Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Should alleged sex offenders have anonymity?

Father McSweeney who has been arrested.
I was reading that "Operation Fernbridge", which is investigating the Elm House Guest House scandal, has arrested a Norfolk Priest called Tony McSweeney. The police have named him. The article refers to him resigning as a governor from the Notre Dame School in Norwich - obviously as a result of the investigation. It appears that the Priest was a visitor to the Guest House, hence the link.

Operation Fernbridge are also looking at claims "that senior political figures and others sexually abused boys at the Elm Guest House". In the next paragraph of the BBC News article it is stated that the other person arrested as part of the operation is "a 70-year-old man who was arrested in East Sussex"

I knew about this police operation before it happened. I met Tom Watson MP in Parliament so that I could share with him my knowledge of abuse in many children's homes and other locations all over the country. I have been dealing with such cases for the past 18 years. Sadly it has taken Jimmy Savile to re-awaken interest in the subject. Tom used parliamentary privilege to make an announcements in Parliament after hearing that previous police investigations had been "buried" many years ago, particularly because political figures were implicated.

So my question is "Why was the 70 year old man not named?" Is it because he is a well known political figure. There may be a very good explanation, which I have not heard. There have been many other examples of arrested alleged sex offenders not being mentioned in the recent "celebrity" police investigations.

I know that there has been much debate in the past about whether or not alleged sex offenders should enjoy the same anonymity that victims have. It is easy these days to persuade a judge to refer to  the victim of abuse by initials eg AB. At one time it would not have been so easy, but the protection of vulnerable adults, thankfully, is now much higher up the legal and political agenda.

The police, usually, want to announce the name of the arrested individual.  They know that if the abuse took place in an institution that other witnesses can, and often do come forward. It can provide corroborative evidence, which ultimately assists their case. I can remember accused sex offenders advertising for character witnesses, but getting, instead, complainants approaching the police, in a cruel twist of irony.

I remember that when Matthew Kelly, the famous comic actor, was arrested many years ago, he professed his innocence strongly, and objected to being named in the media. There is an argument that if someone is charged, they have not been proved to be guilty, and could, in any future trial, be acquitted. In a pure legal world, judges hate trial by media, and are always concerned that juries will be influenced by what they read in the papers.

So why, in this Operation, have they not named an arrested person? Is it because the police are apprehensive about being sued in slander, or have been so threatened by media lawyers? When will we find out his real name? When he is charged presumably? All this cloak and dagger mystery does nothing, I am afraid to persuade the conspiracy theorists, of which I am certainly not one, that there isn't yet another cover up... or is there....who said I was paranoid.......???

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