Lawyers against anonymity for sex offence arrests

Media lawyers and the Society of Editors have warned of the dangers inherent in a plan to give limited anonymity to arrested sex offenders.

The Commons home affairs select committee is to propose to ministers that suspected sex offenders’ names should not be made public until they are charged. Their concern follows recent high-profile cases when celebrities such as Matthew Kelly were falsely accused of sex abuse.

News Group Newspapers’ legal manager, Tom Crone, said: “I think it’s quite a dangerous threat to general freedom of speech when you say that people who have been arrested cannot be identified. Quite often, identifying people who have been arrested can be for their own protection. In other words, the police can’t go off arresting people and no one can know about it.

“Often, the fact the police have made an arrest and it is publicised can enable witnesses to come forward.”

He believes media lawyers would lobby against selective anonymity for arrested people.

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, told Press Gazette the select committee and the Government should be careful of a knee-jerk reaction to one or two highly publicised cases.

“What is far more dangerous than causing embarrassment is secret arrests and people being taken off by the police in the dead of night without anyone knowing. A long way down the line from that would be the people who vanish from the streets at the whim of dictatorships.”

By Jean Morgan

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