Government narrowly defeat plan for new Leveson inquiry after deal with DUP

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Lord Justice Leveson ; Pic courtesy Leveson Inquiry website

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UPDATE: Government defeated the Leveson2  inquiry by nine votes 304-295 . There were five Tory rebels. The nine DUP  MPs supported the government after they were offered a new press watchdog for Northern Ireland. The one independent Northern Ireland MP, Lady Hermon voted with Labour.

Five Tories voted with Labour – they were Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve ( former attorney general), Peter Bone, Philip Hollobone and Crispin Blunt.

One Labour MP John Grogan voted with the government to block Leveson 2.

Parliament will decide today whether a second Leveson inquiry  should go ahead and on new rules that would strengthen the role of press regulator Impress and force compulsory arbitration in libel cases.

Voting in the Commons on both motions is on a knife edge with  literally the decision being made on who turns up and whether very active campaigns by  mainstream media moguls or Hacked Off can convince wavering MPs.

Theresa May has staked her reputation on protecting Murdoch and Dacre from a second Leveson inquiry into malpractices by the media and scrapping the section which would have forced compulsory arbitration. At the Westminster  Correspondents Dinner she promised lobby journalists that ” very good news” was coming to help the media moguls avoid further scrutiny into their practices.

But her failure to control Parliament has put both promises at risk- hence the frenzied campaign  in the media to protect press freedom by media bosses who do not want some of the dark practices subject to forensic examination by Lord Leveson.

There are two motions today – one by former Labour leader Ed Miliband and Tory rebel Kenneth Clarke – aims to reinstate Leveson 2 after a Commons committee overturned a Lords resolution to hold the inquiry.

The second by Tom Watson, Labour deputy’s leader and long time campaigner against the Murdoch press, would implement the changes promised to force compulsory arbitration in libel cases – making court cases very expensive for the media even if they won.

The first motion stands the best chance of passing with guaranteed support from a number of Tory rebels, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the sole Green MP, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalists. Nobody seems sure how the DUP will vote.

This alliance is however dependent on everybody turning up and solid support among all the groups.

There was signs at the weekend  that media moguls had changed  tactics and were trying to persuade some Labour MPs not to back Ed Miliband’s motion and the one strengthening Impress-and suggesting this would go down very well in the mainstream media who might look favourably on covering some of the issues  these Labour MPs might want to take up. A senior Labour source told me : ” They (the Labour MPs) are trying to curry favour with the mass media”.

Labour whips have been alerted to this but some Labour MPs are playing their cards very close to their chests and trying to hide their proposed support. You can be sure there will be very active work done by Labour this morning to try and root them out.

The other problem  that could scupper a  defeat for the government will be if not all MPs turn up. Here the SNP with 35 MPs are a key group – but not all of them turn up if they have pressing business in Scotland. A  ” no show” by just a few in this group would have a big effect on the vote.

So today’s decision will depend on the capricious nature of MPs in Parliament – and how much priority they put into defeating the government over this issue.

 

 

 

 

Paul Settle: a tragic case of a traumatised former senior Met police officer who is lashing out at politicians and child abuse survivors

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Detective Chief Inspector Paul Settle giving evidence to Parliament

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Paul Settle, the former head of Met Police’ paedophile unit,, has given two interviews to the media in the last few days.

In the first to the BBC he describes how he has quit the Met at the very young age of 44 because he is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a career as a high flying policeman.

He told the BBC:”Most of my career was dealing with serious crime and it was not uncommon for me to see things that most people would regard as horrific. I’ve probably dealt with 100 murders,” he says.

But eventually things which had happened years before started to haunt him – an IRA bomb attack in Wood Green, London in 1992 and his work to help identify and repatriate Britons killed in the 2004 Thailand tsunami.

“It is really difficult to understand because for the best part of 20 years it never affected me, then out of nowhere it started to affect me in a very nasty and intrusive way.”

He started to have nightmares where he would wake up feeling the heat from the bomb blast.

“In the case of the tsunami, I could smell the bodies when I woke up. It was quite a rapid descent. You begin to dread going to sleep so you stay up later.”

He says he initially turned to alcohol to help him get to sleep, but quickly found that made matters worse so sought intensive treatment instead to try to help him overcome debilitating symptoms which he says have reduced him to a shadow of his former self.

Even after treatment he still finds it hard to go out or be in a crowd.

Sirens and some loud noises can trigger gut wrenching and exhausting episodes of hyper arousal, an intense anxiety which can last for weeks on end.

“On two occasions I was preparing to kill myself. But whilst I was at my lowest point I decided I needed to try to make the best of a bad situation. I don’t think I’ll ever recover fully.”

One would feel extremely sorry for him – if not for an interview in the Daily Mail two days later – which skates over his state of mind – where he follows the paper’s agenda of rubbishing any paedophile case involving anybody remotely important. The interview is one of three in the last two weeks all on the same theme.

In it- and he has done this before – he aggrandises the role of  Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, describing the Met Police’s as being  “terrified ” of him ( I doubt that myself.)

Mr Settle told the Mail :: ‘The management at the Yard were absolutely petrified of Tom Watson. They were scared of what he could do to their careers.

‘They hung me out to dry. It was about their self-preservation. I was an expendable DCI and their careers were more important to them.

‘I was quite emphatic that the allegations against Lord Brittan were nonsense.’

He is particularly angry that Tom Watson contacted the DPP over an historic allegation  that Lord Brittan had raped a young woman.

The Mail said: He was ‘disgusted’ to learn that a month earlier, Mr Watson had written directly to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, asking her to review the decision and demanding that Lord Brittan – who was dying of cancer – be interviewed. The letter was forwarded to Met chiefs. ”

Yet the CPS did decide that a different approach should have been made and I am sure not just because it wanted to appease a Labour MP, then a backbencher. And Brittan was interviewed though there was not enough evidence to bring charges.

Mr Settle also believes ” Nick” who is  a child sex abuse survivor should be prosecuted for bringing forward such allegations  which did involve prominent figures and accusations of murder as well as child sex abuse and led to the Operation Midland investigation.

“If the evidence is there, he should be charged. He has done more harm to victim rights’ than anyone in modern criminal history.’

He also has told the Mail that he believed he lost his job because of his stand.

‘I was hounded out at the Met purely because I stood up and said ‘we should not do that’. But I can look myself in the mirror. I did the right thing.

‘However it was patently obvious that having exposed the failings of senior officers – and the level of indecision that existed and some would say incompetence – that I had no place in the organisation.’

‘I have been vindicated in the end but I have lost the job I love.’

Scotland Yard disagree. A spokesman is reported by the Mail as saying : “The Met does not believe that Mr Settle was “hounded out” of the organisation.”

To my mind there is one big unanswered question in all this. Given the high profile role and all the complexities of the Westminster paedophile investigation – why was a man who was in such a bad mental state – drinking himself to sleep and having nightmares because of previous police duties – ever put in charge of it in the first place.

He would have difficulties in dealing with such graphic and  difficult allegations and putting such prominent people through the mill.It strikes me that the main criticism of the Met must be whether it followed its ” duty of care ” to its own staff, not any suggestion that it hounded him out of office.

 

 

Child Sex Abuse Inquiry: An all party victory for MPs and abuse victims

No one would have thought a week ago that Theresa May, the home secretary, would have announced today an overarching inquiry into child sexual abuse.

The odds were stacked against it for the last two years as David Cameron kept insisting that police investigations had to go first before there could be any inquiry.

Today it all changed. and it was discovered that it was perfectly possible to have both an all embracing independent inquiry and complete the current police investigations at the same time.

The reason why this changed is a combination of persistent journalism, determined abuse victims and their campaigners and a group of very, very determined MPs who put  pressure on the Prime Minister and the Home secretary to act.

The biggest victors today are the child abuse victims – whose stories have been ignored, their suffering played down, and their search for justice thwarted for decades.

Now they will have – even if it takes a couple of years to complete – the promise of a tough, vigilant independent panel that will explore all avenues from  the failure to detect these scandals to how  victims can get proper help to cope with their  damaged lives. If it uses its power to abstract information from the security services and special branch we may well get to the bottom of why prominent people were protected and were safe for decades to practice their vile pursuits..

Rumours suggest that Theresa May  wants to appoint a powerful woman to run the inquiry  which would  send a powerful signal to male dominated Whitehall and Parliament that it means business.

Credit must be paid to hundreds of Twitter followers of Exaro and myself who raised questions with MPs – a powerful use of  new media to change minds and bring attention directly to the people involved./ Without Twitter it would have been much slower and more difficult to achieve the goal.

Tribute must be paid to some tireless MP campaigners – to Zac Goldsmith for the idea of all party approach, to Tom Watson for his gutsy raising of difficult questions and championing abuse victims, to Simon Danczuk for his persistence in pursuing the paedophile Sir Cyril Smith and to the heroic former children’s minister, Tim Loughton, for his organising skills and determination to seek justice and a new system of child protection that could change the climate in this country. Tessa Munt’s skills in honing the letter to the home secretary was crucial in pushing through the case.

For once I would say  the good side of Parliament has triumphed in representing the views of an outraged public who are still reeling from the exposure of loved household celebrities as paedophiles and wanted to see things changed.

Also I hope when journalism has suffered grievous damage from the phone hacking scandal  it has shown that there are investigative journalists – all my colleagues at Exaro – who are prepared to spend  time, energy and fortitude to try and expose accurately and carefully a national scandal and then campaign to get something done. I wish more journalists would do it.

 

 

 

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.

 

Operation Fernbridge: A worrying failure over a rape case

Before Operation Fernbridge was  launched I received a high level promise from the police that whoever participated in the Richmond child sex abuse scandal – however high and mighty – would be prosecuted if the police could get the evidence.

 This ” no holds barred” approach gave me confidence that despite three failed attempts to get to the bottom of the scandal at Richmond’s Grafton Close children’s home and the notorious Elm Guest House that we would get a result.

 My belief is now being severely tested following a series of events – including the fresh disclosures from  the Labour MP for Rochdale Simon Danzcuk about how the police never took any action against Sir Cyril Smith, despite ample examples of his connections to paedophile activity..

 What has particularly shaken me are the revelations meticulously put together by my colleague Mark Conrad and disclosed in a series of articles in Exaro News this week and in the Sunday People about the principal suspect in more than one historic paedophile scandal- A former Tory Cabinet minister.

 The  detailed allegations this time from a woman about events when she was just 19 and the man was at the beginning of his career make chilling and dramatic reading – and under today’s standards very few people would doubt she was sexually assaulted without her consent. I need not repeat the full circumstances – you can read  them in a series of articles in Exaro News if you want a blow-by-blow account.

The good news is that Tom Watson – the MP who first raised the issue of  leading political figures being involved  in historic paedophile rings – has written to Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, demanding a review of the police’s handling of the case and he is very critical of the way the police have handled it. I hope she takes notice.

The Met Police have of course said little about this. However the nearest explanation for their non action is on The Needleblog  .

My concern about this is three-fold. First of all it appears that there has been a serious failure by the Met police to take seriously a claim from a credible witness at a time when people are being encouraged to report historic rape and sexual abuse cases. This provides little confidence for others to come forward.

Second it appears that the allegations are far stronger than many of allegations being put to celebrities facing trial at the moment.

Third it is not clear that Crown Prosecution Service was presented with a full file by the Met Police who never even put such strong allegations to the perpetrator.

All this is worrying. The most worrying aspect of it all is that the police appear to be losing their appetite to pursue this high profile figure – suggesting there is one rule for celebrities and another for anybody with real power like a politician. The failure to pursue this is not an isolated incident in  Operation Fernbridge. On the contrary other allegations when they refer to the notorious Elm Guest House appear to be dropped or ignored as well.

 

Revealed: The civil servant in the Home Office’s PIE funding inquiry and his academic articles on boy love

 

A former top civil servant who later went on to write academic articles on the love between men and boys in  ancient Greece and in Benjamin’s Britten’s operas is at the centre of a Home Office inquiry into whether he sanctioned taxpayers’ cash to fund the Paedophile Information Exchange.

Clifford Hindley, who died some five years ago, was head of the Home Office’s Voluntary Services Unit from at least 1979 until 1983, which is now under investigation after a former civil servant has alleged there may have been a ” cover up ” over a grant  re-application from PIE.

 Reports in Exaro News and The People reveal today that the Home Office inquiry  under permanent secretary. Mark Sedwill is examining  recollections from the whistleblower that when he raised questions about why the Home Office should fund such an organisation Mr Hindley brushed  this aside and asked him to hand over the paperwork. This happened around 1979 and 1980.

This has raised the question  – as the whistleblower thinks it was a re-application  -whether the  Callaghan Labour and Thatcher Conservative governments actually funded PIE just at the time when the National Council for Civil Liberties was also supporting the organisation, Such a decision  would be far worse than the present row going on between the Daily Mail and Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, over her role at NCCL. It would mean that taxpayer’s cash has been given to fund paedophiles.

The whistleblower  originally contacted Tom Watson MP who passed him on to the Home Office.
Last night Tom Watson said: “It’s a remarkable state of affairs and the Home Secretary must make sure a ­report is presented as soon as possible.

“If the allegations are true, it shows how insidious an organisation PIE was that they could even convince the Home Office to give them taxpayers’ money.”

 Investigations by Exaro revealed that Mr Hindley, an assistant secretary in Whitehall, holds degrees in classics and philosophy from Oxford University and a degree in theology from Cambridge.

Exaro has also found articles  and book contributions written by  Clifford Hindley after he retired  for academic and music magazines – all entirely on same sex relationships between men and boys.

 His contribution to the Cambridge Companion on the composer Benjamin Britten is entirely on  emphasising the love relationships between boys and men in his operas – a view that is challenged by other experts on Britten. as too extreme.

 He has also written articles on the Greek historian and pupil of Socrates, Xenophon,  again entirely on love between men and youths – either in the army or in society.

Ian Pace, a lecturer in music at City University, where he is head of performance, and a researcher said: “It is very hard to deny that there are pederastic themes in some of Britten’s operas, most obviously The Turn of the Screw and Death in Venice (mirroring such themes in the original literary works of Henry James and Thomas Mann respectively); and arguably also in Peter Grimes and Let’s Make an Opera (The Little Sweep). 

 “Some of Hindley’s writings on Britten certainly show a strong interest in such pederastic elements.”

An example is his description of the relationship between the ghost Quint and the boy Miles in  the Turn of the Screw.

 Hindley writes: “‘Quint is not a monster but one who opens fascinating new opportunities to the imaginative boy. Also fundamental is the fact that their relationship is one of homosexual love. It is presented as an emotional and mutually responsive relationship, in which the physical element is barely hinted at. It is nevertheless a bond of the kind rejected by conventional society’.”

The Home Office were not giving anything away about the inquiry – though it sounds as though documents – particularly from the Thatcher era – appear to be missing on anything to do with PIE.

At the moment a search is on to find out whether  a dead man files will disclose a highly damaging fact that the vile organisation the Paedophile Information Exchange was actually funded by the government.

Police close to charges in Tom Watson’s VIP paedophile ring allegations

The Met Police are close to charging people in the investigation sparked off by Tom Watson’s claims of a paedophile ring at the time of the Thatcher government.

A report in Exaro News reveals that after interviewing and contacting some 100 people police are confident  that they have a number of high profile witnesses -including an Anglican bishop, a pre eminent businessman and a well known journalist – who have given statements alleging sexual abuse or attempted sexual abuse.

 The victims have come forward under Operation Cayacos – a spin-off from the original scoping study, Operation Fairbank – which has now been going on for over 18 months.

Watson alleged in Parliament that a network run by Peter Righton, the notorious paedophile, reached into the top levels of British politics. The MP raised the issue in prime minister’s questions soon after the exposure of Jimmy Savile, the late BBC star, as a paedophile.

The late Righton – at one time regarded as a leading specialist in child protection – was a founder of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), which promoted sex with children. The organisation has recently been in the centre of a furious row after the Daily Mail published a series of  stories showing that it was affiliated to the National Council for Civil Liberties during a period when Labour’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, was its legal adviser.  Harman has accused the Daily Mail of smears.

Patricia Hewitt, a former Labour Cabinet minister was  general secretary of the NCCL and according to The Guardian was involved in discussions  with PIE over lowering the age of consent for sexual activity.

According to the witness, Righton boasted of links to powerful figures in government.

When police raided Righton’s house in Evesham, Worcestershire in 1992, they found hard-core images of child abuse from Amsterdam and a “quarter-century of correspondence” between paedophiles in Britain and around the world. But police failed to follow-up the leads at the time, prompting allegations by Watson 16 months ago of an ‘establishment’ cover-up.

  The move suggests that the police have made  more progress in this investigation than in Operation Fernbridge – which has led to two people facing trial at Southwark Crown Court in May.