I have been asked to give my opinion on Radio Ulster about criticism of the police for spending too much money on historic abuse cases, and complaining that they don’t have enough resources to keep the public safe from terrorism.
The interview has been sparked by a comment Edwina Currie apparently made to the same station on Saturday, but more particularly by Nigel Lawson on various media channels over the weekend. He said ‘Look at how much the police is spending now on chasing up often unsubstantiated accusations of historic sex abuse. That’s got nothing to do with security. Those resources should be put where the need is.’ He suggested that present day offences should have more priority.
It is interesting to track where these anti-abuse opinions have come from, and analyse how quickly the media, and hence the public, can be influenced by very little substantiated fact.
- The “alleged witch hunt” into Leon Brittan.
- A ground swell of support for the elder statesman and his family from his friends, and colleagues – one can imagine a similar chorus during the lifetime of Jimmy Savile.
- Devastating and fear inducing events such as the ISIS claimed Egyptian plane crash, the Paris Slaughter, and now the Mali Event.
- The Media portray the Police using the situation to complain about budget cuts and lack of resources.
- The Politicians counter by attacking the police for “wasting money on historic abuse investigations”.
What is my reaction to the allegations:-
- Both terrorism and abuse of children are crucially important to our way of life.
- It is impossible to compare them in any sort of direct way other than the fact that the victim is usually innocent.
- The impetus for these comments is a lack of money for public need and the passionate desire of a Conservative Government to balance the books. At the bottom of any policy suggested is the objection to its costs, unless being financed by extra government resources.
- Abuse has lifelong effects and costs society a lot of money because of the resources undoubtedly allocated to support its victims, arguably far more than the cost of a terrorist event.
- Mr Lawson and others appear to ignore the views and wishes of victims, which is for justice that has usually eluded them for many years.
- The only tenable argument is that, perhaps, money spent on investigating individuals, whom the police know are dead, is open to criticism. The only example I know of is Jimmy Savile. The effect on victims, however, of having someone take their allegations seriously, is almost justifiable in itself.
I have seen the pendulum of opinion about abuse swing backwards and forwards several times during the last 21 years that I have been dealing with it professionally. I hope that the recent events do not gather momentum in the wrong direction. The reality is that the Goddard enquiry will, hopefully, criticise members of the establishment, who are starting to fight back through the media.