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Law Over Rape Victims Could Change After Ched Evans Case

Law Over Rape Victims Could Change After Ched Evans Case

Ched Evans

The government has said a potential change in the law relating to rape cases will be considered in the wake of the Ched Evans case.

The Attorney General, Jeremy Wright QC, has revealed the law could be changed to help protect alleged rape victims in the light of the case, which saw the Chesterfield footballer cleared of rape at Cardiff Crown Court after a retrial.

The move comes in the wake of MPs voicing alarm after details of the sexual history of a woman who accused the footballer of raping her were aired in court to clear his name.

Conviction quashed in light of other men’s testimony

In 2012, Evans was found guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room the previous year. He served half of a five-year prison term.

The conviction was quashed on appeal last April and he was found not guilty of the same charge at the subsequent retrial. During the retrial, the jury heard evidence from two men who had intimate relationships with the complainant around the time of the alleged offence of which Evans had previously been convicted. Both men outlined “sexual behaviour” similar to that which Evans said he had observed during his encounter with her.

The former solicitor general Vera Baird warned the case put Britain back “probably about 30 years.”

MPs petition for a change in the law

More than 40 Labour MPs wrote to Jeremy Wright QC to demand a change in the law, after warning the case could set a dangerous precedent and deter women from coming forward to report rape in other cases. The Attorney General said the subject was of “concern” and suggested the law and guidance around the admission of a complainant’s sexual history in criminal trials could be reformed.

Campaigners claim victims of serious sexual crimes by strangers are frequently put in unnecessary danger by police officers disclosing the name of the accuser to the accused.

A draft amendment to the policing and crime bill, now before the House of Lords, would apply to ‘stranger rape’ cases where there is currently no legislation on how and when a victim’s name is given to the accused by police.

Proposed change could be seen to contravene key legal principle

The proposals could be challenged on the basis that they contravene the key legal principle of a defendant’s right to know who is accusing them.

Currently, police protocol allows officers to divulge a victim’s name to a suspect, often on the very commencement of an investigation at the point of arrest, and before it is known if a case will proceed to court. It has been said such details enable an alleged assailant to subsequently find out where a victim lives and works.

Under the draft amendment, police may not disclose the identity of a victim or witness of a serious sexual or violent offence to the person accused of the offence, if it is reasonable to assume that such a disclosure would put the victim or witness at risk of further harm.

Police officers must take into consideration any previous convictions, mental health issues and access to technology of the person accused of the offence, whether or not the accused has been charged.

Harry Fletcher, director of Voice4victims, a charity which provides advocacy and support to victims navigating through the criminal justice system, said: “It is of deep concern that there is neither policy nor legislation covering the disclosure of a victim’s identity to an alleged perpetrator of a serious sexual offence. It is astonishing that it is left to the discretion of individual police officers.”

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