Further Observations on a False Accusation
What happens when justice is done but punishment is impossible? Unlike cases in which no verdict is likely or the jury finding is improbable, when a person is accused of a crime and then cleared of any wrongdoing, there is – more often than not – something of a villain lurking somewhere just out of sight. Police investigations are often dropped for lack of sufficiently relevant evidence, but when there is no evidence of any sort to consider, and seemingly never was, who censures the accuser?
I recently wrote about a domestic helper here in Hong Kong’s mild-mannered Discovery Bay who was accused of sexual assault against a boy just under 3 years of age. This might have been a community horror story had not the employer suspiciously retracted the complaint and asked the woman back to work. That’s not the sort of thing you do if a complaint is even remotely true. But the worst aspect of this little saga wasn’t anything to do with the little boy or his capricious father. No, it was the disturbing fact that the complaint was withdrawn only 2 days after it was made, and in the meanwhile the accused woman had been incarcerated.
Locked up. In detention. Deprived of her freedom.
The Hong Kong police acted properly, given the circumstances, and continued their investigation even after the complaint had been withdrawn. Their finding delivered last week was that no evidence sufficient to prove any possible case existed, which when coupled with the employer’s retraction eradicates any reservations about the helper’s innocence. Or at least it should. But she still spent 2 days in jail – who pays for that? Justice can be a cold, cold comfort indeed.
And heightening the confusion and guilt the woman still feels from being falsely accused, she’s carrying the burden of not having told her family – her father is a retired police officer in the Philippines, and her brothers are still in the service. Her mother is a teacher, in charge of children’s welfare. Some things are too delicate to mention, even after the fact, because the shadow of suspicion often creeps past the retreat of doubt.
So the woman didn’t do anything but she has no real defence against the hurt inflicted on her, the shame that she will carry for a while yet. In the most affluent street of my neighbourhood is a man sleeping well tonight. He has no worries, but caused a world of hurt with his twisted, pointless allegations. Thank you for the case study in ethics sir, you are an exemplar of deceit.