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Durham Uni law academic sparks furious Twitter debate after claiming high-profile rape allegation wasn’t necessarily ‘false’

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Criminal law expert stirs up controversy online

Credit: Durham University Law School

An academic at Durham University Law School has provoked furious debate after saying that a high-profile rape allegation against student Liam Allan wasn’t necessarily “false”.

Criminal law assistant professor Hannah Bows made the Twitter claim despite the now infamous case being dropped after evidence emerged that the sex was consensual. The post generated protests from Allan and even the prosecuting barrister in the case.

Allan’s case generated a wave of media coverage at the end of 2017. The criminology student was charged with rape and sexual assault, but police failed to disclose crucial texts from the complainant that fatally undermined the case against him.

When the texts eventually surfaced — midway through the trial — they reportedly showed the complainant requesting sex with Allan and telling friends that she had enjoyed it. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction and halted the case.

Responding to a BBC report yesterday that Allan had been “falsely accused”, Bows tweeted that “there is no evidence the allegation was false. The case was dropped due to police errors”.

The comment drew a strong response — including from Allan himself. He told Bows that there were messages “disproving the allegation entirely”.

Disgusted lawyers also piled in, with criminal solicitor Nicholas Diable saying “It is an established fact that the case was dropped because messages were found in which the complaint made clear the sex was consensual”.

Jerry Hayes, the prosecuting barrister in Allan’s case, weighed in to say that “the withheld evidence showed that the allegations were false. That’s why I offered no evidence”.

But Bows hit back at her critics, saying that evidence in favour of the accused wasn’t “proof that an allegation was false”.

Some members of the public supported the academic. Dr Ann Olivarius replied “why the distinction is so hard to understand for so many escapes me”, and Jill Arnold said “Glad you spoke out – the BBC throw in falsehoods (very sloppy journalism) all the time”.

But many responses were hostile. Some lawyers even claimed that Bows’s point could get her sued for defamation. David Hughes, a barrister at 30 Park Place Chambers, warned that “your tweets are an example of how easily very significant liability can be incurred, very quickly”.

In follow-up tweets, Bows suggested that a rape allegation shouldn’t be described as false unless the claimant has actually been charged or convicted of making false allegations.

She added: “I am stating the victim should not be described as/implied to be a liar/making false allegations when this has not been proven. Simples”.

Bows, whose research focuses on violence against women, victimology and feminist and socio-legal theory, is also a local magistrate. She told Legal Cheek last night that she had nothing further to add on the controversy.

Allan’s case is back in the headlines because of plans to change how alleged victims of crime give consent to having their phones examined by police. Media reports say that new police consent forms amount to “Hand over your phones or see attackers walk free“, but the CPS has attacked “serious inaccuracies” in media coverage, adding that “it is not true that complainants in rape cases must automatically hand over personal data on their digital devices or run the risk of the prosecution being dropped”.

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118 Comments

Unimpressed

Again, Legal Cheek flexes its journalistic muscles in reporting on a Twitter-based argument that most readers would be aware of, a day after it happens.

A frightening thought (and perhaps a good suggestion for the next article): Is Legal Cheek the Buzzfeed of “Legal Journalism”?

(13)(25)

Anonymous

So much mansplaining to a top female academic!

(10)(49)

Anonymous

Is this sarcasm?

(18)(0)

Anonymous

Or rather, correction by people with more experience and knowledge such as… The prosecuting barrister?

(57)(1)

#thewokeresistance

The prosecuting barrister is a white, cis gender male, and therefore has no right to comment. How dare men interject their facile arguments into what must remain a female, LGBTQ+ safe space.

(53)(6)

MC1Q

Calling her a “top academic” is like calling a 2Q a “senior lawyer”. Might be true some day, but not yet.

(10)(0)

Anonymous

What evidence is there that she is a top legal academic? How many people had actually heard of her before? She certainly didn’t appear on my undergraduate reading list …

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Her specialism is “feminist and socio-legal theory”. No further comment required.

(8)(4)

Gordon Jones Major

Academic vs real world legal practice right there.

The texts/evidence show the allegation was false – hence why no evidence was offered.

Stepping out of the classroom she would know/understand how difficult it is to prosecute cases of perverting the course of justice or wasting police time in these particular circumstances – and if she truly believes that unless the original complainant is successfully prosecuted as such then the allegation still isn’t false, then I wouldn’t want to be taught anything by her.

(80)(1)

wisemanner

Isn’t it the case that false accusers are rarely prosecuted, simply because it is not considered to be “in the public interest”? Or, to put it another way, simply because they are female? Whatever, having learned this woman’s background, every male who has been sentenced by her deserves to have his case reviewed. at least, as does every female who has been “sentenced” by her, but for the opposite reason.

(27)(6)

Anonymous

Clearly not quite getting the concept of innocent until proven guilty.

(47)(0)

Anonymous

People like Hannah Bows are the reason that people don’t take female academics seriously. Huge inability to accept she may be wrong gets us all tarred with a brush of being “emotional” and “lacking objectivity”. Female academics are often accused of pushing their feminist agenda, and this fool is the perfect example of why. Thanks Hannah. #sarcasm

(89)(12)

Bob

What a belligerent twat. I hope she is wrecked with a libel suit. I am worried that she is a magistrate.

(71)(4)

Anonymous

Just don’t get nicked in Durham. Simples.

(6)(3)

Annoyed man

As one of her followers replied to this tweet, the only victim in this is Liam Allen. She needs to stop talking

(52)(2)

Anonymous

As a magistrate, hugely worry she continues to use the word victim, in circumstances where prosecuting counsel has corrected her as to the facts of the case being dropped

(55)(2)

Anonymous

Not just her, but the Times, too, in yesterday’s coverage of the requirement of *complainants* to turn over their phones to police or risk their case being dropped. They used “victim” until a Q&A section popped up after ca. 600 comments where made.

(11)(0)

wisemanner

The press regularly uses the word “victim” when they mean “accuser.” The feminists have been highly successful in fooling a wide range of people into failing to see the little trick they’ve pulled.

(14)(5)

Victor Timothy

I’m a Victim!

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Her research interests are broadly located within the fields of violence against women, victimology, feminist and socio-legal theory. Over the last six years she has conducted research examining different forms of violence against older people, with a specific focus on domestic violence, sexual violence and homicide of older women. She is currently working on a project with colleagues in the Department of Sociology examining crime and safety at UK music festivals. Outside of the university, Hannah is the founder and director of the International Network for Research into Violence and Abuse and co-director of the British Society of Criminology Victims Network (with Professor Pam Davies at Northumbria University). She is Chair of Age UK Teesside and is a magistrate on the County Durham and Darlington Bench.

Says it all really – alarming that she is a Magistrate!

(30)(12)

Barrister

You seem to have proven she is highly qualified.

(0)(2)

Anonymous

And so should know better.

The type of qualifications obtained could indicate a narrow viewpoint.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Based on these comments any males who have been sentenced by this magistrate for gender related matters should have their convictions looked at afresh.

(31)(5)

Anonymous

I would strongly encourage those offended and/or concerned, raise a complaint with the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office

https://judicialconduct.judiciary.gov.uk/making-a-complaint/

(23)(2)

Anonymous

Her point is quite simple, really, if a little pedantic. The distinction she is trying to make relates to the language we use to describe an unproven accusation, namely that it is ‘false’. Describing accusations against a defendant as false imply the complainant was lying but as no proceedings for perverting the course of justice were brought it is as unfair and incorrect to call her allegations false and it is important not to discourage victims coming forward through fear of being called a liar. This was probably not the best case from which to build this point but, alas, here we are.

(26)(4)

Anonymous

The overarching point of “don’t imply someone is guilty of something until they have been proven guilty” is valid. The trouble is that she refers to the “victim”, which in and of itself implies that the girl in this case is a victim of a crime. If Bows wants us to stop assuming/implying that anything illegal has happened without a conviction she could at least follow those rules herself.

(40)(1)

Anonymous

The problem is that, by raising that point here, she betrayed almost unfathomable ignorance . As her original tweet shows, she seemed to think that the case was dropped due to police errors. In her own words, there is ‘no evidence’ that the accusation was false, whereas in fact there was overwhelming evidence that this was the case.

Her subsequent attempt to fall back on the idea of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is nothing short of embarrassing. On her logic, there is ‘no evidence’ that people like Jimmy Savile or OJ Simpson ever committed a crime.

(26)(2)

Anonymous

Complainants come forward, not victims. People should be discouraged from coming forward with allegations which aren’t true.

(12)(3)

Anonymous

The problem is that her first tweet said “there is no evidence the allegation was false”. This was incorrect and she was picked up on it by various people, including the prosecutor. It was at that point she changed her stance to say that the complainant had not been prosecuted etc, and defensively (and wrongly) suggested that was what she had been saying from the beginning.
I’m sure there was a much more effective way of making her legitimate point (IE “acquittal does not mean the complainant was lying”) than attacking everyone who corrected her error.

(22)(0)

Anonymous

Ohh wow she’s so intellectually fleet footed

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Lol she sits as a lay magistrates – that says it all really!

(22)(3)

Anonymous

Hope she’s disciplined for this.

(11)(2)

Anonymous

Mags get away with far worse. Because they are unpaid, no one cares

(8)(1)

Anonymous

So she feels that a claim can’t be considered false unless the claimant has been found guilty of making a false allegation? That’s a ludicrously high bar for multiple reasons; the CPS usually won’t even bring a case, the case may take months, and there is a very high standard of evidence for such case. It’s bordering on absurd and furthermore a presumption of guilt for the alleged rapist.

(19)(0)

Anonymous

You’re making the same logical mistake as most of the regrettable twitter mob. Saying an allegation wasn’t proven to be false is not the same as saying it is true. There are more than two logical states which an allegation can occupy: namely, when we don’t know for certain whether an allegation is true or not. Then the allegation can be described as unsubstantiated or unproven. From this, I hope you can see that pointing out that an allegation was not proven to be false is not tantamount to saying that the accused was guilty of rape.

(6)(1)

SunnyDisposition

She actually said “there is NO evidence the allegation was false” which is simply not true. It was never going to be the best example to demonstrate the point that an acquittal doesn’t mean the accusation was false. A concept that only the most ignorant doesn’t already understand and accept. And that could still be resolved by removing the lie and apologising. But will she?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

I think I will prefer to take counsel instructed to prosecute the offence as being more reliable than the academic who was not privy to the evidence.

Anyone who thinks differently is being deliberately provocative.

(40)(0)

Anonymous

How in the fuck is she a magistrate

(12)(2)

Anonymous

Have you seen lay magistrates? They are conviction machines.

Typically they are white, female, middle class busybodies.

It’s an unpaid role – it attracts a certain type of person who wants to volunteer their time to sit in judgement of their peers

(35)(3)

Anonymous

Spot on.

(11)(2)

Anonymous

Some of them can be filthy after a sitting though. It’s the power.

(6)(2)

Anonymous

Don’t use twitter.

Don’t feed the beast.

It won’t get you any work.

It will only create risk and alienate people.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

So how soon before she is reported to the JCO?

(8)(2)

Anonymous

As a D, I would not feel comfortable if she was the magistrate deciding my case. Completely defies logic

(12)(1)

Anonymous

With all these false complaints, it is time for the absolute privilege against defamation to be lifted to protect the reputations of men who are victims like this.

(11)(2)

Anonymous

Astounded she claims to be in a better position to assess the case than the CPS barrister!!!!!

(21)(0)

Anonymous

Men are not allowed opinions. All that matters is upping the conviction rates and percentages. That wins votes and appeases the feminist extremists.

(11)(3)

Anonymous

Men are allowed opinions.

The wrong opinions so we can correct them.

Even though we are gender neutral, we must hate men.

(7)(2)

Comments are closed.

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