The Stuart Hall case ends the debate on anonymity for rape defendants


10:30 am - May 10th 2013

by Sian Norris    


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Having strenuously protested his innocence just three months ago, veteran BBC broadcaster Stuart Hall last week admitted he sexually abused girls – one of whom was as young as nine.

The Hall case shows more than ever just how vital it is that we continue to name men accused of rape and sexual assault. Because it is this naming that can give survivors and victims the confidence to come forward. 

In Hall’s case, the police and CPS have been vocal in their argument for naming defendants. They have explained how naming Hall helped lead to his guilty admission. As survivors recognised that they were not alone, that he had attacked others, the police were able to gather the evidence they needed to charge and eventually prosecute.

We see the same pattern over and over again. Serial rapist John Worboys is a key example in how naming a defendant helped lead to his conviction. After he was named, it became impossible for the police to ignore the weight, the sheer amount, of women coming forward to name him as their rapist. Naming leads to evidence which helps lead to convictions. 

Some argue that if we name the accused we should name the alleged victim. But why? Naming the victim isn’t going to help lead to convictions, it’s not going to help secure justice for rape survivors.

People cry ‘false accusations’ but if a woman is charged with that specific crime, then of course she will be named as she will be a defendant herself. The case of Ched Evans shows what can happen when you name the survivor. His victim was victimised all over again when she was subjected to horrific abuse to the point that she had to change her name and flee her home. How can we have ended up in a situation where some treat rapists with more sympathy and respect than their victims?

When criticising the policy of naming defendants, I think people confuse two different issues. The first is the legal issue and the indisputable, mounting, continuing evidence that naming helps convict rapists. The second is media behaviour.

The fact that the media convict people in their pages and often seem to tread a very narrow line between reporting and contempt of court is not a reason to end the policy of naming defendants. It is too important a policy, too important in bringing justice to victims and survivors, to be dropped because the press behave intrusively.

Press behaviour is an issue for the press. If they harass and taunt and wrongly convict men in their pages then that is not the fault of a sensible law that helps bring justice to rape victims. Bad behaviour in some sections of the media is not a reason to deny women and girls up and down the UK justice.


A longer version of this blog-post is here.

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About the author
Sian Norris is an occasional contributor. She is a Bristol based writer who likes to write short stories and muse on feminist debates.
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Reader comments


1. P.Z. Temperton

I completely disagree. There is little doubt that this sort of “trawling” brings in people who are just trying to get monetary compensation; their allegations can neither be proved nor disproved after so long a time has elapsed. There is a real danger of serious miscarriages of justice when it is just one person’s word against another. Tragically we seem to be losing sight of the crucial principle that people are innocent until proved guilty.

The case of a woman making up she’d been raped the police arresting and releasing the man, and then 2 vigilantes murdering the man, in Romford Essex, have reopened the need for aonminity then,

No Sian, I’m afraid that it doesn’t end the debate at all.

For either case to supply grounds for ending the debate on anonymity we would have to make the assumption that the Warboys and Hall cases are typical of other rape/child abuse cases.

In reality, we know that Warboys, as a predatory serial stranger rapist, is atypical – the vast majority of rape are not committed by predatory strangers – while the Hall case may very well be atypical because of climate in which it arose, on the back of the Savile case, and Hall’s own public profile.

You cannot, therefore, legitimately generalise from either case to other rape/sexual abuse cases as both demonstrate only that there may be some value in naming an alleged perpetrator at an early stage when dealing with a serial offender.

It’s just not as simple as you’re trying to suggest.

Stewart Hall was convicted for sexual assault rather than rape wasn’t he? Or am I missing something?

P.Z. Temperton,

There is little doubt that this sort of “trawling” brings in people who are just trying to get monetary compensation

What compensation can be won by saying you have been a victim of sexual assault or rape?

6. andrew adams

How can we have ended up in a situation where some treat rapists with more sympathy and respect than their victims?

I don’t think that’s the case. It’s not about treating rapists with sympathy, it is about protecting the rights of people who are accused, but not yet convicted, of a very serious crime. This is a principle which is generally considered pretty important by many of us on the liberal left, even (one could say especially so) where the most serious crimes are concerned. I’ve argued before for fair and proper treatment for those accused of terrorist offences so I’ve no particular problem in doing the same for those accused of rape.

That’s not to say your wider argument is wrong, I think the argument that naming the accused person can potentially encourage other victims to come forward is pretty compelling and it does seem to happen in practice. And it’s not as if the right to anonymity is something people accused of other crimes enjoy.

I do think that in principle there is an argument against a blanket right to anonymity for those making the accusation of rape (and I accept that in the large majority of cases they are real victims who fully deserve our sympathy and support), but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that right should be abolished, I’d want to know more about the likely impacts for the victims and for conviction rates.

I think you will find that the several women and girls who provided evidence of Hall’s crimes did so before he was named in the media. What made them do so was the atmosphere created after the Savile affair broke in which they believed their accusations would be taken seriously.

Other things being equal, an accusation against someone who is already accused of a similar crime has less weight than one made against someone not yet publicly accused.

Basically this piece gives all the reasons for anonymity and calls them the reasons for not having anonymity. The nasty part of me would wish a false allegation and lots of copycat allegations to follow on Sian Norris. I do think someone should explain to her the concept of innocent until proven guilty.

The idea that it will bring out other accusers is precisely the good reason for not releasing the name of an accused. The reason for naming the accused is to make sure that we don’t have secret justice and that police aren’t able to hold someone without anyone outside knowing where they’ve disappeared to.

What compensation can be won by saying you have been a victim of sexual assault or rape?

A payment from CICA. Anything ranging from £1,000 for a one-off non-genital sexual assault over clothing (I’m tempted to say that you can pinch my bum and then give me a grand, but this is actually serious stuff) to £44,000 for rape causing bodily injury and severe mental illness. A ‘one-off’ rape is worth £11,000.

http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/victims-and-witnesses/cic-a/am-i-eligible/criminal-injuries-comp-scheme-2012.pdf

On the wider point, Unity is right. The Stuart Hall case is an argument in favour retaining accused non-anonymity, but it’s by no means the end of the debate.

Was surprised to hear Eddie Mair talking about this Spiked article on his Radio 4 PM programme last night.

Yewtree is destroying the rule of law

With its emphasis on outcomes over process, the post-Savile witch-hunting of ageing celebs echoes the Soviet Union.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/jimmy-savile/10045699/Allow-legal-sex-at-13-to-stop-old-men-abuse-persecutions-says-barrister.html

Tim J,

A payment from CICA. Anything ranging from £1,000 for a one-off non-genital sexual assault over clothing (I’m tempted to say that you can pinch my bum and then give me a grand, but this is actually serious stuff) to £44,000 for rape causing bodily injury and severe mental illness. A ‘one-off’ rape is worth £11,000.

OK but is that (say, “I’ve been groped / raped”) all you have to do?

12 – you’d have to convince a claims officer at CICA that a) it really happened; and b) there’s a jolly good reason you didn’t come forward 10/20/30 years ago when it happened.

I’m not an expert on CICA so I don’t know how rigorous a) is. There doesn’t have to have been a criminal conviction though. I’d assume it takes more than mere assertion, but I don’t know.

I was aware that you don’t need a conviction but I do not know what you do need.

What I am driving at is that surely you need more than a mere assertion. Temperton would have us believe otherwise.

15. Matt Wardman

@ukliberty

>What compensation can be won by saying you have been a victim of sexual assault or rape?

Dozens of alleged Saville victims are targeting his estate for compensation, for a start.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/apr/13/jimmy-savile-estate-natwest-milking

That’s your incentive right there, though I’d say that of course such motivations are a small minority.

Civil claims in such cases are quite recent innovations.

>OK but is that (say, “I’ve been groped / raped”) all you have to do?

No idea, how would you handle such a set of claims?

Stuart Hall plead guilty to indecent assault, and the specific rape charge hasn’t been taken forward.

The number of people who have been dragged through the papers after their names “emerged”, then left hanging for months and months with their reputations wrecked and no charges, is providing a strong case for anonymity for alleged sex offenders.

The De Ath one is a case in point. Dragged through the papers then the complainant withdraws her allegation because no one else has come forward to support it, in full knowledge that her anonymity is legally protected. It stinks.

I now support anonymity for alleged sex offenders until charge *unless a (Crown?) Court lifts the restriction*.

Just as there must be no reversal of the burden of proof or abolition of the right to conduct one’s own defence in rape cases, changes frequently demanded by certain campaigners, so there must be no extension of anonymity to adult defendants.

Rather, there should be no anonymity for adult accusers, either. We either have an open system of justice, or we do not.

The specific offence of rape only serves to keep on the streets people who should certainly be taken out of circulation.

Instead, we need to replace the offences of rape, serious sexual assault and indecent assault with an aggravating circumstance to the ordinary categories of assault, enabling the maximum sentences to be doubled.

That way, those poor women with broken bones and worse, whose assailants were never convicted of anything, really would have received justice.

But can anyone explain to me how the conviction rate for rape is demonstrably wrong? What, exactly, would be the correct rate? And why, exactly?

That a woman has had a most unpleasant experience of this kind, the far greater likelihood of which is a direct consequence of the unquestionable Sexual Revolution, does not necessarily mean that she has experienced the offence of rape as the law defines it.

Either that, or the real scandal is that there are so few prosecutions for what is clearly very widespread perjury, attempting to pervert the course of justice, and making false statements to the police.

Not that those two possibilities are mutually exclusive.

I think it’s ethically questionable for people in these comments to refer to the Stuart Hall and Sir Jimmy Savile cases as comparable. Stuart Hall has been convicted of several crimes, whereas Sir Jimmy Savile was never convicted of anything.

Now yes, there have been posthumous allegations and our dear friends the police have seen fit to declare him guilty (didn’t even know they were allowed to do that…), but nothing was ever proved where it matters i.e. in court.

Of all the many Dickensian things about the late Sir Jimmy Savile, perhaps none is more so than the fact that the National Westminster Bank, a name straight out of Dickens, is rapidly eating away great chunks of his estate in its capacity as the trustee, such that there might be none left for anyone who might be found to have a claim against it.

That estate ought to be distributed forthwith, in undeviating accordance with Sir Jimmy’s last will and testament. All claims still standing after that will be deserving of further consideration and investigation, with no pecuniary motive. Those, and none other.

Of course, he was not without his protectress. Claims could always therefore be made against her estate. He would have been at her funeral on Wednesday. Both that occasion and that person could only have been imagined by Trollope, if anyone, and then only as a joke. But this is no joke. We are.

19. So Much For Subtlety

So essentially we have a call for more lynch mobs? That if there is a press beat up that mentions someone by name, more people will be tempted to join the mob.

In the past the Left used to think this was a bad thing.

Stuart Hall has had his life destroyed because, according to all the victims I have seen, he put his hand on a girl’s leg and touched a 17 year old girl’s breast.

The Yorkshire Ripper he ain’t.

In the meantime, actual real criminals are out there committing actual real crimes. Not just rape but murder, GBH and theft. Perhaps police time is best spent on something else?

20. John Reid

7′ if that’s true, it undermines Sians whole article,

This is actually quite silly, as really, hardly any rape cases involve celebrities or will receive widespread media exposure. For most suspects, anonymity wouldn’t really be much of an issue. You could say that with the tiny minority of celebrity suspects there is a case for anonymity, since we all know that people tend to jump to conclusions and there may be other ways in which these cases are unlike normal rape investigations, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter much.

22. John Reid

21 it’s not just exposure, people have been sacked from their job, and couldn’t afford to sue the company, just for being arrested, also celebrities have the power to complain to the police when vigilantes threaten to beat them up, if you live on a council estate and a gang does the same and you complain, you. Have the whole estate close ranks, also being famous makes people more thick skinned to celebrity status of criticism, having no nobodies come upto an average person who’s names in the local paper ,when accused and having that stranger threaten you ,swear at you ,calling you rapist in front of your family, isn’t something, that an average person is use too,

Surely the concept of the right to ‘trial by jury’and the necessity for a transparent process determines that the defendant becomes known to the public. Only in cases of national security and other cases, determined by a judge, do we deviate from this particular course. As far as I can determine, we do not name the witnesses in any trial, and that is exactly what victims are. Although I can see problems which may arise from ‘lynch mobs’, removing the existing transparency in the justice process will leave it open to practices which could challenge the ability to provide a fair trial.

SMFS, as I showed at Tim W’s place, you’ve only read one article about this case, and that in the Daily Mail. There were more alleged victims, and younger, than what you say. Furthermore, no-one is suggesting that his crimes are equivalent to being the Yorkshire Ripper.

Matt Wardman, I confess I haven’t thought much about the ideal process for getting compensation. But that seems besides my point. We have a number of people, Temperton among them, suggesting that there are a significant number of people who come forward as alleged victims with the intention of getting compensation, not justice. I would like to see some evidence for that suggestion.

It is right that we have the presumption of innocence. But this doesn’t entail that complainants are guilty of lying.

@22 – Just a minor point but is

it’s not just exposure, people have been sacked from their job, and couldn’t afford to sue the company, just for being arrested

unique to rape cases, or just the reaction of some employers to a member of their staff being arrested for anything?

@17

Now yes, there have been posthumous allegations and our dear friends the police have seen fit to declare him guilty (didn’t even know they were allowed to do that…), but nothing was ever proved where it matters i.e. in court.

Well you can’t put dead men on trial, so using your logic we’d have to question the guilt of Stalin, and Hitler for that matter.

Well, Harold Shipman was found guilty of 15 murders. The Shipman Inquiry, published after he died, concluded he was probably responsible for 250 deaths.

3/Unity: In reality, we know that Warboys, as a predatory serial stranger rapist, is atypical

Though, while research similar to Lisak and Miller’s or McWhorter’s doesn’t seem to have been carried out in the UK (which really surprises me, since it’s an obvious line of enquiry and there are plenty of academics researching sexual offences in general), it’s probably only the “stranger” bit which is atypical. On the other hand, that is the case where “anonymity” matters most anyway.

On that note: I do find the term “anonymity” annoyingly inexact. What victims get is a fairly narrow set of reporting restrictions which would be of no use whatsoever to the vast majority of defendants whose cases don’t even make a paragraph in the local paper.

The various complaints about things which can happen to defendants would generally require actual anonymity to fix – but I suspect those defendants would generally prefer the world we’ve got to one in which the state could arrest you and make it illegal for anyone to say what had happened to you. (To prevent the “Where’s Bob?” “I can’t tell you” “Oh, right.” situation, this would have to be extended to all crimes and at least some proportion of random disappearances)

16/David Lindsay: Rather, there should be no anonymity for adult accusers, either. We either have an open system of justice, or we do not.

You’re right. And through diligent research I am now able to reveal that the mysterious “R” who has been bringing these cases against the defendants is really Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

The name “Crown Prosecution Service” was in retrospect a really big giveaway.

(Reporting restrictions on the identities of witnesses in cases where witness intimidation is likely I fully support, however)

24/ukliberty: You’re innocent until proven guilty. There hasn’t been a trial yet, so you’ve not been proven guilty, so you’re innocent. Therefore you are entitled to sue the state for libel and false imprisonment if it arrests you. Easy.

29. Paul Z. Temperton
30. Charlieman

@28. cim: “There hasn’t been a trial yet, so you’ve not been proven guilty, so you’re innocent. Therefore you are entitled to sue the state for libel and false imprisonment if it arrests you.”

Nope, it does not work that way.

Christopher Jefferies was arrested for questioning. The police sought (and received) a 12 hour extension for apprehension followed by another for 24 hours. He was held for about two days for questioning.

Christopher Jefferies received payments from newspapers who had written ill conceived and stupid stories about him. He won money because his arrest was misreported by some newspapers. To my knowledge, he did not receive compensation from the police.

The state cannot libel because the definition of “state” is too vague. Libel law is being reformed, so at this time it is difficult to predict whether a libel case based on arrest by a particular police force could hold water. My guess is that such a case would be rejected.

@29 I suspect you need to invest in a new sarcasm and/or satire detector.

32. Paul Z. Temperton

@Cylux
What the hell is that supposed to mean?

@P Z Temperton – it appears Charlieman has taken something blatantly tongue-in-cheek as being serious.

I don’t know why this site is so obsessed with rape. There are no posts about burglary or shoplifting. Where’s the concern for victims of assault or arson? Are the radfems making you post this stuff?


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