How I became a sex offender

The neighbourhood girl, whose name I don’t recall, fought hard, but I was stronger.

After a minute or so of desperate struggle I overcame her resistance and planted a kiss on her lips. I might have even felt her up, but I can’t remember that far back.

You see, the incident happened over half a century ago, when both the criminal (I) and the victim (she) were 12 years old. Afterwards, she called me a moron and refused to play with me ever again. I forget how long her resolution lasted.

Do you suppose I can be jailed for that solitary sex offence of my life? There are reasons to answer this question both in the positive and the negative.

First, it seems to be the season for so-called ‘historical sex offences’. The message is loud and clear: bygones will never be bygones.

Time may heal all wounds, except those of someone made love to, or even snogged, without permission. That particular wound remains open for life and so does the mental file on the crime.

The case may be revived when the time is right, which is usually when a) the offender becomes rich and famous, b) the climate of public opinion seems to be conducive to prosecution or c) ideally the confluence of the two.

Such subjective factors overlap with objectives ones for, unlike some other countries in Europe and North America, Britain has no statute of limitations for sex crimes.

This puts even nonagenarians at risk for their naughtiness during a Battle of Britain blackout, and a mere sexagenarian like me could definitely be in trouble (the ‘sex’ bit in this word refers to 60, not to the nature of the crime in question).

On the other hand, since my crime was committed in a Moscow courtyard, I’m not sure it could be prosecuted in a British court. Then of course the incident didn’t go beyond a clumsy peck, and there’s a distinct possibility that the victim has forgotten about it or, even if she hasn’t, isn’t feeling vindictive. She certainly seemed relaxed about it the next day.

It’s also unlikely that she now lives in Britain. Most important, since I’m neither rich nor famous, she wouldn’t have much to gain even if all those prohibitive odds were bucked.

Since it was just a kiss, she probably would be denied the satisfaction of seeing me behind bars. And a civil suit, even if successful, wouldn’t be worth the trouble.

All things considered, I can sleep well at night, which is more than can be said for Lord Brittan, who was yesterday questioned by the police for a rape he allegedly committed in 1967.

The reports aren’t saying why the woman, who was 19 at the time, had to wait until now to file charges.

That leaves room for guesses, such as that she had been trying for decades to recover from the trauma until finally realising, at age 66, that she couldn’t. After all, women are brainwashed to insist (and the rest of us to accept) that rape is the worst thing that can happen to them, that they’d rather be killed or crippled than raped.

At the same time a Labour peer, who hasn’t so far been named, is being investigated for having allegedly raped 12 boys over several decades. Eschewing facetious remarks, along the lines of ‘at least the Tory likes girls’ or ‘it takes two to tango’, one still wonders why the crimes have gone unreported until now.

In all such instances any half-competent barrister would have advised the victims to act immediately. In the absence of hard physical evidence, rape cases are notoriously hard to prosecute anyway, even if tried immediately after the event.

How it’s possible even to consider bringing up charges decades after the fact escapes me altogether. A woman on the cusp of old age says Mr Brittan (as he then was) raped her 47 years ago. Presumably, unless Lord Brittan (as he now is) really is guilty and can’t live with himself unless he confesses, he says he didn’t.

It’s her word against his, and the only reason criminal charges, or indeed an investigation, could even be considered is if, by some odd twist of today’s jurisprudence, her word counts for more than his.

Surely that can’t be the case? Please tell me that we’re still all equal before the law; that by being born a man and even becoming a toff a person doesn’t thereby relinquish his right to fair trial, be it by a jury or media. Please, for old times’ sake?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to trivialise sex offences in general and rape in particular, even though I wasn’t entirely serious when describing my own experience.

However, these days one can’t open a newspaper without reading yet another account of yet another famous old man being charged with sex crimes committed when God was young.

One is tempted to think that the ancient principle of proof beyond reasonable doubt isn’t applied in such cases as rigorously as in some others. And is there a chain reaction of accusations?

A woman claims she was mistreated, which gets the bandwagon rolling. Suddenly a platoon of victims appear out of nowhere, all anxious to jump on. The bandwagon becomes unstoppable.

This isn’t to deny that the posthumous reviling of, say, Jimmy Saville isn’t richly deserved. The man was obvious scum and, unless I sat on the jury, I’d find one look at his face to be sufficient forensic evidence to that effect.

But out of the dozens of cases receiving huge publicity in the last few months, could there have been some that were blown out of proportion? Where guilt was established, claimed or reported on flimsy evidence? There had to be, which raises some uncomfortable questions.

Question 1: Do some people in a position of influence have a vested interest in alienating the sexes? Question 2: Are our courts becoming an arena for class war? Question 3: Have we become vultures getting sustenance out of the corpses of ruined reputations? Question 4: Have our newspapers lost whatever notion of responsibility they’ve ever had?

Actually, the questions aren’t overly uncomfortable. But, one suspects, the answers would be.























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