Ten Golden Rules For The Falsely Accused
These rules below are intended as a guide only, and intended to assist persons who have been falsely accused of a sexual offence. The rules and opinions expressed are strictly the writer’s own. The accusing person is referred to as ‘the complainant.’
1. Do treat seriously any sexual allegation made against you, no matter how apparently insignificant, or absurd and no matter if it is not reported to the police.
2. Do immediately record the fact of the complaint, that is, write down the detail, of sexual allegation made against you, as soon as you become aware of it, whether made to you directly, or to a third party. Include: Who, when, where, all the circumstances and details of the allegation(s).
3. Do prepare a timeline and detailed background statement. This is essential, in the event of any future official complaint. Include: Your connection with/relationship to, ‘the ‘complainant’, identify where ‘the complainant’ fits into your family history (if you are related). Detail any fact that may be relevant to the allegation – family rows, therapeutic assistance known to have been sought by ‘the complainant.’ Identify any reason for a motive to make a false allegation. Identify any potential witnesses who may be able to speak of your good character AND ‘the complainant’s’ character, her relationship with you etc. The timeline should identify potentially significant life events and dates of births of family/significant persons.
4. Do immediately see a solicitor who has a proven track record for handling sexual allegations – after the first complaint is made. Don’t take his or her word as to their experience as a guarantee of his/her expertise in the field. Expect to see a company prospectus naming cases that he/she has conducted. Don’t expect to see a 100% acquittal rate either. No matter how skilled your defence team, no-one can guarantee an acquittal. Place on record with the solicitor, the nature of the complaint against you and your denial. Give him/her your case timeline and background statement. This way, if a complaint is made in the future, the case is ready to go from the ‘off’ and you have a solicitor who is primed with knowledge of your case (being in receipt of the information supplied above) and ready to advise.
5. Do instruct a solicitor immediately following arrest. If an arrest takes place, you will hopefully have already identified your solicitor (as discussed above). Falsely accused persons, often naively consider it unnecessary to seek the services of a solicitor, thinking everything will ‘blow over’ or ‘come right in the end’ after the police have listened to what you have to say. Be advised, it is foolish to ‘go it alone’. No matter how intelligent, articulate or worldly-wise you are, it is always advisable to have a solicitor with you.
6. Do discuss your interview strategy with your solicitor – that is whether you are best advised to answer police questions, go ‘no comment’ in your interview or submit a pre-prepared statement. There is no hard and fast rule at this stage. Which course to take, depends upon the circumstances in each case. The writer’s opinion is that in a typical case, where the accused is a person of previous good character, that is a person with no prior criminal convictions, then provided:
(i) there has been appropriate pre-interview disclosure to inform you sufficiently of the complaint and (ii) provided you are medically fit to answer, then it is preferable to have on record a denial from the outset and an open, genuine defence response. The interview will be tape-recorded. It may be played to a jury at a later stage and you/your solicitor are entitled to a copy of it. Be aware of the legal consequences of not answering police questions. Ensure you receive legal advice on this aspect before the interview.
7. Do stay calm in interview. Listen to questions and take care with answers. If, because of the historical nature of the allegations your memory is unclear, then say so in the interview. Do not feel obliged to provide a firm answer to exploratory questions by the police interviewer that seek to probe family history, events and relationships. If you can’t remember, then say so. Frequently, accused persons are arrested with no prior warning, early in the morning, then taken to the police station and left alone in a police cell for a few hours. This course of conduct is entirely lawful. The psychological impact of this on your state of mind is obvious. You will feel alone and vulnerable. By the time of the first police interview several hours later, you will have one thought uppermost in your mind, that is, to get out of the police station. Don’t guess answers.
IN THE NORTHAMPTON COUNTY COURT His Honour Arthur Anthony JUDGE RUMBELOW QC A Circuit Court Judge Assigned to the Northern Circuit.
CASE NUMBER NN13P00882
Ngozi Godwell vs Northamptonshire Local Authority