Abused girls can be to blame, suggests Eddy Shah

Eddy Shah

Former newspaper owner Eddy Shah has said under-age girls who engage in consensual sex can be "to blame" for the abuse they experience.

Mr Shah was recently cleared of raping a schoolgirl in London hotels when she was between 12 and 15.

He said charges of rape involving girls under 16 who "threw themselves" at celebrities could be "technical".

But the NSPCC and National Association of People Abused in Childhood said rape was always a crime.

Mr Shah, the 69-year-old founder of the newspaper Today, who lives in Chippenham, Wiltshire, was found not guilty at the Old Bailey last month of raping a girl at upmarket London hotels when she was between 12 and 15.

After the case he called for a review of how rape cases are dealt with by police, saying: "Anybody walking down the street can point at a celebrity and say, 'he raped me'.

And on Saturday he told BBC Radio 5 live's Stephen Nolan rape charges involving girls who "threw themselves" at celebrities were a legal technicality.

Mr Shah said: "If we take the pop groups and people of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, who everybody knows that women were throwing themselves at them - young girls who looked 17, 18, 19 and 20...

"Rape was a technical thing - below a certain age. But these girls were going out with the pop groups and becoming groupies and all the rest of it, and throwing themselves at them. You cannot put that down to the fact they've been abused.

"Young girls and young men have always wanted a bit of excitement when they are young. They want to appear adult and do adult things."

When asked if he was implying that under-age victims could themselves be at fault, he said: "If we're talking about girls who go out and just have a good time, then they are to blame.

"If we talk about people who happen to be out and actually get 'raped' raped, then I feel no - and everything should be done against that."

'Witch-hunt'

Mr Shah also commented on Scotland Yard's Operation Yewtree investigation, set up in the wake of allegations of sexual abuse by BBC DJ Jimmy Savile and other television stars from the 1970s and 1980s.

He added that he had been helping a "very well-known person" charged under Operation Yewtree deal with the "horrible, horrible feeling" of "emptiness about everything", which Mr Shah said he had experienced when he was wrongly accused of rape.

Asked if he thought the investigation was in danger of becoming a witch-hunt, he said: "I think it's developing into that. It's easy policing and it's easy prosecutions...

"In a civilised society there's got to be more checks and balances before these sort of accusations are used."

He also talked again about the suicidal thoughts he had experienced after his arrest.

"Every night I worked out different ways of committing suicide to help me go to sleep, actually," he said.

'Always a crime'

His comments come after another case, in which a prosecutor was suspended and a judge placed under investigation after it emerged a 13-year-old girl was labelled "predatory" and "sexually experienced" during the trial where a man admitted abusing her.

The NSPCC's Jon Brown said there was "nothing valid" about Mr Shah's comments.

He told BBC News: "If we start talking about gradations of rape, it's extremely concerning.

"Mr Shah's also completely incorrect. A young person under the age of 16 cannot give consent to sexual activity.

"We are talking about child abuse or we're talking about rape, it's as simple as that."

'Train judges'

Mr Brown also called for more education and training to help judges with sentencing in child sex abuse cases.

Mr Shah's comments were also criticised by Pete Saunders, chief executive of the National Association of People Abused in Childhood.

Mr Saunders said: "I'd like to meet with Eddie, and to have him explain to me, and maybe explain to some rape victims, what he means by 'raped raped', because my understanding is there is rape, or there is not rape, and rape is always a crime."

His views were echoed by Jim Gamble, the former chief executive of Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP).

Mr Gamble said: "At the end of the day, a child is a child, and the law is configured to protect a child, and there's an assumption made that adults, you know, will respect that, because they will want to protect children themselves."