Suella Braverman to consider giving anonymity to suspected criminals

Suella Braverman to consider giving anonymity to suspected criminals

The home secretary criticised the ‘media circus’ surrounding high-profile people wrongly accused of sexual abuse

Suella Braverman at the party conference in Birmingham.

The home secretary will examine the possibility of giving anonymity to suspected criminals after concern over the identification and treatment of high-profile people wrongly accused of sexual abuse.

Suella Braverman made the pledge after criticising the “media circus” surrounding accusations against the singer Cliff Richard and the former MP Harvey Proctor, which both said had ruined their lives.

Braverman told a Young Conservatives audience at the party conference in Birmingham that “trial by media will only undermine our justice system”.

Asked about the treatment of Richard and Proctor, both of whom were cleared of any wrongdoing after facing high-profile claims, she said: “We have had some high-profile instances where the media circus around a suspect who has not been charged has been devastating. I think coverage of people prior to charge can be very, very damaging, particularly if the charges are not pursued or if they are dropped later on.”

Richard was investigated by South Yorkshire police for allegedly assaulting a 15-year-old boy during a religious rally at Sheffield United football club in 1985. He denied these allegations, was never charged and the case was dropped in 2016. The force settled with the singer for £400,000. The BBC broke news of the raid on Richard’s home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, on the lunchtime television news in 2014 with film from a helicopter.

A judge ruled in 2018 that Richard’s right to privacy outweighed the BBC’s right to free expression and he was awarded initial damages of £210,000.

Proctor lost his job and home after being questioned as part of Operation Midland, which examined claims of a paedophile ring in Westminster. It later emerged that the source for the claims, Carl Beech, known by the pseudonym Nick, was a fantasist whose lies were believed by senior Met police officers.

In her first appearance at a fringe event during the 2022 conference, Braverman also said she wanted to limit the number of foreign students using “low quality” courses as a back door into the UK – a practice she has previously claimed has allowed them to bring along their dependents.

She said the government would “need to look at some of the courses people are doing” as they are “not always very good quality”.

In a speech on Tuesday, Braverman will say she is considering new laws to make it easier to deport people who come to the UK via illegal means and will call for France to stop more boats crossing the Channel. She will reportedly announce plans to bring in a blanket ban on asylum claims for people who have entered the UK illegally, including small boats.

Braverman will promise to allow “the kind of immigration that grows our economy” but “end abuse of the rules” while addressing delegates.

With the government’s much-criticised policy on sending asylum seekers to Rwanda being challenged in the courts, Braverman will commit to looking at new powers. She will set out her intention to ensure that the UK’s policy on illegal immigration cannot be derailed by modern slavery laws, the Human Rights Act or the European court of human rights.

She will tell the conference in Birmingham: “It’s right that we extend the hand of friendship to those in genuine need.

“This country has always done so. It did so for my father in the 1960s as a young man from Kenya. We have now welcomed hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Syria, Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Ukraine.

“At the same time we should use our newfound control to deliver the kind of immigration that grows our economy, for example that helps projects that have stalled or builds relationships with our friends and allies.

“Parts of the system aren’t delivering. We need to end abuse of the rules and cut down on those numbers that aren’t meeting the needs of our economy,” she will say.

She will pledge to step up efforts to stem the flow of people risking their lives to cross the Channel.

This includes working to increase the level of interceptions carried out by the French, providing further British support and cooperation to tackle criminal smuggling gangs, and making use of the powers in the Nationality and Borders Act to prosecute those who enter the UK illegally.