The fragile rule of law, the presumption of innocence, and Bill D’Arcy
By Dally Messenger III
Everyone is right and everyone is wrong when it comes to long term sexual misconduct accusations.
I am not talking here of serious misconduct which is cut and clear. Father Ridsdale, for example, had an army of former altar boys with serious accusations. The evidence was overwhelming. Ridsdale admitted his crimes. Open and shut.
In the history of sexual crimes, the genuine victims have frequently been ignored, disbelieved, even attacked. These wrongs must be redressed. But such redressing cannot mean that every man accused is guilty.
This is the kind of question which is emerging: was that pinch on the behind sexual assault? Was it a welcomed bit of fun and affection? Was it one of those misjudgments or mistaken signals which regularly occur in the interaction of the sexes? Could the accusations arise from the fury of a woman scorned? Could the accusation be based on pseudo-evidence – e.g. “recovered memory” – which only comes to light when others have suggested it?
There is a corollary question: could it be that occasionally victim compensation gives force and power to an already flowering and embellished victim narrative?
Yes – there are real victims of sexual assault and they must be listened to carefully and sympathetically. The #MeToo movement has opened up a valuable dialogue far too long suppressed. But, as Bret Stephens points out in his incisive New York Times article “The Smearing of Woody Allen”, it is a very serious matter for society to jettison the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof because you do not like someone. The presumption of innocence is a cornerstone of our justice system – and hundreds of years of legal experience tells us that we do not have a justice system without it.
My own personal knowledge of a real victim on the wrong swing of Hegel’s dialectic is the falsely accused Bill D’Arcy, one time former leader of the opposition in Queensland. Queensland has a long history of abuse of the legal system and the ignoring of the separation of powers. The Fitzgerald Inquiry, for example, exposed politicians and business leaders, who motivated by political ambition, or big profits, or media sales, decided to ditch due process.
D’Arcy had the safest Labor seat in Queensland, Woodbridge, and in the late 1990s he became ill with serious heart trouble. It was the time of the tumultuous and enthusiastic beginning of the nobly motivated campaign to find men who had sexually abused children. D’Arcy was accused on the basis of a rumour originating, as far as the subsidiary rumour has it, from his opponents in the Labor Party. As Stephens says of another, his case played perfectly “into existing biases”.
I have read the eighty eight page report on the Bill D’Arcy case which was written in 2003 by a former senior police inspector of unquestionable integrity. Though the language is careful and respectful it reveals a sorry mess of police “trawling”, a cesspool of contradictions and a swampland of serious anomalies. This former police officer, inter alia, details how D’Arcy was “carpet bombed” with hitherto never mentioned accusations in an atmosphere of “hysteria”.
Two years of pretrial publicity in the tabloid press ensured that Bill D’Arcy had not a snowflake’s chance in hell of a fair trial, but as he did, amazingly, go to trial, there was not even half a snowflake’s chance of a “not guilty” verdict.
This short reflection can only handle one specific instance of injustice of the many I could quote. Contrary to tabloid reports Bill D’Arcy was accused of rape by only one woman. This one accusation merited 10 years of his original 14 year sentence. At the time of the trial, the year 2000, the alleged event was 34 years prior to the trial.
For starters, Dr Daniel O’Connor asserts that raping an eleven year old girl in front of a whole class without anyone noticing what was going on, and without the girl screaming in pain, etc. was physically impossible. As O’Connor asserts – it “beggars belief”.
Fourteen items of evidence given by the accusing woman, place the alleged rape as occurring in May 1966. Evidence clarified since the trial makes it clear that Bill D’Arcy was transferred to another school on June 30, 1965. I have examined the documents and transcripts myself. It is cut and dried, open and shut. To add strength to my conclusion – the accusing woman gives a description of the teacher who followed BiIll D’Arcy. This man, by the way, left the country at the time the accusations started. Everyone I know who has looked closely at the facts of the Bill D’Arcy trial, has decided D’Arcy is innocent.
At the trial the woman herself uttered this extraordinary statement – “when the police identified me as a victim ..” Unnerving, isn’t it?