An important read: Why Exaro director Tim Pendry feels we should continue to investigate the Westminster paedophile ring

JusticiaI am reproducing this comment from  Tim Pendry one of Exaro’s directors, following the BBC Panorama programme last night. It tries to put into context the current investigation into child sex abuse. I have my own views and may do a blog myself later.

PERSONAL STATEMENT ON EXARO AND THE CURRENT MEDIA WAR OVER THE REPORTING OF CHILD ABUSE

[This personal statement on the current ‘smear campaigns’ being undertaken against the Founders of Exaro and against Exaro itself was published on my Personal Blog at the weekend. There may be more to say on the innuendo employed in that smear campaign but not at this time. Exaro must be allowed to continue its investigative work, as must the police, into allegations of child abuse by significant persons without further distraction. If the allegations are not true, then Exaro and the Police will eventually find out and say so. And if they are true … ]

When I created ExaroNews I had no idea of where it would lead. Its purpose was simply to ‘hold power to account’ through investigative journalism under the leadership of an honest editor … a type in our society who is as valuable as an honest cop. We found that honest editor in Mark Watts.

The next stage was to get funding and this we did. What few seem to understand is that the funding came with a condition on our part – no interference by the shareholders in editorial decision-making. There was no quarrel with this and I signed away my own ability to tell Mark what to do, neither to cajole nor to threaten.

A risk was taken by us that he would continue to maintain the highest journalistic standards and not be frightened by the brute weight of the political establishment, of the dark forces to be found in every society or of rival media embarrassed that Exaro would achieve what they had signally failed to do – hold power to account – despite their massively greater resources.

Exaro does not have massive resources but it has had sufficient resources to follow through on what has become one of the biggest investigations of our age – allegations that child abuse and worse (if anything can be worse) were covered up by the powerful. This was the decision of the editorial team and no one else.

Those who followed the Kincora Case are fully aware of what very small groups of people within the system are capable of. One should not ever assume that institutions are necessarily acting in our interest simply because that is what they claim that they are doing. To me (as an outsider), it was always reasonable that they should investigate this matter much as they have investigated many other matters.

At no time (to my knowledge) has Exaro pre-judged the issue in regard to the child abuse allegations – the police once used an unfortunate turn of phrase but that is not the responsibility of Exaro. Exaro appears to have listened to claims and undertaken what investigation it could, reasonably publishing the results. Even to suggest (as one blogger appears to have done) that Exaro had the power or influence to initiate police investigations is almost comically absurd.

The mainstream media’s initial approach to Exaro was to try and kill it by ignoring it. Its ability to set the agenda has emerged as a result of editorial persistence. The police make their own decisions on what is worthy of investigation from their perspective and what is not. The allegations have clearly been taken seriously by the police who, despite the ragged and sensationalist reporting of the mainstream media, have reiterated their own high professional standards in an important statement.

That article is well worth re-reading because it makes it very clear that the police are very concerned about the reporting of witness statements and the risks that the media might prejudice their investigations and later court cases while still managing to assert their belief in the importance of the responsible media in assisting investigations.

The publication by Exaro of this police statement in full (which no other media have done despite their public interest claims) is taken by me to mean that Exaro is in in agreement with it. Subsequent public comment by the Editor of Exaro on Twitter suggests that he remains concerned about the conduct of other media in relation to the witnesses and any pre-judgment of investigations. He must speak for himself – I cannot.

The allegations are also taken seriously by some prominent and rather politically brave politicians – it is gratifying that their courage has not halted their careers. Being taken seriously by police, leading politicians and Exaro does not make allegations true but it does make them worthy of investigation in a free and open society. If not, we may as well be in a closed dictatorship.

It must be made clear that at no time (despite my own close interest in the subject of which the Editor knew nothing) have I had any say or influence in the subject matter of the investigation. Neither I nor any Director were consulted on the investigation at its inception or since. I have no idea whether the allegations are true or false. I consider it reasonable, by the very nature of things, that mistakes may have been made or could yet be made but also that the allegations are far from being easily dismissed.

Everything I have read to date (noting that this has been going on now for some two years or so) suggests that Exaro and, entirely separately, the investigating police officers have cause to be interested in the allegations, have no political angle whatsoever, are professionally committed to what they are doing in their very different spheres and are utterly right to reveal any possibility of wrong-doing in the public interest in order to explore the evidential base for claims.

One is not naive – I am aware of past scandals such as the absurd satanic abuse claims of several decades ago. The possibility of such phenomena as false memory or political manipulation has to be taken into account but the right approach is not to walk away but to investigate even these possibilities rationally and in an evidence-based way, especially in the wake of the Jimmy Savile Scandal which the BBC signally failed to investigate adequately while it was happening on its very door step. In my opinion, the BBC lacks all credibility in this area and should stand down.

My own interest is now simply as an observer while others are engaged in serious professional struggles that might have equally serious reputational consequences for them if they do get it wrong. That is their risk – I don’t actually share that risk. But let me give one solid reason why I suggest that the investigation may have merit and it is this.

If the investigation had no merit, I would not personally be subject, over many months, to repeated and aggressive internet attacks on my integrity based on half-truths and failures to obtain the facts directly from me (it is not as if I am hidden on the internet), including attacks on relatives of mine using innuendo.

The flow of false claims about Exaro and the individuals involved in Exaro suggest that we are seeing a campaign of deliberate attempted destabilisation of the investigations in which some mainstream media have now found themselves to be ‘useful idiots’. These mainstream journalists too must investigate but they should equally investigate the sources for the claims against the investigation. In this world of smoke and mirrors, this is becoming a test case about the sort of journalism we want in our country and so of the sort of politics and justice we are prepared to tolerate.

I am personally subject to these attacks simply because I founded Exaro News and own a minority stake in the Holding Company that owns it. That is all. It is a form of political terrorism because the aim is to create fear and anxiety surrounding reputation. The attackers seem to believe that, by attacking me, they can destabilise Exaro. They do not seem to realise that, no matter what they say about me or members of my family or my businesses or my politics, I have no power to stop any investigation even if I wished to do so – and I do not.

The nature of those personal attacks – which it seems involved hiring private investigators (who seem to have done a very poor job) to build a dossier on me (and others) which included family members – indicates that someone is rattled by these investigations. It suggests that the investigations are dangerous to someone. It suggests, on that basis alone, that the investigations are worthwhile.

Here, I write in a wholly personal capacity. I do not speak for Exaro Holdings, I do not speak for Exaro News. I speak only for an individual who has no regrets whatsoever in having kick-started an organisation, now wholly editorially independent of me and which has been so since its formation as a Company, that is prepared to turn up stones to see what lies beneath them.

I cannot take responsibility for the investigations which means I cannot take either the blame or the credit for what happens next. What I will do is say that, on the balance of probabilities and on the very fact of the attacks on me in the undergrowth of the internet, Mark Watts seems to have struck a nerve. I hope that he and his hardworking team continue to refuse to be brow-beaten as I will refuse to be brow-beaten.

Have a laugh and watch tonight Rory Bremner and the mandarins

rory bremnerDepressed or elated about the election result? Have a few laughs tonight and watch Rory Bremner’s election special about  who was holding the real power in Britain while the country was going to the polls.

I have been working as a consultant to the one off programme  which will explore the growing power of private companies running Whitehall and the role of mandarins. I know he has talked “off the record” to some pretty well placed political and Whitehall sources. You might be surprised to find out who is running the country and where we are selling our Whitehall wares. The programme is produced by the Vera – the company that has twice exposed MPs in lobbying stings – the latest being Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack straw.

Plus of course the inimitable impressions and the usual stuff from this comedian. It’s on BBC 2 at 10.0pm. It’s called Rory Bremner’s Election Report.

Why Theresa May was right to ignore David Aaronovitch over child sex abuse in North Wales

Times columnist David Aaronovitch. Pic credit :Flickr

Times columnist David Aaronovitch. Pic credit :Flickr

Two years ago when Theresa May announced she was re-opening the police investigation into the North Wales child abuse scandal  Times columnist David Aaronovitch penned a highly controversial column warning that the nation was in danger of mounting a modern witch hunt over alleged paedophilia. Indeed his post was entitled Beware a modern Salem over child abuse.

He  pointed out that both the  original John Jillings report and the ” exhaustive inquiry ” by retired judge Sir Ronald Waterhouse Lost in Care had found no evidence of a paedophile ring and therefore  there was no need for any fresh inquiries.

I remember disagreeing with him on the BBC Radio Four’s Today programme over his findings after reading the report. He was right about  Waterhouse’s findings but failed to notice that the findings somewhat jarred with the detailed evidence contained in the same report.

He also firmly disagreed with the line taken by one survivor’s solicitor, Steve Messham, that Waterhouse had too limited a remit to inquire properly into the idea of an abuse network.

Fast forward to this week and Operation Pallial, the National Crime Agency run investigation set up by Theresa May, has achieved its first scalp,John Allen. He was sent to prison for life and given he is 73 will probably die there.

Nor was this minor stuff – he was convicted of 33 extra charges – that somehow had been missed in an earlier police investigation. The full background is outlined here in the Liverpool Daily Post. And he is not the only one to face new allegations which will be heard in future trials. To be accurate the latest Pallial statistics say 13 more people are facing trial, there are over 100 new suspects and over 200 survivors coming forward.

Now if David Aaronovitch had won the argument Mr Allen would be a free man and would have got away with all this and died peacefully at home. A  lot of survivors claims would never have been proven and left to fester on no doubt ” lurid and preposterous” ( as Aaronvitch would have it) sites on the internet.

Of course Mr Allen, who had already been found guilty of previous offences, claimed in his defence he wasn’t gay, was not sexually attracted to children and had suffered a “miscarriage of justice ” when he was convicted in  the first place. His accusers were making it up to get compensation money, his defence lawyers said. The jury did not buy this.

I raise this because some of the commentariat and the Establishment believe the latest allegations of a Westminster paedophile ring and alleged murders of some of the victims is another fantasy and leading to a new witch hunt. While the investigation is in no way as advanced as Pallial – Pallial shows it needs following through.

Theresa May in setting up Pallial  and an overarching child sex abuse inquiry obviously does believe that further investigations are needed to find out  what really happened decades ago. She is in on record that this could be ” the tip of an iceberg”. David Cameron believes this is ” stuff of conspiracy theories ” and David Aaronovitch reflects this view in his own column and tweets.

I am backing Theresa May on this one.

Phone Hacking Trial: Government minister Baroness Warsi gives Coulson glowing reference – Martin Hickman

A glowing tribute from Tory minister Baroness Warsi for Andy Coulson who advised her on how to handle her BBC Question Time appearances. Didn’t know you were coached for those!

Inforrm's Blog

baroness-sayeeda-warsi Day 100:  A Government minister who attends Cabinet today gave a glowing character reference for a journalist accused of phone hacking.

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Why authorities named by Gove must investigate thoroughly the Savile sex abuse allegations

Commend him for announcing the Savile investigation

Commend him for announcing the Savile investigation

This week Michael Gove, the education secretary, took the bold step of announcing to Parliament investigations into historic child sex abuse by Jimmy Savile at local authority, Roman Catholic and charity children’s homes and schools.

 His decision is to be commended and the full Parliamentary statement can be seen here. It names council homes in Bournemouth, Devon, Gloucestershire, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham.Nottinghamshire, Surrey and the London boroughs of Hounslow, Islington, Southwark and Tower Hamlets. It also names Barnados in Redbridge; the Henshaw school for the Blind in Leeds and the Notre Dame Grammar School in Leeds and Sevenoaks School in  Kent.

The Savile scandal has been one of the worst  child abuse scandals to come out affecting not only schools but the BBC and even Broadmoor Hospital. It also extended outside England to Jersey.

I hope that all the authorities do a thorough review and uncover every fact possible – even though it dates back to the 1960s,70s and 80s. It will also mean tracing the children who had been there. I hope also the authorities know that if they do approach people they must be given proper and adequate support – something that has been noticeably lacking in current historic paedophile inquiries I have been covering.

 Nothing must be hidden. It is scandal in the unrelated historic paedophile inquiry in the London borough of Richmond ( which did not involve Savile) that it has taken over 40 years for anybody to be brought to court to answer such crimes. It should also look at whether Savile had any accomplices that allowed such things to happen.  The time for cover up is over.

Iain Duncan Smith’s election present for the Golden Oldies: Bye Bye bus pass and fuel payments

Iain Duncan Smith's endangered species the free bus pass

Iain Duncan Smith’s endangered speciesthe free bus pass

George Osborne has made a lot of noise about how  pensioners  with spare cash are going to get  a fabulous deal under the Coalition – high interest pensioner bonds and the chance to spend, spend their pension  pot.

 All this is seen by political commentators as a  brilliant move by the  Chancellor to get the grey vote out for the Tories next year – with many of the measures timed for the election.

He also made it clear that pensions were going to be exempt from the new welfare cap – which will hit everyone else from lone parents, the disabled.and the working poor on housing benefit.

Sounds too good to be true for  the elderly. And guess what, it is.

Hidden in the specialist publication The House Magazine today is an interview with Works and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith by journalist Paul Waugh. And he asks: What’s your latest thinking about benefits such as winter fuel allowance and other universal, non-pension benefits for the elderly?

 The answer is : “The Chancellor has made it clear that they go into the [welfare] cap. So straight away they will be looked at in the same way as other benefits. Whether we have a specific view on those is a matter for the manifesto. It’s already very clear that they will be part of the overall balance of expenditure within the department for the benefit cap.”

So this broad brush promise on Budget Day is not true. Bus passes, TV licences, fuel payments, all available universally will join the rest of the benefits facing the chop.

What he doesn’t say – but everybody in Westminster  knows – is that the scale of cuts planned after the 2015 will make the last five years look like tiny by comparison. So it is my bet that we will see the end  of free bus passes and most fuel payments – because the size of cuts required will dictate it. And if you take the fact that Labour under Ed Balls is already committed to means testing fuel payments and the Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg want to do the same to free bus passes. there is no escape.

And the poorer elderly  will find their social care all but disappear – as a fresh wave of local government cuts come into force.

Great policy from the coalition. Splash out your pension fund on a Lamborghini – but if you can’t afford to pay the full bus fares take up your zimmer frame and walk!

Phone Hacking Trial: Brooks complains about “BBC-Guardian Old Labour hit” and Coulson complains about leaks – Martin Hickman

The evidence disclosed today seems to fit in with a general paranoid view of the world – that a genuine Nick Davies scoop must be the work of a Guardian, BBC and old Labour.Also note the irony in the second part of the tale that Andy Coulson was complaining about the Guardian getting tip offs from the Met Police. The on going trial restricts me from saying more.

Inforrm's Blog

AUTOAHfrt_1_gdn_110705_04__Day 44, Part 1: Rebekah Brooks appeared to believe that reports on the hacking of Milly Dowler were part of a co-ordinated exercise against News International by the BBC, the Guardian newspaper and members of the Labour Party.

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Charlie Brooks Will Lewis email exchange: Chris Bryant MP “making stuff up”

This little gem from Peter Jukes comes from documents released in the hacking trial and shows the dislike in the Murdoch Empire for Chris Bryant having the temerity to suggest they could have been. involved in phone hacking. Note BBC Panorama being ” hit” by two legal letters and the determination that Rebekah Brooks must be protected from any suggestion that phone hacking took place prior to 2005. ” We will not let this happen”says Will Lewis. No comment is necessary now.

The Criminal Media Nexus

Here’s the email exchange cited today in court between Rebekah Brooks‘ husband Charlie, and Will Lewis, formerly a senior executive at the Telegraph and then a senior News International executive.  It was prompted by questions raised in the House of Commons by the Labour MP Chris Bryant.

Will Lewis went on to run, under Lord Grabiner, the Management and Standards Committee, which provided evidence to the three MPS investigations – Operation Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta – as proof of co-operation with the police and compliance with US Department of Justice requirements under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Lewis is now a senior News Corp executive in New York.

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Why the Tories have only themselves to blame for not reining in BBC excesses

Last week top BBC figures cut a pathetic stance in front of the Public Accounts Committtee. But two years ago Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, actually PREVENTED the National Audit Office from getting direct access to their accounts. Don’t take my word for it, see the actual correspondence between Sir Micheal Lyons, Chris Patten, Jeremy Hunt, and Amyas Morse, head of the NAO released under Freedom of Information to Exaro News. How dare Maria Miller now say she wants direct access to accounts, it could have been done two years ago

Westminster Confidential

Remember the great fuss from the Conservatives on how they were going to hold the BBC to account, expose those mega salaries paid to Graham Norton and Jeremy Paxman and make sure the taxpayer got the best value for their money from the BBC.

Well if you beleive  culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and Lib Dem culture spokesman Don Foster, it will be all happening from next year in the new cash frozen agreement to fund the BBC. He has spent the last year telling us about his success in allowing Parliament’s National Audit Office the right to launch any inquiry it likes into whether the BBC is value for money.

To quote him directly: “It is right that licence-fee payers have confidence that the BBC is spending money wisely, so I am pleased that the NAO now has the right to full access to BBC information. Its new power to decide which…

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Work Programme providers’ plea is an insult to everyone they have mishandled

This is not good news for the BBC, the work programme or the government. If you take in context the scandal involving A4e which provided placements under first programme I did an extra investigation on top of the work done by the Public Accounts Committee exposing failings in A4e internal audit. My investigation revealed in one small town Bridlington A4 e had placed people with as firm going into liquidation, one run by people from a a house in Rotherham that never filed accounts, another with a company not registered at Companies House, and two with a cafe and taxi firm that subsequently went bust. In other places it turned out they had sent one person to a lap dancing club in Liverpool and a person with a criminal record to a firm which didn’t want to employ people with criminal records. See my own blog https://davidhencke.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/exclusive-how-you-got-state-funded-work-experience-in-a-strip-club-with-a4e/

Mike Sivier's blog

It isn’t very often one can say a news report was shocking – not because of the subject matter, but because of the way it was reported.

That was the situation tonight with the BBC’s item in which Work Programme providers complained that they need more money to “help” the most challenging jobseekers into work.

This group, of course, being benefit claimants in the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance.

This group being the most consistently abused and neglected element of the new underclass created by the Conservative-led Coalition government, demonised and hated by the right-wing press, often attacked in the street (to judge from first-hand accounts), many of whom have been driven to suicide or death caused by their conditions, which have been worsened by the unacceptable (and to most people reading this, inconceivable) amount of stress the DWP, Atos (the private company assessing their fitness…

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