In the Telegraph, our Senior Partner Ann Olivarius argues for maintaining anonymity for rape accusers even after their case fails, contributing to a growing discussion on this subject. With a low rate of rape reporting, and with the rate of conviction for rape in the UK among the lowest in Europe, publicly naming and shaming those who bring cases would have a chilling effect on future reporting—and corresponding convictions—of sexual assault. Reporter Radhika Sanghani warns against making the false leap that an acquittal indicates a lie by the accuser, emphasising that despite reasonable trust in the justice system, "we cannot assume that a non guilty verdict in rape trials means that the claimants were lying."
Ann Olivarius believes that it is "morally wrong" to rescind anonymity for rape victims if the defendant is acquitted—and further, that if the accuser is among the tiny minority of false accusers, it should be possible to redress the harm done to the accused through the law, "such as defamation" or other civil charges. She adds, however, that out of the many rape cases she has encountered, "we haven't ever dealt with a single false rape claim," and stresses that rape remains such a social stigma that only a small minority would risk bringing false charges. Indeed, as Sanghani writes, sexual assault crimes are not only under-reported, but the number of false rape accusations amongst reports is minimal: "Over five years, 109 women in the UK were prosecuted for false rape claims," a tiny figure in relation to an estimated 425,000 women who "would have been raped over that time period in England and Wales alone."