A piece in today’s Sunday Times:
After all of the accused men were acquitted following the Belfast rape trial in 2018, a movement began across social media platforms and several news sites under the slogan #IBelieveHer. The premise was that the men’s celebrity had helped them, and the young complainant should be believed even though her accusations ranging from sexual assault to rape — a crime equated with murder in terms of gravity on our statute books — were dismissed by a jury.
The campaign to reverse the presumption of innocence, and treat all accused men as guilty until they could prove otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt, quickly spread beyond the Belfast case. The social justice warriors’ argument was that a sexual crime is so intrusive and stressful to report that no victim would ever get it wrong.
I didn’t see any great resurgence of the #IBelieveHer campaign last week when a middle-aged woman had her accusations of sexual assault against a prominent man thrown out of a Dublin court. Nobody stormed the District Court with placards, nobody waved knickers about, nobody piled on to social media demanding a retrial and lamenting the poor “victim’s” trauma. Even though the case was a high-profile one and the accused man was a public figure, there was a deafening silence from the mob. That’s probably because the complainant posed something of a challenge to the insistence that such women must be believed. Her evidence was found to be totally inconsistent.
The woman cannot be named despite the obvious falsity of her allegations against the comedian Sil Fox. To non-rugby fans of a certain vintage, Fox was more familiar than any of the Belfast men, since he’s one of those old-style, panto-scene Dublin comics who’s been on the go for decades. Just before Christmas in 2018, Fox was approached by the woman in a pub and asked to pose for a selfie. After he had obliged, she went back to her friends and didn’t mention a problem.
But later that night, she approached Fox, who was chatting to the comedian Barry Murphy. She told him he was a “dirty old man” and threatened to “put you on Facebook”. He told her she was being “ridiculous”. She later made a formal complaint to gardai.
It’s at this point that you’ve got to wonder whether the law has, in fact, been changed to the “I Believe Her” model— that the presumption of innocence has been reversed for sexual offences, and nobody’s thought to tell us. Fox was charged with sexual assault, one of the categories of sexual crime which does not afford anonymity to the accused. For 18 months, the 87-year-old, his wife and his family have lived with the appalling stigma of a sexual assault accusation. He has been out of work, his reputation has been trashed, and he has been forced to reveal humiliating details about the collapse of his libido following medical problems 11 years ago.
Until the case came to court last week, though, it seems there was little forensic examination of the extensive CCTV footage of the alleged incident. The woman claimed Fox put his hand on her groin for 30 seconds during the taking of the photograph. He had then “skulked away”, leaving her distressed. But the CCTV showed Fox’s two hands in view the entire time, apart from a three-second period after the picture had been taken. The two had apparently parted on pleasant terms, with the woman touching him in a friendly gesture. There was no evidence of anything untoward, the court held, and no sign the woman was upset. Far from “skulking away”, Fox had ambled back to his friends at a leisurely pace. [J4MB: So why was the man prosecuted?]
The shame, trauma, anxiety and public humiliation heaped on an old man and his family for 18 months by her allegation seems to me to be clearly far in excess of anything she had allegedly suffered in their brief encounter.
Sexual assault “victims” are just as capable of getting it wrong [J4MB: Not “getting it wrong”, LYING] — in this case badly wrong — as any other class of accuser, and given the life-wrecking nature of the charge, their claims have to be treated with the same legal scepticism as any other. This does not appear to have happened in Fox’s case, and he was prosecuted on the word of an untruthful witness. Small wonder the social justice warriors ran for cover this time. #IBelieveHim.
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