Earlier this month, False Allegations Watch (FAW) published a joint open letter to the Prime Minister from some of the leading organisations in the field of false allegations and the wrongful convictions that flow from them. The organisations were FACT, FASO (False Allegations Support Organisation), FAD (Falsely Accused Day), Falsely Accused Letters to the Establishments, MeTooFalselyAccused and Fighting for the Falsely Accused. We also published a reply from the Ministry of Justice in response to the joint open letter. Below is a response from Liz Yeld, a prominent voice against false allegations and wrongful convictions, to the Ministry of Justice's reply.
There is no presumption of innocence at any time. Immediately an allegation is made the accused is arrested and subjected to an interview which assumes guilt at all times. He returns with a card with a number to assist with "unnatural urges" as if the decision has already been made.
There follows an unbearably long time on bail, which can go up to three years; anyone involved with vulnerable people or children can't return, nor do much else as police will intervene and prevent anything where the public are involved.
The accuser may be drug damaged or mentally ill, but there will be no retrieval of medical records or mental health history. The accuser will often say that the phone is lost and proceed to delete all social media, which does not seem to concern the police.
A memory which involves repression is accepted and no awareness of any understanding of memory repression is demonstrated, nor that false memories can be recovered in therapy. Any therapist's notes will be redacted, sometimes to one or two brief paragraphs. Someone who states in court that memories of alleged sexual abuse returned in therapy raises no alarm at all, despite the extensive literature and academic papers on the subject, which mean that this should raise instant concern.
Drug damaged and/or mentally ill people are simply assumed to be this way because of abuse they are claiming and there is no attempt to consider that it could be any form of resulting delusion.
Descriptions of sexual abuse do not have to be in any way consistent and key aspects can change in court and makes no difference at all, nor be grounds for appeal. Being unclear of date and even changing the place where the offence is alleged to have happened is accepted because new thinking suggests that inconsistencies and even complete contradictions are all to be expected and that they were once viewed as indicating lies is a regarded as a "rape myth."
The alleged "victim" is supported at all times in court by Victims' advocates and referred to as "victim" prior to verdict.
There is a constant sense of "cart before horse" because the accused is the person in the dock so appears instantly to be guilty person. A defendant is often spoken to rudely by the judge, whilst the accuser is apologised to if she even voices her resentment at needing to be questioned.
The emphasis is constantly on encouraging, supporting and assisting the accuser whilst the defendant is addressed throughout as if already deemed guilty.
The defence is often very restricted and if it gets to look difficult for the accuser, the judge will frown heavily at the Defence.
Witnesses agreed are changed and new witnesses brought in who the Defence has never been able to hear from previously, nor the defendant to prepare any sort of defence ahead. The accuser appears to change their story exactly where the main lines of defence are, and one wonders about leaks.
Prosecutors engage in emotional persuasion which always includes the image of someone entirely helpless with someone powerful over them. Years of complete silence where it was never discussed with anyone at all are explained by the idea of repression, which is pseudo-science.
The idea seems to be to keep those who are on the side of the prosecution on the stand for as long as possible and to whisk those on the side of the defendant off as quickly as possible. Often the Defence asks none of the important questions required and they are said by the prosecution to be friends of the accused, with the implication being that they are covering for him or lying. Despite these often being key people who were there at time, they are little questioned and very often challenged about their own role at the time.
A strong message is given that anyone supporting the defendant does not deserve the same respect as those supporting the accuser, as at no time are those speaking for the accuser ever had it suggested that they might be confused or have misremembered.
Details which couldn't possibly be remembered after the intervening time period are all accepted without question. One example is a witness who remembered 20/30 years earlier seeing a copy of "The Sun" in a teacher's bin open at page 3. These witnesses are all trying to help the police.
They are people who have been trawled for by the police and any possible reason why they might be glad to say something against this person is not investigated or questioned. Accounts which many know could never even possibly have happened are eagerly embraced by the prosecution and exonerating evidence doesn't appear to make it. In the case of an adult remembering back to an alleged event at primary school there are no statements taken from either parent which would seem an omission by any police force seeking truth, but appears not to concern the judiciary.
Sometimes witnesses for the defence are told to go, and this is explained by the danger of having too many. However, to get home and find someone who was told they were not needed also wrote a statement which never previously made it to the defence is concerning.
There is no due process. The defendant will be spoken to by the police as if guilty and when he attends police station to be re bailed, wives are often asked if they want their husbands home. This happens before even any commencement of trial. Children are instantly regarded as being in danger and Social Services (SS) and the police appear to work as one body. Any child who defends her father to the SS is regarded as being in more danger, and any wife who does the same is instantly treated as deluded and living in total oblivion. She is also then perceived as a risk to the child.
The burden of proof is reversed. The prosecution doesn't have to do anything bar paint the defendant as negatively as possible, with references to Weinstein and other figures likely to produce a negative reaction from the jury. S/he has no hesitation in describing him in monstrous terms, repeating all the well-worn propaganda that teachers/vicars/GPs often only enter these professions to have a ready stock of meat. It is often not only uncomfortable and infuriating for families to hear loved ones described in these terms, but also disgusting.
Whilst I am sure there is much I have left out, I would have to say that I never expected to witness anything like this in Britain. So far as I am concerned these type trials abandon every aspect of justice which we have valued for centuries and are a deep scar on the country.
By Liz Yeld
Former primary teacher of the deaf.
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