Rape anonymity

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
July 29, 2010, 9:15 PM GMT+0

The majority of the British public feels that people accused of rape should be given legal anonymity unless found guilty, a recent survey has found.

56% of the population believe that people accused of rape should be ‘granted legal anonymity unless found guilty’, compared to 16% who believe that ‘people accused of rape should be named in the same way as those accused of other crimes’.

This comes in light of the Government’s plans to work with the Press Complaints Commission to encourage the media not to identify those accused of rape. Under the current system, people accused of the crime are not granted anonymity, either legally or in the media, and critics argue that reputations are irrevocably destroyed by such an accusation, even if the individual concerned is not convicted. In a bid to temper the damage, the Government’s proposed plans will not grant legal anonymity to the accused, but hope to greatly reduce the media exposure they will receive.

This decision marks a diversion from previously suggested plans to grant complete legal anonymity to those accused, but is only supported by a minority of the public, of which only 19% chose the option ‘people accused of rape should not be given legal anonymity but the media should be encouraged not to name them’.

Controversial issue

Identification of people accused of rape is just one of several controversial issues surrounding the crime in the UK, primarily because many suggest that the low conviction rate (currently estimated anywhere between two and fourteen percent of all cases) prevents abused women from coming forward. Many who argue for the identification of the accused suggest that granting them anonymity excessively protects perpetrators at the expense of victims.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that men are overwhelmingly more likely to be accused of rape than women, men are more likely to support the granting of complete legal anonymity: 63% compared to 50% of women. Accordingly, women are much more likely to support the complete unmasking of those accused, with one quarter (25%) supporting this option compared to just 13% of men.

Survey details and full results