A new blockbuster investigation by the British newspaper Daily Mail has uncovered what it calls "a benchmark for a modern culture of 'witch-hunt' persecutions."
The paper conducted a "wide-ranging" inquiry into decades-old abuse allegations at a Catholic institution made by clients of abuse lawyer David Greenwood. Greenwood recently collected a national "Personal Injury Lawyer of the Year" prize, but now the Daily Mail is calling him an "ambulance chaser."
After studying claims made against workers at the now-defunct St. William's School, an institution for troubled youth once run by the De La Salle Brotherhood, the paper's investigation concluded that "lives of innocent ex-staff members have been blighted by repeated false accusations" and "palpably false abuse accusations were generated by promises of compensation" by Greenwood.
The scam – revealed
The Daily Mail explains how the wayward lawyer Greenwood gathered his clients:
"From 2004 until 2009, [Greenwood] placed adverts headed 'Compensation' in Inside Time, a monthly newspaper given out free to prisoners. 'Were you at St William's care home [sic], Market Weighton?' he asked.
"If so, any reader who had been abused should contact him: 'It is important that potential claimants enforce their legal rights as soon as possible.'"
As a result of ads like this, according to the paper, Greenwood by 2010 had "more than 100 clients, all claiming they had been horrifically abused at St William's."
However, as these allegations were actually investigated, many of them were proven to be demonstrably false. By law, lawyers are supposed to first conduct a "merits test" to assure the legitimacy of claims, but apparently Greenwood did not do this. The Daily Mail explains:
"[S]ome of those making allegations were lying as they were not even contemporaries of their supposed abusers. Others accused people who did not exist – or made claims which could easily be refuted from other, verifiable facts."
Thankfully, fraudulent accusers have been investigated and arrested by authorities, and it is very likely that more arrests are to follow.
The real victims
Tragically, as a result of Greenwood's conduct, "genuine abuse victims now have no chance of seeing their abusers prosecuted," according to the paper. Greenwood has reportedly instructed his clients not to answer any questions by police, which has hindered the entire process for real victims who are seeking justice.
Then there are those who have been falsely accused. Noel Hartnett, who was a headmaster in the early 1980s at St. William's, actually reported an abuser to the police in 1982. But then, years later, Hartnett found himself to be the subject of multiple false accusations of physical and sexual abuse.
Fortunately, Hartnett has been formally cleared, but he still fears that his future may involve "waiting for yet another knock on the door."
"I tell people that I've been a victim of falsehoods, but I still have a constant anxiety about the effect they've had on my family," says Hartnett.
Kudos to David Rose and the editors at the Daily Mail for a remarkable piece of politically incorrect investigative journalism. [Don't forget to read the article.]
Can it happen here? It already has!
Some may conclude that the situation with this questionable attorney is simply an anomaly from England. In truth, the scam of "trawling" for abuse "victims" in prison has already been documented here in the States. An East Coast attorney has written:
"I have some contacts in the prison system, having been an attorney for some time, and it has been made known to me that this is a current and popular scam."
And – surprise – the attorney actually wrote this in 2001. Who knows how much prison trawling has been perpetrated since then!
It would be nice to see the media in this country follow the lead of the Daily Mail and take a closer look at some of the decades-old claims that are being made against Catholic priests, many of whom are already long deceased.
Indeed, one can hardly imagine a more sickening insult to genuine victims than fraudsters trying to profit off the pain of criminal clergy sex abuse. Victims deserve much better.