National Association of Headteachers claims teachers are 'vulnerable' to false child abuse accusations (From Basingstoke Gazette)
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National Association of Headteachers claims teachers are 'vulnerable' to false child abuse accusations
TEACHERS are “particularly vulnerable” to being falsely accused of child abuse, according to the organisation which represents school and college leaders.
Following the acquittal of Andrew Howard, the suspended headteacher of Velmead Junior School, in Fleet, Heather Forse, senior press officer for the National Association of Headteachers, has spoken out about the issue of identifying those accused of sexual offences.
She said: “Being falsely accused of child abuse is horrific for anyone, but teachers and those who work with young people are often particularly vulnerable to this type of malicious claim.
The law protects teachers accused of a criminal offence against a child at their school, but this ends once the teacher is charged, and would not have applied to Mr Howard, because the allegations did not involve a child at his school.
Ms Forse said: “Once a name has been placed in the public arena, as we have seen from high-profile cases of people wrongly accused of serious crimes recently, the damage has already been done to someone’s reputation.”
The argument against not naming someone accused of a sex charge is that it can sometimes mean that other victims do not come forward.
The case of high-profile sex offender Stuart Hall is one such case as other victims of the broadcaster went to the police after he was named.
And locally, five women came forward after The Gazette published details of the arrest of Paul Kent, from Maybrook, Chineham, who was found guilty of multiple rapes and sex crimes and is now awaiting sentence.
Ms Forse said: “The naming of someone must be weighed against the devastation to someone’s personal and professional life caused by a false allegation.
“Children must be protected from all forms of abuse, but publicly naming their alleged aggressor before they have been found guilty would have no bearing on the pursuit of justice for that child.
“Worst of all, however, is that malicious claims may work against genuine victims who may find it harder to be believed as a result.
“The law must be severe with those proven to have made false allegations. It would be a tragedy if a single victim of child abuse struggled to make their case simply for having the misfortune to be in the wake of someone else’s lies.”
*Do you have a view on the naming of people accused of sex offences before they are convicted? Have your say by writing to The Letters Editor, The Gazette, Pelton Road, Basingstoke, RG21 6YD, email email@example.com, or leave a comment below.
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