Just published. Collins cites a Telegraph article from 2006, pre-dating Operation Yewtree and Savile. An extract:
The system for dealing with accusations of sexual abuse is a disgrace. It has manifest failings that are known to lead to wrong verdicts but which remain uncorrected, and which continue to send innocent men to prison.
Chris Saltrese is a solicitor who has handled many appeals for those accused of sexual crimes. It was not his original area of legal expertise, however. “I started as a commercial lawyer,” he explained to me, “an area of law that is considerably more lucrative than this one. I ended up handling cases of alleged sex crimes only because it became obvious to me that there was an injustice of colossal proportions taking place.” Mr Saltrese believes that there are “certainly scores, and very possibly hundreds” of men who have been convicted of sexual crimes who are rotting in prison with no prospect of release, but who are not guilty and should never have been sentenced. [J4MB: Collins later writes, “With more than 12,000 men in prison for sexual offences, the number of innocent men in prison must be at the very least several hundred. I’m now inclined to believe it is probably in the thousands.” [Our emphasis] We’re confident he’s right, it’s probably in the thousands.]
These men have all been convicted on the uncorroborated allegations of people they knew 10, 20, sometimes even 40 years ago, and whom they have not seen since. It seems incredible that, in English law, such unsupported allegations should be enough to get a man sent to prison for a decade or more. But that is the present situation. Thanks to the steady erosion of the rules of evidence governing sexual offences, culminating in decisions by the Law Lords in 1991 and 1995, a defendant can face multiple allegations at the same trial. None of those allegations need have any corroboration; each, considered on its own merits, may be insufficient to suggest sexual abuse took place, but the effect of the Law Lords’ rulings has been that together, multiple allegations are, in law, enough to prove not just that the abuse happened, but that the defendant was the perpetrator. [J4MB emphasis – Collins later turns to the issue of how the police financially incentivise people to make accusations.]
How could England’s most senior judges come to insist on a rule of evidence so transparently unreliable as that? It is a question to which only they know the answer. Their underlying assumption had to be that allegations of sexual abuse should be accepted as true, even if there is no evidence to support them. The result is that the burden of proof is on the accused to prove he is innocent, not on his accusers to prove his guilt.