In a reversal under pressure, the English Justice Ministry has decided that it will not treat both the accused and the accusing parties in rape cases equally. The Ministry had indicated that it would grant anonymity to those accused of rape just as the alleged victims are given anonymity. Under pressure from both the Labour Party and female MPs, the Ministry has backed down.
The decision is disappointing since the change would have afforded equal treatment to both sides in such cases — a reform that many have called for in the wake of a series of high-profile false rape cases.
It is certainly true that anonymity encourages rape victims to come forward, but it produces a situation where the accused is subject to public scrutiny and disclosure but not the accuser. Defense attorneys have long argued that in cases of false rape accusations, public disclosure of the name of the accuser would have revealed prior false allegations and relevant misconduct, as in the infamous Duke Lacrosse case. I can certainly see (and share many concerns) of those opposed to this reform. However, if anonymity is to be the standard, it should be applied to both sides in my view as a basic question of fairness.