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False allegations: Key causes and how they can be challenged

When dealing with alleged false allegations I use the Henriques report to argue that the Police should not presume guilt just because a complaint has been made. I also always play devil’s advocate in building up a client’s case to address what I think is the Police fall-back position of why should a complainant lie about something so serious. In this article, I set out a few grounds I have proven over the years.

1. Complainants can lie in the hope of getting money from an alleged victim of a false allegation either by blackmail, suing them or claiming from Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).

2. Discrediting a complainant. In my first case to delete Enhanced DBS disclosure of indecent assault, which I eventually won in Court of Appeal, the complainant had before she complained been convicted of two frauds , showing their propensity to lie to get money.

3. Avoiding embarrassment, for example a complainant saying that they were drunk or drugged to explain to spouse/partner/family why out all night.

4. False allegations can emerge in divorce proceedings to get more money or custody of children.

5. False allegations can be caused by malice after nasty breakups.

6. False allegations can be due to mental health issues with complainants.

7. Prior abuse is another cause of false allegations, often by real father, resulting in mental health problems, criminality, and so on. One girl in care alleged my client (foster father) abused her. It turned out that she made the same allegation against prior foster father. The Police admitted off record that they suspected but couldn’t prove it was the real father and, in a rare outcome, I was able to remove the PNC NFA entry and all local police records to make a fresh start .

8. False allegations can be caused by complainants who just wanted to hit out because of feeling bad at something else .One step daughter did it in a case that I worked on as she felt left out (her perception I think) when her Mum remarried and had new family and then couldn’t back down. In one of the most caring decisions that I have ever encountered, the step dad, who went to prison, decided not to appeal later against sentence when his step daughter admitted she lied to her step sister. My client, the stepfather, did not wish to risk her going to prison for her lies and despite him suffering severe PTSD and his inability to return to work!

9. False allegations can be impossible to challenge in cases where pointing out honest mistakes in evidence of two witnesses who say the same thing. In one case that I worked on, a teacher affected by an allegation that she dragged a Downs Syndrome affected child by their arm across a classroom floor made by 2 teachers in neighbouring classroom. I got redacted records eventually, not from school or police but Lado who sent me the files including statements and notes of meetings with school/social/police. They showed Teacher A in the next room admitting she only repeated what teacher B said she saw. B said she saw the incident via a partially open door between the classrooms at other side of room. My client said she was picking up the child from the floor where he threw himself when he was frustrated but couldn’t see more than that single snapshot! In another case, a rather emotionally damaged client would spend time in the library to study to help him get a job. As a small library, it closed at lunchtime, so he sat with his sandwich in a bus shelter nearby but between a high school behind him and primary school on other side of road. Two trainee teachers from the high school alleged they say him masturbating, a rather risky thing to do on a busy main road. But, in a now rare attendance on site at a distance during covid, I photographed the path of witnesses from the high school to the bus stop to show that neither witness could ever have seen anything until about 5 feet away - you needed to go up a path; there were trees in the way; there were, big adds plastering the bus stop, and so on. My client's case was that he had his phone in his hand and I cleared his name.

10. I also consider clients mental health: Was the case procedurally fair? Was there an appropriate adult? I consider my client's propensity to go along with suggestions oer whether they might be so ill that they could not have the legal mens rea to commit the alleged crime.

By David Wacks

David Wacks practised as a Solicitor with his firms dealing with both civil and criminal work but set up CRB Problems Ltd in 2012 before retiring from his legal practice. He now advises only as a non-practising solicitor, but is happy to deal with enquiries by phone 07505 961 762 or by email where he gives free and confidential initial advice on such issues.

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