May 18, 2021
Criminals who name rape victims online could be jailed for up to two years under plans being considered by justice secretary Robert Buckland, HuffPost UK understands.  
Exclusive: Criminals Who Name Rape Victims Online Could Face Two Years In Jail
Anyone who alleges a sex offence has the legal right to lifelong anonymity in the UK.
Those who reveal their identity breach the Sex Offences Act, and can be fined up to £5,000. 
Campaigners say the law on anonymity, last updated in 1992, is out of date in the age of Social Media, when a complainant’s identity can become viral online in a matter of minutes. 
But ministers believe the law should be tougher and are looking at plans to match the penalty for naming an alleged sex offence victim with the two-year maximum for contempt of court. 
Buckland is weighing up legal advice but is expected to amend the police and Crime Sentencing Bill. 
A source close to the justice secretary told HuffPost UK: “It doesn’t seem like judges have sufficient sentencing powers in this area.
“We need to consider how this offence interacts with other similar offences such as contempt of court but ultimately we think judges should have the power to send people who name victims of sexual offences to jail.” 
Under the plan being considered, magistrates would have powers to issue fines and jail sentences of up to six months. 
And, in the most serious cases, they would have the discretion to send the case to a judge at crown court, who can jail an individual for up to two years. 
The news comes after Buckland was challenged by shadow justice secretary David Lammy in the Commons over the case of “misogynist” Phillip Leece. 
Leece was jailed for 16 years for rape but was fined just £120 for naming his victim on Facebook.  Lammy said: “In 2019, Phillip Leece viciously raped a woman on her way home from a night out. She was 26 and soon to be married. 
“Adding insult to injury, he published the name of his victim online and said she was too ‘fat and disgusting’ to rape. 
“For this, he received a pathetic £120 fine. 
“If he won’t commit to implementing Labour’s whole bill on ending violence against Women will he at least agree to implement Labour’s proposals for tougher sentences for those who name and shame victims of sexual offences.”
Buckland replied that Lammy was “right to raise that distressing case” and that he regarded the naming of victims “unlawful and criminal”. 
He told MPs: “Indeed, we are already making preparations to see what can be done to improve and strengthen the law in this area. 
“Because make no mistake, the naming of victims of sexual offences and indeed other types of offending as well, where anonymity is an essential part of the process, is not just wrong it is criminal and we will do whatever it takes to help stamp it out.” 
Labour this week published its own strategy to end violence against women and girls and accused government of failing to protect victims. 
It follows anger from women’s safety campaigners in the wake of the kidnap and killing of 33-year-old Sarah Everard in March. 
Lammy added: “It is a disgrace that those who break the law by publicly naming and shaming victims of Sexual Assault are being let off the hook with minuscule fines.
“Social media has made it easier for offenders to cause further trauma for victims by publishing their names online. Legislation needs to catch up with the times.” 
Victims commissioner Vera Baird has also called for action after the Crown Prosecution Service last year revealed the number of people prosecuted and convicted for rape fell to the lowest level since records began, despite reports of rape doubling. Related...Boris Johnson Ignoring 'Epidemic Of Misogyny', Says Labour‘Revenge Porn’ Ruined My Teen Years. Now I’m Fighting BackOpinion: We Have A Chance To Get Serious On Stalking. The Government Aren’t Taking It
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