UK Politics

MP Pritchard urges review of rape anonymity after case dropped

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Media captionConservative MP Mark Pritchard says he is "glad it's all over" after rape allegations against him were dropped

MP Mark Pritchard has urged a review of the law on anonymity for people accused of rape after police dropped an inquiry into allegations against him.

Police said there was "insufficient evidence" to take further action against the Tory MP for The Wrekin after he was arrested last month.

Speaking outside Parliament, the MP said it had been a "testing time" for him and he was "glad that it was over".

He urged "greater fairness" under the law for those accused of sex offences.

At the moment, those who say they are victims of rape and other sex offences are granted life-long anonymity but the same legal protection is not afforded to those accused of such offences.

'Awful'

In a short statement outside the House of Commons, Mr Pritchard thanked fellow MPs and constituents for supporting him since the news of his arrest emerged six weeks ago.

Referring to the allegation made against him, he said "sadly, as an MP, sometimes you have a target on your back".

"To be falsely accused of anything is an awful thing," he told reporters.

"Of course (my accuser) remains anonymous," he said. "The law on anonymity does need to be reviewed and fairness does need to play a far greater role in these cases."

Asked about the issue, Prime Minister David Cameron told the Heart FM radio station in Wales: "It's something we've looked at in the past and there are some real issues with it. So I think it needs very careful thought before going down that road."

The coalition government floated plans to extend anonymity in rape cases to defendants in England and Wales shortly after taking power in 2010 but these were soon dropped amid criticism from Labour and campaigners against sexual violence.

At the time, ministers said their focus would be on encouraging the media not to name defendants.

The law was changed in the 1970s to grant anonymity to defendants in rape cases but this was reversed a decade later.

Commons procedure

Mr Pritchard was arrested on 2 December following an alleged incident in central London. The MP voluntarily attended a police station for questioning and was bailed pending further inquiries.

But police said on Tuesday that he would face no further action as there was "insufficient evidence".

A police spokesman said: "A 48-year-old man voluntarily attended a north London police station on Tuesday, 2 December where he was arrested, following an allegation of rape in central London.

"He returned on bail on 6 January where he was informed he will face no further action as there was insufficient evidence."

Mr Pritchard won his seat in 2010 with a majority of more than 9,000 and served as secretary of the influential Conservative 1922 committee for two years until 2012. He is a member of Parliament's joint national security strategy committee

In a separate development, Commons Speaker John Bercow has questioned whether the "ancient practice" of reporting details of MPs' arrests on the daily order papers published by the House of Commons should continue.

A record of House of Commons proceedings from 3 December refers to a letter from the Metropolitan Police to Mr Bercow "relating to the arrest of Mark Pritchard, Member for The Wrekin".

In response to a question from Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, Mr Bercow said he wanted the Commons Procedure Committee to consider whether this practice "was no longer required or requires to be amended".

Mr Bridgen asked whether the announcement that the police had dropped the case against Mr Pritchard and would be taking no further action against him should also be put on the record in the same way.

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