Why prosecuting “Nick” for perverting the course of justice may not stand up in court

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Will Scotland Yard prosecute Nick? Pic Credit: Wikipedia

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The storm after the damning Henriques report  into  how the  Met Police police handled a series of high profile paedophile investigations -including Operation Midland and Yewtree  -has led to demands that one of the principal accusers called ” Nick ” be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.

I have never met ” Nick” as the story was handled by my colleague Mark Conrad but am aware of the circumstances of the Exaro investigation.

Henriques himself – while deciding that all the prominent figures accused in Operation Midland are innocent and were subject to false allegations – stops short of actually recommending this despite being pressed by the Janner family and seeing the strong demands from former Tory MP Harvey Proctor.

He says “Such a course  is well outside my terms of reference and may well be cited as a ground for staying any criminal action against ” Nick.”

But the Met Police decided to ask Northumbria Police to investigate whether ” Nick” had indeed done this.

Unless Henriques, who has only released 84 pages of a 500 page report,has secret information on Nick proving how he made all this up I have considerable scepticism that the police could make a charge of perverting the course of justice stick or even be accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service.

My reason is that there is a precedent. Just 16 months ago a person was tried at the Old Bailey in a court case that most of the national newspapers could not be bothered to cover.

I was a prosecution witness  alongside other journalists in that trial  in a case brought  by the Met Police against Ben Fellows   who had accused the former  Tory chancellor, Ken Clarke, of sexually abusing him.Clarke denied it vehemently and Henriques backs him up.

My involvement – which is contained in a statement on this website after the trial was over – was because I had given a statement to the Met Police while they were investigating his claims.

Fellows was a member of an undercover sting by the Cook Report which was looking at Ian Greer Associates, a long defunct lobbying company, and it was while he was working with us he alleged this had happened.

The Met Police in the end not only did not find any evidence but decided to prosecute him for perverting the course of justice.

He was acquitted of this charge by the jury.

We do not know why the jury decided this. However it was put  to them by his defence barrister that  it was the police that sought his statement not Fellows  who had actually initially refused. So he had not deliberately set out to pervert the course of justice.

The survivor Nick is in the same position. He did not go to the police demanding they investigate the Westminster paedophile ring. The police sought him as a potential witness when they contacted Exaro asking whether  we could provide his details to them.

Exaro made it clear to the police that it would be up to Nick whether he talked to them. Exaro also remained neutral on whether he wanted to talk to him – we did not pressurise him to go to the police. In the end he decided he would – but it was because the police requested it.

Given that – unless again there is something secret that Henriques knows but is not telling the public – it is going to require a high bar to prove he deliberately set out to force the Met Police to spend £2m on an investigation.

There is also another point to this. If the police ask a survivor to make a statement to them so they can pursue people where child sexual abuse crimes are  alleged to be committed are they now going to issue  a warning to the survivor. Are they going to tell survivors that if they cannot prove the case – or no other witnesses come forward – they will liable for prosecution for perverting the course of justice. If that is the new era  survivors are going to be very reluctant to come forward to the police in future.

 

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Exaro: Survivors and witnesses details safeguarded

There have been rumours on the internet that details of survivors and witnesses have been leaked from Exaro following its sudden closure last week.

This is to tell you that both I and Mark Conrad have received full assurances that all information not only affecting  our child sexual abuse allegations but  a wide area of other investigations have been safeguarded as required to comply with privacy and data protection laws. Anyone suggesting anything to the contrary is wrong.

 

 

Westminster Paedophile Inquiry Row: A shrewd move by Scotland Yard

Sir Richard Henriques.

Sir Richard Henriques. Pic Credit: Blackpool Gazette

The decision by Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, the Met Police Commissioner, to ask Sir Richard Henriques, a distinguished  retired judge, to review police procedures covering Operation Midland is very shrewd.

At a stroke it will knock down the hysterical coverage in some newspapers of the investigation which has involved prominent VIPs being interviewed by the Met following allegations of sexual abuse and murder from a survivor known as Nick.

The papers- some of whom seem to act as judge and jury  before the investigation has been completed – in wanting to clear prominent people and cast doubt on the veracity of the victim in alleging such crimes. They have  also complained about the Met Police spending time and money looking at historic child sex abuse cases.

It will also prevent Keith Vaz, the  Labour chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, grandstanding when  Sir Bernard comes before him at the end of this month.

He will know as a lawyer that he can hardly grill Sir Bernard about the procedures of the investigation while there is an inquiry by a retired judge looking into the same issues. Nor can he second guess Sir Richard’s findings.

Indeed instead he may have to explain why his committee was so quick to condemn the Met for its handling of  its investigation into the historic alleged rape  against the late Leon Brittan  brought by  ” Jane” now an independent review by Dorset Police has largely cleared the Met of any errors.

It should also provide a valuable breathing case for the Met to take a balanced decision on whether it can proceed further with Operation Midland rather than all this orchestrated hue and cry that it must be stopped now.

Obviously it has been painful for Leon Brittan’s family and the 92 year old war hero  Lord Bramall to be at the centre of such allegations but that doesn’t mean that the police should not investigate them.

Also it is not only cases brought by Nick that will come under scrutiny but also Darren where the Met Police appear to have taken the opposite decision and decided that Darren’s claims were not worth pursuing.

One of the most interesting findings by the judge will be how he sees the police handled two entirely different victims and  their allegations and what standards were applied.

In a statement announcing the review on Wednesday, Hogan-Howe said the aim was “whether we can provide a better balance between our duty to investigate and the interests of suspects, complainants and victims.”

The Met commissioner added: “We are not afraid to learn how we can do these things better, and that’s why I’ve announced today’s review in to how we have conducted investigations in to non-recent sexual allegations involving public figures.”

Henriques is a former high court judge who conducted an inquiry into how Lord Janner escaped justice over abuse claims.

He is  also the prosecutor who  brought the killers of James Bulger to justice and nailed Harold Shipman,the GP who murdered his patients..

Before retiring he was a judge presiding over  terrorist trials including the trial of eight terrorists who would have slaughtered almost 3,000 people had their plan to bring down transatlantic airliners been successful.

So he seems a good choice to cut through all the hyperbole surrounding the VIP paedophile ring  allegations and make sound recommendations on how the Met should handle such allegations in the future. My main reservation is how much of the report will be made public. Transparency is very important in this case.

 

 

A bloody nose for Keith Vaz: Met Police cleared in “Jane” rape case

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What I suspected was a flawed finding by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee into the Met Police’s investigation of the allegations by ” Jane” that she had been raped as a teenager by Leon Brittan has now been proved correct.

An independent review by Dorset Police of Met Police’s investigation into the case – slipped out in an appendix to a report from the committee – has upheld that the investigation was “necessary, proportionate and fully justified despite the significant passage of time.”
This contradicts the critical findings of MPs who preferred to rely on the evidence given by  Det Chief Inspector Paul Settle  rather than senior Met officers. Their description of Paul Settle’s conduct as ” exemplary ” now looks a trifle hollow.

His decision not to interview the late Lord Brittan despite this being standard procedure in the case of rape allegations is unsurprisingly not described as ” exemplary conduct” by Dorset Police.

Instead They say: “The initial SIO was, by his own admission, inexperienced in rape investigation and whilst he appropriately sought specialist assistance and referred the case for Early Investigative Advice, he drew an early erroneous conclusion that the offence of rape was not made out, due to his perceived issues with consent.

” The reviewer concludes that there were ample reasonable grounds to conduct an investigative interview of LB and that the enquiry could not be properly progressed without doing so. Such action was necessary, proportionate and justified and far from unlawful  (their emphasis) as was contended by the SIO when he subsequently gave evidence before the Home Affairs Select Committee.”

“The Early Investigative Advice file lacked essential detail and was incomplete. It is surprising that a relatively junior member of staff made the decision to close this case without auditable reference to senior command.”

Their views  about ” Jane” are also significant.

They say:”The complainant provides a fairly compelling account of events. She is a competent witness,who displays no malice in her motivation.

Her accounts of her situation in 1967 are corroborated and it is plausible that she was moving in similar social circles to LB. The early disclosures in later years provide some consistency in her account and she appears to have little to gain from making a false allegation.There is some ambiguity surrounding the issue of consent, which would prove difficult before a properly directed jury.”

Her case  was superbly reported by Mark Conrad for Exaro. I met her and her husband and would agree with Dorset police’s assessment.

There were mistakes notably taking a broken tape recorder to interview Leon Brittan when it was eventually done – but it does not deserve the highly biased report in the Mail on Sunday on the findings.

Keith Vaz has opportunity to make amends. Perhaps he could either apologise or clarify his position on this investigation when the Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard  Hogan Howe appears before him on February 23.

 

 

 

The “Jane” date rape case: A flawed report from MPs on the Home Affairs Committee

Keith Vaz MP, chair                  Leon Brittan

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The House of Commons home affairs select committee has produced a number of outstanding reports on the criminal justice system. But its latest report on the Met Police’s handling of an investigation in allegations that Leon Brittan was involved in an historic ” date rape” case is not one of them.

The MPs have admonished the Met Police, demanded that a prominent MP, Tom Watson apologise to Leon Brittan’s family for helping the woman who made the allegation; produced a biased conclusion of how the Met handled the case and given fresh impetus to the idea that celebrities should be given special treatment. The report can be read here. 

Since then my extremely assiduous colleague Mark Conrad has found new information from witnesses interviewed by the Met Police which  are  at odds with the account given by the  original investigating officer and what was broadcast on the BBC  Panorama investigation into child sex abuse. You can read his article on the Exaro website. Mark Watts, Exaro’s editor in chief, has also done an analysis of the police evidence to the committee here.

My main quarrel with the MPs is the conclusions of the report. Not only do they seem biased towards  the investigating officer Paul Settle whose work they describe as ” exemplary” but they appear to ignore compelling evidence given his superiors, notably Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse.

As Rodhouse put it “I think this investigation was following the evidence where it could and conducting a thorough investigation of all the circumstances. That was not done within DCI Settle’s investigation. I understand his rationale but there were other inquiries that needed to be conducted before we could say we had done the job thoroughly.”

Or “. It is highly unusual to undertake an investigation of this nature without interviewing the person who is accused.”

Not only is this ignored in the conclusions but the report indemnifies Mr Settle before, as the report itself says, there has been a  thorough review by another police force to see if the Met Police got it right. One would have thought the MPs would await its findings rather than act like a kangaroo court in  this instance.

And what are MPs doling praising a senior police officer for NOT following standard procedure in  rape cases which is to interview the accused? Or do they think important people deserve special privileges?

They also attack Tom Watson for intervening in the case. As far as I can see the evidence shows that his points had already been acted on independently by senior Met Police officers, so, in effect, it had no influence. In fact the senior police officers agreed with him. His language about the Brittan at a very sensitive time might be another matter.

Finally the report makes a big point about the police not informing Leon Brittan’s family that the case was not proven. They emphasise that this was appalling because he was a high profile figure.

I understand the problem here is that the police aren’t required to inform any accused person that the case is dropped – whether it is Lord Brittan or Joe Bloggs. That is the point the MPs should take up – they are not elected just to represent celebrities but all the people. And they should  not want special treatment just because someone is famous.

All in all , this strikes me as a report rushed out to meet a media feeding frenzy rather than  considered findings of a group of MPs on how the police should handle a very difficult and complex issue.

 

 

 

Right On: A warning to the national press over Operation Midland – the murder and child sex abuse investigation

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I am not surprised at all to see this warning from the Attorney General’s Office to the national press and social media sites not to try to identify ” Nick” the survivor in the Operation Midland  murder and sexual abuse inquiry.

It seems that some papers wanted to close down this inquiry and one of the people interviewed twice by the police, Harvey Proctor, was completely irresponsible in revealing and naming people who may or may not be the subject of investigation,

So just in case the national press don’t have room tonight to cover this statement here it is in full:

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is currently investigating allegations made by a complainant that he was sexually abused by a number of men including various high profile figures.

The Solicitor General, Robert Buckland QC MP, would like to remind editors, publishers and social media users that where an allegation of a sexual offence has been made, no matter relating to the complainant shall be included in a publication if it is likely to lead to members of the public identifying him. Publishing such material is a criminal offence and could be subject to prosecution.

In addition, while the Solicitor General recognises the legitimate public interest in the press commenting on cases of this nature, he wishes to draw attention to the risk of publishing material that gives the impression of pre-judging the outcome of the investigation and any criminal proceedings that may follow, or which might prejudice any such proceedings.

The Attorney General’s Office will be monitoring the ongoing coverage of Operation Midland and editors and publishers should take legal advice to ensure they are in a position to comply with their legal obligations.

Child Sex Abuse: The Met Police’s honest attempt to safeguard survivors and alleged abusers

Scotland Yard: a honest statement Pic Credit: Wikipedia

Scotland Yard: a honest statement
Pic Credit: Wikipedia

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Yesterday unusually the Met Police issued a long statement on Operation Midland – the most controversial criminal investigation into allegations that young boys were murdered and sexually abused by people involved in a Westminster paedophile ring.

The press  coverage has concentrated on the mea culpa by the Met Police itself when a senior investigating officer described some very sensational allegations by an abuse survivor called ” Nick” as ” credible and true”.

The force stuck by its description as ” credible” but dropped the reference to ” true”.As their statement says:”only a jury can decide on the truth of allegations after hearing all the evidence.

“We should always reflect that in our language and we acknowledge that describing the allegations as ‘credible and true’ suggested we were pre-empting the outcome of the investigation.”

But the long statement – it is about 1200 words- also calls for the media and some of the accused,to modify their behaviour both in the interest of protecting vulnerable survivors and not defaming alleged abusers so they can get a fair trial.

The words in the statement covering survivors were particularly pertinent.- coming straight after the Daily Mail has gone as far as it could to identify ” Nick” in a piece in Saturday’s paper and on-line – including a pixellated picture and details about his mother and the job he held.

The Met Police make the eminently sensible suggestion that the press should be extremely careful about identifying vulnerable people – and suggest that print and on-line journalists should follow broadcasters and incorporate part of the regulator Ofcom’s code  when interviewing vulnerable people.

Their definition is much wider than minors. Vulnerable people “may include those with learning difficulties, those with mental health problems, the bereaved, people with brain damage or forms of dementia, people who have been traumatised or who are sick or terminally ill.”

One could  say someone who has been sexually abused as a kid has certainly been traumatised. Unsurprisingly, this does not seem to have been mentioned in the print media.

The police statement adds: ” Our other main concern is the risk that media investigations will affect the process of gathering and testing evidence in our criminal investigation. In recent weeks, one journalist reporting on Operation Midland has shown the purported real identity of someone making an allegation of sexual assault to a person who has disclosed that they have been questioned by police concerning those allegations.”

It rightly warns:”it is extremely distressing to discover that their identity might have been given to anyone else, particularly if that is to someone who may be involved in the case. Secondly, possible victims or witnesses reading the article may believe their identities could be revealed as well, which could deter them from coming forward.”

The police also make it clear  that until someone is charged they will not name anybody. There is a case for protecting individuals who stand accused of such a heinous crime – both murder and sexual abuse – who are still alive from being exposed because it will prejudice a trial. The problem with historic child sex abuse many of those involved are now dead – and it is their reputation that is at risk not a future trial.

However the accused also have to behave responsibly as well. Harvey Proctor, the former Tory MP, who has been questioned by the police as part of the investigation, has the right to call a press conference to defend himself. But it is very irresponsible to name other people who may or may not be under investigation by the Met Police or demand that his accuser be named.

It is not surprising that this has become such a controversial issue. The stakes are very high. People’s reputations face ruin and proving historic child sex abuse is a very difficult thing to do as it takes place in private and people are hardly going to admit to it.

What is required now is some space for the police to continue this complex and difficult investigation.

Everyone, not just the police, needs to tread very carefully and try to report this honestly and objectively, without fear or favour, and without blunting the detailed investigative skills needed to do the job.

The Ben Fellows acquittal: A statement from me

Ben Fellows Pc Credit: BBC

Ben Fellows
Pic Credit: BBC

A few people on the internet have either contacted me or challenged my journalism  since Ben Fellows was acquitted by a jury at the Old Bailey.He was accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice over his allegations against Ken Clarke, the former Tory Cabinet minister.and I was one of a number of witnesses.

The only reason I was called as a prosecution witness by the Met Police was two years ago Scotland Yard’s paedophile unit rightly decided to investigate his allegations that he had been sexually abused by Kenneth Clarke at lobbyist Ian Greer’s office while working undercover for The Cook Report on a sting. I was at the time working as a consultant to the programme while employed full time on the Guardian. To make it absolutely clear the TV investigation was not into any Westminster paedophile ring but into the  “cash for questions” affair which involved allegations that MPs have been paid by Mohamed al Fayed, the then owner of Harrods, for asking Parliamentary questions on his behalf.

The police interviewed me and other members of The Cook report about this and quite independently none of us could recall this happening.

At the Old Bailey trial I gave evidence under oath to tell the truth. the whole truth  and nothing but the truth. I stand by everything I said at the Old Bailey. To do otherwise would be committing perjury, which is a criminal offence.

I also stand by my stories on Exaro News  which are correct to the best of my ability. I investigated Ian Greer for over a year and Ken Clarke’s name was never in the frame. I also saw Ian Greer’s entire accounts for the years in question and again there was never a mention of Ken Clarke.

To those on the internet who have suggested that somehow since the 1970s I have been a secret member of the Establishment covertly working with Peter Mandelson, this has been greeted with absolute mirth by anybody who knows me.

Revealed: How The Metropolitan Police Covered-Up For Rupert Murdoch’s News International – Joe Public

This is an extremely important revelation by Bellingcat and Byline given that the Met Police have had at last to hand over huge numbers of documents to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel which is investigating his death. It suggests a wider conspiracy by the Met Police involving more people.
It is also good news that this is one of the first projects that has been ” crowd funded” by Byline showing the need for journalists to be given time and resources to investigate very serious scandals that are in the public interest.

Inforrm's Blog

Mazher-Mahmood-010A Bellingcat and Byline investigation can for the first time reveal Scotland Yard had intelligence Mazher Mahmood was corrupting police officers as far back as the summer of 2000.

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Esther Baker child sex abuse allegations: A challenging case for Staffordshire Police

Esther Baker

Esther Baker

The allegations of historical child sex abuse made by Esther Baker are going to be a big challenge for Staffordshire Police to investigate.

Her testimony  reported first on Sky News and developed in stories published at the weekend on Exaro News and in the Sunday Mirror make grim reading. I won’t repeat it all here.

What it suggests is that some 25 years ago a group of young girls – in Esther’s case as young as six – were taken into the deep woods of Cannock Chase in Staffordshire and  raped on numerous occasions  while a couple of police officers watched to make sure no member of the public stumbled upon such a scene.

She has been unable to identify any of the other girls – though she says they may have been six or seven of them and not all the same ones – and has until recently not been certain who all the assailants were. Some were alleged to VIPs, others were not.

But she has now told police that a former MP of repeatedly raping her not only there but at other places. He  is adamant that this is untrue and  insists that she has either fabricated this  or been manipulated by others to accuse him of criminal sexual acts he did not commit.

She points out to me that the first time she made the allegation it was to another survivor and was before she was being counselled by any organisation.

Staffordshire Police are at the moment nearing the end of a scoping exercise which has involved interviewing Esther seven times for hours before they proceed to a full investigation which  they have promised to undertake.

What has also emerged that quite independently two other women have come forward and made similar allegations against the same former MP. Unlike Esther these two women have not made their complaints public and still have to talk to Staffordshire Police in any detail about their allegations. Neither are known to Esther.

And to add to the complications a third survivor,  a man already talking to the Met Police, about allegations in Dolphin Square, London has identified from a picture of Esther as a child, her being there. She remembers being taken to London but had no idea where she had been taken.

All this is going to require a painstaking detailed investigation by Staffordshire Police which is going to take a lot of time and energy. It is a very good exemplar of how these allegations – which would have been dismissed years ago – are now being taken seriously by the police in the present climate. No doubt the naysayers would argue that these allegations  still should not be taken up because they sound so extreme.

But to clear up what looks like a hidden epidemic of child sex abuse that is being uncovered in this country Esther is entitled to a full and thorough investigation into exactly what happened in Staffordshire 25 years ago. And the police need to  track down  who is alleged to have carried out  such vile acts and bring them to trial.