Friday, 25 January 2019

A Modest Proposal: Polygraph

I was interested to read this week the fact that domestic abuse defendants could face mandatory lie-detector tests when released from prison, as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill. Starting back in August 2014 similar testing is already being used for some high-risk sex offenders who are subject to probation supervision after their release (read article here).

The polygraph (or lie-detector) machine has been around since the early 1920s and was invented by an American police officer, John Larson. The instrument measures a person's blood pressure, pulse and breathing rates as he or she answers a series of questions. The technology is widely used across the world by law enforcement agencies, as well as intelligence services (primarily on their own agents) in the hunt for spies and moles.

Unfortunately, there have been numerous cases over the decades of people beating the technology. Psychopaths and sociopaths, for example, who usually have much lower anxiety levels than the average person, seem more able to defeat the machine. Hence, here in the UK, quite rightly, we do not rely on any polygraph data in our courts of law. Such results are deemed inadmissible as evidence.

This stated, I do think there is a role these machines can play in the pursuit of justice outside the courtroom. I refer particularly to claims of 'historical’ sex abuse and in the police’s initial decision whether or not to pursue a complainant’s allegations with a full-scale investigation.

Since 2012, UK police forces have been pretty much swamped by adults coming forward to claim that they were abused as children. Many of the allegations go back over thirty years or even longer. A few accusations have even dated back to the 1950s. The very nature of these claims means that there cannot be a shred of actual evidence of whether or not the complainant is telling the truth.

Accordingly, the m.o. of the police, in an era of the ludicrous mantra 'you will be believed’, is nearly always to arrest and charge the accused and let a jury decide who they think (or just guess) is telling the truth: accuser or accused. I know from experience that once the police raid and ransack an accused person’s home, confiscating his or her most intimate possessions, reading every email/text message, letter and diary that the target has either sent, received or written, scrutinising every personal photograph and video, they will do everything in their power, backed by the full force of the state, to railroad that target into court.

Nothing but a full and frank confession by the accuser that he or she has been telling a pack of lies from the start will stop the investigating officers from doing all in their immense power to have the accused person found guilty in a court of law. The result is a plethora of innocent people are having their reputations ruined, their lives effectively destroyed, just because these agents of the state know they have the full backing of the overwhelming majority in our society and seemingly unlimited resources at their disposal.

Both personally, as well as through my current research into false allegations, I have come to know of so many innocent people who have committed suicide soon after they have been arrested and have had their name plastered all over the local, in some cases national, press. Politicians have little, if any, interest in any of this, of course, because speaking up for innocent people accused of historical abuse will not curry favour with the electorate and the vast majority of MPs care only about popularity and securing as many votes as possible in the next election. Ensuring the repair of pot holes in the local roads is a far more rewarding cause, given the constant pursuit of popularity by the average parliamentarian.

For many in society, it has been the case until recently (as more and more cases come to light about vital evidence being concealed by the CPS and the police, the general public are beginning to become rather more sceptical) that if a person has been accused of child abuse, he or she deserves everything that he or she gets. With innocent people's reputations destroyed, there are even some innocent targets who end up spending time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

Our prisons are stuffed full of people serving time without a shred of actual evidence having been presented at trial beyond the word of the accuser and, if police trawling has been effective, others who have either been in cahoots all along with the original complainant or who have read about the accused person's arrest and, prompted by the thought of a hefty pay-out in the event of a guilty verdict, throw their proverbial hat into the ring. After all, what have they got to lose?

Which brings me back to the polygraph test. Would it not be prudent to make use of such technology whenever a person first comes into a police station to allege historical abuse, which, by its nature, as I have already explained, cannot produce any evidence as to whom is telling the truth, the accuser or the accused. Both parties could be required by law to undertake such a test to help the police decide whether they are going to invade an accused person’s life, at the start of an investigation, appreciating the devastation that this always causes to that person, who may well be innocent. The result of a polygraph test would not be used as definitive proof as to whether the accuser or the accused was telling the truth but, if both tests indicated the accuser was telling lies and the accused the truth, it might just influence the police to put that raid on hold until, or if, some other indicator came to light as how to proceed.

Of course, a positive indication that an accused person is lying about their innocence might also persuade them to enter an early guilty plea, so my proposal isn't just one-sided. Genuine victims of sexual abuse might be spared long drawn out police investigations, as well as having to give evidence, if a polygraph test supports an abuser's guilt and encourages them to admit their crimes.

Above all, this guessing game which can destroy those who are not guilty of any crime – or even kill – must stop. Are we prepared to allow the destruction of innocent people’s reputations and careers when it could be avoided by the use, very early in an historical sex investigation, of one of Mr. Larson’s instruments? I would gladly have volunteered to take such a test in late 2012, as it might have saved me 672 days of torment on bail, not to mention my successful teaching career – which was ended despite a unanimous jury acquitting me in a matter of minutes. I daresay my false accuser, in the same circumstances, would have thought twice about spewing forth his totally groundless, filthy lies told in pursuit of hoped-for compensation.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Some Fraudsters Go Unpunished

There was an excoriating article, penned by journalist Beth Hale, in Saturday's 'Mail', entitled: 'The £670,000 Grenfell Ghouls', about the (so far) 14 despicable chancers who have lied about being in the Tower when the deadly fire took place (link). The word used to describe these crooks was 'despicable' but I daresay any reader will find their behaviour so repellent, so contrary to human decency, that he or she may come up with a stronger adjective more compatible with the heinous crime.

All of these convicted fraudsters have claimed tens and thousands of pounds in compensation, from money which was raised to offer some succour to the real victims of Grenfell in their desperate hours of need. The amounts handed out to the imposters run upwards from Mohammed Gamoota's £6,264 to the incredible sum of £103,475,60, which was claimed by the repugnant specimen of humanity, Sharife Elouahabi. By the end of Ms Hale's article, I was quietly spitting feathers, as the saying goes.

Then it occurred to me all that these selfish, greedy, shameful cheats/liars/fraudsters had in their minds when they claimed to have been directly affected by the fire was pecuniary gain… their actions, however greedy, mean and shabby, didn't directly lead to the complete ruin of another human being's reputation and career. These were crimes of acquisition, rather than malicious destruction.

Then I thought of the two malignant liars who told the police I had acted inappropriately in a school shower room after I taught them P.E. in the early 1980s (a subject in which I have never taken a class in my entire career). It was subsequently proven that their allegations had absolutely no truth in them whatsoever. Yet they peddled these lies to the police because they saw it as a chance to get their filthy, grubby hands on yet more compensation money after they had successfully pressed a previous claim against another teacher. Because such claims are made against the school’s institutional insurers, we're talking about tens of thousands of pounds. I presume these appalling scammers were hoping for a similar payment the second time around.

The difference between the Grenfell fraudsters and the two cheating liars who accused me is the latter knew their false claims would inevitably lead to my personal destruction and public humiliation. And they couldn't have cared less. They must have been aware that another teacher from the same school had been accused just months before they made up their lies against me and he had committed suicide. Still they were prepared to make up a pack of lies for their own iniquitous ends. It was utterly sadistic.

And what repercussions have these two justice perverters faced since the truth has emerged? Nothing. Rien. Nichts. Niente.

While the police quite correctly pursue all those bogus Grenfell degenerates and bring them to deserved justice - involving prison sentences and their names being splashed across the national press in the process - the two malignant fraudsters who dragged me into a court of law have faced no consequences for what is unarguably a much worse crime, particularly in terms of the human cost of their wicked lies. Not only have they not been punished, but the state has allowed them to carry on with their lives with anonymity. Some may argue that, at least, I have the comfort of knowing they are living out the rest of their lives with utter shame about lying but, of course, any people who have it in them to make a false allegation of sexual abuse have a different moral code from the vast majority of the human race. Such people are pure evil. And, since my two accusers are hiding behind the anonymity granted to them by law, who knows whether they might strike again by targeting another innocent victim?

I am just one of many in a similar position: since 2014, I have met so many who have suffered a similar fate to my own. The only ones who have found justice are those whose accusers have finally admitted to having lied. But these cases are so rare. Meanwhile, we all throw up our hands in horror when reading about chancers like the 'Grenfell Ghouls', as they are brought to justice to pay for their sins in the full humiliating glare of national publicity, while even worse monsters carry on with their lives without so much as a slap on the wrist.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

False Allegations: Innovation of Justice Speech

Text of the speech delivered by Simon Warr at the Innovation of Justice Conference, University of Manchester, Saturday 24th November 2018

False Allegations

I want you to form a picture in your mind - you have devoted the best part of 35 years to school mastering - and when I use the verb 'school mastering', as opposed to merely teaching - I refer to a career not just imparting knowledge in a classroom, but also coaching over 70 senior sports' teams, producing and directing over 30 major school plays and musicals, and being a Housemaster to over 70 adolescent boys; i.e. totally immersing yourself in educating teenage children. Then, in the blink of an eye, everything you have built up over more than three decades is, for no good reason, smashed to pieces by agents of the state.

Photo courtesy of Innovation of Justice
It was an immensely rewarding career in so many ways and, still only in my 50s, I felt, as I went to bed on the 17th of December 2012, at the start of the Christmas holidays, as fresh as ever. Apart from attending the funeral of my adoptive mother in 1999, I'd not missed a single day of school in all that time. That night in December 2012, I slept as soundly as ever, knowing that, after another busy term, I didn't need to wake up to the alarm clock the following day, I could sleep in for as long as I wished.

As it turned out, I was awoken the following morning at 7.15am by a loud wrapping on my kitchen door. Who could this be at such an unearthly hour? As I quickly descended the stairs, I presumed it was the property services department coming to service my kitchen boiler. 

'Who is it?'
'The Suffolk police - open the door.'

Unsurprisingly, this announcement came as a shock. I struggled to find the kitchen door key, in spite of the fact it was in its usual place.

'Open the door, now!' The message was clear and uncompromising. I thought momentarily they were going to smash their way in.

As soon as I had opened the door, four police officers barged past me and the fifth one read me my rights. I was being arrested for the alleged historical abuse of a former pupil at St. George's School, where I had spent teaching for two years during the early 80s. I had absolutely no recollection of the name they gave me. I can't mention his name to you now because he has the luxury of lifelong anonymity, even though it was subsequently proven beyond any reasonable doubt that, when he accused me of touching him inappropriately in a shower room 30 years previously, he was lying through his teeth. More of him and his mendacious ways to come.

The police were ruthless in their m.o. at my home that morning - cold/efficient/clinical/harsh. They had absolutely no regard for the trauma they were putting me through. I can't imagine their approach would have been much different had I been accused of plotting to blow up number 10 Downing Street.

As they were tossing my possessions onto the floor, in a desperate attempt to find anything incriminating to support their case - and be in no doubt when the police decide to raid a suspect's home, they have absolutely no intention of carrying out their perceived duties in a fair, balanced manner - all they are concerned with is 'evidence to support the guilt of their target.' As they were rummaging through every book/magazine/DVD/photo/piece of private correspondence, a mobile phone belonging to one of the officers rang:

'I'll ask him. Where is the key to the small bedroom in your flat?'

I then realised they were simultaneously raiding my private accommodation in London. I was told to wash and dress and was escorted to an awaiting car by two officers as the rest of the team continued their search.

If I can draw a parallel, my feelings of shock were, at that time, akin to being told a member of one's close family had suddenly died or that you had just been diagnosed with a serious illness. I felt total despair because I knew immediately just to be arrested for alleged child abuse is the end of one's life as you'd known it.

At Ipswich police station, finger prints and DNA were taken and I was put into a cell. And that is where I languished for the next five hours, sitting on an excuse for a bed, staring at a blank wall, wondering how on earth this nightmare had come about. I kept repeating the name of my accuser over and over in my head but I was none the wiser. (Ultimately, this was of no surprise when it became clear I had had little, if anything, to do with the liar). Around about lunchtime, I was escorted to a police interview room and the allegation was put to me and I was asked to comment.

As Ann Widdecombe wrote in her Daily Express column in March 2017: 'I have just finished reading a book called 'Presumed Guilty', by Simon Warr, a teacher falsely accused of child abuse. He was acquitted by a jury in under 40 minutes - during which time, as he points out, the jurors had to go to the loo, settle in their jury room and elect a foreman. By the end of the book I was shaking with outrage because all the evidence which acquitted him was there from the very start of the police investigation.'

The allegation was that, after teaching this former pupil of St. George's P.E., when he was just 11 years of age, I had checked to see he was dry in a shower room in an inappropriate manner by asking him to bend over and inspect his bottom. When he had first made the complaint, just after he had been awarded a hefty payout having accused another member of staff of sexual abuse, he made no mention of my having touched him. At that point the police informed him the allegation was insufficient to have me arrested. No arrest meant no compensation, of course.

Six months later, after Jimmy Savile's alleged exploits exploded into the media, my accuser decided he now remembered, yes, I did touch his genitals. He had put it back to the deep recesses of his mind but, seeing and hearing me in the media repeatedly during 2012 had jolted his memory. Now the police had enough for my arrest.

I explained to the police that afternoon in the interview room, a) I had never taught a lesson of P.E. in my entire career and b) I am a secondary school teacher and, at the age of 11, he would have been in the junior part of the school. I gave them the names of the members of the discrete St. George's P.E. department and presumed they would locate these people to confirm if I were telling the truth.

They didn't bother. The ironic thing is most of these P.E. teachers were still living and working in Suffolk. I repeat, they didn't bother to follow up the leads. Why? One can only assume they WANTED me to be guilty.

I was on bail for the next nine months as, what I now know, the police tried desperately to find other former pupils to come forward. One ex-pupil of St. George's did but he happened to be a close friend of my initial accuser! They had both waived their anonymity after the outcome of the previous court case against another teacher, when both secured tens of thousands of pounds in compensation. In fact, they were so close that, immediately after that case, they both gave an interview to a tabloid newspaper (still no mention of me, of course) about all the awful things which had happened to them at St. George's. This friend who now came forward made no allegation of touching - he just confirmed my checking after P.E. lessons. 

Needless to state, even though the police had access to my mobile and computer records, to every email and letter I had ever written and received, to every photo I had taken or been sent, to every personal card I had received, my accusers had conveniently no internet history for the eventual defence team to access because it had all been supposedly lost. Wasn't that handy?

After months of trawling, the police finally managed to get hold of a person who had been a pupil in my boarding house in the school where I had been teaching for the previous 30 years, who, after much encouragement, alleged that,, in 1991, I had chased him a round the house day room (in full view of every other pupil), trying to pinch his bottom. This was the allegation that the police and the CPS needed to charge me. After all, it would have been difficult for anyone to believe I would act inappropriately at a school 30 years previously and then nothing at all at the school where I had taught for the past three decades. It wasn't much for the police officers but at least it was some reward for their months of trawling.

I'll just say a few words about trawling: trawling is the method used by the police to search and, in some cases, advertise for fresh complainants. Advertise, I hear you shout, NEVER. Yes, advertise - in my case a businessman in Newbury volunteered himself to act as an agent for the police. The police reckon, quite correctly as it happens, that the more complainants who step forward, even if those complaints are weak and/or unlikely, the more chance the police and CPS have of convincing the jury that the person in the dock is a dirty old man. What's more, any allegations which emerge as a result of trawling are presented to juries as if they were entirely spontaneous when, in point of fact, they are anything but.  

Is it not obvious to anyone with an I.Q. above the day's temperature that there is an enormous difference between spontaneous complaints made by individuals who have no connection with each other, and who have not read about the accused online or in a newspaper, and those manufactured through collusion? Is anyone really surprised that people make allegations when the police fish for complaints and, of course, there is a chance of an ultimate hefty compensation payout, often more money than many of these accusers have had access to in their entire lives. 

I state here and now that trawling operations are the most dangerous development in the history of police investigations. They have been allowed to become more and more widespread to the point of becoming standard practice, despite Parliament having legislated to put a stop to such investigative procedures through the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

One thing is for certain: trawling is a sure method of destroying the presumption of innocence. What's more, because of the particular characteristics of trawling operations, potential witnesses might be pressurised into making exaggerated or even false statements. I want to read a section from a statement written by the ex- Head boy from St. George's, now a successful teacher and child protection officer at a school in Hampshire, after he had been visited by the Suffolk police in 2014:-

'I was approached by the police earlier this year; they visited my home and took a statement. I was asked repeatedly by the police about his supervision of post P.E. showers and I told them repeatedly he never did this. In my entire time at St. George's, I never heard any rumours regarding Mr. Warr and of any improper conduct on his part.'. 

He goes on to state: 'The police were not impartial. They made it clear that Mr. Warr was guilty of abusing children and that he would be convicted without question.'  The person states finally, 'As you can imagine, I was very upset  by this visit and had to take some time off work to get things right in my head.'

Now, just suppose, this successful professional man had been someone quite different... down on his luck or perhaps a certain antipathy towards his former teachers due to having been disciplined unfairly as he viewed it… the police come to visit and that person is soon left in no doubt what they want him to say. The likelihood, of course, is he will give the police what they want, particularly as he will be well aware that a fat wad of cash will be coming his way if there is a guilty verdict.

Another ex-pupil of mine, now a City high flyer, who was interviewed over the phone about me, was very direct when he emailed the police after being told he would not be required to give a statement:-

'You don't seem to be at all interested that, in my experience, Simon never acted in a way that these allegations could be true... it is pretty clear that you are not interested in actually investigating whether these allegations are indeed true, you are just searching for any old scrap to assassinate his character. Very worrying, and in light of current high profile cases falling down, you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves.' Bold words from a bold man.

Despite the absence of any evidence, other than the suspect claims of a pair of palpable chancers, I was charged with seven counts of historical abuse on the 10th of September, 2013. The story was given a large spread in one of the daily nationals, the same newspaper making absolutely no mention of my case when I was acquitted at Ipswich Crown Court 13 months later. Surprised? Thought not.

I quickly learned that I was basically on my own in preparing my defence and I was up against the generous resources of a police incident room team. As police budgets were being cut, alleged historical abuse inquiry teams seemed free to spend money like there was no tomorrow. The trial date was set for March 2014 but, as the date approached, the prosecution seemed unable to get their house in order in time and the date was put back to October 2014, nearly two years after I had been originally arrested (672 days, to be precise). As soon as news hit the net of the postponement, the Newbury businessman was appealing on behalf of the police for others to come forward... oh, so this is why the trial has been postponed, I thought.

Eventually the time arrived and in October 2014, I was put into that glass cage where all defendants have to sit and I was forced to sit through two days of the prosecution case, two days of the most preposterous, the most absurd lies I have ever had to endure. The two main complainants came across as damaged individuals but the fact which was most clear to all in the court was they were both lying through their teeth.

How on earth did we arrive at a situation in which the police decide at the outset that a suspect, an accused person, is guilty and they then proceed to so-called 'investigate' in a totally biased, unjust manner? How is it the CPS and the police work so closely on cases, when the CPS itself was introduced in 1986 as an independent body as a result of public disquiet about the police railroading suspects into court?

When the platinum-haired DJ Jimmy Savile died in 2011 and subsequent allegations about his conduct came to the fore, I believe a collective insanity gripped sections of our society here in the UK. The police were embarrassed by the revelations because they had ignored repeated disquiet about his conduct around young women. Operation Yewtree was duly set up and the CPS and police set out on a path of revenge. 

Who can ever forget those words which fell from the mouth of the then Director of Public Prosecutions in 2013, Keir Starmer: 

'Complainants - only he used the word 'victims' - complainants who come forward to allege historical abuse will be believed.' He used the verb 'believe' - accept as true or conveying the truth! This was the message he was issuing to the police - believe complainants. Mr. Starmer, I shouted at the radio, it is not the police's job to believe or disbelieve either the complainant or the accused - it is their job, in any decent, civilised society, to investigate without fear or favour. So, it became clear, traditional safeguards which protect those who are accused were to be abandoned. The assumption that someone is innocent until proven guilty was to be thrown away and the police were being told to set about their work with a 'prosecute at all costs' mindset. The CPS would now be able to charge despite the case presented to them having being built upon weak, uncorroborated, disputed allegations. 

Soon afterwards, an official line was issued from above: 

'Using the lack of corroboration of a complainant's account to justify a decision to drop proceedings is flawed.'

The police were now in almost overdrive, as anyone accused of historical child abuse was akin to a lamb to the slaughter. The effective removal of the need for corroboration in cases of historical sexual charges (which, incidentally, is still required in Scottish law), in conjunction with the judges' failure to caution a jury as to this important issue, has made it much more likely that malicious false allegations can be placed before a jury in the guise of firm evidence. An unsupported allegation is now viewed as evidence in its own right - a perfect gift for any liar, fantasist or fraudster. The obvious collusion between my two complainants was not looked into by the police, who accepted what they had to say as the absolute truth. Indeed, one of the interviewing officers said to me: 'Here we have a similar allegation being made by another pupil in the changing room. What have you got to say about this?'  She seemed to be suggesting this suggested that both were telling the truth.

 Nor did the police make any effort to access the online and phone activity between the two friends just prior and just after my arrest. This is common practice. Service providers are happy to provide the police with a suspect's online activity in murder or financial fraud investigations but no such effort is made when an accuser's testimony is challenged by the defence in alleged sexual abuse cases. These so-called police investigations of alleged historical sexual abuse are so biased that officers are allowing complainants to hide their online history and to revise their statements once the police have interviewed the accused. Thus, even if the accused can demonstrate a firm alibi, dates and times can be altered by the prosecution team prior to any court trial. 

Further to this, it is now incumbent on the defence to serve a pre-trial statement, which has made it much easier for the police to alert complainants about any evidence that might otherwise undermine a prosecution case. And if anybody fighting for his reputation and career thinks the police will interview any potential witnesses mentioned by the defendant during initial interviews, you will be sorely disappointed. I learned this through first hand experience. I handed them names of those who could prove my innocence. They didn't bother to pursue any line of inquiry which might cast doubt upon their complainants' allegations. And I use the possessive adjective 'THEIR' pointedly. The police manacled themselves to the allegations - the complainants were offered succour, total police support throughout. 

And it wasn't just the police who were keen to have me hung, drawn and quartered in a court of law, so too were the Personal Injury lawyers, those 'No Win, No Fee' solicitors, those heroes riding on their white chargers to save the abused; they were waiting in the wings throughout the initial stages, prompting and encouraging the complainants. In the motor industry, these people are referred to as 'ambulance chasers'. They and those whiplash claims have finally been sussed, so these self- appointed saviours have turned their attention to the sexual abuse allegation industry, realising they are on much safer ground because the whole topic is so sensitive, there is little chance of anyone calling them to account. They rarely tout for business within families, of course, because there's so little money to be made; they far prefer organisations, like schools, hospitals, the Church, where there is almost always an insurance policy from which to claim. 

One of the most dangerous trends for any society is when police investigations and prosecutors' charging decisions are based upon ideological notions, rather than following the law. And one of these symptoms is when the prosecution and police withhold evidence from the defence team.

Over the past year we have read about numerous court cases which have been abandoned on account of a failure by the CPS and the police to disclose key evidence, usually found on electronic equipment, to the defence. The recent experience of Liam Allen is known to us all, of course. But his is just one case among many. The excuse offered is the prosecution is usually overburdened and this has resulted in these gross errors, if they are indeed simply 'errors'. 

If I might point out, with regard to being overburdened, I was left to conduct my own entire defence during 2013/14, without any help, financial or otherwise, from anywhere nor from anyone. I managed. Of course, we have to concede that, since 2010, there have been swingeing cuts within the CPS - 1/4 of its budget and 1/3 of its staff but this cannot, and must not, be an excuse for negligence or tampering with due, just process. The situation has got so bad that juries have now become wise to the prosecutors and police withholding vital evidence. If we do not address this disclosure issue urgently, palpably guilty defendants will be acquitted because jury members will be unsure whether or not they've heard the whole truth from the prosecuting team.

An admission that errors had been made have had to be ripped out of the chief prosecutors - only last year the recently retired Director of Public Prosecution (2013-2108), Alison Saunders, was asserting without equivocation that there were no innocent people in prison as a result of disclosure failures. Yet, recently the CPS Inspectorate Report stated that 'there has been a steady stream of miscarriages of justice.' It pains me to think of all those currently banged up who are completely innocent of the charges for which they were found guilty. Will they ever achieve proper justice? Highly unlikely.

And, what happens to those who lie and lie again for their own greedy, malicious and narcissistic reasons? When it is eventually obvious a complainant has been feeding the police and prosecutors a pile of lies, what happens? 

When I went to Bury St. Edmunds police station in November 2014, after the conclusion of my trial, to retrieve my possessions which the police had removed from my homes, I asked the chief investigative officer whether I would, at the very least, be receiving an apology from the two liars. Her immediate answer: 'That's not going to happen.' 

But they had been proven to be lying, what's more perjuring themselves in a court of law, for their own iniquitous ends, but I was being told that they were to face no repercussions. The main reason, of course, comes down, once again, to the fact that the police had offered them succour, had supported them throughout the process, even encouraged them, so they were now, after more than 672 days, unable to swap sides and carry out their duty. The police had, as they often do in this type of investigation, compromised themselves. 

My two accusers have lifelong anonymity despite having ruined my successful teaching career, having had me thrown out of my home and community of thirty years, having destroyed my reputation and made me the target of appalling online abuse, and they were being allowed to walk away unpunished. Had they invented a more plausible pack of lies, I could well have lost my freedom. So while they've walked away scot free, it is I who continue to suffer. Don't think for a moment that if you are found not guilty in a court of law, that's the end of the matter. These cases can destroy an accused person utterly, regardless of the outcome of any trial. A couple of hundred years ago a criminal would have been branded on his forehead - nowadays the internet does the branding but, unlike in yesteryear, you don't have to be found guilty of having committed a crime to be indelibly marked for life.

I repeat the present m.o. is so iniquitous that the two liars have continued their lives as if nothing had happened, yet they both lied and lied again. Is this a fair way of operating? Is this proper justice in action? 

When I went to see my local M.P. last year, her response was one of uninterest - there are no votes and public approbation for dealing with unscrupulous fantasists and liars who accuse innocent people of abuse, of course.  As I sat in front of this elected M.P., explaining the iniquities of it all, she looked almost bored. Needless to state, I've heard nothing back. 

To sum up, then, and I apologise if some of these points are blindingly obvious:-

1. The police must investigate all allegations of crime, regardless of the type of crime, without fear or favour.
2. Police trawling must cease forthwith.
3. We must put a stop to the handing out of large sums of money in compensation. Somebody who has been genuinely abused should be offered, at the state's expense, unfettered access to the best psychological treatment, knowing the perpetrator is locked up at Her Majesty's Pleasure for many years.
4. Because child abuse is a crimen exceptum, anyone accused of child abuse, whether historical or recent, should be granted anonymity until found guilty in a court of law. because once a suspect's name is made public, he/she will be tarnished forever.

What is vital is that we don't inadvertently bring about some kind of ethical collapse: in a bid to safeguard the lives of innocent children and to repair their own reputation, the police and CPS's approach to their investigations cannot continue to be a weapon for destroying the lives of innocent adults.

I finish with the words of that outstanding author, recently deceased, Richard Webster: 'In its zeal to believe ALL allegations, the police and CPS have betrayed the very people it seeks to protect.'

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

The Victim Vanishes

In recent months I have gained the distinct impression that the tide has started to turn against those who make false allegations – especially those of a sexual nature. There is still a long way to go, but there does appear to be a greater public awareness of the fact that false accusations are not as rare as some vocal campaigners would like us to believe.

Indeed, there is a greater willingness in the media to report on cases where malicious allegations have been made, as well as giving a voice to innocent victims whose lives have been devastated or to the grieving families of those who have committed suicide because they were unable to cope with the intense pressure and utter misery of being falsely accused of sexual abuse.

The way in which the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) deal with allegations of sexual misconduct is also coming under intense scrutiny, with questions being raised in Parliament and in the courts. Urgent reviews of thousands of current cases have led to hundreds of these prosecutions being dropped owing to relevant evidence either having not been disclosed to the defence or new material (especially electronic communications, such as text messages) being produced belatedly which casts significant doubt on claims made by the complainant.

The recent collapse of certain high-profile prosecutions – including that of former pop mogul Jonathan King – raises yet more questions about the conduct, methods and even probity of some police investigations. All of this controversy has led to an official call to abandon the ludicrous dogma of ‘you will be believed’ – which applied specifically to allegations of a sexual nature, no matter how bizarre or fantastical the claims being made might be. (I still can't believe that someone in such a prominent legal position - Keir Starmer, then Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) - could have uttered such a pathetically puerile, preposterous statement). The utter fiasco of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Midland (2014-2016) alone – at a cost to the taxpayer of £2.5 million, plus substantial compensation payments made to victims such as Lord Bramall and Lady Brittan, should have been proof enough that suspending disbelief and simply accepting that every bizarre tale told to police was ‘credible and true’ was the road to ruin. And so it has turned out to be.

Pressure is also mounting for a review of older sexual convictions, where dubious police practices and highly skewed methods of investigating (such as failing to check any of the allegations being made against relevant facts, or refusing to interview relevant witnesses whose testimony might assist the defence in any way) might well have led to miscarriages of justice. Although there remains a marked reluctance on the part of the authorities – especially the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) and the Court of Appeal – to acknowledge the potential scale of these possible wrongful convictions, more and more scrutiny by the media and campaigning groups will make a policy of obstinate refusal much more difficult to sustain.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unjustly convicted people and their families are now demanding effective redress, starting with the urgent review of cases where prisoners and ex-prisoners are maintaining their innocence. Once the floodgates have been opened in a few high profile convictions, the flow through the CCRC and the Court of Appeal may prove difficult to ignore.

However, while there are some positive developments ongoing, the plight of the innocent victims of malicious false accusations – whether prosecuted and acquitted or not – remains largely unaddressed. Moreover, until vindictive liars, compensation-grubbing fraudsters and attention-seeking fantasists are routinely prosecuted and brought to justice for their crimes, the risks of making a bogus complaint to the police will remain extremely low.

And the damage that these malicious false accusations inflict also needs to be recognised and addressed. One of the rarely acknowledged by-products of the false sexual accusation industry is that of the innocent victim who becomes a ‘non-person’ as a result of the negative publicity generated by these allegations. I’ll explain what I mean by this. Most successful professional people, who are often the target for compensation-hunting liars, have a wide social network, including a significant social media ‘footprint’. Such folk are often active in their local communities – making a positive contribution to a wide range of organisations and causes, such as charities or clubs. Their names – and reputations – are well-known and, thus, very vulnerable to any kind of scandal.

All of this good work is undone overnight as soon as a false accusation of a sexual nature has been made. This can also be true, of course, following a bogus claim of other forms of misconduct, including embezzlement, fraud or violence, but it needs to be recognised that alleged sexual offences are the crimen exceptum of our age: crimes considered so exceptionally terrible that the normal rules of evidence and justice need not be followed. This perverse doctrine was established during the Middle Ages when superstitious panics about witches led to appalling injustices, including torture and judicial murder following shockingly unfair show trials where the only ‘evidence’ was the demented or malicious ravings of the accusers.

Such medieval attitudes were revived during the so-called ‘satanic panics’ of the 1980s and 1990s, when reason seemed to go out of the window and mob rule – encouraged by the most irresponsible and sensationalist reporting by the media – led to literal 20th century witch hunts, under the banner of what is still called ‘satanic ritual abuse’. From there it was a short step to suspending rational investigation when it came to any accusation of sexual misconduct, especially if children (or adults claiming to have been sexually abused when they were minors) were involved.

The logical conclusion of all this nonsense was the idiotic dogma of ‘you will be believed’, promulgated, as mentioned above, by the then DPP Keir Starmer (now a Labour MP and shadow minister) and followed by the present incumbent of that office, Alison Saunders. Although this policy has now been utterly discredited, it remains to be seen how long it takes to filter down to police attitudes and practices at the front line.

Yet, in many cases, it doesn’t even require a prosecution to wreck the lives of innocent victims of false accusations. Reputations that have taken years to build up can be shattered in seconds by malicious gossip, especially when such allegations are broadcast via social media. One popular tweet on Twitter, or a post on Facebook, can incite mobs – both online and on the street – to target people who have never even been arrested or interviewed by the police, let alone charged or prosecuted.

Businesses, lives and careers can be destroyed overnight, professionals suspended pending further enquiries, homes targeted and families (including children of victims) bullied and intimidated. I have been dealing, in recent years, with a number of fathers who are not even allowed to live in the same house as their own children. Others are so afraid for their safety and that of loved ones that they have to flee their homes and go into hiding, or to seek refuge with friends’. And, on top of all this, the names of the accused can suddenly be ‘wiped out’: organisations and institutions that were once proud to be associated with him or her immediately drop the accused like the proverbial ‘hot potato’.

This is particularly noticeable when teachers have been accused of any form of misconduct: suspension from work is always immediate. And within a matter of days, or even hours, the very existence of such a person is often erased from websites and official records, as if they had never worked there. Even group photographs can be doctored to remove the pariah. It is strongly reminiscent of the concept of an ‘unperson’ during the Stalinist purges in the 1930s, when every trace of the accused person had to be removed until it seemed that he or she never even existed.

Since I was the victim of malicious false accusations in 2012, made by two vile lying fraudsters intent on cashing in on the institutional insurance gravy train, I have lost count of the number of social events and school functions – including colleagues’ retirement parties, school sports days and the like – to which I have not been invited, despite my 35 year career as, if I say so myself, a highly dedicated, hard working teacher. The fact that at trial I was acquitted in a few minutes by a unanimous jury counted for nothing. The damage was done by the mere existence of pretty absurd sexual allegations, regardless of the fact it was patently clear by the end of the trial that the pair of low lives who accused me had made the whole story up.

I say it again - why have they not been arrested? I had my life turned upside down on account of obvious lies: but when the truth emerged, nothing was done to the accusers and I am seemingly still persona non grata at the school where I worked for 30 years. How on earth does this stack up?

We live in an era of foolish credulity, despite our many technological and scientific advances. Nowadays, the surest way to destroy another human being is to smear him or her with a malicious false accusation, especially if it involves the sexual abuse of a child. Whispering (or tweeting) that someone is ‘a paedo’ is the modern equivalent of screaming ‘burn the witch’. And until liars, fraudsters and fantasists are held accountable for their evil actions, and are brought to justice, every single man, woman and child remains at risk from such false allegations and the perverted mentality of the mindless mob.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

An Appeal For Anonymity (update)

(This is an updated version of my blog post from April 2018)

Many people are today celebrating the fact that Sir Cliff Richard has won his 'violation of privacy' case against the BBC. He claimed its coverage of the South Yorkshire Police's raid on his Berkshire home in 2014 was both intrusive and disproportionate, violating his human right to privacy. The High Court agreed. The police raid had been prompted by an unsubstantiated claim by one individual of a sexual assault perpetrated by Sir Cliff in the mid-1980s. Inevitably, the publicity of the raid was devastating for the singer, who was never charged.

Sir Cliff Richard
This case is a stark reminder of the enormous power of the traditional media to damage irreparably the lives of individuals. In that one fell swoop, before anything had been proven, even before any arrest had been made, Sir Cliff's name and reputation were trashed throughout the globe, while the BBC was congratulating itself on a massive scoop. To hell with the man who had spent his adult life viewed as one of our national heroes. Here was a person with all the trappings of great success and yet (and I have met him) so grounded and so kind; some might argue an almost saintly character.

Indeed, because he was so famous and was viewed so highly by us all, the BBC thought they had the biggest story ever and they wanted to squeeze every last drop out of it. They must have been so excited to have such a high profile target at their mercy. What a scoop! Indeed, the BBC's obvious satisfaction of a job well done led to them to nominate the entire unsavoury episode for a television award.

But did anyone for a moment stop to think it was only an allegation which had been laid at Sir Cliff's door? Did it not occur to them that the allegation may not be true, in which case they'd be destroying the man himself and his highly respected name there and then, for evermore? Of course not. He'd been accused of sexual abuse, so he, like anyone else in this situation, was fair game. Only, because he was a national treasure, the story was even juicier.

It isn't just the BBC who are quick to ruin the reputation of someone accused of a sex abuse crime, it's a mindset which permeates the entire media. And not just the traditional media: nowadays anyone accused of a crime (merely accused), particularly involving alleged sex abuse, has to contend with the baying, untutored mob, those social justice warriors who trawl the net to find targets for their unfettered bile. No proof is required to start a storm, just an accusation.

Social media platforms, particularly Twitter and Facebook, are awash with vile smears and oft-repeated fantasies directed at innocent people. I know this because it happened to me as soon as I was arrested and interviewed in December 2012, as a result of some filthy lies which emanated from the mouth of some greedy, opportunistic lowlife who had never met me. Did the mob pause to allow justice to take its course? Of course not. Within a few days of my arrest, one pleasant individual posted the comment that if I killed myself, 'it'd be the best Christmas prezzie ever.' How charming.

After the jury in my eventual trial, 672 days later, returned immediately with a unanimous 'not guilty' verdict, another delightful man, who knew nothing of the case, apart from titbits of ill-informed internet gossip (and someone who had never met me), stated: 'Fuck that verdict, he's fucking guilty.'

Although it can be argued that the vast reach of social media can be empowering, as well as invaluable as a campaigning and marketing tool, it is also evident that terrible harm can be caused by the misuse of current communications technology.  None more so than the spreading of malicious falsehoods served up as proven facts by the agenda-driven, often ignorant, mob. This is why anonymity for those accused of a crime (particularly a sexual one) is so important in our modern society. This is why our laws surrounding publicity after arrest need updating.

Only the super-rich truly have the means to go into battle to protect their reputations in the civil courts, where costs can spiral into the hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds. Pretty much everyone else who becomes the victim of vile allegations online seems to have to ignore the character assassination as best they can. Sad to state (and I know this from first hand experience) some targets of the internet bullies and conspiracy theorists find the pressure – and its devastating consequences in daily life – simply unendurable and take their own lives. And still people argue against anonymity for those merely under investigation. Surely our laws surrounding publicity after arrest need updating.

While it is true that local communities have always been prone to the malignant mischief caused by neighbourhood gossips and fantasy peddlers, the internet has provided these poisonous, malicious types with a means of disseminating their bile and smears to a global audience. A blatant lie or untrue rumour which is posted online in, say, Sheffield can be relayed and rebroadcast from Stuttgart to Shanghai, via San Francisco and Seattle, within a matter of minutes. Someone under investigation for a crime is presumed guilty and this is inevitably relayed as a fact.

Even those defendants who are acquitted by a jury of alleged sexual assault now seem to be considered ‘fair game’ for a campaign of social media vilification, which can even spill over onto the streets. Some of these protests seem to have a lot in common with the mob raging at the foot of the guillotine during the worst excesses of the French Revolution. Justice no longer seems to matter as long as the enraged crowd outside the court gets the verdict it demands. And where the baying mob goes, the politicians tend to follow. After all, popularity for them is the chief driving force. This is why the politicians have been reluctant to review the laws surrounding publicity after arrest. They are, by and large, craven and, anyway, realise there are no votes in facing this glaring flaw in our present system.

And long after the trials are over and the judges and jurors have gone home, the fate of the acquitted is still being decided via the internet and the media: to suggest that anyone falsely accused of sexual assault will be able to carry on his or her life as an innocent citizen thereon in evokes an Alice in Wonderland world. Once an accused's name is published in the media in association with a sexual allegation, life as that person knew it is effectively over. Forever.

To exacerbate matters, apart from the obvious negative implications on future employment, online posts now seem to have a permanence that ensures spite, bile and lies will be accessible to all who care to type onto their keyboard that person’s name. This means that no matter how innocent a wrongly accused person has been proven to be in court, they are, in effect, permanently on trial online. The lies of the perjurers and fantasists are linked to their names in perpetuity. I am indelibly tied to the vile lies of the couple of chancers who made an allegation against me. And still many people argue against anonymity for those merely under investigation.

Often a decision not to prosecute or an acquittal by a jury is just a seemingly unimportant precursor to being hounded by the arrogance of some injustice collectors behaving like medieval despots. This is one of the reasons why the recent privacy case involving Google and the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ is so significant: surely a person who has never even been charged with a criminal offence, or who has been acquitted by a jury in a court of law in a matter of minutes, should not have to face a ‘kangaroo court’ of online social justice warriors, along with negative media coverage?

Would it surprise you to learn that when I was charged with the lies laid at my door in 2013, a certain national newspaper covered nearly a half a page informing its readers of my plight, yet, when I was acquitted a year subsequently, there was no mention at all of the verdict. Nothing. (How many pages in that newspaper would have been filled had I been found guilty?) And still many people argue against anonymity for those merely under investigation but not charged.

We need urgent legislation to restore anonymity to people who have not been charged with any offence. In addition, there is a very legitimate argument to be made for extending anonymity to those alleged to have committed certain crimes, particularly involving highly emotive sex abuse cases, until the point of conviction. Once an accused has been convicted, then the public will be made fully aware of the proven facts.

There used to be a saying: 'today's news is tomorrow's fish and chip wrapping paper.' This is no longer the case, as the internet now provides everyone with a permanent reminder of anyone who is even accused of a crime. Two hundred years ago criminals were branded on their foreheads; nowadays the search engines do the job, only you just need to be accused to be marked for life. Ask Sir Cliff!

Friday, 13 July 2018

Reputation Arsonists and Court Redress

A long hot British summer – as infrequent as these may be – is quite capable of bringing out the best (and worst) in some people. It is a chance to soak up the rays at the beach or in the local park. It is a chance, after months of cold winds and incessant rain, to enjoy sitting outside in the garden. On the other hand, some plants wilt, the grass turns brown, the tree leaves turn to crisps and, just as predictably, one or more criminally-minded arsonists will deliberately start fires, regardless of the risk to wildlife, property, livestock and, above all, fellow human beings.

As we watch television images of the wildfires consuming thousands of acres of Saddleworth Moor, police are investigating whether arson may have been involved. It is difficult for most of us to imagine the thought processes of the ignorant, reckless few who feel compelled to start these fires.

Some of these morons are innately cruel, while there are others who are believed by psychiatrists to get a form of sexual thrill from watching the world around them go up in smoke and flames (generally from a safe distance, of course). No doubt, if a fire-fighter or an innocent person or animal in the fire’s compass is killed or seriously injured, the conscience of the perpetrator won’t be much troubled.

Ask the general public their views and I’d be prepared to bet that 99.99% of those polled would condemn these twisted fire starters as coming from the bottom rung of civilised society and that they are deserving of exemplary punishment when (or if) apprehended. In fact, the criminal offence of arson is considered so serious that the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. I’m reliably informed that convicted arsonists are regarded within the prison system as being so dangerous that certain open prisons refuse to accept them owing to the potential risk they pose to life and property.

However, there is an equally serious form of fire starting that seems to be much less open to social condemnation, regardless of the devastation and human misery that it can cause: I believe I’ve even coined a phrase for it: ‘reputation arson’.

The ‘reputation arsonist’ sets out, often with malicious glee, to destroy the good name – and life – of his or her chosen victim (or victims). In the past this could be achieved only by spreading vicious, untrue gossip in the local neighbourhood. Occasionally, anonymous poison pen letters would have been written and distributed, but the reach was limited. Despite this, terrible damage could still be wrought.

Today, the effects are much worse due to social media platforms – and some elements of the traditional media – which are being misused to inflict far greater, lasting injury on victims. The most obscene, vile lies can be invented and passed on to an audience of thousands, or even millions, at the click of a mouse. Disgusting conspiracy theories can be propagated as ‘fact’, without a shred of truth or evidence, putting lives at risk. Yet, popular services such as Twitter and Facebook seem unable – or unwilling – to tackle the phenomenon of the ‘reputation arsonists’. And unlike the traditional poison pen letter, the most blatant lies can remain visible online forever.

These devious, malicious ‘reputation arsonists’ light a fake fire under an innocent person and subsequently smear that target by claiming, “There’s no smoke without fire.” In common with the reckless arsonist who sets fires with matches or lighters, these amoral, cruel individuals who target others with their filthy lies and distortions seem to get some kind of perverted thrill out of the destruction of their targets. They revel in watching that person’s life’s work and reputation burn to ashes in public, egged on by a ragbag of nasty cheerleaders, who race to join the online assault.

In many cases, members of these unholy alliances have never met the intended victim. In the case of celebrities or people in public life, they may have seen them on television or read about them online or in the press, but their personal knowledge of the individual and of his or her family is likely to be zero. Yet the 'reputation arsonists' are more than happy to throw around terms of abuse such as ‘nonce’, ‘paedo’, ‘pervert’, ‘rapist’ and worse. Their only aim is to cause hurt, personal injury and the maximum reputational damage.

Very few of these twisted characters are ever brought to justice. They rely on the fact that most of their victims will not take civil action for defamation owing to the prohibitive cost of seeking redress in the High Court, which can easily run to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Everyone knows that libel proceedings are a game for only the very wealthy. Yet, why should only the super-rich and famous be able to defend their reputations from vile, unscrupulous liars, greedy fraudsters, sexual fantasists and twisted, obsessive slanderers? Surely everyone, no matter how ‘ordinary’, is entitled to enjoy his or her good name and reputation, unless proven otherwise in a court of law?

So here is an idea: perhaps we’d benefit from the equivalent of the Small Claims Court to deal with defamers: the burden of proof would be on those publishing or promoting these allegations to prove to a civil standard that what they have published is fact or fair comment.

I’m sure the prospect of having to stand up in public and explain to a judge on what basis they have published such vile accusations would concentrate their (usually limited) minds wonderfully. “And what evidence do you have that this could be true?” the judge might enquire.

Repeating some libellous drivel they’ve picked up from some online forum or twitter exchange or lies they've read on some anonymous conspiracy-loon website really won’t convince a civil court that there is a scintilla of truth in the smears they have been peddling. Like most untutored bullies, they will doubtless crack under the slightest pressure to prove that what they have written is actually true (pay attention the vile troll, who’s never met me, but who posted the charming assertion: ‘What the fuck? He’s fucking guilty!’ shortly after a unanimous jury had acquitted me in a matter of minutes at the conclusion of my farcical trial in 2014).

Damages could be capped at a maximum of £10,000 (as in the existing Small Claims Court). This would be sufficient in most cases to discourage social media trolls & reputation destroyers from posting any old vile rubbish they can think up. It would be vital to keep any legal costs to a minimum, so the multitude of non-celebrities who are targeted can seek justice.

And if judgement is given against the defamer and an appropriate award made by a judge, then let the High Court bailiffs loose with warrants to execute. The prospect of having a pair of burly, unsmiling court officers turning up on the doorstep with a hefty bill and the legal power to seize goods, and even property, might serve as a genuine deterrent to any twisted ‘reputation arsonist’ who is tempted to spread smears and lies.

The message needs to go out that online targeting of innocent individuals and the spreading of malicious allegations and lies is never a ‘victimless’ crime. Social media mobbing and twisted ‘reputation arsonists’ wreck human lives and I know from first-hand experience can even lead to suicide. Whole families, including young children, can have their lives devastated by these vicious libel peddlers.

We often hear politicians and campaigners talking in the national media about cleaning up the internet, cracking down on bullies and generally making it a safer place. If we really are serious, then notorious libellers and persistent ‘reputation arsonists’ need to be made accountable for their crimes. Let’s make them think twice before they light the next fire under an innocent victim.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

“Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards…”

Just when it seemed as though public attitudes might just be changing towards sexual allegations, following the supposed abandoning of the ludicrous ‘you will be believed’ dogma, along comes another example of unthinking ideologically-inspired nonsense peddled by a senior public official. This time it’s the so-called ‘Victims’ Commissioner’, Baroness Helen Newlove.

Baroness Newlove, Victims' Commissioner
On her official Twitter account, the Baroness – or possibly one of her flunkies – has recently posted the following politically-correct twaddle, masquerading as concern for the amorphous mass known collectively as ‘victims’:

I strongly disagree with judges who demand that rape victims are referred to as complainants. A victim is a victim from the moment the crime is committed. They deserve to be treated with respect, sensitivity & feel that their pain is acknowledged. To do otherwise is a backward step. 

The Baroness obviously takes the view that everyone who claims to have been raped (or otherwise sexually assaulted) is telling the truth. She doesn’t seem to believe that any sane person is capable of lying about having been abused, which strikes me as naivety in the extreme.

As we have seen in a series of recent scandals over disclosure (in other words ignoring or withholding of evidence by police), the key issue is often whether any ‘crime’ has even been committed in the first place, or whether it merely exists in the imagination of a chancer or fantasist; the tall tale made up in a bid for revenge, or is solely a disgraceful lie emanating from the mouth of a compensation-hungry fraudster. Has it not occurred to Helen Newlove that liars, fantasists and fraudsters exist?

I put it to her in the strongest possible terms that they do and, wherever these people rear their ugly heads, it is the accused and his or her family who are the victims. Is she really advocating that we lurch back to the ‘you will be believed’ school of nonsense?

I find it extremely concerning that this very poor example of a palpably fallacious argument is being advanced by a well-paid public official, who also has a seat in Parliament: since 2010 she has been a member of the House of Lords.

Of course, no-one is suggesting that people who complain that they have been a victim of a serious crime should be treated with anything other than professionalism, kindness and respect by the police, prosecutors and court officials. However, prejudging the outcome of a contested trial by confirming ahead of a jury’s deliberations that a crime has indeed been committed is, in my view, a very backward step indeed, and one that is grossly unfair and totally unjust to any defendant.

What is the next step along this particular road to judicial hell? Judges and prosecution barristers referring to the ‘as yet unconvicted rapist in the dock’ rather than ‘the defendant’? Then, any pretence of a presumption of innocence in sexual trials would really be dead and buried.

It seems that the whole institution of the ‘Victims’ Commissioner’ is another of those ludicrous and expensive quangos established by the last Labour government and indulged by successive administrations. It seems that Baroness Newlove has no particular qualifications, nor expertise in criminal justice, beyond having been herself a victim of a particularly horrific crime when her husband, Garry, was murdered by drunken thugs in 2007. While having every sympathy for her loss, it does seem a strange criterion upon which to justify making a senior public appointment. And this is where the problem seems to lie: we are expecting someone with no legal background nor qualifications to act as a public watchdog and advocate.

The baroness’s ridiculous tweet reminds me of the famous court scene in Alice in Wonderland:

'No, no!', said the Queen. 'Sentence first—verdict afterwards.'
'Stuff and nonsense!', said Alice loudly. 'The idea of having the sentence first!'
'Hold your tongue!', said the Queen, turning purple.
'I won't!', said Alice.
Off with her head!', the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.

And yet, here in Baroness Newlove, we have the modern equivalent of the purple-faced Queen of Hearts, advocating that we should turn our justice system on its head solely to recognise the pain felt by ‘victims’… Baroness, some of your so-called ‘victims’ will be liars, fraudsters or fantasists, of this you can be sure.

Fortunately, despite her very grand sounding title and generous salary, Helen Newlove has no actual power over the courts. It can only be hoped that judges and sensible politicians will continue to ignore her dangerous, misguided, unqualified opinions.

In theory, at least, the office of the Victims’ Commissioner is supposed to offer:

Inclusivity representing all victims and witnesses, including the most vulnerable members of our community.

Yet, when it comes to the actual definition of what constitutes a ‘victim’, things become much more hazy. It appears that only certain victims actually qualify for such support and representation. For example, I have yet to hear the taxpayer-funded Victims’ Commissioner say one single word about victims of miscarriages of justice or those whose lives and families have been, and continue to be, destroyed by malicious, false accusations, propounded by the plethora of greedy, selfish, heartless liars. Employing a victims’ champion who only represents certain types of victim, while ignoring others, seems to me to be a very poor way of spending public money. What kind of message is this sending?

Are those who have had their life utterly destroyed by these malignant liars and fraudsters, Baroness, the wrong sort of victims?