PSNI should follow Met and keep open mind on abuse claims

Morning View
Morning View

There are two important court cases in the news.

One is a proven false claim of sex assault, the other an as yet untried charges for perverting the course of justice.

A wheelchair-bound woman, Gail Chambers, 51, from Lurgan, lied that she was raped. She has a history of such fabrications.

The other case is in England and involves charges against a man whose identity is given only as ‘Nick’. His claims about a Westminster paedophile ring were described by a police officer as “credible and true” and sparked a £2.5 million Operation Midland probe. Distinguished public figures, including Lord Brammall, the late Lord Brittan and the late Edward Heath, came under suspicion.

Another target of the claims, the ex MP Harvey Proctor, said yesterday: “Justice must now be allowed to take its course.” So it must, but whatever the verdict in that case, urgent questions already arise around the previous policy of the police to believe alleged victims. Have police and media been too quick to relay claims?

In the case of Ms Chambers, there need to be clear reasons why she was not jailed. Her victim was spared the horror of a trial, but even so he has suffered lasting trauma.

People who fabricate assault claims such as Chambers mot only try to destroy innocent people, but they undermine the many victims of real abuse.

The judge took into consideration Chambers’ “mental and physical difficulties”. It is the only possible justification for avoiding jail. Examples such as the Chambers case mean all sex claims have to be treated with caution (as well as tact).

Cressida Dick, the respected Metropolitan police commissioner, recently said that her officers will now approach rape reports with “an open mind” rather than always believed. After that development the News Letter asked the PSNI if it was planning to “rethink” the matter, like the Met, but it gave no indication that it was. It should.