Submitted by Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers (FACT) (CA 81)
Do police methods of "trawling" for evidence involve a disproportionate use of resources and produce unreliable evidence for prosecution?
Comment: Authorities should divulge actual costs in relation to successful and unsuccessful convictions. Arguments against trawling are well rehearsed. Whilst acknowledging problems for police investigating historical abuse allegations, the bait of monetary (and other) compensation exposes the method to criticism.
Is the Crown Prosecution Service drawing a sensible line about which cases should be Prosecuted?
Comment: The Crown Prosecution Service should reveal number of cases which fail because of abuse of process argument or similar. It seems that judges are unwilling to proceed in an increasing number of cases. It is suspected that the primary purpose of the CPS (ie to monitor the number of proposed court actions independent of the police) because of the hysteria surrounding paedophilia, has metamorphosed into a working (and therefore prejudiced) partnership.
Should there be a time limitin terms of a number of years since the alleged offence took placeon prosecution of cases of child abuse?
Comment: Since the 1989 Children Act, children and adults who allege historical abuse, together with children who allege current abuse, are being believed; an important and necessary development, since before that they were often disbelieved and the matter was covered up. Thus, since 1989, complainants have had a considerable time in which to make their allegations of historical abuse. There will of course be those who, for various reasons, have been unwilling or unable to make their complaint but, for the majority of genuine victims, the climate has been one of unconditional belief for more than 10 years.
This unconditional belief, in itself, causes problems in that it can lead to assumption of guilt by investigating officers and the reverse of the cherished principle "innocent until proved guilty".
In short, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Far better would be a response which does not disbelieve the complainant, but which gives the investigating authorities an opportunity to be as objective as possible.
There should be a general time limit, a specified number of yearsbut an opportunity to lift this in exceptional circumstances following an independent review. The age of the complainant, in relation to the age when allegedly abused, is relevant.
Is there a risk that the advertisement of prospective awards of compensation in cases of Child abuse encourages people to come forward with fabricated allegations?
Comment: Any advertisement of prospective financial compensation is a dangerous risk and opens the investigation to considerable criticism. Far better a system which provides specific compensation. Thus, a victim may need counselling or other professional help. There may be other ways in which financial help can be given, perhaps to help overcome drug or alcohol abuse, or to help in re-training, or in some way boosting self-esteem. The practice of awarding large sums of money without regard to the opportunity to give positive (and controlled) help can lead to the dishonest or unscrupulous seeing an allegation as an easy way to fund, for example, a drug habit.
In cases of genuine abuse, the victim should gain satisfaction that justice has been done.
That, and professional help, would go a long way towards healing the hurt.
Is there a weakness in the current law on "similar fact" evidence?
Comment: "Similar Fact Evidence" is the goal of the investigating police authority, the fear of the genuine abuser and the scourge of the falsely accused, since few juries will acquit when faced with similar fact evidence.
In the case of false allegations, the resultpossiblyof trawling and opportunities for compensation (the police do not have to mention compensation these days); the fact that allegations come from particular care homes, that the complainants are of a certain age, that the alleged abuse takes place in clandestine places and that the types of abuse are fairly limited in variety (the worse the abuse, the greater the award), reveal collusion to the falsely accused but confirmation of guilt to a bemused jury.
SPECIFIC SUGGESTIONS UNDER THREE HEADINGS
(a) Anonymity for the accused until conviction
Too often the accused's name is publicised before arrest and charge and without knowing his complainant's name (who continues to enjoy anonymity), or the details of the alleged abuse. This is contrary to natural justice and a charter for anyone with a grudge of greed. The result is a devastating punishment for the "crime" of being accused.
Allegations of historical abuse must nearly always come from adults. Once they know they are being believed they should be prepared to make their allegations before a magistrate. They would be represented by a solicitor. The accused would also attend the hearing (with his solicitor). The police, Social Services and any interested parties (chairs of trusts or school governors) would also be represented. This would give the accused an opportunity to respond to the allegation (he has no opportunityapart from the police interviewuntil the case reaches court, sometimes after several years.
The accuser would then be made accountable for what he alleges. The investigating authoritiespolice and social servicesshould then make all the details of their investigations accessible to the accused and his lawyers.
Accessibility to those above-mentioned details of the investigation would prevent the current practice of drip-feeding information and delaying other arrests and charges within the police operation. There are cases where the accused has only discovered that his complainant has made allegations against colleagues many months later.
The hearing would thus establish whether it is reasonable to proceed with the investigation. Vast expense can be avoided and the irreversible juggernaut prevented from rolling forward on its uncontrolled and destructive journey, crushing the innocent as well as the guilty in its wake, and destroying the lives of too many.
Once the juggernaut rolls, all become victims of a system that makes true justice an impossibility.
TWO FURTHER SUGGESTIONS
(a) Video recording of all police interviews.
(b) A review of the Sex Offenders Register, which fails to make proper distinction between those who are a genuine risk to children and those who are not.