by D.J. Webb
We have seen a spate of accusations of sexual assault, and even rape, against people in the public eye. It seems clear that celebrities are often surrounded by groupies, people who expect to be subject to some kind of sexual contact, and it also seems clear that, even where such contact is unwelcome, accusations made many years after the fact contravene any possible concept of justice. There is no way to prove any of any individual historical accusations. Instead what we have is a “weight of evidence” approach, where accusations from 100 people claiming to have been groped in the 1970s are considered to more or less prove the case, although none of the individual claims can be proved or disproved. This removes the burden of proof from one of “beyond all reasonable doubt” to the one of the “balance of probabilities” accepted in civil cases. In many cases, the balance of probabilities is that some kind of repellent behaviour did go on, but that does not mean that our criminal justice system should find people guilty of serious crimes on the basis of such “evidence”.
I was reading today about the claims of (male) rape against the erstwhile deputy speaker, Nigel Evans. I cannot comment on this individual case. I don’t know anything about the veracity of such claims, other than to say that where claims have been made against someone in the public eye, they can be used to drum up more claims by chancers, and so the entire process is suspect. Personally, I feel that claims of male rape ought to require a much higher evidential base than claims of heterosexual rape. This is because women are more frail than men and often afraid of violent men, and it could be believed that a woman wearing jeans could be so afraid as to assist in removing them to allow a rape to take place.
On the other hand (and I am not connecting these comments with the Evans case, as I don’t know the circumstances surrounding that), it is scarcely believable that a man would meekly remove his clothes and allow himself to be subject to a forcible sexual act (one of a type that is in fact much worse than heterosexual rape). I hope that no people in the public eye will be found guilty of such acts without each individual act being proved beyond all reasonable doubt, and without each case having occurred reasonably recently. It is possible that during a “bout” of consensual sex, a man who is already naked but not expecting or consenting to be buggered, might find his partner in the act insistent on doing things not consented to. A reasonable amount of physical resistance would be expected of a man, but the scenario is imaginable. But as I said, some degree of proof, including a man’s having gone to the police within hours of the alleged rape, would be required in anything other than a farce of a judicial system.
Male accusations of trivial sexual assault (Evans is being accused of “sexual touching” of “two victims” that took place between 2002 and 2009!), by contrast, strike me as absurd. If in a dark room of a gay club, a man had his genitalia touched by, e.g., an older and uglier man he had indicated he was not interested in, that would be sexual assault according to a very strict legal definition, but one would have to ask why he did not simply push the man away. What sort of man would make such accusations? One might imagine a woman, being more easily intimidated by men, making such accusations, but how manly would it be for a man to accuse another man of such trivial assaults?
There clearly is more to some of these stories than makes it into the press. If we think, for example, of how Stuart Lubbock, a young man attending a party in Michael Barrymore’s house, was found dead in the swimming pool, with physical evidence of violent anal assault, we have to realise that even quite serious accusations of this type often go nowhere, especially when a celebrity is involved. Clearly, someone murdered Stuart Lubbock. I don’t know who that person was. But I would suggest that case is much more serious and worthy of investigation by the police than any of these accusations now coming to light. Indeed, if I were prime minister, I would give the police chief involved a deadline to bring charges against someone for Lubbock’s murder, or be sacked. Sexual touching on an unknown date between 2002 and 2009 just isn’t really something the police should be investigating at all.
We have also seen how the police in Rochdale and other places have taken policy decisions not to pursue frequent allegations that Pakistani gangs were engaging in child rape. This is a very serious crime, but where the crime appeared to have an ethnic dimension, the police had other considerations to take into account, and seemed to have decided to ignore their oaths of office and allow the crimes to continue. When I put a petition on the government website for Rochdale police to be investigated for abetting child rape, the petition was deleted, and yet I believe police inaction can amount to abetment of a crime of sorts.
So sexual crimes, even as far as murder, are not always taken seriously by the government. So we are entitled to wonder what the real agenda is with the large number of arrests that began with the Jimmy Savile inquiry. Given that people in the public eye can often be targets for blackmail, and that some of these types of sexual assaults are of a trivial nature that millions of people could potentially have committed, and that even where underage people are involved, they are often 15 years of age, or people otherwise clearly far from sexually naive or innocent, I would say there is a good chance that such allegations are used to control politicians. Claims that the former prime minister, Edward Heath, was a frequent visitor to the Kincora boys’ home in Northern Ireland, an institution that was at the centre of a paedophile scandal with which Heath’s name was not explicitly linked, are interesting, to the extent that Mr Heath was a fully paid-up supporter of the technocratic project, supporting mass immigration, the EU and all the rest of it, and no investigation into his conduct was ever carried out.
Also problematic is the increasingly over-the-top policing of the Internet. A search for Nigel Evans’ name reveals nothing that is not already mentioned in the press. It seems all the balls are in the authorities’ court when information is controlled to this extreme degree. I would welcome a law accepting that the Internet was a zone of free comment, and that as no reasonable person would accept an Internet allegation as constituting definite proof of anything, claims of libel that related to comments on the Internet would no longer be accepted.
Finally, the anonymity accorded to accusers cannot be accepted as part of any reasonable justice system. Who are the people accusing Nigel Evans? What are their names and backgrounds? Why is this information exclusively available to the authorities? I am not suggesting that any high-profile person should not be prosecuted for crimes—the law should not be a respecter of persons—only that the lack of fundamental justice in our legal system, the way in which the authorities can decide to overlook serious crimes if they wish to and the way in which accusations against high-profile individuals can be generated at will are characteristics of an unfree society.