Anonymity in sexual offences cases

This is just my personal opinion. I am not a lawyer, neither have I been accused of any sexual offence. I have however been falsely accused and continue to be.  I have been party to the devastating effects for both the accused and the alleged victims in these cases. I am just an ordinary member of the public who has significant experience In this area.

The abuse victim

 

Arthur’s story. An argument of sorts for naming the accused.

1995

I am going to call him “Arthur”. Arthur was a neighbour in North Wales.  Arthur was a highly intelligent fuck up, mostly alcohol abuse and violence. Arthur had been abused, as had others, at a private catholic school in North Wales. Arthur was prey before he even knew what that word meant. You see Arthur was adopted and that adoption was a difficult one, he did not conform to the expectations of his well meaning parents and as such was always in trouble. You might as well have stamped “vulnerable child” across his forehead.

Arthur, when he left the military, took weapons with him, ones that had been confiscated in Bosnia. Weapons that nobody knew he and others had. Trophies. (All disposed of now at the bottom of the sea having been decommissioned first for anyone worrying) One evening I was out having dinner when one of his friends, who it transpired had also been abused at this school, came rushing into the restaurant looking for me, to tell me “Arthur has gone berserk” could I help. Arthur had gone “berserk” with a hand gun. He had shot the ceiling of his living room up. After much cajoling, (no police, we were all “military” that comes with its own set of rules) Arthur finally put the gun down and told me what had gone on. He of course was going to go and shoot them all in his blind drunk state.  Being naive, I convinced him we had to go to the police. Ha ha ha. If only I knew then what I know now.

It was 1996 there were no trained police officers to turn to, I knew that as my best friend was a serving NWP officer and she and I sat on the domestic violence forum, her job also covered child protection, Jack of all trades, but we went anyway.  Arthur tells them what happened, as does his friend and two others. Not that that helped them in any way. Just made them worse, even more unpredictable and unhappy. The accused in question, three of them, are invited to the cop shop to be interviewed. They turned up with their entourage (legals) & after being interviewed are released pending further enquiries, with no bail conditions etc.

All good you would think. So time passes and the police tell Arthur that they are going to arrest these men and bring them back in having taken statements from a number of people. It didn’t happen, unbeknownst to anyone, these men were no longer resident in the UK, they were now in the Vatican, undergoing “therapy”. No extradition with the Vatican and no inclination for them to help at that time either. Job done, nothing anyone could do. No therapy for the men who had disclosed. No help. Just “sorry see ya”.

So here’s the thing. If these men had been named publicly, I believe there was a very good chance that they could not have so easily fled the jurisdiction, avoiding any criminal charges. I also believe that there would have been a stronger desire to ensure the alleged victims would have been offered some form of therapy. Especially as there was evidence to support their claims. It may even have shamed the church into paying for professional help.

Of course, the answer would have been to confiscate their passports. Not permitted unless there are grounds and even then can be challenged in court.

The naming of a priest doesn’t quite have the same wider impact as naming a family man, given that a priest has nothing to lose other than his job and reputation, unlike a family man or woman who can lose not only their jobs but their children. The Catholics also tend to forgive this type of “digression” – Society does not forget or forgive the family man that is accused and now, neither does social media, where these types of allegations are used against people day in day out. Not to mention the accusations against anyone raising the possibility of a false allegation. “Paedophile protector” being the favourite.

The Falsely Accused victim

“Pete’s” story. An argument for not naming the accused

I use the word “victim” because to be falsely accused of being a sex offender victimises that person and their family.

Pete was a family man. He had three children, a wife and an ordinary life. As a young man, having gone through some tough times growing up, he decided to take up a career in social care. He wanted to help vulnerable young people keep on track. He did this with some success, holding down a job working with troubled youngsters who had been taken into care. His job was to take them camping or on excursions, which resulted in him meeting his wife who also worked in this field. He did this for a number of years.

The salary was not great however, so after child number two, Pete decided on a career change and moved into retail management. A job he was very good at, having managed some of societies more difficult members. His life was ticking along nicely until one day his world was blown apart when the police came through his door and arrested him for allegations of historical sexual abuse against one boy some 15 years earlier.

His life, based on that one allegation, blew up. In less than 24 hours, his name was splashed across the local paper with the allegation that he was being investigated for “child related offences”. He became a pariah, as did his family. He had to move out of the family home, his friends snubbed him, his children were called names, his house came under attack, his wife had to move in with her parents to ensure the safety of their children.

The one accuser very quickly turned into more, after personal injury lawyers, having got wind of the allegation, advertised the care home that he had been attached to, to “come forward to them” that “they could get them the compensation owed to them”. A practise I believe should be illegal until such times as a trial has taken place.

And so it dragged on and on and on. More interviews, more distress to him and his family, in particular his children, who were old enough to know what was happening, as were their peers.

To cut a long story short, the case against him was as quickly dropped as it was started, far too late to undo the damage the allegations had caused though. Why? Because of one tiny fact, an irrefutable piece of evidence that lay in a dusty file in the archives of social services files. A fact we uncovered, being diligent in our investigations into the claims. Not my job, but that’s how it has to be now.

That evidence? During the period of time in which he is alleged to have abused these boys, he had been seconded for a two year period to another part of the country. He was not there. He could not have abused these boys. He had never had any contact with them, outside of a meeting with a social worker and the first accuser, to risk assess him for an outing. An outing that Pete did not go on because he moved before it took place. Interestingly, the file shows that having assessed boy in question he was deemed to be too high risk and should not be allowed to leave the premises until such times as his behaviours could not impact on other children and care workers. Was the original motive for making this allegation just revenge?

That piece of paper could have been obtained long before it was, the police chose instead to investigate the allegations against him. If they had investigated the case based on innocent until proven guilty and had not fallen for the “more victims there are the guiltier the accused is” scenario, parity for both accuser and accused, then all of the above would have been avoided. They could have found that file from the outset, they had the power. Instead their actions helped lead to the destruction of a family, the destruction of somebody’s reputation, the system abuse of the children, the financial cost to the police and the community. All of it. The naming of this defendant caused irreparable harm and very nearly destroyed all of them.

No prosecution of the individuals who made the allegations took place, as they were deemed to be “vulnerable” – interesting concept, given that the same “vulnerable victims” are prosecuted daily for offences such as shop lifting, muggings, burglaries etc and in fact make up a significant poportion of the prison estate. The four cans of lager nicked from the local deemed to be a far more serious offence than the annihilation of an innocent person and all those to whom they are attached. Work that one out!

There is now no longer, in my opinion, any justification to name the defendant in these cases until trial. It allows for lazy investigations, with the media pretty much doing what is the job of the police. Why bother to properly investigate the claim, when you can “advertise” for the “proof” and that may well be a “budgeting decision” I don’t know. I do know it’s wide open to abuse and leaves innocent people and children in harms way. Especially in the current vigilante climate.

I believe that the naming of a defendant prior to trial leaves any case wide open to abuse by unscrupulous lawyers and unscrupulous vindictive people. It has and does, pervert the course of justice, it does and has caused untold harm to innocent families and individuals.

The case above will resonate with many, whilst the detail may be different, the scenarios are the same.

Ultimately I am inclined towards anonymity until trial for both. Anonymity should be waived for the accuser if it is proven that they deliberately lied. At that point I believe that the accuser should be psychiatrically assessed and if deemed fit should stand trial for perverting the course of justice, if deemed unfit, should be forced into getting psychiatric help until they present no further danger to society. And they are a danger. Furthermore there should, be a central register for people that continue to make unsubstantiated allegations of abuse that can be immediately checked on any PNC data base in the same way as convictions are held. Innocent until proven guilty.

Finally. No PI lawyer should be allowed near any accuser until the CJS has run its course and any PI lawyer who is found to be wanting in the handling of a case should be held to account, either through their governing body, or if to a criminal standard of proof, prosecuted.

The pendulum has swung too far in favour of the alleged victims. Moral panic has governed decision making to the detriment of our CJS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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