An announcement on Twitter from Exaro News:
We are glad to say that the lies being spread on Twitter about Exaro is failing to stop witnesses coming forward to us. More soon. And lies are being spread on Twitter about abuse survivors. Some may hope that this will deter them, but it is failing to do so. [1, 2]
Exaro has come under some critical scrutiny in the wake of Harvey Proctor’s press conference last week, at which Proctor revealed new details of allegations that had been made against him, and others, to police by “Nick”, an anonymous accuser whose claims of about a murderous VIP paedophile ring operating in the 1980s and 1990s have been heavily promoted on the Exaro website.
Significant commentary includes “Harvey Proctor and a Worrying Case of Justice by Lynch Mob” by James Hanning in the Independent; “While ‘Nick’ Stays Masked, Anyone could be Branded an Abuser”, by Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times; “Harvey Proctor’s Accusers are Making Sure he will Never Get a Fair Trial”, by Matthew Scott in the Daily Telegraph (as well as a post on Matthew’s blog, which was cited by the Daily Mail); “Savile was a Fair Cop. This is a Witch Hunt” by Mark Williams-Thomas, again in the Sunday Times ; and “On the Harvey Proctor Allegations” by Gojam at The Needle. Between them, these articles (and others) raise substantive points about the credibility of “Nick”, the way that Exaro has publicised the allegations, and how they have been handled by the police.
Exaro‘s attempt to portray such concerns as attempts to suppress information about child abuse and murder is sinister; it should be noted that the site has links to some rather aggressive individuals who claim to represent abuse survivors, and who are not cautious about accusing people of being associated with child abuse.
One strategy that is being pursued by Exaro and its chief reporter Mark Watts is to seize on minor factual errors. For example, Watts has stated that “Harvey Proctor wrongly stated in his statement that an Exaro reporter attended Nick’s police interviews” [here] and that “You can safely ignore Twitters who spread lies about Exaro, eg that its reporter attended police interview with Nick” [here]. This story arose some months ago because Watts did accompany Nick to an initial meeting with police; however, only now has Watts chosen to clarify the situation with this rather pedantic distinction.
Watts has also corrected Dominic Lawson on several other points:
Eg, Nick was not, in any sense, a rent boy. And Nick’s list of “tormentors” has not grown, but stayed constant since he first compiled it. Dominic Lawson assumes that my ref to IoS (an old paper of mine) as the Pindie was paedophile Indie. Wrong again. In fact, Proctor Indie. [1, 2]
Lawson could have been a bit more careful on the first two of these. The “rent boy” error seems to have slipped in because Lawson has confused Nick with someone else – probably Richard Kerr, who has also claimed to have been abused at the same “VIP” locations as Nick (although he has not named Proctor specifically), or perhaps the unnamed man who claims to have been abused by Ted Heath in 1961 (and whose alleged timeline is not consistent with what we know about Heath’s life).
On the second point, it may be that the Nick’s list has not “grown”, but it is the case that Exaro has only slowly revealed details of what Nick told them. Exaro could claim that it has been been discreet in order to see if anyone else comes forward independently, although I suspect that the site chose not to report Nick’s account of how Ted Heath persuaded Proctor not to castrate him (a detail revealed at Proctor’s press conference) because it judged that such a tale is so wildly extravagant that it fatally undermines their star witness. And in any case, if we look at VIP allegations that are being made by Nick and others in the round, rather than just through the lens of Exaro, we can indeed see how certain “survivor” allegations have grown in a way that is troubling.
As for the “Pindie” jibe, it seems that Watts was mocking the Independent for running an interview with Proctor, rather than accusing the paper of being paedophilic. But it’s an easy mistake to have made, given Exaro‘s dark insinuations, and that Watts’ attempts at levity are somewhat misplaced given the horrors he is seeking to expose. At the time of Proctor’s press conference, Watts sneered that it was “handy” that the location was close to New Scotland Yard, obviously inferring that Proctor would soon be arrested; when another Twitter user suggested this was an attempt to “raise suspicion”, Watts complained that it was “plainly said in jest”. Watts has also pinned to the top of his Twitter feed the witless (in both senses) observation that “You know the establishment is in trouble if the convicted paedophile and absurd Jonathan King has to leap to defence of Sir Edward Heath.”
Watts has also dusted off allegations that Lawson is an “MI6 asset”; presumably, this would be significant because Nick has also accused the late Maurice Oldfield, a former head of MI6, of being among his abusers. Lawson has previously denied having links to MI6, and the claim has been regarded sceptically by others (such as Ben Summerskill and David Leigh); but even if true, it has no bearing on the strength of the argument Lawson puts forward in his article. Nor, despite scepticism and cynicism about behaviour of the security services, is it self-evident that MI6 would have a continuing interest in derailing sex abuse allegations against a director who retired nearly forty years ago, or that agents/assets would be willing to go along with such a grotesque perversion of the service’s mandate.
Watts has also attacked Proctor himself. Somewhat oddly for a journalist who claims to be taking on “the establishment”, Watts appears to believe that the police are above any kind of criticism, and he attempts to paint Proctor’s very reasonable complaints about how the police have handled Nick’s allegations and the amount of time they are taking over it as a sinister expression of “pressure that no ordinary private citizen could apply”.
Perhaps it’s time to think about what kind of “pressure” Exaro is itself applying on hapless police forces so worried about being accused of “cover-ups” that any allegation, no matter how implausible, can result in personal destruction ahead of the completion of any investigation, let alone before a trial.
 Mark Williams-Thomas’ turn to fair-minded caution is welcome but belated; at the end of June he opined that Matthew Scott’s concern about Janner going on trial despite his diagnosis of advanced dementia was because of his “views about child abusers”. He declined to specify what these “views” are, although it was clear he meant to imply that they must be disreputable in some way. This was discussed by me here.