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Rape (Victim Anonymity)

Volume 545: debated on Tuesday 15 May 2012

It is an offence to breach the anonymity of a complainant in a case of rape or any sexual offence. Allegations that a complainant has been named will be investigated.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that response, and I hope that he shares my concern at the online outing of the victim in the Ched Evans rape case who had her name emblazoned all over the social media. I am pleased that a number of arrests have been made, but does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that rape victims will be even less likely to come forward if they think that they might be outed in this way?

The hon. Lady raises an important point. I want to make it absolutely clear that the anonymity of rape victims is there for life. When it is breached, the full force of the law must be brought to bear. My understanding of the case that she mentions is that, as at 10 May, 13 people had been arrested. It is right that the law should be enforced, but it is also noteworthy that we clearly need to monitor the internet and ensure that we supervise it a lot better than we perhaps have in times past.

I wonder whether my hon. Friend could help, as there is growing concern about the use of Twitter in the ways described, but for other criminal offences. What actions are the Government taking to make sure that people are not allowed to hide behind their own anonymity when they tweet or use the internet in this way, which is to commit a criminal offence?

It is most interesting to hear the hon. Lady’s thoughts, but they are relevant in this context only in relation to victims in rape cases, not more widely. That is what the question is about. We are immensely grateful for the hon. Lady’s musings, but I am not sure that they entirely pertinent to the matter under discussion.

Briefly, I am aware that where breaches have occurred through the use of Twitter, the Communications Act 2003 has been used as a basis for taking action. My hon. Friend thus raises a good point, and I am happy to say that law enforcement is taking its course.