The complex nature of prosecutions

Feb 7, 2014 by

I was interviewed at the BBC today about victims of abuse and those accused of abuse. Where as quite rightly victims remain anonymous, the interviewer asked me if the accused should be anonymous until the end of the trial. What do you think about it?

My view was that there was strength in the argument to have people anonymous until proven guilty, especially before they were even charged with an offence. If the person however is in a sensitive position and working with vulnerable people – children or adults – and is the subject of allegations then for their sake as well as the victims I believe they should not carry on their work until the matter is resolved. This is usually the case when professionals such as teachers, social workers, police officers, care workers and others are subject of investigations.

A perfect example of the identification and subsequent damaging media attacks following false accusations is Christopher Jefferies, the landlord from the Jo Yates murder trial. He was crucified by the media and by members of the public when thought to be the killer. His life was almost ruined, his health was badly damaged and his reputation was so blighted that he probably will never fully recover. It can happen. It did happen – and therefore we have got to be fully aware of this perspective when having the debate. There always was the saying that ‘better to let off a guilty person that to convict an innocent person’. I feel torn on this statement and not 100% sure on my position. However it does give food for thought.

Another matter I’ve always had strong views on relate to the way our judicial system treats children. Okay, there have been some improvements, such as video evidence, screens and more informal arrangements of court rooms but still our system of justice in the UK is an adversarial one in which the whole process is about winning. So if you have a much more articulate advocate than the other side your chances are much higher. In certain parts of Europe they adopt the inquisitorial system of justice in which the ultimate aim is to get at the truth. Therefore in France for example they have the Juge des Enfants who is trained in other disciplines as well as the law and could even, in extreme situations, go and spend a week with a family to ascertain what facts were required and make a much more informed judgement for the truth.

Tell me your thoughts on these issues, as well as subjects you would be interested in reading about, discussing and debating with me.

This could span:

  • mental health matters
  • child protection
  • disability

Broader social issues such as:

  • widening gap between rich and poor
  • erosion of communities
  • benefits and difficulties of increasing multi cultural societies
  • It’s really good when you respond, as you have in the past, to the contents of these blogs so I want to encourage you to keeping it coming and I look forward to your ideas.
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