Our report (Aug 17, 2021), Wrongful allegation of child sexual abuse as weapon has drawn a heart wrenching response from “MARY”, the wife of a man who she firmly believes has been wrongfully convicted of sexual abuse of a minor. She refers to some of the exculpatory evidence in his case, and pleads on behalf of all men in such situations: “Something has to be done.”
Thank you Andrew. I put this aside when I first read it and even now, a week later, I have the familiar anxiety in the pit of my stomach.
Unfortunately it is too close to home. At the present time I wait for defence lawyers to finalise material for an Appeal for my husband – one of those good men who is not capable of sexual abuse to anyone much less a minor. Not only is he not capable, but I reconstructed a roster applying to 45 years ago which is totally valid and checked against a large number of known dates, which shows he just was not present for 57% of the convictions.
This was not produced at trial essentially because the solicitor did not understand why it was valid but did not tell me this. In addition we have since discovered evidence that shows unequivocally that another 33% of the convictions were not possible. That is, a staggering 90% of the convictions were just not possible. The remainder represent allegations that it is impossible to prove or disprove. And the prosecution certainly did not “prove” them but the judge, after erring by excluding mis-identification evidence, did some interesting airbrushing out of exculpatory evidence and speculating to fit her paradigm.
And my husband has been in prison for more than 2 years, having been convicted for a lengthy period of time with a non-parole period of more than 12 years – which puts him in a Maximum Security category where he can do nothing because he is too old and infirm to work. Can we get this new evidence admitted in an Appeal? I simply do not know. It is difficult as Appeal Courts do not like accepting any new evidence. All I can say is that I am pushing for all I am worth.
Let me give you something I wrote for our lawyers:
“Large numbers of studies [50% of studies reviewed by Rumney] put the wrongful allegation rate in the 20% – 47% range, with outliers claiming 1.5% and 90%, and the total showing an overall average of 21.67% which is far different from the incorrect, low 2% figure based on a US police chief’s guess. Nor even the 6% figure based on a very narrow definition of “wrongful” as being “deliberate”. 6% has become accepted and ignores all the other reasons an allegation might not be accurate. This will affect the popular approach to an accused person.” [False Allegations of Rape, Philip N. S. Rumney, The Cambridge Law Journal, Vol. 65, No. 1 (Mar. 2006), pp. 128-158 (31 pages), Published By: Cambridge University Press]
And from my own research of Case Study 7 of the 2013-18 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (emphasis added):
” …..Parramatta Girls Training School in Case No. 7 at the Royal Commission where at least six out of sixteen witnesses accused men who were not present at PGTS at the same time as those women. That’s an error rate of 37.5%. We do not know if they were abused by someone else at PGTS or if there has been conflation with abuse in some other period of their lives. But we do know that they were not correct at the R/C. And for the men nominated, that constitutes wrongful allegations.” Supplementary Report – Royal Commission into Institutional Responses Into Child Sexual Abuse – Case Study No 7, April 2015, written by me.
And those 6 out of 16 witnesses does not include the person who accused my husband nor the person who accused another really good man who is also currently in prison. Adding those makes it at least 8 out of 16 wrongful complaints. 50%!
I won’t go into the reasons why and how these mistakes or lies occur. But I will say that when children have traumatic early childhoods it can severely affect their perception of having been abused because they happened to have felt vulnerable. And feeling vulnerable can severely affect how well they lay down that memory and consequently what memory they have for recall many years later. Then there are those who actually lie for whatever reason – and there are many reasons why a damaged person might lie. Lawyers do not seem very aware of these psychological aspects even though they think they know the basics.
Something has to be done.
Sexual abuse is a serious problem.
False allegations of sexual abuse also are a serious problem. This is an area full of misunderstandings by most people within the legal system.
Is it possible that someone could educate people within our legal system better? Who would? And how? With what information?
As Mary says, something has to be done. But what?
Australia’s legal systems are not very good at embracing new ideas.
Another problem is – which new ideas should our legal system embrace?
The book I’m currently reading called Scatterbrain by Henning Beck says that the general public, like the legal profession, do not understand how memory works. Neuroscientists are currently finding that our brains don’t “lay down” memories – they have found that memories work in an entirely different way from how we think memories work.
That is a very serious problem for the courts which rely on memories of various people to try to establish the truth. The starting point in my opinion is to learn how memory actually functions, before anyone can even help the legal profession understand that changes need to be made in the way the legal system treats the concept of “memory”,
It is a huge challenge, agreed. Memory plays a significant factor in trials; sometimes lives depend on it, yet, as you say Peter, we know virtually nothing about its workings. It’s certainly not like a video tape. And perhaps the first step for the legal system to ‘do something’ is to accept that.