Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill

Memorandum submitted by The False Allegations Support Organisation (UK) (FASO UK) (LA 114)

Introduction

1. FASO (UK) The False Allegations Support Organisation (UK) is a voluntary organisation dedicated to providing support to anyone affected by a false allegation of abuse. FASO is a refuge for the innocent not a haven for those in denial.

2. The organisation (10 years old in 2011) is run by a small band of dedicated volunteers who empower individuals (either in prison or the community) to move forward by providing factual information by e-mail, leaflets through both the postal system, e-mail and by emotional support on the FASO Helpline 0844 35 1992 which is open Mon to Fri 6pm to 10pm.

3. We also provide the name of solicitors given to us by those who have recommended and used them as they are strong in fighting issues of false allegations of abuse.

4. The following information is based on our 10 years of experience in the requests we receive for support to those falsely accused and continuing to maintain their innocence of sexual abuse of any kind/rape and child protection issues.

Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (HC Bill 205)

Legal aid

5. Those who are accused are put at an immediate disadvantage due to the lack of Legal aid funds to investigate their case by prominent solicitors/barristers, and being able to call specialists if necessary, whilst those who accuse have access to unlimited funds from the state.

Litigation funding and costs

6. As the accused has to rely on legal aid funding or pay toward their legal aid costs when their finances are being drained away because of the breakdown of the family life and/or the breakdown of the family unit, mental health strains, they also have to rely that their lawyers/barristers to carry out a strong defence of their case (which has to be paid back) on limited legal aid funding. The ‘justice system’ is seen as having no equality of arms, where, in fact, one has to prove ones innocence, and often creates miscarriages of justice.

7. The accuser has all the support and (the state) an unending supply of finances to fund their legal team.

Sentencing

8. A jury arriving at a wrong verdict is not recognised in the UK courts, so that an individual, who maintains his innocence throughout, is not recognised by the judiciary, prison and parole system whilst they maintain their innocence. The comments made, follow the ‘guilty’ person through his sentencing, prison and life there-after is to the detriment of the individual.

Bail

9. Bail is often given pre and post charge until the trial. Family restrictions are often imposed dependant on the sex crime and whether the accused has a young family. Often the bail conditions are draconian as pre-trial one is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty – but sadly that is not the case in any sex allegations, as both the government and judiciary know.

Remand and release of licence

10. Those accused of rape/sex offences can be remanded for ‘no reason’ which is written in the statute books.

11. Part of releasing on licence conditions are that no unreasonable condition can be placed on the freed offender, which in the FASO case is attending the sex offenders’ programme. As they are not allowed by prison rules to attend the sex offenders’ course throughout their stay in prison, whilst continuing to apply for appeals. On release and on licence, the offenders are often returned to prison, as they cannot attend the probation sex offender’s programme. Probation and the prison authorities have conflicting rules.

Prisoners’ pay and Employment

12. Prisoners do not receive adequate information on resettlement despite their being an organisation NACRO etc to support them.

13. Many have no idea what to do when released there is no adequate state money to resettle them. They are expected to leave prison find their way to either a home or hostel, often alone, where they are still under strict supervision and without personal funds, whilst having been confined for many years.

14. There are no funds for personal necesaties – their income support is not available to them immediately. They are often presented with challenges in attending designated places to sign on, Doctors surgeries, and there is no hope for jobs

15. For those on the sex register there is no life, they cannot work in most areas, they are not allowed to see their families, or if families have broken down are not allowed to form new relationships with those who have children under 18. They are isolated.

16. Those released are often returned to prison on pretexts of breaking their bail conditions – one of these reasons is that they continue to maintain their innocence and cannot do the Sex Offenders Programme.

Out of court disposals and knives

17. Sorry don’t know what this means as only a voluntary organisation.

Summary

18. FASO has 10 years’ experience in speaking with those who maintain they are falsely accused. The pattern is usual where the CPS directions for prosecuting cases of rape (which is the same method for all sex allegations) are one sided, as FASO reported to the CPS, Stern committee and other consultations over the past few years. Thorough investigations are not carried out, the legal aid system is top heavy in giving the open funding to prosecute cases of abuse/rape (with none having to be repaid by the accuser) whilst the accused relies on a limited legal aid funding (of which some has to be repaid) this affects the chances of strong legal actions being taken on their behalf.

19. Often juries are perverse in making decisions often aided by media attention pre and during trial. Having been found guilty, the facts are placed on file and probation have short interviews with the convicted and as maintaining innocence is not recognised a bias report is written. This follows the convicted through the system. It is compounded by the fact the convicted cannot attend the Sex offenders Programme (as stated by the prison system) as they are maintaining innocence.

20. The convicted are penalised in all life within the prison, and often treated inappropriately by staff and Probation, and factual and complaint records are not accurately kept. They often have to serve greater sentences, because of the crime and having finally won their release are often recalled because they still cannot do their sex offenders programme.

21. The stress of endeavouring to obtain solicitors to raise their appeals and the work that has to go into that causes extra stress on the prisoner and families who support them. Even more so, when the family has broken down and access to children is not allowed in the controlled visiting areas of prison or on release.

22. Until there is in place a robust and equitable system of investigation into the sex crimes, miscarriage of justice will always occur because the evidence that could be obtained has not due to lack of funding and an ability to make a strong case. There is great difference between the outcomes of a celebrity being accused because of the money spent on legal teams and the fact their careers have had so much spent on them and Mr Jo average.

23. Rumour and inefficient, inadequate recording of correct information in written reports and statistics will always pave the way to Miscarriages of justice. That from the moment a person has been accused of sex allegations of any kind their life and their family life is over in every respect, even though they continue to obtain an appeal.

October 2011

Prepared 19th October 2011