Senior Child Abuse Lawyer Warns of “Secret Societies” and “Sacrifice of Children”

The Justice Gap has today published two opposing articles on Harvey Proctor’s recent press conference, by Peter Garsden and Matthew Scott. Garsden takes the view that Proctor ought not to be “attempting to manipulate the press and public into believing that he is innocent in advance of any criminal charges”, whereas Matthew argues that “that would be a strong argument, were it not for the fact that Mr Proctor has had to endure month after month of smear, and its inseparable buddy innuendo, suggesting that he is guilty of the most appalling crimes that it is possible to imagine: child rape and child murder.” Matthew places much of the blame for this with Exaro News, whose approach to the subject I discussed a few days ago.

Garsden is Executive Officer of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, and Matthew gives him due credit for his successes in securing compensation for victims of abuse. However, he also notes some troubling beliefs expressed on Garsden’s website:

My own belief is that there are several hidden societies in England and Wales which practise ritualistic abuse to the present day, which includes the sacrifice of children described graphically in Dennis Wheatley novels. The Wicker Man film is obviously fictional, but not far away from the truth, I believe. A similar attitude would have been adopted to child abuse 70 years ago, I would imagine.

Although Witchcraft was commonplace in this country in medieval times, there are many who alleged they have been a victim of it today. The point is that not enough people are brave enough to believe that it is true.

This is not encouraging. It is true that the sexual abuse of children has sometimes occurred in “occultic” contexts – in the UK, the 2012 case of Peter Petrauske and Jack Kemp comes to mind. But these were dysfunctional cults rather than “secret societies”. Sexual abuse in these settings has been described as “ritualistic”, but I strongly suspect that this is to put the cart before the horse: the rituals were an excuse for sexual transgression, rather than the sex being necessary for some bizarre mystical purpose. Further, the “sacrifice of children” has not been documented.

In contrast, a “secret society” suggests a network of individuals who appear outwardly to be respectable, but who are secretly committed to acts of murder and depravity in the name of some sort of higher cause. The notion that The Wicker Man is “not far from the truth” is really quite unsustainable (although I do remember a late-night showing being pulled from the BBC schedules during the Orkney panic). Doubtless Garsden has heard many lurid things in his line of work over the years, but the very fact that his reference points are Wheatley and a horror film suggest that he is mainly drawing from a general pop-culture belief that this sort of thing must be going on somewhere.

In particular, he may have been influenced by old sensational tabloid reports, or Christian paperbacks by supposed ex-Satanists. In the UK, one figure was important in both contexts: this was of course Geoffrey Dickens MP, who in the 1980s provided a stream of rent-a-quotes on the dangers of witchcraft and wrote the foreword to a Christian book by Audrey Harper called Dance with the Devil. Dickens was generally considered to be a buffoon, and his posthumous rehabilitation as the prophet of child abuse exposure has been something of a surprise. [1]

Is this why Garsden finds the claims made by “Nick” so plausible? One of the allegations against Proctor is he subjected a boy who was tied to a table to a stabbing attack, which has a whiff of Satanic Ritual Abuse to it; and just a few months ago the media asked us to consider the preposterous thought of Enoch Powell, Willie Whitelaw and Leo Abse engaged together in Satanic abuse.

It’s not clear what Garsden means by “many who alleged they have been a victim” of witchcraft today. Perhaps he is referring to individuals who claim to have terrorised by occultic groups, or perhaps he means that some people have been mentally disturbed by the idea that they are being oppressed by malign spiritual forces (I noted a couple of cases here). Perhaps he even means that such forces truly exist; that in itself would not be discreditable, if that is his private religious belief, but talk of “secret societies” from a respected professional must inflame the more worldly malign forces of paranoia and the lynch-mob mentality.


[1]  A few years ago I saw a TV interview with Andrew Marr, in which he said that the maddest MP he had ever interviewed had been someone who believed that Britain was controlled by a coven of witches in the West Country. No name was given, but my conjecture is that this was Dickens.

UPDATE 2019: Proctor;s accuser “Nick” has now been revealed to be a man named Carl Beech. His allegations have been comprehensively exposed as lies, and he has been found guilty of perverting the course of justice and fraud. He was also found to be in possession of a collection of child-abuse images, and to have used a hidden camera to film the teenage friend of his son using a toilet. For more, see here.

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