Nadine Dorries: False Accusations of Stalking and the Media

UPDATE (30 July): This blog entry did not give the name of the person who was  – and still is – the subject of Dorries’ various libels. This was because Dorries was not naming him during this period, and to give the name would have risked making it easier for Dorries to spread her lies with less liability. She did eventually give the name in a newspaper article ahead of the election. Subsequent events have made it very clear who she is getting at, and the background context is given here.

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Note: I am a friend of the person who has been accused by Dorries. However, I am solely responsible for the content below and for the decision to publish.

Last September, the Mail on Sunday ran a feature with a dramatic headline:

This man’s stalked me for seven years… so why can’t the police stop him? A horrifying account of a life lived in fear and a savage indictment of UK justice by NADINE DORRIES MP

“This man” is not named; according to the report, this was “for legal reasons”. The phrase “for legal reasons” often implies that a newspaper is constrained due to some police or court action, but here it simply means that the newspaper would not accept the libel risk of disseminating Dorries’ false allegations.

Not naming “this man” was also useful as it obscured the fact that her false accusations of stalking actually go back to 2010, when she needed to explain away discrepancies between her movements as reported on her blog and her expenses claims. Dorries famously said that her blog was “70 percent fiction”, and that she had pretended to be in her constituency on her blog to “reassure” constituents of her commitment. This was met with howls of derision, at which point she said the real reason was that she needed to avoid a stalker.

At times, her claims were made in a mocking and jocular style; however, in the the Daily Mail feature (“as told to Amy Oliver”) she presented herself as the victim of a terrifying ordeal:

Last July my office received a shocking email from a constituent. It warned that this man had held a meeting to organise an attack campaign against me. It said, chillingly, that this man had rented a house close to mine and had copies of my bank statements. I went home, packed a bag and fled.

Dorries first mentioned the presence of “this man” in her constituency in November 2013, and she announced it as if it were something she had just discovered, rather than a detail she had been told four months previously. Her Tweet was posted on the same day that she made a “jokey” threat of violence against a journalist who was looking into large payments made to her daughter for “secretarial support”.

It is also worth noting that Dorries has a partner who lives in Surrey, and another interview with her, from February 2015, says in the intro that “she lives in Surrey with her partner”. The story is thus useful as an explanation for absences from her constituency (although, by her own account, she does also live locally).

The article contains many shocking and lurid accusations, and we are invited to believe that the answer to the question “why can’t police stop him?” is CPS failure, rather than because she’s making stuff up. I won’t go into much detail here at this time, although I can confirm that her accusations are a mass of fictions and distortions. One particularly egregious element concerned a Tweet and an image that purported to show that “the man” had threatened to shoot her: both elements had been taken out of context and combined in a way that no reasonable person would regard as honest.

As an example of her semi-detached relationship with reality, though, let us return to that first claim. A  somewhat different account of the same story was published a few weeks later, at a site (since deleted) called Blink Box Books:

I received an anonymous email informing me that he had moved across England and rented a house close to me. The police traced the sender of the email and verified that the content was correct. I moved out of my home that day.

These two versions can perhaps be partially reconciled, but it is clear that the second version of the story has a sinister air that is absent from her original account. She wants us to infer, falsely, that the email was sent as a goading message in order to cause distress. This should send out alarm bells as to her reliability.

Shortly after the publication of her Mail on Sunday article, a follow-up piece appeared in the Daily Telegraph, by Radhika Sanghani. Here, Dorries pushed the boat out even further, with the claim that the man she is accusing “moved house to live on her road.” This was something Sanghani could have checked for herself – but the way that Dorries has avoided proper scrutiny for so long is by making herself constantly available for interviews: it seems that for many journalists, transcribing the utterances of a celeb is a substitute for research.

Sanghani specialises in features, and she placed Dorries’ story within a broader narrative, headlined as “Stalkers: Why career women are their new targets“.  Sanghani spoke to an apparent expert (1) on the subject:

She is not the only woman to be stalked because of her profession. Laura Richards, founder and chief executive of national stalking advocacy service Paladin, tells me that workplace-related stalking is common.

…She explains that often a professional, successful woman can be a target for a stalker, especially if they – or their work – appears in the public domain. It means that the stalker can criticise them, perhaps through a blog like Dorries’ does, and appear to have legitimate concerns.

Diagnosis takes the place of evidence: something may look “legitimate”, but Richards can pronounce that the author is a stalker based on her expertise. Of course, most people will assume that a famous woman claiming to be stalked by a non-famous man will be telling the truth (at least, as she perceives it), given that this is a commonplace dynamic, but Richards is here ignoring a particular context: the false accusation deployed as a political smear.

Once Dorries was established in the media as a “victim” (also helped by a radio interview with a self-parodyingly splenetic Nick Ferrari), the progression to “expert” took just a few days. Following the suicide of Brenda Leyland (a woman accused of publishing many abusive and hurtful Tweets about the McCanns), Dorries appeared on ITV breakfast television to address the nation on the subject of trolling:

There are different types of trolls. There are those who just become very compulsive and very obsessive, and you become the focus of their life. That is actually terribly frightening, and terrifying frankly, when people do nothing but write about you all day long. That’s very scary. And what we are seeing is that a lot of people who start trolling on the internet move into physical stalking, and then that’s a real danger. And that is why the authorities really do need to be more aware of this and more responsive to the new legislation which came out last year, which actually gives the police the authority to deal with this. What they need to be done [sic] is to be trained and understand it and respond quickly.

The nature of the material being Tweeted is no longer relevant: it’s quantity rather than quality. Can anyone imagine an American politician getting away with this? There was a time when an MP demanding police intervention to censor criticism would have provoked some sceptical and critical comment; the sofa-bound presenters, though, merely nodded along.

One man did venture a modest dissent; Andy McSmith, a senior reporter at the Independent:

…This is very unpleasant for Dorries, though whether it constitutes stalking in a legal sense is doubtful. She is annoyed with the Crown Prosecution Service for not prosecuting him, but a CPS spokesman defended its decision by saying that they “must consider an individual’s right to free speech”.

The harsh truth is that Dorries is not an entirely reliable witness…

Dorries reacted with typical bile and abuse:

back on Twitter you inadequate misogynistic bully? I’m delighted to provide you with an opportunity vent your woman hating bile

Dorries also accused McSmith of working with the man she is accusing, and she called on him to be fired. Inevitably, she later progressed to calling McSmith a stalker, too. These are not the words of a victim seeking justice, but of a spiteful bully who believes the undeserved sympathy she has received for her story means that she can vilify anyone who dares to challenge her.

Epilogue

There is a reasonable likelihood that Dorries will react badly to what I have written above. In the past, she has accused me of being a “Twitter Troll”, in revenge for various occasions in which I have shown her to have misled Parliament or the public (I invite anyone to use the search box of this blog to find any evidence of trolling – there is none).

She has also promoted and worked with on-line stalkers with grudges against me: in 2013 she gleefully re-tweeted an obviously unhinged attack site aimed not just at me but at members of my family, and she was later triumphant when its author made a vexatious police complaint against me (see background, including the outcome, here). On Twitter, she can sometimes be seen interacting with abusive sockpuppet accounts controlled by on-line stalkers who support her agenda of vilification (2).

UPDATE (30 March 2016)

Nadine Dorries has now announced that she is leaving Twitter, supposedly due to “faux outrage and vitriolic abuse”. The immediate cause seems to have been hostile comments that followed a recent vote to introduce a cut in disability benefit allowance. Dorries here followed the Tory whip, but she claimed that she had only agreed to do so after “a personal one to one with Secretary of State first to seek assurances”. These “assurances”, she says, were “enhanced easy access benefits for the chronically disabled and mentally ill” (it seems likely that “chronically” here means “severely”).

However, after Iain Duncan Smith subsequently resigned his position Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the grounds that he disagreed with the cuts, Dorries presented a new version of the story, in which IDS had sought her out, rather than the other way round. IDS “told me he was angry I was rebelling because it was his bill and reflected on him”, and she is now “angry that he made me vote for something I did not want to vote for, bribing me with a promise”. This word “bribe” in particular wasn’t received well by readers.

In January, Dorries announced that she had changed her Twitter settings so that she would only receive notifications from people she follows, although in fact she continued to interact with hostile commentators after this time. Some comments were uncivil, although she’s more than ready to dish out crude abuse herself, as Tim Fenton has documented at Zelo Street (there’s also her association with two online stalkers, as discussed above).

Leaving Twitter has thus given Dorries an excuse to rehearse her bogus “victim of stalking” narrative, and her account, published on her blog, has been picked up by the Sun, under the typically lurid and bombastic headline “Nadine Dorries MP quits Twitter to stop sickening trolls from destroying her” (“sickening” at some point was used to replace the word “frightening”, which had been given in quote marks). The article is by Amanda Devlin, a faithful scribe who over the past few years has dutifully regurgitated Dorries’ utterances for local media in Bedfordshire. Luton on Sunday, meanwhile, in an unbylined article, has run with “Nadine Dorries MP quits Twitter after 10 years over online trolls” (actually more like 8 years at most) and, compounding Dorries’ exaggerations and lies even further, tells readers that she has left “saying violent threats against herself and her family forced her off the social media network”.

In fact, Dorries’ post rakes over a truly malicious comment that she received from an unnamed Oxford student some years ago, and she makes a claim that there was an attempt to track her daughter’s movements at school, “to make me fear for her safety”. Two points in response to this latter claim: (a) her youngest daughter’s school location was an issue when Dorries was being investigated over her expenses in 2009;  (b) her youngest daughter was reported as being 20 years old in November 2012, meaning that she must have left school by 2011 at the latest, and more probably 2010. Asking someone some time after this date if they can remember whether Dorries’ daughter was indeed present at a particular school several years previously, as was claimed in relation to expenses (which I’m told is the kernel to Dorries’ story), hardly amounts to seeking to monitor a child’s movements – and Dorries’ wilful misrepresentation here is one of her more barefaced and repellent lies.

Notes

(1) Richards’ professional integrity is contested. She has accused another anti-stalking specialist, Harry Fletcher, of stalking her, and comments from peers that appeared in a Daily Mail article about the matter were scathing:

Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd, who was the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on stalking and worked with Ms Richards on legislation, said: ‘I found her difficult to work with. She was making some rather strange allegations against Harry. I found her accusations to be utterly incredible.’

Senior forensic psychiatrist Dr David James, who was on the board of PAS [Protection Against Stalking], described Ms Richards as ‘reacting extravagantly when crossed’.

He added: ‘I resigned from the board of PAS because I feared that any form of association with her would be harmful to my professional reputation.

‘I was aware she has made complaints of harassment against others in the past.’

Mr Fletcher is now a director of Digital-Trust, which advises on cyber stalking.

Fellow director Jennifer Perry said: ‘Harry has been given advice and emotional support as a stalking victim himself. Spreading malicious allegations about someone is one of the stalker’s weapons.’

This all sounds strangely familiar. [UPDATE: Richards’ complaint against Fletcher has now been dismissed – more here].

(2) I am here making a very serious allegation as to Dorries’ fitness for office. She is welcome to test it in court if she thinks she has a case under Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act.

Maajid Nawaz and Club Charlie’s Angels: What Happens In Whitechapel Doesn’t Stay In Whitechapel

What are the qualities that make for a successful proprietor of an establishment known in British licensing law as a “Sexual Entertainment Venue” (SEV)? Discretion must surely be close to the top of the list, along with a broadminded perspective on human nature – or, at the very least, the ability to compartmentalize personal distaste.

What then, are we to make of a certain Abdul Malik, a Whitechapel “gentleman’s club” owner who has handed over CCTV footage to the Daily Mail?:

A would-be Lib Dem MP who describes himself as a feminist has been filmed repeatedly trying to touch a naked lap dancer.

Married father-of-one Maajid Nawaz asked for two private sessions at a strip club in east London.

…Abdul Malik, the club’s owner, said he wanted the video to be seen by the public because of the way Nawaz portrays himself as a feminist and a family man. ‘He’s always talking about religion on TV and I thought, what a hypocrite,’ he said. 

He claimed ‘arrogant’ Nawaz acts like a ‘spokesman for Islam’ – but visited the club during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The article also reports claims (including from the manager, Jay Shah) that Nawaz behaved badly at the venue – attempting to touch a dancer, asking for her phone number and “drinking heavily”. However, he wasn’t asked to leave or ejected, so it’s difficult to believe he acted in a way that such places are not used to managing.

Half-way through the story, we are told that Nawaz arrived in the company of “two friends”, and at the very end we are given the detail that according to Nawaz, the visit was a stag do. This was July 2014; Nawaz didn’t get married until October 2014, but any case the “married father-of-one” label is irrelevant and misleading.

Of course, some will argue that Nawaz’s visit to such a place (or if not, his alleged conduct there) is inconsistent with his feminism or undermines his credibility as a reform-minded Muslim commentator (“a leading figure in the Muslim community”, according to the Mail, although he describes himself as a “non-devout Muslim”). But since when did such scruples move lap-club proprietors to break “the code“?

Malik’s name suggests that he is himself of Muslim heritage, but given his choice of business venture his moralizing pose is somewhat unconvincing. And there’s no overriding business reason for wanting to damage Nawaz’s election chances or public profile, either – so why has he done it? A club of this kind that “exposes” customers doesn’t have much of a future.

UPDATE: Nawaz has now responded publicly to the story. He specifically denies behaving badly at the venue, explaining that he was “tame and compliant” when in the company of the dancer and that he “was certainly not issued a warning at any time”.

He has also named the venue as Club Charlie’s Angels, which is at 30 Alie Street. Until a recent refurbishment, this club was known as Club Oops, which was owned by Abdul Ali, a former kickboxing champion (see pdfs here and here). However, in late 2014, and in accordance with licensing law, a Public Notice was printed in local media to announce that (see Appendix 13 at this pdf):

City Traders London Limited of 329 Romford Road London E1 9HA made application to London Borough of Tower Hamlets for the grant of a licence to use the premises named below as a Sexual Entertainment venue. Address of Premises: Charlie’s Angels, 30 Alie Street London E1 SDA.

There is indeed an Abdul Malik who is the director of City Traders London Limited, as well as of several other companies.

Nawaz also gives a bit of background:

1. The man named by the Daily Mail as the manager, Jay Shah (or Jahan Shah) apparently emailed Nawaz’s now-wife shortly after the visit. According to Nawaz there were multiple emails, which he says were “scary”.

2. Evidence from a comment thread originating at the site Mushy Peas shows that Shah made contact with Dilly Hussain of the website 5Pillarz in October, after posting that he had “a very interesting story regarding this fraud”. However, Hussain has denied having a hand in the Mail‘s story. (Mushy Peas is an attack site aimed at Nawaz; I recently documented one outright falsehood on the site).

3. A few days before the Daily Mail article appeared, a sockpuppet Twitter account appeared under name Tony Wright (@DonTonyz). Hours before the article was published, the user Tweeted Nawaz with praise for his book Radical; but minutes after publication, the same account attacked him for “exploiting women”. This was then used as evidence that Nawaz’s supporters were turning against him. An observer named Andrew Nolan has documented the story.

Hampstead Satanism Panic: Protestor Arrested

A couple of weeks ago, the Daily Mail wrote about a bizarre protest that had taken place outside an Anglican church in Hampstead, north London:

…At morning service at the church attached to Christ Church primary school yesterday [Sunday 22 March], parishioners were confronted by a group of between 20 and 30 of [Ella] Draper’s supporters, who hurled abuse at them and held up their mobile phones to film them as they arrived.

‘Paedophiles,’ screamed one of the protesters. The group — or ‘mob’, some might say — were eventually moved on by the police.

Some of those who attended the church service were left visibly upset by what happened. Remember, this was a Sunday morning in genteel Hampstead.

As has been widely reported, Draper (who is currently on the run from police) coached and coerced her two young children into making lurid videos in which they made extravagant claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse against their father and individuals associated with the school, church, and locality. The children alleged not just child sex, but also the ritual murder of babies, brought in from other parts of the world. They further claimed that babies are cooked and eaten at a nearby fast-food outlet, and that a shoe-repair shop makes baby-skin shoes for cult members.

Draper’s partner recorded the children saying all this, and uploaded the videos to YouTube. Those videos have gone viral on conspiracy websites, although there is now a court order that makes it contempt of court to identify the children. In compliance with this ruling (and in agreement with the ruling’s aim, which is to protect the children), I am avoiding linking to any site or video created by the protestors and their supporters.

Since 22 March, the protests have been a regular ordeal for locals wishing to attend the church or take their children to the adjacent school; David Aaronovitch, who lives nearby, noted in the Times at the end of last month:

As I write this, the loonies are outside the church just down the road again for the second Sunday in a row. Only today it’s windy, cold and raining so there are fewer of them. There are several police vans nearby, continuing a presence that has gone on all week, with officers overseeing the arrival and departure of children at the Anglican primary school linked to the church.

Aaronovitch described the protestors as being “mostly women in their late fifties for some reason”. That was also the impression I got from watching some videos of the first protest that had been unloaded to YouTube. However, as I noted at the time, the most vocal protestor was an American woman named Christine Sands. Sands is involved with the 9/11 Truth movement, as well as other conspiracy-theory related activism.

A new video, made by Sands and posted by her to YouTube, shows that police eventually caught up with her at a protest outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in support of Julian Assange. In the video, the arresting officer explains the allegations:

On the 22nd of March this year, yeah, you’ve caused harassment and distress intentionally to members of the parish of the Christ Church, Hampstead, leaving the church. You’ve been shouting abusive things, saying that people are “fucking their children”. It’s been caught on video cameras by officers at the scene, and an arrest is necessary so that you can be interviewed about that matter.

Also apparently arrested at the same protest was Neelu Berry, who was present at the protest in Hampstead and at earlier protests organized by Belinda McKenzie outside the High Court.

Sands has also given herself a title, and she now describes herself as “Sheriff Sands”. This is consistent with her views on the invalidity of existing legal and law enforcement authorities. She claims that she has been “kidnapped” rather than arrested.

(H/T @erichardcastle)

UPDATE (17 April): A local paper for Hampstead and Highgate, the Ham & High, tells us what happened next:

Christine Ann Sands… pleaded guilty to two charges after attending a protest outside Christ Church last month.

The first charge was for using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, under section 4A of the Public Order Act (1986).

The second charge was for engaging in riotous, violent or indecent behaviour in a church or church yard, under the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act (1860).

…A second woman has also been charged with the same two offences. Neelu Berry… pleaded not-guilty to the two charges and will appear at Tottenham Magistrates Court on August 4.

Sand’s Twitter feed, @overthrowusgov, has been disabled.

UK Satanic Panic: Dead Politicians and the Media

Earlier this week I wrote a post relating to claims of “Satanic cult abuse” supposedly involving three now-dead British politicians: the socially liberal Labour MP Leo Abse, the notorious renegade Tory Enoch Powell, and the former Conservative Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw.

To recap: the story emerged in a drip-drip fashion, beginning with the Sunday Times on 22 March. The paper reported:

The Sunday Times has also established that a Church of England review into historic sexual abuse has has passed Abse’s name to detectives from Operation Fernbridge, a Metropolitan police inquiry into an alleged VIP paedophile network.

Dominic Walker, the former Bishop of Monmouth, has told senior clerics that Abse was named by three alleged adult survivors of abuse whom he counselled when he was vicar of Brighton in the 1980s. Walker also named two Conservative cabinet ministers who have not been publicly linked to the scandal.

…Walker was questioned by Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham who is leading the Church of England review, after the discovery of a book from 1991 in which he is quoted as describing counselling sessions with adult survivors.

The article gave no further details about the book, but a bit of digging revealed that it was by a journalist named Tim Tate and had the sensational title Children for the Devil: Ritual Abuse and Satanic CrimeThe volume was subsequently withdrawn due to a libel action (on an unrelated point), although Walker has confirmed that the quotes attributed to him, while “selective”, are accurate.

It also transpired (see below) that there is not in fact a “review” going on – rather, Butler was contacted in late 2013 by a retired child protection officer (Peter McKelvie, apparently), who asked him to “ensure that Dominic Walker contacts the Police as a very high priority”.

The weekend after the Sunday Times story, the Mail on Sunday published a piece headlined “Enoch Powell is named by bishop in sex abuse probe: Scotland Yard to investigate satanic abuse claim”, again citing Dominic Walker and Paul Butler but not mentioning the book or Abse. The threads were finally tied together the next day, with a more expansive Daily Mail article and a piece in The Times which also mentioned Whitelaw.

The Mail on Sunday article angered Simon Heffer, a friend and biographer of Powell, who charged the Bishops with acting in “a remarkably un-Christian fashion by putting this smear into the public domain”. Finally realising things were getting out of hand, the Church of England published a statement:

In June 2014 one of the Church of England’s safeguarding advisers contacted the Police with information concerning individuals against whom allegations had been made to a priest in the 1980s. The allegations concerned Members of Parliament who were alleged to be members of a Satanic cult in connection with the trial of Derry Mainwaring Knight who was convicted for fraud in 1986.

References to these allegations had been in the public domain as part of the trial of and also in a book by Tim Tate “Children for the Devil: Ritual Abuse and Satanic Crime” (1991).

…[I]t is incorrect to suggest… that the Church of England is conducting a review into historic sex abuse in this matter.

…The Mail on Sunday approached the Communications Office of the Church of England on 27 March 2015 seeking confirmation that the name of Enoch Powell was part of a conversation in the 1980s in relation to ritual satanic abuse.

Knight had bilked thousands of pounds out of Christians in a village close to Brighton with a story of being a repentant Satanist in need of funds to purchase and destroy Satanic regalia. He had named Abse, Powell and Whitelaw at his trial (some useful sources are gathered here by Anna Raccoon).

Now, here are four points to ponder:

1.  The Church of England statement does not explain how Abse’s name reached the Sunday Times, but it doesn’t look like the Church told the media. So who did?

2. The Sunday Times knew that Butler had contacted the police, but did not mention Powell, Whitelaw, or Satanism. Instead, Butler’s reporting of Abse’s name is used to beef up a story about a different investigation, into whether Abse and his friend George Thomas were involved a paedophile ring. The article does, though, mention that “Walker also named two Conservative cabinet ministers who have not been publicly linked to the scandal”, refering to general allegations of paedophilia by politicians. This suggests to me that the paper had the names of Powell and Whitelaw, and also knew of the “Satanic Ritual” element to the accusations, but decided they were too outlandish for publication. It looks like the least contentious claim was “cherrypicked” from a dubious source.

3. The Mail on Sunday contacted the Church of England several days after the Abse story was published, and according to the Church the journalists already knew, or had guessed, that Powell had also been named. This surely must mean that the paper knew of the common link: Derry Wainwaring Knight. Knight’s allegations have been available online for a long time, including on a sceptical site called Swallowing the CamelYet his name was left out of the story. As I suggested on Monday, why would this be, if not to obscure the story’s discredited provenance?

4. The Church of England contacted the police in June 2014. And it just so happens that Knight decided to break his 29-year silence by creating a website three months later. That’s remarkable timing, unless police had contacted Knight in the meantime while following up on Butler’s report to them. Which in turn may have something to do with the story of Butler’s contact with police reaching the Sunday Times.

Knight’s role as the source of the allegations has now been acknowledged in media, in a scathing column for The Times by David Aaronovitch (which – cough – also mentions me), under the heading “Let’s expose the satanic abuse con artists” (the article also discusses the unrelated Hampstead protests against Satanism and babyeating).

This drew an oddly sneering response from John Mann, who as a Labour MP has achieved prominence as a campaigner against historic child abuse (he has a “list of 22 politicians“, which was passed to police in December). Mann mocked Aaronovitch for being

…as usual the font of all wisdom on child abuse. Except that he has met no victims nor seen any of the police evidence.

Earlier in the week, Mann had RT-ed a link to one of the articles about Powell, and in response to a question about the Satanism angle he was not adverse to taking on the role of “font of all wisdom” himself:

Very rare we need to be wary of sensational excuses. The truth is abuse is commonplace and everywhere.

However, he has so far declined to respond to an invitation from Aaronovitch:

If you want to argue with what I’ve written, John, then let’s proceed from the evidence, not from assertion.