Child Abuse Is Horrid. but the System's Misused by Those Who Are Making False Claims; with the Jersey Children's Care Home Scandal Still Fresh in Minds Roger Griffiths, Acting Secretary of the North Wales FACT (Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers) Group, Looks at the Damage False Accusations Can Have

Article excerpt

Byline: Roger Griffiths

BEING caught in the tangled web of false allegations is a nightmare that many struggle to recover from.

Of all the bogey men that haunt teachers' nightmares, none is more dreadful than that of the false, malicious allegation.

F.A.C.T. (Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers) was initially formed to support staff who had been falsely accused or wrongly convicted of child abuse. It campaigns for reform in the criminal justice system to prevent miscarriages of justice, and for improvements in investigative practices to remove the presumption of guilt.

Those who abuse children should face the severest punishment. However it is known that many claims are exaggerated or entirely false.

Action should be taken against those who make false allegations and against those whose flawed investigations result in innocent people being wrongly imprisoned.

There are a number of similarities between what is happening in a former care home in Jersey and what happened in North Wales in the early 1990s.

The media painted staff as guilty. Press speculation in Jersey is similar, this is before any factual evidence has been found.

When speculation is portrayed as fact, the accused are presumed guilty even before police investigations are complete.

No one can have a fair trialwhen potential jurors have read sensational headlines.

It is impossible to defend oneself against historic allegations if records have been lost, key witnesses are untraceable and acceptable methods of discipline used decades ago are nowjudged by today's standards.

In North Wales the number of people claiming to have been abused rose dramatically once the police appealed for victims to come forward. There is clear evidence that allegations are linked to the prospect of compensation.

Those known as Victim Groups have warned the police and Government agencies that the system is being used by individuals making false claims.

It would appear that the same pattern is emerging in Jersey where the possibility of innocent explanations is ignored. Little consideration has been given to the fact that items recovered at Haut de la Garenne might be associated with the German occupation or the filming of some episodes of Bergerac.

It is now difficult to recruit male teachers and recent studies have shown that men are no longer willing to volunteer for community or sports activities with adolescents while local authorities have difficulty in recruiting foster parents.

FACT is aware of false claims where outrageous rageous accusations have been made by expupils who claimed to have been launched like projectiles over goal posts, sexually assaulted with a crow bar (but needing no medical treatment), of a boy being murdered on a beach and buried in the sand (no police investigation followed), or the case of a lad accosted in a public toilet 10 years before it was built. …