Baroness Newlove, the victim’s commissioner, is a Conservative peer. A piece by Fiona Hamilton, Crime Editor, in today’s Times (emphases ours). I’ve added “(alleged)” where appropriate in the piece, because journalists always write of alleged victims as “victims”, thereby perpetuating the lie that alleged perpetrators are always guilty. Very often they are the true victims of the police investigations and subsequent legal actions.
The victims’ commissioner has accused senior police officers of taking a retrograde step over plans to abandon the national policy to believe alleged sexual abuse victims automatically.
Baroness Newlove said that (alleged) victims of rape and sexual assault would be less likely to come forward if chief constables overturned the instruction to detectives to believe claims from the outset.
Lady Newlove, 56, who was appointed victims’ commissioner in 2012, said that a history of not being believed by police and poor treatment of (alleged) rape victims had previously deterred them from reporting attacks.
She said: “Lately our criminal justice system has taken great strides in building confidence with (alleged) victims, resulting in more being prepared to report the (alleged) crimes committed against them. This is in part because of the change in the police approach to (alleged) victims. These proposed changes would be a retrograde step for (alleged) victims and justice.” [J4MB: A retrograde step, unless you consider men as worthy of justice as women.]
Most chief constables, including Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, and Sara Thornton, chairwoman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), agreed this year that the “belief” instruction should be removed from national guidance and replaced with “the intention is that victims can be confident they will be listened to”.
The NPCC agreed to carry out further consultation before the College Of Policing decides whether to change the policy, which was put in place in 2011 after revelations that police had failed properly to investigate allegations of abuse, including by (alleged) victims of the former BBC presenter Jimmy Savile, who was posthumously declared Britain’s most prolific paedophile.
However, there have been concerns that automatic belief was a factor in prominent abuse investigations in which the police were accused of ignoring evidence that cast doubt on the complainants’ story.
In particular Scotland Yard was criticised after detectives placed their faith in a man known as Nick, declaring that his uncorroborated claims of a Westminster abuse ring were “credible and true”. Nick has been accused of inventing the claims and charged with perverting the course of justice. Sir Richard Henriques, a retired judge who examined the Operation Midland inquiry, said the “automatic belief” policy warped officers’ judgment.
However, victims’ advocates [J4MB: Feminists with no interest in justice for men] are alarmed by the prospect of overturning the policy. Lady Newlove, who has campaigned on (alleged) victims’ behalf since her husband, Gary, was murdered in 2007, said: “These changes would be a retrograde step for (alleged) victims and for justice. The change appears to be based upon a view that with sex offences, police officers are unable to take a robust and impartial investigation if they offer a (alleged) victim belief that their allegations are true. If this is the case, I would argue that a diminution of (alleged) victim support is not the solution. Instead, I would suggest that it is an operational matter that needs to be addressed through training and guidance.”
Fiona Ellis, of the support group Survivors in Transition said: “Belief is the cornerstone of validation for (alleged) victims and survivors. If that belief is there, they engage better and longer in the [criminal justice] process.”
Behind the story
The issue of automatically believing sexual abuse complainants has become a particularly vexed one in which chief constables are fiercely divided. Advocates of the status quo, such as Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman for child protection, argue that belief is the appropriate starting point which will give victims the confidence to come forward before a full investigation ensues.
Others are alarmed that it has resulted in a blinkered mindset in some detectives and that some investigations are not being conducted in an impartial way. They say officers should approach every investigation with an open mind and it is enough for them to show empathy to the complainant before conducting a rigorous inquiry.
Some (alleged) victims’ groups are staunchly opposed to overturning belief; others just want the police to reassure (alleged) victims, treat them with sensitivity and understanding, and go on to properly investigate.
Inconsistency creates confusion and with it an environment in which (alleged) victim confidence is likely to suffer.
The belief policy has been debated for the best part of two years, a significant chunk of the total time in which it has been in place. It is time for a final decision to be made.
Janet Bloomfield’s 2015 article “13 reasons women lie about being raped” is here.
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