More secrecy in our justice system is not the answer

A petition was launched yesterday by Sir Cliff Richard and the DJ Paul Gambaccini to provide anonymity to those accused of sexual offences unless they are charged. Their reasons are entirely understandable. They believe their own reputations have been irredeemably besmirched as a result of being falsely accused of historical sexual crimes.

Richard, Gambaccini and others fell victim to a climate of hysteria after the Savile revelations. The police and prosecutors, abashed by the failure over such a long period to detect Savile’s monstrous crimes, then massively overcompensated by suspending disbelief and basic professional standards when presented with wild allegations.

What happened to all those men who were falsely accused was appalling. The fault, however, lay with the police and, in the case of Richard, the BBC. However, despite various lawsuits, the senior folk in the police or prosecution service responsible for these debacles have not been held to account. Heads have not rolled. Instead we now have a demand for anonymity.

This is misguided. Attention should be directed at those responsible for this scandal. The transparency of the justice system, one of its key characteristics in a democratic society, should not be sacrificed to pay for their failings.

To read my whole Times column (£) please click here.

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