Government is planning to consult on whether to extend anonymity for suspects beyond just those in sex offence cases.

The Sexual Offences and Obscene Publications Act came into effect towards the end of March.

It increases maximum sentences in a number of areas and creates new offences such as revenge porn, voyeurism and ‘upskirting’.

But controversially it also contains provisions that give anonymity to defendants in sex cases unless and until they are convicted.

It puts the island out of step with the UK which introduced a similar provision in 1988 only for it to be repealed 12 years later.

In guidance issued about the new anonymity rules, the Department of Home Affairs raised the possibility that there would be more legislation about anonymity in the future.

This would apply to victims, witnesses and crucially defendants.

It said: ‘Anonymity is an area of notable public interest.

‘Indeed within the passage of the Sexual Offences and Obscene Publications Act 2021, there was much debate around both the provisions in that Act, and the wider implications of anonymity and its application to the island’s criminal justice system.

‘Further consideration of anonymity is proposed to take place in due course as part of wider consideration of matters relating to the criminal justice system and future legislation. However, currently no specific provisions are planned in this area.’

In a statement, the DHA said it would consult on proposals to extend anonymity as part of the forthcoming Sentencing Bill. But it insisted no policy decision has been made.

A spokesperson said: ‘The department has committed to undertaking a public consultation to gather opinion on whether or not anonymity should be extended to any other types of offence.

‘This would be done as part of a consultation on the Sentencing Bill which is currently planned for 2025-26.’

They added: ‘Any consultation as part of the Sentencing Bill would include questions about all aspects of anonymity. It would seek public feedback on whether there should be any changes to the provisions for victims, witnesses, defendants or processes.

‘Currently there are no planned changes to anonymity rules, and no policy decision has been made on future changes.’

In a reply to a written Tynwald question in October 2022, Justice and Home Affairs Minister Jane Poole Wilson said her department had previously engaged with parties regarding whether a ‘more blanket anonymity’ might be applied.

She said a commitment was made for a wider consultation in respect of anonymity.

Any move to bring in a more blanket approach to anonymity will prompt debate about the importance of open justice.

While the new Sexual Offences Act has specifically introduced a naming ban on defendants, in practice it will mean that many such cases won’t get reported on at all.