In the light of the national publicity afforded to the acquittal of the T V actor Michael Turner (Le Vell) I feel that it is time to utilise the recent cases of so called celebrities to highlight the parallels between these recent ‘historic’ cases and those of the residential social workers of the 1980/1990s, and indeed the continuing hounding by the police of men and women in their late years for alleged offences which it is claimed to have taken place decades ago past. The latest being operation Pallial which is ‘investigating’ claims dated in the 1960s, and those in process in the Midlands (Nottinghamshire – Derbyshire – and Leicestershire) in which a news item on Radio Nottingham on July 13 claimed that thirty-nine people had been arrested.
The Daily Mail on September 11th devoted five full pages, including the front page to the story of Turner’s (Le Vell’s) acquittal, under the heading “WHY WAS HE EVER CHARGED’ . Inside the paper it was reported that “What happened to Michael Turner was an abuse of our judicial system”
“The ‘evidence ‘ itself as it unfolded in the witness box, would have had any sensible head shaking in disbelief”. There was never any physical or forensic evidence or psychiatric report, simply the words of one young girl and her mother, who incidentally could not offer any direct account only support her daughter’s claims. But of course the law has been changed to allow hearsay ‘evidence’ and removed the requirement for corroboration in abuse trials in order to gain convictions – ‘never let the truth stand in the way of a good conviction’ would appear to be the mantra of the current justice system!
There are immediate and telling parallels between the modern celebrity allegations and trials, and the historic allegations and trials made against residential staff in the past. The major difference being that the celebrities had the wherewithal to fight the allegations effectively and were acquitted whilst the residential staff were convicted and sent to prison for periods of up to fifteen years on no better evidence but poorer advocacy. Once again there was no physical or forensic evidence or psychiatric reports merely the words of men, often in their forties with long criminal histories. When the dates or other details of offences claimed by the ‘victims’ ,did not coincide with the official records they were allowed, indeed encouraged, to alter their statements to accord with the verifiable facts of the circumstances. Similarities can be identified between the investigations into the Hillsborough Disaster and the ‘Historic residential staff’ and the ‘Celebrity’ investigations, in all these instances, the rules governing police investigations were either fundamentally changed or significantly amended, in order to remove constrictions which might prevent successful prosecutions.
It is claimed in the press reports that the Crown Prosecution Service had decided in 2011 that there was insufficient evidence in the Turner case on which to proceed to trial, this was communicated to both parties in the December of that year. Despite the police having carried out what was described as “intense police investigation’ the mother of the complainant made a formal complaint to the Crown Prosecution Service, the daughter meanwhile suddenly remembers other rapes which she had ‘forgotten’ when previously interviewed. When residential staff could not remember incidents after some twenty or thirty years they were told that they were lying in order to cover up their offending. The CPS state that in view of that complaint they decided to review the case and Alison Levitt QC a legal advisor overruled the decision of Nazir Afzal the Chief Crown Prosecutor. Further the alleged victim made more allegations in February 2013 here again the decision appears to have been taken to charge the defendant with child abuse by the same advisor. This begs the question when is it acceptable for an ‘Advisor’ to overrule a Principal in office, and make decision which should properly be the remit of the Crown Prosecution Service?
Whilst not in any way attempting to understate the terrifying impact that such allegations have on an innocent man such as Turner and other more recent cases, they do not compare with the impact that had been experienced by those in the residential work setting. A number of men were sent to prison, despite their protestations, for periods of fifteen years, others in excess of one hundred and fifty men were convicted and served long prison sentences. When released their families were broken, their children not allowed to be with their fathers, they were to sign the sexual offenders register for life and their prospects of employment made impossible by the insidious reports of the Vetting and Barring system. The incidence of long term ill health amongst those who survive, is extremely high, poor heart problems abound, strokes are a common phenomena, and many have died prematurely. Most damaging of all is the fact that it appears there is nothing that they can do to change the system. In 2002 the Home Affairs Select Committee examining such matters came to the conclusion that there had been “a new genre of miscarriages of justice”, the report was dismissed by a government minister!
Please let us have a proper and genuine examination of these trials and the processes which led to them, we had the Waterhouse enquiry, but the terms of reference were such that the claims of child abuse was ipso facto correct because claims had been made. There was neither then, nor since, any attempt made to genuine examination into whether there was in fact any substance behind many of the claims made. However it can be clear that many who made the claims received very large sums in ‘compensation’, some in excess of £100,000! Quite an incentive to the false claimant!!
There is much more that can be stated regarding the infamy of the proceedings which caused innocent men to be convicted of the most heinous crimes and serve very long prison sentences and to suffer the insidious aftermath of such allegations.
We are grateful to George Jensen for sending in this article.