A major report commissioned by the UK’s most important police force has recommended that rape suspects be made anonymous by law.
It was part of a sweeping range of suggested reforms designed to stop wrongly accused suspects having their reputations destroyed by baseless claims.
It came as part of a scathing report into a series of investigations by the Metropolitan Police into high-profile men accused of historic sex crimes.
Celebrities like Sir Cliff Richard, senior British Army officer Lord Bramall and former Home Secretary Lord Brittan were caught up in fruitless investigations sparked by the claims of fantasists, prompting a major examination of what went wrong.
The report was released on Tuesday afternoon – prompting suspicions that the Met was trying to dodge criticism while the US election took centre stage.
Anonymity for suspects – which would be waived when they are arrested – was one of several recommendations.
Another was that police should stop calling people who make accusations of sex crimes “victims”, because the word presumes their stories are true.
The report says they should be called “complainants” instead.
It also recommends that officers should no longer be instructed to automatically believe allegations, and that all investigators should be told that false claims do happen and “should not be regarded as a remote possibility”.
Sir Richard recommends that the law be changed to guarantee anonymity for victims and recommends “criminal sanctions” for anybody who breaks it.
Although the focus of the report was on rape claims dating from decades ago, the recommendations seem to all cases of alleged sex crimes.
They pull in a markedly different direction to efforts taken to combat what has been described on both sides of the Atlantic as “campus rape culture”.
A report last month by Universities UK, the umbrella body for British universities, recommended much more stringent punishment for alleged rapists, including expulsion from university even if they were cleared in court.
Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe accepted the findings of the review and apologies for police failings. He said the recommendations deserve “detailed consideration”.