Lawyers urge caution against false sexual accusations

TWO leading attorneys-at-law in Jamaica have said that over the years, there have been numerous instances where allegations of sexual abuse have been made which have ultimately turned out to be false.

Unfortunately, the attorneys said this demotivates many people who have actually been abused from going forward and making reports, for fear that they will not be believed.

“I have seen a number of cases where people who have ulterior motives have made false allegations of sexual molestation. And it’s not just women against men. Sometimes it’s men against men,” Bert Samuels, attorney-at-law, told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.

“One of the problems for women is those women who make false accusations against men, because it makes the sincere cases go under the searchlight of verification of the truth. So, it is a disservice to abused women for women to make false allegations against men.”

Samuels said many people exploit how easy it is to make a rape allegation.

“One of the problems with allegations of sexual offence is that, more often than not, it is one word against the other. It is an allegation which is easy to make but difficult to disprove, unless there is some scientific evidence that can support the allegation or rebut the allegation. Both parties, the person who is alleging the rape and the person accused of rape, can find themself in a dilemma.”

Peter Champagnie, attorney-at-law, echoed similar sentiments. Citing the uptick in rape cases recently, Champagnie said there is a need to strike a balance.

“You can’t slam the door like that and cause persons who have genuine complaints to be dissuaded to make reports. I think we will be less than honest with ourselves if we do not recognise that the increase in terms of abuse as it relates to young women and children has escalated tremendously. There was a time when women, the elderly, or the most vulnerable in our society were not touched in terms of criminal behaviour. But those days are long gone,” he told the Sunday Observer.

“Maybe I am biased in the sense that I have four young daughters but this does not take away the need for there to be stronger penalties for persons who have either been found guilty after due process or pleaded guilty after due process, for committing crimes against women, young children, the elderly and the mentally challenged persons,” Champagnie added.

In addition, Samuels advised against making such accusations online. He warned that this could backfire in the event that the accused is not convicted.

“I would not advise any victim of sexual crime to go the route of placing the image of anyone on social media in the absence of a report and a conviction. If you accuse someone of a crime, the only defence you can have is justification that the person did commit the crime. And in the classic sense, it is only a convicted person against whom you can make allegations of a crime who cannot file a successful claim against you for defamation of character,” he said.

“So, I would warn persons to be careful. It is best if you put the matter in the court rather than social media, because you may very well find that if there’s the absence of a conviction, that person has a very good case against you for millions of dollars in damages.”

Senior Superintendent of Police Stephanie Lindsay said making accusations online violates the Cybercrimes Act.

“If you post anything that can harm or damage the person’s reputation, you can actually be charged. We don’t expect them to do that. If they have a case, we encourage them to go to the police and make a report [as] opposed to putting the person’s picture up like that,” said Lindsay.

Meanwhile, Champagnie said this has taken some prominence because of the advent of social media.

“Undoubtedly, there have been instances where women have posted things about men that are not true, and they are able to utilise and take advantage of the social space to do that. It has gotten worse.”

Further, according to police sources, as at April 16 there have been 99 reported cases of rape across the island. This is a 49 per cent decrease when compared to the corresponding period last year.

St Catherine North (19), St Andrew North (10) and St Andrew South (8) lead with the most cases.

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