A celebrity campaign to provide anonymity for sexual offence suspects is “wrong and incredibly damaging”, according to the Mayor of London’s victims’ rights advocate.

Sir Cliff Richard and former DJ Paul Gambaccini are among high profile figures petitioning the Government to hide the identity of sexual offence suspects until they are charged, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

But London Victims’ Commissioner Claire Waxman said celebrity cases do not represent most cases, and blanket anonymity could prevent victims from coming forward.

She said: “I have real empathy for what these men have gone through, especially Cliff Richard.

“But what Paul Gambaccini has said about a false allegation crisis is misinformation and it’s deeply concerning.”

Interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Gambaccini claimed that alongside rightful sexual abuse claims there was a crisis of wrongful allegations being made to damage the reputations of suspects.

Ms Waxman pointed to a Home Office study that found that only three per cent of rape accusations are maliciously false – but as many as 12 per cent are recorded as false because the victim was drunk, the crime was not reported immediately, or because there were no injuries.

A "huge imbalance"

Ms Waxman said there was a “huge imbalance” in the justice system’s treatment of victims and suspects.

She described the “very stark and very distressing” findings of a report on rape cases progressing to trial in London, due to be published later this month. 

There were 20,581 sexual offences reported to the police in the capital last year, a seven per cent increase on the previous year.

But across the country conviction rates are down to just four per cent – the lowest rate for any crime.

"Knee jerk legislation"

Ms Waxman said she was concerned by the lack of successful prosecutions. She said that Sir Cliff’s campaign was “going in the wrong direction and very much focused on the wrong issues”.

But she emphasised her sympathy for the media intrusion in his case, describing it as “absolutely appalling” and saying he was “right to be outraged”.

Sir Cliff successfully sued the BBC for its coverage of a police raid at his house, which included footage shot from a helicopter.

But Ms Waxman said sexual offence suspects should not be treated differently from suspects of other crimes.

She said: “I don’t want to see another knee-jerk legislation approach. These claims about false reporting are really quite dangerous and also not true."