Saturday, May 18, 2013

Daniel and the Lion's Den


I seem to spend an improbable amount of time on trains. Mostly to and from the Westcountry and Paddington, on which station I am now an expert. If you need to find a free loo or handy powersocket, I'm yer man.

Today – a rare weekend excursion – I'm off to points Northwards to the www.FACTuk.org conference. This is behind closed doors and in an undisclosed location for the obvious reasons – FACT do the excellent if unpopular work of campaigning around false accusations of abuse. My attendance as a speaker is likely to be somewhat more awkward than my usual talks, as I am attending solely to explain how and why it was I came to make a false allegation myself some 15 years ago. Once I knew the guy was actually innocent, I withdrew my claim and have banged the drum for his innocence and against the police trawling process in such cases. Nevertheless, on the lies of others – cleverly manipulated by the police – the guy was convicted and served 12 years in prison. For crimes he did not commit I expect some harsh quesioning....but it is only fair I take it and just hope that my perspective on how the police manipulated their investigation can somehow help those fighting such cases.

In my work at Inside Justice one of the types of cases that cause me to groan with frustration are those characterised as "historical abuse". There are no forensics, rarely a clear alibi, and the whole thing reduces to "he said, she said". It is difficult to move such cases forward, especially once you realise that the Court of Appeal  does not exist to correct a clearly insane jury verdict. No matter how mindboggling the verdict may be on the face of the evidence, that is not a ground of appeal. Being innocent isn't a persuasive argument to gain a hearing before their Lordships.

It is important, then, that those like myself who have been on the inside of such cases and investigations stand up and give an account of not only our own actions, but a clear analysis of how it is that the police can take an innocent man and marshall enough evidence out of thin air to have them incarcerated.

If attempting to redress these injustices at the end of the criminal justice process is so very difficult, perhaps it may be better to try to prevent them in the first place.

Off to take my lumps now. Ho hum.

21 comments:

  1. Anybody that truly cares about whole justice, will recognise the virtues of the 'prodigal son'.

    Turning evidence against evil can only be a good thing, especially if that evil was yours.

    Good luck Ben.

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  2. I'd be interested to hear more about this allegation-what circumstances existed that made you feel it was appropriate to make it?

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  3. Ben, it sounds like you didn't make a false allegation, it was just an untrue allegation. There's a big difference between the two things, and if it was a genuine mistake, then you shouldn't remonstrate with yourself too much. Besides, given the conditions you must have been enduring, I am sure your state of mind, and in particular, the stresses of prison, must have played a part. Having said all that, I admire your honesty on the matter and your courage in speaking to those affected by false allegations.

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    Replies
    1. What's the big difference between a false allegation and an untrue allegation??
      Surely they're both lies

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    2. No idea. Both are lies. I lied. I retracted, but I lied.

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    3. They're not both lies. There's a significant difference. An untrue allegation, while always unpleasant, is not necessarily a lie, it may just be untrue; whereas a false allegation is both untrue and also a lie. The difference is in the deliberateness of the untruth. One involves making a mistake whereas the other involves lying or being reckless about the truth.

      Your post includes the statement, "Once I knew the guy was actually innocent...." This implies that you may not have known he was innocent when you made the allegation. But you know all the facts: I was just saying that if it was a genuine mistake, then it's not right to suggest you made a false allegation.

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    4. Ah, I appreciate the subtlety. If only I could find the damn blogpost where I discussed this episode fully....

      At the time I levelled my complaint, I had been persuaded that the guy was guilty of abuse. But my complaint about me was false.

      Once I discovered that all the allegations against him were false, I withdrew my complaint, contacted his solicitor, and have campaigned on this issue since.

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    5. Thanks. Actually, I can now see why my first intervention in this thread might have caused a little confusion. I used the word 'untrue', but this normally means the same as 'false', and certainly amounts to the same thing.

      To make the distinction clearer, I should have posited a dichotomy between 'FALSE allegations' and 'WRONGFUL allegations'.

      What I object to is the idea that just because an allegation turns out to be untrue, that must mean it was made falsely. I think that's a very dangerous assumption, and if it becomes accepted, it may put people off making rightful and just allegations. It would be better to speak of WRONGFUL allegations, and we should only use the word 'false' if the nature of the allegation itself is either false or reckless as to facts.

      Delete
    6. Thanks. Actually, I can now see why my first intervention in this thread might have caused a little confusion. I used the word 'untrue', but this normally means the same as 'false', and certainly amounts to the same thing.

      To make the distinction clearer, I should have posited a dichotomy between 'FALSE allegations' and 'WRONGFUL allegations'.

      What I object to is the idea that just because an allegation turns out to be untrue, that must mean it was made falsely. I think that's a very dangerous assumption, and if it becomes accepted, it may put people off making rightful and just allegations. It would be better to speak of WRONGFUL allegations, and we should only use the word 'false' if the nature of the allegation itself is either false or reckless as to facts.

      Delete
  4. As predicted it looks like this blog is withering on the vine....

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    Replies
    1. I'm so sorry not to be available to dance for you on demand like a performing chimp, but personal turmoil and depression is hindering my ability to write more than a sentence or two. Normal service will be resumed. Maybe you and your snide remarks won't be around when that happens?

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    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    3. Anonymous - you really are pathetic. Keep strong Ben - life was bound to be hard when you got out and support for you is the best way forward. Does Anonymous believe in rehabilitation etc and making ex-prisoners into positive citizens who can make an appropriate contribution to society?

      I am sure that all decent followers of this blog want to see Ben succeed and understand his depression and turmoil. If Ben succeeds in the transition from being a long-term prisoners then that gives us hope that many more prisoners will also succeed.

      Delete
  5. I@m going to delete ad hominem comments. I'm weary of them. Feel free to set up your own blog to abuse me - I will link to it - or pick silly arguments on Twitter @prisonerben.

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    Replies
    1. Shifting sands, shifting goalposts .... Here comes Ben the censor .... Again!!

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    2. anonymous, don't you realise its a blog, a personal blog. Ben can do what he likes within reason (as with everything). So why don't you take his advice and do something constructive - like setting up your own blog? instead of whinging on here like an infant.

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  6. Yes. Debate the issues. Insult me and your gone. Don't like it? Blame the snide idiots.

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    Replies
    1. I get your drift, but can't quite accept that the blame lies with the snide idiots.
      Is this blog now subject to moderation/censorship or not?
      Wasn't it you that called censorship abhorrent??
      11.1k tweets ( and rising at a dizzying rate) from you so far... How many tweets are moderated or censored?
      What's changed Ben?

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    2. I never pre-moderate comments. Feel free to peddle the wildest ideas your mind can encompass, discuss the most inflammatory inanities your brain encompasses. All will remain.

      But why the heck should I provide a forum for broad discussion and have it derailed by personal, repetitive and snide comments?

      What's changed is that I find that crap boring. And if you abuse the hospitality of MY blog, then you may be shown the door.

      No tweets are moderated or censored. I don't even think it's possible! Abuse me on Twitter - an offer no other blogger makes, by the way - but let's keep this rare blogspace for the realm of difficult discussion.

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    3. To be honest, I'm rather disappointed with the standard of trolling on this blog. I would have expected a bit more sophistication.

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