way it is raising awareness of issues surrounding child abuse allegations and in particular of the methods used by the police in obtaining convictions.
Your editorials "Ending this climate of fear" (November 1999) and "Injustice at Stonyhurst" (April 2000) are in marked contrast to the hysterical reporting by most of the national press which has undoubtedly added to the already near impossible task of those accused getting a fair and unbiased trial. Any form of child abuse is wrong whenever or wherever it is perpetrated.Those who commit such crimes must be brought to book and never again have access to children.
Clearly there are those who have betrayed the trust placed in them but there are also a growing number of professional people (mostly teachers and social workers) who have been accused, arrested and are now facing trial yet are innocent.
To their families and friends these people are quite incapable of such offences and yet there is every possibility that they will be convicted unjustly and face long prison sentences. How far back do those who have worked with children (and who tried to be good role models) have to go to recall a child to whom they had to say "no" or with whom they were not popular? One wonders who will now be prepared to enter the caring or teaching professions and risk their futures at the hands of those intent on making malicious allegations for whatever reason.
We now have in this country a witch-hunt of frightening proportions brought about by a combination of unscrupulous complainants, the method of "trawling" by police described by your correspondent Charles Mills and public hysteria brought about by one-sided reporting in print and on our screens. Those working with children and those who worked with them in past years are now totally vulnerable to the false accusation made to settle old scores, to achieve notoriety or simply to make money.
It is the experience of too many good and innocent Catholics in this country that once an accusation is made — even if the courts find for the defendants — the life of this person and his/her family is mined. It is no exaggeration to suggest that such families are living in daily fear of the knock at the door, the fear of the false accusation, the fear of being helpless to mount a convincing defence and the ultimate fear: that of a life destroyed. We must now recognise that the system of accusation, arrest, charging and trial no longer accepts that a person is innocent until proven guilty; the onus is now clearly on the defendant being able to prove their innocence.
This is no easy task when, as is often the case, some 20 or more years have elapsed since the alleged incident. 1 write with some feeling and certainly insight, being one of many falsely accused and awaiting trial. It will only be when other newspapers adopt your policy of reporting all aspects of such cases that people will become aware of the frightening way in which our system of justice has been manipulated and public opinion will demand an investigation into the working of the system, current police methods in obtaining convictions and equal protection for the accused as well as the accuser until a verdict is reached by the courts.
Yours faithfully, (Name withheld for legal reasons)