It finds that even if such allegations do not lead to criminal proceedings they

It finds that even if such allegations do not lead to

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suspicion (that they ‘got away with it’) that is likely to follow. It finds that even if such allegations do not lead to criminal proceedings, they are likely to have life-changing effects. Formal investigations, whether in a civil or criminal context, are harrowing for the accused person, and may result in immediate suspension from work and temporary restrictions on contact with children, and a record of having been reported and investigated, which can cause longer term damage to employment prospects and relationships. For cases which result in a guilty verdict, the punishment will be a lengthy period of imprisonment. When a defendant continues to assert their innocence, there will be added deprivations and barriers against privileges and parole. The chances of a successful appeal are slim: if a crime did not take place and was alleged to have occurred in the distant past, there is little prospect of persuading the Court of Appeal to grant leave to appeal, or, later, of producing the ‘fresh evidence or argument’ necessary to persuade the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to refer a conviction back to the Court of Appeal. Yet, as is demonstrated below, miscarriages of justice can and do occur in such cases. When allegations relate to events years or decades in the past, there is an increased likelihood of wrongful arrests and convictions. 1.2 Introduction to the project and report Set against the background of a broad social discourse focused on prosecuting child abusers and sex offenders, one which recognises that victims of abuse need great courage to report crimes against them, it may seem perverse to shine a spotlight on the wrongly accused. Some claim that dwelling on them will drive victims back into the shadows for fear they will not be believed (Bindel, 2015, EVAW, 2015). However, giving a voice to the falsely accused does not diminish lessons that can be learnt from victims of abuse. In this report, we use the term ‘falsely accused’ interchangeably with ‘wrongly accused’. We do not suggest that all false claims are made with deliberate ill intent. Indeed, we consider it likely that many untrue allegations are instead constructed through therapy, retrospective reflection or rumour, or through the suggestibility of some witnesses during investigative interviews, and are believed by their authors to be true. Both common law and the Human Rights Act assert the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty, and the present study is focused on those who are legally
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6 innocent. Either they have not been charged; or charged but not prosecuted; or they have been prosecuted but were acquitted by a judge or jury; or, in one of our cases, they were convicted but later had their conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal. Those acquitted because of an abuse of process are not included. While there is no such thing as a legal finding of ‘innocence’, the quashing of their conviction based on evidence that introduced reasonable doubt about a prior guilty verdict returns them to the prior status of presumed innocent (Findley, 2011).
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  • Confessions, The Confessions

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