Submitted by the Reverend Pamela M Stevenson (CA 10)
I am delighted and relieved that at last this matter is being brought into the parliamentary arena, and that an enquiry is taking place into false allegations of abuse and its ramifications.
No one could be more aware of the scandal of child abuse, having worked in child care professionally for nearly 40 years for a large voluntary child care organisation. Nevertheless, through my own experience of witnessing a close relative being subjected to what I have absolutely no doubt were false allegations of abuse in a residential establishment over 30 years ago, I am totally convinced that he and many others have experienced a grave miscarriage of justice. I earnestly hope that in due course, justice may be achieved for him and for many others, following the outcome of your enquiries. I would like to make the following comments:
The fact of police seeking evidence through advertising, rather than responding to complaints made, I feel, invites false allegations from people who may feel they have a grudge against authority, because of their time in care. This method assumes guilt and then tries to establish evidence, which is contrary to usual police procedure. In the case with which I am involved, there were no spontaneous complaints, just a few responses to the media announcement and the majority were following a police call.
2. TIME LIMITS
It is of course possible that someone abused over 30 years ago has not had the opportunity to tell anyone about this, until approached by the police, but the fact that they have not done so is very suspicious, especially as the men in this case, all had had periods in care and in prison, and would have had ample opportunity to talk to someone. The fact that they did not do so, until the "trawling," is I believe a good indication that the allegations made were entirely fabricated.
The large amounts of compensation on offer from the CIB and local authority insurers, is I believe a strong invitation for false allegations to be made. In our case, there was evidence at the trial of at least three claims for compensation being submitted in anticipation of a finding of guilt.
4. SIMILAR FACT EVIDENCE
Instead of normal corroboration, the rules of court allow similar allegations to corroborate one another. The similarity required in my relative's case amounted to well-known instances when it was known he was alone with boys (as carers were required to be on many occasions 30 years ago). Consequently, it would seem that carers and teachers who gave the most time and were the most committed to their young charges, are the most vulnerable to false allegations.
I sincerely believe that the large numbers of (mainly) men who are being convicted of historic abuse, would indicate that our justice system urgently needs to investigate the methods used and to establish adequate safeguards. Over and above this, I hope too that the Committee will not only make recommendations for future practice, but will also look into retrospective convictions, and where appropriate, ensure that many of these are overturned.