David Aaronovitch Responds To Critics of Satanic Ritual Abuse Documentaries

David Aaronovitch has written an exhaustive response to criticisms of his recent BBC Radio 4 documentaries on Satanic Ritual Abuse conspiracy theories, responding in particular to three complainants:

The two complaints from interviewees were both hosted by the Needleblog, a private blog devoted to the issue of child sexual abuse. The first was made by Tim Tate, author – among many other works – of Children for the Devil: Ritual Abuse and Satanic Crime, published in 1991 (but subsequently withdrawn after legal action). Tate was also co-producer of a 1989 edition of ITV’s prime-time programme The Cook Report entitled The Devil’s Work.

The second complaint came from Dr Sarah Nelson, a sociologist at Edinburgh University and former journalist. Dr Nelson describes herself as a specialist writer and researcher on child sexual abuse.

The third complaint came in two articles by the journalist and campaigner Beatrix Campbell, hosted by the Open Democracy website, the first being entitled “Analysing Aaronovitch: has the scourge of ‘conspiracists’ become one himself?” And the second “Analysing Aaronovitch: a skeptical narrative.”

Tate’s and Nelson’s objections also made it into the Independent newspaper, which reported their view that Aaronovitch’s scepticism is itself a conspiracy theory.

Aaronovitch’s reply includes a discussion of Tate’s book, as well as of a work by Campbell and her partner Judith Dawson (then Jones) from 1998, entitled Stolen Voices: An Exposure of the Campaign to Discredit Childhood TestimonyBoth books are very difficult to get hold of – the former was withdrawn following a successful libel action, while the publishers of the latter (the Women’s Press) decided the text was too risky. The two works show that their authors endorsed very specific claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse that do not hold up to scrutiny, while Campbell and Jones had promoted a explanatory framework – derived from evangelical campaigners – that they had subsequently dropped without apparent explanation or even acknowledgement. This was the claim that Satanists are motivated by a wish to “invert” Christianity, which Campbell and Jones later abandoned in preference for the view that Satanic paraphernalia is simply used by paedophiles to scare children.

Aaronovitch also notes Campbell and Dawson’s reliance on tenuous associations as a way to smear critics, in particular the academic Jean La Fontaine (author of Speak of the Devil: Tales of Satanic Abuse in Contemporary England). Campbell noted that LaFontaine had recommended factual writings by Benjamin Rossen, a Dutch academic who had been involved with debunking claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse in the town of Oude Pekala. However, Campbell and Dawson noted that Rossen was also on the board of a  paedophile-supporting magazine. Aaronovitch quotes Campbell:

“Professor La Fontaine’s orthodoxy on this issue echoes the views of well-known promoters of paedophilia. [Aaronovitch’s italics] Although not relying on his work in her recent findings, she recommended writing by Benjamin Rossen, among others, in a letter to the leading professional journal, Child Abuse Review, this year.”

And then Dawson:

…”‘I don’t want to make a fool of the woman,’ says Judith Dawson, ‘but everybody working for child protection knows about Rossen’s advocacy of paedophilia. That calls into question La Fontaine’s whole attitude to adults’ sexual interest in children. [Aaronovitch’s italics] Anyone who regards Rossen as helpful on these issues cannot have any credibility in this debate.'”

Aaronovitch’s commentary on this:

“That calls into question La Fontaine’s whole attitude to adults’ sexual interest in children.” Says Judith Dawson, the constant companion to almost any article on the subject by Beatrix Campbell. Does it really? And what does Dawson (and, by extension, Campbell) imagine that attitude to be? We get it, though, don’t we? What is being implied is that LaFontaine is somehow “soft” on paedophilia. Perhaps, even, mildly tolerant of it. It is a technique repeated over and over again by Campbell.

Another theme in Campbell’s articles about Aaronovitch – to which he does not refer explicitly – is that scepticism is a form of anti-feminism. Thus Campbell’s attacks include the rather weird sneer that “Aaronovitch is a herald of reason as masculine intuition”, while research into false memories is “anti-feminist resistance”. The bad faith is obvious, and while it deserves noting it requires little comment.

Campbell also criticises Aaronovitch for referring to the recent SRA panic in Hamptstead:

Aaronovitch imputes something eerie about Hampstead, “No one in the mainstream media was biting.” said Aaaronovitch. But a forensic blogger reports, “none but those involved in the hoax was biting, not the police, not social workers…’ and insofar as anyone in the alternative media took it up it was mostly to ‘expose it for what it was…” That’s because they reckoned someone would use it just the way Aaronovitch did.

The Hampstead allegations were particularly bizarre and wide-ranging, and as such they have remained for the most part within the milieu of 9/11 Truthers and what we might call “the David Icke crowd”. However, Campbell happily endorsed a complaint to the BBC about Aaronovitch’s documentaries by a campaigning group called Everyday Victim Blaming, which included the following (emphasis added):

Aaronovitch’s programme on ritual abuse was misleading and inaccurate. It failed to include details of successful prosecutions within the UK where ritual abuse, including satanic ritual abuse, were found to have occurred. Whilst it is true that there is no evidence on satanic ritual abuse as a global conspiracy, there have been 4 separate cases within the UK where satanic rituals were a feature of multi-perpetrator (and multi-generational) abuse: Rotherham, Orkney, Nottingham and Hampstead.

At some point, this was amended:

Aaronovitch’s programme on ritual abuse was misleading and inaccurate. It failed to include details of successful prosecutions within the UK where ritual abuse, including satanic ritual abuse, were found to have occurred. Whilst it is true that there is no evidence on satanic ritual abuse as a global conspiracy, there have been a number of separate cases within the UK where satanic rituals were a feature of multi-perpetrator (and multi-generational) abuse: Rotherham, Orkney, Nottingham. 

Was Hampstead dropped because the claims were simply too fantastical (babies cooked at the local McDonald’s, for instance), or because it’s safer to recycle over old accusations from decades ago?

Aaronovitch’s lengthy essay – of which I have offered just a taster – also includes comment on the current “Westminster paedophile ring” allegations:

I return to what got me into all this – the belief that that the most lurid of the current Westminster/VIP paedophile ring accusations, including child murders in front of of witnesses, seem to me to be replicating the earlier Satanic panic. I have watched as tabloid newspapers have printed uncorroborated nonsense from known fantasists as fact, as single accusers with uncorroborated stories of killings have been given credence by BBC reporters on the basis of “believing the survivors” for all the world, as though Lord Clyde had never reported and Orkney and Rochdale had never happened. As journalistic agencies have turned a buck by ramping up and selling stories that I confidently predict will fail to stand up.

I’ve raised concerns about some of these stories myself, in particular here and here. Campbell apparently believes that taking a critical interest in this way is evidence that one does not care about the reality of child abuse.

Aaronovitch’s essay was published on Barristerblog, a website run by Matthew Scott. Scott has himself faced unpleasant accusations and insinuations from people who ought to know better, as I highlighted just yesterday.

Criticism of Janner Decision Prompts “Pro Paedophile” Accusation

From Mark Williams-Thomas, on Twitter (30 June):

Barrister Matthew Scott from Pump Court  says Lord Janner is a helpless, senile man who should not be prosecuted… (Here)

The Tweet includes a link to an op-ed by Scott in the Daily Telegraph. Shortly thereafter, Williams-Thomas published a follow-up message:

Just realised who Matthew Scott is -been blocked for ages given his views about child abusers & his small group of pro paedophile  followers (Here)

Williams-Thomas is an investigative journalist; he was responsible for the 2012 Exposure documentary about Jimmy Savile, and he is now a frequent presence in the media as a commentator on the subject of historic sexual abuse. As such, it is alarming to see the casual way that he implies – without a shred of evidence – that Scott’s article was written in bad faith by a man with reprehensible views about sex offences against children.

In response, Scott asked Williams-Thomas to explain “What are my ‘views about child abusers’ that led you to block me Mark?”; Williams-Thomas did not deign to reply, although he did later confirm that he was not suggesting that anyone who follows Scott on Twitter must be “pro paedophile”. Presumably, though, we should be warned that anyone who expresses agreement with Scott’s views is at risk of being so accused. Inevitably, Williams-Thomas’s Tweets inspired enthusiasts to post abusive and defamatory comments about Scott, and Williams-Thomas hasn’t felt the need to discourage such behaviour.

Scott’s op-ed decried the recent decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to subject Janner to a “trial of the facts”. As he explains:

The procedure was introduced in a 1991 Private Members’ Bill by the Conservative MP John Greenway in order to protect those rendered unfit to plead through mental illness, who were forced to either plead guilty or be detained in a mental hospital.

So it is something of an irony that a procedure originally intended to protect the vulnerable should now be invoked to put a patently senile man before the courts.

…Lord Janner may well be a guilty man; it may well be that the CPS ought to have prosecuted him years ago. But he may also be innocent; indeed, the law presumes him innocent. The injustice that may have been committed by failing to prosecute him when a fair trial was still possible cannot be righted by committing another injustice now.

…Alison Saunders [the Director of Public Prosecutions] was right. Such a prosecution will serve no reasonable purpose. The trial now threatens to be a revolting spectacle in which a criminal court – egged on by sections of the press and MPs who should know better, compensation-seeking lawyers, and internet commenters, many of whom are motivated by undisguised anti-semitism – will be employed for no purpose other than further to traduce a man who can do nothing to defend himself.

I share these concerns, and it looks very likely that the CPS caved in to forces that it has a duty to resist: political and public pressure. Indeed, a leader attacking Saunders in the The Times blithely includes the observation that “Mrs Saunders underestimated the desire not only of the alleged victims but also of the wider public to hear the allegations aired in a court of law.” But I don’t see how it is Saunders’ job to “estimate” what “the wider public” think about things; indeed, taking such a factor into account would probably hinder objective decision-making. I’m sure that it would be easy to whip up popular support for a posthumous trial of Jimmy Savile, but that wouldn’t make such a thing sensible – and putting on trial a man whose mind has been destroyed by Alzheimer’s amounts to much the same thing.

Scott has also come under criticism for raising the spectre of anti-semitism. This can be over-stated: it is perfectly reasonable to believe that Janner has a case to answer, and that past opportunities were missed due his status, without indulging in anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. However, internet searches for “Janner” + “Jew” yield results that are unedifying, including fringe conspiracy sites that are widely cited on Twitter by those who claim to be drawing attention to “establishment coverups” and the like.

There are also concerns about Exaro News. Anti-Jewish comments have been posted by readers as comments on the site, and on at least one occasion an anti-Jewish statement has been silently edited by the site owners. This was spotted by Scott in April; a reader who described Janner as “another rich Jew” had his comment amended to “another one”. This helps to obscure the reader’s anti-semitism, but it is a less than satisfactory way of dealing with the problem.

Exaro also recently published a bizarrely pointless article headlined “Revealed: How Lord Janner Lobbied for Israel as Backbench MP“. Janner had a long-standing association with the Zionist Federation, and served as the body’s president for a time; of course he “lobbied for Israel” at every opportunity, and the word “Revealed” in the headline is gratuitous and absurd. Given that the head of Exaro News, Mark Watts, used to work for Iran’s Press TV, one is left with an troubling impression.

The claims against Janner that will be heard before the court concern allegations relating to Leicestershire; the “trial of the facts” will not include further allegations made by Exaro‘s star witness “Nick”, which relate to claims of VIP conspiracies in London. Scott has also been critical of Exaro‘s general approach to publishing details of “Nick’s” various allegations.

Scott has also recently attracted crank criticism on Twitter due to comments he made in a radio documentary about the recent “Satanic Ritual Abuse” scare in Hampstead. The Hampstead allegations were so extraordinary and excessive that they were shunned by most commentators on organised sexual abuse, although their primary promoter, a woman named Sabine McNeill, had formerly worked with John Hemming MP.*


*The Hampstead accusations also recently featured in a two-part radio documentary about Satanic Ritual Abuse scares by David Aaronovitch. A campaign group called “Everyday Victim Blaming” made an official complaint to the BBC about the programme, on the grounds that SRA is true. Details of the complaint were posted to the EVB website, and included an endorsement of the Hampstead claims. However, this element was recently silently edited out from its website.

Remembering “Lauren Stratford”, Fake Satanic Ritual Abuse Victim and Bogus Holocaust Survivor

Fake memoir Satan’s Underground still being sold by publisher

At the Daily Beast, Pat Blanchfield compares the ethnic fraud of Rachel Dolezal to Bruno Dössekker, a Swiss man who posed as “Binjamin Wilkomirski”, a Holocaust survivor:

Reading between the lines of Bruno Dössekker’s actual biography, you can’t also help but notice several early traumas, from his abandonment by his mother to numerous, extremely plausible suggestions of abuse while in that orphanage. It’s here that Wilkomirski/aka Grosjean/aka Dössekker’s story and that of Dolezal converge—and where we can get a hint of what might have motivated both of them, if only in part.

Both figures present themselves as persecuted individuals, horribly victimized—and they co-opt the experiences of the victims of actual historical traumas to that end. Why? Because our compassionate and proper first impulse should be to believe them first and vet them later—as our own country’s history of moral panics over Satanic Ritual Abuse underscores, for better or for worse.

In fact, one of Wilkomirski’s biggest defenders, a woman who claimed to have met him in the camps, actually turned out to be a fake survivor of both the Holocaust and Satanic Ritual Abuse

The link takes us to the Wikipedia entry for Laurel Rose Willson, who posed firstly as Lauren Stratford, and then as Laura Grabowski. The material in the entry is derived from investigative articles (here and here) by Bob & Gretchen Passantino and Jon Trott, published by the evangelical Cornerstone magazine in the 1990s. Trott was also the co-author (with Mike Hertenstein) of Selling Satan: The Evangelical Media and the Mike Warnke Scandal, which exposed how Warnke had lied about his past in a best-selling Christian paperback in which he had claimed to be a former high-level Satanist. Selling Satan also contains an account of Willson’s Satanic Ritual Abuse claims (on pages 271-279).

Dössekker’s bogus memoir and its subsequent debunking received considerable journalistic and literary interest at the time; however, his association with Willson for the most part gained only passing attention. The two corresponded, and it would be fascinating to know the dynamic: clearly, Willson recognised Dössekker as a fellow-fraud, and by allying with him she was also helping herself – but was this ever explicitly acknowledged between them?

Willson’s first book as Lauren Stratford was entitled Satan’s Underground, and it was published in 1988 by Harvest House, a well-known US evangelical publisher. She was championed by Johanna Michaelsen, who claims to be an ex-occultist and who is related by marriage to Hal Lindsey. Lindsey himself had achieved fame as the best-selling author of The Late Great Planet Earth, which linked current affairs and the Cold War to Biblical prophecies, and he had followed up with Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth, on the evils of occultism. Evidence that Stratford’s book was a hoax provoked bitter criticism from Michaelsen and Lindsey, who asked why evangelical journalists would want to debunk an evangelical book that had led people to Jesus.

However, as Trott and Hertenstein relate (page 278):

…as public pressure mounted, the publisher backed down and – after printing 133,409 copies of Satan’s Underground – withdrew the book and its sequel, I Know You’re Hurting. A statement released on January 26, 1990, failed to mention any reason for removing the books from circulation other than they were controversial… Some time later, Harvest House quietly released the rights to Satan’s Underground to Pelican Books, a Louisiana publisher.

And a look at the website of the Pelican Publishing Company shows that Stratford’s books are still available, along with a rather partial bio-blurb that hasn’t been updated since her death several years ago:

Agencies such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Cult Crime Impact Network, and the National Coalition Against Pornography have used Ms. Stratford’s expertise and experience in recognizing satanic ritualistic abuse. Ms. Stratford also provides valuable assistance in the counseling and treatment of survivors of satanic crimes and child abuse.

…Ms. Stratford, a member of the Los Angeles County Women’s Commission Task Force on Ritual Abuse, helped edit the country’s first government-sponsored information booklet on the topic. She is also a member of Make Today Count, an international support group for people with life-threatening illnesses, and has organized a support group called Victims Against Sexual Abuse…

I have a copy of the Pelican edition of the book, printed in 1993: it comes with a foreword by Michaelsen and an Aferword by three clinical psychologists: Lyn Laboriel, Catherine Gould, and Vicki Graham Costain. There are also a number of endorsements: from Kenneth Wooden, a reporter with ABC (“a work of national importance”); Hal Lindsey (“absolutely incredible and true”); Judith Reisman, the notorious anti-Kinsey obsessive* (“only too credible… it is even more crucial that we listen to her story”); Mike Warnke (a “story… that needs to be told); Larry Jones (“literally a godsend); and the psychologist Gould, who described her as “a survivor twice over. She has survived not only the horror of ritual abuse, but also a vicious backlash aimed at discrediting both her and her story”.

This was before Willson/Stratford reinvented herself as Laura Grabowski, which one would have thought would have been the last straw for even the most bone-headed enthusiasts. Yet so far as I can see there have been no mea culpas from those who promoted the original fraud and attacked the investigators, and the blurbs are still visible on a 2003 re-issue viewable on Amazon. Pelican also sells her follow-up book, which comes with a Foreword by Stormie Omartian, author of the best-selling Power of a Praying… series.

Satan's Underground


*Reisman’s anti-Kinsey polemics have brought her into an association with the British journalist Tim Tate, and the two shared a platform in Croatia in 2013. Tate’s 1991 book Children for the Devil: Ritual Abuse and Satanic Crime recently came under renewed attention due to a passage featuring an interview with a vicar about allegations of ritual abuse against an unnamed MP.

Election Petition Challenging Nadine Dorries: Some Context

UPDATE (30 July): The election petition has been rejected by the court, on the grounds that notice was served to the wrong location. Notice was delivered to Dorries’ constituency office, which was the official address given on her election materials (aside from the one leaflet which, illegally, did not have any address).

The best account so far is an article by Chris Green in the Independent. It includes the detail that:

Gavin Millar QC, acting for Ms Dorries, told the court that Mr Ireland’s solicitors had been labouring under the “misapprehension” that the election petition could be served on a place of work. “It seems to us that a straightforward error was made by the petitioner’s solicitor,” he said.

Dorries’ lawyers also argued that this address is usually unmanned.

It should be noted that (a) her “address for service” in relation to her company, Averbrook, is a virtual office in London, indicating that she does not want to be served at home; and (b) that although she maintains a residence in her constituency, she has also been reported as living with her partner in Surrey. It seems that the two judges – Mr Justices Baker and Popplewell – were unswayed by these considerations, and others.

Of course, Dorries and her associates (including her lawyers, Clifford Chance) are misleadingly attempting to portray the outcome as evidence that Tim’s complaint had no merit, when in fact it was not tested by the court.



Barrister Greg Callus announces on Twitter:

Two parliamentary election petitions have been issued in England & Wales, challenging Tory victories in (1) Mid Bedfordshire; and (2) Woking / The respective MPs are Nadine Dorries and Jonathan Lord. The petitioners (both candidates) are Tim Ireland and Ruth Temple respectively.  [12]

The petition relating to Dorries is a subject of some interest to me, for reasons that I previously explained here.

In response to the news, Dorries has pointed to the fact that she won the election with a majority of 23,000, whereas Tim received just “a few hundred votes”. In the same Tweet, she has mocked “bitter losers”. Meanwhile, Tim has drawn attention to Section 159 of the Representations of the People’s Act, which is concerned with “any corrupt or illegal practice in reference to the election”.

Candidates who stand for election are required to follow certain rules designed to protect the integrity of the electoral process. Voters should not be misled by disinformation about candidates; and those who wish to stand for election ought to be able to do so without being intimidated by the threat of vilification based on lies. There is no exemption from these rules for candidates whose success is virtually guaranteed because they are running for a particular party in a safe seat; nor is “open season” allowed on independent candidates who are unlikely to win or affect the final outcome.

Dorries’  behaviour during the election

As I have written previously, Dorries did not respond well when Tim announced his decision to stand for election earlier this year. It should be noted that this wasn’t a campaign fixated on Dorries – his theme was against corruption in politics, as manifested, for example, by the failure of the Conservative Party to remove activists who had smeared a Liberal Democrat as a paedophile in earlier election, and by the dishonesty of the Conservative Party chair, Grant Shapps.

However, Dorries claimed that Tim was standing in order to stalk her: she laid out a series of allegations on her blog, in which she named me as Tim’s “accomplice”. Much of her post consisted of claims made by other individuals, although nothing was documented properly and these other accusers remain anonymous (those of us in the know, though, are aware that the accusations are without substance).

She also lobbied for him to be excluded from hustings events, and when she was rebuffed by Churches Together in Shefford she declined to take part in one event. She did, though, send supporters (including two of her adult daughters), who made a scene and attempted to distribute a scurrilous leaflet lacking contact details (a breach of electoral law) – this extraordinary disruption has been described by Tim’s partner Sue, who blogs and Tweets as Humphrey Cushion, here. One of those involved in the stunt (a former intern who had worked for Dorries in Parliament) published a justification on Twitter, although he later deleted his Tweet, during a police investigation into the matter.

The police investigation (updated)

News of the on-going investigation was reported a few days ahead of the election by the Sunday Mirror, although the article was quickly deleted; Dorries said that it had been taken down because it contained “mis information” (sic), although she didn’t make clear what was meant by that exactly. It turned out that she had lodged a complaint with IPSO, the press regulator, which was in due course thrown out – full details here.

The Sunday Mirror later reported the outcome:

Tory MP Nadine Dorries has settled a row over her election campaign after a complaint against her was rejected by the Crown Prosecution Service.

The complaint was referred to the CPS, who this week decided there was not sufficient evidence to proceed.

Dorries has referred to this outcome as evidence that the petition does not have merit, despite previously having lamented the CPS’s failure to bring prosecutions. She has also stated, in reference to the second Sunday Mirror article, that she “didn’t even know until SM told me”, which again is a rather ambiguous comment.

Tim has lodged the petition despite having a received an anonymous threatening message warning him not to so, as he explains here.


I know nothing of Ruth Temple or why she has filed complaint against Jonathan Lord; however, Lord has featured on this blog previously, in relation to his failure in 2006 to deal with two activists who he knew had smeared a Liberal Democrat election candidate as a paedophile. Coincidentally, that was also a matter that Tim first brought to light.

US Faith Healer Says He Raised Man From the Dead in Northern England

From Charisma:

[Robby] Dawkins, author of Do What Jesus Did: A Real-Life Field Guide to Healing the Sick, Routing Demons and Changing Lives Forever, saw a resurrection from the dead at his April meeting in Northern England. In fact, he was leading the prayer.

The drama started just as he announced the title of his message. That’s when congregant Matt Catlow’s face contorted. His hands withered up and he starting twitching. Sitting next to him, Catlow’s mother started screaming for an ambulance.

…It looked hopeless as Catlow’s pupils become fixed and dilated. According to Dawkins, he heard the death rattle—the sound a dying person makes when fluids accumulate in the throat and upper chest—and then it stopped. Dawkins says the doctor was checking his pulse while he had his hand on the man’s heart. The mother screamed out: “He’s dead. He’s dead.” The doctor confirmed no pulse.

“As I continued to pray I began to bind the spirit of death and say, ‘You can’t have him!’ I began to declare the resurrection life of Jesus Christ over him. People were beginning to get a bit restless but then I could hear his breathing start to recover and his color started to return,” Dawkins says. “His lips that were purplish black started to get less dark. His eyes stopped being fixed and dilated and started to move. We rolled him onto his side at that point to allow his tongue to fall forward, but he was starting to come round.”

Dawkins is from Aurora in Illinois, and he is a pastor with the Vineyard network of “Third Wave” neo-Pentecostal churches. His ministry is endorsed by Bill Johnson, a leading figure in neo-Pentecostalism, and his book is published by Chosen Books, an imprint of Baker Publishing.

The story of Catlow’s “resurrection” has been doing the rounds for a few weeks, but a the puff-piece from Charisma has brought to wider attention. On Facebook, Dawkins boasts (and that’s not too strong a word):

So the Charisma article on the resurrection in England has official gone viral on Social media. 43,000 shares (FB alone has 24,000 likes) since it came out 24 hrs ago. My book Do What Jesus Did shot to number one in 3 best sellers categories. It’s at Number on in Evangelism.

I’ve had cessationist and atheists send messages of unbelief and hate. So everyone knows I have a full Dr.’s Report of that night in my possession (but because of threats the Dr. Received, I took it down from social media). But far out weighing that are people feeling empowered to raise the dead. Thank you Jesus!

On Twitter, Dawkins has also thanked a publicist at Chosen Books for bringing the story to Charisma.

It’s unclear what the doctor’s role could have been; clearly, he would been able to provide only a very informal assessment at the time, so one wonders about the nature of the “full Dr.’s Report”. But by invoking “cessationist[s] and atheists”, it seems that Dawkins wants to focus on the philosophical argument over whether such a story might be true, rather than the actual evidence of what occurred at the church on the night in question.

An alternative account, also on Facebook, has been posted by someone who says that she is Catlow’s sister; although her name is not given, the page includes a photo of Catlow with what appear to be family members:

…Although i wasn’t there at the meeting, my mother and many extended family and friends were. We come from a Christian background, my father is married to a pastor and the family attends church regularly….

Matthew had a stroke about a year ago….

Regarding the ‘death’… what Robby is telling everyone is not true. It has since been MEDICALLY proven that Matthew had suffered an epileptic seizure which often can display similar signs of someone dying. TWO nurse family friends of ours both had their hands on Matthew throughout and not once lost his pulse. So no, Matthew did not die…

The author also says that the pastor of the church (Inglewhite Congregational Church) has since “apologized to his congregation for allowing Robby into their church”, and so has the doctor for his part. For some reason, the Charisma report declines to mention the name of the church.


Libertarian Accuses Critical Blogger of Causing “Alarm and Distress”

Over at Zelo Street, Tim Fenton (recently profiled by the Guardian) reveals details of a nastygram from Griffin Law, sent on behalf of free-speech “libertarian” and commentator Harry Cole:

We are instructed by Harry Cole… We refer to various untrue, defamatory and malicious statements made by you about our client online that have caused and continue to cause our client to suffer damage to his reputation such that those statements amount to actionable libels and malicious falsehoods. As those statements include statements of fact as to criminal wrongdoing on the part of our client, those libels are actionable per se. This gives rise to a claim in damages and a right to interim injunctive relief against you.

Moreover, your course of conduct with regard to our client is manifestly contrary to the provisions contained in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. You have unreasonably and wantonly caused and continue to cause our client to suffer from considerable alarm and distress. This also gives rise to a claim in damages and a right to interim injunctive relief as against you.

The libel angle here is nothing new – Paul Staines and his associates have been using Griffin Law to send out such threats for years, while simultaneously striking a free speech pose and railing against the spectre press regulation. Staines, who is Cole’s boss, justifies the hypocrisy by explaining that his reputation is his property. However, the complaint of “harassment” appears to a new strategy.

First, as regards the alleged libel. Although the letter refers to “various untrue, defamatory and malicious statements”, the missive focuses on one particular item: that at the start of March Tim had posted a photograph that appeared to show that Cole had illegally killed a swan with a hunting rifle. It turned out that the photo had in fact been mocked up by a parody site, and so Tim withdrew the post and his commentary on the subject. As Tim now shows in his new post, Cole and Staines had themselves linked to and promoted the parody photo, and at the time seemed to think that it was all a bit of a laugh.

And second, as regards the supposed harassment: I do not for a moment believe that Cole has experienced “alarm and distress” by anything that Tim has written. Tim’s regular jibes and debunkings may have prompted annoyance, and perhaps even anger, but there is nothing on Zelo Street that comes close to the vicious smears and creepy intrusion that are the regular stock-in-trade of Staines’ operation.

However, vexatious complaints of harassment do have advantages over libel threats: bringing a libel action remains extremely expensive, and victory does not always mean vindication as regards public opinion; by contrast, filing a civil claim for harassment is much cheaper, and the accusation carries a stigma of unreasonable behaviour. Alternatively, one can make a complaint to police, which is free, and then cite the resulting police procedure as spurious evidence of criminality (examples of this practice here and here).

It seems to me that a reasonable person in command of the facts as they relate to a particular case will be able to make a sensible judgement about whether a particular behaviour crosses the line. One example of actual harassment might be, say, sending someone anonymous bullying letters as a way to inform them that you know where they live. Tim has received several of these, posted from EC1 in London and sent in the name of a mysterious “Blog Complaints Commission”. The letters refer to posts concerning Staines and his associates, and the name reflects a phrase that Staines used as far back as 2010.

Wiltshire Police Withdraws Misleading Webpage on Police Information Notices

From the “Your Journey to Justice” section of the website of Wiltshire Police, as of March 2015:

Harassment Information Notice

This is a written notice showing who the offender has been harassing and how. The piece of paper with the information on has to be signed by the accused person to say they have been harassing someone.

It is explained to them that continued harassment will lead to a criminal investigation.

If someone does not follow the harassment information notice, a statement would be taken from you and the police would investigate, which may result in an arrest.

[Screenshot here; also Google cache here]

This rather alarmingly oppressive and ignorant notice has now been removed, following a complaint by me to the Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police. Here is what I wrote:

Dear Sir

I write to draw your attention to a serious misrepresentation of the law on the Wiltshire police website, concerning the “Harassment Information Notice” (also known as “Police Information Notices” [PINs]). If your officers have been using this information as the basis for operational decisions, I believe they have been acting unlawfully.

> This is a written notice showing who the offender has been harassing and how.

No it isn’t. It’s a record of a complaint. Also, given that at this stage no investigation has occurred, let alone a conviction, it is inappropriate to refer to “the offender”.

>The piece of paper with the information on has to be signed by the accused person to say they have been harassing someone.

No it doesn’t. A person who receives a notice may choose to sign it to indicate that they understand its contents. If your officers have been telling people that it “has to be signed”, then they have been engaging in oppressive conduct. And if signatures are being used as confessions, your officers are taking evidence without reading suspects their rights. This is a very serious matter.

>It is explained to them that continued harassment will lead to a criminal investigation.

This shows that police are undertaking investigations on the presumption of guilt, which is again inappropriate.

Wiltshire Police’s approach is open to gross abuse by vexatious complainants. It is also inconsistent with the approach of other forces. In particular, I draw your attention to recent comments from the Metropolitan Police after a journalist was issued with a “harassment warning” on behalf of a fraudster:


Yours sincerely

The link leads to a news report about a PIN that was given to Gareth Davies, chief reporter at the Croydon Advertiser. The report ended with the following quote:

Scotland Yard said: “When a harassment warning letter is issued, there is also no implication that the alleged harassment has taken place.”

That quote was met with some surprise; many people are under the impression that such “warnings” at the very least reflect the considered opinion of professional law-enforcement officers that criminal conduct has occurred, and at worst that they amount to the same thing as a police caution, in which an offence is admitted. But this is a complete misunderstanding: PINs are issued on the basis of complaints received rather than of evidence obtained, and they have no legal force.

This is a subject of some interest to me; this is an investigative blog, and as such I occasionally get attempts to intimidate me from writing about various subjects (as I discussed just yesterday). One such attempt occurred last September via a vexatious complaint to police which led to me receiving a PIN; I discuss the background to this incident here, including the false claim made by the complainant (and promoted in bad faith by his associate, the bullying and dishonest Nadine Dorries MP) that its delivery amounted to evidence of criminal conduct on my part.

A reply to my email to the Chief Constable came the next day:

Dear Mr Bartholomew,

I reply to your email on behalf of Chief Constable Pat Geenty. Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. I can confirm that the pages of information you refer to in your email below have now been unpublished from the force website and have been deleted.

Kind regards,

PA to Chief Constable Patrick Geenty

So there. But one wonders whether the advice on the webpage reflects bad practice that may have had real-world consequences for individuals who have been falsely accused.

(H/T- the webpage first came to my attention via a Twitter feed called @ArrestThePIN)

Nadine Dorries: Her Accusations in Context

Why this is of interest to me: The “terror trackers” and abuse
Enter Tabloid Troll
Dorries renews her accusations
The 2015 election
A threatening “peace offer”
IPSO Ruling on the Sunday Mirror


Election results in from the constituency of mid-Bedfordshire show that Tim Ireland, the independent anti-corruption candidate, received 384 votes, or 0.7%. It was a creditable showing for an independent with a progressive perspective: in 2005, a certain Saqhib Ali (more recently standing elsewhere for Labour) polled 301 votes (0.6%) in the same constituency. It was also achieved despite a campaign of vilification by the Conservative candidate, Nadine Dorries, and a biased approach by the local media.

Mid-Bedfordshire is a safe Conservative seat, so it is no surprise that Dorries was returned: she actually increased her majority (32,544 votes in total, up from 28,815 in 2010), reflecting a wider trend in the election as a whole, her brand recognition as a celebrity, and perhaps also the continuing recovery of the Conservative vote in the constituency after it was slashed from 40,230 in 1992 to 24,176 in the 1997 bloodbath.

Why this is of interest to me: The “terror trackers” and abuse

My own interest in all this is a good example of one thing leading to another. To explain: in 2009 Tim found out that several dubious individuals describing themselves as “terror trackers” had been passing false information about supposed Islamic conspiracies to the now-disgraced buffoonish MP Patrick Mercer, from whose office they were then passed to the media. Tim’s work led to the Sun newspaper withdrawing a front-page splash about a supposed terror threat against Alan Sugar; it turned out that this sort of thing had been going on for several years, with Newsnight and even the police being hoodwinked. Given my own interest in religion and the media, I began looking into the subject in collaboration with Tim.

Unsurprisingly, Tim’s efforts were not appreciated by everyone, and the self-described “terror trackers” (who appeared to have  fallen out with each other) hit back in the way that came naturally to them: by telling lies and making threats. Anonymous comments appeared on websites, accusing Tim of paedophilia; a pdf was sent to him by someone who wanted him to know that he knew where he lived and what his house looked like (and this was before Google Street View existed). There were also menacing and goading messages on social media, some of which were also directed at me.

Meanwhile, Tim was also scrutinizing and satirizing the conduct and credibility of Nadine Dorries; I had also written about her a couple of times due to her work with the lobby group Christian Concern (an association which appears to be no longer active). Dorries found being held to account by Tim to be uncongenial, and after storming out of a hustings event in Flitwick (pron. “FLIT-TICK!”) ahead of the 2010 election when she found out that Tim was being allowed to film the event, she began to accuse him of being a “stalker”. Dorries even went to the police, who advised Tim that because of her supposed aversion to his presence, he ought to keep clear of her. Dorries misrepresented this as being a police “caution”, implying criminal conduct.

For the “terror trackers” abusing Tim – and, to a lesser extent, me – this was something of a godsend: their abuse aimed at Tim was now justified as retaliation against a stalker, rather than being self-serving attempts at intimidation and revenge. As a consequence, I now had an interest of my own in holding Dorries to account. As I looked into the subject, I became astonished at the extent of her bullying dishonesty. She was making wide-ranging accusations of “stalking” against anyone she saw as a political threat; it was also clear that she had private arrangement with Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes), by which he would promote smears against her critics. I logged a number of these instances, while the abuse from the former “terror trackers” continued sporadically.

Enter Tabloid Troll

The subject of Mercer and the “terror trackers” came up again in 2012, when Tim was looking into the identity of “Tabloid Troll”, an abusive Twitter user involved with the UK tabloid newspaper industry. “Tabloid Troll” gave a distorted account of the affair, which I then corrected, much to his anger. Tabloid Troll decided to “investigate” Tim and myself, resulting in the publication of intrusive and scurrilous anonymous websites about us and our families (discussed here and here). For the first time, Dorries deigned to acknowledge my existence, as she gleefully promoted a site that was self-evidently unhinged, and plainly the work of an actual on-line stalker and troll.

Dorries renews her accusations 

Some months later, Tim’s personal circumstances changed and he found himself living in Dorries’ constituency. Dorries says she was alerted to the fact by an email from a constituent (although her version of the story, typically, has inconsistencies), and she then decided to brand herself as a high-profile “victim of stalking”. I discussed her renewed media campaign in my previous post.

The 2015 election

Unsurprisingly, Dorries did not respond well when Tim announced his decision to stand for election earlier this year. It should be noted that this wasn’t a campaign fixated on Dorries – his theme was against corruption in politics, as manifested, for example, by the failure of the Conservative Party to remove activists who had smeared a Liberal Democrat as a paedophile in earlier election, and by the dishonesty of the Conservative Party chair, Grant Shapps.

However, Dorries claimed that Tim was standing in order to stalk her: she lobbied for him to be excluded from hustings events, and when she was rebuffed by Churches Together in Shefford she declined to appear. She did, though, send supporters and a leaflet – the events that transpired at the Shefford hustings have been described by Tim’s partner Sue, who blogs and Tweets as Humphrey Cushion, here.

Dorries also laid out a series of allegations on her blog, in which she named me as Tim’s “accomplice”. Much of her post consisted of claims made by other individuals, although nothing was documented properly and these other accusers remain anonymous (those of us in the know, though, are aware that the accusations are without substance).

The election night count was attended by Tim Fenton of Zelo Street (recently profiled in the media here); Tim F. writes:

As Bedfordshire Today has told, she says she cannot be in the same room as the man”. It’s clear from the article who the man” is.

…As the count for the Parliamentary Election got under way, all the candidates – except the fragrant Nadine – were present and, with their agents and counting agents, were watching as the piles of white ballot papers were separated out and tallied. Only as the declaration approached did the Dorries presence appear… Would she be unable to be in the same room as “the man”? Surprisingly not: time after time, she was within two metres of TI, yet no wobblers were thrown. There was no adverse reaction.

Meanwhile, the events at the Shefford hustings are currently the subject of a police complaint. The Sunday Mirror ran an article on the subject, which has since been removed; Dorries said that it was withdrawn because it contained “misinformation” (or, as she puts it, “mis information”) although she didn’t elaborate what this meant (see update below for more on this).

A threatening “peace offer”

Dorries’ renewed media campaign against Tim in September 2014 also saw the creation of a new troll account on Twitter, devoted mainly to abusing and threatening Tim, but also focusing on other targets, including me and others who have criticised Dorries. Some of the Tweets were crude or intrusive – Tim’s partner was described as a “skank”; another woman was mocked as an “old nag”; and a third person saw his photograph uploaded from another site, with an abusive comment attached (“bellend”).  The account went so far as to accuse Tim of being a “nonse” (sic), meaning “sex offender”.

The account was apparently created without Dorries’ collusion, although as soon as it came to her attention she began interacting with it and RT-ing various Tweets. She also sent at least one direct message (announced on her Twitter feed). The owner of the account was aware within minutes of the removal of the Sunday Mirror article, and this prompted a stream of abusive and mocking tweets claiming that this proved that Tim had lied to journalists.

As the election approached, the account counted down to, and then linked to, an anonymous website warning Tim not to contest the election result: a case can be made that Dorries’ behaviour in attempting to discredit Tim amounted to a breach of election law, which could form the basis for a petition. The anonymous abuser sought to “discourage” Tim from this course of action, in a long and rambling screed that included the following:

We will continue to watch your behaviour 24/7. We will never break the law but we assure you we will continue to affect your ability to live contentedly amongst us. We will not let your lies stand.

…. You are politely advised to take this last chance. We offer peace. Take it.

Tim has written about this here. [UPDATE: And the election petition is now a reality; see here for details and context]

IPSO Ruling on the Sunday Mirror [added 23 July]

It turned out that the Sunday Mirror article had been removed from the internet because Dorries had lodged a complaint with IPSO, the independent press regulator. It appears that Dorries drew a distinction between police “looking into” the incident, and a formal “police investigation”, which (she claims) can only happen after an election – obviously, it was not in her interest to clarify this flimsy basis for her “mis information” claim publicly.

Dorries also complained that the article contained a quote from police relating to the outcome of a complaint that Dorries had made against Tim, which is that he

has not committed any offence, and is purely holding the complainant to account.

Dorries argued that this assessment referred only to events up to 2010, rather than more recent allegations. However, according to IPSO:

The Committee noted the complainant’s assertion that in fact, this did not reflect the police’s current position on the conduct of the other candidate. However, in circumstances where the article had made clear subsequent legal developments in relation to the other candidate’s conduct and where it was not in dispute that the CPS had not taken further action against him, any potential discrepancy over the date of the report was not significant, and the inclusion of the statement from it was not misleading.

Tim maintains that the quote is in fact valid for later events, in any case.

This ruling follows IPSO’s rejection in June of a complaint brought by Dorries about a profile of Tim published by Bedfordshire on Sunday. The two rulings are straightforward documents that anyone can assess for themselves fairly quickly.

There are two interesting asides to this resolution:

(a) The complainant’s representative

First, the ruling makes reference to the “complainant’s representative”. No name is given, but there is reason to think that this is none other than Dennis Rice, the journalist formerly responsible for the “TabloidTroll” Twitter account. If so, this is a remarkable development in Rice’s vendetta against Tim for exposing his trolling and sockpuppeting – Rice was at one time Acting News Editor of the Sunday Mirror (in the late 1990s), yet here he is attempting to suppress a completely valid news article published by his former employer, motivated by personal spite and for the benefit of a politician.

It should be recalled that last year Rice made a complaint of his own to IPSO, against the author Peter Jukes – the outcome was discussed by Peter here and by me here. We know that Dorries has been in private communication with Rice since at least September 2014, perhaps longer.

(b) The troll account kicks off again

Second, the source of the anonymous “Peace Offer” threats and abuse aimed at Tim just after the election had a new outburst just hours before IPSO’s ruling was published.

These are scandalous associations for a Member of Parliament.

Nadine Dorries: False Accusations of Stalking and the Media

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


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

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

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

“This man” is not named; according to the report, this was “for legal reasons”, which suggests some sort of investigation under way for other reasons, when the real reason was clearly that the newspaper would not accept the libel risk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dorries reacted with typical bile and abuse:

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This all sounds strangely familiar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nawaz also gives a bit of background:

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

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

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