It's been reported this afternoon that Mohamed Al-Fayed will not face charges over the accusation that he sexually assaulted a 15 year old girl. This Al-Beeb report is a little light on detail, but Sky News broadcast an interesting report on the news this afternoon.
From what I recall, the accusation was that the assault took place in Harrods on a Saturday afternoon. Al-Fayed had a fairly watertight alibi in as much as that at the time in question he was at Craven Cottage (home of Fulham FC, the football club he owns) in front of around 20,000 spectators and the Match of the Day and Sky Sports cameras. 'No realistic prospect of conviction' said the CPS, oh, really, do you think?
Now I've no love for Al-Fayed, but if he didn't sexually assault a 15 year old girl, then he didn't sexually assault a 15 year old girl. Given Al-Fayed's courtroom history you can bet he'd assemble a pool of talent to defend him in the criminal courts that would make the respective talents of his Premierleague footballers look positively Sunday League standard. The CPS would have known this, but would they have been so far-sighted had the accusation been Joe Schmoe?
A question; given that the accusation was made in May of last year, why has it taken a full nine months for these accusations to be batted away? Assuming Plod popped round and said 'Look Mo, this girl's said this.' They could have NFA'd it when he said, 'I've 20,000 witnesses who'll say I was elsewhere at the time of the 'attack'.' The whole thing could have been dealt with within an hour and a half, tops.
The thing is, being accused of child abuse, paedophilia or sexual offences are the single worst accusations that can be laid at someone's door. I'd rather people thought I was a murderer, a terrorist or a bank robber, than a nonce. Al-Fayed will survive this slight because it now seems obvious that these allegations are tosh, however for the average man, the damage would be almost beyond repair. The looks on the street, whispers in the corner shop, threats or acts of violence in the pub, not because he's done anything wrong, but because a false allegation, for whatever reason, has been made against him.
Yes, any allegation will now result in your photograph, fingerprints and DNA being taken and stored, but if refused charge on almost any other count your community will by and large take that at face value. Get nicked for a sexual offence, and there's no smoke without fire.
For too long in this country, victims of sexual assault, abuse or rape would not be believed or would be seen to have been 'asking for it'. Thankfully now that situation has passed, however as with so many other things, it has swung the other way. Whereas before any accusation would be discounted as fantasy, now any plea of innocence from the alleged wrongdoer is also dismissed.
It is right and proper that the alleged victim is given anonymity, however the same must be extended to the alleged perpetrator, their identity must only be released in the case of a conviction. I would even go so far as to suggest that cases of this nature should be held in camera, to safeguard the reputations of all involved. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that if the alleged assailant here was Alfie Yed rather than Al-Fayed, a press release from the CPS on the matter would not have been forthcoming.
What of the complainant? Well, if as seems to be the case here, the accusation is manifestly untrue then she must be prosecuted for wasting police time. Whilst I think too many laws have been passed in the last ten years, and if one does not exist at this time, I believe there should be a criminal offence of wilfully seeking to damage an individual's reputation by making vexatious accusations of sexual assault. Make it carry a prison sentence. It is fair to say that a number of cases will go either way, but in cases where it is obvious that the whole thing has been a monumental waste of everyone's time, then it is time for action.
In this case the young lady is a minor, she should be afforded some protection in light of that fact, but should be shown the error of her ways, however in the case of adults I believe these vexatious claimants should be publicly named. A male convicted of rape would be publicly named, to warn the women of his community to give him a wide berth. False claimants should be given the same treatment, to warn the men of her community to do likewise.