Err, no

False accusations can ruin lives, which is part of the reason why our legal system requires substantial investigation and an \”innocent until proven guilty\” standard for criminal cases. Outside of the criminal system, in the US, there are legal safeguards like libel and defamation laws that give someone who is unfairly maligned recourse in civil court. And in the US and most other jurisdictions, truth is a defence against defamation – so if her father were to sue her for allegedly defaming him, he would have to show that her accusations are false.

Proof in libel runs the other way. She would have to show that her allegations are correct.

14 comments on “Err, no

  1. American libel rules are not British libel rules. Her father is unlikely to have any redress.

    But out of the monstrous pile of horse sh!t that is this woman’s article, you picked this error? Come on. Every other sentence is false. Take this:

    The Roman woman Lucretia killed herself after being raped to make it clear she was virtuous and didn’t consent to sex; The Christian theologian, St Augustine, later wrote that Lucretia must have been “so enticed by her own desire that she consented to the act”. How did he know better than Lucretia herself?

    Saint Augustine did not write that. What is more the source she cites makes it clear he did not write that. She has misquoted her own source. She has also systematically and very thoroughly distorted what Saint Augustine had to say. Her source is clear:

    Indeed, Augustine is unequivocal in his claim that Lucretia bore no blame whatsoever for the rape.

    What a genius.

  2. Truth being a defence means precisely that in an action for libel you have to prove your statement is true, rather than the complainant proving it false. That’s spectacularly the wrong way round.

    Like most of the Groan, really.

  3. Though of course, it may be that the account of ‘truth being a defence’ is what’s wrong: saner voices in the comments thread suggest that the father would have to prove the statements false, which means that non-falsifiability is the defence, rather than truth.

  4. I thought this was emblematic of the article:

    While women don’t lie about rape any more than people lie about being victimised by other crimes – and in fact rape is one of the least likely crimes to be reported to police

    These two statements may well be true – although I’m more convinced by the latter than the former – the linking of them makes a wholly inaccurate point. There are two reasons for false allegations of rape to the police – vindictiveness (see JuliaM and Inspector Gadget passim) and shame (the woman’s or, even more unfortunately, often her family’s.)

    While I expect that the %age of false rape allegations is very low compared to the number of actual rapes it is, even taking the militant misandrist pov, a much higher %age of the number of reported rapes.

  5. Well, the problem with the specific case is that it’s impossible to know whether a person is a rape victim or a false memory victim. The therapy/feminist survivor movement have so poisoned the well that one always has to start from a position of extreme scepticism, which is unfortunate as undoubtedly some claims are true.

    The only way forward that I can see would be to both legally and socially treat all claims of historic rape as fraudulent unless objective (i.e. non-testimonial) corroborating evidence is available. As opposed to the current system under which all claims, however unlikely, are treated as true unless they involve a senior Tory.

    As it is, it’s hard to tell. One or two particularlities of the claims- “tied up in chains” aged four, are typical of the lurid fantasies of false memory victims.

    But, you just can’t tell from testimony. That’s the problem with it.

  6. ” it’s impossible to know whether a person is a rape victim or a false memory victim”: or just a liar?

  7. As opposed to the current system under which all claims, however unlikely, are treated as true unless they involve a senior Tory.

    I think that the current claims involving Lord McAlpine weren’t treated with much skepticism until he publicly denounced them in quite so forceful a way.

  8. Can you defame someone on Youtube? Surely a medium with no credibility can’t cause damage to someone’s reputation.

    Anyone who would pay any attention to any unsupported claim made on the internet by someone unknown to them is an irredeemable idiot. The implication in the article is that the author and her friends unconditionally believe anything they see printed (or on-screen) – which would fit with how Guardian readers tend to behave. I’ve eaten custard that was more perceptive than most of them.

  9. The medium has as much credibility as the person appearing on it. Just the same as the posts we read here have as much credibility as Tim Worstall has, rather than some generic/aggregated “credibility of blogging”.

  10. Surely a medium with no credibility can’t cause damage to someone’s reputation.

    That might be sensible (IanB’s comment also applying) but it is not the way the rules currently work. The only exception, in UK law, is if the person defamed has no reputation to speak of. Truth, no in E&W at least, being a sufficient defence (never-mind non-falsifiability). Hence the whole Simon Singh / “some chiropractic adverts are utter bollocks” libel case.

  11. The only exception, in UK law, is if the person defamed has no reputation to speak of.

    In the case of crimen exceptum, presumably that would never apply anyway. Except to Gary Glitter, of course.

  12. SE: I should have been clear on non-falsifiability, that the discussion was turning on a point in US law, on which it would seem not even US residents were very well-appraised. It seemed to be that in general, a defence against defamation relied on non-falsifiability, though it was possible that in case of allegations of rape or child abuse, the defence against defamation relied on the narrower criterion of truth. The UK system is not without its flaws, but on this, I think our system is the better for being simpler.

  13. Surreptitious Evil – “While I expect that the %age of false rape allegations is very low compared to the number of actual rapes it is, even taking the militant misandrist pov, a much higher %age of the number of reported rapes.”

    How do you know? The problem is that if a rape is not reported it may not be a rape. If a girl tells you and me a story about what happened to her but says them’s the breaks, then it is not rape. It may look like a rape. Someone else might think it was a rape and report it as such if it happened to them, but rape occurs in the mind of the rapist *and* in the mind of the victim. If neither are claiming it is rape, it is not rape.

    The high figures for low reporting is based on people asking other people what they have been doing and the first set of people deciding on behalf of the second set of people whether it was rape or not. It doesn’t work that way.

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