In recent times, discussions about justice regarding allegations of sexual abuse, sexual assault or rape have drawn unfortunate battle lines, with those representing the interests of “victims seeking justice” versus those representing “victims of false allegations”.
Reacting against police policy in the past in which victims (mainly women) justifiably felt that they were disbelieved and badly treated, campaigners who have fought for their rights seem mostly not only against any such progress that has been made being eroded, but insist that much more still needs to be done, such as with newer challenges such as the use of mobile phone data as evidence.
On the other side of the equation there are those who have been victims of false allegations and, though they may have sympathy with genuine victims, they feel that they are now in the position the complainants were before, with police prejudice stacked against them.
In other words, politicians and the criminal justice system, the police in particular, have succumbed to such pressure but, rather than aim for a more balanced approach, have merely switched sides, so that all the former bias is still present but now in favour of the complainant and against the defendant.
See post: Has the Sex Offence pendulum swung too far?
So the battle lines tend to be drawn as follows:
COMPLAINANTS (Genuine victims and False accusers) vs ACCUSED (Genuine offenders and Falsely accused)
This is sad for several reasons.
- If there were no such thing as false accusations, it would be easier to believe complainants. The fact that the claims of complainants cannot be always assumed to be true is precisely because there are people who make false accusations.
- False accusers not only harm those they accuse but also genuine victims. Apart from their abusers, the biggest enemy of genuine victims are therefore the false accusers, not falsely accused people justifiably campaigning for their own rights.
- False accusers, like sexual abusers, are predators who care nothing for their victims and prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve their objectives.
The true battle lines should be as follows:
VICTIMS (Genuine victims and Falsely accused) vs OFFENDERS (Genuine offenders and False accusers)
However, until the truth about false accusers and the damage they do is acknowledged, the current situation is unlikely to change. Sadly, while most falsely accused have sympathy for genuine victims, this is not generally reciprocated, and those who represent ‘victims’ rarely seem to show concern for those whose lives are ruined by false allegations. It is therefore difficult for victims of false allegations to fight for their rights without appearing to oppose the rights of genuine victims.
A case in point is the (so-called) Victims Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, whose concept of the victims she is supposed to represent is so narrow that she seems not to care one jot for victims of false allegations, and chooses to focus solely on the interests of complainants, whether they are genuine or not.
The mobile phone issue
Following the case of Liam Allan in which he narrowly escaped conviction for rape when a late disclosure of text messages on his accuser’s phone proved his innocence, there have been calls for data on accuser’s phones to be handed over as part of the investigation.
Vera Baird and others opposing this policy have termed this request ‘digital rape’. Quite how someone supposedly supporting victims of sexual assault and rape can equate being a victim of such a dreadful crime with a request to hand over one’s phone is something I find not only puzzling but a little shocking…
The fallacy of ‘digital rape”
- Unlike the possessions of the accused, mobile phones are not confiscated – they are requested.
- Only data which is relevant to the case would be used, not irrelevant personal messages.
- If the allegations are genuine, there is nothing to fear, but may deter false allegations.
- If the handing over of such data would help the inquiry and provide a greater chance of conviction, you would think victims would glad do so.
- “Victims groups” complain of a lack of convictions for rape and similar offences but juries cannot be forced to convict.
- If, either the complainant refuses to hand over their phone, or if the law is changed such that police cannot request it, the defence could argue that data which may have proved the defendant’s innocence was withheld or made unavailable.
The fallacy of ‘rare false allegations’
The claim is often made that false allegations are rare – as if that should make any difference! – but such claims are completely groundless.
While victim groups refer to reported rape as if they were all genuine and complain of the fact that only a small proportion result in a conviction, the same people point to the small numbers of convictions for false allegations as if they were the only ones. Nor do they take into account the fact that false accusers are rarely even prosecuted. It is a claim that is based entirely on double standards. It is impossible to know how many false allegations there are, but more serious research has tended to show that they are very far from rare.
There has been a movement towards ‘victim-centric’ justice but I believe this is wrong. While the suffering of victims is always a factor to be taken into account, the wider principles of justice, from the investigation stage through to sentencing after conviction, should remain paramount – especially the protection of the innocent.
For a more detailed explanation of the importance of this, please read this post:
The First Principle of a Just Legal System