Prosecutions are justified even after decades pass

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Amyone who doubts the terrible effect that sexual abuse can wreak upon lives should read the story of Mervyn Dyer today.

Dyer has been jailed for two years after admitting perpetrating abuse at a Gosport church sailing club in the late 1960s, and his target, the now 57-year-old Steve Hammond, has waived his anonymity to speak about how the abuse has affected his life.

We reproduce Mr Hammond’s victim impact statement, which was read out to the court, and it is sobering reading – in effect, it’s the eruption of 44 years of pent-up anxiety and damage, with probably a fair amount of guilt, however little Mr Hammond has to feel guilty about.

It also reopens the debate about prosecuting so-called ‘historic’ offences, those from decades past. There are people who claim that the high-profile national Operation Yewtree is a waste of time an money, coming as it does so long after the alleged crimes were committed. However, Mr Hammond’s statement makes it clear that while the offences were long ago, the effects are still being felt four decades on.

We applaud Mr Hammond’s decision to waive his anonymity and to talk about the case openly. It’s a brave move but one that also makes it clear that there is no shame in being the victim of an abuser, regardless of the context.

Mr Hammond says himself that one of his motivations is to encourage anyone who was also abused to come forward. We hope there are no more victims – but if there are then let us hope they will make their voices heard.

Despite the regular national headlines, it is not the case that there is a paedophile on every corner. But the frequency and newsworthiness of such stories does play a useful role in helping to eradicate abuse – by proving to abusers that they will be caught and to victims that they will be listened to.

Again, we are full of admiration for Mr Hammond in coming forward and ensuring justice is done, and we wish him all the best in the future. We hope that this can be a major step towards dealing with the past and embracing a happier future.