The recent conviction of Carl Beech has reignited the debate over whether those accused of sexual offences should be named before they are charged.
The Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland QC last week added to the debate by suggesting that the anonymity of suspected sex offenders should be respected until they are charged – where the individual has a reputation to protect. He also suggested that this principle be extended to all serious crimes.
The presumption of innocence until proven guilty is an important tenet of any civilised society. So much so, that this essential right is enshrined in a number of countries’ codes and constitutions.
Under English and Welsh common law, it is for the prosecution to prove the accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The United Kingdom is also, of course, a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights which deals with similar such rights at Article 6, further encapsulated in domestic legislation in the form of the Human Rights Act 1998.
What then, of those who feel that their rights in this respect have been undermined?
Radio presenter Paul Gambaccini has recently spoken out about those falsely accused of sexual offences, having been accused of sexual offences himself that he says he did not commit. He was arrested in 2013 on suspicion of historic, or non-recent, sexual offences and was never charged; he has always denied the allegations.
This month sees the continuing trial of Carl Beech, who faces 12 counts of perverting the course of justice and one count of fraud.
Beech, previously known as ‘Nick’ is alleged to have made numerous false allegations that led to a vast and expensive police investigation into a supposed VIP paedophile ring. Beech alleged that many senior prominent and establishment figures including Edward Heath, Leon Brittan, Harvey Proctor and Lord Bramall were involved in the rape, kidnap and murder of boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A police officer described these allegations in 2014 as ‘credible and true’. The investigation into the ring closed in 2016 with police subsequently investigating Beech who in turn allegedly fled to Sweden.