Esther Baker and the “Perversion of Justice” Claim

UPDATE: Via Twitter, Baker has informed me that this post contains “at least 8 factual errors”, and that I am ” talking bollocks again”. Unfortunately, however, no further details are provided.

From the Daily Mail, last week:

Four months after the Daily Mail raised questions about Esther Baker’s account of supposed VIP abuse, it has been announced that her allegations will not be investigated by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

Inquiry chairman Professor Alexis Jay described Miss Baker’s allegations as ‘highly contentious’ and added that she is the subject of a complaint to police that she had perverted the course of justice.

As per my previous post on this, Baker says that she was abused for an extended period as a child by VIPs in a woodland setting while police stood guard; she also claims to have been taken by night to a location in London that she says may have been Dolphin Square (1), and that the abuse had an international dimension, involving orphanages in a foreign country (unspecified, but from old Tweets likely to have been the Philippines). Three MPs – John Mann, Jess Phillips and Sarah Champion – have expressed confidence in her allegations, but the CPS decided in September 2017 that there was insufficient evidence to proceed.

Not much is known about which public figures Baker has accused, apart from the former MP John Hemming, who went public after the case against him was dropped in September. Baker says that she remembered Hemming as an abuser after seeing him at a meeting in parliament in late 2014 – this meeting apparently saw conflict between Hemming and Baker’s close associate Graham Wilmer over proposed arrangements for the IICSA.

It was reported that Hemming wanted Baker pursued for an alleged attempt to pervert of justice, but that Staffordshire Police had rejected the possibility, on the rationale that “It would not benefit her or the wider community”. Hemming has since taken his complaint directly to the CPS.

It seems that Alexis Jay was not fully appraised of these distinctions, and her statement about her initially included the detail that:

Ms Baker’s allegations… are the subject of both a police investigation (I understand that the police enquiries are now focused on whether Ms Baker should be charged with perverting the course of justice) and also contested civil proceedings.

This was then withdrawn and reissued in a softened form:

Ms Baker’s allegations are highly contentious. They are the subject of both contested civil proceedings and an ongoing police investigation. I am also aware that Mr Hemming is reported to have made a complaint to the CPS that the allegations that Ms Baker has made about him amount to perverting the course of justice.

Some background to the amendment has been provided by the journalist David Hencke, who continues to support Baker’s claims:

I am told [the first version] was withdrawn after Staffordshire Police contacted them to tell them it was untrue and defamatory and it is now deleted from the website. The inquiry confirmed they had deleted it. Instead there is a reference to a complaint by Mr Hemming to the CPS.

There is NO investigation into Esther Baker about her perverting the course of justice. It is itself a fantasy. Staffordshire Police in a carefully crafted statement said she was a ” victim of crime ” and they are still supporting her. When I asked the police force whether there were further investigations into Esther Baker – after Mr Hemming is said to have complained about the ” false accusations” against him – they made it clear there are none.

This is remarkable. Police forces are seldom so proactive when it comes to correcting claims made on their behalf, nor do they usually venture into providing advice about the civil matter of defamation.

Hencke’s account, though, fails to put Staffordshire Police’s stance in full context. We know that forces have been instructed to believe complainants as a matter of procedure (a directive criticised by the Henriques Review into Operation Midland), and that when a police force has set about building a case it is reluctant to later look for evidence that it may have been credulous or misled. We also know that Baker has made other allegations, such as having had underage sex with an employer – the reference to her as a “victim of crime” may thus be reasonable without amounting to a strong endorsement of sensational VIP claims.

Further, it seems unlikely that there is any forensic evidence or third-party testimony that could either prove or debunk Baker’s VIP claims, given the length of time that has passed and the extended period over which the woodland abuse supposedly occurred. The case against Hemming was apparently dropped due to the possibility of a mistaken identification; but this works both ways, and could also be used by Baker as a possible defence against having made a false claim. This is important, as Hencke’s article might give the impression that the police decision not to investigate Baker indicates the strength of her claims, despite the CPS decision.

Meanwhile, Baker has confirmed that an appeal lodged by her against the CPS decision under the Victims’ Right to Review scheme has been rejected. Apparently the result has come earlier than expected, from which she infers improper “pressure” by Hemming over the process.

Footnote

(1) Exaro reported in 2013 that Baker

has also told police that she was sexually abused at a flat in London, which she now believes was in Dolphin Square, the apartment complex where many MPs have homes, near Westminster.

She said that she recognised what one abuse survivor, known as “Darren”, described as the “medical room” at a large apartment in Dolphin Square.

However, she later clarified in December 2015 (here and here) that

Darren and I have described the same room. Independently of each other. He says that room is in DSQ – I was too young to know where it was. It may be DSQ it may not. That is for the police to determine.

The Exaro account, though, does not refer to two independent descriptions, just Baker agreeing with Darren.

Darren’s various allegations came under critical scrutiny in September 2015; some were found to be unsubstantiated, while others were impossible. He eventually withdrew an allegation against the late politician Leon Brittan, and was found to have a long history of dishonesty.