“Many dangerous offenders” are only in jail because they were publicly named when they were arrested on suspicion of sex crimes, a lawyer has claimed, as a campaign to guarantee suspects anonymity gathers pace.
Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, the firm which represented victims including those of Rolf Harris and Max Clifford, said the publicity gave those targeted the confidence to come forward because they realised they were not the only ones.
On Monday Sir Cliff Richard and broadcaster Paul Gambaccini are set to throw their weight behind a campaign by former police officer Brian Paddick, calling for a ban on publicly naming those accused of sex crimes unless they are charged.
Mr Scorer said: “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 abuser’s. It is only following publicity around an arrest, and realising there were others, that some victims have felt able to come forward.
“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.
“It is a difficult balancing act because false allegations are damaging to those named, but they are rare, and on balance, justice is far better served under the current system.”
Although police do not routinely name on arrest, with both Clifford and Harris publicity after they were questioned led further victims to come forward.
But a string of other high profile cases where no charges were brought have sparked controversy.
The Metropolitan Police’s doomed Operation Midland saw 92-year-old D-day veteran Lord Bramall hit the headlines after his home was raided as part of an investigation into allegations of historical abuse. After 10 months in limbo, he was told he would face no further action.
Sir Cliff and Gambaccini also suffered unwanted attention when they separately faced allegations and were later told no charges would be brought.
The pair are due to meet Lord Paddick at the House of Lords on Monday as he leads calls to ban naming of sex crime suspects unless, exceptionally, a judge deems it in the public interest.
The idea has previously been backed by current Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe., who is Britain’s most senior police officer.
Detective Superintendent John Macdonald, from Scotland Yard’s sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command said: “It’s worth further discussion. I can see the effects that it has on people who are innocent, clearly it’s wrong in those circumstances. I can see that recently it’s possibly caused more harm than good.”
Sir Cliff was the subject of a long-running South Yorkshire Police investigation, which centred on accusations dating between 1958 and 1983 made by four men.
A police raid on his Berkshire home was televised and he is suing the BBC and South Yorkshire Police over the live coverage of the swoop.
He was never arrested, and earlier this year prosecutors announced that no charges were to be brought as a result of the inquiry. Last month a review confirmed that the decision was correct.
Gambaccini was kept on police bail for 12 months after being arrested on suspicion of historical sex offences in 2013, before being told he would not be charged.
He described the Operation Yewtree investigation against him a “witch-hunt” that ate away at the idea of “innocent until proven guilty”.