Abusers should face criminal proceedings


Trial by social media is a very worrying concept and could do more damage than good
Trial by social media is a very worrying concept and could do more damage than good

Straight Talking with Deborah Coleman

I don't know what to make of a number of recent controversies pertaining to sexual assault allegations which have been played out on social media but one thing is for sure, times have changed and now it seems that many people are opting to publish their allegations online instead of reporting crimes to the authorities.

Victims have the right to be protected and to have their allegations taken seriously, but those they accuse - rightly or wrongly are also entitled to due process.

We have a legal system in this country for that very reason and surely it is up to a court of law to decide someone's punishment if they are proven guilty and not a group of spectators on social media.

Is it the case, that victims have no faith in the criminal justice system or that sharing their allegations online is a more clear cut way to have their voice heard?

We are all entitled to our opinions, and indeed if many of the allegations made both at home and abroad are true then of course there should be consequences for the perpetrators.

Nobody is saying that any sort of predator should go unchallenged but are the courts not better qualified to hear a case and make an informed decision on any appropriate penalty?

The issue of sexual assault, and particularly in show business is even more difficult because, if someone is in the public eye, we feel we know them, rather than their public persona and that it is okay to write our own uncensored opinions of them - even when we are not aware of all the facts.

Some people see an allegation, and rather than discussing that issue itself - believe it appropriate to say whatever they want about a person.

Once such information is out in the public domain it makes it very difficult for any fair trial to go ahead, and therefore any criminal conviction.

On the other hand, perhaps the career-ending public backlash and disgust that would greet any future accused might be a much more frightening punishment than any fine or prison sentence and so might be more effective in waking society up to the epidemic that is sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour.

Without a doubt, it cannot go unchallenged, but trial by social media is a very worrying concept and could do more damage than good.