An Open Letter to the Labour Party

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Heretic TOC is today sending an Open Letter to Iain McNicol, General Secretary of the Labour Party. This follows the news, widely trumpeted in the British media last week, that your host here has been expelled from the Party. I was suspended on Tuesday, on the grounds that my conduct may have been “prejudicial” to the Party. Then, on Wednesday, I was expelled.

So, if I have understood the matter correctly, there will be no hearing at which I could mount a defence.

The first I heard of all this was through the media. Official confirmation reached me only somewhat later, on Friday, when I received two letters from the Party, dated the 16th and 17th and both postmarked the 17th. The first letter did not specify any particular allegedly “prejudicial” conduct, but my activism in relation to paedophilia was obviously the issue, as was made abundantly clear in the widespread media coverage. The second letter, though, was much more specific. It stated:

“The Labour Party has learned that in December last you were convicted at Caernarfon Crown Court of sexual offences involving two children and given a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years…”

The letter went on to say that the Party’s National Executive Committee had decided to expel me immediately based on this being a serious criminal offence, as the NEC is empowered to do under section 2.1.4.D.3 of the Party’s rules.

It seems the Labour Party learned of the conviction from a Daily Mail report on Wednesday. I alluded to the case somewhat cryptically in Truth, reality and baby elephants at the end of last year. Now it is in the public domain and is being used as a handy stick to beat me with, I feel I should say something about the circumstances. But the story will take some telling, and I must put it on the back burner for today.

So, first things first. Heretic TOC is read globally, everywhere from Canada to Cambodia, and Austria to Australia, so I imagine many heretics beyond the purview of British party politics will be utterly perplexed and bemused at this point. All of you, and also UK-based readers who may have missed the news, are advised to read the links guide at the end, which will enable you to catch up fully if you wish.

Briefly, I joined the Labour Party last year, under my own name, under the £3 subscription scheme which enabled non-members of the Party to vote in the leadership election. I voted for Jeremy Corbyn. When he was elected leader, I joined the Party as a full member. I attended Party meetings, canvassed on doorsteps during a council by-election, and socialised with the local MP.

This was all abruptly ended soon after I made the mistake of telling the local police about my Labour Party membership and activities. This arose during one of their regular monitoring visits, conducted because I am on the Sex Offenders Register. They had been asking about whether I had taken up any positive activities that might be of benefit to the community. I thought my work for Labour could be put in that category. The police, however, homed in – as I should have realised they would – on the supposed danger to children involved in me doing door-to-door canvassing, because of the possibility that a child might open the door. Once they knew about this aspect, they decided they needed to notify the Labour Party about my background. This notification was supposed to be “confidential”, but was all over the media within days.

I hold out no hope of being readmitted to the Party but I nevertheless feel I should give them a piece of my mind over the decision to chuck me out. Accordingly, the following Open Letter is being sent to the General Secretary, with copies going to the Party leadership, my MP, some other leading members of the local Constituency Labour Party, and certain journalists.

Preamble almost over, the letter follows. You may feel it is too apologetic and that they are the ones who should be saying sorry, not me. There is a lot of truth in that, but bear with me. Anger has its place, but shouting at people is not the best way to get them listening. Anyway, here goes:

 

DEAR GENERAL SECRETARY…

I deeply regret that my membership of the Party has resulted in harmful publicity and I entirely accept the decision to expel me. Indeed, if anyone had thought to ask me, instead of blabbing instantly to the media, I would have been prepared to resign quietly.

This is because – although it might surprise you to hear it – I genuinely want the Party to win the next General Election. Note that when the story of my membership broke in The Times, my initial response was No Comment. I hope John Woodcock retains his seat in due course but I think he should take a leaf out of my book in knowing when to shut up, especially as regards his continuing and counterproductive sniping at Jeremy.

Disagree on Trident if you must, John; vote on Syria as your conscience dictates too. But get a grip on your gripes about the leader and take a tip from another unlikely advisor over your communication style: too many tweets make a twat, as “Call me Confucius” said.

John is a likeable young man and already a smart politician. When he grows up he might even move on from being a graduate of the febrile, rapid response, Thick Of It, school of political strategy, and develop a more mature style, less prone to knee-jerk sounding off.

Can’t blame him for his arrested development though. After all, he was groomed by the Labour Party right from when he was a kid in Sheffield. Once ensnared by the cult, he would have been easy game for brainwashing into thinking the Blair/Campbell political lifestyle is normal. Early abuse of this sort is inevitably traumatising and obviously what lies behind John’s problem with depression. He could sue for compo!

And before any professional offence-takers start screaming with outrage over mocking a man’s mental disorder (I’m not, actually), I would remind you that paedophilia is in the psychiatric textbooks as just that. More helpfully, it would be regarded as a sexual orientation parallel to hetero- and homosexuality, along with recognition of the right to be free from discrimination. Instead, paedophiles are routinely treated to hate-speech and face massive discrimination not just in political life but across the board, in housing, employment, you name it. Similar treatment for Jewish people, or gypsies, or Muslims or gays or blacks or women, would rightly be condemned as barbaric and worthy of the Nazis.

Yet even nice guy John Woodcock apparently feels it is acceptable to crank up fear and loathing where paedophilia is concerned.

Why? Because in this case I am a convicted paedophile? a criminal? I would remind you that is not so long ago that practising gays were also considered criminals. So, in his way, was Socrates. And Jesus. And countless ordinary people, too, have been condemned unjustly for their beliefs and even just for who they are. I hoped – still hope – that the Labour Party believes in free expression and even, on occasion, compassion for those who find themselves on the wrong side of the law. I need only name the Tolpuddle Martyrs, and there is no shortage of other examples.

Which brings me to the values – the Labour values – I hold dear and to why I joined the Labour Party.

I have been a Labour supporter since long before John Woodcock was born, converted at the age of 15 from my working class dad’s support for the Tories by a clever fellow pupil at my local comp who went on to study economics at the LSE. As a VIth former, I was already an activist, joining CND and taking part in one of the annual marches from Aldermaston to London to Ban the Bomb. When I went to Lancaster University in 1964 I was one of the founding members of the new university’s Labour Club. I canvassed for Stanley Henig at the 1966 general election, when he was returned as the MP for Lancaster. When I was a press officer for the Open University in the 1970s I canvassed for Labour there too, and later did the same in Yorkshire when I was a journalist with the Wakefield Express. I was on the million-strong London march in 2003 against Blair’s ill-fated decision to back the war in Iraq.

Not that I have ever been “hard left”. Absolutely in the mainstream Labour tradition, I have always supported democratic socialism, and I favoured Neil Kinnock over those to the left of him, including Tony Benn. Bearing in mind that there is said to be more of Methodism than Marx in the Labour tradition, I felt a great affinity for Benn’s Christian socialism, but always felt he flirted too much with undemocratic elements, not least in his sympathy for those who were seeking to unify Ireland through terrorism. Jeremy did likewise, but all is forgiven in view of the fact that peace in Ireland was eventually secured through negotiation. Credit to Tony as well over that, of course.

Why, then, it may be asked, did I never join the Party until 2015?

It is simply that I was never inspired to do so because the Wilson and Callaghan governments were a disappointment compared to the fantastic achievements of the Attlee years. As for the betrayal of democratic socialism under Blair, disappointment is too weak a word. The much brighter prospect of a Corbyn leadership was what finally persuaded me I really should join and get properly involved.

Right from the moment of joining, though, I always felt it would be only a matter of time before members would find out about my background and take exception to my presence. Then I would have to go. Until that time, I told myself, I would be content to help as best I could with such humble but vital tasks as stuffing envelopes and pushing leaflets through doors.

For me, it was all about the Party. Passionately as I believe in freedom of speech and radical thinking unimpeded by any perception of the “correct” line, I am not an indulgent individualist. I am a team player when allowed to be. I simply wanted to do my bit in a quiet and unassuming way.

Turning to my own “radical” thinking, I would note first that there was much hand-wringing last year over whether those joining the Party under the £3 scheme were true supporters of “Labour values”. That is not the easiest term to define. The Party’s website presently says the following, which is a bit motherhood and apple pie and open to wide interpretation:

…the values Labour stands for today are those which have guided it throughout its existence.

  • social justice
  • strong community and strong values
  • reward for hard work
  • decency
  • rights matched by responsibilities

Some might feel my values fail on the “decency” score but I beg to differ based on Labour’s own history and traditions, and also on a broad view as to what the word means. I take it to be grounded in respect for others, rather than blind conformity to conventional mores. I might also mention that this official list of Labour values is too Blairite. It fails to spell out that “social justice” requires a more equable distribution of wealth. Also, does Labour not value liberty? Where is that word? Is freedom a value to be ceded to the right? Has Labour become just a party that hates pleasure, loves to restrict people’s lives, and seeks to ban things – including me?

I mentioned the importance of Methodism, or one might say non-conformist Christianity more generally, to the Labour tradition. But the non-conformity of Marxist studies on the family, and on the fundamental economic underpinnings of social and sexual life, have also contributed deeply to Labour thought. Engels’ book The Origins of the Family did not shy away from such big issues as the origins of the incest taboo, the rise of patriarchy, and the “bourgeois” family. Anthropology was in its infancy then: much theory was perched precariously on a sketchy foundation of traveller’s tales from far-flung outposts of empire; but a tradition of deep engagement with the origins of our social arrangements, and the ways in which they might be critiqued and developed for the better, has been an aspect of Labour intellectual life ever since the Party’s inception, if not always through the Party itself then through associated intellectual developments, notably the Fabian Society, the Workers’ Educational Association and the Left Book Club.

Early Fabians included the poet Edward Carpenter and sexologist Henry Havelock Ellis. Carpenter was an early LGBT activist, whose socialist vision saw sexual freedom, including free reign for consensual sexual relations between man and boy, not as the abuse of a powerless young person by a powerful older one but quite the opposite. As he proclaimed in his book The Intermediate Sex,

“Eros is a great leveller. Perhaps the true Democracy rests, more firmly than anywhere else, on a sentiment which easily passes the bounds of class and caste, and unites in the closest affection the most estranged ranks of society.”

Havelock Ellis, likewise, an esteemed figure in his day, described the sexual relations of homosexual males, including men with boys. He wrote objectively, as a scientist, without characterising such relations in terms of disease, or damning them as immoral, or criminal. He discovered through his studies that same-sex love transcends age taboos as well as those of gender.

Fast forwarding to more recent times, my own early recollections are of a Labour Party in the 1960s and 70s that actually achieved far more than I gave it credit for at the time. Looking back, I note in particular the great social and educational reforms under the leadership of Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, such as the abolishment of the death penalty and of theatre censorship, the legalisation of abortion and homosexuality and the creation of the Open University.

Roy was derided by the right as a “champagne socialist”. It seems to me he simply wanted a rich, enjoyable life for the many, not the few. Unlike today’s dour breed of censorious, mind-shrinking, PC authoritarians on the left, he was the patron saint of permission. May we do it? Yes, we may! The permissive society, he boldly declared, is the civilized society. He is even said to have been impressed by the Paedophile Information Exchange’s Evidence to the Home Office Criminal Law Revision Committee, which would effectively have led to an age of consent of 10 in most cases, plus a new system of civil law protection against relationships contrary to the best interests of the child. It may have been under PIE’s influence, indeed, that research was commissioned by the Home Office leading to an official report in which consenting underage children were described as “partners” rather than “victims” (Sexual Offenses, Consent and Sentencing, H.O. Research Study No. 54, 1979).

The big mistake of that era was not Labour’s “permissive” approach, which was always grounded in respect for others and for communal values. Nor was there anything wrong per se with the hippie mantra “make love not war”. On the contrary, there is substantial evidence from primate and human studies linking the encouragement of personal intimacy in infancy and childhood, including the unimpeded discovery of sexual expression, with peaceable, cooperative, pleasant attitudes in adult life: it’s the difference between the female-dominated bonobo world, where sex is permitted in all age and sex combinations and is actually used as a peace-making strategy, and the tough, kick-ass mentality we see exemplified in gun-loving America, where Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction at the Superbowl, exposing a nipple, apparently counts as a bigger outrage than the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in which 20 children aged between six and seven years old, and six adult staff members, lost their lives to a crazy gunman.

What remains discredited from the days of Roy Jenkins, and rightly so, is selfish, individualistic, irresponsible hedonism – a philosophy that includes the relentless pursuit of personal greed and wealth accumulation, and which belongs to the right wing not the left.

I rest my case.

 

LINKS TO THE NEWS

Fury as paedophile campaigner is allowed to join Labour party

Subscription access only. This was the story that broke the news on Tues 16 February. No indication here as to how reporter Nigel Bunyan was first on the scene, for The Times. Story gives background re Harriet Harman; Hacked Off; Heretic TOC blog, with quote from About: : “I have been at odds with ‘the dominant narrative’ of sexual morality over the last several decades”.

Paedophile campaigner who joined Labour to back Jeremy Corbyn knocked doors in a by-election campaign

Very full account in Daily Mail on 17th. Story mentions my trial in Wales last year for “abusing brothers aged nine and ten”. Says “Labour today said O’Carroll had been ‘auto excluded’ from the party following his suspension yesterday and would not have the opportunity to resign.” Quotes one of the brothers, who: “…feared he had infiltrated Labour in a bid to continue his campaign to justify paedophilia.” Briefly, I had some sexual engagement with a 10-year-old boy in the 1970s. He said in court that he had been a willing participant and I treated him “respectfully”. His younger brother, who had been present at the time, took a dim view. He is the one who initiated the case.

Notorious paedophile’s night in the pub with Barrow MP

Local paper in Barrow: Quote: “Looking back, the most disturbing thing about that meeting was how pleasant and articulate was the demeanour of this highly dangerous man – a million miles from the myth of the shifty paedophile who can be identified from his suspicious manner.” Also: “He also spent two hours debating Trident and Syria at a Christmas party at Cunningham’s, the former Furness Hotel, in Bath Street, Barrow.” Also: “The Barrow and Furness MP said: ‘The idea of him using Labour activities to get the opportunity to prey on children is sickening beyond words’.” Story says I will step down voluntarily as I do not wish to embarrass Corbyn.

Yet more paedophile questions for Labour

Daily Mail editorial: “…the suspicion is that his membership was only suspended yesterday because the Press had found out about it.” Also: “Hacked Off, of course, is backed by Max Mosley – who has never forgiven the News of the World for revealing his spanking sessions with prostitutes. Is it so surprising that O’Carroll beat a path to its door?”

Former chairman of the Paedophile Information Exchange has Labour Party membership suspended

Daily Telegraph. Nice quote from my blog site About: “My aim here is to present a discourse of resistance. That probably sounds grim, but humour and cheerfulness are my weapons of choice, along with reason and research.” Also a Profile box with details of two books: Paedophilia: The Radical Case (1980); Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Liaisons (2010). Also some quotes from Radical Case.

Tom O’Carroll: Labour suspends convicted paedophile and pro-child sex campaigner who joined party

The Independent: Followed by some interesting comments, notably from Leonard Mann and Liberationista.

Labour Suspends Pie/Hacked Off campaigner

Guido Fawkes, 16 Feb 2016: “Guido was in the room but failed to spot him among the crowd of weirdy-beardy grey-haired wrong ’uns with shared interests in shutting up the press.”

Paedo Tom O’Carroll’s plan to emulate Corbyn

Guido Fawkes, 17 Feb 2016: “O’Carroll wrote a disturbing post praising Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader, implying he wanted the paedophile movement to take inspiration from how a man with controversial views had won “respect” after decades of sticking to his principles.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

V.I.P. fiasco: you heard it here first

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So, the sensational allegations of brutal, even murderous “V.I.P. paedophilia” that were hailed as   “credible and true” by a top cop in Operation Midland, which was set up to investigate them, have now tacitly been admitted as the ravings of a fantasist by the toppest cop of the lot, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, head of the London Metropolitan Police, writing in the Guardian.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Hogan-Howe admitted that officers had been “carried away” by the prevailing dogma that complainants (or “victims” as they are so often prematurely called) must be believed. Investigating a crime properly required officers to “keep an open mind”, he said. As Luke Gittos, Law Editor of Spiked, puts it in an article that explores the wider institutional ramifications, “The announcement that the police will actually start investigating crimes, rather than just believing in them, reveals the sorry state of policing around allegations of sexual abuse.”

And what beliefs! What incredible credulity! The madness of Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald’s assertion in December 2014 that wild, bizarre allegations by a certain “Nick” were “credible and true” would have been obvious from the start to anyone less in thrall to the febrile witch-hunting spirit of our times.

This is not hindsight on my part. Just a few weeks later, in January 2015, Heretic TOC began to call the craziness for what it was, in the first of several articles based on what I just happened to know personally about the allegations. So, remember, you heard it here first! In The pencil is mightier than the sword, and then Exposé outfit murders its own credibility a couple of months later, this blog focused on allegations made by “Darren”, whose yarns, in common with “Nick’s”, were being promoted by sensationalist news agency Exaro News. So hand-in-glove was this relationship that Exaro is said to have been present when these allegators gave their police interviews.

“Darren’s” attack was on the late Peter Righton, who had served with me as a  committee member in the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE). Peter had been a senior social worker and I knew him as a very decent, kind and gentle soul. In “Darren’s” preposterous version, though, he had been a ruthless killer who had torn a man’s body apart by tying him between two vehicles which were then slowly reversed away from each other. He had even forced the victim to dig his own grave beforehand! Needless to say, this wild yarn has not been substantiated.

Scotland Yard launched Operation Midland in November 2014 after hearing claims made by “Darren’s” stablemate “Nick”, an alleged victim of child abuse. I use both names but the lurid, depraved brutality depicted is so similar in the telling they could easily have been just one person. “Nick” claimed three boys were murdered by paedophiles, including senior politicians, in Westminster in the 1970s and 1980s. Detectives, according to the Daily Mail recently, now regard him as a “Walter Mitty” fantasist.

They were not saying that last summer, when the furthest, wildest reaches of “Nick’s” fertile imagination were being fed to the slavering media. Now sexual abuse allegations were being made about the long dead Sir Edward Heath, Tory British prime minister from 1970 to 1974. Following this, the Sunday Mirror ran a story reporting on another missing dossier on V.I.P. “child sex abuse” to compete with the already fabled one supposedly compiled by the late Geoffrey Dickens MP. Attributed to Barbara Castle, a leading Labour cabinet minister in the 1970s, this new treasure trove of dirty deeds dug out of the dusty archives included the following gem. Reporter Don Hale wrote:

“We can…reveal that Heath, under investigation by seven police forces over child abuse claims, was present at more than half a dozen Westminster meetings of the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange.”

The absurdity of this claim was the subject of my blog Prime Minister was my buddy – NOT! in September. The whole ridiculous edifice began to unravel soon after this, not least when it was exposed that Tom Watson, the Labour MP who had been the prime myth peddler behind the whole theme of a Westminster V.I.P. paedophile ring cover-up – a conspiracy theory conveniently targeting the rival Conservative Party – had used the fact, as the Daily Mail put it, “that an innocent Tory MP had a paedophile relative to bolster his claims”. The Tory MP was John Whittingdale, now a leading government figure as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; his relative was Charles Napier, another former PIE committee member and friend of mine, currently in prison for what I believe to be an unjustly lengthy 13-year sentence, as I explained in Hi, this is Charles. I’ve been a naughty boy…

It has been estimated that the ill-fated Operation Midland has cost £1.8 million and taken up in excess of 80,000 hours of police time, but no charges have been brought as a result and there is speculation that the investigation will be formally wound up later this month. Worst of all, during this time the reputations of those baselessly accused, notably former MP Harvey Proctor, Field Marshall Lord Bramall – an elderly war hero and former Chief of the Defence Staff – and the recently deceased former Home Secretary Lord Brittan, were needlessly and devastatingly trashed in public. Hogan-Howe has announced that there will be an independent investigation to look into ways in which the police could have handled things better.

Blogger Anna Raccoon, known offline as retired lawyer Susanne Cameron-Blackie, sees an ulterior motive in setting up this new inquiry, as it follows hard on the heels of a report covering similar ground last year by Dame Elish Angiolini. Ms Raccoon says the real reason Hogan-Howe may want a further inquiry is perhaps that “he would really rather you didn’t read this recent and comprehensive review of Metropolitan Police Policy and behaviour towards sexual offending – a review which reveals more than it conceals for once.” Ms Raccoon is absolutely right that the 141-page Angiolini report is of great importance, as will be clear to anyone reading her blog The Presumption of Innocence yesterday, which I highly recommend, not least because it explores the origins of the police “always believe the victims” policy. There is also a lot of interesting material on the competing statistics of false allegations. She presents estimates for false allegations of rape ranging from 2% to 30%, showing why there is a basis for such wide variation, depending on who is doing the counting and what is counted. Fascinating, and very revealing.

However, the Angiolini report was not comprehensive: it focused on rape reporting and could not possibly have had anything definitive to say about Operation Midland, which was still in its early months when Dame Elish’s report appeared last April.

I was struck by the name of the man Hogan-Howe appointed to undertake this additional task:  Sir Richard Henriques, a senior lawyer. It rang a bell and then I remembered why: I had appeared before him when he was on the bench in an appeal hearing of mine before the Royal Courts of Justice in 2003. He had also been in charge of the independent inquiry relating to the late Lord Janner, producing a report that came out just last month. He ruled that the former Labour MP should have been prosecuted as long ago as 1991. Instead, he was charged much more recently, by which time he had Alzheimer’s and was deemed not fit to stand trial. He died in December, aged 87.

As it happens, Lord Janner had crossed my path too, although conspiracy theorists should not get too excited over what was a very fleeting connection. He had been plain Greville Janner then, back in the early 1970s, when he was the MP for Leicester West and I was a very inexperienced and somewhat anxious young reporter with the Leicester Mercury. He was a lively and popular MP in those days, with a reputation for being a tireless constituency worker. That was the image at least: his name seemed to be constantly in our paper for some worthy activity or another.

And it was in just such a context that I interviewed him once, on an immense stretch of derelict urban wasteland, strewn with discarded old bike frames and the like. I remember having to all but trot after him as he strode quickly over this “blasted heath”, regaling me at great speed and with infectious enthusiasm with his vision for how the land should be developed for the public good. Keen to make an accurate record, I found myself scribbling into my note book as fast as I could, but soon fell alarmingly short of being able to keep up. He never complained about my eventual report, though, so either I got it roughly right or he was just happy to get yet more good publicity.

He would definitely not have found the publicity Henriques gave him so congenial. Sir Richard was properly objective in tone, referring to “complainants” against Janner rather than “victims”, and his 46-page report is thorough, carefully detailing the nature of the complaints and what was done about them – or rather not done – by the authorities. For those very reasons, the apparent thoroughness and objectivity, the picture painted is damning.

It also surprised me, when I read it. I had somewhat assumed Janner’s name had been blackened baselessly, as with the ridiculous tall stories from “Darren” and “Nick”. But not so. The allegations against Janner were not necessarily true but those by one complainant, at least, were definitely substantial. To my mind they show that Janner was quite obviously a boy lover. Whether he actually did anything is another matter but the circumstantial evidence suggests he probably did.

Suspicion first fell on Janner in 1990, when it emerged ahead of the trial of Leicester children’s homes manager Frank Beck the following year on child sexual abuse charges, that Janner knew Beck and had a friendly relationship with a boy at one of the homes in question, starting when the boy was 13. Affectionate letters from Janner to the boy were found; there was evidence he had given the youngster expensive gifts and stayed with him on many occasions in hotel rooms around the country.

There was nothing, though, to suggest that any sex was non-consensual. There was an active relationship for a couple of years and long after that the boy, now a man in his late twenties, invited Janner to his wedding. Janner appears to have been a nice enough guy, who was just unfortunate in finding himself tangled up with Beck, who was possibly – though he too may have had a bad press – a rather nastier piece of work.

As for Sir Richard Henriques, he had risen to prominence as the lead prosecutor against the two boys who murdered the toddler James Bulger, and then later made the case against serial killer doctor Harold Shipman. Heavy stuff.

I had no idea of this weighty background when I encountered him in his role as an appeal court judge. On that occasion he was sitting with Lord Justice Scott Baker, presiding, and His Honour Judge Crowther QC, who delivered the judgment. I don’t recall Sir Richard saying a single word during the entire hearing. The judgement went against me, but in the absence of knowing what Henriques may have said to his fellow judges in their discussion of the case, I can have no complaint against him personally. I do have a story to tell about that hearing, though, but it looks as though it must wait until another time.

 

ONE SWALLOW DOESN’T MAKE A SUMMER

The good news that the Met chief has seen sense and retreated under pressure from the “believe the victims” creed does not mean anti-paedo hysteria has peaked out in Britain, sadly. The ink was barely dry on his Guardian article before other leading figures in the abuse industry were piling in to disown Hogan-Howe’s reassertion of a more traditional approach to the assessment of allegations.

One swallow, clearly, does not a summer make. Luke Gittos, in the article linked from my main blog above, explores this theme with reference to other institutions beyond the police wherein justice is being undermined by dogma. Tim Black, in another Spiked article attempts to identify the underlying force giving the hysteria its continuing energy.

Meanwhile, the hydra-headed moral panic monster sprouts another gargoyle: Paedophiles use secret Facebook groups to swap images. Enjoy!

 

PEER-TO-PEER CONNECTION

Two of my featured characters today, Lord Bramall and Lord Janner, once had an unusual peer-to-peer connection: Bramall “connected” with his fellow peer of the realm Janner by hitting him, in a room just off the House of Lords chamber! No, the pair were not love rivals for a boy, or at least that is not the official reason for the violent incident, which is said to have arisen during a heated quarrel about the Middle East. Bramall was in his early eighties at the time, Janner in his late seventies. The younger man later accepted an apology from the old (but not entirely retired!) warrior.

Standing up for justice and diversity

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Galen Baughman is a star, a master of stand-up. Not stand-up comedy, although he is surely smart enough for that, but stand-up persuasion. Telling a personal story with modest, dignified eloquence, this presentable 32-year-old weaves a narrative that artfully compels the sympathies of a mainstream audience who might be expected to loathe him, for he is speaking as a so-called “sex offender”.

He stands, alone in the spotlight, for a TEDx talk delivered late last year to college students in New York about his nine-year imprisonment for sex with a willing 14-year-old boy, and his close brush with indefinite incarceration under civil confinement as a “sexually violent predator”. His presentation was released on YouTube on 26 January.

I was alerted to this by “Salem21” in a comment here on Heretic TOC last time, and emailed my enthusiastic congratulations to Galen after seeing the video. He replied saying “…we’re hoping that this breaks 100k views in the first thirty days and really raises some eyebrows”.

It should, so you might want to click over to YouTube yourself for a bit of that action.

Galen was still a teenager himself,  a 19-year-old college student, when he fell into the clutches of the law. He had been at the University of Indiana, studying at the university’s prestigious Jacobs School of Music to become an opera singer. He was sentenced in a Virginia court in 2004 to 30 years in prison for sex with a minor after having been charged initially with soliciting sex over the internet. The younger teen was a “sexually mature” adolescent, willingly involved. The boy did not want to prosecute, but his parents did.

A Guardian report significantly describes Galen as “gay”, which these days is a liberal media signifier of good-guy status. It is possible to tell a story of state injustice against a gay person but would the same sympathy have been extended to anyone perceived as “paedophile”, as could easily have happened in this case? No way! Not in the present climate, for sure. It is to Galen’s great credit that he has managed to present himself through TEDx and elsewhere as a likeable, regular guy – gay being the new normal – without putting anyone else down. Yes, he notes the “maturity” of his erstwhile boy partner, but the title of his talk, “Are we all sex offenders?”, hints at a bigger message, a message that is truly big on inclusivity and diversity.

The state, he says – and as all of us here know only too well – has gone crazily punitive, especially in the sex-law field, with more and more people, including children, being labelled as sex offenders for offences that give no offence, and for crimes that are not criminal. Instead of being reserved for a relatively small number of cases in which real harm is caused to real victims, the state lashes out indiscriminately with draconian measures. Anyone could be a sex offender, so the term becomes meaningless.

Because the laws have become so overly broad, he says, and because so few people commit a new crime after release, a child is “more likely to be labelled a sex offender, than to be abused by a sex offender” – and if that isn’t a killer observation I don’t know what could be.

Part of Galen’s long sentence had originally been suspended by the judge, meaning that after six and a half years he was due to be released. But the authorities told him they thought he might be too dangerous to let go. In 2007 he was informed he might qualify for civil commitment. A psychologist eventually arrived at the prison to conduct an assessment interview, to decide whether he was a “sexually violent predator”. He refused to answer questions unless he had a lawyer present. Instead of allowing the state to stitch him up with a biased official report, Galen hoped to introduce testimony from his own expert witness, a leading doctor who would have said he was not suffering from any condition making him likely to engage in sexually violent acts.

Galen took his case to a jury trial in a Virginia court. Even though the judge refused to allow evidence from Galen’s own medical expert, a jury of six women and one man decided he was not likely to be a “sexually violent predator”, thereby removing the rationale for holding him indefinitely in civil commitment.

He was the first person in Virginia ever to win such a civil commitment jury trial, and one of only a few nationally. He was released on probation, and subject to a state policy based on a “containment model” involving polygraphs and therapy sessions with a great deal of intrusive non-confidential questioning (anything said to a therapist could end up on a prosecutor’s desk) about sexual behaviour, including masturbation.

He wanted to resume his studies at the Jacobs School of Music but being on probation meant he needed permission from the governors of both states, Virginia and Indiana, to move from one state to  the other. He managed to overcome the Virginia block, but didn’t have enough political clout in Indiana to secure their cooperation. It would have needed plenty: after all, what state governor would want to be seen letting in a sex offender?

He does not drive a car because he fears any cop who runs his plate will notice he is on the sex offender registry and look for a reason to pull him over, if only to harass him. He still had six years on probation ahead of him at the time of the Guardian’s story in September 2013.

But all is not gloom. For Galen, unlike many whose lives are so routinely trashed by an uncaring system, there would appear to be a future in advocacy.

Following his release in 2012, Galen Baughman spent two years as the Director of Communications at International CURE, a grassroots advocacy organization, where he focused on policy analysis, direct advocacy, messaging strategies and grassroots organizing.

More recently, he resigned from CURE when he was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship. That’s Soros as in George Soros, the fabled progressive-liberal business magnate and philanthropist behind Open Society Foundations (OSF) an international grant-making network. The fellowship sees him at the Human Rights Defense Center, embedded in DC with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs. He is working to end the practice of civilly committing youth as sexually violent predators. He is a campaign strategist on issues related to sex offender policy and trains advocates around the country to build movements against mass incarceration.

He is a JustLeadershipUSA 2015 Leading with Conviction cohort member, and also serves on the Board of Directors for the Center for Sexual Justice.

Not bad, eh, for a guy who lost almost the whole decade of his twenties behind bars?

You might also like to read his article “Questionable Commitments”, published by the Cato Institute, which looks at the history and development of civil commitment.

 

ROOM WITHOUT A VIEW

If word reaches you that the first half of a two-hour movie is set almost entirely in a single small room and has garnered four Oscar nominations, your curiosity might be piqued. Mine was when I heard BBC film critic Mark Kermode raving about Room, an abduction drama that he rightly insisted, repeatedly, “is not what you think”.

What Kermode thinks we will think is that it’s all about “Old Nick” (Sean Bridgers), the evil abductor of a young woman who is kept locked in a windowless garden shed (there is just a skylight) and routinely raped for years on end while her toddler son is kept out of the way in a cupboard. Plus an escape drama in which the plucky kidnap victim triumphs against the odds.

Room has these elements but they are not the point. This is not a simple goodies and baddies story. The first half focuses not on the kidnapper or his dastardly deeds but on the small room where the victims are held captive, hence the title, and how mother and child make a life for themselves there – a surprisingly bearable one for the child as an infant because this is his whole world and he knows no other, except through the screen of a small TV. Indeed, the illusion that no other world exists is one the mother strives to maintain for the child as long as it is viable, much like the fiction of Santa Claus. In the second half, once the obvious baddy has been vanquished, subtler issues present themselves.

To say much more risks a spoiler so let’s switch focus to an Oscar nomination Room deserved but did not get: Best Actor in a Leading Role, for Jacob Tremblay, who is now nine, was seven as shooting started and plays the little boy, Jack, as a five-year-old. He is on screen for almost the entire movie and carries it off with apparently effortless perfection: not a single syllable or gesture is strained or unconvincing. In truth this probably owes a lot to director Lenny Abrahamson, up for Best Director, who allowed Tremblay to ad lib: an imaginative child will say interesting things that a kid would say and do things a kid would do better than any adult could script it – although another of the nominations is for Best Adapted Screenplay, by Emma Donoghue, from her own best-selling novel of the same title. Another is for Brie Larson, as Jack’s mother, “Ma”, who is nominated for Best Actress.

The film is also up for Best Picture, for Irish producer Ed Guiney, and I would put in a special word for Joan Allen as Grandma, and Tom McCamus, in a small but significant role as Grandma’s wise and sympathetic boyfriend. He is kind, and could easily be Kind.

Ultimately, though, it may be thought that no movie, even a beautifully crafted “arthouse” offering such as Room, would win plaudits in Hollywood without conforming rather tightly to mainstream mores. A film can ask some big questions, as this one does, about what it means to be a good parent and a good person, but it cannot afford to hint at the “wrong” answers. It cannot be subversive. That may be so, but this is a film worth seeing for all that.

 

ETHICAL  CARTOGRAPHY

Like Galen Baughman’s work, Cart O’Graph’s new channel on YouTube is far better than Hollywood for delivering usefully subversive content. Our host makes use of his moral compass to guide us over the ethical territory he has mapped out in over half a dozen videos so far. He writes:

“On this channel, I provide information and make rational arguments on the topic of Minor Attraction and Child Sexuality. I also speak with people who are Kind, to show that we are human beings. If possible, I will also engage non MAPs in discussions or debates. This is an informative channel, but I do hope to entertain as well.”

I checked out “Is Minor Attraction Wrong?”, a 12-minute talk piece, illustrated with well chosen stills, including wittily amusing ones. Cart, if I may be so familiar as to use his first name (!), modestly disclaims much knowledge of philosophy, but argues reasonably and presents some useful information. He cites James Prescott’s work, familiar to many of us here, on the link between a sexually repressive upbringing and the genesis of harsh, aggressive, violent attitudes and behaviours as kids grow up, and into adulthood.

He also mentions an “Express newspapers” report comparing the benign upbringing of French children, who typically get a lot of parental and other adult affection, including kissing, with that of their less fortunate American counterparts. Good information, but I found myself wanting to know the research source it was based on, or an exact reference for the press report at the very least.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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