Friday, 21 October 2016

Accusations and Anonymity

Being falsely accused of child abuse is catastrophic for the person targeted. I had my life as I knew it destroyed by an unadulterated liar who just happened to be a pupil in a school where I briefly taught over 30 years ago. His despicable allegations were the first thing I thought about when I woke up in the morning and the last thing on my mind at night before I, eventually, fell asleep (when I was able to do so). The whole experience was tortuous.

I spent 672 days on bail, in the glare of maximum publicity, during which time I had to suffer disgusting insults in the street and from the untutored internet mob, who regard any sexual abuse allegations as proof of guilt. During this time my name and photograph were repeatedly published in the press and on the internet. After a nigh on two-year nightmare, my accuser's allegations were dismissed by a jury within a half an hour and he was allowed to crawl back with his lies whence he came, cloaked in anonymity.

Two years on, he has still not been called to justice while I, the innocent party, am inextricably manacled to his disgraceful lies via the search engines and will be until the day I die. And some people think this publicity is a price worth paying to give confidence to 'survivors' to come forward.

Many who are the target of a child abuse allegation commit suicide under the strain of public humiliation. This is precisely what happened to a teacher from the same school where I was teaching who was arrested months before me. He was never tried in a court of law but he was unable to deal with the public scandal of being charged with child abuse. I certainly felt suicidal on occasions during my time on bail, as my family name was repeatedly dragged through the mud. And some people think this is a price worth paying to give confidence to 'survivors' to come forward.

It is almost impossible to convey the deep feelings of humiliation and depression you feel when reading press reports of what you are alleged to have done. One national newspaper produced a comprehensive report of my being charged with historical child abuse but failed to mention the case at all when I was cleared. The reason is, of course, scandals involving teachers and sex abuse and children sell thousands of extra copies, while a story about a teacher being cleared is lame by comparison. But there are those who accept this as an unfortunate casualty of their determination to have all accused's names publicised far and wide in order to give confidence to those who have, or claim to have, been abused to come forward.

Surely in the febrile atmosphere which permeates this country following Savile's death, most people are aware they will be listened to sympathetically if they make a complaint. After all, the previous Director of Public Prosecutions, Kier Starmer, announced publicly that all 'victims (sic) will be believed'. Why, then, is it necessary to publicise the names of those accused? That person's name will eventually come out when he or she has been found guilty in a court of law. Are we prepared to ruin innocent people's lives to give succour to all complainants? What about the rights of innocent people like me? Do the 'survivor groups' care about our unjust treatment? Or is this a price worth paying in the grand scheme of things?

I have heard it said that the number of false allegations pales into insignificance when compared to real abuse cases. How do we know this when the police rarely prosecute false complainants? After all, the opportunist who accused me has never been brought to justice. Of course he hasn't because he was supported and even encouraged by the police throughout what passed as their 'investigation' of my case. It would compromise their own position now to turn against him. And I can't believe my case is an exception.

I had a mountain to climb: it was I on my own versus the generous resources of the State, and that struggle was exacerbated ten fold by the repeated publication of my name on television, radio, the net and in the press. Is this just unfortunate collateral damage of the publication of suspects' names?

The police are all for the immediate disclosure of a suspect's name because they can then set about their trawling for more complainants. They realise that, where child sex abuse is concerned, no proof will be required to secure a conviction if they can encourage others to come forward to tell a similar story. They are quite correct in thinking that five or six unsatisfactory allegations often add up to one satisfactory whole. What's more, these allegations are treated as though they are spontaneous but, of course, they are usually anything but. Juries are then left to separate those who are telling the truth from those despicable opportunists who want to get their dishonest hands on a wad of cash and even enjoy a bit of attention to boot.

These liars think that if a suspect has been accused by somebody else, they themselves are on pretty safe ground making their own allegation. They'll keep their anonymity if the accused is exonerated and might even cash in with press interviews if the suspect is found guilty. There's nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

No one accused of sexual abuse, which carries with it such a stigma in our society, should have his or her name made public until that person is at least charged with an offence, although there are those (me included) who feel someone should keep anonymity until a guilty verdict is announced in a court.

Simon Warr, author of 'Presumed Guilty', published by Biteback on January 10th 2017.

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