People accused of sexual assault should remain anonymous until charged, UK campaign group Fair demands in a parliamentary petition launched on Monday.
Spearheaded by singer Sir Cliff Richard and DJ Paul Gambaccini, the petition has already garnered 10,000 signatures, thus eliciting government response.
Sir Cliff told the BBC the law needed “re-balancing” to protect suspects from “stigma [which] is almost impossible to eradicate.”
Currently, British law does not forbid naming people accused of sexual assault—even before they are charged—but does give victims lifelong anonymity.
Survivor support groups say maintaining the accused’s anonymity will prevent other victims from recognising an abuser and stepping forward.
Mr Gambaccini argues additional victims could always report their experiences once the accused is charged and their identity publicised.
Critics note that having fewer victims to corroborate a report might impact authorities’ decision to charge someone in the first place.
They add that calling for defendant anonymity only bolsters “the public misconception” that suspected sexual offenders are “more likely to [be] falsely accused.”
In a statement on Fair’s website, Sir Cliff explained that the false allegations and media exposure were “the worst thing that has happened to me in my entire life.”
How should we balance this policy’s legal—and social—effects against the reputational and psychological harm Fair alleges?