Thursday, 2 June 2016

Innocent man in prison was treated like the scum of the earth

A 22 year old steel worker who was falsely accused of rape, decided it was better for his safety if he fabricated a story and told other inmates that he was in prison for a shooting. But, one day, his name and charge details were revealed.

"In prison, if you are in for anything relating to a sex offence you are the lowest of the low," he explained. "My lawyers and even the prison staff told me that I would be in serious danger if other prisoners found out what I was charged with. So I concocted this story about being a career criminal who was in over a shooting. People seemed to believe it, but when my name was in the paper they realised why I was really there. I didn't leave my cell again."

In March 2009, James and a friend were accused of rape. Apparently they had burst into her home, threatened her with a knife and then raped her. The truth was, James knew the woman beforehand and she has invited them over after a night out.

James and his friend had never spent any time in jail. Luckily for his friend, he got bail and could leave after 10 days, but James was on remand for a full year. He had to spend most of the time in one of Britain's toughest prisons.

After a long hard battle, they were both acquitted in March this year. But even though he was cleared, James still says the feeling of being accused of rape still haunts him. He has not only lost a year of this life for something he did not do, but he is also not sure if he still has a job.

"Being accused of something I did not do was a nightmare," he said. "But when people in prison found out what the allegation was my life became unbearable. They would put razor blades under the door and urinate into my cell. They threatened me and my family.

"I was in a cell for 23 hours and 45 minutes a day for my own safety. The only time I was allowed out was for 15 minutes at night time when all of the other prisoners were asleep.

"Eventually I had to be transferred to Barlinnie for my own safety. I told the other prisoners the shooting story, which worked for a while, but then one of the guys from Addiewell was transferred too and it started again. I was put on suicide watch and I refused to eat. When I went out on the wing, people would point and say, 'there's the monster'.

"Next they moved me to the sex offenders' wing. I was the only remand prisoner there, and it was hell. There were rapists and pedophiles and I did not want to associate with these guys but I was being treated like one of them."

Even after his horrible experience, James has decided to support the suggestion that rape suspects should be given the same anonymity as victims. The proposal has been opposed by women's rights groups, who say that such a move would prevent genuine rape victims coming forward.

James said: "I understand that rape victims should have anonymity, but I do not see any reason why suspects should have their names in the public domain if they have not been found guilty of a crime.

"I fully agree that rapists should be named and shamed. They are the scum of the earth and their names and photographs should be in every newspaper. But in my opinion that should only happen when they are convicted.

"I had my name dragged through the dirt because of a false allegation. I was labelled a rape suspect and it nearly ruined my life.

"My name was cleared in a court of law but even now I hear the phrase 'no smoke without fire' and I feel that some people still look at me and say things behind my back.
"I agree with what women's groups say 99.9 per cent of the time. I think what they do for victims of rape is great because it is a terrible crime, but on the point of anonymity I have to disagree.

"When I was in Barlinnie I met three people who were on remand for rape: two were acquitted and the other had his conviction overturned on appeal. So false allegations do happen.

"People have to realise that cases like mine do occur. But because I was not entitled to anonymity my name was plastered across the newspapers with the word rape next to it. I will forever be linked with a rape accusation, even though I have been acquitted."

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