A horrible sexual violence case has collapsed in Exeter, in the south west England. Last year a woman reported to police that her husband had repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted her. After he spent four months on remand, the wife has now decided that she wants to move on with her life and is now unwilling to testify in court.
Because it is a case of marital rape allegations, the accused cannot be named as that would identify the alleged victim.
The description of the defendant, as reported by the local press, is terrifying. He is apparently a “devout Christian” and an advocate of ‘Red Pill’ masculinist thinking, which leads to this:
“The trouble comes from this defendant holding opinions about women which do not fit within the general views of modern society. His philosophy is that women are second class citizens who are there to do the bidding of men.
“He believes there is no such thing as rape within marriage and he is entitled to have sex with his wife regardless of whether she is consenting.
“Her view now is that she is able to move on with her life and extract herself from the marriage. She has strong religious beliefs and is a regular church goer and is unwilling to give evidence against her husband.
“She says the effect of the case being continued would have an extremely detrimental effect on her health and welfare. It is with reluctance that the Crown have decided they cannot continue.
As far as I can tell, every legal procedure has been properly followed in this case, and yet the outcome is terrifying and unsatisfactory. The man is now free to establish a new relationship with another woman who might very probably never find out about his alleged past. While a restraining order is being sought (and will presumably be granted) to keep this man away from his wife, there is nothing that can be done to warn other women of the risks he poses. He will not be listed on the sex offenders register and while he could be subject to a disclosure request under ‘Clare’s law’ or the vetting and debarring scheme, it would be highly unlikely a future partner would be motivated to make such a request.
The wife involved here is of course perfectly within her rights to withdraw the complaint and it would be abhorrent (and probably ineffective) to compel her to testify against her wishes. It is quite right that she be granted anonymity and unfortunate but understandable that this involves providing anonymity to the accused as well.
It should also go without saying that a person who is accused of a crime but not convicted cannot be treated or considered identically to a convicted criminal. Like it or not, he is now a free and (legally) innocent man.
Where does all that leave us? I’m not sure. I genuinely don’t know what else could or should be done in a case like this. But I present it here as a reminder that when we talk about issues of anonymity in sexual offence trials, there is no such thing as an ideal solution, no such thing as the obvious answer.