Yesterday Lord McAlpine addressed publicly serious allegations which had been made against him. Whilst he had not been named in the media heavy hints had led people to suspect he was the former Tory MP at the centre of allegations of sexual abuse of children. The abuse was historical and took place many years ago at a Children's home in Wales. Online some websites had actually named and shamed Lord McAlpine mwrely on the strength of one man's recollection of abuse.
Today that man Steve Messham has apologised for identifying the wrong man.
It turns out that it was NOT Lord McAlpine. In many ways publicly denying the allegations yesterday was the correct move for McAlpine.It brought things to a head. Mr Messham when confronted with images of the Lord realised that all these years he has been mistaken about the identity of his abuser. In a way that justice is sometimes miscarried Lord McAlpine had been mistakenly identified. However for him it was trial by the social media.
McAlpine is a family man now aged 70. Not a good time of life for such damaging untrue revelations but what would be a good time. Never of course.
There is no insinuation that Mr Messham was not abused but that he identified the wrong man. Historical abuse at the children;s home in question had been investigated before but no charges were ever brought.
In this period of time followig allegations of child abuse by the late Jimmy Savile, and others, we are in danger of becoming obsessed, hysterical and vindictive. Yes child abuse has no place in society but witch hunts never address such issues.
Most people in the UK now believe that Jimmy Savile was a sexual predator. An abuser. However he is not alive to face any of the allegations. Will the list of his victims include some who have simply jumped on the bandwagon? If it does it belittles the pain and anguish of child abuse victims. There will be compensation claims which may tarnish some allegations.
In the case of Lord McAlpine it was the BBC"s flagship news program Newsnight which opened this can of worms. It ran a report which fell short of naming McAlpine but may as well have done so. People jumped to the obvious conclusions. However there was no case for him to answer.
Newsnight has been in trouble recently for not airing a shaming documentary regarding Savile and child abuse. Now it is in trouble for running what turned out to be a flawed report. The media must get a grip. The worry is that all of these untrue and damaging reports will lead to a clamp down on UK freedom of speech. It may give the government the excuse it needs to limit Internet freedom and more. Unsafe reports are playing into the government's hands.
The Leveson Inquiry in the UK will be making some recommendations to the government regarding press intrusion and standards. The hope is that it will prevent unnecessary press intrusion, as in the case of missing Milly Dowler, but not become restrictive. We shall to wait and see.
Lord McAlpine is now considering legal action against those who wrongly named him. That could be costly and exhausting for him. It is something that he should not have to face at his time of life but wouldn't we all do the same?
Based in Yorkshire, in the middle of the UK, almost, this blogger offers her own unique perspective on life in GB
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