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Even David Cameron and his predecessors have admitted that up to 10% of those in jail for what would be very serious offences could very well be innocent. They are quick to tell us that, “No system is perfect.” Only this last week, local councils have been complaining that so called ‘victims’ of abuse from many years ago have started various legal actions for what supposedly happened to them in their past, often 20, 30 or even 40 years ago when they were in care.
Because there is no Statute of Limitations the police investigate as if the alleged offence was committed yesterday, the whole ‘child protection’ machine rolls into action and the defendant – if one dare use the term – can do nothing because the only evidence is ‘here-say’ and uncorroborated but, thanks to a ruling by naive Law Lords years ago, can not only be admitted into court but often provides the backbone of the prosecution case.
Prostitution, brothels and homosexuality are all illegal in PNG, and women and men who choose to sell sex do so at their own risk and outside the health, security and other controls that regulate sex industries in other countries.
Bertha, a bright energetic and seemingly kindly woman in her 40s, is matter-of-fact about her role, and equally comfortable negotiating prices for girls with customers as she is dispensing condoms and 'safe sex' advice to her young stable of teenagers A USAID 2010 survey on this sector of the PNG community revealed that although many hide their sex work from their families and the community, more than a third reported being shunned by their loved ones, and the same proportion were denied medical treatment when a nurse or doctor learned what they did for a living.
Without a Statute of Limitations, everyone – without exception – is fair game if someone has a grievance against them.
The further back in time the allegation goes, the easier it is to get a conviction and the more chance there is of a nice, fat, juicy payout.
With the ever-present threat of HIV/AIDS - the most recent reports suggest rates are increasing at almost 30 per cent year in parts of PNG - Bertha's safe sex advice could be the difference between life and death for vulnerable girls whose own families and loved ones have turned their backs on them.
The Opinion would suggest that without a Statute of Limitation we are all potential targets for this type of action.
If someone has genuinely been abused, despite what the ‘experts’ tell us, it is unlikely that they would really wait 40 years to tell anyone, and to be frank, if they do wait that long, their motives for so belatedly bringing the accusation should be examined in the finest detail. True, you may be completely innocent but that will not save you from a legal system that allows such easy convictions for alleged offences that are so old, based on often non-existent evidence and are impossible to prove one way or the other, yet which have a big fat cheque waiting for the lucky winner.
The point is though that Britain has and this is seen by many to be totally unjust.
It is also true that one very rarely hears about ‘historic’ violent crimes.