After yet another high-profile case is lost by the CPS, this time in the trial of William Roache, it is time to reintroduce anonymity for defendants accused of sexual abuse or rape.
At the very mention of the subject, women’s groups, child protection “experts”, the (some would say rather unreliable) NSPCC and other so-called ‘charities’ all inevitably and immediately scream, “No! No! No!”, well aware that if such anonymity were in fact granted to defendants, many of these organisations and individuals would soon become redundant.
TheOpinionSite.org has for some years now been making the point that for the term ‘justice’ to mean anything of value, both sides in the adversarial arena must have ‘equality of arms’; indeed, such a principle is at the very heart of the British Criminal Justice System and has been since Magna Carta in 1215 and the Bill of Rights in 1689.
To be clear, this fundamental principal does not mean ‘limited equality of arms’.
For example, if the Crown Prosecution Service engage a QC to present their case, the Defence will also be entitled to a QC, even at public expense if necessary.
If expert witnesses are called by one side, the other may also do so.
So, if the accuser in the case – for there is no ‘victim’ until something has been proven – is entitled to anonymity, how can the defendant possibly be denied the same protection?
After all, both sides must be equal.
Let us, for the purposes of this article at least, ignore the views of the seemingly fanatical prosecutor for the North West, Nazir Afzal and the undoubtedly biased, former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), now ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer.
In our view, the opinions of neither man can be trusted as Afzal has openly stated that bringing more sex abuse cases to court is “a growing industry” and Starmer now works for the Labour Party as some kind of “victims’ rights advisor”, whatever that is.
No doubt Mr Starmer is lining himself up to be the next head of the NSPCC and Mr Afzal thinks that one day he might become DPP; so let us forget about both of them despite the fact that they have both been defensively vocal recently.
Anonymity for Defendants
Accusing someone of sexual assault, child abuse or rape is the perfect blunt instrument, particularly as everyone who makes such an accusation in today’s Britain is now automatically a ‘brave victim’ whether they are telling the truth or not.
As a result of a consistent drive by MPs to erode the rights of defendants, the accuser now hides behind an impenetrable screen of anonymity whilst the accused has his name plastered all over the media and his life is completely ruined; whether he is eventually proved guilty or not.
For precisely the reasons outlined above, anonymity was in fact granted to rape defendants under the 1976 Sexual Offences Act, but was removed in 1988 following political pressure from women’s groups and other campaigners and charities.
The argument put forward by charities and women’s campaigners as to why defendants in rape and sexual assault cases should not have the same anonymity as accusers is that if defendants had anonymity, other “brave victims” would not come forward, especially in historic cases.
Their argument goes on that despite all these people have, apparently without exception, had their lives ‘destroyed’, they still don’t want to tell anyone about what happened…
…unless of course others do so as well – always safe in the knowledge that they can make whatever allegations they like because no one will ever know who they are, regardless of the outcome of any trial.
Naturally, the CPS and police make the same argument as both organisations know full well that the more accusers there are, regardless of the standard of evidence, the greater the chances of conviction.
This is one reason why the police are always appealing from the steps of the court for anyone who feels they are a “victim” to come forward.
In fact, the CPS and police go one step further and state that anyone who does in fact come forward “will be believed” – even before the facts of any accusation have been investigated.
By definition therefore, in the view of the CPS and police, the accused is automatically assumed to be guilty.
To most juries (and policemen for that matter), if enough people say the same or similar things, then ‘it must be true’.
In the report by the police and the NSPCC on Jimmy Savile, there is no real evidence at all; just a long list of accusations – many of which have an uncanny resemblance to those accounts already published in the tabloids and other media.
The man in charge, Cmdr Peter Spindler – who mysteriously quit when the criticism started – also said, “If so many people are saying the same thing, it must be true.”
The view of the CPS and police therefore is only too clear: the accused is always guilty.
The charities and women’s groups deny any possibility that people may make false accusations or be out to make money from compensation or press coverage.
According to these organisations and like-minded individuals, women never lie.
TheOpinionSite.org would point out that in the Roache trial, the judge had to order the acquittal of Mr Roache on one count because the woman’s evidence kept changing and at one point she even admitted that she ‘had no memory of the offence taking place’, contrary to her statement to the police.
She has not however been prosecuted for Perjury or Perverting the Course of Justice.
The fact that the trial has cost Mr Roache hundreds of thousands of pounds that he cannot reclaim, cost the tax payer nearly half a million pounds, dragged an 81 year old man through the courts and possibly done his health irreparable harm does not worry these accusers.
However, given that most of the accusers in the Roache case only came forward after the publicity following Mr Roache’s arrest and charge for rape (of which he was found to be not guilty), it is quite probable that had he been given the anonymity enjoyed by his accusers, most of these discredited women would not have tried their luck in the first place.
The CPS argue that they will only bring a case if “there is a real prospect of conviction.”; not usually a difficult thing to achieve in these cases if, as they do, most jury members have children and if all the alleged victims in the case are (or were) children at the time of the alleged offences.
This defensive argument from the CPS ignores however the fact that the test for the jury is completely different.
Juries are only supposed to convict if they are “sure beyond reasonable doubt” that the defendant is guilty of the offence(s).
Both these tests however ignore the most fallible element of all in a criminal trial: the emotions of the jurors.
TheOpinionSite.org believes that today’s, feminist-fearing MPs will never support the idea of anonymity for defendants.
Weak MPs generally argue that one should not distinguish between sexual offences and other types of offence – even though they have been doing that for the last 20 years for purely political gain.
There is not a single MP currently in the House of Commons who has ever voted against even a single measure brought in against sex offenders; even though similar measures have not (and will not) be introduced for armed robbers, those convicted of appalling violence, murderers or convicted drug-dealers.
Therefore, the distinction between types of offence already exists and was created by the MPs themselves, largely in response to the campaigning of women’s groups and the child protection industry.
In the case of another acquitted Coronation street actor, Andrew Lancel who was accused of abusing an underage boy, the trial judge, Clement Goldstone QC, speaking to the defendant’s barrister, Andrew Menary QC, said:
“The defendant was acquitted on the evidence, and rightly so, but it is important that the complainant who is clearly scarred by an experience, should understand that the jury verdicts do not necessarily involve rejection of his account of a sexual encounter or encounters with the defendant.
“It is a statement that the prosecution have failed to make the jury sure that abuse of the type alleged occurred during the period covered by the indictment and in particular before the complainant’s 16th birthday, now more than 18 years ago.”
Whilst this may bring some satisfaction to the accuser – even if he was lying – it does not mitigate the fact that Lancel was subjected to a process of media trial and accusation; something that accusers in sex abuse cases never have to endure.
TheOpinionSite.org dares to suggest – no doubt to howls of anguish from those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo – that if accusers did not have the shield of anonymity that they currently enjoy, they would have to produce real evidence to support their allegations AND bring the complaint forward in a reasonable time.
The obvious answer to this conflict of interests therefore is to give neither side anonymity – although as a result, the number of “brave victims” coming forward is likely to diminish and a number of child protection ‘experts’ and charities, women’s groups and child protection training companies will likely go out of business.
So would a few lawyers.
The other way of solving the problem is to do what every other civilized government in the Western world – even the US and some parts of Australia – have already done:
The British government should introduce a Statute of Limitations on sexual abuse allegations, be that limitation 10 or even as long as 30 years.
Whilst TheOpinionSite.org concedes that children often find it difficult to make complaints of abuse and inappropriate behaviour at the time it allegedly occurs, they have no excuse whatsoever for not making that complaint within say ten years of their 18th birthday when they are adults.
This is the case in France and many other EU states and countries elsewhere.
It is a system that works well and which gives redress to those who have genuine complaints, limits the attraction of compensation (which is graduated by the length of time it takes for the individual to come forward) and – most importantly of all – protects individuals from being convicted on the basis of memories from long ago which may or may not be accurate.
This has to be more satisfactory than the CPS and the police bringing cases based on the number of people making accusations and the assistance of a totally biased media that simply wants to sell newspapers or advertising.
Whether it be the equalising of anonymity for both defendant and accuser or the introduction of a Statute of Limitations, the British government must introduce one or the other; even if that is unpopular with certain sections of society.
Not to do so will leave the British justice system as it is now; completely discredited, laughably ineffective and utterly untrustworthy.
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