In most cases of historical sexual abuse, it commences with a knock at the door and you are faced with two detectives standing there asking to confirm your name. Immediately, you realise that they are police officers your mind thinks the worst, has somebody died or hurt, someone’s house broken into, an accident. Then suddenly, you hear that an allegation of sexual assault has been made and they want to come in.
Once inside, they may produce a warrant or they will announce that you are under arrest and commence to search your home. You are now in shock and you hear bits and pieces: ‘You are arrested… Historical sexual abuse… Indecent assault… Searching under Police and Criminal Evidence Act,’ and other officers who have accompanied them come into the house and commence to search your family home. The police seize documents, photographs, computers, bills and other items they believe are linked to the allegations.
Unable to comprehend this you want to sit down or your wife comes in from another room and hearing what is going on also goes into shock. Law abiding decent citizens who have done nothing wrong in their lives are suddenly mortified upon hearing such vile allegations.
You ask who has made the allegations. ‘Everything will be discussed during the interview, at the police station.’ You are asked to get ready and you are walked from your house to the waiting police van. Your neighbours are looking, your wife is in tears as you are driven away – still shocked and unable to comprehend the reality. During the journey to the police station you are thinking about your family, your children, your job, your reputation, your status in the community and what will my close relatives and friends think of me.
You think, it’s all a mistake, the police will interview me and afterwards say we got the wrong man and apologise. That will be the end of the matter. Unfortunately, the journey into False Allegations has just commenced.
At the police station you would think that the police will investigate the allegations independently. You are offered to contact a solicitor, as you have never been in this situation before, you rely on the duty solicitor and thus use their firm without knowing anything different. The duty solicitor is usually someone less experienced and most solicitors are there to make money not usually there for the interests of their clients. Once they know that you are not going to qualify for legal aid, their eyes light up because you are going to be fleeced.
During the interview, there is not much disclosure and your solicitors advises you to do a ‘No Comment’ interview. You are still wondering who is the person who has made these allegations dating back thirty odd years ago whilst you were at work. You may be given a name or the year it happened but you are unable to confirm this. You demand records, ‘Not available’ is the response because ‘this is an exploratory interview to jog your memory’. You think, I will tackle that by asking my previous employer of detailed records and reports. You are then bailed from the police station to return another day whilst police make further enquiries.
By the time you get home, the local paper’s journalist is waiting for you to get your reaction and take several photographs of you. You get a call from your employer stating that you are suspended until police complete their investigation. Your loyalty to your employer now counts for nothing. Within a few days an article appears in the local paper obviously released by the police it mentions that you are a paedophile, underage sex is involved or implied, police have seized documents and further investigations continue. There is nothing about your side of the story other than your picture. This story may be followed up by the national press.
Your appointed solicitor has a meeting with you, goes through the administration paperwork on the pretext of applying for legal aid and states that he is waiting for disclosure from the police and asks you why would the complainant make such allegations. At the next meeting, the solicitor states that a barrister needs to get involved so that an opinion can be obtained, you have pay the costs.
By now your neighbours are avoiding you, you getting verbally abused, called all sorts of names and your so-called friends don’t want to meet up or provide support. Your health starts to deteriorate and worrying keeps you awake at night. Your bail date is further extended.
You hear from some of your loyal friend and relatives that the police visited them to get statements about your character. You hear that police have visited your workplace and taken statements from your colleagues and other complainants. You hear that the police held a meeting with community members to discuss the arrest referencing paedophilia and implying that you are part of a criminal network. The police had traced other complainants and were appealing for more to come forward. Leaflets on sexual abuse and claiming compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board are handed out. The police highlight the fact that ‘you can get compensation even if the person who assaulted you is found not guilty’. It is almost an invitation for potential complainants to contact the police.
Your bail date is extended even further as police have to investigate further allegations made. The local paper obliges with a further story released by the police that the investigation is now complex. The paper fails to report your side of the story. Repeated media stories over sexual abuse have created a feverish atmosphere whilst your name is splattered, the complainants get anonymity.
Believing the victim has gone too far because it has gathered momentum by those who shout the loudest, it has begun to alter what was a fair and just system. It has had an impact on how cases are investigated, the justice system has become misdirected and lost sight of its overall purpose. Media has fed revulsion about child abuse resulting in unfairness and destroying lives of innocent people facing false allegations.
The strain of the one-sided criminal process whether the allegation is true or not does affect and break a person in some cases leading to severe mental health problems. There is no consideration for the accused person’s welfare.
The police have now completed their ‘trawling,’ that is, direct targeting of individuals named by the complainant and those who came forward after the public appeal to bolster the original complaint. Now the police have further allegations by new complainants and witnesses thereby a solid case against you is constructed. How is this done? Simple contamination or deliberate because the same officer or a small team of officers will act as statement takers of witnesses, welfare officers of complainants and will interview the suspect. This is further contaminated by the police officer who will tell witnesses before they provide a statement, the name of the accused and allegations made by other witnesses.
You attend the police station and are further interviewed on ‘fresh’ allegations, again the solicitor advises you to make a no comment interview. Now you know that you are being falsely accused and the police are not there to assist but to get you convicted. After the interview, you are charged with various offences and bail is refused to make it more serious. You are kept in custody despite objections being made by you.
Further press reports are made by the police, your life has now been destroyed with such vile allegations. At the Magistrates court, due to the seriousness of the allegations, the case is transferred to the Crown Court. You try and object but your solicitor and Magistrate won’t hear anything. You are now in a process and unable to get off. You are given bail with a surety and bail conditions imposed upon you. Again, everything is released to the media and reported.
At home, you now wait for the Crown Court date, this will take months. Your legal aid application is refused and you dip into your savings. Relatives and real friends offer financial support. You are suspended from work, no money is coming in. Your wife is crying on a daily basis. You consider suicide to end it all.
With very little disclosure coming through, you meet with your solicitor, who states that there must be something in the allegations as there is ‘no smoke without fire’. There is no possibility of deliberate collusion by the complainants and witnesses, surely you have to face up to the fact that you are a sexual abuser. It is this numbers game that any solicitor dreads, the acceptance of similar fact evidence and evidence from witnesses makes any case difficult to defend.
At Crown court you attend and the case is further delayed. No disclosure is forthcoming. The judge sets a date and timetable for both the prosecution and defence teams to work towards. Unfortunately, this trial date is not till another 18 months. The barrister states that he wants information from you that you are unable to supply as you have no idea what this case is about and your records have been seized by the police.
The police, CPS and the courts have been slowly conditioned into believing that all complainants of sexual abuse are true. The police changed from investigators into mere recorders of such allegations, with no or little interest in challenging what was being said by the complainants, let alone seeking evidence to support the accused. Where a witness contradicts the complainant’s account this is simply ignored in the rush to ‘believe’ the victims. The media activity which has been fed by political interference has led to the present state of affairs and the courts have fell into the same trap. All defenders of fairness and protectors of all are singing from the same hymn of ‘believing the victim’ thereby blinded and total disregard to innocent until proven guilty.
Disclosure is not forthcoming and the justice system which is supposed to be followed is being manipulated and delayed because the prosecution case is so weak. The justice system has come this far and will run its course after all it is the taxpayer who is paying the costs as is the accused.
We know for a fact in one high profile case, Sir Richard Henriques, a retired high court judge looked at, he found that numerous errors were committed by the police and the presumption of innocence appeared to have been set aside. The very foundation which our justice system is supposed to be based upon, the police investigation, was so distorted, it is no wonder that the confidence in the justice system, has been so damaged.
Your stress levels have gone up, your GP has put you on medication and you are still waiting for justice. You are looking forward to your day in court. But due to annual leave of police witnesses and sickness, the judge allows a further delay of six months. Your finances are drying up because every time you attend the crown court with your solicitor and barrister, it is costing you money.
Eventually, your trial is coming up and a few days before, disclosure is given to your legal team, who then forward it to you. The following day is for the trial to start, you get a phone call to be at court by 9am for a 10 am start. ‘Will there be enough time to go through the disclosure?’ you ask. You are reassured that your solicitor and barrister have gone through the paperwork.
You attend court and the media are there. Overnight, the social media has been discussing the case. The social media has also allowed witnesses to discuss and share their accounts, the only person who is isolated is you.
You meet with the barrister and solicitor; your wife is also present. The barrister states that he has spoken to his opposite number and suggests to you a possible deal that you plead ‘Guilty’ to half of the charges and the rest will be dropped in return you will get a lighter sentence. You object. The barrister then states that there is overwhelming evidence against you and if you go through with the trial you are going to get the maximum prison sentence for each offence, that is, you will be gone for a long time. Who is going to take care of your wife? You think. You speak to your wife. The barrister disappears with the solicitor.
You have made a decision that you don’t want to go through with the case and opt for a lighter sentence as you don’t want to hurt your family further with sordid details of the case.
You are put in a glass case in front of the judge and you are sent to prison for seven years.
In prison you are in a state of shock, you go through the case papers and you find out that you have been deceived. You wife has paid the solicitor and barrister for not doing anything. You want to appeal but this will cost more money and you are told by a fellow inmate: ‘No, chance, you pleaded guilty.’
Case papers reveal that there were conflicting evidence of witnesses and complainant. Investigation officers did not approach the case with an independent mind thereby failed to seek clarification of the assertions made. When investigators approach the task from only one party’s perspective, no doubt under pressure from various sources including the media, the danger of miscarriage is heightened.
Supervising police officers also fail to carry out any independent verification and, in most cases, do not have the front-line experience of day to day investigations. Thus, will rubber stamp the investigating officer’s work. You will hardly hear of a supervising officer being held to account.
The Court of Appeal clearly wants less cases because if there are more cases getting through then it shows that our justice system is not fit for purpose. The establishment cannot have that reality, thus innocent people will be sent to prison and are still there.
The power of the media is driven by political interests. Sexual abuse has become a ‘political football’ which has been kicked around for political advantage, this had led to a rise in the power of various support groups who have gained considerable power and the continued rise of the compensation lawyer. MPs are not willing to get involved in cases of miscarriages of justice because helping a convicted sexual offender is not a vote winner.
Because you refuse to accept your guilt you end up serving the full sentence.