Case study: 'I felt unprotected by the law - it was hell'

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The Independent Online

Sam Wilson silently endured years of sexual abuse at the hands of a paedophile, Cameron McIvor, which began on a caravan trip when she was only eight years old.

However, when Ms Wilson, 20, who lives in Teesside, found the courage to report the abuse at the age of 16, she had to wait two years before the case was tried because of her attacker's failing health.

Ms Wilson said she still feels the intense sense of injustice she underwent when the tortuous court proceedings finally began. She felt she had to endure a highly insensitive process, leaving her feeling ill-protected and humiliated.

While her two younger sisters were allowed to give evidence though a video link, Ms Wilson had to face McIvor in court and endured a barrage of degrading accusations from McIvor's barrister. She felt not only that the judicial system was pitted against her, but also that she was made to relive the abuse in an unforgiving interrogation before a packed court.

"I was sickened by the fact that he [McIvor] was allowed to be present while I was giving evidence. I was being humiliated by his barrister and I even suspected that he [McIvor] was getting off on the intimate details.

"I was also appalled by the line of questioning that his barrister took: he repeatedly said, 'You enjoyed it, didn't you?' until the judge had to tell him to stop. The court made me feel like a slag. It was disgusting," said Ms Wilson, who is now training as a counsellor.

Though McIvor was convicted of rape and indecency, he was bailed, pending his sentencing,and was freed to return to his home, only 20 minutes' drive from Ms Wilson and opposite a primary school.

Ms Wilson said: "I felt so unprotected by the law. This man, who had put me through so much fear and pain, and who had been found guilty, was allowed to walk past me and my mother and get on a bus to go home."

Ms Wilson was terrified by McIvor's release and he was only taken into custody after her mother attacked him.

"I was living in torment when he was allowed out; it was a kind of extended hell. I couldn't believe that judge had allowed him out, and no one has questioned his decision since," she said.

"My mother was so enraged by his release that she attacked him and then handed herself in because she thought she'd killed him."

Ms Wilson, who has waived her right to anonymity, was not satisfied with the care she received from the system when the case was over. The lack of emotional support led to her setting up a support group for child victims of sex abuse. "I would not want any child to grow up with the feelings of guilt, self-loathing and shame that I grew up with," she said.