Should men accused of rape be given anonymity? One man cleared of the crime explains to Mark Hughes why the answer is yes.
In his cell at HMP Addiewell, Jason Duncan knew it was only a matter of time before the story he had concocted for his own safety would fall apart.
Falsely accused of rape, the 22-year-old steel worker had decided it was better to tell fellow inmates that he was in prison for a shooting. But then one morning, a week into his time on remand, the Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser landed on the wings, complete with his name and charge details on the front page.
“In prison, if you are in for anything relating to a sex offence you are the lowest of the low,” he explained. “My lawyers and even the prison staff told me that I would be in serious danger if other prisoners found out what I was charged with. So I concocted this story about being a career criminal who was in over a shooting. People seemed to believe it, but when my name was in the paper they realised why I was really there. I didn’t leave my cell again.”
Jason and his friend Chris Hoey were charged with rape in March 2009. A woman accused them of bursting into her flat and raping her at knifepoint. In reality, the woman – whom Jason knew – had invited them into her home following a night out.
Neither Jason nor Chris, 20, had ever spent any time in prison before. And while Chris was in prison for 10 days before being granted bail, Jason was on remand for a year, spending most of that time in Barlinnie, one of Britain’s toughest prison regimes.
Eventually, in March this year, they were both acquitted. Following an eight-day trial, the the jury at the High Court in Falkirk took less than an hour to return the verdicts, which were not guilty, as opposed to the more equivocal not proven verdict available to juries in Scotland.
But despite being cleared in court, the stigma of being a rape accused still haunts Jason. He has lost a year of his life, is receiving counselling and is now in a dispute with his employer over whether or not he still has a job.
“Being accused of something I did not do was a nightmare,” he said. “But when people in prison found out what the allegation was my life became unbearable. They would put razor blades under the door and urinate into my cell. They threatened me and my family.
“I was in a cell for 23 hours and 45 minutes a day for my own safety. The only time I was allowed out was for 15 minutes at night time when all of the other prisoners were asleep.
“Eventually I had to be transferred to Barlinnie for my own safety. I told the other prisoners the shooting story, which worked for a while, but then one of the guys from Addiewell was transferred too and it started again. I was put on suicide watch and I refused to eat. When I went out on the wing, people would point and say, ‘there’s the monster’.
“Next they moved me to the sex offenders’ wing. I was the only remand prisoner there, and it was hell. There were rapists and paedophiles and I did not want to associate with these guys but I was being treated like one of them.”
Given his experience it is perhaps unsurprising that Jason is in favour of the suggestion, mooted by the coalition Government, that rape suspects should be given the same anonymity as victims. The proposal has been vehemently opposed by women’s rights groups, who say that such a move would prevent genuine rape victims coming forward.
Jason said: “I understand that rape victims should have anonymity, but I do not see any reason why suspects should have their names in the public domain if they have not been found guilty of a crime.
“I fully agree that rapists should be named and shamed. They are the scum of the earth and their names and photographs should be in every newspaper. But in my opinion that should only happen when they are convicted.
“I had my name dragged through the dirt because of a false allegation. I was labelled a rape suspect and it nearly ruined my life.
“My name was cleared in a court of law but even now I hear the phrase ‘no smoke without fire’ and I feel that some people still look at me and say things behind my back.
“I agree with what women’s groups say 99.9 per cent of the time. I think what they do for victims of rape is great because it is a terrible crime, but on the point of anonymity I have to disagree.
“When I was in Barlinnie I met three people who were on remand for rape: two were acquitted and the other had his conviction overturned on appeal. So false allegations do happen.
“People have to realise that cases like mine do occur. But because I was not entitled to anonymity my name was plastered across the newspapers with the word rape next to it. I will forever be linked with a rape accusation, even though I have been acquitted.”
Source and Acknowledgement: The Independent
‘For a year in prison I was treated like the scum of the earth, but I was innocent of rape’
July 12, 2010 from Leave a Comment