Lawyer Nick Freeman (AKA Mr Loophole) yesterday demanded that those accused of a sexual assault should have anonymity in the media until they are convicted.
His comments came as former soap actor Lewis Linford was cleared of groping a woman at a nightclub.
Freeman said the charge arose from a “wicked lie” which prompted his client to be subjected to the “full spotlight of the media glare” for 20 months.
The fear is that ‘mud sticks’ and that 22-year-old Linford will never now have his reputation fully restored.
It is a compelling argument and one I have to say that I agree with.
When working in my first job as a reporter on the Battle Observer, in East Sussex, I was once approached by a friend of a friend in a pub who told me that his ex-wife had filed a mischievous sexual assault claim against him after a row.
He urged me not to cover his initial hearings, because he said the case would never proceed to trial. He said his elderly parents would never recover from shame of seeing him appear in the paper on a sexually-related charge.
I spoke to my editor who told me that if someone asks us to keep something out of the paper we HAVE to make sure it goes in.
So off I went to every preliminary magistrates court hearing, and week after week the Battle Observer reported a news-in-brief saying that so-and-so had appeared in court charged with sexual assault and released on bail.
Eventually, a judge ruled that there was no substance to the accusations and the charges were thrown out without reaching trial – a development which the Battle Observer duly reported with another news in brief.
By that stage he his family had been put through months of needless anguish and his good name had been tarnished forever in the local area. He never forgave me for what I did.
My editor was right to insist that the case was covered. Reporters have to put personal feelings to one side and report the news as it happens without fear or favour and treat everyone the same.
But it rankled then and still rankles now that reporting groundless sexual allegations does no-one any good and actually causes a lot of harm and unnecessary distress.