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9 May 2019 | Podcasts | Article by Alan Collins

HJ Talks About Abuse: Unsafe retractions

HJ Talks About Abuse: Unsafe retractions HJ Talks About Abuse: Unsafe retractions

In this week’s discussion we look at how the Court of Appeal in the case of R. v SB [201801802 B2] dismissed a sexual abuse victim’s retraction of her allegations post-conviction as lacking credibility. We discuss the details of the case and the broader implications of the decision.

The victim had alleged that she had been sexually abused by her grandfather who was successfully prosecuted and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.

Following the sentence, the victim confided to her family that her allegations were false. She provided a statement to that effect that was then used by the grandfather in support of his appeal to the Court of Appeal on the basis that the verdict was unsafe.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. Readers might think this surprising but the judges came to the conclusion that the retraction of the allegations lacked credibility. They suspected very firmly that the victim had a misplaced sense of guilt, feeling responsible for her grandfather’s imprisonment, and may have been subjected to some familial pressure.

The decision is a refreshing one in the sense that the judges have looked at the reality of the consequences of child sexual abuse. Survivors often express feelings of shame and guilt for what took place. This is, of course, misplaced, but is common amongst survivors, and they often feel responsible for the fate of their abusers. The judges have clearly been conscious of what may go through a survivor’s mind post-trial and the pressures that they come under.

The case may have wider implications because a defense often deployed in both criminal and civil courts is that due to the nature of the case, the evidence is flawed possibly through the lack of witnesses and/or the passage of time. It will be said that memories fade, evidence gets lost, and witnesses are unreliable. It will be argued that a fair trial is impossible and a judge should not attempt to decide fault or otherwise. This case it could be argued says that judges should look at reality and take into account the nature of sexual abuse and come to a decision. The Limitation Act 1980 says that claims for compensation should be brought within 3 years of the abuse, or in the case of a child within 3 years of their 18thbirthday but because of the damage caused by the sexual abuse this is all too often impossible, and so the survivor has to try and persuade the court to allow the case to proceed out of time. Maybe the case of R v. SB will provide some power to the survivor’s elbow where the evidence is contradictory and at first blush apparently unsafe, and argue that the court should look at the bigger picture.

If you would like to talk to us about your experience with abuse or would like to suggest a topic for a future episode, visit the sexual abuse claims page, or get in touch.

Author bio

Alan Collins is one of the best known and most experienced solicitors in the field of child abuse litigation and has acted in many high profile cases, including the Jimmy Savile and Haut de la Garenne abuse scandals.  Alan has represented interested parties before public inquiries including the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, and IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse).

Internationally, Alan works in Australia, South East Asia, Uganda, Kenya, and California representing clients in high profile sexual abuse cases. Alan also spoke at the Third Regional Workshop on Justice for Children in East Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok hosted by Unicef and HCCH (Hague Conference on Private International Law).

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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