Andrew L. Urban.
The following note was sent to me on Saturday, March 2, 2019, by a man whose life has been damaged in much the same way as have the lives of Justice Kavanaugh and Cardinal Pell, by allegations of sexual abuse without supporting evidence.
Dear Andrew. You recently said “there’s only one thing as bad as child sexual abuse and that is a false accusation of child sexual abuse.“ The damage an accusation like this makes is, if represented by a number, countless!
I too watched the Kavanaugh enquiry with great interest. I saw unproven, unsupported and uncorroborated allegations with no forensic evidence almost ruin a good man. Or perhaps in some ways, it’s not almost. It has to some degree stained him forever.
I now watch Cardinal Pell. I don’t know if Cardinal Pell is guilty of anything, but I believe that to be found guilty of abuse of two boys, one of whom is dead and having told his mother that no abuse took place, and the other has offered absolutely no evidence and presented circumstances which render his story suspect at best – is deeply concerning.
What is the test for reasonable doubt? No evidence? Accusations which do not stand up to scrutiny? False statements? A flawed police investigation? Evidence of collusion? DPP accepting unlikely and implausible accusations? A system which seeks to win and not to find truth? All of the above was done to me. I have met many men who have been convicted of abuse or violence with no evidence. One method is to find a second person who dislikes or hates the accused, get them to say anything which may constitute a pattern of behaviour. No evidence of that being true either but somehow a second accuser makes an impossible story possible, or in fact probable.
It’s called Tendency and Coincidence evidence, used to discredit an accused when the primary evidence proves nothing. I believe, from my enquiries and personal knowledge that no one in the criminal justice system is seeking truth. There are dozens of men convicted by the above method and serving 2-5 years each for crimes they did not commit: 50 men serving 4 years each are in jail for a combined 200 years. 200 years of jail time for innocent men is a tragedy, both for them and their families.
I can’t be named as I would be asked to leave the apartment I live in by vigilante neighbours or anyone for that matter who believes that if I was found guilty by a jury, I must be guilty. I like Pell, was convicted with no evidence. I have lodged a request with the NSW Attorney General to Petition the Governor to order a Judicial Enquiry into my conviction (70 pages documenting the flaws in the case against me, prepared for me by a concerned lawyer pro bono). I have had no response in over 4 years. I am a 70 year old man and the accusations go back to 1986.
My father brought me to this country to be safe as he had lost a child in Europe during WW2. He would die all over again if he saw the way this country and so many of its people have treated me. My story is full of information and realizations of convictions of the innocent. We should talk; my family and I need help. Sincerely X
What I know of this man is that he has led a good life, generously supported charities and was a good sportsman, a model father, husband and citizen. He has no criminal record of any kind and has never been charged with any offences before or after his life was upended by a jealous and revengeful young woman.
Many people are of the opinion that if a jury returns a guilty verdict, it must be so. Yet records show that is not always so. It is estimated that 5 – 7% of people in prison have been wrongfully convicted. In the UK with its Criminal Cases Review Commission and the US with its Innocence Project, several hundred convictions have been overturned in the past 15 years or so. Australia’s legal system is just as fallible and needs a Criminal Cases Review Commission to help address and correct its mistakes.
Behind every individual that makes up such statistics is a broken life, a tainted character, a story of a shattered family and great sorrow.
Humans are incapable of determining fact from fiction with any degree of certainty.
Any alleged offences should be reported at the earliest possible time, and be less believable proportionate to the delay in so reporting. Word vs word alone should never be cause for charges to be brought – only forensic supporting evidence, combined with definite motivation and opportunity, should be cause for charging an alleged offender.
Dispense with judges,juries,lawyers and allow a properly programmed computerized legal system decide guilt or innocence. This would happen very quickly, avoid many miscarriages of justice, and save the State much time and money.
People lie and others cannot judge with any accuracy at all who is lying and who is telling the truth.
‘ ..studies have comprehensively shown that people are not good at detecting lies. Studies also show that police are no better at spotting liars than anyone else. In fact, police have a bias toward thinking that people are lying, and are guilty, compared to other citizens who generally have a bias toward thinking that people are telling the truth. Compared to other people, however, police are more confident in their abilities to spot liars.’ Full story here:
I can understand MM’s point of view [as a survivor and the mother of a survivor]. I personally came within a footstep of being attacked and raped at 18 and I have never forgotten the fear and the danger and have made it my business to protect both of my daughters who needed to travel home late at night after university studies.
It IS a problem to prove something that is almost always private [although grooming often is not very private] and which doesn’t have any evidence unless the person abused goes straight to the police, or at least tells someone straight away. And I do think we have to make sure our children feel comfortable to tell us anything, anything at all, that has happened to them, and to have a good knowledge of personal boundaries and feeling “uncomfortable”.
But we should not forget that it is at least equally difficult for someone to prove that they did not do something heinous twenty, or thirty or forty years ago because of course, they did not know that they needed evidence like a cctv unit to catch their every movement for forty years just in case someone accused them out of the blue.
And someone high profile like Pell, or Headmasters or teachers or doctors or priests or administrators of child welfare homes have become very vulnerable to wrongful allegations. Very vulnerable to multiple allegations [so being accused by more than one person is no guarantee of guilt at all]. It is not that the claimants are lying [although some do knowingly lie] but mostly they just have faulty memories and faulty recall. ‘How can this be?’ I hear some people ask. After all, claimants have said “we know what we remember”. And they do remember something.
However, depending on how damaged they have been in early childhood by indifferent parents, by abusive parents [whether physical, sexual or emotional] by abusive relatives or neighbours, by parents who are always fighting, by alcoholic families and so on, a child can easily become so damaged that they simply do not lay down memories very well to be able to retrieve them accurately later on. They can be fearful that they will be abused and later become totally convinced that they have actually been abused. They can innocently totally mis-name their perpetrator even though they know perfectly well both the person who has abused them and the person who did not abuse them. There are some fascinating examples of this. There are a number of reasons for this. It is all just a very unfortunate fact of the psychology of memory – and by and large, people do not understand this. Lawyers do not easily understand it fully and think it is a question of just memory fading with time or lies. Judges do not usually understand it and police generally do not understand it very much at all. I didn’t see much evidence that the Royal Commission understood this fact despite the enormous amount of money it cost and the fact that it could have whatever expert opinions that it needed.
Indeed, when I looked at the stories of the 16 women who claimed to have been sexually abused at Parramatta Girls Home, I discovered that 6 of them had nominated people who just were not there at the same time as the individual woman was there. That is 37.5%. of inaccurate allegations. And then there were serious problems with allegations by a further two women. That raises the figure up to a possible 50% incorrect allegations – a frightening figure. I am afraid that there are going to be a very large number of innocent men sitting in prison as a result of referrals to the police by the Royal Commission. And they will not all be fortunate enough to have someone back them and raise money for them to be able to pay for lawyers to take their problems to Appeal. And even if they do get to an Appeal, the Appellate Court usually only looks at issues of law, not faulty memories. People do not want to know this because we quite rightly say most people would not lie about something so serious.
Finally, judges and juries do not want to think they cannot tell the difference between lies and truth. But the simple fact shown by many studies is that it is only possible to get truth Vs untruth right about 54% – 56% of the time. In other words, only slightly better than chance. So, the fact that a judge or a jury has had the opportunity to observe the accused and the claimant or claimants means absolutely nothing at all. It is the facts which have to count. The evidence has to count. And if it is not there, then it is not there, and due respect has to be given to plausible alternative evidence. Proof has to be beyond reasonable doubt.
The law has to clean up its act. The Law Councils have to take up the issue. The Attorneys General have to carefully examine what has gone wrong.
In my opinion the Royal Commission did a good job of focussing the spotlight on the problem of child abuse. I believe its recommendations for redress are good. But I do not believe it has been helpful to assume that all or even most of the claimants are necessarily telling the factual truth rather than their own subjective truth.
Of course, if they believe it is the truth they will sound credible. But if they have been sufficiently damaged, or have mental health problems, no matter what the reason for this is, their subjective truth may well not be the objective truth.
Yes, perhaps we should have a different forum such as the French investigative system when looking at claims of historical sexual abuse.
Matin Bryant – please tell me this is being re-examined !!
While I largely agree with the underlying message, I do not believe Pell or Kavanaugh should be viewed in the same light. Rich and powerful people can afford the best lawyers/barristers that money can buy. In an adversarial system, they’re on the front foot from outset.
I can understand the author’s view in the case where only 1 person makes an accusation but, in Pell’s case, it was dozens – of which only 4 stood a chance at trial and only 2 made it all the way. He left absolutely no doubt during sentencing, (EDITED; he has not been sentenced yet)
Having said that, I also think the government has made a grave mistake by enforcing a victim compensation regime. Real victims don’t care about money, they simply want Justice. Undoubtedly, guaranteeing compensation in this way has the potential to bring greedy humans out of the woodwork to make false accusations.
The conversation we should be having is: how do we go about proving something that is purposely done in private with no witnesses? Personally, I think we need to make a safe environment for victims to come forward quickly and easily so that physical evidence (ie rape kits) can be taken immediately, whether the victim is believed or not and no matter who the allegations are against. That’s what we SHOULD be enforcing on ALL institutions, including police, as due process.
We must also consider ‘grooming’: how do we go about proving this so as to prevent sexual abuse from occurring (ie early intervention)? As a survivor and the mother of a survivor who was smart enough to recognise the grooming process and intervene early, I can tell you it is next to impossible to prove, particularly when it is a child trying to describe what happened.
Perhaps the French system of truth-finding should replace the adversarial system in matters of sexual abuse (and in family courts)? Maybe this is worth discussing amongst ourselves.