CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM
The heavily censored Henriques Report – only 84 out of nearly 500 pages released – comes firmly down on the side that all the prominent people investigated in Operation Midland are innocent of sexual abuse allegations made by “Nick” and the Met police should have closed down the investigation.
It has also triggered an investigation by Northumbria Police into whether ” Nick ” should be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice by making such allegations.
More significantly it questions the whole approach of the police in handling future complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse across the country.
It amounts to a rebalancing of the way the police handle child sexual abuse and rape cases from protecting the accuser to offering more support to the suspect.
In doing so it exposes a rift between the judge and Operation Hydrant, the national co-ordinating investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse by prominent people headed by Simon Bailey, the chief constable of Norfolk.
Basically Henriques wants to revert to the earlier situation where people who allege a crime was committed against them are treated as complainants and not victims of crimes and anyone who alleges child sexual abuse is not necessarily believed.
Simon Bailey clearly disagrees with this and makes it clear that he believes it will be detrimental to the trust people who have been abused have in dealing with the police.
I disagree with both of them and think they should be called survivors – as the use of the word victim implies powerlessness- something I have not seen with the survivors I have met.
Henriques seems to want a return to historic times where from North Wales to London an accused paedophile could get away with it much more easily and die peacefully in his bed.
His assurances that people complaining have nothing to fear from telling the truth has not worked in the past or we wouldn’t have this huge backlog of cases.
Savile and Sir Cyril Smith managed to avoid prosecutions altogether. But by taking abused people seriously years later North Wales paedophiles Gordon Anglesea and John Allen have been convicted as a result of the Pallial investigation.
Operation Fernbridge also led to the successful conviction of a well connected Roman Catholic priest who had escaped justice for some 40 years. Among celebrities who have been successfully convicted is Rolf Harris.
However the treatment of the police of suspects like Paul Gambaccini, Cliff Richard and Lord Bramall that Henriques declares innocent during the police investigation seems to have been excessive and looks ( though he doesn’t go into the full detail in his heavily redacted report) that many procedural mistakes were made.
He also challenges Bailey over the small number of false claims – and seems to suggest that there are likely to be more false claims against prominent people.
He says there is an imbalance between the anonymity granted to the accuser and the danger of the anonymity of the suspect being disclosed. However the police do not name the suspect until charged
His solution is to limit information released by the police while they are investigating the case by removing the age and the location of the person involved being interviewed,arrested or their home searched. I can see being reasonable over home raids and interviews but it is dangerous if it is extended to an arrest.
At present if a journalist becomes aware someone is arrested they will limit their coverage to avoid prejudicing a trial. If the police refuse to confirm this they risk a prejudiced trial because journalists won’t know and could publish information that will damage their case.
There is also one serious error in his conclusion over Exaro’s coverage. He says the news organisation used a photo identity test on the survivor. He implied we did it while there was an ongoing police investigation. Wrong. It took place before the police ever interviewed ” Nick”. It was done because if the person couldn’t recognise any of the people who he claimed had abused him, it would throw doubt on his claims. The late Lord McAlpine case is an example where this did not happen with disastrous consequences.
I am also sceptical of him seeking ” confidentiality agreements ” with survivors binding them forever to secrecy over their allegations which even he admits survivors would face no sanctions if they ignored it.
The survivors would in theory if the police decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute be left unable to tell anyone about his or her case. As a result they would be left in a worse position than if they never complained to the police in the first place.
So help or hindrance? With firm evidence that there are at least 100,000 people now in this country viewing children being sexually abused for pleasure on the internet there is a danger that a substantial shift in the balance from protecting the survivor to protecting the suspect could hinder the advances being made in bringing paedophiles to book.
You do not change the law for the whole country based on a few very high profile cases even if a judge rules that they were unjustly accused and there was no corroborative evidence.
Yes make some adjustments to officially confirming information to protect people who could be innocent. Don’t put back the present direction of travel – otherwise you are giving comfort to that small minority who still persist in believing that child sexual abuse is just a ” conspiracy theory ” created by a few people trying to make money out of innocent public figures.
The suggestion that survivors be bound by a confidentiality agreement is shameful and once more smacks of the establishment protecting the establishment. I am sick of the mainstream media declaring the total innocence of people where in fact there was “insufficient evidence to prosecute”. They do this all the time.
I fir one would like to hear the evidence of the accusers and make up my own mind. I realise that that is unlikely to happen unless the accused take legal action against their accusers. Despite all the noise coming from the accused, including a convicted abuser, I do not think that will ever happen. Sir, or is it saint, Cliff has already forgiven his accusers, how convenient, sorry how noble of him I mean. If it were me and I was innocent I’d want to make them to court and blow their flimsy accusations out if the water, just to silence doubters like me.
For this reason I doubt that Nick will be brought to court but time will tell.
Have you yet met Janner’s son? He is spinning it for all he is worth. He has a tricky conflict with Henriques, who is, to his view, totally right about operation Midland but totally wrong about his late father. I wonder whether they will let Janner fall or bail him out? Many I know would see the removal of Janner from the inquiry as a clear sign of a cover up. If you do see Janner don’t forget to ask him about the family friend who allegedly was propositioned by Lord Janner. Is he a fanatacist too?
Sorry to ramble on but on the inquiry why do you think we are not getting any feedback from those who have left? Are they bound by confidentiality agreements and if so why?
Yes I have met Daniel Janner. He does have a problem with Henriques. While Henriques has exonerated his father re Nick, he actually said his father should have been prosecuted much earlier. When I pointed out that Henriques said the police should have taken action, he complained that he had come to this judgement by doing a paper exercise and not talking to people.
On your other point re the inquiry I suspect there are fierce confidentiality agreements. When I was asked in the early days of the inquiry to come in and advise their outside contractors on their website on a pro bono basis, I had to sign a confidentiality agreement just for two afternoon visits!
One of Henriques’s principal criticisms of the Leicester police was that they failed to talk to people they needed to have seen if they were going to make a proper investigation of the allegations against Janner. Has Janner any criticism of the police’s paper exercise that got his father off the hook?
How would a confidentiality agreement actually work David? Are they legally binding? Are they binding even if you suspect that an individual is obstructing the enquiry by, for example, refusing to consider certain lines of inquiry? Or worse concealing evidence?
It is a little like the Official Secrets Act, I signed it once, and understood why, but had I knowledge of the covering up of child abuse wild horses would not stop me from coming forward.
Colin, that is the odd thing. Henriques seems to want to use them to prevent survivors talking to the press – as they are kept up to date with developments in their case. Yet at the same time he thinks they will be unenforceable if someone decides to break them. It is tied up with his concern for a media clampdown and his realisation that it is impossible to force a journalist to disclose his or her sources.
Although I am sympathetic to the recent Patsy’s such as Richard and Bramall, who appear to have been falsely named and put up as abusers, since when can you gag other people making abuse allegations that cannot be proved at present? To do that would be a threat to the rule of law and seems to Ultra Vires. The establishment proposal seems to say sign this and and go away quietly. What if the accuser then decides to pursue the matter privately as they may do because the burden of proof is less than a CPS court case? You know what I would tell the agent to do with their piece of paper? Wippe asinus in eam.
Further to earlier comments today’s Mail reports that confidentiality agreements might prevent the letters from departed lawyers being issued by the Home Affairs Select Committee. I do not believe that confidentiality agreements were conceived for the possibility of a sexual assault accusation, rather to ensure that no member would go rogue in the event that they found something too devastating to release. I bet it was the Home Office who introduced these, probably through Emerson. I do not think we are anywhere near the truth of these departures and worry why so many people are so scared to speak out.
What would be the consequence of breaking the confidentiality agreement David? Might it mean prosecution and even gaol? As I said above, anyone with any self-respect would ignore it anyway if it was being used to protect those guilty of heinous offences.