IMPRESS reject arbitration and compensation claim from ex MP over Esther Baker investigation story on this blog

esther baker

Esther Baker

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

The press regulator, Impress, has refused a request for arbitration and compensation from former Liberal Democrat MP, John Hemming, over an article published on this blog last September when the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to  issue criminal proceedings against the ex MP and two other people over allegations of child sex abuse from Esther Baker.

The article reported, almost in full, statements issued by Staffordshire Police and the ex MP after the decision was announced by the CPS. The CPS concluded there was ” insufficient evidence ” to proceed, the ex MP said he had been the subject of false allegations.

Since then Esther Baker has appealed the CPS decision and a ruling is expected some time in the autumn.

This blog is not directly covered by the regulator, IMPRESS, but because I cross post articles on the independent platform, Byline, it is indirectly covered since Byline has agreed to be regulated by IMPRESS.

IMPRESS’S regulatory committee ruled  that the article  on its own could not been seen  as Mr Hemming claimed as ” harassment”. And it dismissed his claim for compensation by saying that any  alleged harm caused to Mr Hemming  by this article was ” trivial ” and ” too insignificant to meet the  test ” for a claim.

For the record  and to prevent other people putting  any spin on this decision this is the text of the ruling sent to Byline:

“I am writing to advise you that an IMPRESS Regulatory Committee recently met to consider John Hemming’s request for arbitration. Having carefully considered his request in accordance with the IMPRESS procedures they have decided that the request is not suitable for arbitration under the CIArb/IMPRESS Arbitration Scheme. The reasons for their decision are set out below.

Reasons for Board arbitration suitability decision:

Rule 8.3 of the IMPRESS Regulatory Scheme requires the Board to make an administrative assessment of whether a claim is covered by the scheme. For the avoidance of doubt, this decision is not based on an assessment of the merits of a claim.
Rule 46 of the Regulatory Scheme Procedures provides six administrative criteria that need to be satisfied before a claim can be accepted under the scheme.

The Board considered each of these in turn:
(i) The claim is made against a publisher regulated by IMPRESS.
The Committee was satisfied that the claim was made against a publisher (Byline) that was regulated by IMPRESS at the time of the act complained of (6 September 2017).
(ii) The claim is related to one of the areas of law covered by the scheme.
The Committee was satisfied that the claim related to an area of law covered by the scheme, namely defamation and harassment. With regards to the claim for harassment however, though this related to one of the areas covered by the scheme, the Committee determined that the claim for harassment did not satisfy the relevant test. This was because, under a claim for harassment, a ‘course of conduct’ required two or more events to be characterised as such. The claimant therefore could not bring a claim against the publisher for the publication of one article.
(iii) The claim is not a pre-publication matter where it is appropriate for it to be directed to the courts.
The Committee was satisfied that the claim did not relate to a pre-publication matter where it was appropriate for it to be directed to the courts.
(iv) The claim provides a clear statement setting out the harm or financial loss suffered by the claimant.
The Committee was not satisfied that the claim clearly set out the harm or financial loss that the claimant had suffered as a result of the published article. It noted that the claimant largely relied on the fact that the article was part of a wider campaign against him which he accepted that Byline was not a party to.
(v) The claim describes a specific action or activity of a publisher that has caused the alleged harm or financial loss.
The Committee was not satisfied that the claimant adequately described how it was the article published by Byline that caused the alleged harm and loss to the claimant. This is because, although the claimant identified specific harm and loss caused by the ‘wider campaign’, the claimant failed to specify any harm or loss which arose as a direct result of the article published by Byline. The Committee determined that any harm or loss caused to the claimant by the publisher was trivial or incidental in conjunction with the remainder, and was thus too insignificant to meet the test.
(vi) The claimant explains why the complaint is not suitable for resolution by the IMPRESS complaints procedure.
The Committee accepted that given that (i) the complaint did not, on the face of it, appear to engage the Standards Code and (ii) the claimant sought financial compensation as a remedy, it was not suitable for resolution by the IMPRESS complaints procedure.
In conclusion, the Committee decided that the claimant’s request for arbitration should be refused on the grounds that parts (iv) and (v) of the test were not met.

Esther Baker child sex abuse case: “Insufficent evidence”to prosecute as accused ex MP outs himself “

esther baker

Esther Baker

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

 UPDATE  20 January 2018: Since this blog was published Esther Baker has been given core participant status at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. She has appealed the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service who are currently reviewing the case

She is still regarded by Staffordshire Police as a witness for a separate inquiry with another police force into child sexual abuse and exploitation.

The two year long police investigation into allegations by Esther Baker against a former Liberal Democrat MP and two other people has ended with no prosecutions against any of the people following a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service that there is ” insufficient evidence” to get a conviction in court. Her case was highlighted,among others, by Exaro News, and centred around allegations that as a young girl she was sexually abused in the woods in Staffordshire by a number of prominent people while police officers looked on.

Staffordshire Police said in a  carefully worded statement which was supportive of Esther : “We have now concluded a thorough and sensitive investigation into a number of non-recent child sexual abuse allegations made by Esther Baker.

Throughout this process our priority has been to support Esther and ensure all potential lines of enquiry were carefully assessed and investigated. We submitted the findings to specialist lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who have now concluded that there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction of any suspect in this case.

We recognise this investigation, and subsequent review by the CPS, has taken a great deal of time. ”

Supt Amanda Davies said “It was vital we gave the victim the time, space and support she needed to disclose the information. Over 100 hours of interviews were conducted by specially trained officers, and throughout the investigation we have kept her informed and continued to provide support.

“In this case Esther made the difficult decision to waive her right to anonymity and we will continue to support her, as we would with all victims of crime. We want to take this opportunity to reassure other potential victims that their identity is protected by law.”

“Supporting victims remains our absolute priority, rest assured you can contact us confident that you will be listened to and we will provide the support you need.”

Three people were interviewed under caution during this investigation, one of whom was arrested, he has now been released from bail.

John Hemming, the former Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham, Yardley, decided yesterday to reveal that he was subjected to allegations from Esther Baker and interviewed by the police though not arrested. In a long statement on his own blog, reproduced below, he attacked the Labour Party and accused his successful opponent,  Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham, Yardley of a campaign against him over the case ( even though he was never named) which he claimed was a perversion of the course of justice. He also attacked Sky News and Exaro for their reporting of it.

 He said :“I am pleased that the Police have now made it clear that there has been a concerted effort to promote false criminal allegations against me and that the allegations had no substance whatsoever.

I would like to thank Emily Cox, my children, Ayaz Iqbal (my Solicitor), my local lib dem team and many others who supported me through this dreadful experience. 

There are many worse things that happen to people, but this was a really bad experience.

It is bad enough to have false allegations made about yourself to the police, but to have a concerted campaign involving your political opponents and many others in public creates an environment in which it is reasonable to be concerned about ill founded vigilante attacks on your family and yourself. Luckily there was a more substantial lobby to the contrary as well, which included many people who were themselves real survivors of abuse, which has helped. 

I am normally someone who helps other people fight injustice. Being subject to an unjust campaign of vilification is something I do not wish to repeat.

The police themselves have handled the allegations well. However, although it was obvious from the start that the allegations were nonsense, it has taken two years for this to be resolved. Identifying why that is will take time, but I believe that the system is too tolerant of false allegations. The current CPS guidelines on handling false allegations are in my view too tolerant of malicious allegations and need review. The unnecessary delay of around 2 years in resolving the issue I believe arises from procedures that are being used being flawed.

It has been in the public domain for 2 years that the complainant changed her allegations in early 2015 from those she had made publicly previously and that she had stated publicly that she had never met a politician…

It should be noted that the newspapers generally have handled the issue reasonably well. Exaro and Exaro’s funder have behaved dreadfully. Sky should recognise that not only was their broadcast of the original allegations in May 2015 a complete nonsense, but also had it been based upon truthful allegations that it would have undermined a criminal investigation. The attempts to drum up additional false complainants through the use of publicity highlights a difficulty with publicising cases whilst a police investigation is going on. There are people who will make false allegations merely because someone suggests that they are looking for such allegations.

Some members of the Labour Party, including my opponent in the last two General Elections, have invested considerable time in promoting these allegations. The promotion of the complainant as an expert in this subject area as a consequence of these allegations has caused additional difficulties for my family.

I am not myself aware of another situation where members and supporters of a political party have promoted such allegations in such a public manner – essentially arming the villagers with torches and pitchforks and setting off on a lynching. There were public attempts to prevent me from standing as a candidate because of allegations made maliciously by a Labour Party member backed by other members of the Labour Party. Many Labour members will find this unacceptable and it is an issue that needs consideration by the Labour leadership.

I have asked the police to investigate this attempt to pervert the course of justice and await their response. There are, of course, many procedural options that are open to me to obtain justice for my family. I will consider those over the near future.”

Two points need to be made as I suspect that this case will not be going away for some time.

First because other allegations  ( not involving the ex MP) made by Esther are still under investigation by Staffordshire Police with another police force, relating to when she was a teenager and she is intending to appeal the CPS decision.

Second it is clear Mr Hemming will not let this go. On his criticism of Exaro there are two points. He wrongly blames the former owner and funder, Jerome Booth, for publication of the story. Jerome never knew or wanted to know what stories Exaro was investigating and read the stories for the first time  like everyone else when they were published.

Secondly Exaro never named him throughout the investigation and when the police revealed his age which would have made it easier to identify him through ” a jigsaw identification ” removed the tag Liberal Democrat.