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On the #JusticeForChelsey campaign [UPDATED]

This is one of those stories which is polarising social media – but not, primarily, because of active angry disagreement.  It’s simply that in some sections of the internet – left liberal ones, say – it seems to have no traction at all.  However if you follow people like Tommy Robinson or Anne Marie Waters you are bound to have heard of the case.

Here is an early account from the Sunderland Echo, dated 5 September 2016. It was reported that a 26 year woman (Chelsey Wright) suffered injuries, woke up in a strange bed with no memories of what had happened, and believed her drink had been spiked.  The police spokesman concludes “This is obviously a very serious incident”,  and we learn that six men were, at that point, in custody.

Then it became known that the alleged assailants had been released on bail.  The story began to be picked up – mostly by sites with an anti-Islam agenda.  For example the Farenheit211 blog ran a piece on the case in January this year.

Tommy Robinson has been particularly active in promoting the #JusticeForChelsey campaign.  Here you can see him interviewing Chelsey Wright.

According to the same site, the case has been dropped despite apparent forensic evidence and corroborating witness statements.

But Northumbria Police have issued a statement which asserts that reporting has been inaccurate.

“On receiving the complaint, Northumbria Police made early arrests and conducted an extensive investigation. Officers sensitively gained the complainant’s recollection of the event, secured CCTV footage, interviewed independent witnesses and obtained DNA and other forensic samples.

“In accordance with regulations the suspects were bailed pending the results of forensic tests and following the result a full file-of-evidence was passed to the CPS, who alone have statutory responsibility to make a decision on whether or not criminal charges are brought.

It doesn’t seem appropriate to speculate about different explanations for exactly what might have gone on here, and just what made the CPS decide not to prosecute.  But the dynamics of the story’s social media coverage are perhaps predictable.  Liberals can point out that this case is being picked up by people whose main preoccupations are immigration and Islam.  Her supporters can point out that those whose main campaigning focus is violence against women seem silent.  With the dramatis personae reversed but a similar core narrative – the pattern of responses, one suspects, would have been quite different.

Update: Here is a report from the Sunderland Echo which offers some further comment on this case.  It’s worth reading in full so I won’t pick out any particular point.