Pantomime villain for a Whitehall farce

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Not since the glory days of Whitehall farce has there been such a long-running theatrical success in London for unsophisticated comedy as we have been getting lately from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

The  plays famously staged by actor-manager Brian Rix half a century ago had them rolling in the aisles with comedy based on the embarrassment of silly characters being caught with their pants down in compromising situations. Much like that, IICSA was been caught playing a very silly game of musical chairpersons, in which a chair was snatched from under the bottoms of three successive lady judges, leaving them humiliatingly dumped on their judicial posteriors and out of the proceedings. Oh, how we laughed! See Heretic TOC’s “review” of the “show”: “The chair is dead, long live the chair!”

And then there was the barrister who dropped his briefs. Allegedly. The QC appointed as counsel to the inquiry suddenly found himself suspended from his job after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a lift – not very elevating! He was later cleared in a separate inquiry of any wrongdoing but then – what a rib-tickler this was – yet another inquiry decided the earlier inquiry had failed to inquire sufficiently, or in the right way.

The big difference between those original Whitehall farces and IICSA’s comedy of errors, of course, is that the latter laughs are an entirely unintended aspect of what are supposed to be deeply serious proceedings.

But the worlds of London theatre in the 1950s and the public inquiry theatricals now in progress have another major feature in common apart from the laughs. Those Brian Rix plays were performed at the Whitehall Theatre, close to the old Palace of Whitehall and hence right at the heart of the UK’s government and political complex, as summed up in the words “Whitehall” and “Westminster” – parliament being housed, of course, in the nearby Palace of Westminster.

Which is where the pantomime villain of my headline makes his timely entry, just as the panto season is coming up. And who should that villain be but – wait for it – ME!

Boo! Hiss!

Let me explain. Among the dozen or so separate strands of investigation on IICSA’s packed agenda is the Westminster one, which is probing “child sexual abuse” (CSA) and exploitation “involving people of public prominence associated with Westminster”. This strand will look into “evidence of conspiracy, cover-up, interference or tolerance” of CSA  committed by Westminster V.I.P.s, and whether “governmental, political and law enforcement institutions were aware of and took appropriate  steps; and whether there are adequate safeguarding and child protection policies in place within political parties, government departments and agencies”.

About a month ago I received an official communication from IICSA’s chief solicitor requesting me to submit evidence to the inquiry specifically in relation to this Westminster strand. Why? To respond to utterly farcical, laughably ridiculous conspiracy theory allegations to the effect that back in the day, in the 1970s and 80s, the government was being run by a secret paedophile elite with links to the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), an organisation I led for a number of years.

Boo! Hiss!

Blimey, I thought, in my old-fashioned way, you’re  ’avin’ a laugh, gov, ain’t ya? What’s a small-time villain like me, an ’umble felon just like Fagin, hanging about with his little gang of boy pick-pockets,  gonna be doin’ a-mingling with proper gentlemen like that? We might nick their fancy silk handkerchiefs, if we’re lucky, but that’s as close as it gets.

But public inquiries do not Have A Laugh. Distinctly challenged in the sense of humour department, they tend to be In Deadly Earnest. So when IICSA solicitor Martin Smith posted me a list of 10 specific questions about PIE’s alleged Westminster connections, I knew it was not to be taken lightly.

I could have ignored the letter. It was only a request for a response, after all, not a command. There was no suggestion – not at this stage at least – that I might be subpoenaed to appear in person and interrogated under oath. Nor was I in any sort of trouble, having been jailed long ago for my supposed misdeeds: this time they had bigger fish to fry, or so the conspiracy theorists wildly imagined.

Anyway, I decided there would be no harm in addressing these questions soberly and seriously, just as IISCA must have hoped. At the same time, though, I decided, this was a fantastic opportunity to give the inquiry a piece of my mind. So, after a lot of hard work in recent weeks, some of it spent digging out old PIE documents and going through them, a few days ago I submitted 10,000 words of evidence. Roughly the first third was taken up with answering Mr Smith’s questions. The rest ranged more widely, attacking the absurdity of the conspiracy theorists’ wider allegations, especially as regards PIE, the insanity of the “believe the victims” dogma, the deranged narcissism of extremists within the victim lobby, the rising tide of toxic victim feminism over several decades and the appalling waste of time and money going into IICSA’s utterly bogus, vulgar, populist activities.

Have I missed anything? Probably, but you get the drift.

The key questions on PIE were on whether we had members who were MPs, lords, or other “persons of public prominence” associated with Westminster, and on whether the organisation ever received government funding.

My answers are very full and forthcoming. Names are named! Secrets are revealed! But if you think I am going to blurt it all out here and now you can think again. I shan’t do that because I feel it is more important here to focus not on the questions the inquiry were asking but on the ones they are desperate to avoid. Not to worry, though, because I have posted my entire evidence here. Enjoy!

So, what is IICSA trying to avoid? Essentially, yet more embarrassment. Or, rather, embarrassment of a selective kind. The inquiry is perfectly happy to expose past institutional shortcomings. That is at the heart of its declared purpose, and fulfilling that purpose is bound to embarrass those who were in charge at the time.

That’s the good embarrassment, if you will, but there is also a bad sort: IICSA doesn’t want to see itself become nothing more than a laughing stock; nor does it want to dwell on police chiefs, politicians and others who have become an embarrassment to its own aims lately – people who have made fools of themselves or worse either by taking the “believe the victims” credo too far, or by generating baseless conspiracy theories that have come unstuck.

For instance, IICSA has decided not to talk about the collapse of Operation Midland, set up by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in 2014 to investigate lurid and very far-fetched allegations of sexual assault, brutality and murder by paedophiles in high places. The operation was closed in 2016 when it was eventually concluded that the star witness, a supposed victim named publicly only as “Nick”, was just a fantasist who had led the police up the garden path.

One good reason for IICSA to avoid this issue at the moment is that it is presently before the courts: “Nick” has been charged with perverting the course of justice and is due to stand trial in March. But the inquiry could easily wait until after the trial. In its preliminary hearing on the Westminster strand IICSA gave other reasons, too, the decisive one being “that possible failings in these police investigations are remote from the central purpose of this inquiry”.

To me this sounds like an excuse. It enables IICSA to dodge the key issue – very much central to its inquiries – of the basis on which you decide that “victims” really are victims. At once time, and quite properly, accused persons were deemed innocent until proven guilty in court, and those making allegations of a crime against themselves were called “complainants” not “victims”, right up until the court verdict. This presumption of innocence was grievously undermined when the MPS proclaimed in a joint report with the NSPCC that those who had made complaints against the late TV star Jimmy Savile should be called victims rather than complainants even though no case had ever been brought to trial and Savile was no longer around to defend himself.

This “believe the victim” tendency reached it apogee when Supt Kenny McDonald, the head of Operation Midland, said the police believed the accuser “Nick” and declared that his claims were “credible and true”. They were neither. Anyone with an ounce of common sense could have seen that the claims were ridiculous. While it would have been wrong simply to laugh “Nick” out of the police station when he first made his complaint – some investigation was in order – the unforgiveable folly was to put dogma above evidence by declaring the claims to be true when that could only properly have been a matter for a court to decide.

It may also be significant – in terms of IICSA avoiding embarrassment – that missing from the 10 questions put to me by the inquiry was anything about the fanciful allegations trumpeted by tabloid journalist Don Hale, although these claims had been mentioned in the preliminary hearings.

Sunday Times journalist James Gillespie asked me about Hale’s claims in an interview I gave him by email in 2015. He wrote:

The journalist Don Hale, who claims [1970s politician] Barbara Castle gave him a “dossier” alleging a number of politicians were active supporters of PIE, says [former prime minister] Ted Heath regularly attended meetings. He also says that the late Tory MP Rhodes Boyson would distribute [PIE’s] Magpie magazine and organise speakers in support of PIE. Further, he claims that PIE had an office in Westminster staffed by two people. Is any of this true?

Most of it was so ridiculous that, as I replied to Gillespie, it hardly seemed to require any rebuttal from me. I added that “I will do my best to spell out why these claims are such nonsense, although the conspiracy addicts cannot be expected to listen.”

The only half-true bit is that my successor as chair of PIE, Steve Smith (now Freeman) did indeed have an office in Westminster, in the basement of the Home Office no less, where he worked with another PIE member! But it was most definitely the government’s office, not PIE’s, and the PIE members were not PIE staff: they were paid to do work there for the government. Yes, it sounds odd and so it was. Some heretics may recall that I blogged about it.

As regards the preposterous claim that Edward Heath, Conservative prime minister in the early 1970s, had attended PIE meetings, it ignored the fact that our leanings and contacts were clearly on the Left of British politics, far away from Ted’s Tories on the Right. The same flaw in Hale’s claims applies to an even greater extent in the case of Rhodes Boyson, who was a hard-liner on the Right of his party, a former headmaster who had been very keen on stern discipline and favoured caning as a punishment. In PIE we were utterly against that, as shown by a magazine we had that was devoted to children’s rights, where we took an explicit stance against such corporal punishment.

The fact that so many of the allegations made by the likes of Don Hale, “Nick” and others have remained unsubstantiated and have rightly been judged fake news, ought to be a massive embarrassment to IICSA. One would think so, given that the inquiry appears to be taking such “news” mighty seriously, rather than exercising healthy scepticism.

By the time the IICSA has digested my extensive witness statement, they may well conclude it would be unwise to call me to give evidence in person at the public hearing scheduled for March (fixture clash here with the trial of “Nick”!) on the Westminster strand precisely because I might give voice to unwelcome scepticism. In comments made here at Heretic TOC a few days ago (27 Nov @ 14:02), I mentioned the possibility of finding myself in “hand-to-hand combat” with Prof. Alexis Jay, who handled the famous inquiry into street grooming in Rotherham. She is now in charge of IICSA as the inquiry’s fourth chair, so we could certainly come face-to-face in the proceedings.

Once the barrister dealing with the Westminster strand, who appears to be Andrew O’Connor QC, has read my evidence, he will be aware that my scepticism extends to the work of Prof. Jay herself. In my submission I noted she had “conducted what became a very high-profile report on Rotherham, concluding that at least 1,400 children were subjected to sexual exploitation there between 1997 and 2013”. She won’t like what I said, including several paragraphs casting doubt on the claim that all of those 1,400 “victims” were really victims. Among them, I said, were those who, far from wanting to be rescued from their “abusers”, saw Prof. Jay’s work as an unwelcome interference with their private lives. Come to think of it, I can’t see anyone at IICSA’s theatre of fantastical abuse nightmares wanting me to turn up and get them “woke”.

Boo! Hiss!

 

 

 

 

 

 

People who live in glass houses…

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Today Heretic TOC welcomes a debut guest blogger, “David”,  who is a 50-year-old security officer from Southern England and a  spare-time student of current affairs, politics, history, and religion. He deplores the use of paedophilia by the Far Right as a stick to beat Muslims with, attacking the hypocrisy of some key figures. The Far Left does not escape his critical attention either. 

ISLAM, RIGHT-LEFT EXTREMIST POLITICS AND PAEDOPHILIA

Islam is one of the world’s major religions with more than one billion faithful followers and growing rapidly across the globe with every year. We are all familiar with the media demonisation of ordinary law-abiding Muslims as a result of the actions of the “Islamist” extremist minority. In recent years Muslims have also come under attack from UK Far-Right groups such as the British National Party, National Front, Britain First, English Defence League, Infidel groups and so on, who criticise Islam as a “paedophile religion” due to the fact that the Prophet Muhammad was married to a child bride, Aisha when she was six years old and he consummated the marriage with her when she was nine years old:

The Far-Right organisations in Britain also point to the much-publicised Rotherham case of alleged ‘child abuse’ involving men of predominantly Pakistani Muslim heritage.

However, the UK Far-Right so-called “Christian” anti-Islamic groups choose not to publicise the following facts:

  • It was legal in medieval Christian England and Europe to marry…child brides! “…in 1396, Richard II of England was joined in marriage to young Isabel of France, who had been 7 years old when their engagement was announced the previous year in Paris. Not only was there no uproar; there was considerable happiness expressed over the assumed probability that this marriage would end the Hundred Year’s War then in one of its periodic states of truce between the two kingdoms. Peace was to be ensured by joining together this man and this little girl in marriage.” – John McLaughlin, “Medieval Child Marriage: Abuse of Wardship?” (Paper delivered at Plymouth State College, Plymouth, NH Conference on Medieval Studies, April, 1997)
  • The British National Front (NF) organised violent demonstrations against the London meetings of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) during the 1970s and yet…the NF had paedophile members of their own party at the same time! Was this a case of NF hypocrisy, “do as we say not as we do”, or more a case of the extreme right-wing NF being opposed to the progressive left-of-centre causes championed by PIE such as Gay Liberation, and due to PIE’s links with the National Council for Civil Liberties (now known as Liberty) and the Labour Party, perceived as enemies by the Front? Or would the NF claim they had been “infiltrated by paedophiles”? Judge for yourself:
  • Quote: “Hughie Porter (NF Leicester Branch activist) was a particularly unsavoury character with several convictions for child molesting, another fact known but tolerated by the local NF leadership.” – Ray Hill and Andrew Bell, The Other Face of Terror: Inside Europe’s Neo-Nazi Network (Grafton Books 1988)
  •  “… Contrary to popular belief, there are boy-lovers of almost every political persuasion. Two former members of the National Front (British equivalent of the Nazi Party) were recently convicted here of having had sex with a thirteen-year-old boy. One man, Colin London, a former fish shop manager, received a two-year sentence, and the other, Harold Nash, a former company director, one year. SOURCE: Gay News, September, 1979.” – PAN (bi-monthly magazine published by Spartacus, Amsterdam), Vol.1, No. 3 November, 1979. This issue also includes an interesting letter from a correspondent regarding NF radical extremist, Robert Relf’s imprisonment and solitary confinement in the “leper wing” with paedophile prisoners where he relates the shocking ill-treatment meted out to them and he claimed “food sent to the wing was contaminated by other prisoners (real criminals) with urine and spit” and “Hot cocoa is also poured over them.”
  • The late Colin Jordan, the founder and leader of the neo-Nazi British Movement (BM) was found to be listed on documents as a “VIP guest” seized by police investigating alleged “paedophile sex parties” at Elm Guest House in London, along with named Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum, Sinn Fein activists and leading members of the Right-wing Conservative Monday Club. Jordan was fined £50 in June 1975 for shoplifting women’s underwear from the Leamington Spa branch of Tesco (despite his virulently anti-Semitic movement being opposed to “Jewish-founded supermarkets and department stores”), and he resigned soon afterwards as BM “fuhrer” to be replaced by his deputy Michael McLaughlin who launched a purge of alleged “perverts”. Roger Gleaves, a paedophile Bishop of the Old Catholic Church, who was recently released from imprisonment for alleged “child rape” offences had founded the Keep Britain Great/Keep Britain White Campaign in 1962, the same year that Jordan formed the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM). (Note that Ernst Rohm, the homosexual chief of the Nazi Brownshirts was caught in bed with a 15-year-old boy during the Night of the Long Knives clampdown on Hitler’s revolutionary rivals in 1934).
  • In 1950, Alf Flockart, Organising Secretary of Sir Oswald Mosley’s neo-fascist British Union Movement (UM) was sentenced to two years imprisonment for having sex with a youth in a public lavatory in London.
  • Martin Webster, who was the homosexual NF National Activities Organiser during the 1970s (when PIE members were attacked by the NF) was rumoured to have written a love letter to a young boy and homophobic NF members left the party in droves – Webster himself was expelled from the Front during the 1980s.

In more recent times, Left-wing anti-fascist websites such as Hope Not Hate have publicised the following cases of alleged Far-Right paedophiles (just as, Right-wing websites such as Labour25 have publicised cases of alleged Far-Left paedophiles – members of the Labour Party, and Marxist figures such as “Comrade Bala” of the Brixton Maoist “sex cult”, “Comrade Delta” aka Martin Smith of the Socialist Workers Party and the late Gerry Healy of the Workers Revolutionary Party, who were put under the media spotlight for alleged sexual abuse of young women and girls):

  • Martyn Gilleard was a paid up member of the NF, White Nationalist Party and the British People’s Party who was found to have more than 39,000 images of children on his computer, and during 2011, Michael Cowen, a NF member was caught by police with 17,058 images of children, 215 videos, and he made contact with other paedophiles on social networking sites.
  • English Defence League member, Co-Founder and Organiser, Richard Price, was convicted of possessing images of children. The EDL released a statement that he was a “political prisoner”.
  • Liam Pinkham, an active member of the North West Infidels (NWI) Islamophobic group admitted to having a relationship with a 15-year-old girl.
  • Britain First (BF) and EDL activist, John Broomfield was convicted of possessing images of children.
  • During 2012, Ryan Fleming, an activist of the neo-Nazi National Action group was alleged to have been involved in the sexual assault of a teenage boy.
  • British National Party (BNP) members and supporters who have convictions for possessing images of children and engaging in sexual activity with children include: Nigel Hesmondhalgh, Ian Hindle, Andrew Wells, Roderick Rowley, Ian Si’Ree, Darren Francis and Gavin Leist.
  • The former leader of the EDL, Stephen Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) wrote on Twitter to a young girl called “Asianish”: “your pretty fit for a muslim” to which she replied: “I’m 15 and you got the cheek to call muslims paedo’s”.
  • Right-wing populist United Kingdom Independence Party paedophile members have included UKIP party aide, Aaron Knight, who was jailed in 2016 for alleged sexual activity with a seven-year-old boy, and former Bury UKIP chairman, Peter Entwistle, who was gaoled in 2014 for alleged grooming of children and having 200,000 images of children.
  • The late controversial Right-wing Tory MP, Enoch Powell was recently accused by the Church of England (itself having paedophile members of its own clergy) of being involved in lurid allegations of “Satanic child sex abuse” without any real proof.

All this is disturbingly reminiscent of the allegations and trial by media surrounding the late politicians Cyril Smith (Liberal MP), Leon Brittan (Tory MP and Home Secretary), Lord Greville Janner (Labour MP and Peer), Edward Heath (Conservative Prime Minister) and Clement Freud (Liberal MP), who are also no longer alive and so unable to defend themselves in a court of law. One Tory Right-winger and supporter of Powell who was able to successfully challenge the far-fetched and ludicrous accusations of child abuse and murder which were made against him by a suspected serial fantasist called “Nick” is former MP, Harvey Proctor, and Operation Midland was closed down by police as a result.

So dear reader, you may well ask what is the point of this article? As issue No.3 of PAN (an acronym of Paedophile Alert News/Paedophile Action Network) previously quoted made clear, paedophiles and child-lovers can hold a wide range of political views, including those of the anti-fascist Left, Far-Right, UKIP, Liberal, Labour or Conservative, and are also represented in all religions and none. However, the leaderships of the Far-Right movements need to stop hypocritically attacking “Muslim paedophiles” (as the British hard-right groups used to mainly attack “Jewish paedophiles” and still do, with less frequency) when they have paedophile members of their own extreme Right organisations, just as the Far-Left groups need to think twice and consider their own paedophile supporters before demonising all paedophiles and tarring them with the neo-Nazi brush.

 

 

Finding the right lawyer: a tricky task

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In response to Standing up for justice and diversity earlier this year, Heretic TOC received a comment containing a request for some advice about UK lawyers for “people in our situation” if they face prosecution “for their heretic views”. In response, I wrote:

Officially, no one is prosecuted for their views alone in the UK. Having been on the wrong end of several ideologically motivated prosecutions, though, I have no dispute with the inquirer’s way of putting it. Without getting too bogged down, it is obvious that being Kind, or simply expressing radical views, can lead to all sorts of trouble, in employment, etc. Often there will be a need for a good lawyer, where there is a prosecution or not.

This is an important matter to which I have been giving quite a bit of thought in recent months, not least after a friend suggested setting up a database of sympathetic lawyers.

The legal world is in turmoil at the moment, thanks largely to a squeeze on Legal Aid and reforms by former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling that are now being rapidly undone by his successor Michael Gove. We will need to see how things pan out in the coming months because, sadly, there are good lawyers out there who may not last very long.

I was asked if I would blog on the subject. It’s a tough one. I could name a number of good lawyers but they might not be right for everyone, depending on the case, the location and so on. Partly it is a matter of the turmoil described above, but there is also a major misconception to deal with.

Be warned, what I am about to say is very counter-intuitive and hence hard to believe. People facing criminal charges for alleged sex offences think they need a sympathetic lawyer, but it ain’t necessarily so. Yes, you need someone you can get on with and who is not rude or overtly hostile. But you don’t need someone who agrees with your view of sexuality. And if you wait for one of those to come along you could be in for a long wait.

I talked about this to a solicitor I have known for decades. He gave the example of republicans in Northern Ireland before the peace agreement. Very often, he said, when they were in trouble for suspected terrorism, they were most effectively represented in the courts by lawyers who were not fellow republicans who wanted to see a united Ireland but “loyalists”, i.e. those loyal to the British Crown and state. In other words they did well when they chose their lawyers from the enemy side! So sympathy is neither necessary nor sufficient for good representation even if it makes us feel better at the time.

That said, a database of lawyers who have put in a good performance as judged by Kind clients would undoubtedly be helpful, and I expect to be in discussions about this in the coming year with interested parties. But there is no reason why a start should not be made right now. Accordingly, Heretic TOC would be hugely interested in hearing from anyone with a story to tell about their experiences, good or bad, with lawyers. Instead of posting in the Comments section you can email me here: tomocarr66@yahoo.co.uk

In the meantime, if you find yourself in trouble for a suspected criminal offence the first lawyer you see will almost inevitably be a duty solicitor at a police station following your arrest. But make sure you ask to see a solicitor: the police sometimes “forget” to tell you that you have the right to free legal advice if you are questioned at a police station. You don’t need to pay anything in the UK as Legal Aid is automatic at this initial point in the proceedings.

Unless you already have alternative legal representation lined up, the duty solicitor will be the person who takes your case through its first stage, including your extremely important initial interview with police, when your solicitor may well advise you to say nothing at all except “No comment” in response to each question. This may seem uncooperative and go against your natural inclination to give an innocent explanation of your conduct, but it is a very sound tactic which saves countless clients from opening their mouth and putting their foot in it.

Provided you manage to get out on police bail you will then be able to ponder whether the duty solicitor’s firm is the best one to stick with, either via Legal Aid or going private. If it is your first time in trouble, you probably won’t be in a position to judge the quality of the legal advice you are given, but that doesn’t mean you just have to leave everything to the lawyers and hope for the best.

Right from the outset, in the police station, there will be indicators of whether you are getting a proper service, and you will be able to assess these for yourself. As indicated above, don’t look for sympathy towards your views. Rather, what you should be getting at this stage is a calm, unrushed, private talk with the solicitor ahead of any police interview. This is your opportunity to put your legal advisor fully in the picture. Until they know all the relevant available facts they will not be best placed to give you good advice. In the course of outlining your account, the attentive lawyer will be taking notes and asking you to clarify points where necessary.

Probably in a state of shock after a dawn raid on your home and several hours in a police cell, you may well be too shattered to ask your lawyer many questions just yet. If you do, though, you will quickly get an impression as to whether they are answered carefully, clearly and patiently. When finally you are bailed and hit the fresh air of the street there will be mixed emotions: relief to be at liberty again along with dread over what is to come. After that, when you get home, there may well be a period of emotional overload and mental paralysis when you simply cannot think straight.

But then the questions will start to crowd in. You will need to talk to your lawyer. At this point, indeed as soon as you can bring yourself to do it, you should make a detailed note of everything you can remember your lawyer telling you. Inevitably, there will be things you didn’t fully grasp or key “what comes next” points you are foggy about. So you should  make a list of your questions and phone your solicitor to arrange an appointment for discussing them, if one has not been already arranged. You will soon find how easy or difficult it is to communicate with the firm from home: Do they answer the phone or emails promptly? Do they put you through to your solicitor or are they perpetually in court or speaking to another client? Do messages left with a secretary actually get dealt with by the boss in a reasonable time?

Under the financially pinched Legal Aid system in the UK these days, publically funded defence lawyers cannot make a living unless they have a rapid turnover of cases, with not a lot of time given to each one. So there is always a danger of being given “the bum’s rush”. It does not necessarily mean the lawyer is not a good lawyer or that they do not care. But it may do. So you will usually be better off going private if you can afford it.

Also, you will have to consider your eligibility for Legal Aid. For guidance on who qualifies see here. There is also a calculator so you can work out the financial side of your eligibility based on your own personal means.

If you apply for Legal Aid there will generally be a short period of at least a few days, and possibly two or three weeks, before you sign the application form, because the application must include a declaration of your financial means, and time must be allowed for you to come up with the details. Do not wait passively. This is a window of opportunity for you. If you are already getting vibes that the duty solicitor isn’t up to much, or is not right for your case, this is your chance to look into alternatives. Once Legal Aid is granted you will not be allowed to change to another solicitor on a legally aided basis unless the circumstances are very exceptional, so speed is of the essence.

If someone personally recommends another solicitor, by all means consider the suggestion seriously,  but do bear in mind it’s a matter of horses for courses: the guy who did a brilliant job on your mate’s divorce settlement is unlikely to have relevant experience in the criminal courts.

Fortunately, a more systematic way of finding the right kind of recommended lawyer is nowadays available through free online sources. You could do worse than checking out the major reference guides. Try Legal 500 or Chambers or both. The choice will often be large and somewhat bewildering, but if you stick to firms listed in these sources, and also named individual solicitors and barristers, you can be reasonably sure of getting advice that is sound in law and based on an experienced understanding of how the courts work in practice.

In Legal 500 (Chambers is quite similar), firms are ranked according to location and practice area; leading individuals in each field are also listed. Every firm ranked – and every individual mentioned – in The Legal 500 UK is “recommended”. This does not mean they are handing out recommendations indiscriminately, regardless of quality: only a small selection of firms and practising lawyers get any sort of mention.

After reaching the Legal 500 link given above, what you need to do is first select the region where you live in the UK – or in other countries, because coverage is global – then in the “Editorial” column you choose the relevant specialism, “Crime, fraud and licensing”, and then the sub-menu “Crime: general”. Unfortunately, you probably will not find much specific reference to firms or individual solicitors specialising in sex cases, although this varies a bit from region to region. And the merits of individual solicitors tend to be touted in rather bland terms such as “well respected”, “top-notch” and “excellent”, which do not offer much scope for choosing between them. On the other hand, the guide does specify which firms and individuals are considered best, in rank order.

What you are looking for in a solicitor, though, is not a specialist. You just want someone who is conscientiously attentive to your case, as shown by listening to you carefully, explaining things clearly and getting all sorts of stuff done in good time at each stage of the proceedings. One of these tasks, if your case goes to the Crown Court, will be to advise on who will be your advocate in court. These days, it may be the solicitor him or herself, if they are qualified as a Solicitor Advocate. But often a barrister will be the best choice. Legal 500 (and Chambers) has plenty of information on barristers, giving you an opportunity to check out the one recommended by your solicitor and probe whether one or two others with an impressive-looking track record might be better. Above all, discuss the options: make your solicitor say why their own choice is best, and ask yourself whether they are just taking the easy option i.e. we are recommending Mr Bumpole because he’s the guy we always use, so we don’t have to spend time thinking about it.

In the crucial early days when you are still trying to find the right solicitor, though, choice of counsel will not yet even figure on your To Do list. I mention it just to give a fuller idea of what the listings guides have to offer. Also, while I am on the subject, I will take a particular barrister listed in Legal 500 to illustrate a key point about choosing lawyers in general. The point is this: while reputation is important, and you should think about going for the best, there is nothing automatic about the outcome. Even the most brilliant and persuasive lawyer in the land can come a cropper. That’s the bad news. But the good news – the very good news – is that even your ordinary, average, local law firm can often get good results, especially if you take an energetic interest in your own case. Look things up online after your solicitor has mentioned them, about such as information about your Defence Statement, the relevant Sentencing Guideline, etc., and make it clear, through polite but persistent questioning, especially by phone and email, that you expect them to be really on top of your case at all times. They won’t get you off if you are plainly guilty, but where there is a viable defence case they will be able to engage competent barristers capable of winning contested trials; and in the more usual case, where a guilty plea is advisable, they will be capable of very important damage limitation.

Now for that particular barrister in Legal 500: Orlando Pownall QC. A former Crime Silk of the Year, he is clearly a man right at the top of his profession, which is presumably why he was chosen to defend Premiership footballer Adam Johnson, for whom, one supposes, money would be no object. I discussed Johnson’s case recently, before he was sentenced, in ‘Paedophile’ soccer star did fuck all. I said his “crime” was trivial and that despite a great clamour for a draconian sentence, Pownall’s cleverly “feminist” defence strategy might just find favour with the judge.

It did not. Poor Johnson was hammered with a six-year sentence.

Was the bad result Pownall’s fault? Hard to assess without knowing all the details, but I’d say not. It was just one of those high-profile cases in which a weak judge succumbed to the court of public opinion, or rather its most hysterically screeching elements. But, hey, the case has now gone to appeal, so there may yet be a slightly less unhappy ending.

 

NOW FOR SOME SERIOUSLY DODGY SOLICITORS…

Justice Lowell Goddard’s Everlasting Story, otherwise described in the Guardian as her “independent inquiry into institutional failures to protect children over many decades in England and Wales”, finally got under way last month. We are told this threatens to be a series of no less than 25 investigations, leaving every possibility they will not all be finished 25 years from now at a cost of surely more than £25 million and possibly more than ten times that amount if the cost of at least one other long inquiry is anything to go by.

First up is a probe focusing on the late Greville Janner, who featured in Heretic TOC’s V.I.P. fiasco: you heard it here first.  The Guardian piece says solicitor Liz Dux, at Slater and Gordon Lawyers, will be representing nine complainants against Janner.

But will she? Dux is a familiar figure in the media, and multinational law firm Slater and Gordon has long been a major go-to outfit for compo-hunting “abuse victims”. Not necessarily for much longer. If Anna Raccoon is right, the firm is in deep financial trouble and may soon collapse. Who knows, they might even end up being sued by their own clients for leaving them in the lurch!

 

AND SOME SERIOUSLY DODGY CLAIMS…

Remember “Darren”? The nutter who claimed my late friend Peter Righton was a brutal murderer? He has finally ’fessed up to lying about that, saying he was he was “coerced and manipulated” into making claims that were then “hyped up and exaggerated” by the notorious Exaro news agency. The full Sunday Times story last month, coming just days after the disastrous Operation Midland was wound up, is behind a pay wall; but its author, reporter James Gillespie, kindly emailed me the full text. Coming after the collapse of Operation Midland, which had been “based” on the utterly baseless allegations of “Nick”, another Exaro lunatic, Darren’s confession would “raise further questions” wrote Gillespie, “about whether detectives and some sections of the media have been too ready to believe the claims of individuals who are clearly troubled.”

You can say that again James. And again and again. But will anybody be listening?

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Prime Minister was my buddy – NOT!

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I thought I’d heard it all earlier this year when my kind, avuncular, friend the late Peter Righton was accused of a particularly brutal murder. The victim had allegedly been torn apart when roped by his wrists and ankles to a car and a pick-up truck that slowly reversed away from each other, one driven by Righton the other by “another man”.

The scenario is so Hollywood, like something from a Mafia movie or a racial murder in the Old Deep South, it might be thought a screenplay career beckons for the accuser, a guy named by Exaro News only as “Darren”, apparently a former rent boy. After all, Peter had been an outstanding senior social worker noted for his rapport with troubled kids, not a ruthless gangland capo or a white-robed redneck with a pointy hood.

Since then, though, the Exaro stable of suspiciously anonymous accusers appears to have been running their own version of World’s Biggest Liar, which is a great idea for a pub competition, but not such harmless fun when the rightful heirs to Baron Munchausen are let loose on the media.

Lately, Darren’s stablemate “Nick” has been making all the running. Early last month he upped the ante in sexual abuse allegations being made about the late Sir Edward Heath, Tory British prime minister from 1970 to 1974. This was after a Wiltshire police press conference, theatrically held outside Heath’s old home, included a call for anyone to come forward who “believes they may have been a victim” of the putatively pervy premier, who had been “named” as an abuser.

This was an open invitation to fantasists, and world-class liar Nick was never going to miss it. After all, the police only required the accuser to “believe” they “may have been” a victim, not to have actually or definitely been one. So Nick could fit the bill by recovering a memory during therapy, perhaps, or even by simply dreaming a dream that seemed really, really real.

Not that Nick needed even this excuse. He had been screaming True Blue Tory murder for months. According to Exaro, he went to the Metropolitan police, who started Operation Midland, the enquiry into “VIP paedophilia”, on the basis of claims they decided in their wisdom were “credible”.  But now, with the Wiltshire police going high profile, came his chance (and Exaro’s) to make the big-time: his extravagant allegations would far outdo the existing ones, which were themselves sensational enough but of a rather less extreme and more plausible nature. Heath had, after all, been a lifelong bachelor with no visible sex life or romantic interests whatever: in such circumstances, a secret interest in minors is by no means a long-shot. A former senior police officer had claimed that a criminal prosecution of a woman for running a brothel had not been pursued by Wiltshire Police in the 1990s after she had reportedly threatened to expose Heath as a child abuser. Also, the Daily Mirror ran a man’s claim that Heath had “raped” him in a Mayfair, London, flat in 1961, after he had run away from home. Actually, the story makes no suggestion the boy was sexually innocent at the time, nor that Heath forced him into anything. On the contrary, he said had been “on the game”, pimped by his own father, long before meeting Heath, and remained a rent boy throughout his adolescence.

Enter Nick, who told Exaro that Heath was one of a number of prominent men who abused him when he was a child, “raping” him many times at a variety of locations. Oh, yes, and another thing: three boys were murdered, two of them by Tory politicians. As with Darren’s claims, it is Nick’s florid allegations of brutality and murder that look well OTT, not the sexual ones. The Mirror’s witness credibly describes what seems to have been a pleasantly conversational night in Heath’s company, in additional to mutual masturbation and anal sex. I find myself wondering whether the Mirror’s rent boy is one and the same as Exaro’s Nick, his story for the Mirror being true (hence giving him well founded credibility with the police), while the rest was gilding the lily to make extra money from Exaro.

The next we hear of Nick is less than a couple of weeks ago, when former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor held a press conference, accusing police of a witch-hunt after disclosing that he had been questioned over the alleged murder of three boys supposedly linked to an “elite Westminster sex ring”. This turned out to be a reference to Nick’s allegations, and the Operation Midland investigation.

He added that he had been accused of being part of a child sexual abuse ring along with the late prime minister Edward Heath, ex-home secretary Leon Brittan and former heads of MI5 and MI6.

Proctor said he was “completely innocent” of accusations of murder, rape and torture of children and should either be charged with murder or his accuser should be stripped of his anonymity and charged with perverting the course of justice.

Nick was said to have claimed that during one alleged sexual assault Proctor had been going to cut off his (Nick’s) genitals with a penknife. Edward Heath was supposedly present at the “large townhouse in London” where this took place and only his intervention stopped the terrible deed. Proctor said he and Heath couldn’t stand each other, despite a shared party allegiance. So it was unbelievable he would have been invited to the former prime minister’s home to take part in a sex attack.

Proctor said Nick had accused him of stripping and strapping a child to a table, before stabbing him all over his body during a 40-minute attack. Also, after raping a boy, the former MP had allegedly strangled him until the boy’s body went limp. And for good measure he was accused of punching and kicking another boy to death.

Bearing in mind that no bodies were found, nor have there been any reported disappearances of boys matching the times and places in question, Nick was already pushing his lying to the limits of the believable, making him a shoo in for Worlds’ Biggest Liar. But no! Amazingly, he was about to be outdone, and not by stablemate Darren but by a dark horse coming through late on the rails. This new contender was going for the really big one, not just the world title but also the hugely coveted, rarely awarded, Munchausen Mendacity Medal, the MMM, which only ever goes to a truly incredible tall story, a tale so bizarre the only sane response is to fall about laughing.

And guess what: that story deeply implicates PIE! Whereas last year the hot news was all about PIE’s supposed connections with big beasts in the Labour Party, including the current acting leader Harriet Harman, this year the yarn is that we were in bed with Conservative Ted Heath! The media were asking me last year about PIE’s connections with Harman et al. through the National Council for Civil Liberties. Now, just a few days ago, a “quality” national newspaper has asked me what was PIE’s connection with prime minister Heath!

The interest arose, I was told, from claims made in the distinctly non-quality, downmarket tabloid the Sunday Mirror. It is one of their journalists, a guy called Don Hale, who has made a bold bid for the MMM. In a story published on 9 August Hale reported on another missing dossier on VIP “child sex abuse” to compete with the already fabled one supposedly compiled by the late Geoffrey Dickens MP. This time the dossier is one that nobody seems even to have heard of before, whereas the Dickens file was rumoured for years.

This takes us from Baron Munchausen to Baroness Castle. Barbara Castle was a leading Labour cabinet minister in the 1970s. Hale writes: “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.”

Further down, he continues:

“Baroness Castle showed Heath was present at Westminster meetings with paedophile rights campaigners from the PIE group. Heath is said to have attended at least a quarter of the 30 or so monthly or bi-weekly meetings. His name is said to have appeared on minutes of the private gatherings, also apparently attended by other MPs, along with scoutmasters and headteachers. But the Castle files have been missing since the mid 1980s.”

Ah, yes, Sailor Ted, my old good buddy! I remember him well from when I was Chair of PIE and he was sitting in on our meetings in our palatial Westminster suite of offices! What a laugh he was, what a riot, always regaling us with salty seadog stories about the marvellous sex parties he had aboard his famous yacht Morning Cloud, with young boys hired from that children’s home in Jersey. What was it called? Haute de something.. Haute de la Garenne, that’s it! Managed to get myself an invite to a couple of those sessions. Very good too. Fabulous kids, really hot, nothing but the best for Ted and his guests! Better not tell you about all that, though. Don’t want to incriminate myself, eh?

Only trouble was, once Ted got started on his stories in those meetings, there was no stopping him. If only we had been able to get him to stick to the agenda for the meeting we might have found his advice incredibly useful. What we really needed was a strategy for building up funds and connections across the media, business, the academic world, all the centres of political and cultural power and influence. Instead, the opportunities were somehow just frittered away, so we remained open to attack from the forces of law and order. And when the arrests started, wily old Ted just quietly slipped anchor and buggered off back to the safety of the high seas. Ah well, such is life!

As for that newspaper who approached me last week, I denied everything, natch. Me and Ted were pals? Come on, I said, you’re having a laugh, aren’t you?

In truth, I didn’t speak to the paper’s reporter directly. He said he’d be happy if I’d answer some questions by email. I was content to do that. Whether he’ll ever make use of my boringly negative answers is something we’ll just have to wait and see. For the moment, the paper must remain nameless, for reasons that may become apparent in due course.

 

SAD NEWS FROM CANADA

Sad news reaches Heretic TOC from Canada. I had an email on 30 August from Robin Sharpe’s daughter Katherine, informing me of her father’s death. She wrote: “It was as always on his own terms, in hospital on August 27th. He wanted you to know.”

Robin, who had been ill for a long time and on my calculations would have been 82 when he died, was a fine writer. In a Heretic TOC piece a year ago I focused on the wryly ironic black humour he brought to his fiction, which managed to be both satirical and erotic. His Pagunan Masks: An Ethnofiction, in particular was an all too unsung masterpiece – although even the Supreme Court of Canada found itself obliged to concede that the man had literary talent.

As for why such an august court of law would be making this judgement, I can do no better than refer readers to my earlier piece, which I think stands pretty well as an obituary: Hail to a hero of “transgressive expression”. I am glad Robin was able to read it as he closed in on his final year. I hope it will have been of some comfort in a life that saw not only official attempts to suppress his work but also censorship by even those bookshop owners and printers who had a reputation for sympathetic treatment of radical material.

Even until late last year I was hearing from him of his frustration in trying to deal with such people, who tended to take a hard line against his “child porn” – a term as ignorant as it was cruel: just as misplaced as denouncing a Renaissance painting of the “Madonna and Child” for depicting the genitals of Jesus. Yes, Robin’s writing was erotic, and even pornographic, but the best of it was so much more than that. He was a fine, brave, gifted, man, whose loss is a great one.

See also:

http://www.robinsharpe.ca/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R_v_Sharpe

https://www.boywiki.org/en/Robin_Sharpe

 

BOY’S NAKED SELFIE ‘WAS A CRIME’

No time to say much about this horror story featured on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, but listening is recommended. There were two separate pieces, both featuring excellent interviews by presenter Justin Webb. The first, at shortly after 7.30am, featured the boy and his mother. The second, just before 8.30am, featured a lawyer from the Criminal Bar Association and – more significantly – a senior police officer.

The latter interview, with Olivia Pinkney, the “National Police Chief Council’s lead on children and young people” is particularly revealing. She explained very well a series of “decision points” the police go through when dealing with such cases. It all sounded perfectly rational and reasonable until Webb gently asked what harm the boy had done. Suddenly cut adrift from her bureaucratic comfort zone she is all at sea, inadvertently admitting that the young “criminal” was the only victim of the “crime”.

Story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-3413638

Earlier interview: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p031fztz

Later interview: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b068c7n8  (This is the entire programme. This interview starts at  8.21am, which is a little over 2 hours 20 minutes into the recording.)

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