"Innocence Wall" by Sean Bw Parker
False Allegations Forum (FAF) is a new Empowering the Innocent (ETI) initiative. It brings together representatives from the leading organisations that centre on false allegations as well as committed individuals to work on strategies and activities to raise awareness of the ease with which false allegations of sexual offences can be made and how innocent victims can be wrongly convicted with the overall aim of bringing about a raft of urgent reforms that have been identified.
The organisations represented include:
I have written previously about how the dominant discourse on alleged sexual offences has led to the erosion of well-established and time honoured safeguards aimed at protecting innocent victims from being falsely accused of a sexual offence or wrongly convicted for an alleged sexual offence that they did not commit or which did not occur.
This includes s. 32(1) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which abolished the requirement on judges to issue a warning to juries when summing up the ‘dangers’ of convicting defendants charged with sexual offences on the uncorroborated testimony of alleged victims.
This followed s. 34 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which abrogated the requirement on judges to give a warning to juries about convicting an accused on the uncorroborated evidence of a child.
Still further major reforms have been implemented in response to criticism of past failures by police and prosecutors to properly investigate allegations of child sexual abuse (CSA) in the pre-Savile era and bring offenders to justice.
In response, police officers and prosecutors have been instructed to unproblematically believe complainants of alleged sexual offence and to not look for evidence that may undermine or disprove entirely the allegations being made.
As this specifically relates to the police, the College of Policing, the body which sets standards and guidance for police in England and Wales, has instructed that:
Likewise, prosecutors are required under the ‘Guidelines on Prosecuting Cases of Child Sexual Abuse’ that were issued in 2013 (and revised in 2017) to work on the basis that those making allegations are victims, and to:
‘...guard against looking for “corroboration” of the victim’s [sic] account or using the lack of “corroboration” as a reason not to proceed with a case’ (Crown Prosecution Service, 2017: paragraph 55).
In addition to all this, I recently submitted an article to the University of Bristol Law School Blog that shows how the criminal law on alleged sexual offences took another wrong turn with the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which inverts the presumption of innocence and undermines the burden of proof on the prosecution to prove its case against an accused beyond a reasonable doubt in alleged rape cases.
All of the foregoing reforms were made with the express aim of making it easier to convict (alleged) sex offenders, 'to get the numbers up', by treating those accused of sexual offences differently from those accused of any other alleged criminal offence.
It is not difficult to see how this unbalances the scales of justice against those accused of sexual offences, nor that the inevitable outcome is that innocent victims are vulnerable to false allegations and wrongful conviction and imprisonment for alleged sexual crimes that they did not commit, or which did not occur (see Naughton, 2003).
From this standpoint, I have argued that the criminal justice system has been derailed to such an extent in regard to alleged sexual offences that it is not unreasonable to say that suspects and defendants are now regarded as guilty until they are proven innocent.
It is against this backcloth, then, that False Allegations Forum (FAF) has been established. In terms of how it will operate, meetings will be held every fortnight on zoom on Wednesday evenings at 7 pm.
If you feel that you would like to become a member of False Allegations Forum, please send an email to email@example.com saying who you are, why you want to join and how you can assist with our goals of raising awareness of false allegations of sexual offences and the wrongful convictions that flow from them and bring about meaningful reforms aimed at their eradication.
By Michael Naughton
Dr Michael Naughton is the Founder and Director of Empowering the Innocent (ETI). He
holds a Readership in Sociology and Law at the University of Bristol. Click here for more about Michael.
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