The recent conviction of a number of Aylesbury men for criminal offences of child abuse has been greeted with shock and revulsion in all parts of our local community.
Clearly, social services, the police and other statutory agencies will need to be self-critical in examining why action was not taken sooner to stop these men. The Serious Case Review now under way will, I hope, be rigorous and unflinching in its examination of past events. Looking back over the last year or two, there has been ample evidence that too often in the past a blind eye was turned to abuse, even when victims came forward and complained. Sometimes there was negligence by one or more agencies. In other cases, the problem seems to have been in large part due to very different social attitudes two or three decades ago compared with the situation now. It is right that we now take allegations of abuse more seriously than in the past. But it is also important that we hold fast to the need for due process. In recent months we have seen high profile convictions. And we’ve also read reports of acquittals where a case turned out to have been based on malicious accusations or on confusion and misunderstanding. In those cases, even an acquittal may not be enough to restore someone’s reputation or even self-belief. Over the years, I have dealt with a number of constituency cases in which either someone has alleged abuse by another person or someone tells me that their life is in ruins because of a false allegation made against them. While I try to give each constituent the best advice I can, I emphasise that it is only the police and the courts which have the powers to bring the matter to a conclusion. The people inside those institutions are fallible human beings, like all of us. But it is only through the rule of law that we can hope to see justice for both victim and accused.