Should the identity of sex crime suspects be kept secret before charges are laid? 73% of Lib Dem members say yes

by Stephen Tall on June 14, 2014

Publish IdentityLib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Over 830 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Following recent high-profile arrests as part of the Yewtree investigation, we asked whether anonymity should be extended to those arrested on suspicion of sexual assault but not charged…

Do you think the identity of people who have been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault, but have NOT yet been charged with any crime, should be kept secret or made public?

    73% – Identity should be kept secret
    17% – Identity should be made public
    10% – Don’t know

By an overwhelming margin, then, Lib Dem members favour keeping the identity of those arrested on suspicion of sexual assault secret. I don’t agree for reasons I set out here last year: I think transparency is the best guarantee of justice. Here’s a sample of what you think, though…

• Reluctantly I think they should be public as this sometimes prompts other people to come forward with evidence.
• Only until charging, then identities should be made public.
• Innocent until proven guilty is a fundamental human right.
• Too many false accusations. This is a very difficult crime to prosecute at the best of times.
• In an ideal world, anonymity would run both ways. We don’t live in an ideal world, we live in one where most victims of sexual assault never report it, and if they do, are disbelieved and undermined. Often it is only when the name of someone arrested is made public that other victims step forward.
• A mere allegation can destroy lives.
• Accused and defendants should be treated the same.
• Secret until charged is a good balance.
• An accusation can ruin a person’s life even if they are cleared of it. Mud sticks.
• Unfounded arrests have clearly ruined peoples lives.
• Irrespective of the nature of the offence, I do not believe the identity of any suspect should be disclosed ahead of charge, without the express consent of a senior judge.
• As they say, hard cases make bad law. We’ve come to the conclusion that sexual abuse victims should be given anonymity because there’s been a major issue getting them to come forward. We haven’t yet established that there’s a corresponding need to make a special case for those accused.
• The press complaints system *still* has no teeth so identity should remain a secret until charged for all crimes not just sexual assault.
• I wonder if secrecy might actually help conviction rates by leading juries to be less likely to think that alleged victims have jumped on some opportunistic bandwagon following publicity about a case, rather than being victims. At the same time, we must make it easier for victims to complain and be taken seriously.
• That should apply to all crimes.
• Some of the high-profile cases recently have started to look like witch-hunts, fair enough is they are guilty but if innocent the accused are having an injustice inflicted upon them.
• In fact names should only be published if there has been a conviction
• A very difficult question.
• I don’t think their identity must be kept secret, just not routinely disclosed to the press.
• Should not be disclosed, unless in the public interest
• I tend to err on the side of transparency – its a Liberal thing.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 745 responded in full – and a further 87 in part – to the latest survey, which was conducted between 16th and 22nd April.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

    photo by:


    Gideon Burton