Human rights and civil liberties barrister, Barbara Hewson, has written an article saying that the justice system is skewed against men in rape cases because of an over-willingness to believe those who claim to be victims.
Having once been deplorably insensitive to the problems that rape victims face, I believe that our criminal justice system has swung too far the other way. It now assumes that an accusation by a woman is tantamount to proof of guilt.
Even worse, it has encouraged sharp tactics on the part of the police and the CPS who are keen to have a more positive image as being tough on sex offenders and winning more successful prosecutions.
The most grotesque example recently involved Scotland Yard’s VIP paedophile murder inquiry — and investigation into claims that a string of Establishment figures were responsible for killing three boys in the Seventies and Eighties. Though the probe collapsed, the police refused to say sorry to those whose lives had been ruined or reputations shattered by a suspected fantasist called ‘Nick’, whose claims triggered the investigation. Most controversially, one of the investigating officers, Det Supt Kenny McDonald, had described Nick’s delusional ramblings as ‘credible and true’.
The fact is that our criminal justice system is supposed to be founded on two critical principles. First, the presumption of innocence. Second, due process: the belief that criminal accusations must be proven beyond reasonable doubt, by fair procedures.
However, when it comes to sexual assault, decades of campaigning by feminists and more strident members of the victim lobby have browbeaten judges and policy-makers into a change of approach.
The prevailing attitude seems to be that it is unfair to anyone claiming to have been the victim of a sexual attack that they should have to accept that their alleged attacker is ‘innocent until proved guilty’ and that the case has to operate under due process.
As a result, the system has been re-engineered to make it more difficult for the accused to defend himself.
I am aware of many sex attack cases in which defendants and their lawyers have complained that when they provided the police with evidence suggesting that a complaint of sexual assault was false, the police simply ignored it.
For example, there was a case in which a teenager was accused by a girl of a similar age of raping her. As part of his defence, the accused boy’s mother went through social media postings that her son and the girl had made during the time in question.
They showed that every time the girl claimed she was being attacked, she and the boy were in different locations. Yet despite this research being given to the police, the officers later returned it as ‘unused material’.
Though the case went to trial, the accused’s mother handed her dossier to the CPS barrister, who said they had never seen it before. Separately, it became clear that the girl’s story didn’t add up.
Within 24 hours, the prosecution barrister told the judge that the complainant was no longer regarded as a witness of truth and the trial collapsed.
However, things should never have been allowed to reach that stage. The boy’s family incurred very substantial legal costs, which they were unable to recover from the CPS.
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