Those accused of a sexual offence will tell you the stigma that attaches to it, even when allegations are proven to be unfounded. Allegations of sexual assault can have far reaching consequences, even where an individual’s innocence is later proved. Those who hear of an allegation often believe that there is no smoke without fire, meaning that opinions are formed without any evidence.
Innocent until proven guilty?
One of the cornerstones of the British justice system is that we are presumed innocent until proven guilty. It logically follows then, that a guilty person’s details should only be made public after a conviction. Unfortunately, that has not been the case in the UK since defendants were stripped of their right to anonymity in 1988.
Allegations of sexual assault are often made public or ‘leaked’ to the press, as in the case of Cliff Richard where the BBC covered the raid by South Yorkshire police on his home. Sir Cliff wasn’t even arrested and yet the media publicised the allegations of sexual abuse. Sir Cliff has spoken openly about the effects that the accusations had upon him and the fact that the lack of anonymity made it even harder, with people believing him to be guilty, even with no charges made.
Anonymity for Defendants
Sir Cliff, together with other celebrities, joined forces and laid a petition before parliament campaigning for anonymity for defendants.
This campaign, Falsely Accused Individuals for Reform (FAIR), brought this issue to the fore and if there any positives to his story it is the landmark judgement announced last Friday.
Landmark Judgement for Allegations of Sexual Assault
The Court of Appeal have ruled that suspects are entitled to a “reasonable” expectation of privacy. The court specifically said that police enquiries should not be made public before charges are brought.
Justice Simon recognised that “the law should recognise the human characteristic to assume the worst”.
This is a welcome judgement to not only those accused of sexual, and other offences, but also to the criminal justice system as a whole.
Expert Defence Solicitors
If you are in a position where an allegation of sexual assault has been made, you will be pleased to hear about this landmark judgement.
You will require legal representation, and it is advised to seek expert guidance at the earliest opportunity.
Contact our Crime team for further information and advice. Call us on 0161 969 3131 or fill in our contact form and one of the team will get back to you.