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Oxford Union President Ben Sullivan Calls For Anonymity For Accused Rapists

20/06/2014 16:06 BST | Updated 20/06/2014 16:59 BST

The Oxford Union president who was recently cleared of rape claims has said accused rapists should have the right to remain anonymous after he was target by "poisonous allegations".

Ben Sullivan was accused of raping one fellow student and assaulting another, but was informed by police on Wednesday no further action would be taken.

A petition to make Sullivan step down as president was signed by high profile journalists including Laurie Penny and Owen Jones, while several figures withdrew from speaking at the union following the allegations.

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Ben Sullivan, the president of the Oxford Union

The third year student told BBC Newsnight on Thursday: "I'm not as extreme as some who don't think you should have your anonymity revealed until you've been convicted, or... after a charge.

'What I don't agree with, though, is that everyone's identity is automatically revealed the minute they are arrested."

He continued: "I’m completely aware that it can be extremely useful to police investigations for people’s identities to be revealed for people to come forward.

"These are obviously incredibly poisonous allegations. They are incredibly difficult to deal with.

"It's been very difficult, very harrowing. It puts things in perspective.. changes your priorities, to say the very least.

"I think there should be some sort of happy medium whereby your identity is protected initially, until at least the conclusion of a preliminary investigation."

A spokesperson for Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre said: "We are concerned that singling out rape and sexual offences for defendant anonymity serves only to entrench a myth that women who report these crimes are more likely to be lying than someone who is reporting another kind of crime.

"Research from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) published last year dismissed this myth, reporting that false rape allegations are 'very rare' and possibly make up as little as 1% of all reports."

Oxford University's vice president for women Sarah Pine, who organised the petition to force Sullivan to resign, added: "We never broke the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty'. I have never passed judgement on Ben's case and never will."