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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » sex crime trials: why do we know the names of the accused?

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Author Topic: sex crime trials: why do we know the names of the accused?
Dzuunmod
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Here's a question that could get some passionate responses: should the public get to know the names of people accused of sex crimes? The question could apply to any kind of crime, of course, but as this is a sex education site, sex crimes are a good jumping off point for this discussion - sex crimes also seem to be a specific focus in these sorts of debates anyway.

A little while ago, a snooker/billiards player named Quinten Hann was accused of rape in London. It was pretty big news, as this fellow was ranked 14th in the world. He was eventually cleared, but not before a nasty trial, and some pretty terrible associations were attached to his name.

So, thought the BBC, this raises an interesting question: should we know the names of accused rapists?

There are two sides to this: First, you're protecting people who may well be innocent, and who might have their name dragged through the mud, so to speak; Second, naming an accused criminal, particularly in the case of sex criminals, may encourage other victims to come forward with their stories.

I think that the first point weighs heavier on the scales of justice, personally. I'm all for catching rapists, or murderers, or kidnappers, say, but certainly we need to protect the rights of those who haven't been proven guilty.

Another wrench to throw into this, and I don't really know where it fits in, is that it's typically only in the case of sex crimes where the victims' names aren't revealed. Just another thinking point, there.

What do y'all say?

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[This message has been edited by Dzuunmod (edited 08-26-2002).]


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Daydreamer24
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I think so. People need to be aware.
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Beppie
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This is interesting, because I have recently read two articles that pertain to both of these issues respectively.

As to the first is, I pretty much agree with you Dzuun. I do think that it is likely to skew the justice system should the name of the accused be revealed publicly.

About the issue of revealing the name of the victim- I read an interesting article about those girls who were kidnapped and raped in California recently. Once it was revealed that they were raped, the media stopped mentioning their names, and one journalist's opinion was that this was treating the fact that they were raped as a cause for shame, when it should not be- rather, she felt the girls should have been presented as heros due to the bravery they showed during the ordeal. I like the suggestion of one woman who commented on the article, saying that whether or not the names of rape victims are revealed should be up to the person who has been raped.


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logic_grrl
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Well here's one angle: there aren't any other crimes where the defendant gets the right to anonymity. People accused of murdering small children don't get anonymity, for example. So why should people accused of rape and other sex crimes be the exception?

A common argument seems to be that it's "unfair" for the victim to be anonymous but not the defendant.

But a rape trial is likely to involve discussion of extremely private details of the victim's body, sexual history, behaviour, etc.. And in most rape trials, the defence is likely to adopt the tactic of attempting to discredit the victim, by arguing either that they're fantasizing or "hysterical" or that they were "asking for it", etc. There was another recent case in the UK where a teenager who'd been raped committed suicide after the trial - among other things, the defence had ordered her to hold up the underwear she'd been wearing at the time.

A number of studies have shown that the majority of women (and men, for that matter) who've been raped never report it. I'd strongly suspect that if rape victims weren't granted anonymity, the rates of reporting would drop even lower.

It seems totally logical to grant anonymity to witnesses in any case where a witness is otherwise liable to be humiliated, intimidated or deterred from appearing in court.

But there seems no reason to grant anonymity to defendants accused of rape but not defendants accused of other crimes, unless the implication is that accusations of rape are more likely to be false (as a matter of fact, the data apparently indicates that the rate of false accusations of rape is no higher than that of other crimes).

Arguing that defendants in all criminal cases should be granted anonymity is a different issue, and I'm honestly not sure what my feelings on that would be. But personally I can't see a reason to make a special exception for defendants accused of rape.


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Confused boy
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A better situation would be if names of the accused could be released to the public and it was possible to trust newspapers and the general public to treat the information sensibly. Instead, tabloids print massive headlines when someone (especially famous) is suspected of committing a crime (the more lurid the better) but then making very little mention, if at all, when the court finds them not guiltly.

So the question is whether the damage caused by having suspects names revealed is worse than the prospect of courts and police refusing information to the public. And what happens if a newspaper comes by these names unnofficially? Should it be illegal for newspapers to print their names and could this legislation risk censorship of the press in other cases. Its a tough issue but for now I am not sure whether the mainstream media can be trusted with the names of those accused of sex crimes either.

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HockeyGrl
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I think if someone is going to carry out such a disgusting, degrating, traumatizing action then the WHOLE WORLD should know the person`s name and the face that goes with it. Why should anyone who follows through with such a disgraceful crime be protected?! I say SHOUT THEIR NAMES...post them everywhere...people deserve to know the personal information of the scum who do such a thing!

My friend was raped but under the terms of "LAW" his name and face was protected from the public....his identity was under protection from the people whom he roamed the streets with,..whom he encountered on a day to day basis...it sickens me to no end to see people like that who have ruined lives get more of a break than the person whom they`ve traumatized...

So in my obvious conclusion...LET EVERYONE KNOW WHO THEY ARE,...WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE AND WHERE THEY HAVE LIVED AND OR PLAN TO LIVE IN THE FUTURE! keep the rest of us safe from sickos like that!


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Beppie
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HockeyGrl, we are talking about what to do before any verdict has been reached- if someone is declared a rapist before they have been found guilty, the whole concept of "innocent until proven guilty" upon which our justice systems are based, is thrown out the window.

However, I do think that when in court, any rape victim should be treated with the dignity they deserve. Even if a not guilty verdict is reached, it doesn't always mean the person is lying- not guilty simply means guilt can't be proven- it doesn't mean that innocence has been proven. As such, no person who claims to have been raped should be branded a liar by the justice system, unless, in keeping with that system, guilt (of perjury) is proven.

[This message has been edited by Beppie (edited 08-17-2002).]


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KandyKorn17
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This is so simple. No, people shouldn't know the names of those who are accused of rape. They shouldn't know the names of the victims, either. But there's not much that's gonna change the way the media puts on its show.

It's a pretty messed up system, tho. How many innocent people have been killed b/c a mom or dad decided to kill the person that raped their child? How many lives have been ruined? Just a thought.


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BruinDan
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quote:
Originally posted by KandyKorn17:
How many innocent people have been killed b/c a mom or dad decided to kill the person that raped their child?

Far fewer than the number of people who are killed each year after being raped...

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KandyKorn17
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I'm not saying that rape isn't a crime. I'm not saying that rapists should be protected. I don't believe that at all. But people who are killed because they were falsely accused of a crime are as much victims as people who are raped and killed.
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BruinDan
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quote:
Originally posted by KandyKorn17:
I'm not saying that rape isn't a crime. I'm not saying that rapists should be protected...But people who are killed because they were falsely accused of a crime are as much victims as people who are raped and killed.

Yes, and I'm saying that the instances of such things happening are so rare that the US Department of Justice considers them "virtual non-events." Harrassment is one thing, but murder of falsely-accused rapists is something else altogether, and is about as uncommon a crime as they come.

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KandyKorn17
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OK, I'll take your word for it. I'm not gonna argue anything i don't know.

I was using an extreme example. My point is, people who are accused of rape are not going to have a normal life afterwards. People are going to make judgements on them, whether they are guilty or not. Sure, maybe most of these people are guilty (again, I'm not gonna argue statistics since I don't really know them). But you can't base the law on the fact that "most people accused of rape are probably guilty" or "someone innocent being murdered because of this will probably never happen".


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Bobolink
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The theory behind publishing the names of the accused is to avoid secret trials. Without this, John Doe could be arrested and disappear. In Canada, a judge can order that the name of the accused not be published to protect the identity of the alleged victim, especially if s/he is a minor. In a number of recent court cases, a publication of names ban has been lifted by a superior court as the reason for the ban was ruled insufficient. Our legal system is based on open trials. Secrecy in this area should be subject to stringent rules.

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Dzuunmod
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I can understand what you're saying Bobo. With that in mind, perhaps the best thing to do would be to give the choice to the person in question. If s/he wants to give his/her name out to the media, so be it - but, until the media has that green light, they cannot report the name of the accused.

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LaJoyaMorena
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Sex offenders' names should be released as well as the names of other convicts. Yes they have rights, but they forfeited those rights when they decided to victimize members of society.

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Dzuunmod
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To clarify once more, we aren't talking here about convicted sex offenders, we're talking about accused sex offenders - and criminal offenders of any kind, really.

If I'm falsely accused of something, why should my name get associated with the crime I didn't commit?

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Confused boy
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It can also hinder the succesful prosecution of sex offenders as has happened on occasion over here with our hyper-active tabloids. If the story is leaked to the media before or during the trial, then the jury can be effected by such stories in the news and as a consequence are not capable of judging the case purely on its merits.

Furthermore, LaJoyaMorena, convicted sex offenders will presumably be given some form of custodial sentence and one assumes always in the case of rape. After their punishment has been served they have rights as eveyone else. A society cannot refuse to give protection to them or else every offender risks a further punishment of death at the hands of an angry mob or vigilante.

The safetly of anonymity is far less costly than providing police protection to them. Of course, some might argue that they may still pose a threat to the surrounding population which should be warned about them. However, the authorities will have better discipline to observe these potential re-offenders rather than the general public and if they are much of a threat they should not be released into normal society straight away anyway.

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