Carl Beech Verdict: A savage blow that does not mean we ignore all future child sex abuse investigations

Carl Beech: !8 year prison sentence for perverting the course of justice and fraud Pic credit:BBC

The Carl Beech verdict is a blow to child sex abuse investigations. After the trial and thorough investigation by Northumbria Police Beech he emerged as a prolific, manipulative and malicious paedophile who made false allegations against powerful people and sparked off a huge investigation by the Met Police.

 Both myself and the reporter, Mark Conrad, who investigated Beech, part company with Exaro’s former editor in chief, Mark Watts, in deciding that the verdict was “unsafe” or that he didn’t get a fair trial. Beech chose not to call a single witness in his defence and when the net was closing he fled the country.

Now the question is asked should journalists have ignored him from day one and reported nothing taking the line that no one in “the great and good” has ever sexually molested a child and anybody alleging that is a fantasist.

 Or should we try diligently to get to the truth of the matter given the limited tools journalists have compared to a police force or the powers and scope an inquiry can have to investigate a case?

The simple solution is to say allegations, particularly historic, of child sex abuse, are so problematic, so difficult to prove, that anybody coming to a journalist suggesting they are a survivor of sexual abuse should be turned away. That would a devastating to the many thousands of survivors themselves who would have no other recourse other than going to an overworked police force. It wouldn’t be just a case of not being believed but being ignored.

 It was also play into the hands of any paedophile to do what he or she liked – knowing their victims would never be listened to and they could hide behind the new populism that most child sex abuse in the UK is just a string of false allegations.

The latter fact is wrong. If you look at recent convictions hardly a week goes by -without either individuals or paedophile gangs being convicted in the courts- and that includes historic cases.

While Operation Midland was going on the National Crime Agency successfully prosecuted people in North Wales – including a police superintendent – the late Gordon Angelsea- who had denied child sex abuse crimes for years and successfully sued Private Eye and the Observer. He was one of 11 people so far successfully prosecuted through Operation Pallial including John Allen, an owner of children’s home and gang of five paedophiles led by a former professional wrestler.

Gangs have been convicted in Rotherham, Hull, Stoke on Trent, Rochdale, Lichfield and Newcastle upon Tyne to name a few.

And the idea that there isn’t a single prominent person who indulges in child sex abuse has been proved untrue with the conviction of the late Bishop Peter Ball, Bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, who convinced people at the very top, including Prince Charles, for years that accusations against him were a pack of lies. And Sir Cyril Smith MP whose escaped crimes in Rochdale were exposed in a report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

The only way you can investigate child sex abuse is to look for any outside facts that might stand up the likelihood of the case, test the person’s knowledge of the places where it is alleged to have happened and do a thorough test to see if the “ victim” can identify his perpetrator. You also rely on other people – not sexually abused themselves – to act as whistleblowers or people in authority at the time who can stand up the circumstances of a story.

The problem with the Carl Beech investigation was the way he undermined any diligent reporting by meticulously researching details about his victims and their premises so the” right” answers would come out.

The other was the odd way Exaro was run. Unlike nearly all news organisations there were no internal news conferences where ideas could be swapped and challenged. Reporters were forbidden from discussing the individual child sex abuse case they were investigating with any other reporter.

 As a result I did not know the true identity of Carl Beech until it was made public. I have never met him, never exchanged any emails or talked to him.

 Perhaps he would have been exposed if a tech savvy reporter had seized his computer – but I doubt the public would support journalists seizing other people’s computers while they were conducting investigations.

 There has been criticism of my colleague Mark Conrad for conducting a picture identity test after Beech had alleged 12 people had sexually abused him.  He tells me that consisted of inserting the 12 into 42 different people and took place before the police started their investigation.

 The reason why it was done was because of the disastrous episode on BBC Newsnight where the survivor Steve Messham was never shown a picture of the late Lord McAlpine who was wrongly alleged to have abused him – which would have prevented a false allegation circulating on social media..

Investigating historic child sex abuse is one of the most difficult areas to do in journalism.  Carl Beech has made it even more so. One lesson is that people who say they were sexually abused will in future have to face more scrutiny by both the police and journalists investigating their claims.   The law about anonymity for people being investigated for child sex abuse might have to be tightened up – though I would be careful in advocating this.

 But what must not happen is that the default position should move from believing a survivor to taking the view that the accusation is false. That way would provide paedophiles – who are the most cunning and manipulative of all people – with a free market to abuse whoever they wish and get away scot free.

Nick and allegations of the Westminster paedophile ring: The perversion of justice charge sheet

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Sign outside old Scotland Yard building Pic Credit: Wikipedia

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The Crown Prosecution Service has decided  there is sufficient evidence to charge “Nick ” the  50 year old man whose allegations led to Operation Midland – the Met Police investigation into  allegations that prominent politicians and military figures were involved in the sexual abuse and murder of children -with perverting the course of justice.

Details of the charges are:

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he made a false allegation of witnessing the child homicide of an unnamed boy committed by Mr Harvey Proctor

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he made a false allegation of witnessing the child homicide of a boy called Scott

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he made a false allegation of witnessing the child homicide of an unnamed boy, other than the unnamed boy in charge

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he falsely alleged that he had been sexually and physically abused by a paedophile ring, with senior ranking officers within the military, military intelligence, a TV presenter and other unidentified men accused as members

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he falsely alleged that he had been sexually and physically abused by a paedophile ring, with politicians, a TV presenter, and other unidentified men accused as members

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he provided a list of sexual abusers and locations falsely alleging that he had been subjected to physical and sexual abuse by the said sexual abusers at the said locations

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he provided sketches of locations at which he had been physically and sexually abused, falsely claiming that he had produced them from memory

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he provided and repeated the name of Aubrey, falsely alleging that Aubrey had been present and subjected to physical and sexual abuse when with him

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he provided a pen knife and two military epaulettes falsely alleging that he had retained them from when he was abused as a child

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he falsely claimed that he had suffered serious injuries as a result of having been sexually and physically abused as a child

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he falsified a ‘Proton’ email account, and provided false information purportedly sent from ‘Fred’, an individual who he had named as present when he was abused by a paedophile ring

Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, in that he went together with investigators on site visits and falsely alleged that it was at locations identified by him during those visits that he had been subjected to physical and sexual abuse by a paedophile ring

Fraud, contrary to the Fraud Act 2006, section 1, in that on or about the day of day of 26 September 2013, dishonestly made representations to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, namely that he was subjected to abuse by a paedophile ring, knowing this to be untrue and intending thereby to make a gain for himself.

Following a  highly critical report  on the Met Police investigation by  retired judge Sir Richard Henriques, which has never been fully published,  Northumbria Police were asked to investigate Nick.

Frank Ferguson, CPS Head of Special Crime, said: “The CPS has considered a file of evidence from Northumbria Police relating to allegations of perverting the course of justice and fraud by a 50-year-old man.

“The police investigation provided evidence that the man had made a number of false allegations alleging multiple homicides and sexual abuse said to have been carried out in the 1970s and 1980s….

“He has today been charged with 12 counts of perverting the course of justice and one count of fraud and will appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court in due course.

Criminal proceedings in relation to this matter are now active and it is extremely important there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”

In order to ensure that ” Nick” has a fair trial as  the moderator of my site I will not be allowing any comments to be published  on this blog entry.

Britain: A nation of paedophile voyeurs

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Police chief Simon Bailey, also in charge on Operation Hydrant co-ordinating cases of allegations of child sexual abuse Pic credit :BBC

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Simon Bailey,  the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection, has caused a storm of controversy this week by suggesting  that people who view pornographic pictures of children on the net should not be prosecuted.

He wants to limit prosecutions to people who direct  child sexual abuse on line and those seeking to groom young people on line so they can later rape them. As he says:

“There are tens of thousands of men seeking to exploit children on line with a view to meeting them with a view to then raping them and performing the most awful sexual abuse on them. That’s where we believe the focus has got to be, because they’re the individuals that pose the really significant threat.”

He wants people who just view child sexual abuse to be given a caution and put on the sex offenders register because he says the police haven’t the resources to prosecute them.

He told the Times : “We’re able to asses whether a paedophile viewing indecent images of children is posing a threat of contact abuse and in circumstances where that individual does not pose a threat of contact abuse they should still be arrested, but we can then look at different disposal orders than going through the formal criminal justice system.”

He described this group as the ” tip of the iceberg”.

Now what is shocking about this is the scale of the problem. We are now having the police say although they are prosecuting 400 people a month they cannot cope with the numbers who are committing this  crime because it is so widespread. What does this say about the nation we now live in?

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Yvette Cooper Pic credit : Twitter

Yvette Cooper, chair of the home affairs select committee, has responded very robustly to this in a letter she released to Simon Bailey.

” This raises some very serious concerns about the scale of online child abuse, about the level of resourcing the police have available for it, about the systems the police has in place to deal with this new and increasing crime and also about the priority being given to it by police forces.”

“You also referred to there being a significant number of “very low-risk” paedophile offenders and you stated that the police have become very adept at assessing the risk to children in terms of which offenders will move on from viewing indecent images to committing contact abuse offences.

“This was certainly not the case a few years ago when the police indicated that making such assessments was very difficult. I would therefore be grateful if you could set out the evidence to support your statement, including the changes which have taken place in the last few years to bring about the improvements in risk assessment to which you refer.”

Finally she warns that will people who are not prosecuted still go on the Disclosure and Barring Service.

“Specifically, could you explain, under the current disclosure and barring rules, if a case was dealt with outside the criminal justice system, what information would then be available to organisations carrying out checks on people applying for voluntary or paid positions with children. ”

He has until March 7 to reply. I hope he will be summoned to explain himself before Parliament.

His assessment seems to suggest we are turning into a nation of paedophile voyeurs because the offence is so widespread. This would suggest we are becoming a very sick nation indeed.

Paedophile loses case to ban Facebook from publishing his criminal past

Belfast High Court

Belfast High Court Pic Credit: BBC

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An important judicial decision came out over the Christmas recess in a highly controversial case in Northern Ireland which has led a paedophile to claim £20,000 for harassment because of a blog revealing his criminal past.

The ruling is particularly significant as more people get their news from Facebook and Google rather than traditional mainstream media.

The case has been featured on this blog before. It arose after  Joseph McCloskey set up a Facebook profile page called ” Keep Our Kids Safe from Predators 2 ” which posted information about a convicted sex offender called CG.

CG was released from jail in 2012 after serving a sentence for gross indecency and indecent assault offences against a young girl and a teenage boy.

He is now over 40 and he remains under supervision by the authorities.He has been assessed as posing no significant risk to the public.

His lawyers argued that an online campaign after his details appeared on the page had reached the level of dangerous vigilantism..One user called for him to be hung while others endorsed shooting or castrating him.

CG also claimed he has been threatened with being thrown off a pier during a fishing trip, hounded out of a cinema and had to use a supermarket trolley to fight off another tormentor.

None of the information published  by McCloskey was private. It was all in the public domain at the time of CG’s conviction. CG’s solicitors complained to Mr McCloskey  who removed the posting. He later put two posts disclosing CG’s criminal record and his picture.

The lawyers weren’t satisfied and went to court claiming the sex offender had been harassed on Facebook and his human rights breached by the publication on Facebook misusing private information.

The judge found against the campaigner and Facebook and awarded the sex offender £20,000 damages for harassment.Facebook decided to appeal as it thought the ruling was excessive.

Now the Court of Appeal has decided that Facebook should have taken down the post earlier because it was leading to the harassment of the paedophile.

But very significantly the court ruled that the two other posts which dealt with his criminal record and showed his picture can remain.

The decision by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan means that the compensation awarded to CG – which has not be paid because of legal proceedings – will be cut.

But it is also establishing a ruling that contradicts Google’s ” right to be forgotten” procedures saying that public information involving court proceedings can remain on line and cannot be construed as private information.

It was  critical of suggestions that re-publication of conviction information was relevantly private information because in principle “the public has a right to know about such convictions. Information about what has happened in open court can be freely communicated by members of the public”. This was an important aspect of the open justice principle “of very significant weight which can only be outweighed by the interest of the individual in freedom from intrusion in the most compelling circumstances”:

It also rejected the idea that because t some information is covered by the Data Protection Act is it automatically private.

considerable caution should be exercised before reading across  those matters, because the “fact that information is regulated for that [data protection] purpose does not necessarily make it private”.,said the ruling.

For those who want to follow the finer legal detail there is an interesting report by lawyer Christopher Knight, of 11KBW in London here  and a report in the Irish News which dwells on the part of the the Court of Appeal  judgement that was upheld.

 

 

 

 

Abuse of Trust: A horrible reminder of a child sex scandal as the Jay inquiry prepares to examine Greville Janner

frank-beck-pic-credit-bbc

Frank Beck. Pic Credit:BBC

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Today  when the pendulum seems to swinging again to start disbelieving claims by survivors  that they were sexually abused the republication of a book examining one of the first major  child sex scandals is a timely reminder of what victims faced in the 1970s and 1980s.

Abuse of Trust looks at the case of the long dead Frank Beck, a charismatic social worker who got away with abusing possibly up to 200 children for two decades before finally being caught and convicted.

It is particularly relevant as Alexis Jay’s child sex abuse inquiry is planning to resurrect the dire situation in Leicestershire social services at the time with an examination of the role of the then local MP, Greville Janner, who was facing multiple charges of child sexual abuse at the time of his death last year.

The book written by two diligent journalists, Mark D’Arcy, a BBC Parliament correspondent and Paul Gosling, an ex Leicester councillor and an experienced freelance journalist, and has been updated by Paul with the latest information about the allegations and investigation into Greville Janner.

The involvement of Greville Janner – who always claimed he was falsely accused by the paedophile Frank Beck  of sexually abusing boys – will be highly  controversial as his family, led by his son, Daniel Janner,QC intend to try and stop the hearing going ahead. They want instead go to the civil courts so all  the allegations from 33 survivors against him can be subject to rigorous cross examination.

This book however concentrates on the horror facing  disturbed children sent to be looked after by Beck and his colleagues and the brutal techniques Beck, an ex Royal Marine, used to subdue, sexually abuse and infanticise teenagers, using faux psychological techniques. He also bullied and sexually abused his staff, manipulated and conned local councillors.

It is highly revealing about the lack of backbone among senior social work management and the failure of democratically elected councillors, particularly in the Liberal Party,who allowed him to stand as a councillor, to take a grip on the situation. The police are also seen as failing to believe the children. It is equally damning of  investigations that followed by distinguished people – notably by Andrew Kirkwood,QC – into the scandal after Beck was convicted and the tragic consequences of Beck’s techniques – which led one disturbed kid to later murder a young boy simulating  the strangulation technique used by Beck.

And it shows the role of insurance companies ,in this case Zurich Municipal, in trying to deny  the council’s responsibility for what happened to these kids -later to be used with similar force in suppressing a report into North Wales child sex abuse.

It is also clear from the book that Beck was not the only person sexually abusing people and  there could have been part of a ring that was never properly investigated. He may have murdered one of his boys – but this was never satisfactorily pursued.

He also like many paedophiles attracted people who believed in his innocence – notably Bernard Greaves, a Liberal Democrat  and Lord Longford  who supported killer Myra Hindley.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to remind themselves about sheer nastiness, brutality and cover ups that seem to dog this area.

Abuse of Trust: Frank Beck and the Leicestershire Children’s Home Scandal. 

available from Canbury Press £15

 

 

 

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.

 

 

A disturbing child sex abuse case that raises awkward questions about insurers

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Justice Lowell Goddard giving evidence to House of Commons home affairs committee. Pic credit: BBC

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My colleague Tim Wood reveals on the Exaro website today a damning story about how a victim of historic child sex abuse was failed by the Church of England because it took more notice of its insurers than survivors of abuse.

Joe as he was publicly known eventually won £35,000 in compensation over a case involving abuse by a church official dating back to the 1970s.

As Tim Wood  writes on Exaro: ” Joe claims that the church initially put financial considerations above its duty of pastoral care when handling his case, and called on the Church of England to do more to help abuse survivors.

Joe told Exaro: “The church should stop seeing child sex abuse survivors through a corporate lens and start viewing us through a theological lens of healing and justice.”

In an emotional letter to the Right Reverend Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham, Joe claims that the church played out a “monstrous charade” in initially trying to close down his case.

The letter, written in April and seen by Exaro, claims that the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG), founded by the church in 1887, administered Joe’s case and started what he describes as a “damage limitation process.” Joe also claims that Bishop Butler, the Church of England’s head of safeguarding, was complicit in the strategy and began “blanking him” despite appeals for help.

To his credit Bishop Butler  who is head of the Church of England’s safeguarding body has apologised to Joe saying : ” “I am also extremely sorry that when the solicitor’s letter arrived regarding a claim, I did not over-rule the legal and insurance advice I received regarding having no further contact with you. I should have made it clear it would have been better to maintain contact.”

And the insurance company has also said it was misunderstood and didn’t intend to interfere with pastoral care.

However there is a wider question about the role of insurance companies and suppressing allegations of child sexual abuse.

ann clwyd

Ann Clwyd, the Labour Mp for the Cynon Valley, has been campaigning for changes in the law to prevent insurers putting up road blocks in investigating child sex abuse in council run homes.

Last year she secured a debate in the Commons in  which she said that reports into abuse in homes run by the former Clwyd County Council had been “prevented from publication by the council’s insurers.”

Ms Clwyd said: “[The] council did not allow the inquiry to place a notice in the local press seeking information because this was considered to be unacceptable to the insurers. It’s interesting that the insurers of the county council were also the insurers of the North Wales Police.”

Describing how the report was then “suppressed”, she said only 12 copies were made and it was “virtually unseen by committee or council members”. She argued that if it had been published “it would have sounded alarm bells and things would have moved much faster”.

She added: “It was not until July 2013 that the redacted version of the Jilliings report was finally published after a request by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act.”

So far ministers have not taken any action despite a recommendation by the Law Commission  way back in 2004.

This seems to be to be an ideal issue to be taken up by  the Goddard inquiry into child sexual abuse. And the Church of England case appears to be yet another example that should be investigated.

Facebook to challenge sex offender’s right to privacy and excessive damages in Northern Ireland test case

Belfast High Court

Belfast High Court Pic Credit: BBC

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An extraordinary judgement which I reported last year  banning a Facebook page about a convicted paedophile and awarding  him £20,000 damages for harassment is to be challenged in the courts next week.

Facebook is challenging  this decision in the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal claiming the damages awarded to the  sex offender were excessive and he could not reasonably expect privacy following his conviction for offences in the courts.

The case arose after  Joseph McCloskey set up a Facebook profile page called ” Keep Our Kids Safe from Predators 2 ” which posted information about a convicted sex offender called CG.

None of the information published  by McCloskey was private. It was all in the public domain at the time of CG’s conviction. CG’s solicitors complained to Mr McCloskey  who immediately removed all postings relating to CG.

The posts are said to contain threats of violence against the paedophile which judge took particular exception.

But the lawyers weren’t satisfied and went to court claiming the sex offender had been harassed on Facebook and his human rights breached by the publication on Facebook.

The judge found against the campaigner and Facebook and awarded the sex offender £20,000 damages for harassment.

Facebook is now challenging this judgement. There is an  excellent report on the Inforrm blog by trainee barrister Aiden Wills which goes into the legal details of Facebook’s challenge.

Facebook is particularly challenging the judge’s ruling that it should have had detailed knowledge and awareness of what Mr McCloskey wrote -pointing out that such a ruling would mean they would have to have detailed knowledge of every article put up on a Facebook site and whether it could be considered illegal. The case promises to be an interesting one.

UPDATE: The judge has reserved judgement on the case after a two day hearing. Joseph McCloskey did not attend the court as there was a dispute as to whether he was entitled to legal aid.

 

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.

 

 

Why let your good smear campaign be spoiled with the facts, David Aaronovitch

David Aaronovitch: Abuse Conspiracies at Westminster? Image Credit: BBC

David Aaronovitch: Abuse Conspiracies at Westminster? Image Credit: BBC

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As the author of Voodoo Histories David Aaronovitch is an expert on modern conspiracy theories. So it is not perhaps surprising that he would treat a story about a  historic Westminster paedophile ring involving VIPs as the latest manifestation of mad conspiracy theorists fuelled by deluded people.

This month he published a detailed article in The Times (behind pay wall) saying the whole VIP paedophile ring scandal at Elm Guest House was in effect one of these fantasies. He said the story had been ” largely created and reiterated by a  former Labour councillor and convicted fraudster,Chris Fay”.

He accused me of spreading this  incredible story ” that I always wanted the public to know”. He concluded  by asking journalists like me ” Why am I doing this? And am I sure I’ve got this right.”

This is my answer to why David Aaronvitch has got this wrong. First it is not true that Chris Fay, who worked for an organisation helping children in care, is my sole source. He should know me better that that. I never rely on sole sources. Nor do I rely or refer to this list of VIPs – which appears to be notes from the  wife of the Elm Guest House’s long dead owner, Carol Kasir. I know it is not accurate. I have  seen part of the log of who stayed at this guest house which , of course, tells you nothing because people booked in under pseudonyms.

Second even Chris Fay does not claim the list is accurate.. Indeed in an article on The Needleblog he says almost the opposite saying he compiled a list of victims who claimed they had been abused at the Elm Guest House not abusers.He rightly casts doubt on that list – saying they may have been guests not abusers of children. Given that in 1982 it was not as acceptable as it is now for people to be gay, this is hardly surprising since people also used Elm Guest House as a rare haven for consenting adults to meet each other as well as paedophile activity.

So what is the evidence? There are two separate sources. First my original source – not Chris Fay – who a colleague met – was a former local government officer on Richmond Council. It was he who led me to investigate why Elm Guest House was raided in the first place in 1982.

It wasn’t complaints from survivors but the residents who lived on this smart Barnes street. They were fed up with people coming at all hours, seeing children going into the guest house, and having posh chauffeur driven cars drawing up there. Most ordinary people do not have large posh cars or chauffeurs at their beck and call. It was one of the then residents who identified Leon Brittan not a survivor. Separately in answer to a direct question from a Dispatches investigation, the police confirmed that Sir Cyril Smith visited Elm Guest House and contrary to reports,have not withdrawn it.

The second stream of sources came from either people who stayed at Grafton Close children’s home or were other former staff on Richmond Council who had responsibility for the home. Here the main allegation was that children were taken there and abused at Elm Guest House and elsewhere. Not everybody was, One was rescued  from that fate by a vigilant social worker.

It is a FACT that there was abuse at Elm Guest House. Why? Because one child was taken from Elm Guest House by Richmond Council  to Grafton Close was given a medical examination which revealed horrific abuse. This is confirmed by two former senior officials from the council and the Met Police may have the medical file. The person has long since left the country, has a new life abroad, and has decided in view of the furore over this, not to testify.

Also if John Stingemore, the former deputy manager of Grafton Close, had lived to face trial at Southwark Crown Court, he would have faced a conspiracy to commit buggery charge, which was linked to taking children to Elm Guest House. His friend, Father Tony McSweeney, was convicted  and sent to jail for three years. Evidence was given that showed children were taken by Stingemore and McSweeney from the home to Bexhill and abused,without their parents knowledge.

And Stingemore, it would have emerged, was a convicted paedophile , having sexually assaulted Peter Bornshin, another resident of Grafton Close  said to have been taken to Elm Guest House.  Richmond Council  paid him compensation. He later committed suicide.

Finally it will be a little premature to assume that the Elm Guest House investigation is over.It is not. There are links to the Operation Midland investigation and there are a number of unfinished leads. But that would be tantamount to speculating on a current police investigation.

Am I right to pursue this? Yes. I don’t have the certainty that commentators like David Aaronovitch to make a polemical point. But I am still certain enough that something went very wrong in the London borough of Richmond at that time and it could still be linked to other inquiries in Westminster.