Police Drop Perverting the Course of Justice Complaint Against John Hemming Accuser

From the Daily Mail:

A former MP has launched a scathing attack on ‘politically correct’ police after they ruled a woman who made false child sex allegations against him should not be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.

John Hemming said their refusal to seek charges against his accuser Esther Baker undermined the criminal justice system and would encourage ‘other fantasists’ to make bogus paedophile claims.

He hit out after Staffordshire Police informed him via email that following a ‘review’ of his allegations, it had decided there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to proceed with the case and no further action would be taken.

Hemming spent more than a year under police investigation; his name was not reported in the media until he chose to speak out afterwards, although it was bandied about in the meantime – including by a speaker who made extravagant claims about “VIP abuse” to an angry crowd at an anti-abuse rally opposite Downing Street in 2015.

Baker alleges that she was subjected to ritualistic abuse in a woodland setting when she was a child: she claims that police officers stood guard, and that her abusers included someone who addressed as a “lord”. Some adults present were unknown to her, but she says that she remembered Hemming as having been one of them after she encountered him an event in Parliament in late 2014.

In due course, Staffordshire Police passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service, which declined to proceed to prosecution on the grounds that Baker’s identification of Hemming could be a case of mistaken identity. For Baker and her supporters on social media, this implies that Hemming escaped prosecution on a technicality; in contrast, the very fact that Staffordshire Police interviewed Hemming under caution and made a submission to the CPS supposedly indicates a strong case to answer, if not outright guilt.

However, while Baker is vocal on social media about her own allegations and those of others (in particular, she remains a strong supporter of Operation Midland’s “Nick”), she has also said that there are details that she is currently unable to go into, for legal reasons. Thus she declines to explain how her claims might be substantiated, while citing the police referral to the CPS as evidence that such substantiation exists. The outcome of Hemming’s complaint is now taken to be a new confirmation of this.

A further complication is that Baker has also made other allegations that relate to other situations (such as underage sex with a former employer), so that when she writes of ongoing police investigations or her status in police eyes as a “victim” it is difficult to tell how these might relate to her sensational ritual abuse claims. There seems to be little desire for clarity: she recently suggested a previous post of mine amounted to “talking bollocks”, but no corrective has been forthcoming.

Hemming’s complaint was always a long-shot. In general, a police force will be resistant to re-assessing a complainant in whom it has already invested, because it is difficult to do so without admitting to having made mistakes. And in this case, Baker is protected by the same possibility of mistaken identity that led to her own complaint failing.

Presumably, Hemming would have presented police with a possible motive for Baker to have falsely, rather than just mistakenly, accused him: in particular, it seems that the allegation came shortly after Hemming had argued with an associate of hers. However, Baker says that police were provided with “full permission from me to access to any of my online communications in any form they wished to investigate”, and that “they have found exactly zero evidence and not even a suggestion that I or others have been involved in an attempt to pervert the course of justice”.

Jack Burkman Announces US “Cocktail Fundraiser” With Tommy Robinson Associate

At Zelo Street, my friend Tim Fenton receives an email announcement:

Event for Tommy Robinson, jailed British reporter, announced by D.C lobbyist and attorney, Jack Burkman

Official Robinson spokesman coming from London to join Burkman at press conference and fundraising event

Burkman also assembling lobbying coalition to obtain a US Congressional resolution demanding the British government release Robinson at once

WASHINGTON D.C. – Jack Burkman, prolific D.C.-based lawyer and lobbyist, has announced plans for an event benefitting the recently imprisoned Rbel Media reporter Tommy Robinson. A joint press conference with Robinson’s spokesperson Caolan Robertson will be followed by a cocktail fundraiser.

Burkman and Robertson believe this case is an example of poor freedom of speech laws and they hope holding an event will draw attention and support from fellow conservatives in America.

Robertson assists with making Robinson’s videos; it seems that they met through Rebel Media, and that the association continues despite Robertson having fallen out with Rebel Media’s Ezra Levant. The claim that Robertson is Robinson’s “official spokesperson”, though, is disputed, despite the former providing “updates” for Alex Jones; as Tim notes, a Twitter account apparently controlled by Robinson’s sometime PA Hel Gower has said that “The team don’t talk to Caolan and I regularly talk to the family as well as Tommy ringing me”.

Burkman, meanwhile, was profiled in Mother Jones last July; he had previously been attached to Seth Rich’s parents, but by that time they had parted company and Rich’s parents were increasingly critical of his “investigation”, which included a stunt in which he had re-enacted Rich’s killing. The Daily Beast later described Burkman as “notorious for running gags that do little more than insert him into random news cycles” – and further media attention came earlier this year, when a disgruntled co-investigator apparently shot and wounded him.

Burkman is flexible in his principles: in 2016 he organised a fundraiser for Donald Trump which then became an anti-Trump event after the Trump campaign disavowed him. This ability to reverse ferret may come in handy when he meets Robertson, who is openly gay; in 2014 Burkman created a lobby group called American Decency and “as a private citizen, proposed legislation to ban gay players” from American football.

However, given that tolerance for homosexuality is frequently cited by alt-right figures as evidence that the movement is not far-right, why would Robertson want to be holding a “fundraiser” with someone who has promoted homophobia?

A Note on Arron Banks’s Report to Police

A grave allegation reaches Avon and Somerset Police:

11,000 emails were stolen from journalist Isabel Oaksuott [sic], which we believe were obtained by Byline media , Chris Wylie and then passed to Carole Cadwalladr and the Guardian Media Group.

The claim was submitted via the force’s “Report a Crime Online” page, and a screenshot has been posted online by Andy Wigmore on behalf of the businessman Arron Banks; the emails pertain to Banks’s campaigning on behalf of Brexit, and they are of interest due to references to contact with Russian officials. The same Tweet from Wigmore also has a screenshot of the automated response Banks received:

This email is confirm your successful submission of a crime/incident report to Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

The reference number is 1462018/B/1069. Please note – this is not a crime reference number.

We recognise that being a victim of crime can be upsetting and you may feel that you require some support…

Wigmore’s commentary on this is that

…today @Arron_banks reported the theft of his 11,000 emails from @IsabelOakeshott to @ASPolice that have conveniently and illegally been passed onto various people in the anti Brexit media.

Reporting a crime online is a preliminary procedure that in itself requires very little effort or investment – Banks has not yet spoken to an officer, or given a proper formal statement, and he and Wigmore do not know if any investigation will proceed. If I were an officer dealing with this I would be sceptical as to the motives of the complainant: trumpeting the online submission in this way leaves an impression that the two men wish to involve the police primarily for dramatic effect and as an intimidatory tactic, rather than because they seriously expect to see a criminal investigation go forward leading to prosecution.

One question is why Isabel Oakeshott is not the complainant rather than Banks, since the complaint alleges that the emails were “stolen” from her. Banks says that it is because “Its my property that was stolen”, but there are two problems with this.

First, Banks still has the emails, so he has not been deprived of his property. We may in common parlance talk about someone “stealing ideas” or “stealing data”, but the crime of theft has not occurred. The Secret Barrister has referred Banks to Oxford v Moss on this point.

Second, Banks in effect gifted a copy of his emails to Oakeshott, to assist her in ghostwriting his book The Bad Boys of Brexit – some were provided on paper, while others were apparently sent via Dropbox. According to Oakeshott, “no conditions were put” on her use of the emails, and she says she that she has made further use of them in a forthcoming book about challenges faced by the British armed forces. It appears that she has done so without complaint from Banks, even though he did not provide them for this purpose and the context will be uncongenial to him. When you give away emails to a journalist without conditions, then it seems to me you have relinquished ownership and even any expectation of privacy.

Meanwhile, Oakeshott says that she was “hacked” at the end of March. In a Tweet, she has posted a screenshot of an email from Dropbox which says that her account was accessed from “a public IP address”; confusingly, she describes this as proof that her computer was hacked, although of course a hacked account does not imply a hacked computer. The screenshot does not indicate that files pertaining to Banks were sought out; she has redacted some of the email, but one folder that was “likely viewed or downloaded” related to “family photos”. Apparently Dropbox provided other “IP information”, but Oakeshott has not disclosed what this is.

Carole Cadwalladr has stated that she received the emails late last week, shortly after they were passed to Peter Jukes of Byline Media; Peter in turn says that “a third party” received the emails legitimately last November. A further difficulty is that Oakeshott has confirmed that the relevant material is among the documents that she received on paper, rather than electronically, and that she was storing in her attic. Both details mean that whatever happened with Oakeshott’s account in March is irrelevant: the documents were leaked months before, and they were never in her Dropbox anyway. Byline has stated that it is prepared to defend itself against allegations of involvement in hacking via a libel action.

It should also be noted that that Banks’s online submission closes off the possibility of anything untoward having happened earlier. Oddly, Wigmore has stated that “we… know who stole them”, but no-one is clearly named as the primary culprit in the online submission; instead, we have the ambiguous expression “obtained by Byline media , Chris Wylie”, which leaves open the question of how they were obtained and from whom. If Wigmore and Banks are confident they know who committed the alleged “theft”, why is the submission to police not more precise on this point?

UPDATE (16 June): Banks now says that he spoken with police (who obligingly came to his house rather than asking him to give a statement at the station), and that “They will be talking to the police force that @IsabelOakeshott reported the theft to”. As far as I am aware, this is the first confirmation that Oakeshott had made a complaint to police herself. Presumably this happened in early April.

Note

The significance of the emails as regards the Brexit referendum result is a separate issue from the above discussion.

My concern here is primarily with the fact that a story Oakeshott says she thinks is “in the public interest” – and which the Sunday Times judged was important enough to be front-page news – had been hidden from view for months, and only came to light because of Carole Cadwalladr and Peter Jukes; and that the story’s subjects now appear to be attempting to discourage further investigation by involving the police.

A Note on Isabel Oakeshott, White Flag? and the Arron Banks Emails

A blurb on the website of Biteback Publishing:

White Flag? An Examination of Britain’s Modern-Day Defence Capability

By Michael Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott

…[D]efence spending is no longer a public priority. Politicians know that there are more votes in schools and hospitals, even while they are deploy our troops onto the streets after suicide bombings or, more recently,  a nerve agent attack. In what feels like peacetime, no wonder top brass have to justify big budgets.

Yet this country faces an array of new and escalating threats, while Brexit and Donald Trump raise difficult questions over the future of our most important alliances. Have we become dangerously complacent?

The blurb was posted on Ashcroft’s website in July last year, when it was announced as a “new project”; according to Biteback, it is due to be published in mid-September. (1)

The topic is interesting, but it is not immediately obvious that such a book would contain sensational revelations about Arron Banks’s dealings with Russia, based on emails provided by Banks to Oakeshott when she was employed to ghostwrite his book The Bad Boys of Brexit.

Yet this is what are are to infer from a statement made by Oakeshott yesterday, after the emails formed the formed the basis for two front-page splashes: an article by Carole Cadwalladr and Peter Jukes in the Observer, after a source provided them to Peter on Thursday, (2) and a group effort in the Sunday Times, after Oakeshott took her material to them as a spoiler a couple of days later. Both papers thus claimed an “exclusive” that covered similar ground.

By her own account, Oakeshott first realised the significance of the emails while researching White Flag?:

For more than a year the files I had been given gathered dust in my attic. It was not until I embarked on this investigation into the state of the British armed forces in 2017 – and public interest in Russian links with Brexit began mounting – that I decided to revisit the material.

Oakeshott says that she had missed this previously because although she had access “to about 11,000 emails” while writing Bad Boys of Brexit she “was not particularly looking for material about Russia at this point”:

I was very surprised by what I found, which conflicted with the public accounts of the relationship with the Russian embassy that Banks and [Andy] Wigmore had given.

The difficulty here is that these “public accounts” were written by by Oakeshott herself. Surely the very point of giving her the emails was so that she could flesh out their account with details such as those that later “very surprised” her? On a post on her website, she refers to having read “correspondence with politicians, journalists, the BBC, and everyone else from Posh Spice to NASA”, and that this “hilarious reading” made it possible for her and Banks “to piece together what is effectively a contemporaneous account of the referendum” (H/T Jim AK) .

Having stumbled on this scoop sitting in her own attic, the next question is why she did not immediately write it up for a newspaper. She could perhaps have argued that it would have been unethical for her to use material provided to her by a ghostwriting client for some other purpose, but that would have been in conflict with her role as a journalist and she has anyway confirmed her intention to publish:

It was always my intention to publish this information. I believe it is in the national interest… I believe it was a grave mistake on [the part of Banks and Wigmore] to forge these links [with Russia].

There is no doubt that Oakeshott is a strong critic of Putin’s Russia, but if it is in “the national interest” to publish, what was the counter-balancing interest that necessitated such a long delay before doing so?

Producing the material for the first time in a book would certainly have provided a bonanza of free publicity for the volume, but the postponement seems disproportionate. Its relevance to a book about “Britain’s Modern-Day Defence Capability” is apparently as part of a discussion of “the Kremlin’s ‘hybrid warfare’ capabilities”, but in this context it’s difficult to see how it would be anything more than a brief illustrative anecdote (and it is not a theme mentioned in the book blurb).

This, together with the story’s “hot news” value (both as regards Banks and Brexit, and Banks and Trump), and the current electoral commission investigation into Banks’s donations, suggest to me that the decision to hold back was a strange one.

Footnotes

(1) Ashcroft is the majority owner of Biteback. He and Oakeshott previously wrote Call Me Dave, a biography of David Cameron that is remembered primarily for containing scurrilous gossip about a pig’s head.

(2) Oakeshott says that her “computer was hacked” at the end of March, and that this was how the material reached Peter. As evidence, she has posted an email from Dropbox confirming that her Dropbox account had been accessed from “a public IP address”, which of course does not have implications for her actual computer.

However, Peter says that “a third party” received the emails in November, and Banks’s associate Andy Wigmore has stated that “we… know who stole them”. This implies a leak from someone inside Banks’s camp, but although that means the hacking explanation is superfluous, Wigmore refers to “hacking and theft”.

There is some confusion has about how this relates to files in Oakeshott’s attic anyway. She says in the Sunday Times that “the majority of the messages were stored electronically, but some were delivered to me in paper files”.

Irish Magazine Carries New Enoch Powell “VIP Sex Abuse” Claim

From Ireland’s Village magazine:

In 2015, [Enoch] Powell was named in a Church of England review into historical child sex abuse concerning the 1980s. One of its spokespersons told the press that: “The name Enoch Powell was passed to Operation Fernbridge on the instruction of Bishop Paul Butler”. The information originally came from a cleric who has counselled child abuse victims in the 1980s. Last April Village gave Powell the benefit of the doubt insofar as these claims were concerned. In light of [Richard] Kerr’s account of his encounters with Powell – revealed here for the first time – that benefit must now be replaced with outright condemnation.

The “revelation” forms part of a longer article that supposedly links sex abuse in children’s homes in Northern Ireland with VIP paedophile conspiracies involving the British secret services. This was the context in which Powell was thus able to commit abuse in Northern Ireland with impunity, despite his status as a political pariah and many journalists, activists and other enemies highly motivated to look for discrediting scandals.

I discussed the allegation against Powell that was raised in 2015 here. Powell was not in fact named during a “Church of England review”; Butler contacted police after the Bishop of Monmouth, Dominic Walker, was asked to expand on an old quote that had appeared in 1991 book, when he was a vicar in Brighton. This old quote in turn related to claims about a VIP Satanic cult that were raised in court during the trial of a fraudster in the 1980s (1).

Meanwhile, I discussed Kerr here, in relation to the Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse in Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that Kerr is a damaged and vulnerable adult whose early years were blighted by sex abuse, but the inquiry found that his account contained inconsistencies and that he was actually in custody in Northern Ireland during a period in which he now claims to have been trafficked to London. The Village article, by one Joseph de Búrca, does not address or even acknowledge this problem. (2)

It is also difficult to understand why Powell’s alleged abuse of Kerr (“Powell began to beat him with a leather belt and buckle. The abuse involved a variety of other acts of degradation including oral sex and masturbation…”) is now being “revealed here for the first time”. In 2015, Kerr appeared on the UK’s Channel 4 News and Australia’s 60 Minutes programme on Channel 9. On 60 Minutes, Kerr identified the late Peter Hayman (a known paedophile who was likely the Deputy Director for MI5) as having been one of his abusers; according to Exaro News, he also referred to Lord Mountbatten, the former head of MI6 Sir Maurice Oldfield, Anthony Blunt, and the MPs Knox Cunningham, Nicholas Fairbairn and Cyril Smith. (3)

Kerr made some of these identifications after being shown photographs; it’s not clear to what extent this was a genuine test rather than theatre, but even if he were not shown a photo of Powell, one would still have expected Kerr to have mentioned his name long before now. Powell is probably the most famous person Kerr has now publicly named, looming larger in British collective memory today than even Lord Mountbatten.

In lieu of providing supporting evidence, the Village instead draws attention to Powell’s racism, and to details of a homosexual affair while he was at university. The article also quotes a letter Powell wrote at the age of 25, in which he admits (unconventionally, to his parents) to an “instinctive affection” for 17-year-old boys to whom he was teaching classics in Australia. Readers are also shown photos of Powell apparently appearing on a television chat show with Jimmy Savile and smiling alongside Ted Heath, who is also described as “another paedophile with a taste for young boys” (presumably the author’s odd take on the Operation Conifer fiasco).

Notes

1. At the time, Walker was associated with the Churches Exorcism Study Group, and he had a media profile Anglican authority on “occult” matters. I remember seeing him on TV from time to time.

2. Village magazine describes itself as “Ireland’s political and cultural magazine”. It was relaunched following bankruptcy by an Irish journalist named Michael Smith in 2009. It leans left, although a rival left-wing magazine called The Phoenix doesn’t think much of it.

3. This segment was not used by 60 Minutes, and it has been claimed that Exaro published the article against Kerr’s wishes. The Exaro website closed down in 2016; it has recently been revived as an online archive.

On Douglas Murray on Tommy Robinson

At the National Review, Douglas Murray laments how Tommy Robinson has brought his latest imprisonment on himself:

Robinson would not now be in jail if he had not once again accosted defendants in an ongoing trial outside the courthouse. He had been told by a judge last May not to do this and yet he did this again. It isn’t the worst thing in the world (it isn’t child rape, for instance), but it is an offense to which Robinson understandably pleaded guilty. More important, the trial that was coming to a close last Friday is just one part of a trial involving multiple other defendants. It is certainly possible that Robinson’s breaking of reporting restrictions at the Leeds trial could have prejudiced those trials. To have caused the collapse of such a trial would have been more than a blunder; it would have been an additional blow to victims who deserve justice.

I wrote about the livestream that got Robinson into trouble here. Murray’s explanation on this point is a welcome corrective to the sensationalist narrative popular among US conservatives (who have been lapping up commentary from Katie Hopkins), which is that Robinson has been silenced by a police and judiciary that wants to suppress public knowledge about certain trials for the benefit of defendants, despite having chosen to investigate and prosecute these same defendants in the first place. We can add that although Robinson’s antics may not be “the worst thing in the world”, contempt of court punishments are often harsh, as a matter of deterrence.

However, while conceding that Robinson has at times acted unwisely, Murray’s main theme is that Robinson has been “persecuted” for having drawn attention to “grooming gangs”, a term Murray dislikes as euphemistic but that seems to me to be reasonable shorthand for the specific circumstances by which predatory men acting together engineer situations by which underage girls are made vulnerable to forcible rape or persuaded to acquiesce in their own violation. He writes:

Some years ago, after crawling over all of his personal affairs and the affairs of all his immediate family, the police found an irregularity on a mortgage application, prosecuted Robinson, convicted him, and sent him to prison on that charge. In prison he was assaulted and almost killed by Muslim inmates.

…If even one mullah or sheikh had been treated with the presumption of guilt that Robinson has received, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the rest of them would be all over the U.K. authorities. But different standards apply to Robinson.

Robinson’s account of the mortgage application is that he lent some money to a relative, who thus inflated his income declaration in order to secure a mortgage. Normally, this is the sort of thing that would only ever come to light if the lendee were to fall behind with making their repayments – but in this instance, the mortgage was apparently repaid following a subsequent sale with no harm done. It is difficult not to suspect that here the police were indeed seeking out something they could get Robinson for, rather than having stumbled onto a matter on which they had no choice but to act.

There is no reason to suppose from this that the motive was to have Robinson attacked in prison, or to suppress information about “grooming gangs”; as Murray writes, EDL protests “often descended into hooliganism and low-level violence”. This is sufficient to explain – but not justify – political policing, and it is a troubling detail that ought to be a matter of concern to anyone involved with political activism, of whatever stripe.

However, the incident does cast a shadow over Robinson’s honesty, and this is something that Murray underplays as he acknowledges Robinson’s tendency to violence when provoked. Robinson’s decision to travel to New York on someone else’s passport was another example of gratuitous criminal conduct that led to imprisonment, and not enough has been made of the way that he presented his Canterbury court case last year as a “win” and a “victory” for free speech when he had actually pleaded guilty. His involvement with Rebel Media places him within a milieu that regularly deploys smears and conspiracy theories to fearmonger and to whip up hate (it has also provided him with the means to harass critics under a veneer of journalism).

As an aside, Murray is also critical of the Secret Barrister website, whose author published a celebrated post explaining why exactly Robinson’s appearance at Leeds led to prison:

On Sunday there was a protest in London in support of him. The legal blogger “The Secret Barrister” might have spoken for a whole nose-holding class when he dismissed this protest as “a Nazi-themed march.” Look at the video he links to and you will see a lot of people with their arms in the air chanting “Oh Tommy Robinson.” If our eminent legal correspondent thinks this is Nazi-themed, he can never have been to a football match or, come to that, a Jeremy Corbyn rally.

In this instance, it’s clear to me – even though I have never been to either a football match or a Corbyn rally – that Secret Barrister has indeed mistaken a pointing gesture made by football supporters as part of their terrace banter for the stiff-armed Nazi salute.

Excursus

Back in 2009 – before Robinson’s identity was known – Murray declined to talk to EDL activists who had shown up at a dinner he was having in London with Robert Spencer. He later made contact with Robinson after his departure from the EDL under the auspices of the Quilliam Foundation in 2013. One early post-EDL appearance was as a “surprise guest” at the showing of film which was followed by a debate involving Murray, Anne Marie Waters, and the journalist Nick Cohen. Cohen described Robinson in his write-up as “shrunken” – an assessment that has proven unprophetic, but which was made at a time when the prospect of Robinson gaining international prominence was as remote as a dodgy businessman with a history of corporate bankruptcies, sexual license and crude conspiracy mongering becoming President of the USA.