Monday, 26 April 2010

Victim's Victim - UPDATED (AGAIN!)

Latest: And there's again an apparent case of malicious (especially since the defendant is a fairly public figure), or at least misguided rape accusations in which the only one granted anonymity is the accuser. The fact that they will now almost certainly be outed does nothing to repair the damage they've already done, and which is likely to last a lifetime.

This is now three times in less than a month! It really is high time something is done about this.
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Update: They're coming in thick and fast. When it's not (apparently) just out of spite and immaturity, then it's the (possibly) peer or family pressure. This has to stop!

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What do you think: what, and how long does it take to ruin someone's life? Judging by this latest case in the United Kingdom, a false accusation, four days, and seventy five minutes. This is what did it for the unfortunate trainee teacher, Hannah McIntyre.

She may have been foolish to invite two pupils of hers to her house, and even more foolish to buy or give them alcohol. The latter could be illegal and also wrong on many other levels, but the former is not even remotely wrong, morally, ethically, and especially not legally. Pretty much to the contrary, in fact.

Sadly, what Hannah got for her attempt at being friendly is wrack and ruin to her life, and especially to her career as a teacher. Why? Because apparently one of her young charges found it necessary, and probably funny at the time to falsely accuse her of having sex with him.

Hopefully there will be a follow-on trial to determine this exactly, and also try to exact a punishment at least approximately commensurate to the crime. As it stands now, after a short trial of only four days, and an even shorter jury deliberation of 75 minutes, the only justice we have is a young lady no longer destined for long imprisonment.

Sadly, this is probably the only bright side to her ordeal. Her name and face have been dragged through the media in connection with one of the most horrible crimes there is. She has also found herself in various archives and records. Will everyone in the future take it for granted she is indeed innocent, or will many take that - as understandable as it is wrong - stance of "there's no smoke without fire"?

And that is the main aim of this post (thanks for bearing with me) - to call for full anonymity of anyone accused - just accused, not found guilty - of various crimes for which even acquittal in a fair trial doesn't end the misery for the defendant, for which even those proven innocent still carry (at least a threat of) a stigma all their lives - a stigma that can easily take away their livelihoods.

Once, an if, they are found guilty, by all means plaster their faces on all walls, and shout their names from all rooftops. If they're mean and evil enough do lock them up and throw away the key. But until then, let's please afford them the full presumption of innocence - and that should include, even start with, making sure that, should they be found innocent, they will still have a life to go back to. One worth living, and that means not even a hint that they might have committed a crime.

This will be as fair as all we do to protect the victims of crimes that may falling the above category. This also does not mean that victims will somehow be shortchanged. One would hope they'd be the first after proper justice, and also sensitive to pain and stigma of crime committed on them.

True victims should be champions of defendant anonymity! Their suffering is, after all, diminished, cheapened, even ridiculed by those who make false accusations. They are true victims' enemies almost as much as their attackers.

Lastly, let us not go too far in trying to bend over backwards for past failings in prosecuting, and treating victims of these heinous crimes, by opening innocent people to as heinous attacks through false accusations. The falsely accused's life is always much more ruined than that of the false accuser's.

Think, who would you rather have spend time with your children: an acquitted paedophile or someone who spent a few years behind bars for perjury? And no, you do not get Mother Theresa as your third choice. Ah. I thought so.

And what was your gut reaction?

I see! And I rest my case...