A promise by the coalition Government to grant anonymity to suspects in rape cases may only cover alleged offenders up to the point they are charged.
The Con-Lib coalition policy document promises to extend anonymity to defendants in rape cases.
But speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday David Cameron said that when he was a member of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee “we came to the conclusion that there was a case for saying that between arrest and charge there was a case for anonymity”.
Leader of the Labour Party Harriet Harman said: “We know that it is often only after many rapes that a defendant is finally brought to court and it is only at that point, often, when previous victims find the courage to come forward.
“By making rape defendants anonymous you are going to make it harder to bring rapists to justice.”
Cameron said: “The fact that rape convictions are so low in this country is a scandal and we need to improve on that. That means working with the police and doing more to help rape victims, including backing rape crisis centres.
“On the issue of anonymity, I sat on the Home Affairs Select Committee that examined this issue, it was of course a committee in the last parliament dominated by Labour members, very ably chaired by Chris Mullin.
“We came to the conclusion that there was a case that between arrest and charge there was a case for anonymity.”
He told Ms Harman: “I understand what you say, that it is important that the publicity around a case can help bring other people who have been raped forwards.
“I understand your case, but I think this does represent a good way forward.”
Harman said: “To single out rape, which is what you are proposing to do, to single out rape defendants sends a very powerful message to juries in rape cases that the rape victim is not to be believed.
“It sends a devastating message to rape victims that uniquely of all victims they are not to be believed.”