England To Shield Identities of Alleged Rapists

Rape shield laws have always been controversial with defense counsel and some civil libertarians because they shield the identity of the alleged victim but not the alleged attacker. Now, the coalition government in England appears ready to address that controversy by banning the identification of both alleged victims and criminal defendants in rape cases.

While opposed by some advocacy groups, shield laws have long been criticized for failing to recognize that being accused of rape stigmatizes the defendant — not just the alleged victim. There are cases of false accusations and many acquittals in rape prosecutions. Liberal Democrats changed their policy in 2006 to advocate giving defendants in rape cases anonymity. That change followed the case of Warren Blackwell, 36, who was falsely accused of rape — not unlike our own scandal over the Duke Lacrosse rape case, here.

In Blackwell’s case, he spent three years in jail before the rape charge was proven false. That is one year better than Biurny Peguero Gonzalez. England has been focusing on such cases of late, here.

For the full story, click here.=

33 thoughts on “England To Shield Identities of Alleged Rapists”

  1. Byron:

    “How does the president of BP even enter into this calculus? He is fighting an accident and as far as we know has broken no laws.”

    ******************

    What’s best for him — and by extension his company — is for this all to go away. That would mean lax enforcement of the law. How would that be in the interest of society in general?

  2. carol:

    “I don’t think you guys remember the days when a women who had the courage to prosecute her rapist was basically raped all over again in Court.”

    **************

    That’s the kind of verbal hyperbole that leads to poor public policy decisions. The victim is not “raped all over again in court.” Her (or his) testimony is subjected to normal cross-examination about a motive to fabricate. Why is it not relevant if she had past consensual encounters with the defendant; if she had ever been a prostitute; whether she has another sexual partner with a grudge against the defendant? AS most adults experienced in the relationships between men and women know, it is clearly relevant, but we adhere to quaint Victorian notions that women are too weak to confront their attackers. Bad policy; worse constitutionality.

  3. Mespo:

    No, I am not being tongue in cheek. What is good for the individual is good for society. As I said not in the steak and shrimp for everyone sense.

    How does the president of BP even enter into this calculus? He is fighting an accident and as far as we know has broken no laws.

    Maybe you mean it in another way?

    Society does not exist without the individual. When society is the good the individual no longer exists.

  4. The rape shield laws began as protection for the victim. Many women were reluntant to file charges because they didn’t want to see their name and picture in the newspaper or on television. The shame and ‘blame the victim’ game was horrific not that many years ago.

    It was common for the defendants’ attorney to put the victim ‘on trial’ and expose every sexual encounter she ever had, even to the point of necking in the back of a car.

    I don’t think you guys remember the days when a women who had the courage to prosecute her rapist was basically raped all over again in Court.

    False charges of rape are made and the accuser needs to be punished. Although I don’t believe every ‘not guilty’ verdict means the allegation was false.

  5. Former Federal LEO

    This is one of those perennially tough societal tradeoffs; that is, the rights of individuals to privacy v. the need for transparency and the public’s right to know.

    =================================================================

    Yes, but, if I, as a member of the public, have a right to know, do I not then have a solemn responsibility to presume the innocence of the accused?

    If I do not take that responsibility seriously have I renounced my right to know?

    In other words … if the public has done as AY and Maaarrghk! have suggested then is not the public’s right to know an unfair burden on the accused? Thus is the public’s right to know more politically sacrosanct than the accused right to presumed innocence?

    I realize I’m waxing philosophical here and, more than likely exhibiting a true ignorance of legal principles but it seems to me that an irresponsible public has no right to cast its shadow on the accused before the truth has been determined.

  6. This is one of those perennially tough societal tradeoffs; that is, the rights of individuals to privacy v. the need for transparency and the public’s right to know.

    People always remember the initial mug shot and the charges, sometimes grossly false accusations, while they are much less likely to remember the exonerations that—if they occur at all in the newspaper—are on page 83, intertwined with the low-end classifieds.

  7. Maaarrghk!:

    It is that way here as well. But the reality is here, you must have done something wrong or you would not have been arrested, so you must be guilty. This is even true in the rural areas of the state. Even when the good folks of the town know that the Police Officer (yada yada yada) is the dirtiest most crooked person that ever had to be arrested somebody else.

  8. Byron:

    “How do you reconcile that? Isn’t society made up of individuals? Wouldn’t what is good for the individual be good for society at large?”

    **************

    I assume this is tongue in cheek. What is best for the President of British Petroleum right now is certainly not what is best for us all.

  9. Mespo:

    “I would be mortified, but surely you cannot mean that what is best for me is best for society at large.”

    How do you reconcile that? Isn’t society made up of individuals? Wouldn’t what is good for the individual be good for society at large?

    I am not talking about steak and shrimp for everyone.

  10. Maaarrghk!:

    “I would respectfully ask you to spend a few moments imagining yourself in the position of one wrongly accused of rape and to contemplate the effects such an allegation may have on your own life, career and relationships.”

    ****************

    I would be mortified, but surely you cannot mean that what is best for me is best for society at large. There is a reason we do not allow victims the right to decide the punishment of their abusers and the accused the right to determine the method of their trial or punishment. Parochial interests rarely coincide with the general welfare. Protecting the relevant sex life of the accuser flows from sentimental Victorian notions of women being the weaker sex; protecting the accuser’s name infers that society will inevitably asperse against the accused on the allegation alone. Are these really the principles we are seeking to promote?

  11. Mespo.

    I am not sure about the US state of affairs, but in the UK it is a case of “innocent until proven guilty”.

    Therefore, in matters such as this we should always err on the side of protecting the innocent. Allegations of a sexual nature have a tendency to stick, even if one is found to be innocent.

    I would respectfully ask you to spend a few moments imagining yourself in the position of one wrongly accused of rape and to contemplate the effects such an allegation may have on your own life, career and relationships.

    AY. I too have heard that “you cannot cure a peadophile”, although I must admit that I have ony heard it from the relatives of victims and certain newspaper columnists. I have yet to hear an opinion from the medical/psychiatric profession, but hope that this assumption is wrong.

    Call me a hopeless liberal if you wish, but I like to feel that no-one is beyond redemption. Of course I could be wrong.

    It has always puzzled me however, why kiddie fiddlers are not but on some sort of medication such as “bromide” which was given to British troops during WW2.

  12. Anonymously Yours,

    I didn’t subscribe to shield laws of any kind but then I read your and Maaarrghk!’s words and began to contemplate all the damage done to those falsely accused while awaiting vindication.

    I well remember the Duke Lacrosse rape case … in the end those young men were nothing more than pawns in a politician’s ambition game.

    But then I read mespo’s words which took me back to my original thoughts.

    That, AY, is the beauty of this blog and the legal minds who post here. It is a seat of the faculty of reason. It makes one think … and then think again.

    I will come to a reasoned conclusion but that will require careful thought … when that process is concluded not only will I know what I believe about shield laws but I will also be able to intelligently defend it.

  13. Public crimes are public information and should remain as such. We all know an allegation is just that and has no force unless proven by the legal standard. The reason we have statutory crimes, written charges, public trials, citizen juries, publicly elected or appointed judges, elected prosecutors, habeas corpus, and all the other manifestations of openness forming the seamless web that protects our freedoms are to prevent the secret retribution against citizens found in totalitarian regimes. There is a reason lettres de cachet were held in such contempt in Colonial America. The founders understood the value of such transparency in punitive proceedings:

    “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”

    ~Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Paine, 1789.

    “The Habeas Corpus secures every man here, alien or citizen,
    against everything which is not law, whatever shape it may
    assume.”

    ~Thomas Jefferson to A. H. Rowan, 1798.

    I find no value in rape shield laws nor secreting away the names of those merely charged with crimes. Part of the protections we enjoy from baseless charges and overt criminal conduct is the shame and public ridicule visited on the perpetrator of either once the wrongful conduct comes to light. To that extent, public scrutiny of both complainant and alleged offender serves a useful societal purpose in deterring abuse.

  14. Interesting arguments … I may have to change my position on this issue.

  15. Maaarrghk!,

    I see your point and it is well taken. The point that I was trying to make is, if a person is a true Ped then there is not much you can do to treat them. Some of the worst abuses of justice I have ever seen are date rapes. Scenario, Girl goes to bar and drink. Girl get into a fight with boyfriend and gets even and sleeps with a stranger. She feels guilt the next day and says that she was raped. Well, they did have sex and it was consensual. Then he is tried and convicted, status Rapist and must register wherever he moves.

    Next, 17 year old boy and 15 year old girl have sex. Momma or daddy finds out. It can’t happen to our sweet little girl. Guess what Statutory Rape, life sentence possible for 17 year old. While sweet little girls walks free because mommy and daddy don’t like the fact that daughter was defiled. 2 year age difference.

    It is my understanding that a Pedophile cannot be changed. I may be wrong.

  16. There have been several cases of false accusations brought to light at varous stages of the legal process in the UK in recent years and this proposal is a good idea.

    Touching on your concern over peadophiles AY, the most disturbing trend recently has been that of malicious pupils accusing teachers of sexual assault. Careers and lives ruined all because little Jenny was told not to use her mobile phone in class.

    I really do not wish to even think about what it would feel like to be wrongly accused of rape – this sort of thing would ruin a blokes life guilty or not. Because “there’s no smoke without fire” is there? I would rather be falsly accused of murdering a Policeman and have to live with that.

  17. There are cases of false accusations and many acquittals in rape prosecutions.

    This is an understatement, in many cases. However, we need extra protection from Pedophiles.

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