An unnamed former Tory minister, who has been accused of rape, arrested and released on bail but as yet remains uncharged, will reportedly absent himself from the Commons when his fellow MPs return from holiday next month.
There has been public outrage that he has not been suspended from either parliament or his party. Charlie Elphicke, the former Tory MP who was convicted last month of sexual assault, was first suspended by his party in 2017 even though he wasn’t charged until 2019.
So what’s the difference? The answer is Sir Cliff Richard. In 2014, the police began investigating an allegation against the singer of a sexual offence involving an under-age boy. Discovering that the police were about to search his home, the BBC gave the raid extensive coverage with the aid of a helicopter camera.
After the case against him was closed with no charges brought, in 2018 Richard sued the police and the BBC for invading his privacy. As a result of the judge’s ruling, holding that people under investigation by the police had a legitimate expectation of privacy, the law was effectively changed to protect the identity of a person under investigation.
To suspend the unnamed Tory MP would be to identify him.
There’s surely a better way of avoiding these double standards, inconsistencies and the spectre of secret justice. That is to make known from the start the identities of both defendants and complainants in cases of sexual assault.
To read my whole Times column (£), please click here.