Rape allegation: Why are the Met not following their own guidelines in Operation Fernbridge?

The latest disclosure revealed in  Exaro’s investigation into the rape of a young woman by a man who went on to become a Tory Cabinet minister raises even more disturbing questions.

It is now accepted as part of normal police procedures that if a person accuses another person of rape, the allegations are put to the alleged perpetrator.

 It is becoming increasingly clear according to the account from the victim ” Jane” that the police have told her that they have not done it in this case.

She told Exaro :“I could not understand why,” she said. “There were only two people present during the incident. But they refused to question the man who I identified.” She believes that this breaches guidance entitled, ‘Investigating and Prosecuting Rape,’ and compiled by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).

This is one of the key points in the letter of complaint sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions  by Labour MP Tom Watson on the need for a review of the case.

 To me it seems this amounts to  double standards. Under Operation Yewtree into the Savile investigations celebs and entertainers are told about the allegations and in many cases charged.

Under Operation Fernbridge politicians are not told about the allegations and so far no one is charged.

This can only add to the public anxiety that Establishment figures with power are above the law and play into the agenda that politicians can often get away with anything.

 

Met Police ” smear ” rape victim in Fernbridge investigation

More damaging revelations are published today on the Exaro website about the Met Police’s handling of a  victim who came forward saying she was raped in her youth by a man who went on to become a prominent Tory Cabinet minister.

My colleague  Mark Conrad reports  that ” Jane” who brought  the allegations to the Met Police is extremely upset that not only did they not put the allegations to the ex-minister but told other people about her medical record which could cast doubt on the validity of her claims.

She told Exaro:“I am very angry. My medical history has nothing to do with the statements that I gave to the police about the rape. I volunteered information on my background and medical history to the police, and expected that it would be treated in confidence.”

This suggests that this particular case has not been well handled. I have met ” Jane”  and  she is remarkably clear about the events that happened to her so long ago.

Again this raises the issue which Tom Watson, the Labour MP, has taken up with the Director of Public Prosecutions, that the case should be reviewed. And so it should soon.

Why Tom Watson is right to press the DPP to review the rape claim against a former Tory minister

Action is urgently needed to press the Met  Police to continue their investigation into the claims that a former Tory cabinet minister raped a 19-year-old woman when he was at the beginning of his career.

 The allegations came to light in the Operation Fernbridge investigation – which is mainly centred around the abuse of boys at a Richmond children’s home and at the Elm Guest House. It only emerged because of the alleged figures involved in child sexual abuse was also said to have raped a young woman.

So Tom Watson is right to draw attention to the way the case has been handled by the Met Police to Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions.

 The full report is on the Exaro website but it raises deep questions about the way the police treated an allegation of rape  in 2013. To give you a flavour  Tom Watson’s letter says :“The elements of lack of freedom and capacity to consent make the decision highly irregular. This is shocking in itself.

“It further troubles me that the senior police officer who dropped the case revealed to the victim that he apparently took a series of worthless stereotypes and other irrelevant points into consideration.”

“Most of these stereotypes have been blown out of the water in recent months. Or so I thought.

“There has been a sea change in the climate surrounding rape, historic cases in particular. Why is it that the tide has not reached this case?”

Those who may doubt the woman’s description of the case can listen and see her account on the Exaro website here.

What you will know is that the police never put it to the alleged perpetrator. There are too many unanswered questions in the Met Police’s handling of this for no action to be taken. So Tom Watson is right to demand it.

 

Rough Justice : When pro bono is not pro bono

Rough Justice for Tony Hunt

UPDATE: Today (Tuesday) Mr Justice MacDuff intervened in the case to halt the costs hearing against Mr Hunt  this week to allow a full appeal by  his lawyers into whether he should be liable for the £500,000 bill from Hogan Lovells.

 

This week in a cramped room in Clifford’s Inn a 69 year old former magistrate will in all likelihood be made bankrupt by the legal system. The tragic story of Tony Hunt- a man wrongly convicted then cleared of a rape charge that was not brought by his accuser, AB, until seven years after the event is written up by me in the Sunday Telegraph  this week  – see –  http://bit.ly/kJH3W1 .

The “mistake” Mr Hunt made was to seek to clear his name after spending two horrific years in the sex offenders wing of Winchester gaol by seeking damages in the civil court from the woman, egged on by her woman friend and Hampshire Police, who accused him of rape.

The case at the time became a cause celebre because it was seen by women as a ground breaking ruling to prevent men acquitted of rape pursuing their ” victim” in the courts. When he lost there was general jubilation for fear that if he had won it would put off women from bringing cases against rapists.

 But now another side has emerged that is as deeply disturbing. Tony Hunt applied for compensation as you might if you have been wrongly imprisoned – but was turned by the Home Office. Evidently you need incontrovertible proof of innocence, notoriously difficult to prove in rape cases which are rarely witnessed, to get any money.

 So he reluctantly turned to the civil courts where he was advised-despite the later judgement – that he had to sue his accuser and not the police or the Crown Prosecution Service – to get any money.

But the real shock was to come after he failed. The woman who had accused him was desperate for cash to defend herself. She had gone to her MP, Julian Lewis, who, impressed by her plight contacted the solicitor general, Vera Baird, who, in turn, rang Hogan Lovells, a very expensive  firm of international City lawyers, who decided to take her case.

 They decided to act for her free of charge or  pro bono.  But just a few weeks into the case they suddenly changed their position to acting for her under a conditional fee arrangement. This made no difference to her, but it meant that if Mr Hunt lost, he would face huge bills.

This is precisely what has happened. A year after the case they are demanding £500,000  from him – knowing that he has no funds. The fees would have been nothing like this if a Winchester lawyer had taken the case anyway, but the multi-million pound company charge a lot for solicitors and engage expensive barristers. Now they have pursued him to a costs hearing – it has taken several days so far- while at the same time winning prizes and public acclaim for pro bono work, including runner-up at the prestigious Wig and Pen awards, for this case.  Hunt’s lawyers have failed to convince the judge to take account of this curious dual approach.

These are some of Hogan Lovell’s on the record explanations for this behaviour “Any money recovered from Mr Hunt will, in the first instance, be given to AB to balance the costs she incurred with her original firm of solicitors.  Any money that might be due to us would be donated to charity.  We do not profit in any way.”
 
“It is for the Costs Court to determine what are fair and reasonable expenses for Mr Hunt to pay for the defence of AB against his legal action.  Mr Hunt can appeal the ruling of the Costs Court.”
 
“The Courts have made these cost orders against Mr Hunt because he has lost at every stage. AB has done nothing but defend herself from his claims.”
 
“At any time Mr Hunt could have stopped his litigation against AB.  The choice has always been his.”
 
“The door to negotiation has always been and remains open.” 
 
“The use of a conditional fee arrangement created a level playing field for AB to defend herself against Mr Hunt.   Each is exposed to the potential of having to pay their opponent’s costs if they lose.”
  I am no lawyer but it seems to me Hogan Lovells have tried to have their cake and eat it. They have received public plaudits for their pro bono work but are now going to bankrupt the guy under  an arrangement they haven’t actually highlighted during the Wig and Pen awards ceremony.They admit they don’t need the money, even AB , I am told, is not bankrupt. And if we follow their argument, Mr Hunt, had no right to defend himself once he realised that he was up against expensive solicitors, if he couldn’t afford the bills. Rough justice indeed.