Saturday, 8 February 2014

Celebrities: prosecution and anonymity

Following William Roache's successful defence of his reputation, his friends and some journalists are asking whether the charges of sexual misconduct should even have been brought to court. Leaving aside the statements of the police and the CPS that there was a strong case (perhaps the authorities should be pursuing the complainants who are by implication convincing liars), one has to consider the alternative. Rumours inevitably circulate when charges of a sexual nature are brought, and the more prominent the arrestee, the wider do they circulate. Although internet service providers in the UK are restrained from publishing such content, there is little restriction on ISPs based abroad. It is therefore essential that, serious accusations having been made, the accused should be cleared - or convicted - in the most public way.

Some people would grant anonymity to celebrities, also with reference to the Roache case. In my opinion, they have short memories. They should consider whether all Stuart Hall's victims would have come forward if his initial arrest had been kept quiet. They should also think about Yorkshire police's suppression of Jimmy Savile's early crimes, and how many scores of young lives could have been protected if those cases had proceeded publicly.

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