Former police officer Brian Paddick is leading proposals to amend the Policing and Crime Bill, to make it illegal for anyone to publicly name someone arrested on suspicion of a sex crime, unless they were charged.
Sir Cliff Richard and broadcaster Paul Gambaccini have backed Lord Paddick’s campaign and will be among those to share their experiences with peers and MPs at a private meeting at the House of Lords.
Sir Cliff faced a televised police raid at his home, but was later told there was insufficient evidence to proceed. He was not charged and a further review confirmed that the decision was correct. Paul Gambaccini was arrested on suspicion of sex offences in 2013 and was kept on police bail for 12 months before being told he would not be charged.
It is only following publicity around an arrest, and realising there were others, that some victims have felt able to come forward.
Lord Paddick said: “Particularly in the wake of the Jimmy Savile revelations, most people are very well aware of the impact historical child abuse has had on the survivors of such offences, but the meeting is to give parliamentarians the opportunity to hear from those who have been affected by being falsely accused of such offences.
“No matter who they are - whether they are a local school teacher whose arrest makes it into the local newspaper, or whether it's somebody like Cliff Richard, who has never been arrested but the allegations against him were all over the BBC and the national media, clearly it can have a devastating effect both on the individual's reputation and potentially on their careers.
“The higher the public profile the more devastating the impact can be because of the weight of publicity that is given to it.”
Such headlines have the capacity to quiet the voices of victims for whom it takes considerable courage to take the step to report their abuse.
We have seen countless times how perpetrators isolate their victims, make them think no one will believe them and that it would be their word against the abusers.
Many dangerous offenders are only behind bars now because more victims came forward once the offender had been named following arrest. This strengthened the case significantly and resulted in conviction.
False allegations are damaging to those named, but they are rare, and on balance, justice is far better served under the current system.
Richard Scorer is a principal lawyer in the abuse team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
Slater and Gordon have the UK’s most experienced team of abuse lawyers and are currently representing over 800 survivors of abuse.
We offer a free and completely confidential consultation to anyone affected by sexual abuse. Call us anytime 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.