It’s not often that there is good news for those who have been wrongfully accused of sexual abuse. The suffering of the victims of wrongful allegations is well documented in the Oxford University study, ‘The Impact of Being Wrongly Accused of Abuse in Occupations of Trust: Victims’ Voices‘ One member who was arrested on suspicion of such a crime described his experience was “as close to being in hell as I have ever been and I would not wish it on anyone”. Anything that can bring hope to those in this situation is very welcome. So when I heard that Paul Gambaccini had won five figure damages from the heavily criticised CPS I felt that a small victory in the war against the gross injustices of the fallout from the Saville scandal had been won at last.
Paul Gambaccini was arrested five years ago; accused of sexually abusing two under age boys. He has always vigorously denied these allegations. He had to wait a whole year on bail before the case was dropped. During that year he was “frozen out” by the Labour Party whom he had supported with a fund raising event and by his employers the BBC. He couldn’t have unsupervised access to his nephews, nieces and godchildren. Charities he had supported didn’t want to know him. He lost a stone in weight.
Like so many who find themselves in this position, his support came from his friends and family. Ben Elton and Stephen Fry stood by him. He said that his husband Chris Sherwood “saved his life”. Meanwhile he became the “go to guy” for others who had suffered from wrongful allegations and became a close friend with Cliff Richard who found himself in the same situation. He has campaigned together with other wrongfully accused for bail to be restricted to 28 days initially. Sadly this didn’t help Cliff Richard, the police avoided the whole bail issue and just kept him ‘under investigation’ for an agonising two years.
I went to hear this gentle man speak at the Law Society not long after the case was dropped. He was very angry, and rightly so, not with his accuser but with the police and the CPS for the incompetence with which they handled his case.
He was particularly enraged by the way the CPS publicly announced that there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to prosecute him when there was no evidence. The Police operation that investigated him was heavily criticized by Sir Henriques in his report and he is seeking compensation from the Met as well.
The settlement for damages is accompanied by a confidentiality clause, but we do know the CPS have apologized unreservedly for the announcement they made, particularly in regard to the ages of the complainants. They have not admitted liability.
In his interview with the Daily Mail, speaking of the wrongly accused, he said ‘we just want to give them hope. That’s the reason I agreed to this interview.’ Paul has succeeded in this. One battle won, many more to come.
Read Paul Gambaccini’s story in his book ‘Love, Paul Gambaccini’ available from Biteback Publishing