Sunday, February 12, 2012
Sex offenders are never a popular group or a popular cause. That invariably some people convicted of sex offences are actually innocent is not a thought that troubles the common consciousness. Just as well, if you need a good night’s sleep.
Imagine, if you can, standing in the dock. Two women, or men, stand in the witness box and claim that you sexually assaulted them twenty years ago. That is the totality of the evidence against you. Do you feel confident about your innocence being vindicated?
Don't be. There was a sensible evidentiary rule that used to lead to the judge in such cases giving the jury warning to the effect that accusations uncorroborated by any other evidence must be treated with special caution. That rule has been abolished. The fact that such an old accusation is impossible to defend yourself against is not an issue that troubles anyone's mind.
And don't imagine that you have any right to challenge your accusers. In sex cases, that right has been swept away on the basis that an abuser questioning a victim is only adding to the trauma. Of course, that is to assume that the accused is actually guilty from the beginning, a conceptual insult to the presumption of innocence that no one has bothered to question.
You may wonder why a number, say three, people would all stand together and accuse a man of a crime that they know he did not commit? If you had ever been involved in a police trawl you would know.
I spent a couple of years in care before being upgraded to prisoner status. And a lot of police forces expend an awful lot of time and money trawling around children's homes looking for abuse. Bear in mind that these investigations are not prompted by any accusations, they are sheer speculative trawls on the part of the police.
Which is how I once came to be facing two detectives, oozing sympathy and asking if I had been abused whilst in care or knew anyone who had. That's two definite No's. And that is where the extremely clever tactics involved in these trawls begin to be deployed.
It was suggested, they say, that a Mr X had been an abuser. And they had a number of other prisoners who had been in care at the time now making accusations.
I had to pause. If other people are saying this guy was a nonce then maybe he was? And it is at that precise point that the police hint about future prospects - a conviction against this man would open the door to a certain claim of negligence against his employers. Lots of moolah.
To a prisoner with no money and no prospects, the idea of lying to help convict a man they believe is a nonce is not a complex moral issue. Just sign here...Which is what I did. Firmly convinced that Mr X was guilty, I would have had no qualms about pointing the finger myself to add my snout to the compensation trough.
That was until I met his accusers. They were quite open with me, happily admitting that they knew he wasn't guilty but they wanted the money. The police had played the same game with them all - claiming that others were pointing the finger at Mr X and then dangling the idea of compensation.
Mr X, a real man, was sent to prison to serve over ten years. For a crime he did not commit. When I realised the situation I wrote to his solicitors and told them what I knew about the falsity of the claims against him, and my aborted part.
This was a low point for me, being manipulated by the police. I will forever be available to Mr X to call upon to proclaim his certain innocence.
This, folks, is how you can end up in the dock with a group of people accusing you of a crime they know that you did not commit. Still feel confident about our criminal justice system?
Labels: criminal justice