(Expanded and revised from an earlier blog entry following Mann’s 4 November statement in Parliament)
Mann announces receiving “Dickens Dossier”
From the Telegraph, 21 October:
A dossier of evidence of an alleged paedophile ring which was believed to have been lost has been handed to a Labour MP who has been at the forefront of demands for justice for victims.
The dossier is believed to be a copy of the evidence handed to then Home Secretary Leon Brittan by Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens in 1984.
…John Mann said that the file was handed to him by the same individual who had provided it to Mr Dickens in the 1980s, after it was compiled by former Tory MPs Sir Victor Raikes and Anthony Courtney – both now dead.
The Bassetlaw MP said he would pass it on to the Metropolitan Police to assist them with their investigations into historical sex abuse allegations.
Tom Watson has been criticised for his handling of allegations of historic “VIP sex abuse”, but for some reason Mann’s constant self-promotion and grandstanding on the same issue seems to escape critical scrutiny. Mann regularly boasts of having lists of names and inside information, and when Harvey Proctor’s home was raided earlier this year Mann provided a crowing and prejudicial comment about the police investigation for the Daily Mail (which we now know was based on testimony from a man, “Nick”, whose extravagant claims have been found to be fatally flawed). His approach to the subject, in short, is that of the demagogue.
The first question is why it’s taking Mann so long to get around to handing the dossier over to the police (still not there on 21 October, according to the above). He first announced he’d seen the thing on 24 September:
significant development re the Dickens file and Brittan in the near future. Been shown documents that I expect to be made public soon
Then on 28 September:
In January 1984 Geoffrey Dickens handed over a second list of alleged paedophiles to Leon Brittan. I have seen a photocopy of the document.
How come I can find a copy of part of the Dickens file when David Cameron’s official enquiry [the Wanless Review] found nothing?
This question was designed to give the impression of a cover-up that Mann had somehow brilliantly penetrated, when in fact the answer appears to be: “because it was in private hands and the person who owned it has now given a copy to you”.
Mann went on to hint that the file (“documents about MP alleged child abuse”) had also been given to BBC Panorama in 1984, and to suggest that the programme’s failure to make a documentary about it at the time, or to pass it on to the police, undermined the credibility of the new documentary on “VIP” accusers that went out on 6 October.
The second question is whether the file is even genuine. According to the BBC:
The author, a Conservative party member in the 1980s, says the information was gathered from two former Tory MPs – Sir Victor Raikes and Anthony Courtney.
Both are now dead and as a result the authenticity of the document can’t be directly verified; however, handwritten notes said to have been compiled during discussions with the MPs in the 1980s are also also in the file.
Geoffrey Dickens is thought to have passed at least two “dossiers” to Lord Brittan in 1983 and early 1984.
One wonders about Raikes and Courtney: both men were born in the first decade of the twentieth century, and died in the 1980s. Assuming the document is genuine, did these elderly gents really compile it, or did they simply commission it or put their names to it?
Both men were associated with the Tory Right, including the anti-immigration Monday Club. Mann also dropped a hint along these lines in May, when he said that “I am very interested in knowing more about GK Young who helped form the Monday Club.” This suggests that Mann has had this story in reserve for some months.
After the Telegraph story appeared, Mann went on to claim to have “identified location of scores of new documents relevant to child abuse investigations and Westminster”. He also repeated his assertion that “BBC Panorama [has] unreleased information of significance to the police”.
Background to “Dickens Dossiers”
Leon Brittan is alleged to have mishandled these “dossiers”, either as part of an “establishment cover-up” or because he was he was himself a paedophile; in the months leading up to Brittan’s death, the same newspapers that are now castigating Tom Watson over allegations against Brittan were full of insinuating and sensationalising stories about “Brittan’s faulty memory” and how this related to VIP paedophile rings. But in fact there is no evidence that he did not deal with Dickens’ files appropriately, and Dickens never made any complaint about Brittan.
The Sunday Times in fact reported on what was known about the dossiers in February, and the impression is of a rag-bag of allegations of “deviancy”. As regards details from the first dossier:
…One [allegation] was from an angry mother complaining that her 16-year-old son had “become homosexual” after taking a job in the kitchens at Buckingham Palace, where homosexuality was “prevalent”. The second was from a civil servant working for what was then Customs and Excise, who pointed out that addresses linked to paedophile material sent from abroad were not routinely passed on to the police.
And as for a second batch of information, which appears to be quite distinct from what Mann describes as being Dickens’ “file (no 2)”:
According to an internal Home Office inquiry conducted by an investigator from HMRC, “some . . . relate to the cult Children of God”, a religious sect widely accused of abusing children [see footnote below – RB].
The other letters involved matters that had already been dealt with by police or the courts or lacked evidence, such as a letter from a woman complaining about PIE advertising but without any examples.
Two months later, on March 20, 1984, Dickens received a letter from Brittan, who addressed him “Dear Geoff” .
Brittan confirmed that when Dickens had visited the Home Office the previous November, he had brought only two letters making direct accusations. Brittan also said the two “cult” letters Dickens had given him in January had been sent to the director of public prosecutions (DPP) .
During this correspondence, Dickens made no mention of “prominent individuals” or a paedophile ring at Westminster. If, as has since been suggested, he had submitted a damning dossier to the Home Office revealing the existence of a Westminster paedophile conspiracy then it is highly likely he would have referred to it explicitly.
As the decade progressed, Dickens moved on to warning about witchcraft and Satanic Ritual Abuse.
Mann’s Statement in Parliament
On 27 October, Mann announced that he had “secured a 30 minute debate on the Wanless Review and the Dickens file in Parliament Wednesday 4th November 4pm”. The debate was a “Westminster Hall” debate, meaning that it took place in a virtually empty committee room rather than the chamber of the House of Commons.
The “debate” actually consisted of Mann making a statement, and a minister (Karen Bradley) giving a response. In terms of the Wanless Review itself, there wasn’t much to say: despite his attempts to whip up a sense of intrigue ahead of the event, Mann said nothing that suggested that the Review had been handled improperly or neglectfully. Instead, Mann’s statement ranged broadly.
Mann began by listing cases of historical abuse that have either led to convictions or are under police investigation, as evidence that sceptical “commentators” have got it all wrong. It appears that in Mann’s mind, there are people who deny child abuse really exists, and people who believe “Nick’s” fantasies about Ted Heath and attempted castration at sex parties. Mann also mentioned meetings he had had with people who had suffered sex abuse in childhood, and recalled first hearing about Dolphin Square in 1988.
Mann at length got around to revealing some details about the dossier. Here’s the meat:
There was an internal battle going on within the Conservative party, specifically within the Monday club—[Raikes and Courtney] were both key figures in that—with a new organisation, the Young Monday club. They were part of that factional battle, and the second file emerged because of it. I do not think that they thought that what they described in the file as paedophilia was of particular importance other than for doing the other side in.
What is significant is the details, the allegations that were made and the fact that those allegations were not investigated. The file is unambiguous…. In the first line, it says, “GK Young heads up a Powellite faction known as Tory Action.” George Kennedy Young, now long dead, was deputy director of MI6. The allegation is that he manipulated a group of people, and that, within that, there were paedophile rings.
…Information and allegations in it include allegations of sex with children, names of people alleged to be involved, and suggestions both of locations, including one precise location, and of a third-party organisation that was directly involved.
…It is worth saying one other thing about George Kennedy Young. He was involved in many dubious activities; he tried to get some kind of private army called “Unison” going. I have seen a range of background documents that would be of interest to anyone campaigning on the Shrewsbury pickets and on infiltration of the miners’ strike, with names that correlate. There are a lot of allegations about him attempting to undermine both the Heath and the Wilson Governments. He was clearly a manipulator, and is key to what was going on. I do not know why he is so prominent or why the Society for Individual Freedom, which he set up, is named in this, but he is a significant figure and that may give some sort of reason for why things then disappeared.
This bears absolutely no relation to what was reported in the Sunday Times in February. I suppose it’s possible that the document was bundled in with the “other letters” as part of a broader dossier, but there’s no reason to suppose this was the case.
Young didn’t actually set up the Society for Individual Freedom, although he was its chairman at one point; and Tory Action was created by Young after he left the Monday Club in 1974. The final paragraph quoted above is not directly relevant to the matter in hand, but the fact that Mann, who is a Labour MP, has chosen to foreground these details indicates that he wants to bring Young’s right-wing political murkiness in to the mix.
Mann followed up on Twitter:
The Dickens dossier ( no 2) came from a battle within the Monday Club. I have agreed with the police not to identify 19 live people named [link]
I will be seeking a meeting with Norman Tebbit who banned the Young Monday Club around 1985/6. [link]
Tebbit famously closed down the Federation of Conservative Students in 1986, on the grounds that its antics were bringing the party into disrepute; however, I’ve been unable to find details about similar action against the Young Monday Club.
This context, however, does suggest that the document’s purpose was primarily to smear political opponents (as even Mann himself seems to acknowledge); at this stage, I’m sceptical that it contains material of substance that was improperly ignored by the police in 1984 – let alone anything that substantiates the specific Exaro-led allegations.
[UPDATE (5 November): More details from Mann on Twitter.
Some general points:
There are 19 names directly identified in the file. I would be very surprised in the general public recognised three quarters [link]
….the cases are complex. In particular some are gay men involved in rather sleazy company, in others alleged violence and abuse [link]
The Dickens file alleges rings in London, Manchester, North Yorkshire, and Portsmouth plus in another right wing organisation [link]
It is astonishing and impossible that the Home Office was unable to locate this file, considering its content. [link]
This seems to be a clear accusation that the Wanless Review was corrupt (or had been sabotaged). But if he felt this was the case, why did he not press the point in his “debate”? And why would the dossier’s content mean that it should have been found?
the authenticated handwriting is of Victor Raikes (a letter) [link]
That proves the file was indeed compiled with Raikes’ involvement: but it falls short of proving that it was given to Dickens or that Dickens gave it to Brittan. An important link in the chain is unconfirmed (other than by an anonymous source in contact with Mann) – and given the Sunday Times article there’s reason to be sceptical.
And finally, some last-second hedging:
There are people named in this Dickens dossier who will have been wrongly slurred. They have vital information and will know who they are. [link]
Well, I suppose we should be grateful that Mann has at last admitted the possibility of a false allegation. But given how he’s built this story up over the past few weeks, teasing and playing the media with a drip-drip of information and hints, this is a serious caveat that amounts to something of an anti-climax.]
[UPDATE (19 November): On 18 November, Mann published a letter to David Cameron on his website. It includes the following details:
I enclose a copy of the second Geoffrey Dickens file given to Mr Dickens on 18 January 1984 and which Mr Dickens then handed to Home Secretary Leon Brittan for investigation.
I am unaware of the content of the discussion between Dickens and Brittan, but Mr Dickens was aware of other additional information following his January meeting. The same information and other documents were also subsequently handed over to Ian Gow, I believe in his capacity as a Conservative vice chairman, by a Conservative Central office official [on Twitter, Mann says this was Mark Worrall – RB].
You will note the annotated note about Central Office on the document given to Geoffrey Dickens.
…Whilst the motivations behind the creation of this document and various and many others was a battle within the Conservatives, particularly involving splits within the Monday Club and the attempt by the Young Monday Club to take over the youth and student structures of the Conservative Party, and whilst observing that some of the issues raised are neither illegal, nor in mine or most people’s eyes not immoral or improper, you will also note that there are direct allegations about the abuse of children and there are separate documents allegation major sexual violence.
The file itself contains allegations of a paedophile ring and specifically identifies Conservative residential training centre Swinton College as a location involved.
The following day, and continuing his sensationalising “drip-drip” approach to releasing information about the file, Mann added that “The new evidence available to police with Dickens file includes allegations about North Wales and Kincora”.]
Mann vs critics
Following the Telegraph article, Mann responded to sceptical and critical reactions to his with a bit of red meat for the mob:
An oddball assortment of nobodies, who know nothing about child abuse, are attacking me. Don’t worry all you decent people out there.
This follows a Tweet from earlier this month in which he opined that
It is interesting that I have received more attacks for raising issues of child abuse than everything else put together this year.
In other words, criticism of Mann’s self-serving mix of vagueness and sensationalism amounts to “attacks for raising issues of child abuse” – and is that not further evidence of a conspiracy by people who are not “decent”?
Mann has also previously deployed the claim that he has special inside knowledge of VIP abuse. In April, he responded to a column by David Aaronovitch with the jibe that
@DAaronovitch as usual the font of all wisdom on child abuse. Except that he has met no victims nor seen any of the police evidence.
Mann did not deign to be drawn into specifics, although Aaronovitch’s column focused on the provenance of the claim that Enoch Powell and Willie Whitelaw had been child-abusing Satanists, and also mentioned the “Hampstead baby-eating Satanic cult” hoax
The Children of God is an American religious group, today known as the Family International. It believes in free love between members, and this previously included sexual relations with and between children. Dickens’ reference to the group, and to homosexuality at Buckingham Palace, are sloppily conflated in a headline that appeared above a Don Hale story in the Daily Star Sunday in December: “Child sex cult in Buckingham Palace”.
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