One law for the famous . . .         

A WEEK AGO Nadine Milroy-Sloan, the trainee teacher who falsely accused Neil and Christine Hamilton of raping her, was found guilty of perverting the course of justice. She had told friends she wanted to sue the former MP so she could go shopping at Harrods and Versace. She is currently waiting to be sentenced and is expected to receive a substantial term in prison.

Last week, however, news leaked out of the expectations currently entertained by another person who made a demonstrably false allegation of rape. In 1997, while at home in North Wales, Brian Roberts happened to see a television programme about Bryn Estyn, the Wrexham care home wrongly alleged to be at the centre of a paedophile ring. This programme, which dealt with the setting up of the North Wales Tribunal, mentioned the conviction of Peter Howarth, the deputy head of Bryn Estyn, for sexually abusing adolescents in his care. (It did not mention that Howarth, now dead, always protested his innocence, or that some of his former colleagues still believe he was wrongly convicted.)

Roberts had himself been briefly in care at Bryn Estyn in 1970, when it was still an approved school. He immediately contacted the tribunal and told them that he, too, had been sexually abused by Howarth. He then made a formal statement to this effect. At this stage it was pointed out to him that Howarth had not begun working at the school until November 1973, three years after he had left. Far from being sexually abused by Howarth, Roberts had never met him. Roberts, however, like Milroy-Sloan, continued to maintain that the incident he described did happen. He was simply confused about his alleged assailant's name.

It might be thought that by now Brian Roberts would himself be in prison, serving the same kind of sentence which Nadine Milroy-Sloan is currently waiting to receive. But this is not the case. Earlier this week it became apparent that Roberts
has taken out a civil action against Flintshire County Council. He is hoping to receive a payout of tens of thousands of pounds for abuse he alleges he suffered both at Bryn Estyn and elsewhere.

How can it be the case that, while Milroy-Sloan is due to be punished with a prison sentence for making a false allegation of rape, Roberts is hoping to be awarded substantial compensation after doing the same thing? 

One answer is that Neil and Christine Hamilton, like John Leslie and Matthew Kelly, are celebrities. Nobody with a sense of justice will begrudge for one moment the feelings of relief which must have been experienced by the Hamiltons at their recent vindication. But nobody with a sense of fairness should fail to register that, when it comes to perverting the course of justice, there appears to be one law for the famous and another for the ordinary citizen.

Last week, after the Hamiltons’ accuser had been convicted and John Leslie heard that he would face no charges, Shadow Home Secretary  Oliver Letwin warned that those wrongly accused faced ‘inadequate safeguards’ and demanded a review. Letwin is undoubtedly right. But, so far as I am aware, he has had nothing at all to say about the huge number of false sexual allegations which have been made against care workers over the last ten years – of which Brian Roberts’s complaint is but one.

26 May 2003    


© Richard Webster, 2003


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