Supreme court sketch by Isobel Williams,

Supreme court sketch by Isobel Williams,

Since the Savile allegations in late 2012 – some of them true, some embellished and some, no doubt, fabricated – we are faced with a firestorm of historical child abuse allegations.

Active encouragement is being given to adults who claim to remember, from even a half century ago, any inappropriate behaviour which took place by a teacher or carer and, to quote the former DPP, Keir Starmer, ‘these complainants must be believed’. Initially, barely a week passed without someone in the public eye being arrested, amidst maximum publicity, of course. It wasn’t just the famous who were being targeted. Hundreds of ordinary folk had their collar felt in the early hours of the morning.

In 1769, William Blackstone wrote ‘the law holds it that it is better that 10 guilty persons go free than one innocent person suffers’. Yet, in our supposedly democratic society, there are a myriad of innocent people who have been arrested, charged and imprisoned on the basis of unproven complaints.

But, in modern Britain complainants ‘must be believed’ when it comes to alleged sex abuse. If this is the message from the top of our legal profession, then is it any wonder that more and more innocent individuals are being arrested and, in many cases, unfairly punished?


Usher section

Court usher, Isobel Williams

And when innocent people are punished and suffer the wrath of society, it is not only that person who has to suffer but also their family and close friends. It is impossible to express fully in words the horrors that one has to endure when accused of child abuse and only those who have experienced it will know fully the pain.

When I stood in the dock, in a glass cage, and heard the jury utter the words ‘Not Guilty’, after less than 40 minutes’ deliberation – I was later told that the jury had made their decisions within 15 minutes – it brought to an end a two year living nightmare.

Accused of minor sexual offences of 30 years previously, I had endured nearly two years of hell that at times had brought me to the cusp of despair. Not only had I suffered the stress of a very public seven day trial, I had also witnessed my life being torn apart before my very eyes.

I lost my job, my biggest passion, as well as my home and community, my reputation and my peace of mind.

I was forced to endure the terror of simultaneous dawn raids on both my home in Suffolk and my flat in West London. In the early hours of December 18 2012, I was awoken at my Suffolk house by the arrival of a group of local police officers, one of whom read me my rights as the others ransacked all my possessions.

I quickly realised my London flat was being searched at the same time. They took away everything that was personal to me. They proceeded to look at every email I’d ever written, every photo I’d ever taken, read every phone message I’d ever sent or received. In short, my life was invaded.

The allegations which brought about my arrest related to a former pupil of St George’s School, near Stowmarket, where I had taught for two years in the early 1980s. After my arrest, precisely 672 days later, a jury decided almost immediately that there was no truth in this person’s allegations, nor those of the accuser’s close friend, nor an ex-pupil of the school where I have been teaching for the past 30 years.

The allegations had ranged from ‘checking me inappropriately after a shower’ to ‘chasing me around a packed day room trying to pinch my bottom’.

I, an ex-teacher of over 30 years and now a BBC reporter, who has appeared on various national television and radio shows, have the task of piecing my life back together – or what is left of it.

Am I angry? I am angry and frustrated that I’ve had two years of my life taken from me. I firmly believe that there should be a maximum limit of three months on bail and, if the police want to extend the time, they should have to seek permission from a judge, giving good reasons.

The ‘Magna Carta’ states: ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ – and 672 days on police bail is nothing short of a punishment in itself. I would describe it as 672 days of humiliation. But, rather than wallowing in self pity, what is of greater concern to me is I want this and other lessons to be learned.

I don’t want people to feel sorry for me and think it’s another sob story. Something good has to come from this. Changes need to be made in how these incredibly sensitive matters are handled. Of course, children who have been the victims of abuse need to be able to feel they can come forward and be listened to. This is one of the marvellous things to have come about in this country during recent times.

We, as a society, are leading the way in child abuse investigations. But, at the same time, we need the accused to be supported and treated fairly and justly as well. No one should automatically be presumed guilty, as I was, and have his or her good name sullied forever just because of some unfounded allegations. Once the police had decided to arrest me, they were going to do anything they could then to prosecute me.


privy council 3

Court staff, Privy Council, Isobel Williams

As I said, the nightmare ordeal started when police hammered on my door on that fateful day, one week before Christmas, 2012. In the aftermath of the Savile scandal, a former pupil, who is still covered by anonymity, came forward and claimed that some 30 years earlier I watched him in the showers after PE lessons and went on to touch him, under the guise of checking to see he was dry.

I’ve never taught PE, never taught the complainant and have no memory of the pupil whatsoever (other than the fact he happened to be a pupil in the school at the same time). From the outset I maintained that what he had to say was, at best, the result of mistaken identity and, at worst, a calculated, malicious lie.

When it finally came to trial in late October 2014, at Ipswich Crown Court, dozens of character witnesses paid tribute to me, saying, among a host of superlatives, that I was “flamboyant”, “inspirational”, an excellent practitioner”, ”one of the outstanding schoolmaster of his generation”, and ”considered by most pupils as the best teacher in the school”. More importantly, it was evident to all that the complainants had been telling lies.

But, despite being immediately cleared, I have lost faith in many things: the notion of being presumed not guilty until proven otherwise; a system which can keep someone’s life on hold for nigh on two years, as the powers-that-be trawl for other complainants or any pieces of innuendo they can find; ‘no win, no fee’ solicitors, who fuel the sorts of lies and deceit that resulted in me being dragged through the courts; and the adversarial method of police investigation, whereby they take a standpoint from the outset and refuse to budge, deliberately disregarding any evidence which suggests anything contrary to their case.

The police were not interested in uncovering the truth, only in securing a conviction.

How could a pretty obvious farrago of fabrication ever have ended up in court in the first place? From the outset the police adopted a hostile, one-sided approach, raking through every facet of my life, searching for something – anything – to corroborate the allegations. Instead of approaching the case with open-mindedness, they seemed determined on pursuing a guilty path and nothing would alter their predetermined course.

I wish they had looked from the outset at the unlikelihood of these allegations being possible. The very first thing I said at interview was that I had never taught PE. I was ignored.

If the police feel there’s not enough evidence to secure a conviction – in my case, no evidence – they go trawling through the accused’s life and try to find something/anything to sway the jury. It’s all about prejudice.

I had every aspect of my personal life raked through. That, in itself, was a trauma to be endured. Those 2012 dawn raids were horrific. I had to spend the best part of 12 hours locked in a cell. Imagine the police barging into your home first thing in the morning and ransacking it, with the added shame of having to wash and dress in front of a policeman while this is going on, before being escorted to the police station to be fingerprinted and to have your DNA taken.


These allegations were made after a certain Derek Slade, the former head teacher of St George’s was jailed (in 2010) for physically and sexually abusing pupils. I believe my media profile made me a target and the fact that I was perceived to be a wealthy man.

I understand the police have a job to do, and I have respect for that. I also understand that, in the wake of Savile, they are under a huge amount of pressure. They seem to be criticised if they don’t pursue certain cases and criticised if they do others. Since late 2012, they have been caught between a rock and a hard place. Of course, transgressors must be brought to justice and this is the police’s difficult job.

But this can’t disguise the fact they consider educated, professional people as easy targets. We will cooperate in any way possible. We’ll be respectful, answer politely and fully all their questions.

This didn’t assist me one iota. It would have served me better to have said nothing. The more information I gave them, the more they tried to use it to enhance their own case.

In order to improve the present system, investigations must be carried out in a balanced manner, with an open-minded willingness to investigate claims from both parties.

The scales of justice seem to have been tipped. Complainants are believed almost automatically. Are we prepared to convict innocent people just so we can show the public there are more and more guilty verdicts in our courts? And how can an allegation, totally unfounded, be put forward as evidence?

My main complainant, now in his 40s, originally approached the police, after consulting ‘no win, no fee’ solicitors, with an allegation against me early in 2012. This despite the fact that when he was interviewed about other matters to do with the school in 2011, my name wasn’t mentioned with regard to any abuse. He was told that the police would not be taking the matter further. He then returned months later and embellished his statement. This embellishment led to my arrest. In the words of an official police document (which I have read) his embellishment became ‘further evidence’.

The compensation culture is largely to blame for false allegations. When you have anonymity, coupled with ‘no win no fee’ and a potential pay-out, liars have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

priivy council 4

Court sketch, Isobel Williams


Making friends was nigh on impossible during my two years of hell: whether you’re innocent or not, as soon as you’re arrested, your name goes out publicly. Whilst the people who wrongly and maliciously accused me of these acts can hide behind anonymity, my name was published on TV, radio and the Internet immediately (illegally, under the Education Act 2011), and in newspapers as soon as I was charged.

Even though we proved there was not a scintilla of truth in these charges, even now, if I met someone and gave them my name or my personal card and they subsequently looked me up on the internet, the first thing they would read is: ‘This person has been cleared of child abuse.’ I’ve been cleared, yes, but there’s still that smell of it. It will remain there for the rest of my life. I’ll never be rid of it.

Reports on the case remain on various search engines, and I don’t think they should. If someone is found not guilty, as I was, then, as a rule of thumb, all internet records should be deleted.

And then we come to the trolls. I was described online as ‘very dangerous’. I had a former pupil of St. George’s saying I should be castrated, although his language wasn’t quite as polite. I had to face a barrage of abuse through email, texts, Facebook and via internet trolls. On one website a former pupil had written, ‘Did you know my old tutor is a paedophile?’

It’s heartbreaking.


The case took two years to come to trial and for much of that time I spent my days hunting down my own witnesses and endeavouring, almost single-handedly, to prove my own innocence. My (union) solicitor was busy with a multitude of such cases. It was down to me alone to do battle with the police incident room team, who were trying tirelessly to find anyone who’d be prepared to back up the allegations against me. Someone who has been accused of a crime dating back more than 30 years has a devil of a job to prove that he or she is not guilty, especially with only limited resources. It was down to me.

During this exhausting process I visited some ‘dark places’. My naturally bubbly, open personality became more and more introverted. My natural self-confidence gradually evaporated. I could fully understand why the teacher from St. George’s who had been arrested before me had committed suicide.

There was even a moment when I myself felt suicidal. During those awful 672 days on police bail, when I was feeling at my lowest ebb, both the Disclosure and Barring Service and then the National College of Teaching and Leadership came wading in to inform me that they would be waiting in the wings to decide what action I should face once the trial had concluded, regardless of its outcome. It felt like I was prostrate on the floor being repeatedly kicked. Sure enough, both started their own investigation after the court case, repeating by letter to me the offences of which I had been cleared.

I am now seriously considering legal action against my two St. George’s accusers, whatever the cost. I am frustrated that the authorities have not arrested them and seem to have no intention to do so.

I will not return to the classroom after – if I say so myself – 35 glorious years. Being a teacher was my biggest passion, and I like to think that of the thousands of pupils whom I have taught, the vast majority are appreciative that, while I can be quite a fiery character on occasions, I enriched their young lives by my expertise in the classroom, my total commitment to school life after hours, and my endless supply of jokes.

A few unscrupulous individuals cannot erase all that I have achieved. And, of course, I am sorry that so many youngsters had their academic careers badly interrupted by my arrest in 2012.

Society must take note, so we lessen the chances of innocent people’s lives being destroyed unnecessarily:

  •  the length of bail must surely have a strict time limit;
  •  judges must have the confidence to reject weak cases before the trial process is reached;
  • we must cease the practice of putting defendants in a glass cage in the courtroom;
  • most importantly, the police must stop their adversarial approach to investigations. Surely, in any fair, just democratic society we have a fundamental right to impartial, balanced police investigations. The police have to run their investigations totally independent of the Crown Prosecution Service. They must not take sides from the outset but must weigh up ALL the evidence they uncover.

In the meantime, I would say to anyone accused unjustly of historical abuse, always remember that the truth is your best ally. It is certainly what kept me going during my darkest moments.

This article comes from a speech given by Simon at a recent FACT conference which supports carers, teachers, and other professionals who have been falsely accused of abuse or misconduct. Find out more about FACT here

Profile photo of Simon Warr About Simon Warr
Simon has taught French and Latin for over 30 years. He has been a presenter for BBC Radio Suffolk and featured in Channel 4’s That’ll Teach ‘Em

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  • Christopher Lennon June 15, 2015 6:07 pm

    Operation Yew Tree has been, in many respects, a witch hunt.
    I am reminded by this story of a gentle, much loved headmaster at my Prep School, over 60 years ago, who was aged in his seventies at the time and had in his charge boys aged between 7 (in a few cases) and 10 or 11. There were communal showers, but the younger boys used baths in individual cubicles. On one occasion, I was checked, on stepping outside, by the headmaster to see if I had dried myself properly. He said I hadn’t and I suppose he was right. There was no inappropriate touching and other boys were nearby at the time. I never mentioned it to my parents, but I imagine my mother would have explained she would do the same thing at home. I had no knowledge at that time of matters sexual. It never happened to me again, nor was there any subsequent incident in my school career I would complain about. However, a fellow pupil has put it about in recent years that he was abused by the headmaster. I was informed by a third former pupil, a doctor and the incident(s) sounded similar to mine. In reply, I told my story above for the first time ever and stated I do not believe the other boy was abused, in fact.
    It does illustrate how different the recollections of individuals can be after a long passage of time. Of course the headmaster is long dead. I attended his funeral. Death has not stopped posthumous allegations being made against numerous teachers and clerics.
    My take on the present story is that, pace Keir Starmer, after a certain passage of time, certainly less than 30 years, allegations like this should be treated with considerable scepticism, if only by reason of the likely impaired or skewed memory of the complainant, or financial motivation, unless the evidence is striking, or corroborated in some way.
    The writer was treated unjustly, in my view. I would have been appalled had something like that happened to my old headmaster.

    • George Gretton June 15, 2015 9:11 pm

      This comment has been removed by the editor

  • George Gretton June 15, 2015 6:46 pm

    Phew, Simon Warr…

    I’m quite jealous that you came to be allowed to initiate threads on this site… along with your kindred spirit Barbara Hewson…Queen of “False Memories” of abuse, along, now, with Professor Chris French, Professor of Anomalistic Psychology at Goldsmiths University.

    I walked out of a “Conference” at Goldsmiths just recently, and my letter of Complaint to The Top Brass at Goldsmiths, and to The Top Brass at The British Humanist Society, is almost ready to send, about a non-scientist, and word and mind manipulator, posing as a Scientist, around “False Memories”.

    I have spent 18 hours in Police Custody, and I have has my fingerprints and DNA taken and stored … forever.

    You have had a CATASTROPHIC experience, spread over years, in the partial shadow of which you will live for the rest of your life; unless, that is, you make a recovery, and emerge as a Survivor of Judicial Abuse.

    I have achieved Survival of Maternal Sexual Abuse, followed by sexual abuse by two other adult women in my childhood and youth, after 50 years, and I have a better life ahead of me, in what time remains to me; at peace with myself.

    I have two CRYSTAL CLEAR memories, from when I was 5, and then from when I was 7, of events that had me live in a shadow, or even chained in a deep and dark cell, for just over 50 years.

    The only other person involved in the two TRUE LIFE INCIDENTS, one at my Grandparents’ house in Latem-St-Marten, near Gent, Belgium, in the guest-wing, and the other in the road outside 15 Bathgate Road, London, SW19, was my biological mother; who in later life had a Title, on account of my Very Dear Dad; she was “Lady Gretton”.

    I have three suicide attempts in my CV, in respect of two of which I should not be alive today, where all three situations were very strongly aggravated and deepened by Sibling Denial; no single attempt would most likely have taken place in the absence of that Denial.

    I am a Scientist as well as having studied the Humanities …via Physics and Philosophy at University College, Oxford.

    My own estimate of the number of false accusations of sexual molestation and abuse is generally at about 10% of reports; I have had so many true reports, that I am prone to give this guess proportion.

    What is your estimate?

    I also estimate that between 10,000 and 100,000 adults and children are supressing their narratives of female and maternal sexual abuse – you don’t need a penis to rape – what is YOUR estimate?

    Seven Senior Politicians recently attended Leon Brittan’s Memorial Service, in respect of which I have drafted a letter of challenge, that I have run past colleagues.

    Would you have also attended, since Leon Brittan was not found Guilty, in his lifetime, of a string of dreadful child sexual abuse Criminal Offences?

    When you are trashing, take care about who you trash, as I do … but on the basis of my experiences over the last three years, in my Anti-Fraud work, I estimate that 95% of Police Officers are corrupt around Fraud.

    I unreserved recommend attendance at Jonathan Maitland’s monumental play “An Audience with Jimmy So-Vile” at the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park .. I attended the opening performance.

    The Star and Heroine of the play is Lucy, that was raped by So-Vile when she was 12…

    Her strength eclipsed So-Vile’s Power, even if, after she said to him “I pity you”, he knocked her to the floor.

    She picked herself up, and walked off the stage with her head held high …Triumphant over her abuser.


    George Gretton

    • Profile photo of Jon Robins
      Jon Robins June 15, 2015 9:09 pm

      Hello George, we run as an online magazine – and so we commission articles – as opposed to allow threads to be authorized.

      As you know comments go through moderation. The comments really have to relate in the main to the article in question. I’m going to let this one through – but can you please bear that in mind. Thanks.

      • George Gretton June 15, 2015 9:18 pm

        Thank you, Jon…

        When people are posting dangerous stuff, then I challenge..

        If I have blatant and flagrant abuses of Justice to flag, how do I contact you?

        I went to the Local Magistrates Court, as a test .. there was both illegality, and summary injustice…

        Yours, George .. sailing close to the wind…

  • Anon June 15, 2015 9:27 pm

    I begin by acknowledging my interest. I am a defence solicitor and to many what I have to say will come from the ‘Well, she would say that wouldn’t she?’ school of thought..

    I am outraged by the hysteria that has and is currently gripping our nation. As the author indicates, the idea of guilty until proven innocent, seems to now be entrenched in the prosecution and the police. The police on all other types of case use A B C – accept nothing,believe no one challenge everything, – all the above apply until the comment, assertion or fact is independently verified. With sexual allegations whether they be historical or allegations made about incidents in the present day, all that goes out of the window.

    Kier Starmer pontificates that complainants are victims and must be believed. No Mr Starmer, a thousand times no. Complainants are complainants until their allegation is proved and it is for a jury and only a jury, not you, and not the police, to decide whether they are or are not telling the truth. Your job as a prosecutor was to listen to the allegation and put it forward in court. The task of the police was to listen to the allegation and investigate it.

    Mr Warr states that his union approved lawyer was too busy with similar cases to deal with his case properly and that the burden of finding defence witnesses fell upon him. That is most unfair and should never have happened. My personal view is that if I cannot service a case properly I will not take it. I Mr Warr – for all that you have been through you have my utmost sympathy.

    As a final note, I totally agree about the compensation culture being part of the problem. However, there truly must be other more fundamental causes of the national hysteria that envelops us.

  • Margaret Gardener June 15, 2015 9:30 pm

    The above story is also reflected in the wider community along with other narratives of false sexual abuse claims as heard on our helpline – no matter what work you do, what age you are, ethnicity, historical or modern accusations in the work place in the home or at play. It happens to the poor or rich all are susceptible to a false allegation of sex abuse.

    Until the government ‘have an appetite’ to do something about false allegations (reputable sources tell us they do not) we will continue to have many falsely accused come to our different groups who need that support both emotional and want practical and referenced information, along with the names of strong solicitors who deal with these issues. Given legal aid is now at a premium we expect our voluntary workload to increase.

    For anyone else in this position there is support, albeit very little and by voluntary groups who have been available for at least 13 years.

    Those groups are

    False Allegations Support Organisation, both helpline and email responded to

    Falsely accused Carers and Teachers helpline (as mentioned the writer spoke at their recent conference in Cardiff)

    and a forum at

    Margaret Gardener
    FASO Director

  • George Gretton June 16, 2015 3:42 pm

    This comment has been removed by the editor

    • Profile photo of Jon Robins
      Jon Robins June 17, 2015 8:16 am


      We are a website about the law and justice. From the launch in 2011, we have a had focus on miscarriages of justice. When it comes to the very difficult issues of historic sexual abuse claims, we have had contributors from all sides of the debate.

      I would like to thank Simon Warr for taking the time to write for us and to give a perspective that is not often heard. It is important that it is. It is a brave article.

      It should be blindingly obvious the fact that we run such articles does not mean that we do not have sympathy for the victims of abuse. I really don’t think that needs to be said.

      We are going to introduce ‘community standards’ for comments shortly. On reflection, we should have done this earlier. We will stress that whilst we welcome dissent, we will not tolerate personal attacks on contributors or any individual. Comments must be largely about the article in question. We already say that we will not run libellous or defamatory comments.

      • George Gretton June 17, 2015 8:53 am

        “We already say that we will not run libellous or defamatory comments.”

        That’s what I heard said to after I had just publicly accused the Top Brass at the Charity Commission of Criminal Conspiracy to Pervert The Course of Justice around my IBD case, for very, very good reason – they had investigated 10,000 transactions, but they had been selected by the suspects, rather than by asking me where to look.

        I was “Eccentric”, “Unprofessional”, “Disrespectful”, and “Slanderous”.

        I was not being TRUTHFUL … because the truth offended so many..

        I’m out of here. I’m pissing in the wind.

        I do not try to pigeon-hole Justice – that suits the criminals.

        Please would you remove my email address from your distribution list.


        George Gretton

  • Paul June 29, 2015 6:04 pm

    Whilst this has been happening for a while, it goes back to the change in similar fact law in the 1990s.

    Prior to that (goes back to the Brides in the Bath case I think) there had to be strong similarities to allow cases to be tied together.

    The problem with this has been that weakening of that makes it more like “anything vaguely similarish” which you can see in Yewtree.

    What it has done is legalised mudslinging as a method of prosecution and “no smoke without fire” as a means of jury decision making. This is why the unfortunate Mr Carr was put on hold for two years, so they could make sweeps trying to collect anything and everything that makes him sound “like a paedo”. With the scum lawyers touting for compo business, this is easy to get.

    Actual evidence does not matter, as one can see from the Yewtree cases.

    Other things do not help. It Mr Carr makes a mistake about something that happened 30 years ago “it proves he is a liar”. Comically obvious mistakes by the complainants (say not being at the school at the same time as him) are down to their mental state following abuse and not down to police prompting, collusion and dishonesty, the three actual reasons.

    Any male who educates in residential or special residential especially is totally insane.

  • Pat Crowe September 8, 2015 2:57 pm

    Bravo Simon….what more can I say.

  • Bernard McGuin October 2, 2015 9:39 pm

    I was a teacher at St.George’s at the time Simon taught there. I was interviewed by the police in 2013 regarding allegations made by former pupils at the school.
    I’ll be honest and say I did not get on well with Simon. He left himself open for criticism by having pupils in his room. However I did not feel he did anything legally wrong. I told the police I had no evidence and so was not called as a witness. Obviously the defence would not want me however because of my hostility towards him.
    I am glad that the case ended in a not guilty verdict as it was apparent there was no real evidence against him. He was very popular with most of the pupils in the school.The offences he was accused of were ludicrous.
    After 33 years I can now honestly say that we would never be friends but I would not want to see him in jail. I am glad that I was not called as a witness but if I had of been, I would have told the truth that this case had been wrongly brought, that Simon was guilty of being liked too much. He was unlucky, at the time, to being around some genuine paedophiles, some of whom were caught, some committed suicide and some got away with it.

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