A lesson from the Delhi gang rape

When a nation has a history of misogyny, how many generations does it take until its culture accepts the equality of women? That’s a difficult question to answer, because this country, the UK, isn’t there yet. We still have objectification … Continue reading

A response from The Times

Thank you for your email.

Strangely enough I do not think we disagree all that much.

I totally accept – and have written – that abuse is a huge problem and that its extent has been underestimated.

I am sure that one reason for this was a failure to understand its nature. Therefore explaining and articulating what child abuse is and what a users do is vital. As my mother is a concentration camp survivor I understand the importance to victims of being heard and believed.

Our one area of disagreement concerns whether defending the rule of law, and the presumption of innocence, makes one the “peado’s friend”. I would argue that all victims and defendants need this presumption and it can’t be simply ignored.

I am confident that historical accounts of Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith will reveal their true nature and I expect the truth to be damning. But it must be possible to argue for the process of law without being accused essentially of being an accessory to abuse.

With very best wishes

Daniel (Finkelstein)
TheTimes

A letter to The Times

Dear Mr. Finkelstein,

First of all, thank you for engaging with me and many others who were genuinely upset by your article of December 11th, in The Times.

Your article proved to be a red flag to many survivors of sexual abuse, because it appeared to defend those accused of abuse and reiterated the painful reality of those that had tried to report the abuse, whilst the perpetrator’s were still alive, did not succeed in doing so; either through insufficient evidence or by being deemed unreliable witnesses. This injustice echoes through so many cases.

What your piece failed to acknowledge sufficiently was the needs of the victims. Trials of dead people are unhelpful as there is no punishment for those that are found guilty. But no victim takes reporting sexual abuse lightly. It is deeply humiliating and exposes friends and family to the horror of their experience, often for the first time. People who are abused as children suffer an intense degree of shame. Admitting abuse takes a lot of courage and involves a lot of pain.

Child sexual abuse is a difficult thing to prove. Children coerced or forced into this reprehensible activity not only suffer shame, but severe mental damage; particularly if the abuse is ongoing. The modus operandi of abusers is threats and secrecy. Demoralised survivors often take many years to get up the courage to even tell those closet to them what has happened. Many give up, as they feel the odds of justice are weighted against them.

The memory of sexual abuse is often deeply buried and covered up as a means of self protection. Like PTSD, reminders in the media, or daily life, trigger the mental pain and the subsumed memories come flooding back, causing depression and intense emotional distress. Recent high profile cases have triggered this in many people as the enormous increase in calls to NAPAC and the NSPCC will testify.

Those that were abused find little satisfaction in accusing dead paedophiles. They are not after financial compensation. They are seeking closure on something that has had an ongoing detrimental affect on their lives. Without this closure, the pain remains like a cancer awaiting a trigger to ravage through someone’s mental well-being.

Survivors would much prefer to tackle the perpetrators fairly through the legal system, so that all the details can be aired and weighed with the full force of the law. Waiting until that person is dead, helps no-one, which is why it is particularly tragic that earlier complaints about both Savile and Smith came to nothing.

There is some hope. If we can have support for a widespread national review of the historical cases that were dismissed or stopped, rather than a rash of local reviews, we can draw together lessons learned that would enable current children in care to have more protection. Furthermore, historical survivors of abuse would have the opportunity to have their experiences acknowledged formally and an apology from the state who were charged with their care and failed them. If remaining perpetrators are still living, they should have their day in court and face their accusers.

Survivors need to be heard to be free and move on. It is a curative process. That’s why it is so important to have what has happened to them sympathetically acknowledged and supported. Even if the perpetrators are dead and cannot defend themselves.

We’re starting a petition with the help of several Survivor’s charities and key figures to get a national review underway. I hope you will help us by giving this your support.

Who put the Fink in Finkelstein

Cyril Smith may have been a monster. But until we have reliable evidence we must not rush to judgment
Can I ask you a question? How do you know, really know, that Jimmy Savile is guilty of child abuse? The truth, let’s face it, is that you don’t.
You are like me. You’ve perhaps heard one or two TV interviews with victims. You’ve read the odd article including some fairly damning quotes. You’ve gathered that there is a police investigation and that, as a result, a number of famous people have been arrested, although oddly always in connection with allegations that have nothing to do with Savile.
And, most of all, you’ve heard people say that he always looked a little fishy and that come to think of it it was a dead giveaway that he always waltzed around in one of those gold lamé tracksuits that paedos love to wear. And that hair. And “now then, now then”. He definitely did it.
The settled public attitude that Savile committed these crimes serves important ends. It allows his victims to tell their stories and feel that they are being heard; it prompts a public debate about attitudes to the horrendous crime of abuse; it reveals the dangers of allowing celebrity to become a warped form of power; and it leads organisations with which Savile was involved to consider how they allowed staff to behave.
All this suggests that historical and journalistic accounts of Savile and his behaviour are vital. The truth is essential and what is in the public domain already leads me strongly to suspect that the truth will be damning. Over time I hope many of us read these accounts and learn from them.
But the settled public attitude that Savile committed these crimes also has a worrying side. Jimmy Savile is dead. He cannot defend himself. And by this I don’t just mean he cannot provide an account of his actions. He cannot subject the allegations of others to critical scrutiny or pay a lawyer to do that on his behalf.
By dying, Jimmy Savile both escaped justice and was denied justice. He can no longer be punished for what he is accused of doing, but he cannot refute the accusations either.
I fear that in our anxiety to put right the mistakes that were made during the lifetimes of people like Savile, and in our justifiable anger on behalf of victims, we may begin to erode something else that really matters. We may begin to erode the difference between historical accounts and criminal proceedings. We may start to prosecute dead people and find them guilty when they fail to enter a plea.
Let’s take the case of the Liberal MP Cyril Smith. In March 1970 the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions received a file of evidence from Lancashire Constabulary containing allegations by eight men that they were indecently assaulted by Smith when they were teenagers and, in one way or another, in his care.
Later that month the DPP’s office responded. It had decided not to prosecute. It felt that there was not a reasonable chance of conviction because the accusations were without corroboration and some of the men would not make good witnesses. Smith, who had denied the accusations, was informed.
Nearly thirty years later, the decision was reviewed by the Crown Prosecution Service. But without new evidence the case could not be reopened. Smith had been informed all those years ago that there would be no prosecution and that was that. The rules forbade a reversal of the decision.
Last month the CPS changed its mind. It said that the decision made in 1970 would not be made today. It effectively charged Cyril Smith with the crimes it had not charged him with all those years ago and decided in 1999 that it could not reopen.
And on the same day Greater Manchester Police issued a statement. It said it had “overwhelming evidence” (which appears — it’s not entirely clear — to be the same evidence considered in 1970 and 1999) and that “we should publicly recognise that young boys were sexually and physically abused” by Smith.
So the CPS having charged him, the police found him guilty. The only tricky problem in the case being that Smith died in 2010.
If Cyril Smith committed these crimes then he is a monster. But I am still attached to that vital word “if”. People in this country are innocent until proven guilty. We cling to that notion: it is a life raft, we have to cling to it.
Yes, the police think he is guilty and the police are worthy of respect. But the police always think the people they charge with offences are guilty; that is why they charge them. Policing proceeds by identifying a suspect and then building the strongest possible case against them. And the more time the police spend on the case, the more convinced they become.
In the 15 years between the arrest of Colin Stagg on the unjustified suspicion that he killed Rachel Nickell and the admission 15 years later by Robert Napper that he did it, the police never stopped believing that Stagg was their man, a belief they had held from the moment they set eyes on him. That’s how policing works. That’s how the mind works.
And it is the reason why cases are tried in court. So that police evidence can be subjected to public scrutiny.
Yes, there are allegations of a similar nature from several people. But corroboration by volume, novel doctrine that it is, has many dangers. It is essential to establish that there is no chance of either deliberate or accidental collusion between witnesses. Unwittingly the very process of police evidence gathering can produce similar allegations. A public trial would examine this.
And yes, therefore Smith should have had his day in court. But I write that as a journalist, not as a state prosecuting authority. For the State to revisit old cases and start changing its mind the moment someone dies, is deeply disturbing.
It is sickening to reflect that Smith and Savile have not been made to face the accusations against them, and to live with the consequences of their behaviour, whatever it may have been. Every victim needs protection and justice from every guilty person. Historians now have an important job bringing the truth to light.
But every innocent person needs to know they live in a society of due process and the rule of law. And that they can die in peace, without being taken to court in their coffin.
daniel.finkelstein@thetimes.co.uk

Tory on truth serum – a new series

Lord J Arthur Rank

Lord J Arthur Rank

Every Friday, I will be publishing an interview with a Tory on Truth Serum. Here you’ll get to ask the questions you really want an answer to and for a change, get the real unvarnished truth, Tory style.  This week the Tory truth about BENEFITS.

Lord X:  Well, well, young filly. What do you want to know?

SW:  Following the Autumn statement, can you tell me about the big picture behind benefit cuts? What are your eventual aims?

Benefits are a disgrace. Communism. They have ruined this country and brought up generations of feckless, work-shy oiks. And lazy malingering types pretending to be ill.  If I had my way, I’d abolish the lot. In 2011 we paid out £35 billion to the bastards. £5.5 million went to the fucking foreigners, thanks to those retards at the EU.

SW: How are you going about making these cuts? 

This is just the start. Osbourne is just tinkering at the edges. But they’ll soon see.  We’ve started with two key groups. Feckless families that are working in a half-arsed way and claiming tax credits and the long-term filthy scroungers that claim they are off “sick”.

It works like this – the families will have to stop breeding, they won’t be able to support the kids they’ve got and they are going to be stuck with them until they are 25, because we’re no longer giving hand outs and council houses to them when they grow up. Hopefully, they’ll get off their sorry arses and do another job to make ends meet.  Then we won’t have to give them any more money. That’ll teach ’em. I see no reason why the kids shouldn’t work as well. No excuses.

As for the malingerers, they’ll have to PROVE that they can’t work. Even the ones with cancer should be economically viable. They can clean toilets or something. Or work at a nuclear plant. They are dying anyway, so they can’t moan about chemicals and stuff.

SW: I see. So what happens to all those people, like the employees at Remploy that are out of work through no fault of their own?

My heart bleeds, ha ha. Those idiots should have seen the writing on the wall by now and got themselves other jobs. The trouble with these people is that they think they are entitled to something. Well, they are not.  And they can stop whining about foreign workers taking their jobs. The only reason those Johnny Foreigners were let in was to do the really crappy jobs these twats refused to do. Serves them right. The peasant class needs to be put back in their places. They are entitled to NOTHING.

SW: Peasant class? That sounds positively medieval to me? You can’t be serious?

Look, young lady. This country is going to the dogs. And you know why? Those socialists upset the natural order of things. Well, we’re putting things back to how they should be. My chaps were born to lead. It’s a natural right. We know what’s best for the country.  There will always be menial jobs available for people who are not like us and they should be pleased to have them. If people are not economically viable, we will make sure they die out. I wish we could exterminate them all now, but we have to do it gradually by running down the NHS, ensuring they have to eat cheap, crap food and ensuring education doesn’t give them any silly ideas. Simple really.

SW: Right. That’s certainly “interesting”. So once you’ve called the sick and the poorer worker families to heel, what’s next?

Single mothers. Filthy little sluts. They are just vandal incubators and a waste of oxygen. We’re going to take the babies away as soon as they pop them out. And they’ll get absolutely nothing for them. Anything they get from the state encourages them to breed. Disgusting.

SW: So what will happen to the children?

Children’s homes, of course.  We’ll keep hold of the best looking and compliant ones for our special party circuit. The rest will be trained to work and work hard. We’ll sell them to our partners, G4S and they can use them as cheap labour when we finish privatising the police, the civil service, the NHS and the banks.

SW: I’m feeling very nauseous at the moment, so I think we’ll leave it there until next week. Thank you Lord X for talking with us. It’s been…enlightening.

No problem at all, young lady. Now get down on your knees and sort me out, would you? I’ve got a stiffy coming on and I need it relieved. There’s a good girl….

Leveson, tweets and the MSM

Two camps fighting it out on Twitter. Hacked off Hugh and his “victims” and MSM. Both sides crying “It’s not fair!” The Leveson report is fairly sensible and even-handed. No real shocks, just that regulation of the press remains voluntary. … Continue reading