False allegations, anonymity and the challenges faced for all

This month sees the continuing trial of Carl Beech, who faces 12 counts of perverting the course of justice and one count of fraud.

Beech, previously known as ‘Nick’ is alleged to have made numerous false allegations that led to a vast and expensive police investigation into a supposed VIP paedophile ring.  Beech alleged that many senior prominent and establishment figures including Edward Heath, Leon Brittan, Harvey Proctor and Lord Bramall were involved in the rape, kidnap and murder of boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  A police officer described these allegations in 2014 as ‘credible and true’. The investigation into the ring closed in 2016 with police subsequently investigating Beech who in turn allegedly fled to Sweden.

The trial, which is expected to last months, continues and Beech denies all charges levelled against him.

Matters such as this raise issues as to the challenge of considering allegations generally and the potential negative impact that false allegations can have on individuals as well as the wider response to disclosures of abuse.

The CPS provides the following guidance when considering such matters:

“Prosecutions for these offences in the situations above will be extremely rare and by their very nature they will be complex and require sensitive handling. On the one hand, victims of rape and / or domestic abuse making truthful allegations require the support of the criminal justice system. They should not be deterred from reporting their allegations. Nor should they be criminalised for merely retracting an allegation because true allegations can be retracted for a broad range of reasons…On the other hand, false allegations of rape and / or domestic abuse can have serious adverse impact on the person accused. This is why these cases must be examined thoroughly by suitably experienced prosecutors who should strike the right balance between ensuring genuine victims are believed and not criminalised whilst recognising the need to protect the innocent from false allegations.”

As part of their opening statements at trial the prosecution has said that the initial allegations made by Beech ‘are without question the most heinous allegations it is possible to make against somebody. To accuse a person of being a child murderer, rapist, sadist, torturer and abuser.’  Proctor lost his home and job as private secretary to the Duke of Rutland as a result of the allegations levied against him by Beech and has claimed that he also suffered a major depressing illness. Lord Bramall’s wife died without knowing that her husband was to face no further action.

Similarly, Sir Cliff Richard, who was never arrested or charged as part of a widely publicised investigation into claims he sexually assaulted a boy after a Billy Graham rally in 1985, says he suffered ‘years of hell’ as a result of the allegations.  He has since become a supporter of Falsely Accused Individuals for Reform (FAIR) which wants a ban on identifying anyone accused of sexual offences before they are charged. Some of the challenges raised around anonymity have already been raised in our recent blog regarding anonymity in a rape case in Ireland.

In any event, false allegations made by some individuals should not prevent those with genuine complaints to come forward.

Written by Michael Lee at BLM


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