Teachers yesterday became the first group of people in Britain to be protected by a new law, which affords them anonymity if they are accused of a criminal offence until they are formally charged.
The new law, included in the Education Act 2011, protects teachers from accusations made by pupils or on behalf of pupils at the school at which they teach.
The provision is included in section 13 of the Act, which states that "no matter relating to the person is to be included in any publication if it is likely to lead members of the public to identify the person as the teacher".
The Act does provide for the anonymity to be broken as and when proceedings relating to case begin, if the Secretary of State publishes information relating to the case, or if any person makes a successful application to a magistrates' court to have the anonymity restriction lifted.
A single judge has the power to dispense with the restrictions if they believe that it is in the interests of justice to do so, having regard to the welfare of both the victim and the teacher.
The Act defines the scope of the publications covered by the restrictions widely to include newspapers and other 'published' material, websites, television and radio broadcasting and even speeches.
The penalty for breaching the restrictions under the Act are a fine of up to £5,000 per publisher and allows for a director or officer of any company involved to be prosecuted as well.
The new law has been attacked as a restriction on free speech by the media. Bob Satchwell is executive editor of the Society of Editors.
"It is a criminal offence for anyone... to inform parents or the general public that an identified teacher has admitted that the allegation is true and has resigned, has been disciplined, or even cautioned for the offence," he said.
"Malicious allegations by pupils are extremely rare... and the laws of libel, contempt and confidence already restrict newspapers from repeating and publishing unsubstantiated accusations," he added.
The new law came into force on 1 October 2012.
Anonymity law for teachers to come into force (The Independent)