Roy Harper is acquitted!! But where is Justice in this? This is not justice!
For Roy Harper the nightmare is finally over. He has been formally acquitted. His character is unsullied. All charges have been dropped. The establishment is no longer pursuing him.
Well what can you say?
Has justice been done?
When Roy rang me up two days ago there was a distinct change. It almost sounded like the old Roy once again. Without him having to say I knew that the charges had been dropped. For three years I have listened to a slow befuddled caricature of the man I knew, someone who was crushed under the weight of accusation and fear for a future, a future that even held the possibility of prison. He’d been there as a young man and knew what it was like. He was filled with dread at the thought. He was in his seventies now. The prospect was terrifying.
Anyone who has encountered the justice system in this country knows they are dealing with a lottery. It is not concerned with justice. It is an adversarial system which pedantically picks over the intricate details of laws in search of loop-holes and advantage. It is not concerned with establishing truth; it is merely about winning. It does not always get it right – far from it.
If someone can afford to pay for the best defence they can usually buy a result.
For those, like Roy, whose funds are limited they are left to the vagaries of twelve random characters that form the jury. Twelve people who may not be intelligent, perceptive, able to focus on the facts, or who may not be disposed to even bother trying; who may have pre-formed views and bias and are not prepared to listen, weigh up the evidence and come to a decision based on what they have heard. It is a lottery.
From my own experience as a member of a jury, and those I have talked to who have served on juries, it does not fill me with confidence. Guilty people walk free and innocent people are found guilty. You enter such an arena with trepidation. Your innocence is no cast-iron defence.
One only has to look at the effect on individuals who have been put through this process to see the upshot. The before and after pictures of Freddie Starr demonstrate the terrible toll it takes on people. Operation Yewtree focussed on him and even though he was never charged the pressure nearly destroyed him.
This is not justice.
Dave Lee Travis was hounded with multiple charges. When found innocent he was rearrested on the steps of the court with another set of charges. Eventually, after spending a fortune, having to sell his house and the immense pressure on him, his family and relationships, he was found guilty of one offence of fondling the breast of a female employee of the BBC. I would not condone that action but I hardly think it is worthy of putting any individual through such terror. The way it was carried out smacked of vindictiveness.
This is not justice.
Paul Gabaccini was accused. The police put his name out in the media in the hope of fishing for further complaints. They went round asking people if they had complaints to make against him. Nobody had. His reputation was sullied for nothing.
This is not justice.
It appears that in the wake of Jimmy Saville the police have adopted a different approach. Prior to Saville they ignored complaints and swept them under the carpet. They rightly came in for some heavy criticism. Their response was to go completely in the opposite direction, follow up every complaint, assume guilt, fish for further complaints, and try their hardest to put together a case.
I would suggest that this is as bad as the initial response. They have ended up putting innocent people through a nightmare experience.
This is not justice.
I believe the Crown Prosecution has a lot to answer for. They do not do their job properly and are not fit for purpose. They should review the information and decide whether there is sufficient credible evidence to warrant putting someone through this horrendous experience. They do not. They err on the side of caution. If there is any sexual complaint they almost invariably send it to trial regardless. They are covering their own backs at the expense of justice. They have no compassion for the innocent individuals they are putting through this nightmare.
The pendulum has swung far too much the other way. There seems to now be an assumption that if someone makes an allegation they must be believed, automatically the police view the person accused as guilty and deserving of the pain they are subsequently put through.
This is not justice.
In Roy’s case an allegation was made about an event that was supposed to have taken place forty years ago. There were no witnesses and so where was the evidence? Yet the police fished and found other people. These new accusers were all thrown out by court and jury as being people with grievances who were exploiting the situation or whose allegations were unsubstantiated. Roy was sent to trial and found not guilty on two charges. However the jury failed to agree on others. The nightmare continued.
What prompted those initial allegations?
At the time Roy was undergoing a bit of a renaissance. He was now considered a veteran performer and being lauded, by the likes of Johnny Mar, Fleet Foxes, and Joanna Newsome, as a major singer/songwriter. There were prestigious awards, sell-out concerts at the Royal Festival Hall, television appearance, a Test Match Special featured appearance, radio shows, documentaries and a best-selling highly acclaimed album. It looked as if finally, after all these years, Roy was going to receive the reward he so richly deserved.
Overnight an axe fell and it was all brought to a crashing halt.
It is obvious that Roy’s new high profile elicited the allegation.
What was the motive?
The effect on Roy has been devastating. His career has been effectively brought to a premature end. The awards, follow-up album, further live performances and support all melted away. Nobody would touch him with a barge-pole for fear of being tainted.
For three long years Roy has been subjected to pressures we can only imagine. It has had enormous effects on his health and well-being. It has devastated his wife as well and ruined both their lives. He has spent all his money trying to prove his innocence and suffered the sullying of his reputation. They have hardly dared venture out.
The energies that should have been devoted to his creativity, enjoying his late success and further promoting his career have been directed into trying to fight the case and sustaining his mental health and physical well-being. It took its toll.
The punishment could not have been worse if he had been locked up. He has served three years of hell.
This is not justice.
So now Roy has been acquitted. But he has already been severely punished and has no recourse to justice. He cannot reclaim the money lost. He cannot reclaim the three years spent in terrible stress. He cannot reclaim the music, poems and albums that would have been. He cannot reclaim the awards lost; concerts not played, or get back to the pinnacle he was at when these allegations were made. His accuser has not suffered any similar punishment and Roy has no recourse to sue for false accusation.
Where is the justice?
I stated in a previous post (Roy Harper: Dissident on Trial) that I felt that the establishment was focussing on individuals because of their position in the entertainment industry. Was he targeted because he was a dissident? Did his high profile rebellious character make him a target? Were they trying to shut him up or punish him for his outspoken antiestablishment views and chosen alternative lifestyle?
I am not suggesting for one minute that we should condone paedophiles or take lightly any allegations made against people. I believe they need following up with due diligence, but they need properly investigating before putting people through this kind of ordeal. To simply put it before a jury is not good enough. Real and terrible damage is perpetrated on innocent people.
We should prosecute paedophiles and address wrongs perpetrated on young people. But we must do so while being mindful of the effects of this on people accused as well. Their rights have to be taken into account as well before embarking on this journey with the crushing effects on the accused of being put through this torment.
So what have we learnt from this farce?
- The main thing is that we have got to get the balance right. It is no good going from an extreme in one direction to an extreme in the other. The rights of both accuser and accused need to be equally respected. The suggestion is that the police have been embarrassed by their initial lack of professionalism and have responded by going over the top.
- The time scale is far too long. In Roy’s case it was three years of hell. Some have faced even longer and some innocent people have actually spent years on remand in prison. Where is the justice in this? Justice delayed is no justice at all. Innocent until proved guilty? Rubbish!!
- The police need to investigate properly before dragging people like Roy, Cliff Richard, Paul Gabaccini, Freddie Starr and others through the media ordeal. Mud sticks.
- Fishing for further complaints is an abuse. Whatever the motive it should not be tolerated. If evidence shows up other potential victims then they should be approached and investigated. Seeking to involve others without any prior evidence should not be permitted.
- Anonymity for the accused should be in place as well as the accuser.
- There should be the right of redress for innocent parties to compensate for damage done to careers, losses, reputations and income.
- There should probably be the right to sue for false allegations.
- The Crown Prosecution need to do their job properly. If there is not a substantial case they should not let it go to court. They should be big enough to ride the criticism. If there is not sufficient evidence they should not pursue it. An allegation alone is not sufficient.
- A statute of limitations of a set number of years might need to be considered. Surely trying to prove a case like this forty years later is not possible unless there is compelling evidence?
- Common sense should prevail.At present anybody who is in a public position, including teachers, nurses, doctors and police, are in danger of malicious allegations. The accusers do not have to have foundation or be upheld. They wreck careers and throw the accused into a nasty void from which they rarely get out of whole.
Roy has been acquitted but he has paid a heavy price. Justice went out the window.