Channel 4 drama, National Treasure, has sought to dramatise the events of Operation Yewtree and has caused a fresh debate to surface on the topic of anonymity for alleged sexual abusers.
With similar calls coming earlier in the year, Abuse Law specialist Peter Garsden explains the effect anonymity could have on abuse survivors who feel too scared to speak out.
Drama Places Abuse in the Spotlight
National Treasure tells the story of ageing comic Paul Finchley, played by Robbie Coltrane, who has been accused of historic sexual abuse.
A central focus of the drama was the so called act of ‘fishing’, which saw the allegations leaked to press, which kicked up a media storm and caused tabloid newspapers splash the story across their front pages.
As the first episode ran its course, and after the media attention, further alleged victims come forward to accuse the former TV personality of historic crimes, all of which he vehemently denies.
Anonymity For Alleged Abusers
National Treasure has highlighted an ongoing debate surrounding anonymity for alleged abusers, with the topic being discussed earlier this year by a collective of public personalities who were wrongly accused of historic sexual abuse.
Sir Cliff Richard, Paul Gambaccini, and Nigel Evans MP have all called for anonymity for those accused of historic sexual abuse, as they felt allegations against them will always sully their reputation.
Considering the question of anonymity for alleged abusers, and reviewing some of the language used in National Treasure, Abuse Lawyer, Peter Garsden said:
“In itself, the word “fishing” carries with it overtures of looking speculatively for something which probably does not exist in the faint hope that something will appear on the end of the fisherman’s hook – this is a loaded expression not suited to investigating signs of abuse in childhood.”
“The police are generally cautious in deciding whether to allow the identity of famous individuals to be published, often referring to them as “a 65 year old male” or some such anonymous description at the time of interview and arrest as opposed to charge.”
“When details of the person alleged to have committed the offence does appear in the press, it can encourage supportive witnesses to come forward.”
“This is not ‘fishing’ but can be described as the natural course of inquiry and investigation which the police, who are looking into a case, would be expected to do. Evidential inquiries are a natural consequence of the investigation of any case.”
“We must not forget the seriousness of these alleged crimes and it is very unusual for a child sex offender to have only committed one offence. Such behaviour is typically part of their sexual predilection and way of life, such that it is more than likely that abuse has taken place regularly – this is the simple reason that so many supportive victims often come forward after allegations are taken public.”
“There is no reason why those accused of sexual crimes should be in any more privileged a category than any other criminal offence such as theft. Their details are not hidden from the public, so nor should those accused of offences of indecent assault.”
“All victims of child abuse are vulnerable, undoubtedly the law recognises them as such, and puts them in a special category, deserving of protection from the Courts, and Police.”