Editor's comment: It's unforgivable that paedophile scout leader forced his victim to testify in court
PUBLISHED: 18:48 24 November 2017 | UPDATED: 18:52 24 November 2017
Ian Barker repeatedly sexually assaulted boys he was meant to care for. That is horrendous enough. But it isn’t all he did.
The Gazette was in court last week – the only newspaper that was – to hear one of his victims explain, in detail, what Barker did to him. It’s a testimony that should never have been given, for reasons I’ll explain in a second.
We also heard attempts by Barker’s lawyer – some of which couldn’t be fully reported for legal reasons – to rubbish the survivor’s ability to recall and understand what had happened to him. Fortunately, his clear, comprehensive, moving evidence left that argument in the dust.
That’s how the legal system works: it is the job of defence lawyers to make jurors doubt even the most reliable witnesses. And so this man – who was a young boy when Barker sexually assaulted him repeatedly – was forced to recount the horrible ordeal he had suppressed for decades, before being told by a lawyer that he was wrong and it hadn’t happened like that at all.
I don’t blame Barker’s barrister. Justice can only be done if every argument is fully scrutinised.
But I do blame Barker. He called his victims liars for two and a half years, knowing full well the trauma they would be put through if the case went to trial. And then he decided to come clean – too little, too late. All these years on, he is still manipulating the boys he had power over.
Seeing survivors forced to recount their abuse in public before being torn to shreds in the witness box would be enough to put off even the strongest person from reporting rape or sexual abuse. Cowards like Barker who refuse to own up are not only putting their own victims through hell: they are warning survivors everywhere off coming forward.
I only hope his conviction sends an equally powerful message that justice can, and will, still be done.