Benjamin Boateng, the son of Britain’s first black Cabinet Minister, is someone I’ve never met but I do recall receiving several rather rude messages from him after I responded to a mutual friend’s Facebook post about John Prescott earlier this year. Two days ago, I now learn, he was found guilty of “skillfully” raping a 22 year old.
Smiling for a mugshot: Benjamin Boateng
Boateng has previous form having been cautioned for harassment in 2010. In 2006 he also found himself accused of rape in Cape Town by a journalist named Tamara Arden but due to his father being the British High Commissioner to South Africa, he was able to claim diplomatic immunity and the charges were dropped. Arden continues to state that the attack was genuine.
Both Boateng cases involved girls who drank copious amounts of booze with him in shady nightclubs before he made his move. In both instances this former actor claimed that what occurred had been consensual and that he had done nothing wrong. This week a majority verdict of 10-2 certainly thought otherwise.
The case brings to mind five other individuals I have known or encountered who have been accused of rape. Though each is unique, each also brought me to think of the rights and wrongs of the “victim” being able to remain anonymous whilst the defendant is publicly named and shamed prior to trial.
The first, who shall remain nameless at his own request, was a sculptor who was commissioned by a divorced woman. During his time working with the lady, she made clear advances which he rejected. Within days he found himself arrested for a rape he had not committed and subsequently he was tried, found guilty and wrongly imprisoned. In due course he appealed and the charges were thrown out but not until it was proven that the woman was an utter fantasist who had made similar false allegations before. Nonetheless, forever more this individual will have to live with his ordeal and those who say: “there’s no smoke without fire.”
Fantasist jailbird: Nadine Milroy-Sloan
The second is the case of my friends Neil and Christine Hamilton, who were also subjected to being charged with the rape of a woman and one even more bizarrely that they had never met. In 2001, Nadine Milroy-Sloan, a trainee lecturer, decided to concoct a story that the former MP and his wife had, along with two others, raped her and tried to recruit her as a prostitute. With the help of Max Clifford, she sold her story which, though proved utterly false, caused the Hamiltons many a sleepless night and much humiliation. During the investigation, this gold-digging fantasist was able to hide behind a cloak of anonymity whilst the Hamiltons were forced to endure a barrage of media attention. Subsequently Milroy-Sloan was rightly jailed for three years and exposed for what she is.
Innocent victims: Neil and Christine Hamilton
The third involves the Blackpool football club owner Owen Oyston. Oyston was jailed for six years for the rape of a girl who originally claimed the crime took place in autumn 1991. During the case she changed the date to the middle of 1992 and then September 1992. How this witness was credible always escaped me and though both appeals failed, Oyston continues to protest his innocence to this day.
Still protesting his innocence: Owen Oyston
The fourth concerns the son of the multi-millionaire property developer Desmond Bloom, Baron, who was jailed for the rape of a 15 year old in 2003. Bloom, who was cleared of another allegation from a 14 year old, was incarcerated for one year even though he denied knowing how old she was and had ceased the relationship on having found out. Though Bloom was even described by his own barrister as someone the jury plainly would not like should not have necessarily resulted in a conviction especially after the girl had sent him taunting emails that stated: "If Jewish people are like you Hitler should be made a saint" just prior to the trial. Subsequently, Bloom's sentence was reduced as a judge described it as "excessive."
Each of the cases I describe centre around situations where anonymous individuals were able to make accusations against prominent personalities. In several of the cases the accusations were indeed true and the perpetrators got what they deserved but where they have been fake, the results for the falsely accused have been devastatingly awful.
Keith Soothill, professor of social research at Lancaster University, is amongst a small minority who have studied women who invent rape allegations. In a 2004 piece from The Guardian he states: "Women tend to make false allegations to get themselves out of trouble rather than to get men into trouble. They lie when they feel constrained, when they're in a tight spot." This is all very well but where individuals have been falsely imprisoned and their reputations destroyed, it certainly doesn’t excuse the behaviour of the fake victims.
Even David Cameron has backed the case of bringing forward “limited anonymity” for defendants in rape cases. Frankly, it is high time that this was put into practice as the presumption of guilty until proven innocent has plainly and appallingly become the norm in such cases.
Read more about the Boateng case at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2053324/Lord-Boatengs-son-guilty-sexually-assaulting-drunk-woman-sofa.html
Read about the account by Tamara Arden of the 2006 allegations against Boateng at: http://www.senseonline.co.za/index.php/Archives/Rape-and-Raped-again-A-Personal-Story-of-Injustice.html