Social media users should have to provide real identities, Victim’s Commissioner says
All social media users should have to provide their real identities, the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales has said.
She spoke out amid fears anonymous troll accounts are allowing people to abuse others online with little prospect of being identified and prosecuted.
It comes after celebrities such as England footballer Marcus Rashford and former Little Mix singer Jesy Nelson were among those to have been abused repeatedly on social media in recent months.
Rashford, who has been awarded an MBE for his campaigning against child poverty, said the vile racist messages he received were “humanity and social media at its worst.”
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Last week, Hannah Ingram-Moore, daughter of the late fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore, said the “pretty horrific” messages they received would have broken the centenarian’s heart.
She said the family had to shield the Second World War veteran from “outrageous negativity” after they took him on a bucket list trip to Barbados in December.
And the Duchess of Sussex has previously described how in 2019 she was “the most trolled person in the entire world”.
Dame Vera said: “I think that getting rid of anonymity is fundamental to being able to enforce the law quite obviously.
“People sit at home with a funny name and say the most horrible thing, having quite a lot of pleasure because they can’t be found – that must be the point of it, mustn’t it, to do it without any comeback.
“It’s very unpleasant indeed and it’s imperative they be brought to justice.”
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Dame Vera also called for legal reform and a “change of culture” to better support victims of crime, amid fears of plummeting confidence levels in obtaining justice.
A policy paper reviewing the judicial process makes 34 recommendations for the Government to enshrine in law.
This includes a statutory right for sexual assault victims to be given free legal representation, a requirement to keep victims better updated on the progress of investigations, and for court-ordered compensation to be paid to the victim and later recouped from the defendant by the court, rather than “drip-fed” on a weekly basis.
Last year a Victims’ Commissioner survey suggested just 18% of respondents felt that victims were given enough support through the court process.
Dame Vera added: “At the moment we have a situation where a lot of victims say the process in the courts makes them feel worse than the crime did, and they’re dropping out quite quickly… due to how they’ve been treated.
“Victims are participants from start to finish, but they are currently treated more like bystanders.
“We must recognise justice cannot be delivered without victims and our justice system needs to reflect this.
“I’m calling for a redefinition of the victim that moves beyond treating them as simply an onlooker or maybe a witness, but as a recognised participant, with statutory rights to be informed, supported and to be able to make informed choices.”
The government is said to be carefully considering the commissioner’s recommendations.
A government spokesperson said: “Our new Victims’ Code enhances the rights of victims at every stage of the justice process. But we plan to go further, strengthening and enshrining these rights in a new Victims’ Law on which we will consult later this year.
“We are also investing millions in vital support services, recruiting more independent sexual and domestic abuse advisers, and reviewing the entire response to rape to build back confidence in the justice system.”
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