New Clause 4 — Anonymity Of Suspects And Defendants In Certain Cases (No.2)

Part of Sexual Offences Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 3rd November 2003.

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Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Labour, Redcar 5:45 pm, 3rd November 2003

The hon. Lady made the same point in Committee; I thought it interesting but inconclusive then, and I do now. Is she saying that, because there tends to be physical evidence in some kinds of case and not in others, those cases in which there is not usually any physical evidence should have the protection of anonymity for defendants? She would find that a hard test to apply: the element of evidence differs widely in case after case. Frequently, evidence is available to be looked for and found by the police in child sex allegations and rape allegations. Sometimes, because the police share the tendency to think it unlikely that a conviction will follow, they do not look for that evidence with the vehemence with which they would look for evidence in other cases. The new clause would add to that tendency by saying that even we in Parliament do not think it worth their putting a great deal of effort into pursuing such evidence because the conviction rate is so low that we think that people must be protected against its ever being known that they have been charged.

The Minister and his colleagues have sought a voluntary agreement to try to stop leaks and to make it a serious disciplinary offence for police officers in particular to be involved with leaks. That is the right—indeed, the only—way to proceed.