Anna, our legal beagle writes:
A frisson of excitement ran through the blogosphere late last night as news of Robert Green’s arrest in Aberdeen spread.
The facts as they first appeared seemed electrifying, a legal advisor prevented from going about his business by a Scottish legal conspiracy? Grist to the blogosphere mill.
A little digging reveals more froth on this than a pint of Guinness.
Robert Green is not a legal advisor. He is a lay advisor, journalist and broadcaster. I have about my person a copy of a letter he wrote in January 2010 where he admits that he is a lay advisor when addressing the Mental Welfare Commission of Scotland. Copies of that letter freely available to anyone who is interested.
Robert Green, although a Shropshire man, is intending to stand as an independent candidate in the Aberdeen South ward in the forthcoming General Election. As a journalist and broadcaster he would be more than aware of the value of a good ’story’. Indeed, he has been touring the country giving a series of talks regarding his research into sexual abuse in the Aberdeen area. He should be more than aware of the laws of defamation and would definitely be aware of the difference between the standard of proof required in a civil case and that required for a criminal case.
Mr Green was allegedly intending to hand out pamphlets that claimed there was a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice on the part of some very senior legal and political figures in Scotland.
There are those who say that in the interests of ‘free speech’ anybody should be allowed to say anything they please at whatever time, based on whatever idea pops into their head. I don’t subscribe to that view, nor does the oft quoted Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. ‘Freedom of Expression’ as it is known there is a qualified right. Qualified as John Stuart Mills always intended, by the harm principle. You don’t have the right to defame, or harm, individuals by your free speech.
Child abuse is possibly the most incendiary accusation that can be levelled against anyone today, and particular care should be taken before making it. Robert Green was allegedly about to level that accusation against senior political and legal figures. We should perhaps look at the basis on which he felt entitled to make that accusation before assuming a conspiracy to silence him.
The young woman involved – and I don’t propose to name her, for reasons I will explain later – has claimed for several years that she was sexually abused by a group of men connected to her father in Aberdeen. The medical evidence apparently corroborates this, and I have no difficulty in believing her. It is a sad fact of life that many girls with Down’s syndrome are both tactile and highly sexed, an unfortunate combination in highly vulnerable individuals, and as such they are disproportionately represented amongst the tragic list of those who suffer child abuse. I don’t make those comments in any sense of ‘excusing’ the men involved, it is for adults to make responsible decisions, but in sad acceptance of the fact that yes, she probably was abused. In my experience, parents of children with Down’s syndrome are only too aware of the dangers, and take extra precautions to make sure that their children are safe.
The allegations of abuse were investigated by Grampian police, at a senior level, and the young woman received compensation from the criminal injuries fund following evidence from a Grampain detective inspector who described Hollie as “a truthful witness to the best of her ability and an entirely innocent victim”. She received £13,500 which is the tariff payment for such cases. The evidential test is on the civil standard, namely the balance of probabilities. There is no requirement for corroboration.
The fact that she received compensation ‘as an innocent victim of violence’ under circumstances where no corroboration was required, cannot, under any stretch of the imagination be taken as proof that her allegations as to who had carried out the abuse would form credible or reliable evidence to carry out a criminal prosecution. The fact that Grampian police are not undertaking any prosecution of individuals named by this girl, where they have neither corroboration nor reliable evidence cannot be taken to be a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice – it is rather more a conspiracy to assert the course of justice.
Do you really want a society where you can find yourself labelled as a child abuser and forced to stand trial in many months time on the basis of an uncorroborated claim from a witness who can only tell the truth ‘to the best of her (diminished) ability’ – is that really the cause you are championing when you demand that those she has named stand trial?
Because there is another factor in this saga. Her Mother. The woman that Robert Green says was:
“assaulted and rendered unconscious by a group of assailants as she was about to enter her home. When she came to she found herself in Aberdeen Mental Institution and informed she was mentally ill”
We know from Robert Green’s letter to the Scottish Mental Welfare Commission that the Mother was ’sectioned’ in common parlance. We do not know what metal illness she may or may not have suffered from, nor who these alleged ‘assailants’ were – though we can surmise that they were in fact a community psychiatric nurse and a doctor, we can surmise that because otherwise the receiving officer at the mental institution would also have to be part of this ‘conspiracy’ if he were to receive a comatose tranquilised patient from any old gang of assailants. Since this occurred some 10 years before Robert Green wrote to the mental health commission we can also surmise that despite his alarmist language which reaches out to every tin foil hat reader in the universe that there may indeed have been sound reasons fro tranquilising her for the good of her health. I am not saying that this is so, merely that we actually have no evidence to the contrary.
So, we have a vulnerable mentally disabled girl who has almost certainly been sexually abused, by her Father amonst others, we have a Mother who has suffered such mental trauma at being made aware of her ex-husbands deeds that we are reasonably sure that she was taken to a mental hospital for her own good – and we have a prospective parliamentary candidate who thinks nothing of picking these two up and driving them half way across the country – from Cheshire to Bristol – in order to publicise his belief that the police should be prosecuting senior political figures, without corroborating evidence, of a heinous crime.
Enter the Scottish legal system, who in their ham fisted way, decide to start issuing injunctions to everyone who even dares to mention the matter – thus ensuring that the blogosphere is alive with pictures and identifying details of a young girls sexual life.
There are many unedifying figures hanging around child abuse cases. This is not the first case to attract faux legal advisers with a brief case full of pamphlets who spend their days and nights on-line discussing the intricacies of the latest child abuse. Nor will Robert Green be the first such who fancied his chances as a politician.
I don’t intend to name the young woman because if there is anything which comes close to the obscenity of child abuse, it is the abuse of a child which takes place when the self righteous decide to use her name and face to publicise themselves in the name of a variation of ‘free speech’ that they would be the first to decry if it were turned on them or in the name of a demand for criminal prosecution on such flimsy evidence – not that she was abused, but who had abused her, note – that the blogosphere would implode if there was any suggestion that Robert Green’s prosecution should rest on such evidence.