#NOTMETOO – In the trail by social media there is neither the presumption of innocence nor any due process; the making of an accusation is in itself considered to establish 80 per cent of its veracity, with the other 20 per cent, perhaps, judged based on credibility, circumstances, and the strength of any defence. It’s safe to say that in an overwhelming majority of the recent high profile cases, the accused is deemed guilty as soon as the accuser went public. The former nearly instantly loses his credibility, reputation, livelihood – and, in at least one case, his life (Kentucky Republican Dan Johnson committed suicide a few days ago, following allegations he molested a teenager. Johnson maintained his innocence in his last, farewell Facebook post, calling his travails a “high tech lynching”).
I believe that in most of the recent cases the accused are indeed guilty of the unethical or criminal behaviour they have been accused of. But this is merely a gut feeling, unsupported by any special in-depth knowledge of specific circumstances of each case. But we should be always mindful that not all the accused are guilty and not all the accusers are victims – and a recent, and quite astonishing, case is a jolting remainder of not only the difference between the trail in the media and the trail in the court but also of the fact that even the latter can sometimes be quite perilous:
A student has described going through “mental torture” after a rape case against him was thrown out in court because police had failed to hand over more than 40,000 messages from his accuser.
Liam Allan, 22, faced up to ten years in jail charged with six counts of rape and six counts of sexual assault against a young woman over a 14-month period that began when he was 19.
The criminology student at Greenwich University had spent nearly two years on bail and three days in Croydon Crown Court when the trial was stopped in a dramatic fashion after it emerged police officers had failed to hand over evidence that proved his innocence.
The alleged victim had claimed she did not enjoy sex, while Mr Allan claimed it was consensual and she was acting maliciously because he refused to see her after he returned to university.
Now, the judge has called for an inquiry at the “very highest level” to understand why police failed to hand over critical evidence including 40,000 messages from the accuser to Mr Allan and friends.
The messages showed how she had continually messaged Mr Allan for “casual sex”, said how much she enjoyed it and discussed fantasies of violent sex and rape, The Times reports.
His Honour is right – heads should roll; it’s not a tiny careless slip-up to withhold 40,000 messages that in effect exonerate the defendant – it’s an outrage. Cases this blatant are very rare, but cases based on false allegations in general not uncommon. Something we should bear in mind as we increasingly collectively act as the judge, jury and executioner.