"The premise underlying complainant anonymity is that there are lots of serious sex crimes just waiting to be uncovered, if only their victims could complain anonymously. But this has created unrealistic expectations. While increasing numbers of women are now coming forward with complaints of rape and sexual assault, convictions in rape cases have not kept pace. Debate rages as to why this is so, though at base the problem seems to be one of proof. During the past 25 years, there has been a seismic shift in sexual attitudes and in the position of women. The argument for complainants’ anonymity now looks weak. Justice is not done when court time is taken up by anonymous complainants whose behaviour is, to say the least, ambiguous.
Why shouldn’t publicity be a legitimate means of deterring unrealistic complaints? There is no reason why the law should not treat complainants of sexual assault the same way as complainants in other criminal matters. If women want equality, we must accept that this extends to all walks of life - including having to identify yourself when you testify against someone who may face jail if your evidence is believed. If this reduces the number of cases reaching court, so be it. If would-be complainants decide that going to court is too much hassle, that is a decision they are entitled to take. It should not be seen as a failure of the criminal justice system.
However, the argument against extending anonymity to defendants is even stronger. This is: concern for open justice. It is not in the public interest for anonymous prosecutions to take place. The public have the right to know who is being prosecuted in their name. Open administration of the law is a fundamental principle of both democracy and natural justice - as expressed in the maxim that justice should not only be done but should be seen to be done. Nowhere is this principle more important than in the criminal justice system. Where the state is potentially depriving individuals of their liberty, we need to be able to keep a check on who these individuals are and what they have done. Like many of the best principles of the legal system, the principle of open justice is as important in ensuring conviction of the guilty as it is in ensuring acquittal of the innocent. Campaigners point out that when a suspect’s name is published, this might encourage other witnesses to come forward. Usually, they envisage that these would be witnesses for the prosecution, but publicity could just as well result in witnesses to exonerate the accused. Also, the glare of publicity is one of the best guarantees that state authorities such as the police will do their job as sensibly, speedily and impartially as possible.
If anonymity were extended to rape defendants there would be no logical reason for refusing anonymity to other defendants; indeed, the Sun newspaper has previously called for anonymity for everybody accused of a serious offence prior to acquittal. But why limit this to serious offences? Many would argue this is because there is a far greater public interest in knowing who is being tried for murder than for shoplifting. However it is the case that even a minor charge can damage somebody with an unblemished reputation. If we set off down this path, the criminal justice system could end up shrouded in mystery. There is one certain way to combine these twin principles of open justice and equality - remove anonymity from rape complainants as well as defendants.
The arguments in favour of anonymity for rape and sexual abuse complainants do not stand up to scrutiny, especially when contrasted with the powerful pull of open justice and equality. The main justification given for anonymity is that being named would deter women from reporting rape. But where is the evidence that rape is currently underreported? Indeed, given that from the mid-1980s to the recent period the number of complaints has risen eightfold while the number of convictions has little more than doubled, there could be reason to believe that women are reporting rape in situations where there is little likelihood of a conviction. Moreover, given that the increase in reported rapes is mainly accounted for by allegations of acquaintance rape - where the accused is known to the complainant - anonymity will only occasionally be a genuine option for the complainant.
We should not facilitate those women who make malicious allegations of rape by granting them anonymity - we should know their names, and if removal of anonymity discourages them, so much the better. Genuine rape complainants have nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of. Rape victims should not have to feel stigmatised, and a woman’s reputation should not be considered damaged by her being a rape complainant. But ironically, giving rape complainants the kind of anonymity that we do not grant to victims of other crimes actually reinforces the stigma attached uniquely to rape victims. The sooner we treat rape in the same way as other serious crimes, the better for both the defendant and the complainant."
The above arguments really do seem incontrovertible. It is clearly time to end the capacity of militant feminism to subvert the justice system. It is hoped to publish some further suggestions for sexcrime reform before too long.