Thursday, 9 May 2013

Takes My Breath Away

It's not often that I read something that astonishes me, but a recent contribution to the debate about historical prosecutions of sexual offences on the 'Spiked' website genuinely takes my breath away and deserves wide publicity. 

Barbara Hewson is a barrister specialising in human rights law and feels that Operation Yewtree is 'destroying the rule of law.' I always try to choose my words carefully, but this seeming apologist for the sexual abuse of children is talking such utter and disturbing nonsense that I feel the need to bring it to people's attention, especially having flagged-up the issue previously here.

I hope the 'Spiked' website will not mind me quoting these selected snippets in order to give a flavour of the piece, but I would strongly encourage people to read the whole article.  

"I do not support the persecution of old men. The manipulation of the rule of law by the Savile Inquisition – otherwise known as Operation Yewtree – and its attendant zealots poses a far graver threat to society than anything Jimmy Savile ever did.

Taking girls to one’s dressing room, bottom pinching and groping in cars hardly rank in the annals of depravity with flogging and rape in padded rooms. Yet the Victorian narrative of innocents despoiled by nasty men endures.

What is strikingly different today is how Britain’s law-enforcement apparatus has been infiltrated by moral crusaders, like the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC). Both groups take part in Operation Yewtree, which looks into alleged offences both by and not by Savile.

These pressure groups have a vested interest in universalising the notion of abuse, making it almost as prevalent as original sin, but with the modern complication that it carries no possibility of redemption, only ‘survival’. The problem with this approach is that it makes abuse banal, and reduces the sympathy that we should feel for victims of really serious assaults.

Touching a 17-year-old’s breast, kissing a 13-year-old, or putting one’s hand up a 16-year-old’s skirt, are not remotely comparable to the horrors of the Ealing Vicarage assaults and gang rape, or the Fordingbridge gang rape and murders, both dating from 1986. Anyone suggesting otherwise has lost touch with reality.

Ordinarily, Hall’s misdemeanors would not be prosecuted, and certainly not decades after the event. What we have here is the manipulation of the British criminal-justice system to produce scapegoats on demand. It is a grotesque spectacle.

It’s interesting that two complainants who waived anonymity have told how they rebuffed Hall’s advances. That is, they dealt with it at the time. Re-framing such experiences, as one solicitor did, as a ‘horrible personal tragedy’ is ironic, given that tragoidia means the fall of an honourable, worthy and important protagonist.

It’s time to end this prurient charade, which has nothing to do with justice or the public interest. Adults and law-enforcement agencies must stop fetishising victimhood. Instead, we should focus on arming today’s youngsters with the savoir-faire and social skills to avoid drifting into compromising situations, and prosecute modern crime. As for law reform, now regrettably necessary, my recommendations are: remove complainant anonymity; introduce a strict statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil actions; and reduce the age of consent to 13."

Well actually I think it has everything to do with justice and the public interest. As far as I recall, Stuart Hall has avoided answering at least one allegation of rape involving a child and the matter remains 'on file.' 

For a human rights lawyer, Barbara Hewson appears to have scant regard for the rights of children and even any understanding as to the trauma that sexual assaults invariably cause. Certainly any Probation Officer can attest to this fact as we routinely interview people who recount the psychological damage that often follows, including self-harming and suicide attempts. 

Readers will recall that a witness tragically committed suicide recently having given her evidence during the trial of her former music teacher at Chetham School of Music and charged with historic sex offences. Knowledge that the perpetrators often go unidentified and unpunished, and hence free to assault others, merely adds further to the grief felt by many victims. 

How dare this barrister try to excuse such behaviour, trample over the feelings of victims, call for a statute of limitations and a reduction in the age of consent! I think she is a disgrace to her profession and the Bar Council would do well to have a word in her ear. I note with interest that Hardwicke, her chambers, have completely disassociated themselves from her views and the article.  

But it gets worse. There are those who believe that the historic and organised abuse of children is so entangled with the Establishment in this country that the prosecution of these elderly celebs is being encouraged in order to deflect attention from the main story, namely the involvement of very senior members of the Establishment in past sexual abuse. 

It has been noted on several websites that certain details surrounding Stuart Hall's case have been the subject of seemingly spontaneous self-censorship. This should concern us all. In my view it is entirely right and proper that the police and Crown Prosecution Service continue to investigate and prosecute all historic sexual abuse allegations that are coming to light post Savile and that includes allegations concerning the Elm Guest House in West London from the 70's and 80's.     


  1. I'm not impressed by her spelling either. Surely, as a 'senior human rights barrister', she ought to be familiar enough with the word "prosecution" to be able to spell it correctly.

  2. "reduce the age of consent to 13". To 13 what - years, months, days? Clarity from the bar please.

    1. 13 seconds after birth, to allow time for a quick wash.