Specialist solicitor, Stephanie Prior comments on the Dave Lee Travis sexual abuse trial 23 Sep 2014

Dave Lee Travis (DLT) the former Radio 1 DJ often known as the hairy cornflake is now due to serve time in prison for being found guilty of indecently assaulting a TV researcher in 1995 when working on a BBC show with her. Apparently, he groped her breasts.  He accused her of lying when he gave his evidence in court.  His victim reported the incident at the time and it was supported by a scriptwriter on the show and the producer of the show.

DLT was originally arrested in November 2012 as part of the Operation Yewtree investigation. He stood trial in February of this year for 14 charges relating to sexual offences to be heard.  DLT denied all the original charges against him and he tried to persuade the court during his first trial that all of these alleged victims were lying.  During his first trial the jury cleared him of a string of sexual offences but failed to reach verdicts on the two counts of indecent assault and so he was retried and on Friday 26th September was given a three month suspended sentence.

The complicating factor in these historical cases is that the offences were committed in the 1970’s and the evidence relating to the offences is difficult to find. Memories fade, witnesses move on and often it is not easy to comprehend why it takes a victim of sexual assault to come forward and report the assault to the police decades later. My experience of dealing with victims of abuse is that sexual abuse affects people in different ways.  I have met and acted for victims who have suffered horrific sexual abuse but they are able to remain focussed and excel at work and this is due to the fact that they put all their energy and effort into their career. Others are unable to work and unable to sustain relationships and life for them is empty and tainted by the abuse for ever. The abuse affects every aspect of their life and often they are untreatable in terms of psychiatric input and this is usually a life-long condition.

Victims are often reluctant to come forward and report abuse because of the shame and embarrassment attached to sexual abuse. They often feel that they were to blame for the abuse and are unable to comprehend that it was not their fault. This is compounded when the abuse is inflicted on a victim by a celebrity and the Jimmy Savile scandal is an example of this. Celebrity status often allows celebrities to act in a way that they should not by virtue of the fact of who they are. The general public are in awe of celebrities and the bigger the star the bigger the attraction.

Last year Stuart Hall pleaded guilty to 14 charges of indecent assault involving 13 girls aged between 9 and 17 years old. In June 2013 he was sentenced to prison for 15 months. Later this sentence was increased to 30 months following Appeal. In July 2013 5 new allegations of sexual abuse were made against him and he was charged and tried at Preston Crown Court in May 204 and was sentenced to a further 2 years which was added to his 30 month sentence.

In July 2014 Rolf Harris was sentenced to prison for almost 6 years for sexually abusing girls some were as young as 7. Two months earlier, Max Clifford was sentenced to prison for 8 years for indecently assaulting teenage girls some 30 years previously.

All of these celebrities were abusing their position and status. A British Airways pilot has also recently been in the press for abusing his position. Simon Wood molested hundreds of young African girls during his stopovers in Africa.  The worst of it is that these girls were aged between 5 – 11 years of age, were vulnerable and in African schools and orphanages. BA is now being sued after Simons Wood’s 15 year (?habit trying to think of correct word). Apparently, he purposely chose unpopular routes in and out of East Africa and he used his pilots uniform to gain access to his victims.  He was initially brought to the attention of the UK police when he was accused of indecently assaulting an 8 year old girl in Yorkshire while volunteering for Diabetes UK in 2000. He was arrested but later released due to lack of evidence.

Unfortunately, following his arrest in July 2014, he appeared in court he was released on bail on 16 August and on 18 August 2014 he took his own life by jumping under a train. BA are concerned that he used his ‘charitable work as a cover for exploitation of children he was trusted to help.’

It takes a brave person to come forward and report sexual abuse to the police. Giving evidence in a criminal trial years after the abuse happened must be harrowing. However, victims must continue to come forward to ensure that abusers are made to face up to their crimes.

If you have been affected by abuse and you need advice on pursuing a claim against the abuser or a third party please contact Stephanie Prior who specialises in claims of this nature and she will deal with your enquiry in strict confidence. Stephanie can be contacted by email on stephanieprior@osbornes.net  or by telephone on 020 7681 8671.

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