The treacherous rocks of stony-hearted conspiriloons lie a’port, individuals who will vociferously claim that every allegation which proves untrue is because ‘they’ have conspired to whitewash the ‘evidence’; these are people whose life’s mission is to prove that every child in Britain was horrifically abused, preferably by a Tory politician, or failing that, at least by a Jew.
A’starboard are the shifting quicksands of the needs of genuine victims of sexual abuse who have been led to believe that something called ‘justice’ will emerge from this process and anoint them with a feeling of wellbeing. What form will that justice take, and how exactly will it make them feel better?
Alexis Jay’s only salvation lies in steering the great ship IICSA away from the rocks and the quicksands to leave the victims feeling better. If she can’t do that, it will have been a waste of £100 million – and millions more devoted to the needs of the victims.
There will be some amongst the victims who will genuinely feel better simply by seeing their predator walking down the steps to a lengthy jail sentence. They are entitled to that revenge. Where there is substantive evidence that allows a clear verdict of guilty to emerge, they should be assisted in every respect to bring that prosecution.
However I do not see that they will ‘feel better’, since that is our aim, if they know in their heart that the system was skewed in favour of ‘an allegation is proof of guilt’; it would be like cheating at an exam – you might clutch the sentencing judgment in your hand, but you know, and you would know that your alleged predator knew, that it was the system that had found him guilty, not your evidence.
What of those whose allegations were never founded in fact? Do you imagine that their psychological problems will have been cured by jailing an innocent person, that the sentencing judgment has some magical properties that will unravel the cause of their psychological problems? Neither do I.
So I accept that the judicial process of finding guilt or innocence has a limited role to play, in specific circumstances, for some people, when we are looking for ways to help the victims – and that there is a whole other argument in favour of jailing predators to prevent further damage to other individuals, but I am deliberately leaving that aside for the moment, since my object is to help existing victims.
Others turn to the civil courts for ‘justice’; either to solve the problems caused by genuine abuse, or because it is just too much of a temptation to climb aboard the bandwagon, claim abuse and receive a cheque. There be dragons there.
Nothing has damaged the cause of genuine victims of abuse more than the many documented cases of wrongful allegations resulting in cash payments at the behest of insurance companies eager to mitigate loss. Nor the massed flocks of bewigged lawyers gathering at the carcass of someone’s estate. I felt physically sick yesterday at the news that there are already 200 lawyers lined up, for and against, for just half of the core participants at the IICSA. The final tally is expected to be at least 300. All paid for by you and I – either through direct taxation or insurance premiums.
They are there because sexual innocence is presumed, by our judicial system, to be a ‘property’ that you possess. Like a house, or a piece of land. It has a value. You have been deprived of that value.
‘X’ amount is put on the value of never before having had your bra strap snapped by a passing disc jockey; tens of thousands of pounds for entry to your vagina or anus before your sixteenth birthday. It is, in my opinion, the sickest ‘shopping list’ ever devised, worthy of the seediest brothel; and an insult to victims to suggest that a cheque can put right psychological damage.
Loss of innocence can result in serious psychological damage that requires long term treatment; the presumption of the judicial system is that a payment from the civil courts will result in you purchasing such treatment. Is that what happens? Is it even possible for it to happen – i.e. is there easily available treatment for anyone with the money to spend?
Taking as an agreed point that serious psychological damage requires long term treatment – what are we to make of those victims who spend their compensation on a new caravan or a Ferrari? Are we saying that their damage was so minor and superficial that an ego boosting car was all that was required to put it right? Do we know that for a fact? Has anyone studied the issue, or have we just accepted that it is ‘their money to spend as they wish’.
If we accept that there is long term damage, and it is their money to spend as they wish, then we must also accept that we haven’t cured the problem. It is still lurking there, waiting to be cured by the NHS at a future date – at our expense.
I would take the estimated cost of the IICSA – £100 million – and double it; and set up a national chain of sexual mental health clinics staffed by fully qualified psychologists in every hospital and make it freely available to everyone who either has been, or importantly, believes they have been, sexually abused. Surely those who merely ‘believe’ as opposed to factually ‘have been’ abused are every bit as much in need of support and treatment?
You shouldn’t have to go through a civil court case to prove your entitlement to funds to pay for treatment. If the money being allocated to proving who has and who hasn’t been abused, for the purposes of compensation, were instead allocated to providing treatment to all who need it, we would be a much healthier society.
That would of course leave the media in want of their salacious column inches, and the legal profession in want of their fat fees, it might even leave a few politically motivated individuals in want of a drum to bang – but it would be diverting resources towards those most deserving of them in a form which has a proven track record – psychological counselling – of helping them, rather than treating their injury as potentially applicable to the tariff for a damaged motor car.
Those cases remaining who prefer to go down the route of criminal justice, I would treat in the same way as the family courts or the court cases involving those who are mentally incapacitated. Anonymised accounts. Only those judgments which are ground breaking published for the assistance of other lawyers. The media admitted – but not for the purpose of reporting salacious details. The defendant only named if found guilty.
I welcome the news today that Amber Rudd, the home secretary, and Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, plan to open pilot child houses based on a similar system that is used in Iceland.
Child sex abuse victims will be able to give evidence as well as receiving medical care and therapeutic support under one roof in an attempt to spare them the ordeal of recounting their experience to numerous agencies.
Let’s expand on this initiative, and make accessing such help as easy as accessing help for a sexually transmitted disease. If it’s not a viable proposition – or your wish – to go down the criminal court route, then let’s be done with the faux investigations, and judicial trappings; you need help whether it is possible to ‘prove’ your case or not.
My only reservation is that it is ‘one or other’ – not both.
What say you? I can buy a lot of psychological counselling with £200 million.