In the aftermath of Panorama more posturing, infighting and loose talk is the last thing that anyone needs.
The Panorama programme last week on child sexual abuse highlighted the complexity of the current situation concerning ongoing abuse investigations, especially those focused on VIP suspects.
The programme laid bare so much emotion, hurt and a history of secrecy, suppressed allegations and lies.
It also, however unintentionally, reinforced the fact that criminal investigations are best left to the police even when the police themselves have made some significant errors of judgement regarding what they’ve said, how, where and when.
I don’t understand the rationale behind making categorical public pronouncements during an investigation or the justification for announcing an investigation outside a suspect’s home, a dead suspect at that.
However, I do understand that the police are rightly desperate to compensate for past mistakes, ignored allegations, bungled investigations and cover-ups.
They know these allegations won’t go away and must be credibly engaged and professionally investigated.
They also recognise the need to build on the good work done during Operation Yewtree; engaging victims more positively, treating them with respect and taking allegations seriously has had a vast and positive impact.
Many more survivors have come forward resulting in evidence being more easily corroborated making successful prosecutions more likely. Nevertheless, the police or the makers of Panorama do survivors no favours if what they do and say ultimately undermines the chance of proving guilt and achieving justice in court.
Courts need to be left to make judgements about guilt and police must concentrate on collecting and delivering best evidence.
In my experience survivors do tell the truth, some issues might be blurred by the passage of time and the trauma inflicted by their suffering but very few, a minuscule number make these terrible things up.
The few who do say things that are untrue are often people who’ve been damaged by experiences in life, including abuse suffered at the hands of others.
Vulnerable and/or in need of attention, they can be open to suggestion and easily used and manipulated by others. In this highly emotive area we all need to tread carefully and concentrate on what’s right.
Organisations like the police simply need to get on with doing the right thing and allow survivors to judge them by their actions rather than well-intentioned but ill-thought statements. That well-worn phrase ‘talk is cheap and action speaks louder than words’ has never been truer.
Others need to be careful that they’re not playing to their own agenda rather than focusing on the needs of the people they claim to support. Those who believe the end justifies the means or that the rules of evidence ‘innocent until proven guilty’ should not apply need to step back. It’s not about them, it’s about survivors and getting justice for them, not raising organisational, group or individual profiles.
Jumping to conclusions, making judgements outside due process, pursuing personal agendas and infighting can, has and will continue to cause irreparable damage to survivors and suspects alike.
The only people who win when survivors attack each other or are turned against one-another are paedophiles and those in power with something to hide.
The stone has been lifted and the terrible scale of abuse exposed. The CSA (child sexual abuse) enquiries and the range of criminal investigations underway must be given the time and space they need to do their work and those playing to their own agendas need to stop.
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