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Ann Widdecombe Speech - Falsely Accused Day (FAD) 2023

Ann Widdecombe speaking at Falsely Accused Day (FAD) 2023

Speech by the Right Honourable Ann Widdecombe on Falsely Accused Day (FAD), held outside New Scotland Yard 9th September 2023

'If a hundred people make an allegation and a hundred people are telling the truth, then a hundred people should be convicted. But if a hundred people are telling a lie, then nobody should be convicted and nobody should say “But we must get at least 20% convicted.”'

At this very moment, in seventeen other countries, Falsely Accused Day is being recognised: Argentina, Australia, Bermuda, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands etc. That means that we are not alone.

But what happens in this country is something that really needs addressing, which is cases of sexual assault, whether it be against an adult or against a child. In those cases, there is a predisposition to believe the victim, and yet nobody is a victim and nobody is a perpetrator until the facts have been established. It is only fact which makes somebody guilty, and yet there is a huge imbalance in this country which is driven by the need to change the statistics.

Now, to me, justice has never been a matter of statistics. If a hundred people make an allegation and a hundred people are telling the truth, then a hundred people should be convicted. But if a hundred people are telling a lie, then nobody should be convicted and nobody should say “But we must get at least 20% convicted”.

People, and a lot of people around here, have got their personal stories. People have found the Police on their doorstep investigating something that simply didn’t happen, and the person is referred to as the “perpetrator” from the start. They find themselves in the papers, they lose their jobs; or they’re suspended from their jobs, people cross the street to avoid them, former friends melt away. And, yet, many of those people are innocent - not all, obviously - but many of those people are innocent and we have always had in this country a very simple principle that you are innocent until you are proven guilty, and we must stick to that in all cases.

It should either be anonymity for both the accused and the accuser or for neither the accused or the accuser - but it shouldn’t be weighted one way.

I expect many of you have heard of the case of Gemma Beale. She made accusations against nine men, one of whom went to prison - who suffered hugely because he was a Muslim, his community disowned him - and yet they were all completely innocent. If she had been named then presumably around about the third or fourth allegation someone would have come forward and said “Hey – hang on! She’s done this before” - but because she was not named, that was able to continue.

So, I say, again, that it must work equally for both the accused and for the accuser.

Now, it is a terrible thing - and none of us, none of us would say otherwise - it is a terrible thing when either a woman or a child (or for that matter a man) is abused. That is a terrible thing, and we should never minimize it in our efforts to draw attention to what has become now a fairly rampant, almost an industry of false allegations.

Based on money, based on revenge, based on regret, someone gets drunk and that’s something they regret the next day and says “He raped me”. So it is crucial that we have a level playing field, and it is crucial that nobody should get away with making a genuinely malicious allegation – nobody – and yet hardly ever is anybody prosecuted who makes a false allegation, takes up acres of Police time, and puts a perfectly innocent person and his family through hell.

Very, very rarely is that person prosecuted; in fact, you have to be a Gemma Beale for it to happen and, you see, when Gemma Beale was finally convicted, the Crown Prosecution Service produced a Press Release which almost apologised for bringing the case. And, then they say the reason for bringing the case was because false allegations deter genuine complainants from coming forward. No - the reason for prosecuting is that she actually caused a lot of suffering to wholly innocent people. That should have been the reason for prosecuting.

So we do have a very, very uneven situation and I get a lot of emails from people around here. Some of you have sent me emails - I know how difficult it is when this happens, we must be ceaseless in our vigilance, we must call for a level playing field and we should call for the Police to treat an accused person as an innocent person until otherwise shown. That used to be the basis of our Justice System – used to be!

Now, what are the MP’s doing about it? (Crowd: “Nothing! Not a lot!”). That just about sums in up – not a lot. So, they are not, unfortunately, focused on this - and when they do become focused on it, there’s always an immediate counter-argument. They should be focused on impartial justice; impartial justice, in both directions. So we need to stir them up over there – they’re not there today – they’re in their constituencies.

Write to your MP’s and tell them your story!

Ann Widdecombe is a former Conservative Member of Parliament, Shadow Home Secretary and Minister for Prisons.

Speech transcribed by Shelia Harmon, Falsely Accused Letters to the Establishment (FALttE).

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