A piece published online yesterday by The Times. The bottom line? In 2016, when a 14-year-old girl alleged she was sexually abused by her grandfather, then 65, she was deemed (by a jury) to be telling the truth. Three years later, now she’s 17, her admission that she invented the allegations is dismissed by senior judges, and the 68-year-old man continues to serve his 12-year prison sentence.
Meanwhile, Sally Challen has been released on bail pending a retrial, following her killing of her estranged husband with over 20 hammer blows to the head. She will doubtless be found to have suffered “coercive control” and not serve another day in prison for the killing.
We publish only a small proportion of the miscarriages of justice against men, and leniency showed towards women, which are referred to us. But regular visitors to this site cannot be surprised by William Collins’s finding that if men were treated as leniently as women in sentencing terms, five out of six men currently in British prisons wouldn’t be there – UK Prisoners – The Genders Compared. It was the first out of 12 pieces Collins has written to date on crime and punishment, direct links to those pieces (and about 160 others) are in his site’s Index.
The piece in The Times, by Jonathan Ames, Legal Editor:
Senior judges have rejected a 17-year-old girl’s plea to quash her grandfather’s conviction for sexually abusing her, despite her now claiming that she invented the allegations.
The man, who is 68, must continue to serve his 12-year prison sentence even though the girl, who was the main witness in the case against him, has said that she lied at his trial.
The teenager, who cannot be identified, told three appeal judges that she invented the abuse because she craved the attention of other family members, her teachers and classmates. But the court has ruled that her original evidence at the trial in January last year at Snaresbrook crown court in London remained believable.
Instead, the judges said in a ruling handed down on Friday, the girl seemed motivated by regret that her grandfather had been imprisoned.
The girl, known as M in the Court of Appeal proceedings, is described in the ruling as having been a “fragile and troubled teenager”. She first made the allegations about her grandfather to a counsellor in the spring of 2016, when she was 14. M told the counsellor that she realised that her grandfather’s behaviour was wrong only after attending sex education classes at school when she was in year eight. The counsellor reported the conversation to the police, who interviewed M the following day.
However, the grandfather, who also cannot be named, was not charged until nearly three months later. He faced charges of abusing the girl on several occasions, when she was three or four, six or seven and eight or nine years old.
The girl’s mother gave evidence at the trial of the grandfather, who was her father-in-law. The jury at Snaresbrook crown court heard the mother deny that she had prompted her daughter to make the allegations because of her own dislike of her father-in-law. M’s counsellor and a police officer who interviewed the girl also gave evidence. The grandfather was convicted in February last year by a majority verdict of 11 to 1.
However, three months after his conviction, an appeal against conviction was lodged at the court on the sole ground that the granddaughter had given false evidence at the trial.
The appeal court was told that M had retracted the allegations in a 16-paragraph statement that had been witnessed by a solicitor. In her statement the teenager said that she was “shocked and horrified to discover that my grandfather was not only convicted but had gone to prison. This was never my intention and was not what was supposed to happen. I was just supposed to get attention and that would be it.”
The teenager went on to say: “I now realise the severity of my actions and sincerely regret them. After my grandfather went to prison, I knew I had to do the right thing and tell the truth.
“I am making this statement because it is the right thing to do and I want to tell the truth. I am truly sorry for what I have done.”
M’s retraction was supported by her mother. But the Court of Appeal, led by Lord Justice Davis, rejected the appeal, saying that it believed the girl’s original evidence remained truthful.
The ruling pointed to arguments from the Crown’s barrister that he “was not in a position positively to show that M had been subject to direct pressure, following sentence, from family members. He was content to say that the pressure at all events came from within, once M knew that the sentence was as long as 12 years: with the inevitable consequential impact on the whole family.”
The judges ruled that the girl’s “retraction is . . . demonstrably unreliable”, adding: “There is no proper basis for rejecting M’s original evidence.”
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