Dealing with the recent acquittal of Neil Fox from accusations of historic sexual abuse, barrister Matthew Scott assesses some of the key issues in the case. His article is entitled Neil Fox’s character has not been vindicated, it has been assassinated. He addresses one of the central questions in the case:
Was the conduct complained of so offensive to current standards of modesty and privacy as to be regarded as indecent?
What did “current” mean? Did it mean he was to be judged by the standards prevailing in the 80s and 90s, or did it mean he was to be judged by the more censorious standards of today. Prosecuting counsel John Price QC argued that he had to be judged by the standards of today. How on earth can a magistrate (or juror), who might not even have been alive at the time, judge what would have been “offensive to standards of modesty and privacy” in 1988? On the other hand, argued the defence, how can it possibly be fair for somebody to be convicted because twenty years later, what had been regarded as acceptable conduct has come to be regarded as indecent?
Fortunately for Mr Fox, the Court agreed with the defence:
“Mr Price says it must be the standards of today, … We disagree. If what Mr Fox did was not a criminal offence at the time it occurred then it cannot become so later because standards of indecency have changed.”