In 2015 Jay Cheshire tragically took his own life after being falsely accused of rape, with almost all the media reporting the case extensively. A notable exception to this was the BBC, who refused to cover the case despite significant campaigning by HEqual. Incredibly, the BBC then still refused to cover the case in 2016 after Jay’s mother took her own life as a result of losing her son. As a result of the BBC’s failings, we were inspired to investigate their wider coverage of false accusations resulting in suicide, and amazingly, we found that they’d never reported a single such example from any found elsewhere in the media over the last 20 years.
Our investigation was published in October 2015, so almost three years later it’s well worth re-visiting the issue and of course updating the findings. Two cases from 2015 onwards stand out as particularly noteworthy and thus content any reasonable person would expect to see on the BBC website.
Firstly, there’s the case of Ross Bullock, a forklift truck driver from Redditch, who took his own life in 2015 after being accused of rape by a woman who was in a relationship with another man at the time they had sex. Evidence on his phone supported his innocence.
Multiple outlets reported on Bullock’s case, not just the British press but several French publications too. Such was the significance of the case, that two outlets mentioned it in articles addressing wider issues in terms of false allegations. One in the contest of UK police / CPS misconduct, but also a Russia Today article looking at matters from an international perspective.
Secondly, there’s the case of Michael Isherwood, an inspecting engineer at Vauxhall who took his own life after being falsely accused of filming a girl on his mobile phone. His family called on the police to take action against false accusers (though there are no reports on whether that has actually happened).
It’s worth baring in mind that cases of suicides caused by false rape allegations are more widespread than simply the ones we see in news reports. For example, a caller to LBC’s Beverley Turner show spoke of a former teacher who had taken his life after being falsely accused of sex abuse, yet no such coverage of the tragedy is anywhere to be found in news reports.
As we previously noted, our campaign to force the BBC to cover the Jay Cheshire case did have a degree of success, when they belatedly published an article about the suicide of his mother. However, the article was relegated to the “local news” section of its site, and deliberately chose to focus on mental health rather than the false allegation that were at the heart of the case. The headline for the article is particularly farcical and at odds with every other outlet, the first words being “Southern Health”, and “rape” or “false rape” nowhere to be seen anywhere.
This one sorry article above is still the only mention of Jay Cheshire on the BBC’s website, and of course it was only published because of his mother’s suicide, with Jay a mere footnote. In other words, they continue to ignore Jay and regard his plight (and all other victims of false rape allegations who were driven to suicide) as unworthy of coverage and it’s only newsworthy when a female is impacted by such tragedy (and even then they’ll hide the links to false rape allegations).
Given last year’s police evidence disclosure scandal, the BBC’s refusal to report on these fatal false rape allegations now looks worse than ever. The way the police and CPS treated those falsely accused of rape and withheld evidence has led to every single rape case in the country being re-examined and ultimately the scandal caused Alison Saunders, the despicable misandrist who led to CPS, to lose her job. Outlets such as the Mail rightly highlight the Cheshire case as amongst the most tragic of Saunders’ reign and thus the issue of false rape allegations was at the heart of perhaps the biggest political/legal scandal of the year.
Internationally, even American outlets cite the Cheshire case when discussing issues such as the war on due process in America and its consequences, yet, the BBC continues to bury its head in the sand and pretend false accusations really aren’t a significant issue, most notably in a terrible recent attempt at journalism by Katty Kay.
Sceptics might argue that some of the cases the BBC have failed to cover haven’t been proven in court to be false allegations, though there are a number of issues here. For one thing, the organisation happily reports mere accusations of rape and actively promotes them, siding with accusers as much as possible (see their recent Kavanagh coverage as an obvious example).
Perhaps more significant, is the scandalous BBC coverage of the Eleanor DeFreitas case, where a false rape accuser took her own life and yet the BBC turnedreality compeltely on its head and insisted on calling her a rape victim (until we made them stop). They also allowed guests to do so on their programmes. If being cautious is a key issue on such matters, how come this goes out the window at the BBC when a false accuser is the one who takes’ their life? Furthermore, where’s all the BBC’s (and Guardian’s) previously never-ending DeFreitas coverage this year now that the real victim is starting to expose the truth and taking the police to task?
We’ve added the cases of Bullock and Isherwood to the list of UK suicide cases the BBC has refused to cover. In the tragic event of there being further suicides resulting from false allegations, we aim to maintain this list until the BBC finally reports on one such case. It would therefore be a great help appreciate it if readers could leave comments below that article should they come across further such tragedies in future (or even cases from the past).
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