Thursday, June 19, 2008

Teen is beaten and forced into hiding because of a wrongful accusation of rape; his accuser is granted lifelong anonymity

He's been beaten up, spat upon, called names, and even now that his ordeal is supposed to be over, he can't get a job and has been forced into hiding, afraid even to venture outside. He says his life isn't worth living because of a wrongful accusation of rape. And he's barely more than a boy.

Nineteen-year-old Edward Andrew Stobart was exonerated after a judge found his accuser's story "deeply flawed," pointing out that she had spent time with him the day after the alleged attack and even exchanged text messages with him.

While his life has been turned upside down and may never be righted, she retains life-long anonymity even though he was supposed to be presumed innocent from the start and her tale was always "deeply flawed."

Why is it so difficult to make people understand there is a blatantly unfair double standard at work here?

"I don't think it is fair that someone who accuses another of rape is given anonymity even if it is proven that it did not happen," Mr. Stobart said.

You are correct, of course, sir. For practical reasons, don't other young men have a right to know they might be dating someone who falsely accused another boy of rape? Now they will never know, unless she admits it to them. Small chance of that happening.

And why shouldn't this young man be anonymous, too, at least until a conviction? Wouldn't that be fair to innocent men falsely accused of a crime so vile that its mere accusation causes other men to want to hurt them? The answer to why we allow this double standard is simple, and it's deeply troubling. The persons who dominate the public discourse about rape don't care about accused rapists. They think too many men and boys accused of rape walk free. They want to see more men and boys accused of rape put in jail, and some don't care whether the accused are innocent. That sounds terribly hurtful, but it's sadly true.

No, Mr. Stobart, the fair thing would have been to keep both of your names anonymous; if you had been convicted, then let the world know who you are. But if it turned out she lied, she should lose her anonymity. That's the fair way to handle it. But heaven forbid we should allow fairness to creep into the feminist-run sexual assault milieu, which is built on double standard piled atop double standard.

The full story is below. For those men who have been falsely accused -- and I know some of you read this blog because you've written to me -- this will trigger some unwanted emotions:

Nineteen-year-old tells how his life has been hell since he was wrongly accused of rape

The son of former haulage boss Eddie Stobart yesterday told how his life had been made hell since he was wrongly accused of rape by a 15-year-old girl.

Edward Andrew Stobart, 19, said he had been beaten up and told to 'dig his own grave' following the case.

His trial collapsed after it emerged that the alleged victim had drunk so much cider that she could not remember what had happened.

Sporting two black eyes and cuts to his face, the teenager backed calls for those accused of rape to be given anonymity unless they are found guilty.

"My life has not been worth living for the past month since the case finished,' he said. 'I am too scared to go outside on my own.

'I think it is worse because people know who my family is and that my dad is Edward Stobart.'

The teenager, who is known as Andrew and is the adopted son of Mr Stobart, was accused of raping the girl in woods near his home village of Houghton, near Carlisle, in April last year.

The trial at Carlisle Crown Court was told she had been drinking with friends until she passed out, awakening to find Stobart having sex with her in a churchyard. He denied the claim.

The case was thrown out last month after Judge Paul Batty QC called the girl's evidence 'deeply flawed', pointing out that she had spent time with him the day after the alleged attack and even exchanged text messages with him.

Footage shot earlier on a mobile phone showed her falling over drunk in a park, and the trial heard that she later had to ask friends what had happened.

But although the prosecution was abandoned, she retains her anonymity, unlike Mr Stobart, who says he was attacked by a 15-strong mob at the weekend.

'It's not the first time I have been beaten up, I have been told to dig my own grave – it's horrible,' he said.

'Every time I go out I am shouted at and I have been spat at and called names like "Scum".

'I don't think it is fair that someone who accuses another of rape is given anonymity even if it is proven that it did not happen.'

The teenager is in hiding and says he cannot get a job because of the allegation.

His father founded the haulage company which bears his name in the 1970s and at one point the family fortune was put at £60million.

The fleet of lorries with their red and green livery became something of a national institution, with the policy of giving each truck a female name helping to attract a 35,000-strong fan club.

However Eddie Stobart was bought out by his younger brother William in 2003 and no longer plays any part in the business.

Andrew Stobart and his three sisters were adopted by Mr Stobart and his wife Sylvia, the haulage boss's former secretary.

The couple are divorced and Andrew said yesterday he had little contact with his adoptive father.

Mr Stobart, 53, moved to Warwickshire and now has a new partner and a young daughter.

Life-long anonymity for victims of alleged rape or sexual assault was introduced in the 1970s.