Cancelled: Hindu Conference with Former EDL Head and Anti-Christian Polemicist

From Sunny Hundal:

The National Council of Hindu Temples (UK) have now cancelled their conference after hundreds of Hindu members — and even some people from their own advisory board — criticised them for their decision to host Tommy Robinson at their annual confence.

Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) previously led the neo-Nazi group English Defence League, and now the neo-Nazi group PEGIDA UK. The only difference between the two, even by his own admission, is that the banners will say ‘Pegida’ instead of ‘EDL’.

…The NCHT got caught out, and they tried to save face by claiming they were “forced” to cancel because of “threats”. Embarrassing for them, not me.

The conference was scheduled for 14 February; Robinson was to speak on “British Multiculturalism” (“Multi Culturalism is the future but something has gone wrong, we all know what it is and unless we face the problem head on, we will all suffer together”) [1]. The story has been covered by Breitbart, from an angle sympathetic to Robinson and the NCHT:

The British Hindu Temple’s Presidents Conference 2016 has been cancelled after a sustained and aggressive campaign by far left activists who took offence at the fact that Tommy Robinson, an organiser of PEGIDA UK, had been invited to speak and engage in dialogue with the Hindu community.

The General Secretary of the National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHT), Satish K Sharma, told Breitbart London that blogger and journalism lecturer Sunny Hundal had “spread nonsense on Facebook” about the event and compared some “aggressive” far left activists involved in the campaign to the far right.

Mr. Robinson claimed that the “event has been cancelled after threats instigated by Sunny Hundal”, a well know Twitter activist who has argued that, “the far-right is using ‘divide and rule’ between Sikhs and Muslims”.

However, despite the article’s dramatic lead-in, no details of the supposed threats are given, and there is no indication of any complaints having been made to the police. According to Sunny, the Southall Black Sisters organised a protest against Robinson’s involvement, but that hardly amounts to a “threat”. Unless Breitbart can provide some evidence, it appears that the site is engaging in the fashionable practice of conflating criticism with threats.

Robinson’s presence was always going to be controversial, and if Sunny hadn’t drawn attention to it someone else probably would have, with a similar outcome.

But might Robinson’s appearance at such an event also have been controversial for him?

According to an event flyer, the line-up included, among others, Shri Kalavai Venkat on “What Every Hindu Should Know about Christianity”, and Shri Satish K. Sharma on “Interfaith – an Anglican Trojan Horse?”, along with a discussion of “Anti-Hindu Caste Legislation”. Venkat has also written a book with the same title as his presentation; according to the blurb:

…Christianity originated in a psychotic milieu, Christian beliefs are self-contradictory, and theology invalidates the need to believe. It explores the provocative question of whether Jesus is a myth. It systematically argues that Christianity lacks an ethical framework, ‘Herem warfare’ is the Christian code of holy extermination, Christian beliefs and practices may cause harm to both Hindus and Christians, and concludes that Hinduism and Christianity cannot coexist. It offers a prescription on and how to engage Christianity and why mutual respect cannot be the precondition for Hindu-Christian engagement.

Does body representing Hinduism at a national level in the UK really endorse such a view?

Perhaps Venkat could have asked Robinson about the EDL’s motto, “In hoc signo vinces” – the legendary message supposedly given by God to the Roman Emperor Constantine, that he would conquer under the sign of the Cross of Christ.

Footnote

[1] On Twitter, Robinson has now stated that subject of his presentation was in fact to have been “sexual grooming of our young children”, and he claims that this was what Sunny objected to.

HTCP Robinson

Possible Plymouth Brethren Christian Church Link to Young Britons’ Foundation Donation

In 2011, a site called Liberal Burblings drew attention to two donations to the Young Britons’ Foundation from a private company:

Donations records were submitted to the [Electoral] Commission on 30th March 2011 for £45,000 and £9,999 from Healthgear Contracts, an unincorporated association of 90 College Street, Bedford, partner: one Rodney Dummer.

The donations were accepted a few days before the 2010 General Election (as recorded on the Electoral Commission website), and the author suggests that they were related to payment for a YBF pamphlet and newspaper advert urging readers to avoid the prospect of a hung Parliament by voting Conservative. The total campaign cost was just under £135,000.

The subject has now been revisited by Mr Ceebs, who notes that a certain Rod Dummer also features on a document relating to the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (PBCC, also known as the Exclusive Brethren). Is this the same person? It’s an unusual name, and the Brethren’s involvement would fit a pattern of political campaigning on behalf of the Conservative Party going back several years. Mr Ceebs draws attention to a Times article from March 2015:

Since 2009, Brethren members have been strongly encouraged to distribute political leaflets on behalf of mainly Tory MPs to thousands of homes across their constituencies.

“When David Cameron was coming to power, the Brethren were suddenly told to leaflet as many areas as possible,” said one ex-member, who left in 2012. “They were told from the very top. There was a letter read out after one of the local meetings that we must help the Conservatives.”

Prior to this, as Mr Ceebs also notes, the Brethren produced political leaflets during the 2005 election in New Zealand – I discussed this here. And a year before that, a British Brethren member made a large donation to pay for adverts in the USA to help re-elect George W. Bush.

Excursus

Liberal Burblings also notes that invoices for the 2010 leaflets were made out not to the YBF, but to Media Intelligence Partners:

The chief executive officer of Media Intelligence Partners is Nick Wood, who was Press Secretary and Media Director for Conservative Party leaders William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith.

Christian May, is an Account Executive at Media Intelligence Partners. Their website says he “used to be Director of Operations for the Young Britons’ Foundation and served the Conservative Party as Deputy National Chairman for Conservative Future”.

In 2009, the Telegraph reported that MIP had received £66,000 in payments charged to the office expenses of Conservative MPs. Christian May appeared on this blog a month ago, when I noticed his involvement in a “social media campaign” against Ben Howlett MP.

The YBF is currently embroiled in a bullying scandal, as I discussed here.

Sunday Times Suggests Lord Bramall Accuser Has “Two Identities”

From the Sunday Times:

‘Unmask Nick’: fury at accuser’s two identities

THE anonymous figure on the screen told a graphic and disturbing story. As a seven-year-old boy he had been handed to a brutal paedophile gang who had on occasions included Jimmy Savile.

The witness, called “Stephen”, said he had been directly abused by the “sadistic” BBC presenter.

Meanwhile, another alleged victim of a paedophile gang — this one comprising politicians including a former prime minister, military figures and intelligence chiefs — was giving his account under the name “Nick”. He claimed that three boys had been murdered by this group…

It appears that the media are finally joining the dots, although it’s a painfully slow process and each step of the way is marred by confusion.

The “anonymous witness” appeared as “Stephen” on a TV documentary about Savile in the summer of 2014, [1] and his “VIP” allegations as “Nick” came a few months later. However, “Nick” also uses a third pseudonym (as now noted by the Telegraph) that predates “Stephen” and “Nick”, and his writings under this third name assimilate both strands of his allegations. Further, the fact that “Nick” had also accused Savile has been public knowledge for some time now; the detail appears in a Daily Mail profile from September, and Harvey Proctor and Lord Bramall have both confirmed that police asked them whether they knew Savile.

Thus it does not seem to me, as implied by the Sunday Times, that the man has been deliberately posing as two different people – rather, the names of “Stephen” and “Nick” were given to him by different media sources for their own purposes. Perhaps there were legal reasons for this, although it has also meant that some of “Nick’s” most lurid allegations under his original pseudonym have not come to wider attention. It is not clear why Exaro News, which has heavily invested in “Nick”, did not highlight the claimed Savile connection; and the journalist Mark Williams-Thomas has suggested on Twitter that the police were not aware of it for a while, either.

Two other reports about “Nick” are worth noting, both from the Telegraph. According to one item, he is to be investigated by the police for wasting police time; however, the details of the story show that this merely means that Harvey Proctor’s lawyers have made a request, not that the police now regard “Nick” as a suspect.

A second item carries the allegation that Nick “stole” details of his supposed abuse from the testimonies of others:

…The witness, who cannot be named for legal reasons, alleged that “Nick” had “stolen” details from other survivors’ accounts after they appeared in court records and Press interviews – and presented them as his own. 

[He] said there were “close parallels” between the claims made by “Nick” and up to six other abuse survivors.

…”His story is a collage of maybe half a dozen survivors’ experiences, with no collaboration, which have been bastardised to meet his own needs as a narcissist liar…”

Footnote

(1) The programme, titled “Jimmy Savile”, was made by Title Role Productions for a series called Crimes that Shook Britain. It was first broadcast on CI (Crime + Investigation), and later on Channel 5 as a part of Britain’s Worst Crimes.

Religious Hate: The Shoebat Family Business

Ed Brayton casts an eye over the latest offering from the Walid Shoebat Foundation:

While most wingnuts are trying everything they can to pretend that Martin Luther King was really just like them, the wingnut’s wingnuts, the fringe of the fringe like our friends at Shoebat.com, are making it clear that, to them, Martin Luther King was a heretic and was “of the Antichrist” because he had a more liberal interpretation of the Bible than their brand of Christian fascism.

And MLK isn’t the only Martin Luther to be excoriated: in other articles, his sixteenth-century namesake is similarly derided as “a spiritual Jezebel and a Balaam”, and placed alongside William Tyndale as a “blasphemous reformer”. John Wycliffe, meanwhile, is an “evil heretic”, who is helpfully “exposed”. Rival modern fundamentalists don’t get off lightly, either: in 2013, the Foundation denounced John Hagee and Tim LaHaye for anti-Catholicism.

There has always been a certain crudeness about Shoebat’s operation which has set it apart from other Christian Right groups. Walid Shoebat has stated his wish to see the Middle East destroyed by nuclear weapons, while his son Theodore is so sanguinary in his hatred for gay people that he has even alienated anti-gay activists Scott Lively and Peter LaBarbera: the former recently removed T. Shoebat’s name from a list of “Pro-Family Heroes”, while LaBarbera rejected his call for gay people to be executed. Shoebat Jnr did not respond well to this, denouncing LaBarbera as a “filthy pig” and a “traitor”.

As far back as 2008, Walid Shoebat was dropped from a Night to Honor Israel banquet organised by Christians United for Israel (this perhaps explains his dislike of Hagee), and his 2011 accusation that Mosab Hassan Yousef – a rival on the speaker circuit as a Palestinian ex-Muslim turned evangelical Christian – is in truth a Muslim “infiltrator” probably alienated some audiences and networks. However, it looks like he has just been returning to type – the criticism of Hagee for anti-Catholicism is risible when it is recalled that before he was famous, W. Shoebat published an article mocking the “Billy Graham love affair with the Pope” and opining that “the Mystery Babylon is born”.

Not all of the material on the Shoebat Foundation website is written by the father and son – some posts, such as the MLK item, are by a certain Thomas King, introduced by Theodore Shoebat as his “good friend”. King appears to have a particular affinity with Eastern Orthodox Christianity, although he expresses himself somewhat crudely. Here he is on Facebook as Thomas James King, posting to Theodore Shoebat’s Facebook page with a denunciation of “the Muslim assholes and leftist liberal cunts and their Protestant ass kissing allies”. He appears to have a particular fondness for the word “fuckers”, too.

But how “fringe” is “fringe”? Shoebat may be a bit too “red meat” for many Christians who, even though they may hate Islam and distrust Muslims, are mindful that they are supposed to hope their enemies see the light, rather than fantasize about their destruction; but the rise of Donald Trump shows that there is a cruder constituency for whom there is no stigma in hatred.

Shoebat’s stream of stories of ISIS and other Islamist atrocities – in some cases sourced from Arabic-language websites – and his commentary that this represents what Muslims are really like and what President Obama “supports”, still has a ready, and perhaps growing, audience.

Demons and Satanic Ritual Abuse: Some Posthumous Notes on Bill Subritzky

At the website of Moriel Ministries, Jacob Prasch casts a sour eye over the legacy of New Zealand-based international evangelist Bill Subritzky, who died at the end of last year:

We all have horror stories. I recall a young Kiwi believer named Colin who after being saved for only 7 weeks was taken by a friend to a Subritzky meeting in Palmerston North. Subritzky claimed a ‘word of knowledge’ that Colin’s father was a homosexual pedophile who molested him as a baby and that Subritzky needed to cast 7 demons out of Colin. In fact, when Colin was a baby his dad was in a body cast physically and sexually dysfunctional.

Prasch and Moriel represent an austere form of Christian conservatism that rejects the “signs and wonders” associated with neo-Pentecostalism. However, the story is plausible: in 1985 Subritzky published a book called Demons Defeated, which abounds with stories of how God had given him supernatural insight into people’s backgrounds. Some of these “words of knowledge” were voyeuristic and prurient:

Other forms of sexual perversion are demonic. For example, there are various forms of oral sex. I have frequently been approached by women who have tremendous problems, and I have seen this spirit upon them. I have seen a vision of the male sexual organ in front of their mouth. I have asked them whether they have participated in this activity. They have confessed…

Subritzky also promoted the idea of the discovery of Satanic Ritual Abuse through recovered memory:

We quite frequently find that as a result of satanic ritual abuse or severe prolonged trauma in childhood or severe shock, that various personalities can manifest within the one person…The traumatised person retreats into their shell and these other personalities, which in my view are demons, begin to manifest…

One of the most common of these demons is the spirit of memories. As ministry takes place, memories which have been suppressed by this spirit come back to the person’s recollection.

Subritzky’s ministry was endorsed by Derek Prince, an influential British evangelist whose own ministry emphasised the supernatural and the need to be aware of demonic forces. Subritzky’s memoir, The Cutting Edge, shows him in a number of international settings, including Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, Detroit (with the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International), Hungary, and Tonga. Subritzky was especially close to Tonga’s leaders, and King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV wrote a foreword for the book.

When not casting out demons, Subritzky pursued his aims by more worldly means: he was one of the founders of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens, a Christian Right lobby group. As well as his evangelising work, he was the senior partner in a law firm and a successful property developer.

In his later years, Subritzky endorsed the ministry of T.B. Joshua, a particularly controversial Nigerian evangelist dismissed by Prasch as a “pseudo Christian witchdoctor”. As I have noted previously, Joshua makes extravagant claims to supernatural powers of prophecy in relation to global and African news events. In most cases, Joshua’s supposed power is demonstrated through heavily-edited videos promoted after particular incidents; T.B. Joshua Watch shows that deceptive editing methods are employed. Many evangelical figures shun association with Joshua, and Joshua has heavily promoted Subritzky’s enthusiasm.

Subritzky in the UK

Subritzky also visited the UK, and @SAFFtweets suggests that the suicide of Caroline Marchant – a troubled young woman who had been persuaded that she had been an SRA victim, along lines inspired by Lauren Stratford’s bogus memoir (discussed here) – directly followed her attendance at an event in which Subritzky was a main speaker.

Marchant took a fatal overdose on 16 Februrary 1990 (although she lingered on for more than two weeks afterwards) while staying at the home of Reverend Kevin Logan, author of an evangelical Christian paperback called Paganism and the Occult. In the same month, Subritzky was a speaker at an event in Brighton called “The Battle Belongs to the Lord”, although I haven’t been able to confirm the exact date. For some reason, SAFF mistakenly gives a 1989 date and Southend as the location.

The event was organised by Ellel Grange, a centre for the “deliverance ministry”, and held at the Brighton Centre. The journalist Andrew Brown was in attendance, and he recalled the event in 2010, when there was a controversy over a Conservative Party election candidate who had reportedly previously performed an exorcism on a gay man. In his assessment:

The New Frontiers church to which Philippa Stroud belongs and where her husband is a major star is the fruit standard of fruit loopiness among English evangelical Christians. It was at a New Frontiers church in Brighton that I once went to hear the New Zealand evangelist Bill Surbritzky [sic], a man who believes that not merely homosexuality but smoking and swearing are caused by demonic infestation.

Following Subritzky’s death, Andrew recalled further on Twitter that

I shared a taxi through Brighton with Surbritzky once. All I could think of was his theory that there are demons of nicotine. I wanted a cigarette very badly [1, 2]

Lord Bramall’s False Accuser: A New Variant on Satanic Panic

From today’s London Times (paywalled):

The former head of the British Army, who faced a string of accusations by an anonymous man, said that among the most galling was that he took part in a Remembrance Day sex party.

Lord Bramall said: “It was completely and utterly daft. I would have been at the Cenotaph.”

As has been widely reported (and discussed on this blog yesterday), Lord Bramall’s accuser – known by the pseudonym “Nick” – claims that Bramall was part of a murderous VIP paedophile ring that also included former Prime Minister Ted Heath, cabinet ministers, and senior intelligence figures. Police have spent months – and millions of pounds – investigating Nick’s gothically extravagant tales of sex abuse, murder and torture. Bramall’s home was raided in March 2015; he was given the details of the allegations against him six weeks later (although only because of “considerable pressure” by his lawyer, according to the Times interview); and only this week has the matter been formally dropped.

The police statement uses the phrase “insufficient evidence”, but Bramall has in fact been cleared beyond any reasonable doubt. He was out of the country on some of the dates given by Nick to police, and other allegations made by Nick have proven to be unsubstantiated (in particular, his claim that the gang killed a boy on the streets of Kingston-on-Thames by running him over – there is no record or memory of the incident).

Nick’s claims about Remembrance Day are worth highlighting, as I believe they show more than anything what has been going on here: no less than a new variation of the bogus Satanic Ritual Abuse allegations that caused so much misery in the 1980s and 1990s. Satanic ritual (as popularly imagined) is an inversion of Christian ritual, characterised by upside-down crucifixes, puerile blasphemies, and lascivious celebration; the notion of SRA takes this further, with a genuine transgression that amounts to the worst thing that most people – Christian or not – can imagine. This transgressive behaviour is not just paedophilia, but intentionally sadistic paedophila, sometimes culminating in murder.

Britain is today a largely secular society, but Remembrance Day is nearest thing we still have to a “sacred” occasion in the calendar. Remembrance Day events are sombre, and everyone at commemorations is expected to behave with decorum and quiet dignity. What better way to invert all this than to imagine the head of the British Army instead celebrating with a special Remembrance Day paedophilic orgy?

Similarly, if we still have a sacred object, it is the Remembrance Day poppy. Those who choose to wear it are making a public statement about their personal mindfulness of the war dead; but Nick inverts this into an act of sexual sadism. The Daily Mail quoted a piece of Nick’s public writing (now removed from the internet) in September:

He explains, in graphic detail, why he now has ‘such mixed emotions’ on Remembrance Day.

‘I know poppies are a symbol of respect for those that have lost their lives during wars, however for me, they lost their meaning once the soldiers that hurt me physically pinned them to my bare skin.

‘I see poppies as a symbol of their hatred towards me. As a sign of respect (they said) I had to wear a poppy. So they would pin one directly to my chest and hurt me badly.

‘Once one was done, the next would unpin the poppy and move it to another part of my chest and do the same. They would all take turns until they had all had enough. The pain from the pin was nothing compared to the other pain, but it added to the humiliation.’

Where has all this come from? I will be very surprised if Nick’s fantasies have not been nurtured with the help of a “therapist” obsessed with SRA-related notions.

Nick’s case is significant not just because he has managed to derail the lives of two living public figures (Bramall and Harvey Proctor) and tarnish the memories of several others who have died: elsewhere, he has been widely praised and supported for his supposed “courage” in talking about the abuse he claims to have suffered, and he has become something of a poster-child for a cause that, through his lies, he has in fact mocked and degraded.

“Grudging” Police Statement Concludes VIP Abuse Investigation into Lord Bramall

Police previously said evidence would be referred to CPS; now concede there is no evidence to pass on

From the BBC:

A former head of the British army has said he is pleased he faces no further action in connection with allegations of historical child abuse.

Lord Bramall, 92, was interviewed under caution by police on 30 April 2015.

…He said the letter the [Metropolitan Police] had sent him was “pretty grudging, but at least I’m in the clear”.

Lord Bramall added it was “complete self-justification” by the police, who he claimed “had not behaved very well”.

Along with this private statement to Bramall, the Met has issued a public announcement under the bland headline “Man interviewed by Operation Midland faces no further action”, which states that the matter is being dropped due to “insufficient evidence”. This implies that the allegation is simply unproven, when in fact most reasonable observers will take the view that Bramall has been the victim of a false accuser and that the matter should have been dropped months ago.

Bramall’s accuser currently has legal anonymity, although the media have given him the pseudonym “Nick”. Nick’s claims are wide-ranging to the point of extravagance, but they evolved over a period of time. First, he accused a deceased relative of abusing him in the 1970s and 1980s; then, he made a claim about a paedophile ring; next, after posthumous allegations about Jimmy Savile appeared in the media, he claimed that the ring included the late DJ; after that, he named high-profile politicians who had previously been accused by others; finally, he alleged that that he had not only been abused, but had also witnessed three child murders. Two of these murders supposedly occurred at paeodophile orgies involving VIPs, while in the third instance a friend was deliberately run over by a car in Kingston-on-Thames.

Other details related by Nick include the claim that soldiers used to pin Remembrance Day poppies onto his bare skin as form of torture, and that he had seen a boy tied to a table and stabbed multiple times. These stories strike me as closely related to the kind of inversions and rituals that are associated with Satanic Ritual Abuse claims (hence my interest). One particularly outlandish anecdote is that on one occasion he faced being castrated by Harvey Proctor MP, who was persuaded to desist by a fellow orgiast, former Prime Minister Ted Heath.

Nick’s claims (not all of which were initially disclosed to the public) were at first infamously described by the lead investigating officer as “credible and true”; however, by September 2015 word had reached the media that nothing could be substantiated, and the police conceded that this expression should not have been used. Shortly afterwards, BBC Panorama undertook extensive efforts to track down evidence of the supposed murder in Kingston-on-Thames, and found no record or memory of any such incident. Operation Midland was then folded into Operation Fairbank, which was set up to deal with “Non Recent Allegations of Child Abuse”. This seemed to me to be an attempt to wind Midland down while maintaining face.

Meanwhile, the Met issued a statement on “Historic child abuse investigations and Operation Midland” which explained that

The integrity of our investigation is paramount, and the public can have confidence that allegations of homicide are being investigated thoroughly. Our officers have the resources to test all the evidence, and we have not yet completed this task. It is then for the Crown Prosecution Service to make a decision on whether to prosecute.

However, according to the new statement, relating to Lord Bramall:

Following a thorough investigation officers have concluded there is insufficient evidence to request the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider charging the man with any offences.

This decision was taken by the Met in accordance with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) ‘Guidance on Charging’. The Met have been in discussion with the CPS during the enquiry and they are aware of the decision in this case.

…The DPP ‘Guidance on Charging’ sets out the responsibility of the police to assess cases before referral to the CPS to ensure the ‘Full Code Test’ can be met on the available evidence. Equally, the guidance also details the responsibility of the police for taking “no further action” in any case that cannot meet the appropriate evidential standard.

So, in this instance at least it was not in fact “for the Crown Prosecution Service to make a decision”; in cases where there is no evidence, there is no need to make a referral to the CPS at all. The above statement verges on the comic in its determination to leave the impression that the police did not so much make a decision as simply follow CPS requirements, but this is a transparent attempt to pass the buck. How much back-and-forth was there between the Met and the CPS over who would finally take responsibility? (1)

It looks to me that the police have dragged things out unnecessarily. It dug itself into a hole with the “credible and true” comment, and it was reluctant to discharge its responsibility to clear Bramall as quickly as possible lest it be accused of some sort of “establishment cover up”. There is also a reasonable suspicion that the new announcement was timed for publication on the same day that it was finally confirmed that the courts would not be considering child abuse allegations against the late Lord Janner. In Janner’s case, the CPS has conceded that there was a case to answer that should have been brought before the courts some years ago; the Met would have found it useful for the media to be concentrating on the CPS’s failure to deal with a man who may have been guilty, rather than on the police persecution of an innocent man. 

And even now, Harvey Proctor remains under a cloud of suspicion thanks to Nick. There is no realistic prospect that Nick’s allegations will lead to a successful prosecution, and Proctor ought to have been cleared alongside Bramall. Instead, however, it appears that the police have been trawling Proctor’s private life going back to his 1960s student days in a desperate attempt to come up with a substitute accusation.

UPDATE: A detail from Max Hastings in the Sun:

Pals of Lord Bramall said he had been “through hell”, and revealed that some of the allegations included the bizarre claim he had been at Jimmy Savile’s pool parties…

[Bramall’s] pal, historian and journalist Sir Max Hastings, yesterday revealed allegations put to Lord Bramall included the Savile pool parties, and attacks in the 1970s in periods when the peer wasn’t even serving in Britain.

Sir Max said: “Anyone who knew Edwin Bramall would find this incredible…”

UPDATE 2: Coverage in the Daily Mail includes a text box titled “So is everything ‘Nick’ told Met a pack of lies?” (published online as a .jpeg), which mentions in passing that

Another man, Darren, said Lord Bramall abused him – police quickly found this to be “unsubstantiated”.

This is not correct – no other source is claiming that Bramall faced two accusers, and “Darren” himself has sent a message denying having made any such allegation.

My suspicion is that some hapless Mail hack has misread “Brittan” as “Bramall” somewhere along the line; the Mail previously reported in September that

The man, known only as ‘Darren’, said he was forced to attend sadistic sex parties at the Dolphin Square complex. He said a girl may have been killed and named Lord Brittan as one of his abusers. 

But police confirmed that detectives had ‘fully investigated’ the allegations and found them to be ‘unsubstantiated’.

BBC Panorama found an email that Darren had written two years before, denying that Brittan had abused him and describing Brittan as a “poor man”; he subsequently retracted his allegations in December.

In fact, the police’s “unsubstantiated” assessment probably refers to Darren’s claim that in 1992, while doing work experience at a country estate in Suffolk, he had witnessed Peter Righton murder a man with Down’s Syndrome by using two cars to tear him apart. However, Darren’s dates did not match Righton’s residency, and the idea of a man with a registered learning disability disappearing unnoticed in 1992 is highly implausible. Darren has a long history of troubled and erratic behaviour, including making false a confession to a murder and making a fake bomb threat.

UPDATE 3: Exaro News, which has heavily invested in Nick’s allegations, has noted the new development by adding a cursory update to a story it published in March 2015.

UPDATE 4: On 18 January, the London Times ran an editorial that contained the detail that

In a letter to Lord Bramall’s lawyers, the Met protests that rumours existed even before the police investigation. Yet this does not absolve the police of responsibility for stoking them.

The notion of the police deciding to act because of “rumours” is an absolutely appalling proposition. But it’s particularly odd given that there have in fact never been any “rumours” about Lord Bramall. Assuming the Times‘s account is accurate (and there is doubt – an earlier version online apparently referred to Bramall’s “arrest”, when he was never arrested), the police are confused. It is true that conspiracy websites have been promoting claims about “VIP paedophiles” for years, but these stories have centred for the most part on politicians. Nick drew on these accounts in his complaints to police, but the military claims are his own distinctive contribution. More on Nick’s military focus here.

Footnote

(1) The CPS has been known to act in exactly the same way – hence its bizarre refusal in December to confirm that Janner’s death meant the end of the legal process.

Evangelical Newspaper “Disassociates” From David Virtue Article Defending Patrick Sookhdeo

The English Churchman (8 January, subscription only) has apologised for publishing an article by David Virtue concerning the case of Patrick Sookhdeo, who was found guilty of a sexual assault and of intimidating witnesses last year:

We published an article on the trial of Dr Patrick Sookhdeo in good faith in EC 7939. It was written by David Virtue who has a reputation as the editor of a large website of Anglican news, that claims to have 4 million subscribers. He attended the trial and also interviewed various people, but we now understand, he did not contact female prosecution witnesses for right of reply or notify them he would be naming them…

We were careful to state at the head of our article that we did not believe that David Virtue’s friendship with Dr Sookhdeo would have prejudiced his professional journalism and his report…  The article was not published as a statement of facts but as the opinion of Mr Virtue.

A similar article was first published on the Virtueonline website. However we understand that attempts by offended parties to respond to Mr Virtue in the comments sections of his website have been removed. Obviously a website has the right to remove comments but in this case we are quite disturbed that this should be so and it does not bode well. Very serious objections have been made to Mr Virtue’s report. We have been told that many of his facts are either wrong or part-truths while other material facts are missing. This is deeply disturbing. We stated initially that we did not intend the inclusion of the article to be an expression of our judgment on the honesty of any person but feel obliged to repeat that we formally disassociate ourselves from any accusations made against individuals in the article, particularly, following new information, suggestions they may have lied on oath….

My view is that if someone genuinely believes that a miscarriage of justice has occurred, they should be allowed a fair hearing even though it may be upsetting for complainants or their relatives. However, those making the case for the convicted ought to have something sensible to say, and they should express themselves reasonably. They should be particularly circumspect about how they raise counter-allegations against prosecution witnesses.

I became aware of Virtue’s advocacy for Sookhdeo a couple of days ago, when he supplemented his own earlier articles on the subject with a repellent post by Richard Carvath, entitled “Patrick Sookhdeo, Jezebel and the Satan Gang”. The title speaks for itself, and Carvath set about smearing and mocking witnesses with distasteful and gratuitous observations such as that one witness has a Facebook profile in which her “arms are uncovered and she wears a figure-hugging dress, her buttocks clearly presented to the beholder.”

Under British law, the name of the sexual assault victim cannot be published, although Carvath appears to have enjoyed using the name “Jezebel” as a substitute. There are also rules against facilitating “jigsaw identification“, which Virtue and Carvath risk skirting with by naming the other witnesses and referring to their social media presences. In this instance, naming prosecution witnesses serves no good purpose (they are not anyone known to the public), and in the context of continuing civil litigation its effect may be intimidatory.

It has also been brought to my attention that Virtue made sure that those named in Carvath’s article were made aware of the piece, by sending them an email headed “A FURTHER VINDICATION OF DR. SOOKHDEO AND CHARGES LEVELED AT HIM” (crank capitalisation in original). Such an email amounted to an invitation to his subjects to read the allegations against them – meaning that his decision to delete any comments he received in reply puts him in an even poorer light.

(Thanks to a reader for details of the English Churchman statement)

UPDATE: On Twitter, Carvarth has claimed that two editors have been “threatened for covering the Patrick Sookhdeo miscarriage of justice”. However, it seems to me that the statement from the  English Churchman goes far beyond the kind of reluctant distancing that might be necessitated by a threat of legal action.

Patrick Sookhdeo Supporters Make Case For the Defence

From the BBC News, February last year:

The founder of a Wiltshire-based Christian charity has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a female member of staff.

Patrick Sookhdeo, from Barnabas Aid International, was also found to have intimidated two employees who were due to give evidence against him.

Sookhdeo continues to maintain his innocence (although he has declined to appeal for health reasons and due to the expense), and his cause has been championed in particular by David Virtue of Virtue Online:

The “touching” as it turned out was little more than brushing of one breast; the Rev. Albrecht Hauser, Chairman of Barnabas Aid International refuted the charges of intimidation. He wrote: “The alleged witness intimidation relates to a short extempore speech made by Dr. Sookhdeo to the entire UK staff and most of the trustees, at a meeting called by the board, which I pressed him to attend (against his inclination) and at which I urged him to speak (also against his inclination). There were over 50 people in a crowded room, and many of us saw no sign of any intention to intimidate witnesses.”

Virtue’s article (he has also written others on the subject) is headlined “In Sex Crimes One Must Prove One’s Innocence”, and I’m full agreement that that there is cause for concern about how the police and courts in the UK are currently handling “historic” allegations of a sexual nature in particular (see this post). However, I’ve also seen how Sookhdeo has a tendency to twist and misrepresent information, and this must affect how I regard any continuing “case for the defence”.

This case includes not just an alternative narrative of what actually happened (as put forward by Hauser), but also inferences about the court operated. It is suggested that the conviction was secured because the jury was white and mostly female, and that the sentence was lenient and as such indicates that the judge was sceptical. This is not convincing – Sookhdeo’s lawyers could have raised an objection to the make-up of the jury before the trial got underway, and the sentence was (as Mark Woods of Christian Today has pointed out) in the middle range for this kind of offence.

Virtue has also now, in my opinion, damaged Sookhdeo’s cause by promoting a bizarre screed by one Richard Carvath. Carvath denounces the assault complainant as “Jezebel”, and refers to the prosecution witnesses as the “Satan gang”. The rhetoric is extraordinary; discussing one witness who formerly worked at Barnabas, Carvarth writes that her

current Facebook profile photo provides a good example of the sort of dress and attitude which so concerned Sookhdeo, given the specific nature and focus of the Barnabas ministry.

In a ‘look at me’ photo, [redacted]‘s arms are uncovered and she wears a figure-hugging dress, her buttocks clearly presented to the beholder.

Carvath goes on to complain about Facebook links between complainants and Andrea Minichello Williams of Christian Concern.

Carvath has also been using Twitter to fire accusatory questions at Mark Woods, who has written a number of critical articles about Sookhdeo for Christian Today (not to be confused with the American evangelical Christianity Today, although Virtue is critical of that publication’s reporting on Sookhdeo as well). In a series of Tweets, he has asked whether Woods is working with Sookhdeo’s pro-Palestinian critic Ben White (reply: “No.”); what the “nature of the relationship” is between Woods and one of the intimidation complainants (reply: “None.”); and whether Woods has been in direct contact with any complainants (reply: “No.”). Despite this last reply, Carvath then pressed on with asking whether a new allegation was due to “your encouraging the complainant” (reply: “for the record: no.”).

Carvath was previously expelled from the Conservative Christian Fellowship for what he describes as his “views on homopervuality… and islam.”

German Tradition of Throwing Fireworks Around Used as Evidence of Immigrant Attacks

From Infowars:

Shocking video taken in Berlin on New Years Eve shows migrants shooting guns and hurling fireworks in scenes that resemble something out of a war zone.

Or “scenes that resemble what goes on every year in Berlin on New Years Eve”. Compare the video being promoted by Infowars with a video of New Years Eve in Berlin at the end of 2012 (sic; it was uploaded at the start of 2013) – including the supposed guns.

It is easy to find other examples on YouTube of past New Year’s Eve events in Germany that show similar revelries. I was in Germany for New Year’s Eve at the end 1993, and having been raised on terrifying 1970s public safety films about the dangers of fireworks I was somewhat alarmed at the way bangers in particular were being thrown around.

The BBC has details of a woman in Cologne who was injured by a firecracker that was placed in her hood while her phone was stolen, and it also reports that a British woman “said fireworks had been thrown at her group by men who spoke neither German nor English”. It appears that some media are now extrapolating from this to using any footage of fireworks being set off in crowds as evidence of hostile behaviour by “immigrants”. Thus the Daily Mail has included a video headlined “Fireworks thrown into crowd outside train station in Cologne” in a story about the sexual assaults, when in fact what it shows is totally unexceptional (H/T @mcelderrytruth).

The point is not that the assaults in Cologne should be minimised; the point is that where there is a genuine concern, there will be misinformation, and there will also be those who wish to exploit public anger for their own opportunistic purposes.