The group Rape Crisis have claimed that false allegations of sexual offences are rare, and that there are no grounds to change the law to offer anonymity for sexual offence suspects before they are charged.
This comes following the campaign group Falsely Accused Individuals for Reform (FAIR)’s petition for the changes, which they say would go somehow to correcting the balance which currently afford lifelong anonymity for alleged victims of sexual offences but places no restrictions on suspects being named before arrest, charge or conviction.
This comment by Rape Crisis is interesting to us as specialist sexual offence solicitors.
The suggestion that false allegations of sexual offences are rare is not only incorrect in our experience, but also of little comfort to the individuals who find themselves victim of false allegations – no matter how rare such allegations may be.
Cliff Richard is a supporter of FAIR’s petition, which isn’t surprising. The police raid of his home in 2014 due to a false allegation of sexual allegations was reported by the BBC, a move that he successfully sued them for breach of privacy over.
Sir Cliff described the awful reality that he, and many others, face:
When you know you didn’t do it, you feel you’re in a hole you can’t get out of.
Sir Cliff has spoken previously about the damage to his reputation, and it’s a scenario we see too often. Allegations are made, often spitefully, and result in an innocent person’s life being destroyed. We have seen clients lose careers, income, homes, families, reputations, and take an emotional toll that is impossible to overestimate.
The cost is too high, whether it’s faced by a million people or a single person, and that is the point that Rape Crisis miss.
Statistics are unhelpful in this situation, because while the numbers may suggest that false allegations are ‘rare’, they forget that every single instance turns a person’s life upside down.
I can think back to specific clients who have faced this battle. Every single one of them as entitled to happiness, stability and hopes for the future as you or I.
It isn’t time to consider whether the false allegations are rare.
It’s time to take a long, hard look at a single person who has been the victim of false allegations.
It’s time to sit with that person and watch their fear, hear the terror in their voice.
It’s time to answer their frantic calls day and night because they have no support network, since there’s no smoke without fire.
It’s time to watch their relationship with their children be pulled, stretched and damaged perhaps beyond repair because of Social Services restrictions over contact.
It’s time to see the life drain out of them week by week, month by month.
It’s time to listen as this person shares the most intimate details of their life with you as their lawyer, or in an open court for a jury of their peers.
It’s time to see them collapse with what – relief? exhaustion? anger? – when the not guilty verdicts come.
I would respectfully suggest to Rape Crisis that they take the time to do this – to see a life torn apart, and care enough to remain on the sidelines watching it be rebuilt – and then reconsider whether false sexual allegations really are rare and, if so, whether that even matters to the person who has lost everything because of one.
If you’re facing false allegations of sexual offences, our dedicated team are here to help. Call Forrest Williams’ specialist sexual offence lawyers on 01623 397200.