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Plight of wrongly accused care workers

The Guardian Letters, Thursday November 30, 2006

My uncle is one of the 120 innocent care workers and teachers who have been wrongly imprisoned for sexual offences against children (History revision, Society, November 29). He is facing the first of what could be 15 Christmases in prison for crimes he did not commit. This is his reward for caring for some of the most disturbed teenagers in the 1970s. How many more innocent people must be jailed before the government acts? It realised there was a problem in the prosecution of these cases in 2002, when the home affairs select committee said that they ran an "unusually high" risk of miscarriages of justice.

It was practically impossible for him to defend himself against allegations dating back 25 years. Witnesses had died, there was no forensic evidence, and the meticulous records he kept at the time, which could have exonerated him, have been lost or destroyed. When juries can only decide who is lying, they commonly - and understandably - choose to believe the accuser in fear of potentially releasing a paedophile. Indeed, once accused of historic abuse, according to one solicitor, you have a 90% chance of conviction.

Everyone who works, or has ever worked with children ought to be looking over their shoulder in fear of arrest. The campaigning group Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers (Fact) says you now stand "a very good chance" of being accused of abuse. You could be joining my uncle in his cell, where he is unable even to have pictures of his children and grandchildren because he is branded a sex offender.

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