Proposals to put in place a blanket ban on police releasing the names of arrested persons could let serial sex offenders go free.
This was the stark warning from The Sun after two top judges – Lord Justice Treacy and Mr Justice Tugendhat – appeared to give their backing to such a ban. They were responding to an official Government consultation on Contempt of Court.
The Association of Chief Police Officers has already confirmed that is proposing to change guidance to forces urging them all to adopt a policy of declining to reveal the name of arrested people to the media.
The two judges said: "The police arrest many people who are never charged. If there were a policy that the police should consistently publish the fact that a person has been arrested, in many cases that information would attract substantial publicity, causing irremediable damage to the person’s reputation."
The pair said that they agree with the words of Sir Brian Leveson in his report when he said: "the current guidance in this area needs to be strengthened. For example, I think that it should be made abundantly clear that save in exceptional and clearly identified circumstances (for example, where there may be an immediate risk to the public), the names or identifying details of those who are arrested or suspected of a crime should not be released to the press nor the public."
However, The Sun has noted at least ten cases were victims of serial sex offenders came to light after arrests were made public.
It quotes one of 80 victims to call the police after "Black Cab" rapist Jon Worboys (pictured above) was arrested. He was jailed in 2009.
The 24-year-old student said: "This will lead to guilty men walking free. I only knew about Worboy's arrest because I saw his name in the paper. How am I and hundreds of others supposed to know police are looking into an individual if it is not publicised?"
UPDATE (30/4/2013): A spokesman for the Met Police told Press Gazette: "Black Cab’ rapist John Worboys was cited as an example of the merits of naming people who have been arrested. However we’ve checked our records and Worboys was named by police when he was charged, as is normal practice.
"He was not named by police before this and nor was he identified in the media before he was charged.
"Our position is that it’s right that there should be a debate on the issue of whether or not people who are arrested, many of whom will not be charged with a criminal offence, are publicly identified but we need to keep the arguments factual."
Other cases cited by The Sun include a swimming coach jailed in 2006 for sexually abusing children as young as five. It notes that four victims came forward after reading of arrests in their local papers.
And it notes that another man was convicted of sex attacks on boys after two victims read about his case in the local paper.
Peter Watt of the NSPCC told The Sun: "When a suspect in a child abuse case is named it gives more victims the confidence to speak out and helps ensure that justice is done."