Minister hints at reform over punishments for naming sexual assault victims on social media

Tougher punishments for people who name sexual assault victims on social media could be introduced, a justice minister has suggested.

Kit Malthouse (pictured) hinted at reform when he told MPs the Government is having a “think” about the issue of victims being named publicly and there will be an “announcement shortly”.

The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 states a fine can be issued if a person is found guilty of removing a victim’s anonymity.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) said: “The public naming of a rape victim who has bravely come forward is devastating for the individual concerned but under current legislation perpetrators of this crime get no more than a mere £200 fine.

“At a time when 44% of victims of rape are actually pulling out of the justice system before their day in court, does the minister not agree that such lax laws can deter even more sexual assault victims from coming forward?

“And if so, why did his Government vote down proposals which would have strengthened prosecuting powers against such perpetrators?”

Mr Malthouse replied: “Those proposals weren’t appropriate for support but we’re having a think – announcement shortly.”

The minister earlier said the Government would consider taking further action if reforms do not help to increase the number of rape cases going to court.

Ministers have set out plans for a “system and culture change” following a major review of the justice system’s approach to such offences, with Justice Secretary Robert Buckland among those to apologise.

Labour shadow solicitor general Ellie Reeves said the Crown Court backlog stood at a “record high of almost 60,000 cases” and that with sexual offences there has been a “67% rise in cases awaiting trial”, with delays playing a part in “plummeting rape prosecutions”.

With such statistics, Ms Reeves questioned why the Government voted against Labour’s amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which “called for the fast-tracking of rape cases to be rolled out across England and Wales”.

Mr Malthouse said: “She is quite right that delay in the criminal justice system, both from report to charge, and then from charge to court, has a significant impact on victims and is a driver of victim attrition and cases therefore not proceeding.

“We are very focused on compressing each of the various parts of the criminal justice system so that they work efficiently and speedily in line with getting quality cases into court that will hopefully secure convictions.

“While we haven’t supported the motions she put forward for the Bill, she will in time be able to see the performance and the timings of criminal justice through the publication of comprehensive scorecards which will allow us to judge over time, first of all whether the number of cases in courts rise – which I believe they will quite significantly – but then whether more measures are needed to be taken to drive further progress.”

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