Media anonymity for sex offence suspects would likely result in more child abuse

16th July 2019 / NewsBits

By Press Gazette: Gabrielle Shaw, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), reacts to a petition backed by Sir Cliff Richard and DJ Paul Gambaccini calling for anonymity for sexual offence suspects, which has reached more than 25,000 signatures.


Much of the media reporting in the past five years has been positive and has led to improved awareness about how crimes against children happen, prompting thousands of survivors to reach out for support.

Rape and abuse are difficult crimes to prove in court. The legal process can be traumatising for survivors. Non-recent child sexual abuse cases are especially hard to prosecute, as usually only the child and the perpetrator were present when the crime took place and the passage of time makes gathering corroborating evidence difficult.

Many people who sexually abuse children are repeat offenders and media coverage can prompt other survivors to come forward which can help to secure a conviction. This is what happened with Stuart Hall, Rolf Harris (pictured) and Max Clifford and with some of the football coaches who abused children.

No-one wants an innocent person to be publicly accused and prosecuted – least of all victims and survivors of these crimes. Inevitably there will be more media interest when an alleged suspect is someone well-known or high-status in society. This makes responsible reporting even more critical.

A few cases of sensationalist or reckless media reporting have caused immense harm to innocent people wrongly accused of crimes against children. These kinds of cases also damage survivors by diverting police resources from genuine cases.



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