As its name suggests F.A.C.T. exists to support falsely accused or wrongly convicted carers, teachers and other professionals. We are not here to apologise for those professionals who have abused children in the past, or to excuse their behaviour.
F.A.C.T. has a zero tolerance of abuse of any kind and has always condemned those who abuse or have abused children or adults.
In previous conferences we have made it clear that F.A.C.T. has a duty to speak out against those who abuse children or adults and does so on many occasions. We also fully accept that professionals who work with children or adults have a greater duty of care to keep them safe and a greater responsibility not to abuse their position of trust.
F.A.C.T. takes its obligations seriously and tries to act professionally in the way it operates and conducts itself. For several years now we have required prospective members to warrant that they are innocent of any allegations of abuse that have been made against them. Incidentally we will not allow anyone to become a member of F.A.C.T. if they have been found in possession of child pornography.
It is also perhaps worth bearing in mind that the vast majority of people we support have not been accused of sex offences or physical assaults but rather of abuse in the general sense i.e. alleged emotional abuse, alleged poor practice, failure to act etc. More than half of those who contact us who have been accused have not either in the past or at the time of referral been subject of a police investigation, and as far as the criminal law is concerned ARE factually innocent of any alleged abuse.
We use the term ‘falsely accused’ in the broadest sense to include exaggerated, induced, or fabricated complaints.
We accept that we have to take on trust those who maintain their innocence – are indeed innocent. From a public relations point of view it would obviously assist our cause if were able to say we had examined each complaint made against a prospective member, and were satisfied on the evidence we have seen, that the person is factually innocent of the allegations made. Although, we will, if necessary, make inquiries and do ask awkward questions of intending applicants for membership we cannot possibly audit every application. With about 400 people contacting us each year we simply don’t have the capacity to cope.
Should we be helping support people who might actually be guilty? No we shouldn’t. In fact we withdraw support if we discover this to be the case
Should we be concerned that we might be infiltrated by paedophiles? Of course we should – not that we provide any access to children.
Should we abandon principles of trust which have served us well for a number of years. Well no! Trust is the essential element in any helping relationship. It is what the police, prosecution authorities, safeguarding workers and investigative bodies rely on in their decision making. They have to trust that the person who is alleging abuse is actually telling the truth. It is no different for us.
In many respects our position is more rigouress than it is with professionals working in the field. Social workers are required to provide a service without making a distinction between the deserving and undeserving and irrespective of the contribution their client makes to society. Lawyers are also obligated to represent their clients irrespective of whether they (the clients) are telling the truth or not.
Professionally and ideologically there is no reason why F.A.C.T. should feel uncomfortable about its position. The principle of innocent until proven guilty, is imbedded in British justice and whilst one could argue that the decisions of Courts should be respected they cannot claim a monopoly on the truth, or on wisdom – otherwise there would be no need for an Appeal Court, or a Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Our job is not to act as judge and jury but rather to accept that vast numbers of people, who each year are found guilty in our Courts, are indeed factually innocent, and deserve support.
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This new book, Wrongful Allegations of Sexual and Child Abuse, is edited by Dr Ros Burnett (Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford). It contains 21 chapters by criminologists, psychologists, legal scholars and other experts, [Read More…]