UK

Barrister Barbara Hewson Stands By Age Of Consent Article And Criticises Yewtree 'Juggernaut'

29/05/2013 17:10 BST | Updated 30/05/2013 16:37 BST
PA

A barrister who called for the age of consent to be lowered and criticised the Jimmy Savile investigation says she does not regret the outrage she sparked.

Answering questions on her article, Barbara Hewson said operation Yewtree, which is looking at historic sexual assault allegations against a number of high-profile figures, was "a juggernaut, which is out of control"

And she defended her call for the age of consent to be set at 13, saying: "Some teenage girls are anything but wallflowers."

Hewson also said victims should not be able to raise complaints if they had not come forward at the time.

"There is a danger that judges may feel under populist pressure to judge the past by today’s standards. That would be wrong in principle," she wrote.

The leading human rights barrister was answering questions on the Spiked website, where her first article was published earlier this month.

"Human rights must not be conditional on others’ approval for their exercise: otherwise, they are not rights at all. So no, I don’t regret my article," she wrote.

Asked about her description of Operation Yewtree as a 'witch-hunt against old men', she said: "My own view is that it is incumbent on those who say they have been the victim of an offence to come forward promptly.

"If you choose not to, then you should not be allowed to resurrect the matter decades later.

"I also think we cannot ignore the role of modern ‘claims-farmers’ and lawyers with a financial interest in encouraging large numbers of compensation claims, from which they hope to earn large contingency fees."

Hewson's barrister chambers distanced themselves from her original article, which said the "low-level misdemeanours" broadcaster Stuart Hall admitted were "nothing like serious crime", while the NSPCC said it "beggars belief".

Asked about the age of consent in the Q&A, she wrote: "Shakespeare’s Juliet was 13.

"Some girls more mature more quickly than others, and some teenage girls are anything but wallflowers.

"The UK has the one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Europe, and most underage sexual activity is with other teens. As the recent Asian procuring cases such as those in Rochdale show, the existing age of consent doesn’t appear to deter really nasty predatory behavior, though such extreme cases are atypical."