Saville, Bryn Estyn and the danger of modern witch-hunts

9 November 2012

Mark Barlow of Garden Court North Chambers and Mark Newby of Quality Solicitors Jordans are widely recognised for their expertise in the field of historic sexual offences and miscarriages of justice arising from the same. Writing this week in the Justice Gap, their article looks at the dangers of a modern witch-hunt if there are to be renewed investigations into Bryn Estyn and other historic allegations of abuse triggered by the Jimmy Saville allegations.

The article considers the current Operation Yewtree and looks back at the Waterhouse Enquiry (Lost in Care), Richard Webster’s publication The Secrets of Bryn Estyn: The Making of a Modern Witch Hunt, the Orkney child abuse scandal (1991), The Clyde Report, and the 2002 Home Affairs Select Committee Report The Conduct of Investigations into past cases of abuse in Children’€™s Homes.

Here are some extracts from the article:

“There are a few key concerns that arise in the Savile case that are illustrative of the problems that these historic cases present and these ought to be openly questioned – not from a perspective of in any way believing that Savile could be innocent of the allegations made but rather placing the case in a proper context.”

“Also in order to attempt to preserve the right to a fair trial for those currently awaiting trial for historic sex abuse.”

“Simply relying upon the number of complainants is never a satisfactory basis upon which to secure conviction. The real dangers of contamination, collusion and mistaken memories make the whole process extremely difficult. There have been clear examples of the most horrendous evidence of sexual abuse not being true and it is a mistake to make assumptions until all of the evidence has been considered.”

“The difficulties faced by those tasked with the investigation of historic allegations and the dangers of false or unreliable complaints being made are not a recent dilemma.

We have been there before.”

“However, the climate is now very different.We live in a society where the presumption of innocence no longer exists. Natural justice no longer applies for those accused of child sexual abuse and trial by media has ensured that those accused of such crimes, will never receive a fair trial. The fear of being falsely accused was once the nightmare of care workers, teachers, youth leaders and the clergy. That nightmare has now reached our celebrities and entertainers.”

Mark Barlow is a door tenant at Garden Court North Chambers.

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