as well as victims.
The former Commons deputy speaker yesterday revealed he had asked Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee to examine the issue after being cleared of nine alleged offences against seven young men.
Longridge Tory councillor and former West Lancashire MP Mr Hind said: “Nigel Evans said after his acquittal at his trial that ‘nothing will be the same again’ and from experience of dealing with a number of sex cases. that is the position for many people accused of rape and acquitted.
“It is time now to give to defendants during the trial the same anonymity as enjoyed by the alleged victim and change the law.
“When the trial is over the victim whose account has been rejected by a jury continues to enjoy anonymity from public scrutiny .
“The same does not apply to the defendant who, from charge to the end of their trial, has their name bandied about by the media, reputation rubbished and in some areas lives in fear of reprisals from the vigilantes of morals who convict the accused without a trial.
“The prosecution’s opening of the case is front page news; the acquittal appears in the inside pages.
“Matters raised in the trial ultimately rejected by the jury are reported as fact.
“No-one denies the public’s right to know but that must come after conviction, not during the trial.
“Cases like that of Coronation Street actor Bill Roache and disc jockey Dave Lee Travis show that there now has to be a limit on the time in which the Crown Prosecution Service should be allowed to bring cases. A statute of limitations on sex cases of, say, 25 years is not unreasonable. Memories fade and evidence becomes unreliable.
“The acquittal rate in sex trials is high for these reasons.
“The CPS seek to bolster their cases by putting as many victims in the same trial as possible in the hope that one allegation will support another.
“In Nigel Evans’s case, they trawled for victims: three gave evidence that they did not think that what happened was criminal.
“For the defendant, this has terrible consequences because they have to answer the allegations.”