FOLLOWING the furore over the alleged “rape culture” in schools and universities on the website Everyone's Invited we should remind ourselves of the danger of a culture where guilt is assumed without any need for proof.

Indeed, as I write, stories are already being reported of boys wearing the uniform from schools that have been named being targeted in the streets and branded as rapists.

After the disastrous Carl Beech case, where he falsely alleged the existence of a murderous paedophile gang in parliament, a police inquiry was set up that concluded officers should not assume someone is a victim until the case has been proven.

To do so, it argued, risked prejudicing cases and meant that the police lost their role as neutral investigators.

The report specifically raised the problem of police encouraging alleged victims to come forward by telling them they “will be believed”.

One of the police officers singled out for particular criticism in that inquiry was Chief Constable Simon Bailey. Yet, today we find Bailey on BBC radio almost celebrating the rape culture allegations and calling it education’s MeToo moment.

READ MORE STUART WAITON: Do we need 'experts' to police the most intimate aspects of our lives?

He then argued that, “If parents are aware that their son or daughter has been a victim of abuse then please come forward and report the abuse…their account will be believed”.

Demonstrating the mood of our time, where all men and boys are tarred and feathered through the label of “rape culture”, in Australia another school controversy emerged last month when a headteacher instructed all the boys in the school assembly to stand up and apologise to all of the girls for offensive behaviour by the male gender.

In Britain's school controversy, extraordinary claims have been made about elite English private schools being a “breeding ground for sexual predators”, where teachers turn a blind eye to serious sexual abuse.

Thousands of allegations have been made online, which range from cat calling to rape, but all are subsumed within this idea of a rape culture. All, following Simon Bailey’s logic, should simply be believed.

Labour leader Kier Starmer has come out and demanded an inquiry into the allegations. But there is a serious danger of accepting this idea of a rape culture.

The idea of a rape culture interconnects every unpleasant form of male sexual behaviour with rape. In the context of children, this includes comments made by even very young children as being part of this culture. Consequently, a rude remark by a nine-year-old boy in primary school, for example, is ultimately linked to the vile act of raping a woman.

Rape is a horrendous crime but little or no consideration appears to be given in these discussions about either the need for evidence, or the need to treat individual cases on their merit.

But this is one of the logical outcomes once we see the problem as one of an all-encompassing culture that pulls all men and boys into the equation.

The idea of a rape culture also risks losing the distinction between the immature behaviour of children and the sexually violent act of rape carried out by some men.

How schools are meant to react to this climate being created is not clear.

If we simply accept the idea of rape culture, we risk labelling all boys as potential rapists. We also risk treating immature or childish behaviour in a way that is not justified.

We also risk creating a situation where all girls are encouraged to think of themselves as being vulnerable and in need of protection from the sexual behaviour of all boys.

READ MORE STUART WAITON: Would undercover police in nightclubs really save women's lives?

Additionally, and tragically, once we focus on the idea of this dangerous and damaging culture, the serious cases of sexual abuse and even rape may end up being lost amongst the many comparatively minor incidents.

Before reacting, we need to have a serious discussion about this idea of a rape culture and about the need for evidence before we act.

If we do not, we risk labelling and even criminalising innocent children.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.