Saturday 25 October 2014

Stop 'persecution of old men' by lowering consent age to 13 says human rights barrister

Published 09/05/2013 | 13:45

Stuart Hall. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Stuart Hall. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

A SENIOR human rights barrister has sparked a storm of outrage after calling for the age of consent to be lowered to 13 in order to prevent the ‘persecution of old men’.

Barbara Hewson made the controversial suggestion in an article for the online magazine 'Spiked'.

 

In the column, Hewson, who is a barrister at Hardwicke in London, stated that the move was necessary in the wake of the Savile scandal.

 

She refers to Operation Yewtree as the 'Savile Inquisition' and describes its inquiry as reminiscent of Soviet-era Russia.

 

She goes on to suggest some of the offences investigated were ‘low level misdemeanours’.

 

"The low-level misdemeanours with which Stuart Hall was charged are nothing like serious crime," she writes, adding: "Ordinarily, Hall’s misdemeanours would not be prosecuted, and certainly not decades after the event."

 

Stuart Hall, a former presenter of 'It's A Knockout', last week admitted 14 offences involving 13 victims dating back to the late 1960s, including an assault on a nine-year-old girl.

 

Hewson goes on to describe Operation Yewtree as a 'manipulation of the British criminal-justice system' and 'a grotesque spectacle.'

 

She calls for the reduction of the age of consent writing: "As for law reform, now regrettably necessary, my recommendations are remove complainant anonymity, introduce a strict statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil actions and reduce the age of consent to 13."

 

Hewson also argues for a strict statute of limitations to prevent prosecutions after a long period of time and an end to complainant anonymity.

 

Peter Watt, Director of the NSPCC helpline said: “These outdated and simply ill-informed views would be shocking to hear from anyone but to hear them from a highly experienced barrister simply beggars belief.

 

“Stuart Hall has pleaded guilty to abusing children as young as 9 years-old, we think most people would agree that crimes of this nature are incredibly serious.

 

"Thankfully the law, and most people, are very clear on this matter.  To minimise and trivialise the impact of these offences for victims in this way is all but denying that they have in fact suffered abuse at all.  Any suggestion of lowering the age of consent could put more young people at risk from those who prey on vulnerable young people."

 

"And we must strongly defend the right for victims to remain anonymous and to ask for justice no matter when they choose to come forward.  Many who are abused are bullied, blackmailed and shamed into staying silent, often well into adulthood. We must always be prepared to act no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. The actions of those who speak out also protects others from abuse and gives confidence to other victims to come forward."

 

Rob Williams, Independent.co.uk

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