Early this morning, The Metropolitan Police confirmed that the investigation into rape allegations made against a former Tory Minister had concluded with no charges being brought. The MP in question, Mark Francois, has been informed of this decision as has the victim. The Met stated that the evidentiary threshold for prosecution had not been met.
On August 1st, news broke that a former Tory Minister and sitting MP in his fifties had been arrested on suspicion of Rape. He was subsequently taken to an East London Police Station for questioning before being released in Police bail.
Various national news outlets refused to publish the identity of the MP in question citing “legal reasons“. However, Black Isle Media now believe for several reasons that the identity of the MP should and can be published.
- It is clearly in the public interest.
- His Identity has been known online for sometime by those outside of the media.
- Importantly, the victim themselves stated they wished the alleged perpetrator be named in the media.
- Justice is meant to be open and transparent.
- There is no legal order preventing the publication of their name.
As a publisher in Scotland, I am bound by the same rules on maintaining the anonymity of any victim of a sexual offence. I have used precedent from the Alex Salmond case in which he was named immediately after his arrest. This was despite the same details being now being used as legal reasons not to name the Tory MP, being known in the Salmond case.
On reflection, I believe the various reasons above provide adequate basis for naming the MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, Mark Francois, as the man in his 50s who was arrested on suspicion on rape, sexual assault and assault.
Following Mr Francois’ arrest, The Metropolitan Police stated that on July 31st they had received allegations of sexual offences and assault relating to four separate incidents at addresses in London, between July 2019 and January 2020.
Following his release, Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer stated that the MP would not be suspended, but had volunteered not to attend the Houses of Parliament until the conclusion of the investigation. I contacted both Mr Spencer and The Conservative Party to ask whether Mr Francois will now be returning to Parliament in person and if he will be appearing in the media again. No response has been received from either at the time of publishing.
This morning shortly after 6am it was announced by the Metropolitan Police that:
“Following a thorough investigation, and based on all evidence made available to officers, the decision was taken that the case did not meet the evidential test and no further action will be taken.”
They also added that the both the victim former suspect had been notified of this decision.
I reached out to The Metropolitan Police to ask whether the decision not to prosecute was taken by themselves or by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). In response a Met Spokesperson told me:
“We are not adding to our statement at this time.”
Despite the decision not to prosecute being taken, the alleged victim has told the Sunday Times that they intended to appeal against the decision under the; Victims’ Right to Review Scheme.
Over the past five years in England and Wales, cases reported to police and initially recorded as rape have risen sharply to 59,747. However, the proportion making it to court in that time has more than halved.
In the year to the end of March 2020, the number of prosecutions in England (which includes those that end in an acquittal) fell to 2,102, compared with 3,043 in the previous 12 months.
In November 2019, it was revealed the CPS had previously had a secret conviction rate target, introduced in 2016 – that 60% of rape cases should end in a conviction. It was suggested this may have caused prosecutors to drop weaker or more challenging cases.
In Scotland, there was a 43% increase in convictions for rape and attempted rape between 2017-18 and 2018-19.
It MUST be noted that Mark Francois remains innocent of any allegations unless convicted in a court of law. Public comments accusing him of any crime could lead to libel action. However, the identity of the alleged victim is also protected by law. Disclosure of their identity or a method to trace it, could lead to criminal proceedings.
Please stick to the facts, not assumptions.
Should any further developments occur, they will be published by Black Isle Media.
Mr Francois was contacted for comment, but had not responded by the time of publication.
If you’ve been a victim of a crime, including a sexual offence, you can contact Victim Support (24/7). They’ll give you information and support in confidence over the phone and direct you to their nearest office. Call them for free on 08 08 16 89 111.
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