Simon Warr, the former teacher and BBC broadcaster who was falsely accused of sex offences in 2012, has died of cancer aged 65. He dedicated a substantial part of his life after being found not guilty of the crimes in 2014 to writing his story and supporting a reconsideration of the way the police process historical accusations.
In a tribute to Simon Warr on the Spiked Online website, Andrew Doyle has written:
In all aspects of life, Simon was driven by a sense of duty and empathy, which made it all the more devastating when he was falsely accused of historical child abuse in 2012. As a result of his arrest, he was forced to leave the school where he had lived and worked for 30 years. The fabrications were evident from the beginning – Simon had never met his accusers, who had described him as their PE teacher even though he had never taught PE in his entire career.
Most troubling of all was the way in which the police approached the case from the assumption that he was guilty. Officers routinely failed to investigate the obvious collusion between the accusers, and even went so far as to ‘misplace’ email evidence that would support Simon’s defence (for which they were rightly reprimanded by the judge). The febrile climate in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal meant that cases like Simon’s, which should have been dismissed from the outset, were prosecuted with an almost religious zeal. In the end, 672 days after he was arrested, the jury dismissed the charges unanimously in a matter of minutes.
Simon was later to say that dying of cancer would not be as bad as being falsely accused of child sex abuse.
Speaking to BBC Radio Suffolk in the week before he died, he said the accusations led to the “worst period of my life” and he thought the “stress and anxiety” might have caused his cancers.
He said the false allegations “caused me years of anxiety and strife, almost drove me to the cusp of suicide”.
His experience inspired in him a burning desire to bring about changes in policing and the justice system as a result of the ordeal he endured. He was later to write his book – ‘Presumed Guilty – A Teacher’s Solitary Battle to Clear His Name’ – on the subject.
“The infuriating, terrifying true story of how Simon Warr – one of life’s great characters – was almost destroyed by someone else’s lies.” –Jeremy Vine
“A gripping, at times chilling, account of a dedicated teacher’s fight for justice. Beautifully written.” –Matthew Wright
“A typically brave book and strident defence of the innocent in the face of a moral panic about sex abuse in our society. Notwithstanding the genuine problem that this issue is today and the real victims out there, it still cannot be a licence to destroy the reputations and lives of innocent people. This account speaks to all interested in fairness and justice.” –Donal MacIntyre
Child abuse is an enormously emotive problem where the emotions overwhelm fact or justice. Our society supports the accuser and allows them to remain anonymous whereas the accused is often publicly shamed even before a trial. This is a book written by a teacher accused of historical abuse, his battle to prove his innocence and the aftermath of being found not guilty.
The book is almost 300 pages, split across 21 chapters.
We see Simon Marr showing the turn around of the British justice system where child abuse is involved – in that the accused is presumed guilty from day 1 and this stays with them for ever. He obviously has a very personal reason for writing the book and feels that this book should be read by anyone involved in the justice system.
The allegation was life changing and that comes over very clearly. It is terrifying to read about the immediacy of the actions of those around the author. He writes very well and is very balanced – we feel his world crumbling due to the rough treatment from the justice system but he never denies that the abused allegations should not be investigated, just not in this way.
Simon Warr is not the only person to have had to deal with false allegations but he is unusual in coming out about his experience and having the skill to communicate it well. He is a good writer and is very straight forward.
Somehow the author seems to avoid getting too emotional which he does by standing back to tell the story, almost appearing as an observer at some points. I suspect that the emotional detachment had developed over the previous couple of years and is used to good effect in the book.
I know more than the average about the criminal justice system but was shocked by the activities of the Personal Injury lawyers in this area, seeking compensation for their clients. The author puts a valid case for the money on offer having the ability to skew any chance of truth being revealed – it’s a very challenging thought.
This book gave me a feeling of shame about our society. I am a well balanced, sensible person but still have a sense of excitement when I see someone “powerful” being accused of a crime – reading this book will force me to think more about the person who is being accused and the effect on their life.
I was very effected by some of the messages – “victims are not all liars but some liars claim to be victims”. The author talks very articulately about society’s obsession with trying alleged abusers through the press when we do not do this on the same scale with other crimes.
In his final message posted on Twitter, he wrote:
There is still much work to do, but I’ll not be able to be part of it. I have greatly enjoyed tweeting & campaigning, as well as meeting some of you. Goodbye to you all, dear friends. Yours, Simon pic.twitter.com/IN6Jctucyw
— Simon Warr RIP (@bbcsimonwarr) February 20, 2020