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!
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.