Family found guilty without trial

11th November 1994 at 00:00
There was no hesitation in passing sentence when a teacher and father of three was accused of sex abuse.

I sympathise with the experience and feelings of guilt of the anonymous writer who asserted that he would always believe children if ever they said they had been sexually abused. ("You'd better believe it's true," Talkback, October 21).

But equally I know the anguish and suffering experienced as a result of a false accusation. It is better to hesitate.

This is the case that informs me. The teacher was in his mid-forties. He was a caring man of high morals, a church-goer and a loving father of three girls. For some 20 years he had spent his working life, and some of his leisure time, seeking the best for teenagers of all abilities.

Suddenly, one girl shattered his life and the lives of his family by a groundless accusation. The day after she had attempted suicide, she accused the teacher of sexual abuse over three years and of forcing her to take drugs.

Within 24 hours of the accusation being made, police and social services descended upon his home and took away his two younger daughters for "protection". For the next four months he was allowed to see his daughters only for a couple of hours a week and always in the presence of social workers.

Early in the investigation, his wife was able to confirm that she was with her husband at some of the times and dates when the alleged abuse was said to have taken place, so he could not possibly have abused anybody on those occasions.

Thereafter social services treated his wife with equal suspicion, referring to her as being possibly guilty of collusion on the one hand and being "over-protective" on the other.

The teacher spent his savings on legal expenses trying to clear his name and get his children back from care.

He failed in the former because social services did a turnabout and joined forces with the teacher's barrister in asking the court to return the children to their family home.

So four months after they had been woken up and taken from their beds, the girls were allowed back home. Shortly afterwards, the teacher returned to his job.

Two-and-a-half years later, the girl who had made the accusation wrote a brief letter to the family. One sentence read: "All allegations I made were the product of emotional disturbance on my part and had no foundation in reality. " Social services' reaction was that she might be lying!

This traumatic disruption of a family and false accusation against an ordinary, caring teacher happened four-and-a-half years ago. That teacher has never recovered from the unjust ordeal he experienced. His self-esteem, trust in young people and sense of justice have been shattered. He has never received an apology from the authorities or had the emotional strength and sufficient finances to seek compensation. That man was and is my husband.

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