Membership since then has widened from carers and teachers to include other occupations where staff and volunteers who work in positions of trust with children or adults can be vulnerable to false allegations. Since Operation Midland and Pallial and the subsequent police, media and political preoccupation with uncovering past institutional child abuse, some of the early members who were investigated but cleared around the time of the Waterhouse inquiry have been reinvestigated, with many others living in fear of further allegations. For this research, we analysed accounts from among FACT’s current and past members, as well as among others who had never been members, only if they had: • not been charged with the alleged abuse, • were charged but acquitted, or • were convicted but had their conviction overturned on appeal, as long as their convictions were not overturned because of ‘procedural errors unrelated to innocence’ (Findley, 2011: 1185). Thus all the participants discussed in section 4 of this report have the status of ‘legal innocence’ based on the presumption of innocence until found guilty, or – for those whose convictions were quashed – restoration to that presumption of innocence (Findley, 2011). We not only set strict participation criteria, but also required each participant to sign a consent form stating that they (i) are factually innocent of any alleged offences of sexual or physical abuse, (ii) have never committed any such offences (including possession of child pornography), (iii) have never pleaded guilty or accepted a caution for any such offence, and (iv) have never been convicted of any such offence or (v) have successfully appealed against any conviction(s) and have been exonerated. We included a warning that should any contrary information come to light, the participants would be excluded from the research. A few referrals to the study were excluded when it emerged that they had a previous conviction for a related offence or had accepted a caution or plea bargain even though they subsequently maintained their innocence. While there is clear evidence that some innocent people do falsely confess under pressure (e.g. see Davis and Leo, in press), we erred on the side of caution in not including them in this study. Furthermore, we used various online resources to seek out appropriate information about arrests, court appearances, and outcomes in order to check the veracity of their claims, before including participants in the study. We excluded two people when the information we gathered suggested that they might not have been fully honest in their accounts.
23 It should also be acknowledged that it cannot be guaranteed that each of the sample members are factually innocent, given the inherent difficulty of any legal disposition that relies on competing testimony. There is simply no clear empirical means that can settle the matter.
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