Legal protection for the accused and falsely accused

We are advocating for protection and justice for those who have been falsely accused. 

Several prominent cases in the recent past have made it abundantly clear that those who face accusations need new and stronger protections to receive a fair trial, and to receive justice and compensation if the allegations are proven to be false. Too many innocent men and women have had their reputation and lives destroyed due to allegations that were later proven to be false. Everybody deserves a fair trial, the accuser as well as the accused. 

Unfortunately it has to be pointed out that the falsely accused are victims. The effects on the victims of this crime can be devastating and range from the destruction of families, reputation and careers. In many cases, victims are subjected to  physical assault and deprivation of liberty, often undertaken by the State in good-faith furtherance of the false claims.  Economic ruin, separation from children and social isolation, extreme negative effects on mental health such as PTSD, depression and suicidality are common results.

Yet the victims of false allegations uniquely have no independent right to demand justice against their perpetrator. False allegations are prosecuted at the discretion of the State as ‘wasting police time’ or ‘perverting the course of justice’, even though the police and judiciary are only secondary, peripheral victims to the criminal act. Often these institutions have little motivation to prosecute and no concern for the victim, refusing to act until the perpetrator has offended against so many more victims that their menace to society is undeniable. There is no other offence-against-the-person where the perpetrator is provided such license to recommit, and where the victims are so disrespected and abused by the criminal justice system.

The current approach claims to be ‘victim’-focused, but in the circumstances of false allegations, that ‘victim focus’ is actually ‘perpetrator’-focused. The Criminal Justice System must instead be ‘justice-focused’ and ensure fair trials, the collection and admission of crucial evidence and appreciate the possibility of false allegations. 

Victims of false allegations have little legal protection, receive no compensation nor recognition.

This needs to be urgently addressed.

We recommend the following:

  • Terms that indicate guilt or prejudge facts, such as ‘victim’, ‘perpetrator’ or ‘abuser’ cannot be used until the facts have been judicially determined;
  • Government documents, laws and legal guidelines have to use the correct terms such as ‘accuser’, ’accused’ ‘complainant’ and ‘suspect’, instead of ‘perpetrator’ and ‘victim’; 
  • The accused should have automatic right to pre-trial anonymity unless a “public interest” determination is made;
  • Police recordings have to be accurate; allegations have to be clearly stated as allegations, nothing more, including in alleged cases of rape, sexual violence and domestic abuse. 
  • Allegations that are unproven should be subject to an investigation as to whether the allegations were false;
  • Allegations proven to be false should be recorded as ‘false allegations’
  • There should be a separate offence of making mendacious false allegations, with sentencing equivalent to the crimes that were falsely-accused;
  • Data on unproved and false allegations should be listed in official police statistics
  • ‘Contempt of court’ needs to be enforced  to ensure that cases are not being publicly discussed
  • Bi-directionality or abusive behaviours needs to be correctly addressed and represented in data –  in those cases both accused and accuser are potentially each both victim and perpetrator.
  • Allegations that are proven to be false and intentional need to face punishment comparable to the sentencing of the alleged crime
  • Recognition of false allegation as cause of suicide if a false allegation seems to be a leading factor
  • In some areas, such as the family court, the burden of proof needs to be higher 
  • There needs to be a criminal injury compensation for victims of false allegations
  • Those who are convicted of having made a false allegation have to be clearly defined as the perpetrator, the accused has to be clearly defined as the victim. 
  • Those who have been falsely accused deserve a public statement of innocence 

Justice ought to be served for the dignity of the real victim and the restoration of moral balance.  Everyone has a right to be protected from criminal conduct, including those accused of crimes.

Philipp Tanzer/Terry White