The present scandal surrounding the inappropriate behaviour of prominent people from Parliament is destabilising, fraught with difficulty and nuanced. The serious nature of it has now been horribly illustrated by the death of the Labour Minister #Carl Sargeant, who apparently took his own life. His family feel he was thrown to the wolves and fingers are pointing at the Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones who must also be feeling dreadful. Mr Sargeant was suspended without been given the full detail of what he was accused of and Mr Jones was criticised in some quarters for how he dealt with the accusations.
Violent sexual assault and the touching of a knee are not the same thing
Senior figures in politics are now demanding that the system must be fair to all.
Only a very short while ago the feeding frenzy was on for punishing predatory males. Some of the issues that make this whole area troublesome include the very wide range of alleged offences from rape to the touching of a knee and from violent intimidation to off colour jokes. The timescale of reporting is a major problem. It seems that virtually no one came forward at the time and now everyone is making historical and some would say hysterical claims. The alleged victims are afforded anonymity, the alleged perpetrators denied even knowing the details of the offences they have to defend themselves against.
The same thing is happening in Hollywood, indeed, Harvey Weinstein seems to have opened the floodgates. Several people, however, who alleged serious sexual offences against the man including Kate Beckinsale and Gwyneth Paltrow, have been shown to have subsequently collaborated with Weinstein and made fortunes, thus indicating that they put career development and wealth above the outrages of sexual assault and the future wellbeing of vulnerable colleagues.
It seems the same can be said of the many dozens of people now claiming assaults in Parliament who felt it was better to say nothing and develop their careers.
Historical cases are fraught with difficulties
Passions are understandably high. If family members were the subject of some of the horrendous sexual and bullying #Allegations coming out of Westminster I would sympathise with people wanting revenge that included a pair of hedge clippers and a sledgehammer. But however difficult it may be, cases need to be proven. This makes retrospective cases, especially ones that are years old very tenuous. A recent example of Rolf Harris serving time for sexual misconduct that took place decades ago, now has him suing the courts, as witnesses are claimed to have been unreliable at best, fantasists at worst. The police wasted huge sums of money trying to prosecute ex-Tory leader Ted Heath ten years after his death for alleged sexual offences on the evidence of a known fantasist. Further problems with safe prosecutions include; No DNA evidence, little corroborating evidence, memories becoming less reliable and the possibilities of collusion becoming more likely.
Motives and resentments can grow over years and the definitions of acceptable behaviour now and two decades ago have changed enormously.
Prosecuting claims has always demanded courage and it still must
In almost any example of a crime being committed against a person there is and always has been a difficulty in finding the courage to prosecute. For years vulnerable people have had to be brave enough to point to the perpetrator and say he did it and rebut the defence the person's lawyers would present. That same situation must still be gone through today to protect the requirements of justice.
Primarily the claim must be raised as soon as practically possible so that its veracity can be effectively tested. The evidence must be provided to both sides and an open trial gone through. Up until the tragic death of Mr Sargeant the fact that many believed justice was being short-changed in order to make the point repellent behaviour would not be tolerated was being ignored. Senior politicians were making statements that enhanced them in the eyes of the politically correct, but encouraged, for example, politicians to be removed from their posts without any real testing of the evidence taking place.
It is a #tragedy that it seems to have taken a man's death to put the brakes on such attitudes and actions. We must not look at this serious issue through a political point scoring prism but through an examination of each case with claims needing to be properly proven before the accused is disadvantaged. When and if these claimed assaults are proven proper punishments that will deter such behaviour must be put in place; but not until we are certain, 'beyond reasonable doubt', of their guilt. That is not the easy way, but it is the only correct answer!