Once more it is a case of ‘when one victim speaks out, more victims come forward’. Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party (WE), says that her office has been swamped with calls. The focus on the Lilly Allen case has lifted the lid off the Pandora’s Box.
For seven years Lily Allen was the target of an aggressive stalker. She reported her concerns to the police, but it was only after the man entered her bedroom and stole her handbag (while she was at home at night with her children) that they took her allegations seriously and started to investigate them.
There are parallels with other cases of predatory behaviour (usually by men) towards (usually) women and children. The Jimmy Savile case is now infamous. Several of his victims made accusations and complaints to the authorities, but there was never any follow-up from the police while Savile was alive.
After Savile’s death, once accusations started to become public, more and more victims started to come forward. Through this process a very large number of cases of abuse became apparent, and the cases were found to corroborate each other. What this suggests is that there may have been too much emphasis on the protection of alleged perpetrators of crime and not enough emphasis on proper investigation of allegations put forward by victims of crime.
In the Rotherham cases of widespread, persistent abuse of women and young girls (often from care homes) there seems to have been a presumption that the victims were not credible witnesses. Despite the fact that the victims asked for help there was little follow-up from the police. Perhaps this was because the victims, from deprived backgrounds, were considered to be less than innocent themselves and, therefore, to be hardly worth saving. This raises the question of one life being treated as if it does not have equal value to another.
In the case of Lord Janner, the police were criticised for publicly naming the accused early on in the (long overdue) investigation of a Westminster paedophile ring. There were some twenty accusations made against Lord Janner involving buggery of young boys, but, after years of delay, the case was finally not brought to trial for reasons of dementia.
The judge accepted this plea despite the defendant going about his daily business, including appearing frequently in the House of Lords to vote. Family and friends protested against the public naming of individuals in cases that may never be brought to trial. The police argued that it was necessary to name Lord Janner in order to encourage victims to come forward. Lord Janner has subsequently died. It may be that the case is now closed. The criticism of the Metropolitan Police Force in this regard, in my opinion, has to be seen as a setback for progressive justice.
No one wants to see false accusations that tarnish the reputations of individuals who may subsequently not be found guilty of any crime, but there must also be concern for the other side of the equation. It may be no coincidence that this ‘cover-up’ of crime is primarily instituted and perpetuated by privileged, white men. Some redress of this imbalance is called for. The WE party is well placed to speak up in this regard on behalf of victims.