High-profile allegations of sexual assault underline need for independent standards authority | Fieldfisher
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High-profile allegations of sexual assault underline need for independent standards authority

Another week, another high-profile sexual misconduct scandal, it seems. Russell Brand denies allegations of sexual assault, his social media followers cry conspiracy. The complainants, anonymised by law, must be wondering, what next?

No doubt, the police will take these allegations seriously and an investigation will begin but unfortunately, in my experience, these investigations can take years.

When charges are raised, the conviction rates at trial for allegations of sexual assault are notoriously poor. How can a jury be sure? Very often, the only evidence is that of one person's word against another.

With the police in disarray over its handling of sexual assault cases and reports of its own internal deep-seated difficulties, it is not surprising that many of the alleged victims I speak to have little faith in the criminal process.

Civil litigation for damages is an option and enables scrutiny of the facts through the civil courts. Civil claims attract a different standard of proof, more likely than not, and can bring in a wider range of corroborative evidence. Of course, high profile individuals generally have access to high-powered lawyers and I am all too aware of the tactics that can be deployed to discredit and intimidate.

What the most recent allegations really underline is the need for CIISA.

CIISA - the Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority - is the long overdue regulatory authority for the Film, TV & Music industry with whom I’m working to get CIISA up and running by next year.

Previous employers of Brand have opened their own investigations but, in reality, internal investigations that look at claims in isolation won’t weed out sexual predators.

While these investigations are running concurrently, it makes sense to have an independent body that can look at the issue as a whole. And with so many freelancers hopping from one project to another, for a significant number of people in the industry, currently there is no place to report concerns about intolerable behaviour.

If CIISA existed today, it could pull together all those strands and conduct a thorough and comprehensive review of the complaints to ensure that victims have a transparent and accountable system in place that will investigate and address claims of wrongdoing.

Such a process should deliver justice to victims where it’s due, and sidestep the clamour that undoubtedly leads to a trial by media. It would also give victims the confidence to speak up and report unacceptable behaviour.

Jill Greenfield acted in civil claims for UK victims against Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein. She and Claire Glasgow are currently acting for alleged victims of Crispin Odey.