Would you give Louis Richardson a job?
Reading History, head of the Debating Society, member of the Conservative Party, a confident, presentable, appearance; he should score well as you sift through the initial pile of CVs – until you come to the results of HR’s trawl through social media, an essential check in today’s world.
There it is – ‘Louis Richardson’, the Durham University student accused of rape. Groan!
Acquitted of course – but do you really want to put a picture of him on your new company brochure? Do you want to field the calls from committed feminists asking why you are employing him? Do you want your company Twitter feed inundated with hundreds of abusive message? Perhaps risk a call for a boycott of your product?
Isn’t it just simpler to go through the pile and find another candidate that doesn’t come with that baggage?
Perhaps you have strong feeling that this young man shouldn’t be penalised for an incident that turned out not to be criminal after all? In which case – good for you!
My point being that this young man will never apply for a job without that tag of ‘accused of rape’ being discussed, hopefully dismissed, but taken into account one way or another. Never.
Whereas ‘Booze Hound’ (and that is her own description of herself) has lifetime anonymity; she can get on with her life, apply for jobs, start work in those jobs – without being the subject of muffled canteen conversation for months ahead.
Sex offences are not the only criminal offences that carry a stigma, whacking old ladies over the head for 60p when they were on their way to collect their pension is fairly stigmatising – so whilst I can understand the clamour for alleged perpetrators to also have anonymity, as they did for a brief period in the 1980s, why not all ‘accused’ – or none? It would equally remove the right of those acquitted to point to evidence of their acquittal – within their own circle of friends and colleagues, their trial will be common knowledge anyway.
Lifetime anonymity for the ‘alleged victim’ is the sticking point.
I have heard the arguments in favour – it gives alleged victims the courage to come forward. Indeed it does, and should be applauded for that. It must be difficult to have to describe sexual experiences when you are entirely innocent of having committed any crime. However, witnesses for the defence – who may also have been engaging in dubious or embarrassing sexual encounters at the time – do not get that protection.
Imagine another young lady had been in Louis’ bed that night along with ‘Booze Hound’ – she knows that Louis is completely innocent of rape, it was a consenting ‘threesome’ – but she must, if she has the courage to do the right thing, give her evidence in the full glare of publicity. Defence witnesses, equally innocent, don’t get any protection from the embarrassment of describing their sex life in detail. The fact that innocent young women continue to come forward and give evidence in the full glare of publicity, when driven by the desire to see justice in the form of an acquittal, rather than a prosecution, somewhat dents the argument that it is ‘only anonymity’ which will allow alleged victims to come forward.
When the law was changed in 1988, and men were once more named in sexual offence cases, it was justified on the basis that giving publicity to the case and anonymity to ‘alleged victims’ would allow corroborative evidence in the shape of other victims to come forward. It has done so. There is a lot to be said for it.
However, it has also allowed some malicious/troubled souls – particularly where the person accused is famous and details of his home/whereabouts on certain dates/operation scars et al are publicly available – to concoct stories in the hope of receiving some personal benefit, whether it be emotional, financial, or retributional. That isn’t so good. In fact it isn’t good at all – it has led to some no doubt genuine claims being ‘dissed’ on the grounds that ‘all these girls are liars’.
If the reason for anonymity is to ‘encourage corroborative evidence to come forward’ – then that reason vanishes at the end of the trial if there is an acquittal. Your name should then be revealed.
Yes, you will run the risk of being named on acquittal if the defence are able to prove that your evidence is insufficient to bring a conviction, or even downright false – but it will also warn others of the potential ability to be “manipulative”, “dangerous” and an “attention-seeking” liar as ‘Booze Hound’ was found to be by the jury in the Richardson case.
Isn’t that something that future employers should be aware of – to say nothing of other young men that may cross her path.
Release the ‘Booze Hound’ from anonymity!
Edited by Anna to add: An interesting article has just been published which will be of interest to those working in the field of corroborative evidence.