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.)

Negotiating a little girl’s knickers down

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Judging by his obsessive repetition of the phrase “little girl”, and his fixation on getting into their knickers (“I like this issue”), Ross Coulthart may raise some eyebrows when his interview with me eventually goes out on Australia’s 60 Minutes TV programme. Viewers could be forgiven for thinking he was the one who “wants adults to be allowed to have sexual intercourse with children” – itself an expression rammed down my throat with rapacious insistence dozens of times in different variations, heedless of my protests.

As for the word “consent”, there were over 50 mentions. I know because I made my own audio recording. Trigger warning: heretics may find this induces anger and nausea!

Coulthart trained as a lawyer, according to his online profile. While his emotive use of language was pure tabloid rabble rousing, and the lurid conspiracy theory at  the heart of his purported investigation – an alleged Establishment cover-up of “VIP paedophilia” – was just evidence-free speculation, there is also a lawyerly forensic focus to his style that did actually succeed in pinning down one issue worth exploring a bit further here.

We think we know all the arguments over consent because we have been over it a million times. Usually, though, our frame of reference as MAPs is to see consent in a broader context. We know that children who supposedly “cannot consent” to sex often in practice do just that; we know that widely varying ages of consent apply in different legislatures and that where the age is lower there is no discernible problem compared to where it is higher. We also feel that the quality of the relationship is what counts, not the legalistic formality of consent, for which there is no requirement in many non-sexual contexts, even hazardous ones.

I could go on, exploring this broad contextual background. That is precisely what Coulthart was determined to stop me doing. His strategy was to home in, myopically, on a single detail from my book Paedophilia: The Radical Case. As quite a few heretics here will know, there is a whole chapter on consent (Ch. 8). But my interviewer chose to take just three paragraphs from a different chapter (Ch. 3) and focus on less than three sentences cherry-picked from them. These are the paragraphs:

Take, for instance, the little girl who will happily smile at and chatter to a “nice man”, and will sit across his knee with her legs apart. If the man is susceptible to paedophilic feelings, he may be tempted to see this as “seductive” behaviour, when the child in fact may be quite unaware of the way he is interpreting events – she may be exhibiting, in the traditional sense, all the “innocence” of childhood (even though, quite independently, she may also be highly sexed and know how to give herself an orgasm).

The usual assumption is that this potential for misunderstanding is bound to be a bad thing, but this is not necessarily so. Typically, in the formation of a paedophilic attachment, as in those between adults, the actual behaviour of either party develops not precipitately, but step by step: each stage is “negotiated” by hints and signals, verbal and non-verbal, by which each indicates to the other what is acceptable and what is not.

In our example, the man might start by saying what pretty knickers the girl was wearing, and he would be far more likely to proceed to the next stage of negotiation if she seemed pleased by the remark than if she coloured up and closed her legs. Despite “being wrong” about her intentional sexual seductiveness, he might never-the-less be right in gradually discovering that the child is one who likes to be cuddled and who thinks it great fun to be tickled under her knickers.

The bold parts in the above are plain text in the original. I have emphasised them as these are the bits Coulthart concentrated on, to the exclusion of all else.

I had agreed to this interview simply to defend my “VIP” friends Peter Righton and Charles Napier from some outrageous allegations recently made against them. I had no reason to suppose the programme would be interested in my view of consent. I had no wish to avoid the issue, though, so when it was raised in the first few minutes I did not duck away from it, emphasising that the practice is more important than the theory, giving the example of Theo Sandfort’s Netherlands-based research demonstrating that children can consent without harm, and even with beneficial outcomes. I imagine they’ll cut this section out!

When he mentioned the “little girl” scenario in my book, he said:

Nowhere in that paragraph do you even talk about express consent. You talk about implied consent from that poor little girl.

He was right.

Ignoring the blatantly emotive and misleading “poor little girl” rhetoric, I felt the most urgent need was to drag my own 20th century language into the 21st with a nod to the contemporary debate on express or affirmative consent in the context of adult relationships. There was this exchange:

Me: In the light of the debate that has taken place in recent years on that aspect of consent, I am persuaded that maybe, yes, one does need to be a little bit more affirmative than as stated in the text just quoted.

Coulthart: So you no longer believe that implied consent from a child is enough?

Me: It may not be but I have not reviewed…that particular scenario for some time; in the light of the debate on affirmative consent I think I would need to think about that again. But most of all, where I need to think again, is with regard to what happens many years after, because people can be traumatised retrospectively.

It was doubtless a disappointing reply for him. He had hoped for something more scandalous, and tried to provoke it with a further resort to emotive language:

Coulthart: You’ll appreciate that the scenario you describe, of a little girl on a man’s knee, sounds just like the creepy, pederastic child molester scenario of every worst nightmare?

Me: No,  the worst nightmare is far worse than that. The worst nightmare is a child being abducted at knifepoint and raped and killed.

Coulthart: But fundamentally, isn’t this at the heart of the problem, that you have men who want to have sex with children, telling themselves that children are consenting when transparently that child is not consenting and couldn’t possibly consent?

Me: No, I don’t think so. It all depends on how the child feels at the time and whether you’ve got an atmosphere… of hysteria. The way it’s being cranked up is making things worse for children because we are now getting to the stage where children themselves are being accused of being sex offenders. I now see, there’s a police report recently… even four year olds are being taken to task in schools for being “sex offenders”.

This wasn’t what he wanted to hear either so he soon moved on, to the VIP allegations. And there the consent question might have ended. Once we had been over the Righton/Napier stuff, Coulthart said “OK, we’ll stop there”.

With the camera off, as I thought, my immediate response was to say to him “You don’t really believe all that crap, do you?” He admitted some of the allegations were “questionable” and we continued for a while with what I took to be a private conversation between the two of us, including him asking whether I really believed some of the things I had been saying. I was some way into answering before I realised the cameras were still rolling, and then I felt I needed to keep going because it was became quite confrontational and I didn’t want to back down.

So it seems his “OK, we’ll stop there” instruction to the film crew had basically been just a trick to catch me off guard. I shouldn’t have fallen for it, but I am glad we had the exchange that followed, even though it felt sterile and ridiculous at the time on account of its narrowness.

His tactic was to home in very tightly on a single phrase from my book – “each stage is ‘negotiated’ by hints and signals” – and enquire precisely what I meant. What would it take, he demanded to know, for a paedophile to be satisfied that he had the “little girl’s consent to have sex with her”? What words would do it? Or might non-verbal “hints and signals” be enough? If so, what examples could I give? Would I paint a picture for him of how this scenario of the little girl on my knee would play out, leading to “sex” with her? Imagine her, he said, she’s sitting there right now, on your lap. How do you “negotiate” – negotiate! – for this little girl to have sex with you? How do you really know she is consenting?

My answer, broadly, was that the benignly disposed adult will be satisfied with nothing less than an enthusiastic response, whether verbal or not. He will be keen to have the child’s approval and will stop in the face of silence or signs of anxiety. I did not make the mistake of saying clearly expressed verbal consent would be the definitive green light because I don’t think it is. It may work for adults and older minors – I am thinking of the valuable comments made here by “A” – but even verbal assent may be given fearfully. It may mask a lack of real enthusiasm. Any sensitive child-lover can tell when consent is really being given. Also, I pointed out, the consent concept implies one-way traffic: what about kids who take the initiative?

As for the insensitive or manipulative adult, he will run the risk of a later complaint by the child and a criminal conviction. I have never advocated taking away the protection of the criminal law, and neither did the Paedophile Information Exchange.

My use of the word “negotiate” in the book was a tricky one to negotiate in the interview itself. I just ignored Coulthart’s scornful emphasis on the term. Justifying my use of the word would have been tough. I would have insisted he was wrenching it out of context except that I could not remember the context of a passage written 35 years ago! Re-reading it since, I realise I was deliberately being provocative. It is a word from the world of business and diplomacy. We think of hard-nosed  bargaining between experienced players of a tricky game, in which they use all sorts of cunning ruses to get what they want at the other party’s expense. Going beyond the cliché of the hapless, helpless, outmanoeuvred child, though, my book revealed children as potentially skilful and successful negotiators: a “little girl” is often notoriously able to wrap her father around her little finger, as the saying goes. In the end, negotiation is simply about saying what you want, what you like doing, or might like to try out, and agreeing about it. That’s not so hard.

So I believe my argument stood up to intense close scrutiny but I doubt many viewers will see it that way: Coulthart’s emotive language, combined with his softly-spoken air of confident authority will guarantee that – along with editing out my stronger points!

My emphasis on showing real enthusiasm rather than verbal agreement turns out, somewhat to my surprise, to be pretty much what is said by proponents of affirmative consent. But opponents claim that in about a quarter of all states in the US, sex isn’t legal without positive agreement, and “Should we really put people in jail for not doing what most people aren’t doing?” Difficulties identified in a proposed new legal code in the US, are that it is said to consider consent meaningless “under conditions of unequal power” (between adults, that is) and that it would shift the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused.

 

TRANSLATION CUP RUNNETH OVER

Heretic TOC is delighted to report that there were more than enough volunteers for the task of producing a transcript of my interview with Testimony Films, which was used as the basis for David Kennerly’s film A Decent Life. These volunteers, who each transcribed one or more sections of the 11-part film on YouTube, all completed their work very quickly. Many thanks to each of them for their sterling work!

The project was undertaken following an offer to translate the film into French. This was itself a very generous voluntary gesture by an enthusiast, to whom I again extend my thanks. I am sure David will concur, as I trust will other heretics here who have seen his excellent film.

After all the transcription tasks had been allotted, another volunteer turned up. I found myself thinking: Great, how best to make good use of this wonderful willingness to help? One other task to which more than one person could contribute would be making a subject index of all the Heretic TOC blogs so far. I find I often need to refer back to previous blogs, and as they now number well over 150 the task of locating any particular theme I have written about previously is getting steadily harder and harder. The format for the index needs some careful initial thought, though. I hope to give it some attention very soon and then make a further announcement.

Pummelling the human face of paedophilia

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Never again!  No more getting wasted for me! As I slowly come round from the monumental hangover of yet another PR disaster, I swear to shun the intoxicating liquor of publicity for ever ­­­– or at least until the next tempting but illusory opportunity comes along to promote an alternative narrative in the mainstream media.

This time, on Monday, it was an interview for 60 Minutes, the Australian version of the US current affairs TV documentary series.

They said they had been looking into the alleged Westminster VIP paedophilia scandals of the 1970s and 80s, including talk of a wide-ranging conspiracy by leading government and legal figures – the so-called “Establishment” – to sweep misdeeds under the carpet. Having seen my Heretic TOC pieces defending a couple of the putative “paedos in high places”, they wanted to give some balance by airing the sceptical view I had taken. They reckoned the interview would last about 20 minutes “and a large part of it would be used in the broadcast”.

Bearing in mind the specific and narrow nature of this remit, I thought it was well worth having a go. In fact, I strongly felt it was my duty to defend my friends if I could, especially Charles Napier and Peter Righton, who have both been anonymously accused of heinous acts of brutality against kids, acts of which I am certain they would not have been capable.

Neither man is presently well placed to defend himself. Charles recently started a 13-year prison sentence for “historic” sexual involvement with boys; Peter, who died some years ago, was even accused of murder by some squalid, lying, opportunistic, scumbag of a so-called “victim”.

The interview venue, the Travellers Club in Pall Mall, London, could hardly have been better chosen to fit the VIP theme:  the membership has included eight prime ministers, to say nothing of many great explorers and travel writers, as might be expected from the name. I arrived there wearing a tie for the first time in years as the dress code for this Georgian (founded 1819) gentleman’s retreat requires one.

It was almost as though the TV people were setting me up to look like a dodgy VIP myself, part of a posh old boys’ network of “abuse”, although they insisted they often use the club when they happen to be filming in London. So, nothing personal then.

My introduction to interviewer Ross Coulthart was inauspicious, though. He was perfectly civil, but ominously pointed out that scandal and tragic death were not unknown to those who had previously stepped inside these walls.  Among the club’s famous members were two who had committed suicide, he noted. He named one as Capt. Robert Fitzroy, skipper of The Beagle on Charles Darwin’s famous voyage and inventor of the weather forecast; another was prime minister Lord Castlereagh.

As for scandal, he continued, there had been Sir Peter Hayman, holder of many high ranking posts, including High Commissioner to Canada, who was also a spymaster in his capacity as deputy director of MI6. Hayman was eventually exposed in the press and in parliament as someone who used to compose pornographic fantasies about sex with children, sharing them in a correspondence circle of like-minded other writers who would also post their stories to him. It turned out he had joined the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), under the name Henderson.

Long before hearing about his Travellers Club membership from Coulthart, I had of course expected 60 Minutes to ask me what I had known about Hayman, who was always bound to be a key figure in the programme because his case constitutes the one example of an Establishment cover-up for which there is strong – in my view incontrovertible – evidence. He was never prosecuted whereas less privileged people were, including me and several other PIE committee members.

When Coulthart asked, I just told him that I had never known Hayman at any stage of my involvement with PIE. He had just been a name, a false name, on our membership list. Only much later did I discover, to my horror, that “Henderson” had been writing fantasies that were not just pornographic but also sadistic – truly obscene, in my view. No one can prevent having their own dark fantasies if sadistic tendencies provoke them, and it is infinitely better they are written down rather than acted out. But they are deeply disturbing all the same and I had no wish to be associated with them.

Perhaps because the Hayman story has long been in the public domain, Coulthart did not dwell on it once he knew I had nothing to add. Instead, He wanted new stuff from me, about people I definitely had known, especially Napier and Righton. The background is mainly in two Heretic TOC pieces, Hi, this is Charles. I’ve been a naughty boy and Exposé outfit murders its own credibility, so I won’t labour the details of what I told 60 Minutes about them.

What I will point out, though, is the extraordinary lengths this “investigative” journalist went to in order to suppress the results of his own investigation. Instead of simply hearing me out and allowing me to say how I knew neither Charles nor Peter were violent people, I found my own credibility was on trial from the outset. Nothing I could say was given any credence.

Not that he called me a liar. Instead, it seemed I was being set up as a deluded dupe, someone so heavily invested in the ideology of consensual paedophilia that I could not see that a violently abusive gang of VIP paedophiles – including Napier and Righton as well as Hayman and others – were using PIE as a relatively respectable front for their heinous crimes.

The only time I came near to disrupting this politically congenial narrative was when I introduced material Coulthart may not have expected. I reminded him of a BBC Inside Story documentary in 1994 called The Secret Life of a Paedophile, which focused on Peter, including his friendship with Charles. In its day, this programme was itself meant to be an exposé of the pair’s supposedly dreadful deeds. Seen against the present lurid background of murder allegations, though, it turns out to be an excellent piece of evidence for the defence.

Coulthart had played up the idea that Peter had been a “powerful” figure in the Establishment, darkly implying he could have had people killed at the snap of his fingers like some mafia boss, or, better still, a man with the resources of the state at his disposal. It would be truer to say that in his role as director of education at the National Institute for Social Work, Peter was professionally influential rather than powerful: it was not the sort of job that would put cadres of tooled-up heavies wearing shades at his disposal. His influence depended, rather, on his experience and wisdom when it came to improving the lives and prospects of children traumatised in the course of a difficult upbringing, including violent, neglectful, chaotic parenting.

As I pointed out in the interview, Inside Story interviewed a number of Peter’s senior social work colleagues. While they professed themselves shocked to learn he was a boy-lover, following his conviction in 1992 for importing child porn, they admitted he was a man of enormous gifts and “a degree of good intentions”. They conceded that he came across as a kind, avuncular figure and that the “unconditional affection” he was able to show towards difficult adolescent boys made him very effective in “getting through” to those kids so their behaviour improved. It was this rare talent that made him so well respected and liked.

Did this impress Coulthart? Oh, yes, it impressed him with the need to change the subject! But try as I might to add more evidence from Inside Story, he just shouldered me off the ball, insisting we move on. So I never got to mention the home-movies shown by the BBC, seized by the police after raiding Righton’s home. This was not pornography but footage that included a holiday scene with Charles and Peter giving a couple of boys piggybacks. The kids were plainly having fun, without the slightest sign of any fear or brutality by the guys. I could have added, too, the programme’s revelation that Peter became a godfather to some children of the kids he had taught, and that his friends included a number of men he had “abused” when they were boys: plainly, they did not regard themselves as victims.

For me, though, the biggest surprise of the interview was not Coulthart’s reluctance to face the facts, frustrating as that was. Rather, it was his decision to question me at length on the more philosophical side, especially my views on why I thought adult-child sex can ever be acceptable. I would have been delighted to speak about such matters to a reasonable interviewer asking intelligent questions, such as the Guardian’s Jon Henley a couple of years ago, or even, more recently, Corinne Purtill of Global Post. What I got instead, though, was not 20 minutes in which to defend my friends, as had been proposed, but more like an hour and 20 minutes, with a whole hour of bludgeoning by Coulthart mainly on a single very narrow aspect of a child’s ability to consent. It was boring and repetitious.

Whenever I tried to develop an argument by discussing relevant research I was interrupted and diverted. After introducing Susan Clancy’s data from her book The Trauma Myth, for example, which demonstrates that the harm in consensual cases comes not from the sex but from society’s response, often years later, her findings were brushed impatiently aside. He didn’t think people were interested in the musings of “some Harvard academic”, as he disparagingly put it, compared with the more urgent task of listening to the victims. Any “victims” who had not felt traumatised, it transpired, including Clancy’s interviewees, were not to be listened to.

I know I made a number of good points despite the heavy-handed tactics. My suspicion, though, is that these will end up on the cutting room floor – always a danger with a non-live interview – and that I will come across merely as a man in denial that “a child cannot consent”, as Coulthart kept simplistically insisting.

Should I have bothered? Was this really just another PR disaster, as I said at the start? Hard to say. Perhaps only someone with the forceful rhetorical skills of former MP George Galloway should have taken on such a tough mission. My own rather polite style doesn’t work at all without being given room to breathe. I suppose I could have stuck robotically to a few simple points, as media-trained politicians do in order to “stay on message”. This guarantees you won’t make a fool of yourself but intelligent viewers hate it.

One thing they cannot take away, though, is that anyone who turns up to face the cameras will be willingly presenting a “human face of paedophilia” that otherwise finds no place in the media. There must be some value in this, don’t you think? It would be better if the face happened to be younger and more attractive than mine as I near my 70th birthday, but even so…

 

MOVIE SCRIPT WRITERS WANTED

Well, sort of.

The good news is that a native French speaker was so impressed by David Kennerly’s film A Decent Life (click on the ad below the Blogroll in the right-hand column for YouTube links) that he has offered to translate it into his own tongue.

David and I very much welcome that, but this translator says he would appreciate first being supplied with a transcription into written English of the original words, spoken by me. He will need this to work from when doing his translation into French. The spoken English in question runs to about 68 minutes.

This will be quite a time-consuming task. Both David and I are incredibly busy right now, and we will certainly remain so for at least the next several months. Accordingly, we wondered whether we might be able to find a few volunteers to take on this task. If each volunteer tackles just one or two segments of the 11-segment film, the workload should be manageable. It will probably be best to reply to me at tomocarr66@yahoo.co.uk . Look forward to hearing from you!

For those who missed the background, you can catch up by reading my blog piece last month (beneath the main blog): A DECENT NEW FILM BY DAVID KENNERLY.

Exposé outfit murders its own credibility

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Another day, another hysteric – sorry, historic – enquiry in Britain. The police complaints body has launched an investigation into, oh, load and loads of vaguely rumoured “child sex offences” in London from as far back as the 1970s.

The big excitement, though, was on the BBC’s Newsnight on 16 March, which trumpeted a claim that police were forced to abandon a cast-iron case against a VIP “paedophile ring” in 1981 after they had obtained video footage of the men in question actually engaging in hot action with teenage boys at a flat in Coronation Buildings, Lambeth, less than a mile away from parliament. An order had come from on high that the matter should be dropped “in the national interest”. Among those caught in the act was said to have been the Liberal MP Cyril Smith and a “senior member of Britain’s intelligence agencies”; there was also evidence against “two senior police officers”.

My hunch, having seen the Newsnight programme, is that this is more than just the usual hype, and that properly sourced police testimony may in due course be forthcoming from officers involved in the Coronation Buildings operation, especially if they can be assured that the Official Secrets Act will not be used against them. Never mind that the BBC’s information came from a single unnamed police source whom they have never seen because he spoke through an intermediary; never mind that this informant was said merely to have been “familiar with the original investigation” rather than a part of it; never mind that dozens of other officers on the case could have come forward to spill the beans but so far have not; never mind the apparent absence of “victims” making complaints at this point.

All these good reasons for scepticism can reasonably be put aside. Those of us who are old enough will recall that teenage rent boys and members of parliament (especially Tory ones) were an accepted item in those days. Everyone knew they went together: not as respectably as love and marriage, perhaps, but as routinely as a horse and carriage. And so did cover-ups: a Tory chief whip even went on record to say part of his job was in effect to blackmail MPs who had things to hide, letting it be known he would keep quiet about their extra-marital affairs, or penchant for “small boys”, in return for them towing the party line.

All very scandalous, no doubt; but the real scandal these days is not sexual at all. Rather, it is the dangerous perversion of truth to which sensationalist journalism is now giving rise, driven on by our debased victim culture and populist politics. Convinced by nothing more than relentless empty propaganda that Jimmy Savile was guilty of crimes worse than Islamic State beheadings, the public also seemed receptive to claims late last year that boys were murdered some decades ago by powerful Establishment figures.

Such claims lack credibility unless they can be tied to particular youngsters who went permanently missing from that time onwards and who might have taken part in the alleged “sex parties”. No such individuals have been suggested. Also, as I said recently, another factor that makes me doubt the credibility of the “allegators”, as blogger Anna Raccoon aptly dubs them, is that one of them made what to me were obviously false claims about sadistic abuse by my old friends Charles Napier and Peter Righton.

That was in January, in an Exaro News report featuring a source they called “Darren”, who appears to be an ex-rent boy. Apparently Exaro liked his story so much they asked him for more, and Darren obligingly came up the following month with an even stronger yarn against Peter. This time he remembered a murder that had somehow slipped his mind in January: in this new version, Darren had personally seen Peter Righton brutally attack a man called Andrew, leaving him fatally wounded.

It wasn’t just any old attack, either. Oh, no. The unfortunate Andrew was torn apart when tied between two vehicles that slowly reversed away from each other, one driven by Righton the other by “another man”! The demonic Righton had even made Andrew dig his own grave beforehand!

I kid you not, Exaro is inviting everyone to take this fanciful bullshit seriously, and it seems plenty of people are buying into it.

So who are these people, Exaro News? Set up in 2011 by a city tycoon, this exposé outfit now has former Guardian journalist David Hencke on its core staff. It was Henke who is said to have passed Tom Watson MP evidence of “child abuse” at the Elm Guest House, leading to a police investigation, “Operation Fernbridge”. Exaro and its journalists have been nominated for a number of top awards and actually won a few as well. Editor-in-chief Mark Watts has been profiled in the Guardian.

With all this kudos, one might expect standards to be high. But that is not how it works, alas. Fortunately, scepticism over claims like those of “Darren” remains strong in significant areas of public life, including the legal profession and academia.

Criminal law barrister Matthew Scott, for instance, blogged about his misgivings last year in “Exaro News Is Playing A Dangerous Game With Its Paedophile Murder Story”.
This was in response to the agency’s earlier VIP murder “investigation”, based on allegations made by another anonymous source, dubbed “Nick”.

Exaro, in collaboration with the Sunday People, alleged, in the words of the blog, that “a Tory MP strangled a 12-year-old brown haired boy in a central London town house in 1980. Apparently, 18 months to two years later two other men murdered a second boy in front of another Tory MP, ‘a cabinet minister’. Both MPs are ‘still alive’. Its source is a man in his 40s to whom they have given the pseudonym ‘Nick’. Exaro even mentions rumours of a third child murdered by being run over in the street, though I don’t think Nick claims to have actually seen more than one murder.”

Scott suggests that Exaro, along with the Sunday People and also the BBC, who aired an interview with “Nick”, acted “extremely unwisely by catapulting him into the public domain”.

These interviews had given extremely detailed accounts, which ran the risk of wrecking any police investigation because the testimony of any witnesses who might later come forward would have greatly reduced value: they could easily just be copy cats. This would inevitably play a part in the defence of any accused person, and a guilty person might escape justice because any good and true evidence would be seen as contaminated and unsafe.

Scott continues in this lawyerly vein for quite a while, and rightly so, but it is the commonsense scepticism in the latter part of his article that really takes the eye, beginning with the story of Carol Felstead:

There is nothing new about allegations being made against Tory politicians of the period, and they are not necessarily truthful. A not dissimilar account of Conservative Party MPs being involved in sexual abuse was given in the 1990s by someone called Carol Felstead and it provides a cautionary tale for anyone who might wish to rush to judgement. According to Carol’s therapists, she was anally raped in Conservative Central Office by a Tory MP with a claw hammer, and raped by not one but two members of Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet.

Just like Nick, Carol supposedly said she was abused first by her parents. She had been “ritually reborn out of a bull’s stomach, placed in a grave ‘on top of her dead sister’ and rescued by her father who was dressed as the Devil.” She later claimed to have given birth to six children who were then aborted and ritually sacrificed.

Felstead had told this story not to Exaro but to the notorious Dr Valerie Sinason, who incorporated some of it (changing Carol’s name to “Rita”) into the work that made her name: Treating Survivors of Satanist Abuse.

Sinason’s work has since been widely discredited, along with the entire satanic abuse fad, as I pointed out in “Compared to Sinason, Savile was a saint”. Likewise, Scott takes her down a peg or three and adds a truly scandalous bit of information, telling us she specialised, and is still paid by the NHS to specialise, in the treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder, itself a controversial diagnosis.

So much for Sinason. As for Carol Felstead, Scott leaves us in no doubt what her story amounted to:

Now, despite the detailed and distressing history supposedly given by Carol to her therapists, her accounts of abuse at the hands of her parents were demonstrable nonsense. The family house had indeed burned down, but it did so a year before she was born so she could not possibly have remembered it as she said. She did have a sister who died in infancy, a girl who suffered from Down’s syndrome and died in hospital from natural causes; again she did so before Carol was even born. As for the Satanic abuse, her four surviving brothers all agree that nothing of the sort took place and there is no evidence of it whatever from any other source. There was no coven, no witch-craft and no murdered babies: indeed her medical records show that she had never been pregnant. Her extraordinary story of being raped by politicians was likewise fantasy of a high order.

Likewise, Scott is admirably sceptical about even the sex parties at Dolphin Square, never mind the murders:

The reasons to doubt the existence of such a ring are legion. What were these boys doing when they were not at Dolphin Square sex parties? Were they kept in complete isolation? Did they stop going to school, for example, or never speak to anybody outside the paedophile ring? The Exaro line seems to be that they were so terrified by the fact that the men in question were powerful that they did not expose the ring while it was active. Are we really to believe that these “powerful people” were so sure that their affairs could be kept secret from the press and, still more, from their political rivals, that they kept returning to the orgies? When even a tame affair like that of Cecil Parkinson with his secretary could lead to political disgrace; when journalists were constantly scouring Westminster for a whiff of scandal and when political rivals would have been delighted to ditch the dirt on their enemies it seems – as Exaro themselves acknowledge – very unlikely indeed.

Quite so, although, as I said at the outset, I am not so sceptical about the sex side: even the most intelligent and rational of men often think with their dick: just ask Bill Clinton or, even better, Hillary. What they would definitely not do, I suggest, is be so reckless as to murder anyone in the devil-may-care manner suggested by both “Nick” and “Darren”, casually leaving witnesses like them who might at any time tell the tale.

If Matthew Scott is a good example of sensible scepticism in legal circles, what about one from the academic world? News has just reached me from an unlikely source, the Lancashire Magazine, of a very encouraging show of academic good sense at Edinburgh University, where a research project is underway in connection with the allegations against Jimmy Savile.

The article in question, “Jimmy Savile ‘Moral Panic’ Tracked By Computer In Dordogne”, is based on an archive of private social media discussions between the women who later came forward to claim they were sexually abused by the late entertainer. Forty years ago the women had been teenagers at the Duncroft Approved School, an experimental boarding school opened by the Home Office to give a second chance of education for girls of above-average intelligence who had been taken into care.

The owner of the archive was a retired English lawyer living in the Dordogne region of France. She lived in care at Duncroft in 1965 and 1966. Her name was Susanne Cameron-Blackie, better known to many heretics here as – wait for it – the blogger Anna Raccoon!

Yes, Anna, or Susanne, is right at the heart of this story. Her wonderful, detailed, sceptical analyses of the claims against Savile have been highlighted here at Heretic TOC on several occasions, so I am sure we will all be delighted to hear that her work has won academic appreciation and government funding for a follow-up project.

It was a serious illness that first prompted Susanne to contact Edinburgh University. In 2013, fearing she might not survive a forthcoming cancer operation in France, she sent an email to Professor Viviene Cree at the Edinburgh University School of Social and Political Science, explaining the situation and saying she hoped the university would provide a good home for her archive. That summer the Economic and Social Research Council activated its Urgency Grants Mechanism to form a research team for the recovery and collation of documents and the information stored on Anna Raccoon’s computer in the Dordogne. The full story of the research team and its project are set out in the Lancashire Magazine’s article and is recommended reading.

It really is splendid news. Sadly, though, we also learn that Susanne is still suffering from cancer. She continues to blog as Anna Raccoon but says her doctors have not given her long to live. In the circumstances, it might be a nice gesture if readers could tweet their congratulations on her academic triumph, and/or more general appreciation and best wishes, to her at @AnnaRaccoon1, or email annaraccoon2010@gmail.com.

Hi, this is Charles. I’ve been a naughty boy…

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Like Chris Denning, about whom I wrote last time, Charles Napier was a very bright spark – witty, charming, the life and soul of the party.

Even the judge who sentenced him to thirteen years just before Christmas admitted that as a popular (not feared) young prep school teacher in the 1960s and 70s Charles for the most part charmed the pants off his mainly pre-teen pupils, whatever his principal accuser, cry-baby journalist Francis Whine (sorry, Wheen), might claim.

I will return to his accusations, taking them seriously along with much worse allegations that Charles appears to have made no attempt to deny. He told the court he had been “completely out of control” and was “desperately sorry” for his actions. To my mind, incidentally, these were significant expressions of remorse, but that didn’t stop the media quoting a police chief who asserted he had shown “no remorse”: damning opinion is apparently to be preferred over facts even when the latter are right there in plain view. Also, the judge appears to have given Charles no credit for his expressions of regret. All that surfaced publicly, so far as I can see, is that he would have got twenty years but for the fact that he pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

For the moment, as with Chris Denning, I am going remember the better side of the man I knew. I met Charles when I joined the executive committee of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) in the mid-1970s. He joined the organisation at the start of its London operation, some months before me. Like his friend the late Peter Righton, who was also one of the first PIE committee members while working as Director of Education for the National Institute of Social Work, he has been presented in the media as an elite paedophile, and possibly part of a sinister ring of perverted high-ups.

Being a humble peasant myself, I never moved socially in such elevated circles, if they existed. But Charles undeniably has an upper class pedigree. He is a descendant of King Charles II of England, no less, via Lady Sarah Lennox, the king’s great-granddaughter, who married General Sir Charles James Napier. Gen. Napier commanded the British army in India in Victorian times and was famous in those days for conquering Sindh in what is now Pakistan. To this day the general’s statue is a towering presence in Trafalgar Square, London, occupying one of the four plinths. There have been leading figures in the family’s recent past and Charles has a half-brother, John Whittingdale, who is currently the Conservative MP for Maldon and Chelmsford East.

So Charles was posh. His racy sports car spoke of a penchant for swagger and swank, while his handsome mien and gracious manner suggested the hero of a bodice-ripping romantic novel. One could easily imagine him as a dashing officer, as his forbear the victor of Sindh must once have been, with all the young ladies swooning over him.

He was cultured, too, and clever. Not for nothing was he appointed to a senior role with the British Council in Cairo. But for his career being a “chequered” one, with several falls from grace over boys, he could well have become head of the entire outfit, and thus in effect the UK’s official cultural ambassador to the world. He was also a talented actor and singer in amateur productions. Above all, like Charles II, the Merry Monarch, he was lively and had a tremendous sense of fun: even Wheen admits that his young “sir”, Mr Napier, was a dazzling, exciting figure.

Not that his jolly japes were just for the kids. Back in the days when telephone answering machines were a novelty, subscribers had to make their own “please leave a message” tape recording. Most of us simply announced our name and number and invited callers to leave a message at the beep. Not Charles. His tape started something like this:

Hi, this is Charles. Sorry, I’m tied up at the moment, but if you’d like to leave a message…

In the background you could hear why he was tied up: there was a fearsome thrashing sound followed by yelps of ecstatic “pain” as Charles was punished by a stern dominatrix (one of his fellow thespians, no doubt) telling him he had been “a naughty boy”.

Well, plenty of people would say he got that right, wouldn’t they? The judge last week obviously thought he had been really, really naughty, in fact properly wicked.

Should we agree with him? It’s time to face the facts insofar as they can be gleaned from dubious mainstream press reports. Those accounts, it should be pointed out, were dominated by the perspective of just one individual, and I don’t mean the judge or a really traumatised victim. I refer instead to the man I have already dubbed the principal accuser, Francis Wheen, now deputy editor of the satirical magazine Private Eye, who has been banging on about Charles for decades. It was apparently Wheen’s testimony that led to the arrest in August last year of the man who had been his teacher at Copthorne School.

Way back in 1996 Wheen had a piece in the Guardian (28 August) headlined “School for Scandal”. He wrote:

Charles Napier was my gym master at prep school – and a very good gym master too, always willing to lend a hand (quite literally) as the boys practised their back-flips and head-stands.

From time to time he would invite his favourites into a small workshop next to the gym, where he plied us with Senior Service untipped and bottles of Mackeson before plunging his busy fingers down our shorts. Although I rejected his advances, I continued to help myself to beer ’n’ cigs from his secret depot when he wasn’t around. It never occurred to me to report him to the authorities. Why? Because he was the authorities.

Complaining about a teacher was as unthinkable as refusing to participate in a cross-country run. Anyway, no 11-year-old boy wishes to parade his sexual innocence: Napier warned me – and many others – that by refusing to cooperate we were merely demonstrating our immaturity.

“X lets me do it you know,” he said, naming a class-mate of mine. For weeks afterwards, X sneered at me for my squeamishness.

Several very similar rehashes of this account were published in later years, the latest being only this week in the Daily Mirror.

But there have been subtle changes, too, as time has passed. On BBC TV news on the evening after sentencing, Wheen spoke in scandalised tones about having been taken aback when Charles abruptly shoved a hand down the front of his gym shorts. Now I’m not about to accuse Wheen of lying, or even exaggerating. After all, this latest version presumably corresponds to the contents of his official witness statement to the police, so it’s not just a dashed off bit of journalistic hype.

But dashed off articles often have one great merit: the words spill out in a relatively unguarded way. Whereas his recent, written-with-the court-in-mind, pieces emphasise the sexual total innocence of the boys, his earlier, more casual work tells a rather different story. In another Guardian article in 2005, for instance, he admitted that at his prep school “there was a fair bit of leaping in and out of beds in dormitories, comparing notes, and general exploration”. He also mentions a physics master at Harrow, his later public school, who caught a couple of boys in sexual action and warned them “I don’t mind mutual masturbation, but I draw the line at buggery.” And that, he said, became accepted as a sort of unofficial school rule. Note the admission, too, in the 1996 article, that at least one boy sneered at Wheen’s “squeamishness”. How innocent does all this sound?

As it happens, I wrote to Wheen back in the nineties, challenging what I thought was his overly harsh view of Charles. This was based on my reading of the situation, which now appears to have been incorrect, that Charles had his hands down other boys’ shorts, if they were willing, but not Wheen’s because unlike other boys Wheen “rejected his advances”. In other words, it seemed the boys would have been aware of what went on in Charles’s “den” and were free to join in or not, as they chose.

In my letter, I said:

I am completely in favour of resources such as Childline and other means through which children can challenge bullying and abusive behaviour by adults, including parents. Having said that, I cannot help feeling you have been unfair to Charles, not so much in what you say he did but in the opprobrium you pour on him regardless of the fact that he actually seems to have done very little.

Wheen could have put me right on that, but chose not to. He responded to my brief initial approach with at least one short letter of his own, but I do not recall any further communication.

So, all in all, I remain sceptical that the molestation of which Wheen complains so bitterly had much to do with the force of Charles’s authority and the boys’ inability to refuse his wishes. I think it was more positive: no one was forced to spend extra-curricular time with Charles. They were drawn by the exciting allure of being with a popular – let’s not forget that word popular – teacher and getting up to all sorts of outrageous illicit things, including the cigarettes and booze.

It seems to me Wheen has been in a massive sulk all these years because he couldn’t be in the gang on his own terms. He said Charles called him a baby for not joining in, which made him feel “inadequate”. Gosh, how awful! That bruise to the delicate young Wheen’s ego must be worth a 13-year stretch on its own! But isn’t it time this grand-daddy of all cry-babies finally grew up and moved on after nearly half a century of wailing? Maybe, indeed, he should remember his school motto:

Pervincet Vivida Virtus: Lively manliness conquers all. (Albeit diplomatically re-translated as “All can be achieved by hard work” after they started taking girls!)

Oh, and another thing. As he is so keen on giving “historic” offenders hell, I presume he won’t complain if he is now nicked for stealing Charles’s property and sentenced to the maximum penalty: seven years for theft!

As for a far more serious complaint that Charles, “forced” a boy to “perform a sex act on him” I again find myself sceptical. That would not be the Charles I knew. He had a conscience and could not have brought himself to do anything in the face of a child’s reluctance. He might have gone so far as to exhort and cajole (bad enough in itself, to be sure), but not to threaten or force. He did not pester Wheen, after all, once the embryonic journalist had made his displeasure clear.

Yes, Charles was grossly irresponsible in his use of cigs and beer to “groom” his young charges. Yes, he knew that children could not in law give sexual consent however willing they were. And, yes, among the complainants there are those who say they have suffered depression and even suicidal feelings as a consequence of what Charles did.

Had he been caught and punished with a prison sentence for his prep school offences back in the 1970s he could have no complaint.

Is it right, though, that he and others should be judged today, after decades have passed and in a much more harshly punitive atmosphere? These days, it is said, there is a better understanding of the long-term harm caused by adult-child sexual encounters. So, if this is recent knowledge (not that we need accept its accuracy), how was Charles supposed to be aware of it in the 1970s? Should he and others be punished now with far greater severity than they would have decades ago on the basis that they didn’t have a reliable crystal ball in those days? Is that fair?

Ought there to be a statute of limitations?

Barrister Barbara Hewson recently argued in favour of such a statute.* To me the case seems unanswerable. Mores have changed so enormously in less than half a century that bringing Charles to “justice” this year was hardly any different from posthumously putting Thomas Jefferson on trial for keeping slaves, including his own personal child sex slave (Sally Hemings, aged 14). Should the author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and that country’s third president be dishonoured and have his grave desecrated, as happened recently in the case of Jimmy Savile? It would make just as much sense, or as little, as the hounding of poor Charles.

Also, the further removed a trial is from the alleged offences, the more ills can be dubiously attributed to the original acts. One of Charles’s victims is said to have been suicidal “later in life”. But over the course of decades many of us suffer all sorts of misfortunes that might make us suicidal. We might have lost money disastrously on a business venture, been through an acrimonious divorce, be depressed about getting fat and diabetic. In such circumstances it is all too easy to claim that you wouldn’t have made a foolish investment, or married the wrong woman or fallen prey to overeating but for this thing that happened at school. It’s possible, to be sure, but many other factors may have been more determinative. You don’t – or shouldn’t – condemn a man to a 13-year prison sentence on such a nebulous basis.

But the frenzied blood-lust that has seized the media, the masses and even the courts in the wake of the Savile debacle will not be sated or satisfied by rational proposals for a statute of limitations. Raising the idea is like having pointed out mildly, in the midst of the French Revolution, that not all the aristocrats being trundled to the guillotine were necessarily very bad. The present mood of deluded indignation demands a universal “Off with their heads!” response, be the transgression great or small.

Perhaps, in the circumstances, Charles Napier should reflect philosophically on the fate of another of his ancestors – not Charles II but that king’s father, Charles I, who lost his head in the English Revolution. At least the good people of England are not literally going in for decapitation these days – not yet, anyway!

*The link is to Part II of an article titled “The cult of victimhood and the limits of law” in The Barrister. Part I is also relevant to historic cases.

STOP PRESS: THE ESTABLISHMENT FIGHTS BACK

The Queen’s New Year honours have just been announced and I see I have been overlooked yet again. Unbelievable! 🙂

What makes it even worse is a damehood for that horrible bitch Esther Rantzen. Sorry for the sexist language, ladies, but had she been a bloke the word would have been bastard or shit, which is hardly an improvement. Not only did she refuse to shake hands with me in the BBC reception room as we waited to go on air for the TV discussion show After Dark about a decade ago, she also set her Rottweiler (bitch) friend “June” on me – a screaming “survivor” and ex-prostitute whom I found most discombobulating. She was so loud and in-yer-face aggressive it was hard to think or talk straight. It took all the diplomacy I could muster just to ward off the imminent threat of June giving me a Glasgow kiss. As that city happened to be her home town and she was built like a battle tank I fancy she’d have been good at it.

The Guardian today said this latest honours list was intended “to focus on those who help vulnerable children”. Hence the damehoods for ChildLine founder Rantzen and also for Joyce Plotnikoff, “who has revolutionised the way courts treat child witnesses”. And there was a CBE for Kate Lampard, “the independent overseer of the NHS investigation into Jimmy Savile”.

Much more interesting, though, was a damehood for Fiona Woolf, who was forced to resign from the government’s overarching child abuse inquiry recently. Victims’ groups had protested that she was an unsuitable chair because of her links with Tory peer Leon Brittan, a friend and neighbour, whose role as home secretary in dealing with allegations of child abuse in the 1980s “is likely to be scrutinised”, as the Guardian inscrutably put it.

It may be remembered that yet another dame, Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, was the first person appointed to head the ill-fated abuse enquiry and, like Woolf afterwards, was shown the door by the victims’ lobby. Butler-Sloss was forced to stand down because her late brother Sir Michael Havers had been attorney general in the 1980s and his actions would have been subject to investigation by the inquiry.

Now, in a sign of an establishment fight-back matching the new honour for Woolf, and even topping it, Butler-Sloss has gone public with some very pointed remarks about the danger of handing over too much control to the victims.

She has said she fears the government will never be able to find an experienced figure to run the abuse investigation, but that victims should not think they can do it.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 today she said for victims to be deciding who should be the person chairing the inquiry “creates real problems”.

She said:

You are going to need someone who knows how to run things and if you get someone with an obscure background with no background of establishment, they will find it very difficult and may not be able to produce the goods.

She agreed that the normal processes of sifting of evidence, and neutrality between accuser and accused, might go by the board if the victims were allowed to dominate.

Quite so, your ladyship!

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