The Power of False Accusations

I think about cases like this recent one whenever I see people treating false accusations as victimless crimes. According to the article, several neighbors killed a gardener who took pictures of kids who destroyed his plants because they thought he was a pedophile:

Bijan Ebrahimi, a keen gardener, took pictures of local youths as they attacked his plants and intended to hand the photographs to police as evidence.

But instead officers were called when he was seen with the camera and he was led away for questioning as residents chanted “paedo, paedo”.

Officers realised their mistake at the police station and he was released, but rumours had already begun circulating that he was a child abuser and two days later he was beaten unconscious, dragged into the street and set on fire.

According to another article, Ebrahimi may have been alive when the neighbors set him on fire. It also appears that one of the men involved may have told the kids to damage Ebrahimi’s plants: 

New details have begun to emerge about the events that led to Mr Ebrahimi’s murder since [Lee] James and [Stephen] Norley admitted the July attack. According to The Sunday Times, James encouraged the children to vandalise Mr Ebrahimi’s plants, causing the keen gardener to take pictures of them – and James to wrongly accuse him of being a paedophile in response.

While some maintain that Ebrahimi wasn’t the “easiest neighbour”, the paper reports that “moments of conflict… did not appear to be anything out of the ordinary until Lee James moved in with his girlfriend and three children earlier this year”. The newspaper goes on to detail an incident in which Mr Ebrahimi took pictures of children and adults on his mobile phone at one of James’ parties because he “apparently objected to the drinking and drug-taking going on in front of them”.

Ebrahimi’s family believes that the police failed to protect him:

In a statement, Mr Ebrahimi’s family have criticised police for not doing more to protect him. “It should not be forgotten that Bijan had been the victim of hate crimes for a number of years before his death, both due to his race and his physical disability,” they said. “It was for this reason that the police should have taken especially seriously his calls for help in the days before he was murdered.

“We hope that not only James and Norley will face justice but also all of those who failed to protect Bijan, including the police,” they said.

Three officers were suspended following the murder and at least three others may face charges.

However, the thing to take away from this case is not only the police misconduct, but also the power of a false accusation. Ebrahimi’s neighbors bought the lie. They believed he was a pedophile because he took pictures of kids. Even if James had not allegedly killed Ebrahimi, the impact of the accusation would still be there.

Keep in mind, the police found nothing and let the man go. In other words, it was clear he had done nothing wrong, but that did not matter because the lie was powerful enough to sway people.

This is why false accusations are so dangerous. It only takes one person to start the rumor, and once it starts it may be impossible to undo the damage. In this case, it led to an innocent man being killed. In other cases it may lead to innocent men being assaulted or wrongfully imprisoned.

This is why we need to investigate accusations and not just assume that when someone makes an accusation it is true. Some people do make malicious accusations, and depending on the situation, those accusations may lead to violence.

We should not be so keen on catching predators that we ignore the concept of innocent until proven guilty. Once you make that mistake, you cannot undo it.


7 thoughts on “The Power of False Accusations

  1. This is horrifying. The knowledge that this could happen in a neighborhood in a supposedly civilized country is horrifying.

  2. What really depresses me is this: Somewhere on that estate, a bunch of cider-swigging chavs are currently sitting around moaning that “They done the right fing to that dirty pedo. Wot are they in jail for?”
    Because once that mud sticks nothing, not courts nor the press, can get it off again.

  3. This day and age is strongly invested in the concept that “accusations are always true” when it comes to pedophilia or sex crimes in general.

  4. I know a couple who is going through something like this right now. It is awful. Luckily, everyone who knows this couple is 100% on their side. They have done everything right and in spite of that, they still suffer at the hands of diabolical.
    A close friend of mine had a short relationship with a man with whom she bore a child. The man abandoned her while she was pregnant because she did not want to move to his half built home in rural Montana. Upon the child’s birth, he filed for full custody of the child. He did not win, but of course the mother allowed him to visit the child in the home and at about 1 1/2 she began to wean the child from breastfeeding, partly so that the father could begin to take the child for overnight parenting time. The father accused her of being selfish for breastfeeding and ultimately took the child and “fled” to another state with the child before she was fully weaned and without the cooperation of the mother. We were all very afraid that he would not return the child. Luckily, he did. He began to have regular overnight visits and all that, but he had been evaluated as not understanding the needs of a child. All the while, my friend managed to develop a relationship with another man for about a year and half when she finally decided to introduce the man to her child. Her family did not understand her caution regarding keeping her relationship with the man separate from the child. But, as she became confident about the mans integrity and the stability of their relationship, she decided to introduced the child to the man. She did this once, for about fifteen minutes, in her home while she was present in the room the whole time. The man had no other contact with the child who was 4 years old by this time, and within a month was accused of molesting the child when my friend received a call from CPS saying that the biological father and the four year old girl told them that the new man had been molesting the child and that my friend would often leave the child in the care of the new man and all kinds of other outrageous lies about how they worked at a strip club and they would take the child there. Neither of these people are involved in that profession at all, let alone go to those establishments, and let alone with a four year old child?!? Everyone who knows the couple, knows that none of these accusations are true. Unfortunately, CPS is substantiating the case because the four year old child has related a story that she’d been coached to relay. They are of the belief that children don’t ever lie about such things and do not want to confront the possible motives of the biological father to coach her. My friend and her boyfriend are already guilty in the eyes of CPS. It seems that the judge in the case, is beginning to see the problem with the biological father, but anything can happen. My friend lost her job because she had to take too much time off to deal with this situation. Her new boyfriend may end up losing his job as well. In any case, he intends to file a lawsuit against the biological father and the mother is seeking full custody without visitation. However, it is hard to say what will happen to the child and the couple after the false accusation is upheld by the court or dismissed. They’ve got a long uphill battle.
    This whole story exemplifies the power of accusation and its destructive nature. In the meantime, the daughter is not as emotionally stable as she could be if she did not have such a selfish father. This whole thing just distracts from the development of the child on so many levels and it is likely that she is about to lose one of her parents. I just pray that justice will be served in this case, however, the destruction that is wrought along the way, may never be undone.

  5. As far as false accusations are concerned, they should be dealt with in a court of law and with due process, as should rape, like any other crime, without exception. No lynch mobs for an accused rape suspect, but a more vigorous and less emotional approach to each case, and no lynch mobs for complainants unless there is evidence of a false accusation.

    It may look complicated but it’s pretty simple really. It’s the same reason that we (at least in the UK) don’t have the death penalty.

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