Abuse Solicitors at Simpson Millar and abuse survivors groups have warned that adverse publicity following the conviction of a man who made false abuse accusations against high-profile figures could put genuine victims off coming forward.
Last week, former nurse Carl Beech was jailed for 18 years for accusing several politicians and senior figures in the military and security services of abusing him during the 1970s and 80s. These included former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor and D-Day veteran Field Marshal Lord Bramall, as well as the now deceased former prime minister Sir Edward Heath, Lord Brittan and Labour MP Grenville Janner. Beech also alleged that he had been abused by the DJ and known sexual abuser Jimmy Savile.
The Metropolitan Police spent £2 million over 2 years investigating Beech’s allegations, but ultimately no arrests or charges were made. After being referred for investigation by Northumbria Police, it was discovered that Beech himself was a paedophile and had covertly filmed a teenage boy, as well as possessed hundreds of indecent images of children.
Beech’s allegations were initially described by the Metropolitan Police as “credible and true”, while Labour deputy leader Tom Watson met with Beech and assured him all allegations of historic sex abuse would be taken seriously.
Met and Watson Criticised
Following the conviction, both the Met and Mr Watson have been heavily criticised, with Harvey Proctor saying the deputy Labour leader “gave oxygen” to Beech’s claims, while the Met were “lapdogs to Mr Watson’s crude dog whistle”.
However, the whole case has also prompted concerns that the publicity it has generated could discourage genuine victims of historic abuse from speaking out, for fear of also facing a criminal prosecution.
Peter Garsden, Head of Abuse Claims at Simpson Millar Solicitors, commented, ”The sentencing of Beech for making false allegations and criticism of the Police for ‘believing’ his allegations sends an intimidating message to the many genuine victims of child abuse who have remained silent for many years.
“Many victims of abuse stay silent out of fear for over 30 years until the climate of belief encourages them to report and some take their allegations to their grave. If the pendulum swings any further against victims of abuse, then we could revert to the position we were in during the 60s, 70s and 80s when children were frequently disbelieved for making allegations against their abusers, which led to the child abuse scandal that did not erupt until the 1990s.
“The media reporting has become anti-victim, in contrast to the mood which has prevailed in the past simply in the name of reporting news, and in support of those allegedly falsely accused, who are all in the public eye.
“The problem is not false allegations, which constitute a tiny proportion of the abuse complaints, but rather failure to prosecute guilty abusers due to difficulties with proof and evidence, and allegations never being made.”
“The length of Beech’s sentence could also deter genuine victims from speaking out, as 18 years in prison is longer than that imposed on many convicted sex offenders who have committed child abuse.”
Survivors Groups Respond
The European Society for Trauma and Dissociation, has also warned that the criticism of the Metropolitan Police and Tom Watson is “missing adequate reflection”. Writing in the Guardian, the group said, “The scenarios Carl Beech describes, and his complex mixture of untreated victim and perpetrator, are familiar.
“People need to understand ‘fantasists’ and ‘liars’. To ignore that subject risks not hearing vulnerable children. We must provide justice for all, while acknowledging the number of innocent people named is very small compared with the one in 65 survivors who gain justice.”
Gabrielle Shaw, Chief Executive of child abuse survivors group NAPAC, added, “There are no winners in this. Carl Beech diverted significant amounts of resources for something that has turned out to be fantasy with malice. Not only has this damaged and hurt those who were falsely accused, the wider harm done to genuine survivors of childhood abuse is incalculable.”
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