This afternoon (Wednesday October 21st, 2015), the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) will be taking evidence relating to allegations and investigations into the abuse of children committed by VIPs (and in at least one case, alleged rape of an adult woman) from five important people: Detective Chief Inspector Paul Settle, formerly of Operation Fernbridge, Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan and Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse of the Metropolitan Police, Tom Watson MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and a prominent campaigner on child abuse, and Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions. A report this morning makes clear that the committee have decided not to interview Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park and Conservative candidate for London Mayor.
Over the last two weeks, ever since the broadcast on October 5th of the BBC Panorama programme on the alleged VIP Paedophile Ring, there has been a concerted media campaign targeting Tom Watson above all, who has been labelled a ‘witchfinder general’, as responsible for supposedly unfounded claims of high level abuse. I do know Tom personally, vouched for the importance of his work on abuse as part of his deputy leadership campaign materials, and so obviously am far from impartial, but can see in absolute honesty that I do not recognise the figure portrayed by much of the press, and also have very strong reason to believe Tom has acted with integrity and in good faith. I suspect that his conciliatory position as deputy to new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, despised by the right-wing media and many Blairite elements in the party, is fuelling this campaign. Furthermore, there are complicated reasons which may become apparent this afternoon why some conflicts have arisen between various parties all devoted to uncovering and preventing child abuse by prominent persons. Last week I posted a detailed timeline of events relating to Leon Brittan, which I believe show clearly that the decision to pursue further the rape investigation into him, after it had been dropped, came from the Met, not from Tom.
The following are issues I implore all members of HASC to consider before questioning this afternoon.
Allegations of a statement taken by an ex-customs officer about the late Lord Brittan
The distinguished journalist Tim Tate has written what to my mind is the most important piece on the allegations surrounding Leon Brittan (later Lord Brittan). Tate does not accept the claims, printed in Exaro and elsewhere, that a video seized in 1982 from Russell Tricker featured the Home Secretary themselves, but crucially claims that a statement was taken from the customs official in question, Maganlal Solanki, attesting to having seized video tapes from Brittan upon entering the country at some point in the 1980s. If a written statement exists attesting to this, it is of crucial importance in establishing whether there might be any truth in the allegations against Brittan. HASC should ask Settle to explain whether this exists or not. Furthermore, at the time of the 1982 siege of Elm Guest House, a then-eight-year-old boy was found and questioned, later (now an adult living in the US) questioned by detectives from Operation Fernbridge. On at least one occasion, this boy identified an ‘Uncle Leon’ from the ‘big house’ as being involved. It is equally vital that Settle is questioned about this. Furthermore, Solanki should also be summoned to speak to HASC.
Tate sent the following questions to the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse (to the best of my knowledge he has not yet received an answer) – I suggest these are equally relevant for HASC:
1. Has the Inquiry yet established direct contact with Operation Fernbridge ?
2. Will the Inquiry be examining documentary evidence held by Operation Fernbridge concerning its investigations into the late Baron Brittan ?
3. Specifically, will the Inquiry secure from Operation Fernbridge copies of all such documents including, but not limited to, formal statements made under caution, officers’ notebooks, internal memoranda and historical documents acquired during its investigation into the late Baron Brittan ?
4. Does the Inquiry plan to require public testimony from the current head of Operation Fernbridge, AND its former senior investigating officer, [NAME REDACTED HERE] concerning the late Baron Brittan?
5. Does the Inquiry plan to require public testimony from the former Customs and Excise officer Maganlal Solanki who gave evidence to Operation Fernbridge concerning the alleged seizure of child pornography from the late Baron Brittan ?
6. Does the Inquiry plan to take evidence from the US Marshall formerly attached to Operation Fernbridge in connection with a visit he made at the request of Operation Fernbridge to a suspected victim of Baron Brittan ?
7. Does the Inquiry plan to publish the documents acquired and/or generated by Operation Fernbridge during the course of its investigation into Baron Brittan ?
Involvement of other MPs
By far the majority of the focus has been on Tom Watson, but other MPs have been equally involved with campaigning on abuse, and some have made more extravagant claims or threats. Specifically:
1. The Labour MP John Mann has handed police a list of 22 politicians alleged to have been involved with the abuse of children. Furthermore, in July last year, Mann indicated the possibility of using Parliamentary privilege to name abusers.
2. The Labour MP Simon Danczuk also threatened to use Parliamentary privilege to name a politician alleged to have visited Elm Guest House; whilst Danczuk did not ultimately do so, it is widely believed to have been Brittan.
3. On October 28th, 2014, the Labour MP Jim Hood did indeed name Brittan in Parliament. The following day, Danczuk backed Hood for having done so.
4. On November 27th, 2014, Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith said the following:
We need only consider the Elm guest house in Barnes, which was run by Haroon and Carole Kasir. It was raided more than 30 years ago, back in 1982. The couple were fined and given suspended sentences for running a disorderly house, but at the time there were already questions and allegations around the abuse of young children at the house. Allegedly—we are reliably told this—12 boys gave evidence in 1982 that they had been abused, yet all these allegations simply evaporated at the time, some 30 years ago. They are only resurfacing now.
When Mrs Kasir died a few years after the house was raided, in very odd circumstances, a child protection campaigner from the National Association Of Young People In Care called for a criminal investigation into events at Elm guest house. He said he had been told by Mrs Kasir that boys had been brought in from a local children’s home—Grafton Close, also in Richmond—for sex, and that she had photographs of establishment figures at her hotel. One of them apparently showed a former Cabinet Minister in a sauna with a naked boy. She had logbooks, names, times, dates, pictures of her customers and so on. All that evidence simply disappeared after the raids and no longer exists. That is astonishing.
The Met has since confirmed that Cyril Smith visited the place—the hon. Member for Rochdale has made this point—and at least three other men named in documents as visitors to the Elm guest house were later convicted of multiple sexual offences against children. It is impossible to believe there was not a cover up. This is not sloppiness; there has to be more to it than that.
I was quite surprised when I watched the broadcast of this debate in November to hear these claims, which are thought to be tenuous by many campaigners, presented in Parliament. Questions have been rightly asked about Goldsmith’s source for the claims – the Mail journalist Guy Adams suggests it was like to be either Chris Fay or Mike Broad (Fay has e-mailed me to indicate that he has never met nor had any contact with Goldsmith). Furthermore, Goldsmith participated in an Australian documentary Spies, Lords and Predators, broadcast in July this year and heavily influenced by the reporting of Exaro, which has come under severe criticism.
5. The Conservative MP and HASC member Tim Loughton, who has in the last few days started charging Watson with setting himself up as ‘judge, jury, and executioner’ over individual cases, himself threatened in July 2014 to use what he called the ‘nuclear option’ to name suspected paedophiles in Parliament. He also called for action from the inquiry in November 2014 following allegations from Exaro about MPs throwing sex parties involving the abuse of children, murder, and more.
Many of these are stronger claims or threats than anything by Tom Watson, who in a November 2014 interview with Guardian journalist Decca Aitkenhead said just that at least one politician had abused children.
HASC needs to speak to Mann, Danczuk, Hood, Goldsmith, and Loughton.
Allegations of a Westminster paedophile ring
It is often claimed that Tom Watson has alleged the existence of a Westminster paedophile ring. This would be truer of Danczuk (I am not absolutely sure if he has specifically used the term, but will check); Watson’s question to the Prime Minister on October 24th, 2012 contained the following words:
The evidence file used to convict paedophile Peter Righton, if it still exists, contains clear intelligence of a widespread paedophile ring. One of its members boasts of his links to a senior aide of a former Prime Minister, who says he could smuggle indecent images of children from abroad. The leads were not followed up, but if the file still exists I want to ensure that the Metropolitan police secure the evidence, re-examine it and investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No. 10.
A network which is linked to Parliament and No. 10 is not the same thing as a Westminster paedophile ring. There is no doubt that a network existed around Righton, at the very least featuring other committee members of the Paedophile Information Exchange, such as Charles Napier, convicted and sentenced last December to 13 years for hundreds of sexual assaults upon young boys, or Righton’s partner Richard Alston, jailed in September for 21 months for child abuse charges, in a trial at which claims emerged of sessions involving Alston, Righton and Napier together.
The link to Parliament and No. 10 rests upon claims made in a document about which I am not at liberty to write now. Tom Watson’s source for his original PMQ was retired child protection worker Peter McKelvie, who last week resigned from the Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel to the inquiry.
Scapegoats are being made of McKelvie and Watson in a bid to stop further investigation of a wide range of claims about politicians of which both are aware. It is vital that HASC also summon McKelvie and ask him about this specific claim mentioned by Watson in 2012.
If HASC will deal seriously with these claims, they will be carrying out their proper role, and not serving simply as a front for political point-scoring. The issue of high-level child abuse is far too serious for this, and it would be a tragedy if the cross-party consensus which was previously built on this were now to be abandoned.
Timeline of the Metropolitan Police Investigation of Leon Brittan in context – Tom Watson exoneratedPosted: October 16, 2015
[Since the evidence given to the Home Affairs Select Committee on October 21st, 2015, this timeline needs updating. I will do so as soon as time permits]
Following the various claims and counter-claims about the Metropolitan Police investigation into the allegations of rape against Leon (Lord) Brittan, the Met have released their key findings today, which clarify a great deal. I have combined this with other information to clarify context to produce a timeline. All information for which a link is not provided comes from the Met report.
Brittan had been named in the press in 1984 as being the Cabinet Minister about whom rumours of sexual acts with boys had been circulating, but most of the press declared these to be false, as did Paul Foot in his 1989 book Who Framed Colin Wallace?. Furthermore, the scandals concerning Elm Guest House (about which a comprehensive series of links can be found here) date back to the police raid in 1982, at which time reports referred to MPs and other VIPs being present, as well as drawing links to the disappearance/murder of eight-year old Vishal Mehrotra and fifteen-year old Martin Allen. It has been claimed by the Times journalist David Aaronovitch (in an article behind a paywall) that most information to do with Elm Guest House comes from Chris Fay, whose reliability has been attacked recently in the press. Documents published online by Fay’s colleague Mary Moss named Brittan as an attendee at the guest house; this was not in the 1982 reports, but certainly claims of high-level MP involvement was.
For wider consideration of the remaining questions about Leon Brittan, there is nowhere better to look than this excellent post by Tim Tate.
Timeline: The Investigations into Leon Brittan
October 24th, 2012: Labour MP Tom Watson asks a question of the Prime Minister, David Cameron, about evidence of a high-level paedophile ring linked to Parliament and No. 10, relating to the evidence files used to convict Peter Righton (see this documentary).
November 2012: Initial allegation of rape against Leon Brittan made by ‘Jane’ to South Yorkshire Police. Passed to Met as alleged incident occurred in London.
September 2013: Investigating officer decides no further action to be taken.
February 17th, 2014: ‘Jane’ has a meeting with the Metropolitan Police which causes her some discontent (this appears to be the case from a redacted letter from Alison Saunders to Tom Watson)
April 2014: Commander Graham McNulty requests an update into this investigation
April 28th, 2014: Upon receiving the update, McNulty orders a review
April 28th, 2014: Tom Watson writes to Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders about the case
May 17th, 2014: Exaro and the Sunday People report on the case of ‘Jane’ claiming she was raped in 1967 by a former cabinet minister. Both news agencies also report Tom Watson saying he finds Jane ‘a very credible witness’ and has written to Saunders requesting the case be reviewed.
May 19th, 2014: Review concludes that Brittan should be interviewed under caution.
May 20th, 2014: Most details of Watson letter now made public by Exaro.
May 30th, 2014: Brittan interviewed under caution.
June 2nd, 2014: Met receives Tom Watson’s letter to Saunders.
June 3rd, 2014: Seven MPs: Tim Loughton, Zac Goldsmith (Conservative); John Hemming, Tessa Munt (Liberal Democrat); Tom Watson, Simon Danczuk (Labour); Caroline Lucas (Green); call for a full national inquiry into child abuse, citing various particular cases.
June 5th, 2014: A lobbying campaign of MPs begins to garner wider support for an inquiry.
June 5th, 2014: Met submits evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service, including Brittan statement and recording of interview. CPS requested other things be completed, including formal identification process from complainant
June 13th, 2014: Saunders replies to Tom Watson.
June 16th, 2014: The specific letter from the seven MPs is published drawing attention to cases including Elm Guest House and that of Jane.
July 1st, 2014: Labour MP Simon Danczuk gives evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, in which he raises the issue of the dossier given by Geoffrey Dickens to Leon Brittan, when the latter was Home Secretary. Danczuk had earlier hinted that he might name a former MP involved in abuse at Elm Guest House if asked – this was sure to be Brittan – and a Labour MP as well. In the event he did not do so, but this select committee appearance is the major trigger for widespread media coverage of claims of a Westminster paedophile ring, and especially on Brittan and the question of what happened to the Dickens dossier.
July 6th, 2014: Brittan named in press as having been interviewed by police over a historic rape allegation.
July 7th, 2014: Home Secretary Theresa May announces the setting up of an Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), in light of the lobbying campaign and widespread allegations of new cases in the press following Danczuk’s Select Committee appearance.
July 7th, 2014: Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse takes over as Gold Commander of the investigation.
July 8th, 2014: Baroness Butler-Sloss, formerly chair of the Cleveland Child Abuse Inquiry, is announced as Chair of the IICSA.
July 14th, 2014: Butler-Sloss steps down from chair of inquiry.because of family and other connections.
September 5th, 2014: Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf is appointed by Home Secretary as the new Chair of the IICSA.
September 7th, 2014: After chatter from the outset, a report in the Mail on Sunday reveals close links between Woolf and Lord and Lady Brittan. The pressure on Woolf grows from this point onwards, with further revelations during the course of the next week.
October 7th, 2014: Formal identification process for ‘Jane’ re Brittan takes place
October 21st, 2014: Woolf appears before Home Affairs Select Committee about her role as inquiry chair, and gives an unconvincing performance.
October 28th, 2014: Labour MP Jim Hood names Leon Brittan in Parliament, saying that ‘the current exposé of Sir Leon Brittan, the then Home Secretary, with accusations of improper conduct with children, will not come as a surprise to the striking miners of 1984’ and referring to ‘The rumours that Sir Leon Brittan was involved in misconduct with children’
October 29th, 2014: Simon Danczuk backs Jim Hood’s naming of Brittan.
October 31st, 2014: Following a heated meeting with survivors and campaigners by the Inquiry Secretariat, Woolf stands down as chair of the inquiry.
November 2014: New file submitted to CPS by Met
November 22nd, 2014: CPS wrote back saying it would not consider the file because it did not meet the appropriate criteria.
November 25th, 2014: DAC Rodhouse decides to appeal the decision.
November 27th, 2014: Major (but poorly attended) debate in House of Commons on child abuse. Zac Goldsmith speaks at length about allegations concerning Elm Guest House and a cabinet minister said to have been photographed in a sauna with a naked boy.
January 15th, 2015: Matter raised with Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for London
January 21st, 2015: Brittan dies.
January 22nd, 2015: Met confirm that investigation into rape allegation in which a man in his 70s had been questioned was ongoing. CPS say: ‘A charging decision has not been made in this case and the matter remains with the police.
January 24th, 2015: Tom Watson publishes article in the Mirror, detailing the various allegations he had heard about Brittan, and indicating his belief they should still be investigated.
February 12th, 2015: DAC Rodhouse meets Chief Prosecutor for London, requests file of evidence be reviewed and a decision reached on whether prosecution would have followed had Brittan been alive.
March 5th, 2015: Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan writes to Saunders to request change of CPS policy to allow files to be considered where there was ‘significant public interest’.
April 1st, 2015: A further letter sent repeating the request, referring to the case of Lord Brittan. Accepted that as Brittan is dead, the CPS may not wish to review the file, but still sought a change of approach.
April 2015: Investigating officers meet with ‘Jane’, in line with the ‘Victim’s Code’, and inform her that there would not have been a prosecution had Brittan been alive.
June 24th, 2015: Final response received from Chief Crown Prosecutor for London, confirming that the CPS will not review the request.
October 6th, 2015: Met apologise in letter to Lady Brittan’s solicitors for not informing her at same time as complainant.
Thus it was the Met’s own review, started well before the publication of the interview with ‘Jane’ and Tom’s intervention, which decided to continue with the case. This exonerates Tom. There have been many malicious articles on this in the last two weeks – compared to only a few peeps from the Guardian and Mail on Zac Goldsmith’s intervention in Parliament – now more in the press should stop for thought and realise the vast importance of Tom’s work on a range of cases which are far from over.
Below is the complete text of Harvey Proctor’s extraordinary statement today (originally posted on The Needle Blog), after having yesterday been questioned for the second time by detectives from Operation Midland, which is investigated allegations of child sex abuse linked to Westminster.
It would not in any way be my place to express a view on the truth or otherwise of the extraordinarily serious allegations detailed below – this is for the police to investigate, and either bring charges against the individual(s) alleged to have committed the offences, or if there is found to be clear evidence of false allegation or malicious intent, to bring charges against the individual(s) responsible for that.
But I want to draw attention to one thing said today by Proctor:
Those Labour Members of Parliament who have misused parliamentary privilege and their special position on these matters should apologise. They have behaved disgracefully, especially attacking dead parliamentarians who cannot defend themselves and others and they should make amends. They are welcome to sue me for libel. In particular, Mr Tom Watson, M.P. should state, outside the protection of the House of Commons, the names of ex Ministers and ex M.P.s who he feels are part of the so called alleged Westminster rent boy ring.
The definition of Parliamentary Privilege is as follows:
Parliamentary privilege grants certain legal immunities for Members of both Houses which allow them to perform their duties without interference from outside the House. The privileges are: Freedom of speech, freedom from arrest (on civil matters), freedom of access to the sovereign and that ‘the most favourable construction should be placed on all the Houses’s proceedings’. Members are immune from legal action in terms of slander but must adhere to the principles of parliamentary language.
Since Tom Watson MP made his statement on October 24th, 2012 alleging that the evidence files used to convict Peter Righton contained evidence of a high-level paedophile ring with links to a former prime minister (which Watson detailed more on his blog, not subject to parliamentary privilege), there have been several debates and select committee hearings in Parliament to do with child sexual abuse involving prominent people, most of them last year in the process leading to the setting up of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse; I blogged about one of these debates here; others can easily be found on Hansard.
In none of these debates have any of the leading campaigning MPs – Tom Watson, Simon Danczuk, John Mann, Sarah Champion from Labour, ex-MPs John Hemming and Tessa Munt from the Liberal Democrats, Zac Goldsmith or Tim Loughton from the Conservatives, or Caroline Lucas from the Greens – said anything to my knowledge which could identify an MP or other prominent figure, nor anything which could not be safely repeated outside of the House of Commons. Furthermore, one should not that by no means are all of these MPs from the Labour Party, contrary to Proctor’s claim that ‘the paranoid Police have pursued an homosexual witch hunt on this issue egged on by a motley crew of certain sections of the media and press and a number of Labour Members of Parliament and a ragbag of internet fantasists’. This is a cross-party issue, and there is every reason to think that some of the allegations being investigated have the power to be extremely damaging for Labour themselves – not only those against Lord Janner or Lord Tonypandy or a minister in Tony Blair’s government alleged to have been linked to an abuse ring in Lambeth, but also those claims concerning current acting Labour Party leader Harriet Harman, former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt and MP Jack Dromey in the context of the affiliations between the National Council for Civil Liberties and the Paedophile Information Exchange when all three individuals were involved with the former association at a high level (about which I have blogged plentifully elsewhere, and believe there is more information yet to become public knowledge). Furthermore, John Mann (who in December 2014 handed a dossier naming MPs and peers to the police), has been very publicly critical of Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn concerning his response to allegations of serious abuse in Islington in the 1980s. No party stands to come out well from this, nor is the campaign a partisan issue.
If Proctor does indeed turn out to be the victim of unfounded slurs, he has my every sympathy, and is entitled to full recompense in whatever form that may take. And I do not accept that those offence with which he was charged and convicted in the 1980s, leading to the end of his Parliamentary career (about which he talks more on the 1988 After Dark discussion below) in any way relate to the truth or otherwise of what is detailed below. But his claims about politicians are unsustainable, and he must provide evidence. Where have MPs said things in Parliament which they would not repeat outside of it, and what are these things? The one case of which I am aware is by Jim Hood who named Leon Brittan in Parliament on October 14th, 2014. This is an isolated case, which none of the other campaigning MPs backed. In March, John Mann said that Harvey Proctor will be the first of many to be investigated, after it was made public that the police had questioned Proctor, but this claim was made outside Parliament.
I believe Proctor is attempting here to maliciously pin blame on Tom Watson, who I believe will undoubtedly be the best Deputy Leader that the Labour Party can have, and has done enormously courageous work campaigning on child abuse and also on disreputable media practices. This claim needs to be questioned properly and Proctor made to substantiate it. Watson has rightly made the following statement, which I wholly back:
It is not for me to judge the innocence or guilt of Harvey Proctor. That is for a jury to do, if the police inquiry yields sufficient evidence to bring a case to court.
I don’t regard allegations of child abuse as a party political matter and I’ve worked with members of all political parties to help bring about the Goddard inquiry into child sexual abuse. I have never used parliamentary privilege to name anyone accused of child abuse.
After Dark, 4/6/88
One very important point to make is that this statement has not been checked exactly with what he actually said today.
STATEMENT BY MR KEITH HARVEY PROCTOR
MADE IN THE MARLBOROUGH ROOM, ST.ERMIN’S HOTEL, LONDON
NOT FOR RELEASE BEFORE 2PM ON TUESDAY 25th AUGUST 2015
I am a private citizen. I have not held public office and I have not sought public office since May 1987. As such, I am entitled to be regarded as a private citizen. Since the General Election of 1987 I have sought a private life. I have been enjoying a full life, gainfully employed and personally happy.
This all came to an abrupt end on 4th March 2015. What now follows is a statement on my present predicament created by an unidentified person making totally untrue claims against my name. Before going any further I wish to make it clear that the genuine victims of child sexual abuse have my fullest sympathy and support and I would expect the full weight of the law to be used against anyone, be he ‘ever so high, or ever so low’, committing such odious offences. Nobody and I repeat, nobody is above the law.
2. However, I attach equal weight to justice for innocent people wrongly accused of child sexual abuse, especially when it is done anonymously. This is what is happening to me and many high profile figures, many of whom are dead and cannot answer back. This statement is necessarily lengthy and detailed and at times complicated. Please bear with me and at the end I will be prepared to answer your questions.
3. On 18th June, 2015, at my request, I was interviewed by the Metropolitan Police Murder Squad “Operation Midland”. This interview lasted over 6 hours. At the very outset I had to help the Police with my full name which they appeared not to know. It may surprise you that it was over 3 and an half months after my home was searched for 15 hours and more than 7 months after the most serious allegations were made against me that I was interviewed. I went on to cooperate fully with the Police with their investigation.
4. The allegations have been made by a person who the Police have dubbed with a pseudonym – “NICK”. He appears on television with a blacked out face and an actor’s voice. All of this is connected with alleged historical child sexual abuse in the 1970ies and 1980ies. “NICK” was interviewed by the Police in the presence of a reporter from Exaro – an odd internet news agency.
5. As a Member of Parliament I always spoke in favour of the police. I believe in law and order and I believe in equipping the police to do their job and , with my track record, it will come as a surprise that I have grave and growing concerns about the Police generally and more specifically “Operation Midland”. I have decided to share these concerns with you. I believe I am not speaking just for myself today. I hope I am not being presumptuous when I say I feel I am speaking for those who have no voice whatsoever including the dead to whom I referred moments ago.
6. Two days before my interview with the Police, my Solicitors – Sakhi Solicitors of Leicester – were sent a “disclosure” document. It set out the matters the Police wished to discuss with me. It was the first time I had known of what I had been accused. On the day of my interview I was not arrested, nor placed on Police bail, I was told I could leave the Police Station at any time and that it was a voluntary interview. I and my Solicitors had previously been told I was not a suspect.
7. At the end of the interview I was given no information as to how much longer the Police investigation would take to bring the matter to a conclusion. I think you will understand I cannot allow this matter to rest.
8. So you can gauge how angry I am and in an attempt to stop the “drip, drip, drip” of allegations by the police into the media , I now wish to share with you in detail the uncorroborated and untrue allegations that have been made against me by “NICK”. Anyone of a delicate or a nervous disposition should leave the room now.
9. The following is taken from the Police disclosure document given to my Solicitors two days before my first interview with the Police under the headings “Circumstances”, “Homicides” and “Sexual abuse”.
The victim in this investigation is identified under the pseudonym “Nick”. He made allegations to the Metropolitan Police Service in late 2014. Due to the nature of the offences alleged, “Nick” is entitled to have his identity withheld.
“Nick” stated he was the victim of systematic and serious sexual abuse by a group of adult males over a period between 1975 and 1984. The abuse was often carried out whilst in company with other boys whom were also abused by the group.
“Nick” provided names of several individuals involved in these acts including Mr HARVEY PROCTOR. He states MR PROCTOR abused him on a number of occasions which included sexual assault, buggery and torturous assault. He also states MR PROCTOR was present when he was assaulted by other adult males. Furthermore, “Nick” states he witnessed the murder of three young boys on separate occasions. He states MR PROCTOR was directly responsible for two of the allegations and implicated in the third.
The dates and locations relevant to MR PROCTOR are as follows:-
1980 – at a residential house in central London. “Nick” was driven by car to an address in the Pimlico/Belgravia area where a second boy (the victim) was also collected in the same vehicle. Both boys, aged approximately 12-years-old, were driven to another similar central London address. MR PROCTOR was present with another male. Both boys were led to the back of the house. MR PROCTOR then stripped the victim, and tied him to a table. He then produced a large kitchen knife and stabbed the child through the arm and other parts of the body over a period of 40 minutes. A short time later MR PROCTOR untied the victim and anally raped him on the table. The other male stripped “Nick” and anally raped him over the table. MR PROCTOR then strangled the victim with his hands until the boy’s body went limp. Both males then left the room. Later, MR PROCTOR returned and led “Nick” out of the house and into a waiting car.
1981-82 – at a residential address in central London. “Nick” was collected from Kingston train station and taken to a “party” at a residential address. The witness was among four young boys. Several men were present including MR PROCTOR. One of the men told the boys one of them would die that night and they had to choose who. When the boys wouldn’t decide, the men selected one of the boys (the victim). Each of the four boys including “Nick” were taken to separate rooms for “private time”. When they all returned to the same room, Nick was anally raped by MR PROCTOR and another male as “punishment”. The other males also anally raped the remaining boys. MR PROCTOR and two other males then began beating the chosen victim by punching and kicking. The attack continued until the boy collapsed on the floor and stopped moving. All of the men left the room. The remaining boys attempted to revive the victim but he was not breathing. They were left for some time before being taken out of the house and returned to their homes.
Between May and July 1979 – in a street in Coombe Hill, Kingston. Nick was walking in this area with another boy (the victim) when he heard the sound of a car engine revving. A dark-coloured car drove into the victim knocking him down. “Nick” could see the boy covered in blood and his leg bent backwards. A car pulled up and “Nick” was grabbed and placed in the car. He felt a sharp pain in his arm and next remembered being dropped off at home. He was warned not to have friends in future. “Nick” never saw the other boy again. “Nick” does not identify MR PROCTOR as being directly involved in this allegation. However, he states MR PROCTOR was part of the group responsible for the systematic sexual abuse he suffered. Furthermore, he believes the group were responsible for the homicide.
1978-1984 – Dolphin Square, Pimlico. “Nick” was at the venue and with at least one other young boy. MR PROCTOR was present with other males.MR PROCTOR told “Nick” to pick up a wooden baton and hit the other boy. When “Nick” refused he was punished by MR PROCTOR and the other males. He was held down and felt pain in his feet. He fell unconscious. When he awoke he was raped by several males including MR PROCTOR.
1978-1981 – Carlton Club, central London, “Nick” was driven to the Carlton Club and dropped off outside. MR PROCTOR opened the door. Inside the premises were several other males. “Nick” was sexually assaulted by another male (not by MR PROCTOR on this occasion ).
1978-1981 – swimming pool in central London. “Nick” was taken to numerous ‘pool parties’ where he and other boys were made to undress, and perform sexual acts on one another. He and other boys were then anally raped and sexually abused by several men including MR PROCTOR.
1981-1982 – Large town house in London. “Nick” was taken to the venue on numerous occasions where MR PROCTOR and one other male were present. He was forced to perform oral sex on MR PROCTOR who also put his hands around “Nick’’’s throat to prevent him breathing. On another occasion at the same location, MR PROCTOR sexually assaulted “Nick” before producing a pen-knife and threatening to cut “Nick’’’s genitals.MR PROCTOR was prevented from doing so by the other male present.
1979-1984 – residential address in central London.”Nick” was taken to the venue. MR PROCTOR was present with one other male. MR PROCTOR forced “Nick” to perform oral sex on him before beating him with punches.
1978-1984 – numerous locations including Carlton Club,Dolphin Square and a central London townhouse. “Nick” described attending several ‘Christmas parties’ where other boys were present together with numerous males including MR PROCTOR. “Nick” was given whiskey to drink before being forced to perform oral sex on several men including MR PROCTOR.
MR PROCTOR will be interviewed about the matters described above and given the opportunity to provide an account.”
10. I denied all and each of the allegations in turn and in detail and categorised them as false and untrue and, in whole, an heinous calumny. They amount to just about the worst allegations anyone can make against another person including, as they do, multiple murder of children, their torture, grievous bodily harm, rape and sexual child abuse.
11. I am completely innocent of all these allegations.
12. I am an homosexual. I am not a murderer. I am not a paedophile or pederast. Let me be frank, I pleaded guilty to four charges of gross indecency in 1987 relating to the then age of consent for homosexual activity. Those offences are no longer offences as the age of consent has dropped from 21 to 18 to 16. What I am being accused of now is a million miles away from that consensual activity.
13. At the start of the interview, I was told that although the interview would be recorded by the Police both for vision and sound, I would not receive a copy of the tapes. I asked to record the interview for sound myself but my request was refused. During the interview, to ensure that “Nick” had not identified the wrong person, I asked if I could see photographs purporting to be me which had been shown to him. My request was refused. At the end of the interview I was asked if I knew my 8 alleged co conspirators whose homes it was alleged I had visited. I believe I have a good recollection and the list comprised a number of people I knew, some who I had heard of but not met and some I did not know. None of the allegations were alleged to have taken place at my home and I have not visited the homes of any of the “gang”.
14. The list included the names of the late Leon Brittan and the late Edward Heath.
15. If it was not so serious, it would be laughable.
16. Edward Heath sacked me from the Conservative Party’s parliamentary candidates’ list in 1974. Mrs Thatcher restored me to the list 18 months later. Edward Heath despised me and he disliked my views particularly on limiting immigration from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan and my opposition to our entry into and continued membership of what is now know as the E.U. ; I opposed his corporate statist views on the Economy. I despised him too… He had sacked the late Enoch Powell, my political “hero” from the Shadow Cabinet when I was Chairman of the University of York Conservative Association. I regarded Enoch as an intellectual giant in comparison with Heath.
17. The same Edward Heath, not surprisingly, would never speak to me in the House of Commons but would snort at me as he passed me by in a Commons corridor. The feeling was entirely mutual.
18. Now I am accused of doing some of these dreadful things in his London house as well; a house to which I was never invited and to which Heath would never have invited me and to which I would have declined his invitation.
19. The same Edward Heath’s home with CCTV, housekeeper, private secretary, chauffeur, police and private detectives – all the trappings of a former Prime Minister – in the security conscious days of the IRA’s assault on London.
20. It is so farfetched as to be unbelievable. It is unbelievable because it is not true. My situation has transformed from Kafka- esque bewilderment to black farce incredulity.
21. I have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. I appeal to any witness who truthfully can place me at any of the former homes of Edward Heath or Leon Brittan at any time to come forward now. I appeal to any witness who can truthfully say I committed any of these horrible crimes to come forward now.
22. The “gang” is also alleged to have included Lord Janner ( a former Labour M.P.), Lord Bramall (Former Chief of the General Staff) , the late Maurice Oldfield (Former Head of Secret Intelligence Service – MI6), the late Sir Michael Hanley ( Director General of the Internal Security Service – MI5), General Sir Hugh Beach (Master-General of the Ordnance) and a man named – Ray Beech. I did not move in such circles. As an ex Secondary Modern School boy from Yorkshire, I was not a part of the Establishment. I had no interest being part of it. I cannot believe that these other 8 people conspired to do these monstrous things. I certainly did not.
23. Yesterday I was interviewed again by the Metropolitan Police Murder Squad for 1 hour 40 minutes. It was a voluntary interview. I was free to go at any time. I was not arrested. I am not on bail. Unhelpfully, the second disclosure document was given to me some 20 minutes after yesterday’s interview was supposed to have started rather than last Friday as had been promised. My Solicitors were told by the Police it was ready but had to be signed off by superior officers on Friday. The Metropolitan Police are either inefficient or doing it by design. Whatever else, it is inept and an unjust way to treat anyone. During yesterday’s interview, I was shown a photograph of “Nick” aged about 12. I did not recognise him. I was shown computer generated e fit images of 2 of the alleged murder victims created by “Nick”. They looked remarkably similar to each other but one with blonde hair and one dark brown. I did not recognise either image. I was asked if I knew Jimmy Saville. I told them I did not. “Nick” alleges – surprise surprise – that Saville attended the sex “parties”. I was asked if I knew a number of people including Leslie Goddard and Peter Heyman. I did not these two. I was asked if I knew well, a doctor – unnamed. Apparently “Nick” alleges the doctor was a friend of mine and allegedly he turned up to repair the damage done to the boys when they were abused at these “parties”. I could not help there . I was asked if I could recognise images of the pen knife mentioned earlier. It was suggested it was Edward Heath who persuaded me not to castrate “Nick” with it. I was obviously so persuaded by Mr Heath’s intervention that I placed the pen knife in “Nick’s” pocket ready for him to present it to the Metropolitan police over 30 years later as “evidence”. I could not identify the knife. I have never had a pen knife. I was asked if I visited Elm Guest House in Rocks Lane, Barnes. I wondered when that elephant in the room would be mentioned by the Metropolitan police. I am sorry to have to disappoint the fantasists on the internet but I did not visit Elm Guest House. I was unaware of its existence. The so called “guest list” which makes its appearance on the net must be a fake.
24. During my first interview I was told that the Police were investigating to seek out the truth. I reminded them on a number of occasions that their Head of “Operation Midland”, Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald had said on television some months ago “ I believe what “NICK” is saying as credible and true “. This statement is constantly used and manipulated by Exaro and other Media to justify their position.
25. This remark is very prejudicial to the police inquiry and its outcome. It is not justice and breaches my United Kingdom and Human Rights. This whole catalogue of events has wrecked my life, lost me my job and demolished 28 years of my rehabilitation since 1987.
26. The Police involved in “Operation Midland” are in a cleft stick of their own making. They are in a quandary. Support the “victim” however ludicrous his allegations or own up that they got it disastrously wrong but risk the charge of a cover up. What do I think should happen now?
I should be arrested, charged and prosecuted for murder and these awful crimes immediately so I can start the process of ridiculing these preposterous allegations in open court
“NICK” should be stripped of his anonymity and prosecuted for wasting police time and money, making the most foul of false allegations and seeking to pervert the course of justice. Those who have aided and abetted him should also be prosecuted. “NICK” should be medically examined to ensure he is of sound mind.
27. Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald should resign from his position as Head of “Operation Midland”. He should resign or be sacked. But as the Metropolitan Police is a bureaucratic “organisation” I suggest, to save face, he is slid sideways to be placed in control of Metropolitan London parking, traffic, jay walking or crime prevention. He too should be medically examined to ensure he is of sound mind.
28. An investigation should be launched into “Operation Midland” and its costs. Detectives’ expense claims should be analysed and a full audit carried out by independent auditors.
29. Those Labour Members of Parliament who have misused parliamentary privilege and their special position on these matters should apologise. They have behaved disgracefully, especially attacking dead parliamentarians who cannot defend themselves and others and they should make amends. They are welcome to sue me for libel. In particular, Mr Tom Watson, M.P. should state, outside the protection of the House of Commons, the names of ex Ministers and ex M.P.s who he feels are part of the so called alleged Westminster rent boy ring.
30. Lady Goddard’s Inquiry should examine “Operation Midland’s” methods so as to sift genuine historical child sexual abuse from the spurious.
31. “Operation Midland” should be wound up by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner who should also apologise at the earliest opportunity. On the 6th August 2015, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe shed crocodile tears criticising the Independent Police Complaints Commission and Wiltshire Police for naming Edward Heath as a suspect. He said it was not “fair” and his own force would not do such a thing. This is very disingenuous. When his Police officers were searching my Home and before they had left, the Press were ringing me asking for comment. I was identified. They had told “Nick” of the search who passed on the information to his press friends. The Metropolitan police have also told the press that they were investigating Heath and Brittan and others. Sir Bernard should resign for the sin of hypocrisy. If he does not, it will not be long before he establishes “Operation Plantagenet” to determine Richard III’s involvement in the murder of the Princes in the Tower of London.
32. Superintendent Sean Memory of Wiltshire Police should explain why he made a statement about Edward Heath in front of his former home in Salisbury and who advised him to select that venue. He should also resign.
33. Leon Brittan was driven to his death by police action. They already knew for 6 months before his death, on the advice of the DPP, that he would not face prosecution for the alleged rape of a young woman. But they did not tell him. They just hoped he would die without having to tell him. The Superintendent in charge of his investigation should resign.
34. The Police should stop referring automatically to people who make statements of alleged Historic child sexual abuse as “victims”. They should refer to them as “complainants” from the French “to lament” which would be more appropriate. Parliament should pass laws to better balance the right to anonymity of “victims” and the “accused”. Parliament should reinstate in law the English tradition of “innocence before being found guilty” which has been trashed in recent months by certain sections of the Police, the DPP, MPs, Magistrates and the Courts themselves.
35. I have not just come here with a complaint. I have come with the intention of showing my face in public as an innocent man. I have come to raise my voice as an aggrieved subject now deeply concerned about the administration of Justice. What has become increasingly clear about Police investigations into historical child sexual abuse is that it has been bungled in years gone by and is being bungled again NOW. The moment has come to ask ourselves if the Police are up to the task of investigating the apparent complexities of such an enquiry ? These allegations merit the most detailed and intellectually rigorous application.
36. What is clear from the last few years of police activity driven by the media, fearful of the power of the internet and the odd M.P. here and there is that the overhaul of the Police service up and down the country is now urgently required. We need “Super cops” who have been University educated and drawn from the professions. Such people could be of semi retirement status with a background in the supervision of complex, criminal investigations. These people could be drawn from the law, accountancy and insolvency practices. Former Justices of the Peace could chair some of these investigations. Adequate incentives should be provided to recruit them.
37. I speak for myself and, as a former Tory M.P. with an impeccable record in defending the Police, I have now come to believe that that blind trust in them was totally misplaced. What has happened to me could happen to anyone. It could happen to you.
38. In summary, the paranoid Police have pursued an homosexual witch hunt on this issue egged on by a motley crew of certain sections of the media and press and a number of Labour Members of Parliament and a ragbag of internet fantasists. There are questions to ask about what kind of Police Force do we have in Britain today. How can it be right for the Police to act in consort with the press with routine tip offs of House raids, impending arrests and the like. Anonymity is given to anyone prepared to make untruthful accusations of child sexual abuse whilst the alleged accused are routinely fingered publicly without any credible evidence first being found. This is not justice. It is an abuse of power and authority.
39. In conclusion, I wish to thank my Solicitors Mr Raza Sakhi and Mr Nabeel Gatrad and my family and friends for their support without which I would not have been able to survive this onslaught on my character and on my life.
I am prepared to take questions.
A few good politicians – Becky Milligan at the office of Simon Danczuk, with Matt Baker, and the personal impact of abuse campaigningPosted: July 18, 2014
The link above details a visit made by BBC Radio 4 reporter Becky Milligan to the office of Labour MP Simon Danczuk, together with his parliamentary aide Matt Baker. Here she encounters much correspondence concerning allegations of abuse by politicians, several about that at Elm Guest House. A solicitor got in touch, to mention a visit in the early 1980s to Barnes Police Station, representing a young boy who had been at EGH; had been interviewed, police got aggressive and pushy, she stepped in to say this was unpleasant for her client. The police took the solicitor to one side and showed her a statement from another boy, saying he had been raped at the house by politicians and judges, which left the solicitor utterly shocked. Danczuk and Baker are hoping to encourage the solicitor to go to the police about this now. Baker is sure there are police officers themselves in possession of dynamite information on this (one reason why an amnesty is needed to ensure they can come forward with details). If true, the alleged activities at Elm Guest House, and the cover-up entailed, beggar belief – I would recommend those not yet aware of this to read this account by an alleged survivor of the house, this terrible article from the Daily Star in 1982 alleging that ten-year old boys were made to act as sex slaves for 13 hours per day for adult men and women, and this series of articles reproduced on the Spotlight blog.
Baker speaks of an occasion recounted by a former police officer, in which a floor of a hotel was raided where a range of paedophiles were found, all with boys in their beds. Amongst those pulled in by the police was a very prominent individual; the officers were told not to say anything about this – if they did they would lose their pension and would never be promoted. Baker said that this former police officer was cynical about possibility of an amnesty, saying no Home Secretary would allow that. It is incumbent upon Theresa May to make provisions for this as soon as possible, and for Yvette Cooper, shadow Home Secretary, to make a pledge to make such an arrangement if Labour are returned to power next year.
Clearly since Danczuk’s Select Com appearance, his office has been inundated by phone calls with terrible stories of abuse, many involving very prominent figures. Milligan sits in on an interview with a former pupil of Knowl View Residential School, subject of a major investigation into sustained abuse and its cover-up. Upsetting interview in which the man intimates how he is seen as someone no-one wants to go near, because he was abused. And conveys the terror of the place, and how every detail stays with him on a daily basis, saying that ‘Knowl View School will stick in my mind like it’s happening now in this room’.
Danczuk and Baker talk about how personally upsetting all of this is, and their coping strategies. Whilst nothing like on the scale of that they have known, I have some experience of how this feels, from a time at the beginning of 2013 when in the space of a couple of weeks I received hundreds of e-mails, phone calls and messages on social media from survivors of widespread abuse in music schools and conservatoires, often with horrific detail, combined with information about callous or malicious cover-up and bullying on the part of others in a position to do something about it, but not prepared to do so, preferring to protect the reputation of their places. The effect of all of this is depressing and disspiriting beyond belief. It can fill you with a mixture of feelings of hopelessness, paranoia, massive anger, and a sense that most else in the world seems pretty trivial in comparison – also it can be very hard for your partner if they see you so preoccupied by all of this. Naturally I can only speak with any certainty about my own experience, though communicating with others has suggested this is far from atypical. Happily I see an excellent therapist on a weekly basis, who has helped a lot with dealing with everything that this involvement brings. Doing so has changed my life and I am quite sure it has changed that of Danczuk and Baker – and those other politicians and campaigners who are exposed to this sort of material on a daily basis.
Some of the blasé members of the Labour Party have been very aloof and stand-offish towards Danczuk (and Tom Watson, and I would guess others who have been very active campaigners such as John Mann), not least because he serialised his book on Cyril Smith in the Daily Mail (the North London Labourite paper of choice, The Guardian, probably wouldn’t have touched it, and has a somewhat murky history of its own in terms of giving a platform to paedophile Tom O’Carroll, and also presenting lesbian child abuse in a positive light, in an article I will post after this), and his investigations might implicate some senior Labour politicians as well. This is unfortunately a typical attitude of those who would put the reputations of their parties (or leading figures in their parties) before the interests of children, and exactly how cover-ups work. Danczuk and Watson and Mann (and equally Tories such as Zac Goldsmith and Tim Loughton, Liberal Democrats John Hemming and Tessa Munt, who has bravely spoken out about her own experiences of sexual abuse, Green politician Caroline Lucas, and various others, not least the over 140 MPs who signed the call for a full national inquiry well before the Home Secretary agreed to one) have on the contrary worked relentlessly on bringing these issues to public attention, for sure at no small personal cost to themselves, and my admiration for them could not be greater. All of them are a model for politicians of the future, in order to restore some confidence in the possibility of meaningful political action at Westminster.
At the time of writing this (evening on Monday June 30th, 2014), it is the day before an important event in the House of Commons. Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, co-author (with Matt Baker) of Smile for the Camera: The Double Life of Cyril Smith (London: Biteback, 2014), is due (at 4:15 pm on Tuesday July 1st) to give evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee. Whilst the ostensible subject of this meeting is to do specifically with historical child abuse in Rochdale (Cyril Smith’s old constituency, now Danczuk’s), Danczuk has also written of how Smith was connected to the sinister figure of Peter Righton and a wider paedophile ring including prominent politicians (see this article by Watson in praise of Danczuk). In particular, this ring is thought to have frequented the notorious Elm Guest House in Barnes, South-West London, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and one name in particular of a very senior former cabinet minister from the Thatcher era (a name which I do not intend to share here) has been widely circulated around social media and the internet. This ex-minister has also been linked to a separate story concerning the rape of a woman known just as ‘Jane’ in 1967, but the police apparently have dropped any plans to prosecute (or even arrest or interview) the minister.
Back in April, Danczuk indicated to the Daily Mail that he might use Parliamentary Privilege to name the MP in question; in an interview given to The Independent a little over a week ago, he affirmed his intention to do so if asked, and may also name a further Labour politician involved in a separate abuse scandal (this is likely to be the former Blair-era cabinet minister alleged to have abused boys in a children’s home in Lambeth, run by paedophile Michael John Carroll, in which case experienced detective Clive Driscoll was taken off the case as he allegedly came to investigate the minister.
The Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) has eleven members; five Conservatives (Nicola Blackwood, James Clappison, Michael Ellis, Lorraine Fullbrook and Mark Reckless), one Liberal Democrat (Julian Huppert) and five Labour (Chair Keith Vaz, Ian Austin, Paul Flynn, Yasmin Qureshi and David Winnick). Vaz has a particular connection as he was Solicitor for Richmond Council, and a parliamentary candidate for Richmond & Barnes around the time when the alleged events at Elm Guest House occurred (see the account of his career with primary sources, ‘Keith Vaz and the Mystery of Barnes Common’ at Spotlight). Three members of the HASC – Huppert, Flynn and Qureshi – have declared their support for a national inquiry into organised abuse; one member of the HASC has confirmed that Danczuk will be asked about visitors to Elm Guest House (Leftly, ‘MP will name politician ‘involved in child abuse”). This will be an important occasion at the HASC which may change the whole climate of opinion concerning abuse and the urgent need for an inquiry.
Yet at the eleventh hour, the Exaro news website, who have attempted to claim control and credit for all matters relating to the call for an inquiry (with the help of a few people never described more specifically than ‘Exaro’s twitter followers’), are calling upon Danczuk not to name the minister(s) in question, as well as claiming on Twitter that they have now got some special information which changes things (which of course they are not prepared to share). I will return to this in a moment.
First I want to respond to a blog post by Eric Joyce, MP for Falkirk . In response to a lobbying campaign of MPs to support a national inquiry into organised abuse, started by seven MPs (Conservative Zac Goldsmith and Tim Loughton, Liberal Democrat John Hemming and Tessa Munt, Labour Tom Watson and Danczuk, and Green Caroline Lucas), which was indeed reported by David Hencke for Exaro (David Hencke, MPs call on Teresa May to set up inquiry into child sex abuse’), a relatively organic campaign was started around the same time (beginning with a draft letter from earlier by another campaigner on another forum) which came to be initially about encouraging all those who agree to write to their own MPs and ask them to join the original seven. Some took the decision instead to send Tweets to all MPs on Twitter, which has certainly led to positive responses from some. In most cases, it is likely that a combination of the reminders on Twitter, together with letters sent to all MPs from Tim Loughton, information about the campaign e-mailed by various of us to MPs requesting it, and private discussions between MPs (not least between Tory MPs and Loughton, and Labour MPs and Watson) has led many to support the campaign, which some have announced on Twitter; at the time of writing the number stands at 123, though there has been only minimal coverage in the mainstream media, even in the wake of the latest Savile reports (such as this article by Robert Mendick and Eileen Fairweather in the Telegraph). Mark Watts, Editor-in-Chief at Exaro, who tweets as @exaronews as well as under his personal handle, has certainly been urging people to simply keep asking MPs Yes or No. Sometimes the Twitter campaign has got rather hysterical, with tweets which appear to scream at both politicians and journalists, sometimes accusing them of being supporters of child rape if they don’t reply, or don’t support this precise campaign. This mode of argument allows for no discussion, no reasonable and intelligent debate about the exact nature, remit and purpose of an inquiry, nothing more than screaming emotional blackmail, and serves no good purpose other than to try and bully politicians into agreeing. It is certainly not something with which I want to be associated, and shows Twitter at its worst. But this is what appears to have provoked Eric Joyce’s blog post.
Joyce’s primary objections to the demands of the original seven campaigners can be summarised as follows:
(a) they would undermine the Crown Prosecution Service’s consideration of an important police report presently before it (he does not make clear exactly which report this refers to).
(b) the campaign does not mention Savile of the issues implied by this case, and would thus miss these.
(c) it is focused entirely on historical rumours about ‘senior politicians’.
(d) it would exclude adult victims of Savile.
Then he also lays out wider objections to the actions of other campaigners (i.e. beyond the original seven MPs):
(i) they routinely use abusive bullying tactics, which are hardly persuasive.
(ii) it all has a ‘really sickening “get the pedos/cops/politicians” feel about it’ and ‘looks like a campaign designed to catch public attention for its own sake rather than a genuine effort to get at important truths’.
(iii) names of politicians have routinely been published online, which could wreck the lives of innocent people and destroy the case put by the police to the CPS.
(iv) the whole campaign is really a self-aggrandising exercise by Exaro, who have recently found that they cannot pay their one way, and have become a ‘schlock merchant’ who only really have one story, cynically waiting until the names of alleged ‘politician paedophiles’ were all over the internet before asking campaigners not to post or tweet them.
(v) there is some confusion between calls for other types of wide inquiry and this specific one, differences between which are papered over by Exaro.
I cannot deny that (i) is true of some campaigners, though this is definitely not a style I want anything to do with – nor with campaigners associated with the BNP, those who are homophobes, man-haters, paranoid conspiracy theorists, unconcerned about the difference between truth and fiction, and so on. One reason for becoming involved in abuse campaigning (over and above knowing a good deal of survivors sometimes very close to me, and becoming convinced that this was an issue bigger than simply individual perpetrators, in classical music and elsewhere), was the hope that it might be possible to avoid and go beyond tabloid-style hysteria over this inevitably highly emotive subject. As far as I am concerned, though, those who support vigilante action, capital punishment or other forms of cruel and unusual punishment, are no better than abusers themselves. However, the medium of Twitter, allowing only for 140 characters per tweet, can hardly do justice to this nuanced and complex subject, nor do I imagine (whatever some might think) that many MPs’ minds were changed purely by receiving a tweet from someone using a pseudonym; rather used this prompt to announce something they had already decided. I disdain (ii) for the same reasons, but realise that only by identifying prominent names is it likely that the whole campaign will gain wider attention with a public otherwise seeing celebrity names such as Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris, Max Clifford and others. As things stand the campaign can resemble a cult, with various people frequenting small sub-sections of social media and Exaro, but unfortunately sometimes not realising how invisible this is to much of the wider public. Social media are certainly not the place to name names (coming to (iii)), but in light of the fact of many claims of failure of police to interview prominent figures, intelligence services sitting in on interviews, witnesses being threatened, important evidence going missing (including dossiers going to the Home Office), I do believe some more decisive action is needed now (more to follow on this in a moment).
I will come back to (iv) but will address (a)-(d) first. Objection (a) is unclearly specified and so cannot be responded to properly. There is no reason why the inquiry could not also look at Savile, certainly (there is plenty of reason to think there may be connections between his activities and those in other abuse scandals, not least his connections to senior politicians). And just because of the areas specified as requested to be included in the original letter from the seven MPs to Teresa May (which I have also posted below Joyce’s blog), such an inquiry could certainly be extended further. Re (c), The demands go well beyond historical cases involving politicians, dealing with a range of children’s homes, businessmen trafficking between countries, churches, public schools, and much more, so this criticism is wholly unfounded. The issue of adult victims is a serious one (also a big issue in the classical music world, abuse of all types in which is a particular area on which I have campaigned extensively), but I cannot believe an inquiry could not be adapted around this as well. I doubt many supporters have an absolutely clear idea of exactly the form the inquiry would take; rather it is the principle that this type of inquiry should happen which is being supported.
Returning to (iv); I do not really want to write too much about Exaro, as I certainly think some of their journalists – most notably David Hencke – do excellent work (see also Hencke’s blog), and do not share anything like as negative a view as does Joyce. I do have problems with the way in which Mark Watts, however, has attempted in a territorial fashion to claim complete control of the campaign as purely an Exaro initiative sustained through ‘Exaro’s twitter followers’, showing zero interest in a wider campaign involving e-mailing and constituents contacting their MPs (less ‘rapid-fire’ than anonymous tweets), whilst jealously guarding information for himself and trying to shore up a fledgling organisation, and tweeting with a rather boorish swagger which has unfortunate associations. Most posts or tweets by Watts try to steer the serious issues of organised abuse and urgent need for investigation into being self-promotion for Exaro, in a territorial manner which has perhaps dissuaded other media from taking an interest (most other journalists and broadcasters I have contacted have felt the story is not yet big enough to cover). When I first started being involved in abuse campaigning last year I was warned (not least by some senior journalists who I consulted) about two things in particular: (a) how some journalists will try and get you to do their work for them for free; and (b) how many people greatly exaggerate the importance of social media. Of both of these I am definitely convinced, but have known excellent journalists (including Hencke) with whom to work on stories and share information under fair conditions of confidence.
Sadly, with these lessons in mind, I do have reason for scepticism about Exaro on several fronts, which I would not bring up were it not for their eleventh-hour intervention. The Twitter campaign seems a typical example of their getting others to do their work for them (posing as campaigners rather than journalists) for free. Through the course of the last 18 months Exaro have promised major new developments, arrests, and built up to each new report in an extremely dramatic way. There have certainly been some important reports, for sure, not least those on ‘Jane’ (though this story does have its doubters) and also Mark Conrad’s earlier reports on links between Operations Fairbank and Fernbridge and the killings of Sydney Cooke, though much less coverage (or links to coverage by others) of issues involving Peter Righton and numerous networks involved in children’s homes, not to mention churches, schools and elsewhere, stories which are generally less spectacular. The sort of investigative journalism which grapples with the complexities of these other fields is done more successfully by a variety of other journalists at The Times (Andrew Norfolk’s work on Caldicott, Colet Court, St Paul’s and many other public schools, and Sean O’Neill on Robert Waddington and Manchester Cathedral), The Independent (Paul Gallagher on abuse in music schools and colleges), The Guardian (Helen Pidd’s important set of articles on Chetham’s and the RNCM), and sometimes at the Mail (Martin Beckford on PIE and their Labour links, and many earlier articles published here and in the Standard and Telegraph by Eileen Fairweather), Express (the latest work by Tim Tate and Ted Jeory on PIE and the Home Office), Mirror (Tom Pettifor on abuse in Lambeth and the Labour connection) and People (Keir Mudie and Nick Dorman on Operation Fernbridge and associated investigations, sometimes working together with Exaro). Exaro have certainly provided an important service, as one of various news organisations.
But now I fear that territorial attitudes could play a part in sabotaging an important opportunity. Watts has published a piece today aimed at dissuading Danczuk from naming, in which in a rather grandiose fashion he reports how ‘We have strongly advised him against naming the ex-minister tomorrow, and we are grateful that he has listened to us closely and is considering our points carefully’ and the same time as (almost comically) disparaging ‘Journalists on national newspapers, desperate for a splash story’, who allegedly have been arguing otherwise. Watts argues that ‘David Cameron is under intense pressure to agree to an overarching inquiry into child sex abuse in the UK’ which he doesn’t want. How big this pressure is is debatable; Cameron could brush off a question from Duncan Hames at Prime Minister’s Questions quite easily (see the bottom of here for the exchange), and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt did not seem particularly flustered at the debate in the Commons last week. The majority of MPs supporting an inquiry have been Labour – 73 at the current count, compared to 23 Conservatives. Many Conservatives have been copying and pasting stock replies which say nothing. Furthermore, most of the Labour MPs have been backbenchers without so many high profile figures; despite the support of Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham (who did not necessarily commit his party to support in the Commons, though, as I argued last week – this is a response to point (v) which I identify in Joyce’s blog), there has been only occasional support from other front bench figures. A proper inquiry would need to look at such matters as abuse which went on at children’s homes controlled by Islington Council when senior Labour figure Margaret Hodge was leader, of the role of the Paedophile Information Exchange, about whom I have written amply elsewhere, which embroils current Deputy Leader Harriet Harman and frontbench spokesman Jack Dromey; as argued earlier, Ed Miliband needs to take a lead on this, but it should not be so surprising that he has not yet done so. There are rumblings about Labour figures also visiting Elm Guest House, and of course the deeply serious issue of a senior Labour figure as a suspect for abuse in Lambeth, not to mention continuing investigations into Lord Janner, whose office at the House of Lords was raided earlier this year. Certainly any such inquiry would not be likely to be easy for Labour, nor for the Liberal Democrats, with the debacle of Cyril Smith still haunting them, and further rumbling about some other senior figures.
But at present mainstream media attention is very sporadic, and certainly in my experience (amongst generally educated people well-informed on news) very little of this has yet registered with a wider public. Cameron has in the last week had to deal with the conviction (and possible further retrial) of his former press secretary Andy Coulson, the charging of his former advisor on online pornography Patrick Rock for manufacturing images of child abuse, and now his failure to avoid Jean-Claude Juncker from being voted to be the next EU Commissioner. It is hard to see how a demand primarily from a group of Labour backbenchers would be obsessing him at such a time (though the campaign should definitely continue and hopefully grow). Watts claims that Danczuk’s naming of the ex-minister (he doesn’t mention the Labour minister) would serve as a ‘diversion from the inquiry call’, as front pages would be dominated by the ex-minister’s name. I think this is nonsense; such dissemination of the allegation that an extremely senior minister could themselves have been part of a ring-fenced VIP ring would cause outrage and anger, and the pressure for a proper inquiry would be irresistible. This very evening, Watts has also been tweeting that some new information has come to light which changes everything, but characteristically they will not even hint at what this is. Major developments have been promised before by the organisation, but these have rarely materialised. It is now looking more like a petty playground fight over who has the biggest amount of secret information.
Ultimately, as mentioned before, simple lists of MPs’ names are not that newsworthy, as various major journalists have had to point out to me. Only a major catalyst such as the revelation of a major name would be likely to get more attention. What this would also change is that the story would be taken up by all the major media, to such an extent that Exaro’s contributions would cease to be so central; I do wonder if this is what Watts is trying so hard to avoid. In the end, though, wider exposure for the many stories of abuse (which would follow upon the outrage caused by revelations that this extends to the very highest levels, and other figures were protected for this reason) is more important than the prestige of one website.
If Danczuk is certain that the ex-minister (and the ex Labour minister) are guilty, and the only reasons why they have not been brought to justice is through cover-ups, destruction of evidence, intimidation of witnesses, or simply stalling for convenience’s sake, then I hope very much he will name names tomorrow. If there is doubt about this, then it would only be wise not to do so – using Parliamentary Privilege in a way which would smear an innocent person would be reprehensible. I have faith in Danczuk to do the right thing, and hope the momentum which has been achieved will not be sacrificed for the short-term interests of any media organisation. If all of this is being covered in details in newspapers and on broadcast news programmes being read/watched by many of the country’s population (in some cases with stories written for these papers by Hencke, Conrad and others), it would be all for the better, even if many of the earlier campaigners (including myself) are quickly forgotten.