I read with great interest that the Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell has been cleared of the charges levelled at him recently. I also looked at the pictures of him in various papers. He looked worn and beaten. A man who has clearly been through the ringer. A man, who has been told officially he has no case to answer and that there is insufficient evidence to support the claims laid at his door.
And yet, if you read the many blogs and opinions of the great and the good of the nation, it soon becomes clear that he has already been found guilty in many of the nation's 'legal living rooms' where declamatory and derogative comments have been bandied about at will by the 'no smoke without fire' and 'insufficient evidence is not the same as innocent' brigade.
And why are these people able to make these snap judgements on this man? Why are they able to reach their own conclusions about a sensitive issue which categorically has nothing to do with them and about which they have absolutely no concrete information whatsoever?
Because as soon as the complaint was made his name was 'released' - and because of his chosen profession - broadcast to the nation with sensational headlines to boot, while the accuser was given, and still enjoys as far as I am aware - total anonymity and protection from comment from the baying crowds.
Once again, a man has been tried in the court of public opinion and in the minds of some, found guilty, regardless of the fact that the nation's appointed arbiter of such things, the Crown Prosecution Service, has deemed there to be no case to answer. But that is simply not good enough for a lot of people in the chattering classes, is it?
I don't know Michael Le Vell very well. We played football a couple of times together at Wembley in charity matches years ago - and a very skilled footballer he was and probably still is. I have been a Corrie fan since the 60s and I admire Michael's and all of the Corrie cast's great talents. But I am not here to blindly defend a pal or an 'industry colleague'.
It is time to put an end to the ability to name people who have been accused of sexual offences, famous or not, until they are found guilty - or, in cases where the accuser is not a minor, that they too have to share some of the discoloured limelight that shines down on the scene before a conclusion is reached. I believe that alone would put paid to a lot of the more tenuous claims.
The scar is too great - and as we have seen here and will continue to see, the decision of the CPS does not seem to be sufficient for some people as they put their own two and two together and come up with whatever number they need to keep the sensation alive. This kind of vicarious, non fact based opinion has no place. The law simply has to change.
Accepting of course that this remains a very sensitive issue -- that these kinds of incidents do sadly take place and that there is no excuse for them -- and where there is proof and a guilty verdict reached the perpetrators should be dealt with sufficiently, given that there are simply too many cases where it becomes clear ultimately that no crime was committed, or the accuser rescinds the claim, admitting at some point in the proceedings that they acted out of spite or anger or to seek some form of retribution, the names of all parties should be kept from the public until a conclusion has been reached.
In this time where the 'hacking scandals' of the Murdoch empire are rife and enquiries attempt to decide where public interest stops and clear invasion of privacy starts, I do not believe for one second that it is in mine, or the public's interest, to know about this or any other such case while it is still in flux. It is simply highlighted in cases like this where, although ultimately it has been deemed that there is no case to answer, the fame of the accused makes it unfairly impossible for them to escape the spotlight and consequently the unwanted, uncalled for and totally unsubstantiated public opinion.
In 2009 a woman was jailed for two years in the UK for admitting to a false claim against her boyfriend. But it was too late -- the accused man's life and reputation had already been irreparably damaged. In the eyes of some it would seem, the same is true of Michael Le Vell. I sincerely hope not.
He - and others like him simply should not have to suffer this through the public prism unless and until such times as a conviction had been secured.
Which, as is clear from the decision of the CPS, is not the case here and never will be.
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