Letter: Presumed guilty

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The Independent Online
I AM no apologist for convicted sex offenders, but Hilary Freeman's article ("When the past won't go away", Real Life, 8 August) does not confront the problem of the conflict between the rights of an adult allegedly abused in the past with the rights of any accused person to a fair trial.

We have a long-established rule that an accused person is innocent until proved guilty. This basic tenet should not be overturned in the case of child abuse. As a father, I find the concept of child abuse as abhorrent as anyone else. I have no doubt that if one of my children were to be abused, I would find it impossible to abide by arcane rules of law. However, as a society, we should question carefully whether we are prepared to abandon the principles of our justice system in respect of any type of crime. In all but one of the cases cited in the article the only evidence offered is the victim's allegation. Why should the victim lie? We don't know but, particularly where the alleged victim is now an adult with all the complex motives an adult is capable of, it is a question that must be asked.

Moreover, Ms Freeman does not contemplate the possibility that any of the alleged victims in Cheshire and Merseyside might be inventing their allegations for personal gain. However, given that many of the early allegations in Merseyside were made in response to an invitation from the police to make allegations, the media must be careful not to confuse what may turn out to be an undignified witch-hunt with real human tragedies.

TJL BORTHWICK

London SW19

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