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Cathedral Names Former Bishop of Chichester as Child-Sex Abuser

As has been widely reported, Chichester cathedral has accepted the veracity of an allegation of sex abuse against Bishop George Bell (died 1958) regarding “a young child” in the late 1940s and early 1950s:

In this case, the scrutiny of the allegation has been thorough, objective, and undertaken by people who command the respect of all parties…

…A formal claim for compensation was submitted in April 2014 and was settled in late September of this year. The settlement followed a thorough pre-litigation process during which further investigations into the claim took place including the commissioning of expert independent reports. None of those reports found any reason to doubt the veracity of the claim.

A report in the Telegraph adds:

Although Bell could not be questioned having died almost 60 years ago, the Church said it had investigated the victim’s allegations ahead of what would have been a civil case and accepted their account as being true on the balance of probabilities.

George Bell House, the cathedral’s “centre for vocation, education and reconciliation” will now be re-named, and presumably other buildings and institutions named for Bell (including a secondary school in Eastbourne) will follow suit; and although Bell’s name is currently still listed on the Church of England’s list of Commemoration Days, it is likely that this year’s remembrance (which occurred earlier this month) will be the last.

The news has been rightly described as “shocking”; Bell was a revered churchman (“Chichester’s greatest bishop since St Richard”, according to a quote in a study guide that – for the moment at least – can still be found on the cathedral website) and a figure of national historical significance whose contribution to British public life can be acknowledged and appreciated by believers and non-believers alike. Bell’s memorialization was a natural expression of his position within Britain’s collective memory; yet now, it appears he is to be abruptly purged, like clips of Jimmy Savile on reruns of Top of the Pops. Is this a just reassessment of the historical record, or an over-reaction to past failures in handling abuse scandals?

Of course, the allegation, if true, can’t just be shrugged off as a sad example of human weakness in a public figure’s private life, such as Martin Luther King’s philandering. There is a victim whose life has been blighted, and Jesus’s harshest warning in the New Testament is for those who harm children. That must affect how Bell is remembered – both as a matter of justice, and as an assurance that no-one is so important that they can expect to commit sex offences against children and not face consequences in this world, even after death.

However, the process leading to the decision is opaque, and has come under particular criticism from Peter Hitchens, who previously took part in a discussion about Bell for Radio 4’s Great Lives strand. Writing in the Daily Mail:

…there has been nothing resembling a trial. No evidence has been tested. No defence has been offered. No witness has been cross-examined. No jury has given a verdict. Yet this allegation is being treated as if it was a conviction. Once again I see the England I grew up in disappearing. What happened to the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial before a jury of your peers?

I know the C of E has had real problems with child abuse in recent years, and has a lot of apologising to do. No doubt. But was it wise or right to sacrifice the reputation of George Bell, to try to save its own? Who defended the dead man, in this secret process?

I’m not in complete agreement with this – the process by which a living person is found to be guilty of a crime is obviously very different from historical research. In the former, a formal methodology is adopted of “innocent until proven guilty”. That is the best approach for trials, given what’s a stake, but it is not the only way to come to a reasonable assessment of the truth – otherwise, it would be impossible ever to establish that a person who has died has committed a criminal wrongdoing.

It is the case, though, that Bell’s reputation has been ruined without any actual evidence entering the public domain. All we have is a very vague allegation, the assurance of “investigators” that the story is true – and, oddly, an assessment from the police. According to the cathedral statement:

Following a meeting between the survivor and Sussex police in 2013, it was confirmed by the police that the information obtained from their enquiries would have justified, had he still been alive, Bishop Bell’s arrest and interview, on suspicion of serious sexual offences, followed by release on bail, further enquiries and the subsequent submission of a police report to the CPS.

I can imagine how the allegation might have created some loose ends of interest to the police, but it seems to me extraordinary that the police are prepared to make such a definite statement about a man who has been dead for 57 years. The investigators may have done a thorough job, but phrases about there being not “any reason to doubt the veracity of the claim” and about “balance of probabilities” do not quite settle the matter. Perhaps, given the complainant’s right to anonymity, this cannot be avoided; but this is a less than satisfactory basis for far-reaching historical revisionism.

The statement also has details about how the complaint was handled:

The survivor first reported the abuse to the then Bishop of Chichester, Eric Kemp, in August 1995. Bishop Kemp responded to the correspondence offering pastoral support but did not refer the matter to the police or, so far as is known, investigate the matter further. It was not until contact with Lambeth Palace in 2013 that the survivor was put in touch with the safeguarding team at the Diocese of Chichester who referred the matter to the police and offered personal support and counselling to the survivor.

In his letter to the survivor Bishop [Martin] Warner [the current Bishop of Chichester] acknowledges that the response from the Diocese of Chichester in 1995, when the survivor first came forward, “fell a long way short, not just of what is expected now, but of what we now appreciate you should have had a right to expect then.”

Kemp, who died in 2009, has come under posthumous criticism for his mishandling of sex-abuse allegations against his suffragan Bishop of Lewes, Peter Ball: Ball had moved on to Gloucester at the time of his police caution in early 1993, but further allegations relating to Ball’s time at Lewes were brought to Kemp’s attention a couple of years later (including two cases involving children) and it seems that Kemp may have had earlier suspicions (according to one report, “Kemp reportedly told Ball to ‘stop inviting young men’ to his house”, and it was known in 1993 that there were other accusers). Yet Kemp did not act on his information, and in his 2006 autobiography he blamed Ball’s resignation on “mischief-makers”.

There have also been other sex-abuse convictions of clerics working in Diocese of Chichester during the 1970s and 1980s (including, just a few days ago, the case of Vickery House, who was a close associate of Ball), and Kemp’s legacy is itself now seriously tarnished. [1]

UPDATE (3 February 2016): Finally, some details: the regional Argus newspaper has published a long interview with the alleged victim. Discussed my me here.


[1] The journalist Andrew Brown recently Tweeted that ‘A very senior Anglican layman described the diocese under Kemp as a “cesspit” to me once’.

Gambaccini and Jefferies: The Relevance of their Experiences for the Harvey Proctor Case

From the website of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association:

Paul Gambaccini is a popular household name and has been a well- known broadcaster in the UK since 1973. He was arrested on 29th October 2013. Police handed papers to the Crown Prosecution Service on 10th February 2014 but it was not until 10th October 2014 he was told that there was no case against him. His bail was extended seven times during that period. During those 12 months, he forfeited more than £200,000 in both lost earnings and legal costs, until police and prosecutors told him there was no case against him.

…Christopher Jefferies was quietly enjoying his retirement from a distinguished career as a school master in Bristol when police arrested him on New Year’s Eve 2010, for the alleged murder of Jo Yeates. He was finally released from police bail, after 3 months, with his reputation in tatters. His arrest and the public hounding he received from the media eventually led him to being a key witness in the Leveson Inquiry and also the subject of the ITV screenplay “The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies”.

The two men appeared together at an LCCSA event in London last night; some pertinent observations have been published to Twitter by some of those in attendance, particularly @legalhackette. Apparently (these should not be taken as direct quotes), Jefferies found that the police were “out of their depth”, and that “the further up the hierarchy, the stupider they seemed”, while “being helpful to the police seemed to make the police more suspicious.”

Gambaccini concurred: police are “dumber” the further up the police chain, and that while “younger cops are interested in justice… senior ones interested in results”. Gambaccini also said that the names of suspects are regularly leaked by police to the press, while Jefferies believes that in his case the police hoped that journalists would do some of the work for them.

It seems to me that an event bringing together Jefferies and Gambaccini is very timely, given that some dots still need to be joined when when it comes to understanding an ongoing malaise in British public life. The link here is the case of Harvey Proctor: like Gambaccini, accused of alleged historic sexual abuse, and like Jefferies, also facing a police investigation for murder. There are, of course, differences: Proctor has never been arrested, despite months of investigation, and in his case the murder allegation is simply based on the word of a supposed witness – there is no body, and not even a name.

However, although Proctor is being investigated via what’s left of Operation Midland (it has folded in all but name, and is now bundled in with Operation Fairbank) rather than Operation Yewtree, we see the same police eagerness to assume that an allegation is true – and the same police sloth when it comes to actually getting on with resolving the matter.

Further, it seems to me very obvious that the press persecution of Chris Jefferies is being played out again with Proctor, although in this instance the primary culprit is an internet news agency – Exaro News – rather than a tabloid newspaper. As with Jefferies, police interest has provided an excuse for sensationalising and insinuating headlines, and for viciously selective reportage. But although Exaro has at last come under some critical scrutiny (primarily by the BBC and the Daily Mail, in relation to its claims about Leon Brittan), its anti-establishment and “outsider” media pose has so far protected it from the kind of thorough-going criticism that has been levelled against the excesses of tabloid hackery.

Peter McKelvie Downplays Role in Spreading “VIP Abuse Ring” Allegation

Acknowledgement: some of the links below were brought to my attention by a reader.

From the Telegraph:

Tom Watson “mixed up” his facts and made exaggerated claims about a “powerful paedophile network” linked to Downing Street, the whistleblower who alerted him to child abuse has told The Telegraph.

[Peter McKelvie] initially contacted Mr Watson with details of files on Peter Righton, who was a senior figure in the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE). His whistleblowing led to the jailing of Charles Napier, a former treasurer of PIE, in December last year.

Mr McKelvie said:…“It [what Watson said at PMQs] wasn’t a true reflection of what I was trying to get across and I was surprised there was an urgency.

…”When I went to Tom Watson I had never heard of Elm House or Dolphin Square.

“I would never have wanted Tom Watson to do a PMQ [Prime Minister’s Question] as a tactic until he heard the whole story.

“The only thing I wanted to say about politicians is every institution has abusers in it… I never talked about rings.”

This would be the same Peter McKelvie who used to regularly put himself forward as

…the retired Child Protection Team Manager who approached MP, Tom Watson, in October 2012, as a result of which Mr. Watson also asked a PMQ, on 24th October 2012 which subsequently led to the setting up of Operation Fernbridge by the Metropolitan Police.

That was in a letter to his local MP, in which he also specifically mentioned “that the PMQ involved the allegation that an elite paedophile ring had a link with No.10.” Further, this would be the same McKelvie who spoke at a vigil outside Elm Guest House a year ago, at which he opined that “these networks go as deep as, allegedly, a former prime minister, former secretaries, foreign secretaries, judges”.

There are no caveats anywhere about how Watson had got details wrong or gone too far, and although McKelvie’s new claim in the Telegraph that he “never talked about rings” may be trivially true as regards October 2012, it is otherwise grossly misleading. In fact, McKelvie has promoted and endorsed the most extravagant allegations about Elm Guest House and Dolphin Square.

“Minister X”

So, what’s happened? First, it should be noted that Watson and McKelvie reportedly fell out in 2013 (see below); second, that Watson has in recent weeks come under intense criticism for his handling of “Westminster” allegations; and third – perhaps most significantly – that McKelvie was recently described by the Daily Mail (on 15 October) as having provided Watson with “false information”:

Peter McKelvie – the whistleblower who fed Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson false information about a ‘No.10 paedophile ring’ – wrote to Downing Street wrongly claiming the MP was linked to child molesters and objecting to his appointment as a minister, it was revealed.

…But his credibility has been thrown into doubt. The Mail can reveal Mr McKelvie was informed in writing in December 2012 by a Scotland Yard detective inspector that there was no basis for his allegation about the MP. Yet on May 19 this year, shortly after the general election, Mr McKelvie repeated it to Downing Street.

Watson’s PMQ in October 2012 was vague, although he went into more detail on his website:

Last week I was contacted by a former child protection specialist who for some years, had been concerned that a wider investigation regarding the activities of convicted paedophile, Peter Righton was not fully investigated.

…The central allegation was that a large body of material seized in the raid on Righton’s home had not been fully investigated. Though Righton was the subject of a BBC profile in 1994 [I think this is the date] “The Secret Life of a Paedophile”, little had been done to follow up the leads from the case. A specialist unit in Scotland Yard had the material which supplemented a wider investigation into organised paedophile rings in children’s homes.

This led to the conviction of Napier (who admits his crimes), but also to the investigation of the future minister who was subsequently cleared a few weeks later.

BBC Panorama journalist Alistair Jackson, writing in the Spectator, has the details:

I soon established whom McKelvie believed [the link to No. 10] to be: a man who is now today a government minister. I won’t name him because, as we have seen over the past few months, baseless accusations against innocent men can cause permanent reputational damage. Mr Watson did not, evidently, believe these claims to be baseless — indeed, when I made my inquiries, I was also told that two witnesses would be able to confirm Minister X’s involvement. But when I tracked down the supposed witnesses, both told me that he never been part of the abuse they had suffered.

…And I can now reveal that the Met drew the same conclusion years ago. Within two months of Watson’s incendiary allegations, the police detective on the trail of Minister X found nothing incriminating within the newly recovered evidence. I have seen an email he sent, confirming that there was ‘no evidence of offending linked to [Minister X] within the files’. He went on: ‘…there is not any further material within the file to support the inference to any level of criminal complicity on behalf of [Minister X]’.

Presumably Jackson is quoting from the message that the Daily Mail says was sent to McKelvie in December 2012. It’s not clear from Jackson’s account who told him about the “two witnesses”, although Watson is implied. Either way, it appears that McKelvie decided to press on with lobbying against “Minister X” despite having good reason to believe he had been mistakenly accused.

According to an earlier Telegraph article, Watson fell out with McKelvie in 2013 “over Mr Watson’s insistence that a friend who worked as his adviser on child abuse be appointed to the national inquiry team examining historical abuse”. However, it appears that they maintained some email contact, with McKelvie writing to Watson (or perhaps cc-ing him in) in May 2015. According to Channel 4 News:

In May of this year, Mr McKelvie wrote to Downing Street repeating the claim and saying the minister should not have been appointed.

In an email he sent to Mr Watson on 19 May, he said: “I met with Justice Lowell Goddard last week and made a formal complaint regarding the appointment of (Minister X).

“This appointment represents utter contempt for the survivors of child sexual abuse. I have today written to the prime minister giving my reasons for contacting Tom (Watson) , which led to the PMQ (parliamentary question) of the 24th of October 2012.”

No details are given about how Watson responded to this email, but there is no reason to think that he expressed disapproval or attempted to dissuade McKelvie from continuing his campaign against “Minister X”.

[UPDATE, March 2017: The 15 October Daily Mail article stated that McKelvie “tried to wreck a Tory minister’s career with baseless paedophile smears”. McKelvie apparently objected to this purported motivation, and the paper has now issued a short statement in its “Clarifications and Corrections” section, stating that “Mr McKelvie has asked us to clarify, and we are happy to do so, that he acted as he did because he believed that the issues he raised should be drawn to Downing Street’s attention.” This clarification is now being bandied about on social media with the false assertion that it means the Daily Mail has withdrawn its claim that the paedophile claims were “baseless”.]  

McKelvie and “Nick”*

“Nick” is the most lurid of the “Dolphin Square” accusers, and he was brought to Watson’s attention after the PMQ. As the Daily Mail reported last month:

…One of the people who supplied Watson with intelligence and information was a former child protection officer called Peter McKelvie. In the aftermath of Mr Watson’s barnstorming performance in the House, Mr McKelvie spotted a tweet from a possible victim which read: ‘I was abused by the gang.’

“Nick” alleges not only VIP paedophilia at Westminster, but also the murder of children. McKelvie went on to make various supportive statements about “Nick”, and there is no reason to think he has had second thoughts. “Nick’s” allegations are so melodramatic and gothic – three murders, a paedophilic orgy where for Prime Minister Ted Heath persuaded Harvey Proctor not to castrate a boy, torture involving Remembrance Day poppies –  one cannot imagine what it could possibly be that McKelvie now regards as “exaggerated”. [1]

It is not known if Watson already knew about the old Dolphin Square rumours (in the public domain since the 1990s), but the the Mail article suggests that McKelvie actually provided Watson with the most dramatic testimony (on the Elm Guest House, Watson was meanwhile approached by David Hencke).

(*Details amended thanks to comment by Gojam)

UPDATE 2019: “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.

Watson’s Twitter message

The same earlier Telegraph article also refers to an intended direct message that Watson sent on Twitter in November 2014, which he accidentally published. Watson wrote:

He may be a survivor but [Ian] macfayden [sic] appears to be a narcissitic bully. And Peter [McKelvie] is allowing his media appearances to bring the whole show down

On Ian McFayden, the Telegraph explains that he had complained about politicians “taking control of the supposedly independent inquiry into institutionalised sex abuse”. McFayden (who appeared as a commentator in the recent Panorama documentary) is also in a bitter dispute with Graham Wilmer, who has links with at least one “Dolphin Square” accuser and whose “Unstructured Therapeutic Disclosure” counselling method has recently come under fire.

McKelvie Resigns

Shortly after McKelvie’s correspondence about the minister came to light, it was announced that he had resigned from his role as a member of the Victims and Survivors’ Consultative Panel of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (aka the Goddard Inquiry). Apparently, it was suddenly realised that he might be called as a witness.

UPDATE: McKelvie disputes the Telegraph

On Twitter, Ian Pace has conveyed a message from McKelvie:

Want to let people know that Peter McKelvie was bitterly unhappy with the misrepresentation of his views in yesterday’s Telegraph piece [1] @tom_watson and Peter McKelvie have spoken very amicably since yesterday – neither will say more as McKelvie will make statement to inquiry [2] Peter McKelvie also wants to make clear that without @tom_watson ‘s interventions, we wouldn’t have a #CSAinquiry now [3]

This is slightly curious.

First, if McKelvie and Watson are on amicable terms, why did McKelvie not complain about the earlier (17 October) Telegraph article, which has the story of them falling out? Second, if the Telegraph has misrepresented something that he wanted to put on the record, why delay explaining what what the paper should have reported? Why does he have wait to “make statement to inquiry” about it?

[Further update: Ian Pace has responded to these points in the Comments below. He writes:

First of all, it is true that McKelvie and Watson fell out over another matter, a little under a year ago. That is water under the bridge now, though, and they have been in amicable contact (and not just since the Telegraph article). Peter is horrified by the media onslaught on Tom and in no sense supports it – he was very concerned about how his words were distorted and misappropriated by the Telegraph to make it look like he was joining in the attack. Tom was already clear that this never Peter’s intention.

Neither party wants to make a big statement now and simply pour oil on the fire, but Peter intends to clarify a lot of things to the inquiry, and now thinks that is a better place to do so rather than to a hostile press.]

Excursus on Tom Watson

My view – which is perhaps not shared by others who have cast a critical eye over this subject – is that too much blame is being focused on Watson, particularly by the Telegraph and the Mail. However, the two papers have different strategies: while the Mail has undermined McKelvie’s credibility in the belief that this will damage Watson by association, the Telegraph has decided to salvage McKelvie’s reputation so that he can be deployed willingly against Watson.

For the record, I don’t think Watson has ever raised an allegation he didn’t believe, and a claim that he is only interested in allegations against Tories is simply untrue. Further, it has not been established beyond reasonable doubt that his letter to the DPP regarding the “Jane” allegation against Leon Brittan led to the re-opening of the police investigation, and if letters from Watson have ever prompted the CPS or police to undertake improper or ill-considered courses of action, then it is the CPS and police who ought to bear the blame.

However, it is clear that Watson has made errors of judgement: he has promoted testimony which has sine been found to be extremely problematic when scrutinised; his letter about “Jane” was aggressive and unfair to DCI Paul Settle; by acting as “hub” for alleged victims he risked bringing into doubt the independence of testimonies; and he never felt the need to clarify the police view of “Minister X” in December 2012 or dissuade McKelvie from continuing to lobby against him.


[1] A few months ago, McKelvie also drew attention to a passage in an old book by Tim Tate that referenced allegations of Satanic ritual abuse against politicians in the 1980s. The chain of events that followed led to a series of bizarre media stories accusing the late Enoch Powell, Willie Whitelaw, and Leo Abse of paeophilic Satanism.

VIP Abuse Investigations Reorganise

I’m a bit late with this; a recent statement from the Metropolitan Police concerning investigations of “VIP paedophilia” allegations:

…as Operations Midland and Fairbank have progressed officers identified a number of people and locations that were common to both enquiries. It is therefore operationally important to have the same officer in charge of these enquiries.

…Detective Superintendent [Angela] Scott, who is based within the Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse (SOECA) Command, will oversee the work of officers from the Homicide and Major Crime Command, Directorate of Professional Standard and SOECA.

…To date the MPS has received 48 allegations of historical impropriety by police officers dealing with sexual abuse, during the period of 1970 to 2005. 

Although the police keep insisting that “we are not prepared to give a running commentary”, several statements relating to this story have now been released. I previously discussed one that appeared last month, and again more recently a few days ago.

Operation Midland was created due to clams made by “Nick”, who alleged not just paedophilia but also three murders; as such, it was treated separately from Operation Fairbank, which was set up to deal with “Non Recent Allegations of Child Abuse”.

Two of these murders supposedly took place at sex parties, while a third involved a boy who was run down in the street in Kingston-on-Thames in 1979. However, “Nick” is unable to remember the boy’s full name, there are no records of such an event, and no-one remembers it ever happening. For this, and other reasons, “Nick’s” credibility is now severely undermined, and it is no surprise that the police have reeled back from their initial (and, in some quarters, much derided) “credible and true” assessment.

The obvious inference from the above is that the merger is a device with which to wind down Midland with minimal embarrassment. I have three observations:

(1) It was known from Day One that there were “a number of people and locations that were common to both enquiries”, given the other “Westminster” accusers; this is not something that came to light during the investigations;

(2) although there is a reference to “Homicide and Major Crime Command”, it is not made clear whether this is a continuing homicide investigation;

(3) the emphasis has now changed from the testimonies of alleged abuse victims to that of ex-police. The fact that officers are mentioned in the statement is an implicit admission that this is firmer ground.

I agree that these “48 allegations” remain a loose end, although it’s not clear how many relate directly to the “Westminster” claims, and there’s a troubling slippage in “officers dealing with sexual abuse” rather than “officers dealing with allegations of sexual abuse” – just because a procedure was not followed properly, that does not mean that someone is guilty. However, even if anything of substance does emerge from these lines of enquiry, it will not remove the difficulties with “Nick’s” testimony – and it should be remembered that rumours about Dolphin Square and Elm Guest House have been in the public domain for years.

Other general loose ends have also been put forward by the journalist David Hencke. Hencke draws attention to claims that residents living near the Elm Guest House saw “children going into the guest house”, “posh chauffeur driven cars drawing up there”, and a visit by Leon Brittan.

Hencke accuses David Aaronovitch of over-emphasising the role of Chris Fay in promoting the Elm Guest House allegations; Fay, a former social worker who claims to have seen evidence, has been quoted in the media for a while, but only recently has it been widely noted that a few years ago he served a prison sentence for fraud (although the detail has been in the public domain for some time). However, whatever the strength of other lines of evidence, this pertinent information has somehow failed to appear on news sites publicising the allegations – most notably, Exaro News – and this has been a major failing.

Hencke warns:

Finally it will be a little premature to assume that the Elm Guest House investigation is over. It is not. There are links to the Operation Midland investigation and there are a number of unfinished leads. But that would be tantamount to speculating on a current police investigation.

Given Exaro‘s aggressive advocacy on behalf of accusers, this admonition against “speculating on a current police investigation” is very hard to take.

UPDATE 2019: “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.

Lurid VIP Paedophile and Murder Claims Hit Australia’s MSM

Some alarming headlines from or about Australia:

A rather less sensational, but more informative, possible headline would have been:

  • Police investigation finds no evidence for lurid allegations of VIP murder and paedophilia (No one)

…but of course, no-one was going to run with that. The crucial detail, however, is buried in a couple of the articles:

Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Police said in a statement that the “matter was thoroughly investigated by ACT Policing’s Operation Attest and there was no evidence to substantiate the complainant’s allegations”.

According to the accuser’s story:

Speaking to media in Sydney, Fiona Barnett detailed her alleged abuse by the alleged elite paedophile ring 40 years ago.

…The northern NSW woman went on to detail “hundreds of crimes” she claimed she had witnessed, including child abduction, torture, rape and murder.

Ms Barnett described the alleged operation as a “very well-coordinated international paedophile ring”, and said there was a strict hierarchy.

“I was only saved for the VIP paedophiles,” she said.

“It’s a hierarchy, what I witnessed was the very top of the hierarchy.”

Ms Barnett said she “lives in absolute fear” and only decided to speak out because she “has nothing left to lose”.

However, that’s just the start of it. Despite the media’s taste for sensationalism, for some reason it has chosen to gloss over specific allegations by Barnett that have been in the public domain for months. Take a deep breath:

My perpetrators abused me until the time of my fifteenth birthday. The ring included police officers, psychiatrists, biochemists, psychologists, actors, writers, politicians, university lecturers and medical doctors, including a local Engadine GP named “Doctor Mark.” One perpetrator, a stage actor, went on to produce a play in which men were portrayed having sex with donkeys.

The network also involved former CIA and U.S. military psychologist Dr John W. Gittinger, the developer of the Personality Assessment System. Gittinger raped and abused me.

…In 1985, I witnessed approximately 10 children raped and murdered in Bathurst, during the weekend of the famous Bathurst car race. Some of these children were victims of kidnappings. Other children were born unregistered so that they could be used as sex slaves.

Gittinger’s role in the CIA, and the excesses of the CIA’s MKUltra programme (Gittinger vetted Sidney Gottlieb), have provided much fodder for conspiracy theorists, and this is the milieu from which the accusation against the late Oklahoma-based psychologist has emerged. Why would such a sensational element of the story – not just “VIP paedophile ring” but a “CIA paedophile ring” – be missing from the media accounts, if they regarded it as credible? And if they don’t regard it as credible, where does this leave the rest of the incredible tale? Are the media filtering out aspects of her account that they know are simply too outlandish?

But it gets even worse; a website called Child Abuse Recovery has further details:

Barnett, Dutch therapist Toos Nijenhuis and Jenny Hill of Garden Grove California all claimed their mind control experiences were overseen by Nazi mind control experts imported into their countries by the CIA after World War II to develop Super Spies. The childhood trauma that shattered them into multiple personalities included being repeatedly raped from an early age. Their abuse seemed to intensify by age six.

“In the late afternoon of Oct. 28 1975 I was taken to my sixth birthday party in the Kiama rainforest,” Barnett said. “The cordial was spiked with drugs. I fell asleep. When I awoke it was dark and I was lying naked face-up spread-eagle on a picnic table with my hands and legs tied. Perpetrators took turns sneaking up on me. A large group of men arrived in pick up trucks. They carried rifles and had a pack of starving Doberman dogs. I was told that the group of naked children huddled nearby were my responsibility. I was to run and hide them. Every child I failed to hide would be killed and fed to the dogs…”
Dutch therapist Toos Nijenhuis testified before five judges of the International Common Law Court of Justice in Brussels about her childhood torture at Barnett’s same Australian Holsworthy Army Base. Her perpetrators were military personnel directed by the CIA. Toos claimed that as a child she was forced to witness child murders that involved global elites who included former Pope Joseph Ratzinger, Dutch Catholic Cardinal Alfrink and Bilderberger founder Prince Bernhard.

Claims that Ted Heath took part in a paedophile orgy with Harvey Proctor where a castration nearly occurred sound pedestrian in comparison.

It’s not clear from this article* to what extent Barnett identifies with Nijenhuis’ further allegations, but presumably the two are associated. The “International Common Law Court of Justice” (H/T Eric Hardcastle) appears to be a “sovereign citizen” type entity, and it is a vehicle for a certain Kevin Annett. Annett, who is based in Canada rather than Brussels, is a former United Church minister and he makes extravagant and wide-ranging allegations of child-sex abuse and murder against senior clerical figures, particularly in the Catholic Church. Annett’s conspiracy-theorising includes the claim that all this carnage is orchestrated by a “Ninth Circle Satanic Cult”. Apparently, Annett’s “court” has issued summonses to Pope Francis and Queen Elizabeth to answer charges of genocide. And so on and so on.

All of this is significant for understanding the provenance of Barnett’s claims.


* The author is Judy Byington, whose 2012 book Twenty-Two Faces tells Jenny Hill’s story; Byington made an appearance on the Dr. Phil Show after publication. According to a critical review here, the book describes Satanic cults and includes supernatural elements.

John Mann and Geoffrey Dickens

4 November: The blog entry that was previously posted on this page has now been expanded and updated: see here.

Home Affairs Committee Probes “The Investigation into the Late Lord Brittan”

As is being widely reported, Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee has held a session on “The Investigation into the late Lord Brittan”, focusing on the allegation of rape made by “Jane”. Some pieces of new information have emerged, which I have incorporated into my previous blog entry about the subject.

From the various accounts, it seems to me that (a) the decision in May 2014 to interview Brittan would have been made even without Tom Watson’s letter; and (b) that this decision, although open to criticism, was not self-evidently baseless, although it ended up vindicating the original view in February 2014 that Brittan had no case to answer.

What happened was as follows:

After his question in the House of Commons three years ago, in which he raised the possibility of “a powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and No 10” in the 1970s and 1980s, Watson began to receive allegations of child sex abuse involving VIPs. He brought these to the attention of the police, and as such came to be regarded, in DCI Paul Settle’s term, as a “stakeholder.” Watson and Settle met on several occasions to discuss progress.

Although evidence of “a a powerful paedophile network” remains elusive, Watson’s efforts have helped to secure the prosecutions of three paedophiles (most notably, Charles Napier). Watson was never party to confidential information gathered by the police, and he did not offer operational advice.

At one meeting, Settle explained why an allegation against Leon Brittan brought by “Jane” had been dropped in February 2014 without Brittan being interviewed. Watson accepted Settle’s explanation, but he afterwards had a meeting with “Jane” at which she was distressed and Watson therefore decided to write to the Director of Public Prosecutions about it.

“Jane” passed a copy of the letter to Exaro News, which published a story around it on 17 May 2014. Given his ongoing working relationship with Watson, Settle was understandably put out. He regarded the letter as a “betrayal”. Then, On 19 May, a standard police review which had begun three weeks previously came to the decision that Brittan ought to be interviewed under caution as a matter of procedure (not because there was any evidence).

Settle interpreted this decision as having been prompted by Watson’s letter. He felt undermined and objected strongly (he has even agreed with the proposition put to him by a member of the committee that the subsequent interview with Brittan was “unlawful”), as a result of which he was taken off the case. The letter itself did not reach the police from the DPP until 2 June.

From this has come the recent headlines about how “Leon Brittan police ‘were panicked by Tom Watson’” and how “Tom Watson ‘forced out’ head of VIP sex abuse case” and “forced” the inquiry to continue. Settle claims that the letter caused “shock” and “panic”, but this has been denied by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse. Such headlines, I believe, are implausible and misrepresent the dynamics of what actually happened. If the police have made errors, it is not because Watson has made them do it.

However, this does not mean that Watson should not be criticised. Watson’s letter is a strongly-worded attack on Settle’s handling of the matter, and Settle has a right to feel aggrieved that it was not raised with him first given his association with Watson.

Further, we know that Watson’s uncritical advocacy of attacks on Brittan has been inspired to a large extent by several individuals who claim that Brittan was an orgiastic paedophile. However, these individuals’ accounts have crumbled under scrutiny, and Watson’s credulity has been harmful. One of these individuals (Watson has confirmed it’s not “Jane”) was responsible for the now-notorious “close to evil” quote that Watson has now apologised for publicising.

UPDATE: Two somewhat more robustly critical takes:

(1) From Anna Raccoon:

Watson’s letter to the DPP that caused so much anguish and was instrumental in bringing the allegations against Leon Brittan into the public domain was written after senior officers had already decided to review DCI Settle’s decision – but crucially after Watson had had another interview with ‘Jane’ who was deeply distressed following her meeting with Settle. Sadly no one thought to ask Watson whether he had made the senior officers aware of Jane’s distress, or even whether he might have intimated to them that if they didn’t arrest Brittan he, Watson, would take matters further – he was allowed to rest on his answer that when he wrote the letter, the decision had already been taken.

Perhaps, although I think this is speculative.

Settle (helped by CPS advice) clearly judges that “Jane’s” narrative amounts to a story of a consensual sexual encounter. But it’s not outlandish to suggest that there could be a reasonable (although not necessarily compelling) alternative perspective on “Jane’s” account. Such a counter-interpretation could have informed the review and Rodhouse’s agreement with that review. Certainly, I’m wary of someone who says they did not consent to sex being told that they did in fact do so, based on what appears to be an account of an encounter in which the complainant says that she had reason to feel afraid (of course, we now know that “Jane’s” account has not stood up to fact-checking, so this point is somewhat moot).

Anna also raises the issue of the letter that found its way to Exaro:

If Tom Watson, rather than explaining the situation to her, did give her a copy of a letter implying that a senior MP was of the opinion that the police had fallen short of their duty by not arresting Leon Brittan, then he only has himself to blame for the opprobrium that has fallen on him.

That seems to me to be a fair point, although it remains the case, it seems to me, that the media’s presentation of the casual chain is not substantiated.

(2) From Matthew Scott in the Telegraph:

First he introduced Jane to the police. When the experienced DCI Settle, the officer in charge of the case, decided any further investigation would amount – in his words – to a “baseless witch-hunt”, Watson then wrote an inflammatory letter over the officer’s head, to the DPP herself, in effect demanding that Brittan be interviewed. In other words, he was asking the DPP to perform what the officer in charge of the investigation actually did regard as a “witch-hunt”.

Anna and Matthew also both draw attention to robust questioning of Watson by Victoria Atkins. As Matthew notes:

Atkins pressed him about the way he had treated “Jane”. Had he made any video recording of his meetings with her? Had he made any audio recordings? He had not. Was he concerned that his involvement with Jane might prejudice any criminal trial? It seemed that Watson had barely considered that.

Complaining to CCHQ about Bullying Risks Escalating Attacks

Tim Ireland recounts details of what happened when he complained to Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) about harassment committed by individuals associated with the Conservative Party:

…the result of [CCHQ’s] indiscretion and neglect was escalation up to and including repeated false allegations of child rape and suggestions from my bully that I should “drink bleach” or otherwise do myself in. Bullies often escalate when they think they are under threat, and even revisit this behaviour when the heat is off if they discover they have been able to use certain behaviours without consequence. The most recent messages (yes, this is still happening) assure me that if I will soon end up in jail or “topped” if I continue to ‘whine’ about it.

I’ve been chronicling these attacks for some time now – the problems began when Tim discovered that Conservative activists associated with his then-local MP in Surrey were found to have created an anonymous website accusing a Liberal Democrat council election candidate of being a paedophile. Tim was later targeted himself; the continuing attacks are both (a) ruthless smears designed to discredit and intimidate someone who has drawn attention to dishonesty and corrupt behaviour, and (b) acts of private revenge motivated by pure malice and spite.

In both contexts, it should be remembered that following the general election in May, in which Tim stood as an independent candidate, he received an anonymous threatening message warning him that “we will continue to affect your ability to live contentedly amongst us” if he dared to bring a legal action about a relentless series of smears deployed by Nadine Dorries during the election period. Tim went ahead anyway, although his claim failed due to a solicitor’s error in serving notice. We know that the person who sent this message has private links with Dorries, although it is not here alleged that she approved the act.

Tim’s experience is relevant to recent reports about a culture of bullying within the Conservative Party that appears to have been allowed to flourish in recent years. This has come to wide attention following the suicide of a young activist, Elliot Johnson, who claimed to have been targeted by Mark Clarke, a “former special advisor to ex-Tory Chairman Grant Shapps”. There are other allegations against Clarke, including threats of personal destruction though anonymous media attacks.

Based on his own experience of complaining about this kind of thing, Tim adds:

I am concerned that Elliott Johnson complained to CCHQ that he was being bullied, was suddenly confronted with an escalation of bullying because someone at CCHQ had leaked the details of his complaint to the person targeting him, and perceived himself to be in such a hopeless and isolated position that a tragedy resulted. 

What happened to Johnson will now the subject of an internal investigation led by Edward Legard, an employment judge who has also previously stood as a Conservative candidate.

I don’t believe that what’s happened here proves that all Conservatives are “like that”; bullying is a dysfunctional human universal, and no organisation is immune. But there’s no reason why it has to become a big problem if there proper procedures in place, and the Conservative Party ought to be able to clean up its act.

However, as Tim notes:

There’s vague talk of email(s) to an unknown number of members of the Conservative party, but there has been no attempt by the Conservatives to reach out to potential victims outside of the party (which is typical as it is short-sighted), and there has been no attempt to make this point-of-contact for victims of bullying obvious and readily-accessible on the web, despite the recent tragedy.

Further,  complaints submitted to the current party chairman, Lord Feldman, are read by “somewhere between six and a dozen other people who play an unknown role behind the scenes”, and Feldman does not appear to be interested in hearing about how older complaints of bullying made to his predecessors, Shapps and Sayeeda Warsi, were leaked or improperly disclosed to hostile parties.

It seems to me that it is time for some critical scrutiny of how the Conservative Party handles allegations of bullying; and I support a petition on the subject introduced here.

VIP Abuse Allegations: “Unstructured Therapeutic Disclosure” Under Fire

From  the front page of the Sunday Times:

Two key witnesses championed by the deputy Labour leader Tom Watson in the VIP paedophile sex abuse scandal are being helped by a charity that uses a controversial therapy experts fear could generate false memories.

The therapy, in which the victims are given the details of the effects of sex abuse suffered by their own counsellor, has prompted concerns of a repeat of previous scandals in which “recovered memory” played a part in false false claims of child abuse in cases such as the Cleveland child abuse scandal in 1987 and the Orkney satanic ritual case in 1991.

…The therapy, “unstructured therapeutic disclosure” (UTD) is carried out at the Lantern Project in Merseyside. The charity is run by Graham Wilmer, a prominent anti-abuse campaigner…

Wilmer is the author of Conspiracy of Faith: Fighting for Justice After Child Abuse (Lutterworth), which describes sexual abuse he suffered as a boy at the Salesian College in Chertsey, Surrey.

The article includes critical comments from the barrister Matthew Scott (promoted by the paper into “a leading QC”), as well as from other specialists:

Matthew Scott… said “It would be hard to devise a form of counselling more fraught with the danger of producing unreliable evidence.”

…Sarah Garner, and affiliate of the Centre for Memory and the Law at City University, London, said the technique rang “major alarm bells”. Roger Kennedy, a consultant psychiatrist with the Child and Family Practice in London, said: “I find the description of this therapy very strange, they’ve obviously gone completely haywire.”

There is also a second article on page 12, which has the detail that Wilmer is a “former copywriter”, as well as a further quote from Kennedy, who is described as having “worked with a number of adult victims of Jimmy Savile”:

“The therapist or counsellor should not be divulging vast amounts about their own lives and pushing that onto the patient. It’s very confusing.”

For those without access to the Sunday Times articles, there is also now a derivative piece in the Mail.

The quote from Matthew is taken from a blog entry he wrote a year ago; at that time, there was less appetite by the mainstream media to delve critically in the subject of “VIP sex abuse”.

The spectre of false memory and the echoes of Satanic ritual abuse is one of the main reasons why this blog has undertaken such an extensive detour from the subject of religion to discuss allegations of VIP paedophilia (the other is that some related news stories have also raised the possibility of VIP Satanism, although that has remained a minor theme).

Experiments have shown that it is possible to create false memories; children, whose sense of reality remains undeveloped, have been coached into making grotesque false allegations (seen most recently in videos created by the perpetrators of the Hampstead Satanic abuse hoax); and adults have been made to believe by therapists that they had suppressed memories of being abused in Satanic rituals (in one instance in the USA, a man was even convinced that he had committed Satanic abuse). The most notorious case is that of the late Carol Felstead, who, as a result of supposed “therapy”, came to believe that her family were Satanists and that she had been sexually abused with a claw hammer at Conservative Central Office.

False memory is not the only cause of false allegations, though – and the Sunday Times has made an error in mentioning Cleveland, where abuse was actually mis-diagnosed via a now-discredited medical intervention. [1]

Wilmer’s UTD has come under scrutiny because of the Lantern Project’s links to “Darren” and to Esther Baker, who have both made allegations of VIP abuse. In “Darren’s” case, we now know that two years ago he emphatically denied having been abused by Leon Brittan, although he now claims that he was, while Baker’s allegations have grown from abuse within a religious group to abuse including VIPs, a specific ex-MP (who she says she recognised only recently), and visits to Dolphin Square in London. Although the Sunday Times highlights the connection to Watson, Baker’s story has actually been promoted more by John Mann MP, who raised her claims in Parliament.

The Sunday Times quotes the ex-MP accused by Baker:

“He [Wilmer] has been with her all the time. The problem with the therapy is that it is encouraging people to remember things that don’t exist. It is a mechanism for generating miscarriages of justice.”

The Lantern Project’s website highlights articles that dismiss the possibility of false memories, and that suggest that the concept was developed by sexual abusers. In response to the Sunday Times, Wilmer has pointed out on Twitter that UTD has been taken seriously by John Moores University.

However, Baker states that “neither myself or ‘Darren’ have had UTD therapy from the Lantern Project. Or elsewhere”, and that “when I named the anonymous MP I was under counselling by RASA not the Lantern”. Given that Baker features prominently in the second Sunday Times story, including in a photo, it seems odd that the journalists apparently did not attempt to contact her for her position on this. [2]

One issue that the paper doesn’t refer to is that, following infighting over the setting up of the child abuse inquiry, Wilmer has a grudge against the ex-MP named by Baker (and against two abuse survivors, who he claims are associated with this person). Wilmer comes across on Twitter as a somewhat aggressive character, and he likes to post triumphant and goading messages that boast of discrediting disclosures just around the corner (“tick tock” being a favourite phrase). This not only leaves a very poor professional impression; it gives the strong appearance of a conflict of interest, as Wilmer has a personal interest in an allegation that is being made by someone who is using his services. [3]


[1] According to Tim Tate, “ST’s Jim Gillespie tells me that the Cleveland claim ws removed by subs, but somehow re-appeared”.

[2] One of the journalists responsible for the story, Tim Rayment, has Tweeted to Baker that “I’m sorry Esther – I didn’t know that nobody had asked you for comment”

[3 – UPDATE 13 December]: The Sunday Times has run a correction:

Our article “VIP sex cases link to false memory” (News, October 18) made an erroneous reference to the Cleveland child abuse scandal and incorrectly described the premises of the Lantern Project as a “backstreet office”. We are happy to clarify that Esther Baker made allegations of childhood sexual abuse several months before receiving stage five only (Reconciliation) of UTD therapy at the project and we accept that Graham Wilmer, its co-founder, is not part of a political campaign

Metropolitan Police Leon Brittan Statement: Some Context

UPDATE (21 October): Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee has now held a session to discuss how police handled the allegation made by “Jane”; extra details have now been added in italics to reflect the extra information from this.

The Metropolitan Police (MPS) has issued a statement about its handling of the allegation of historic rape against Leon Brittan. There are three main points of interest, which I will briefly summarise and discuss.

The initial decision not to inverview Brittan in 2013

The statement confirms that the initial complaint of rape made by “Jane” against Brittan in November 2012 (referring to an event that allegedly occurred in 1967) was marked as “no further action” in September 2013, following advice from the Crown Prosecution Service.

This decision was known already; according to the CPS in June:

At [the police’s] request, we provided police with early investigative advice on this matter in July 2013 – there was not at this stage enough evidence to request a charging decision and any decisions made at this stage were investigative and operational and therefore for the police.

The Independent added a few days later:

The Independent on Sunday can reveal that the initial legal advice given to the police in August 2013 was that the evidence against him fell short of the standards required to lead to a prosecution. The police agreed, and decided against interviewing Lord Brittan.

…The CPS opinion has never been made public, but the IoS can reveal that concerns were expressed as to whether, assuming an encounter took place, “the suspect was unaware that the victim was not consenting to the sexual intercourse between them”. “On the victim’s evidence alone,” says the advice, “there is no evidence that the suspect had asked the victim for sex, that he had demanded sex, that he had forced the victim to [lie] on the bed, neither did he ask her to remove her clothing”.

Some details had also appeared on Exaro in May, including the detail hat Brittan’s name was “masked” when the file was sent to the CPS. However, Exaro also claimed that the “officer in charge” later confirmed that Scotland Yard had given Brittan’s name and details of the case to the CPS. It’s not clear what “later” here means.

[The officer in charge at the time was DCI Paul Settle. Speaking to the committee, he clarified that the advice sought was “early operational” advice, not advice on a charging decision. This kind of advice does not direct the police to take particular operational decisions. Settle says that potential media interest was “a factor” in asking the CPS for advice, but that the decision not to proceed was based on evidence, and that it did not appear that the offence of rape had occurred. In his opinion, the case “fell at the first hurdle”.]

The decision to interview Brittan in May 2014

According to the statement, the complainant “expressed unhappiness” with this result in February 2014, highlighting that Brittan had not been interviewed about the matter.

[Settle confirmed that there had been a “heated meeting”. He rejected a claim, apparently made by “Jane”, that he had slammed papers onto his desk].

The police decision was reviewed from 28 April to 19 May 2014, at which point it was decided to interview Brittan after all. According to the statement, the review was “part of established police practice”, and the officer who had asked for the review was not aware of the complainant’s “reaction” to the September 2013 decision.


Tom Watson MP wrote to the DPP about the case on 28 April. The letter did not reach the police until 2 June [after arriving at the CPS on 2 May], but its existence became public knowledge on 17 May. Did this information affect the outcome of the review two days later? The MPS insist that it did not:

The MPS is frequently contacted about ongoing investigations by MPs acting on behalf of their constituents or campaigning for a particular cause.We accept that this is part of their Parliamentary duties and a legitimate part of holding the police to account in a democracy. But the principle that police officers are independent when making decisions about operational matters is one that we firmly adhere to.

The fact that the police decision came on 19 May does give an unfavourable impression, but given the existence of the review starting from 28 April (exactly three weeks before), it seems to me reasonable to judge that the timing was coincidental. We cannot know for sure, though.

Details of Watson’s intervention were reported in the Daily Mail in July 2014:

Police only questioned Leon Brittan now over alleged 1967 rape because Director of Public Prosecutions demanded to know why they shut case with no investigation

Former Home Secretary Leon Brittan was only questioned over allegations he raped a student in 1967 following demands by the Director of Public Prosecutions, it has been claimed.

…Saunders is believed to have looked into the case herself after the campaigning Labour MP Tom Watson wrote to her asking that she examine the way the police handled the case.

The tone of the article clearly implies that the police were suspiciously slow to act – a striking contrast with the current slew of condemnatory articles in the same paper in which “campaigning Labour MP Tom Watson” has morphed into “Witch-hunter Watson“, the man who forced the police to re-open an investigation into an innocent and dying man. Case in point:

How letter from Tom Watson complaining that police had ignored Brittan rape claim struck fear into the hearts of Scotland Yard chiefs.

…A Police Federation source said: ‘Watson struck fear into the Yard’s top tier because of his role in uncovering the hacking scandal. There was extreme panic. Detectives were joking that Scotland Yard was being run by Commissioner Watson.’

This “Commissioner Watson” sound-bite does not ring true, and it seems to me that if Watson really did provoke “extreme panic” that reflects more on the police than on him. I think there are grounds to criticise how Watson has handled the allegations against Brittan (see below), but this is polemical misdirection. If the police got it wrong, it is not because “Watson made them do it”.

[Settle believes that the letter did have an effect, causing “panic” and “shock”. However, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Rodhouse rejected this at the committee, stating that he does not believe the letter had any influence.

Settle was surprised by the letter, since it followed a meeting with Watson in which he had explained to Watson why “Jane’s” case was not going forward. However, Watson says after this meeting he spoke with “Jane”, who was in a distressed state, and as a result he wrote the letter to the DPP. 

A copy of the letter was then given by “Jane” to Exaro, hence the publication on 17 May].

The decision to push on in late 2014

A further file was passed to the CPS in November 2014. However, The CPS “wrote back saying it would not consider the file because it did not meet the appropriate criteria”. The police decided to appeal this decision, for extraordinary reasons:

It was felt that these were highly unusual circumstances where the previous independence of the police to tackle sexual offending by VIPs had been publicly called into question. A decision to take no further action in respect of this allegation would undoubtedly have resulted in media criticism and public cynicism, and there was clearly a very strong public interest in ensuring that the correct decision had been made.

Lord Brittan could not therefore, at that point, have been informed that no action was to be taken in respect of this allegation. Although the MPS had concluded that there was not a strong case against Lord Brittan, the purpose of requesting a CPS view was to assess whether, in its view, it did reach the evidential standard. It would have been open for the CPS to conclude that it did not meet the threshold for charging and no further action should be taken, or that further enquiries were needed, or that there was in fact sufficient evidence for a charge. It was therefore conceivable that a reviewing CPS lawyer could have concluded that Lord Brittan could have been charged.

The matter was raised informally with the Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for London on 15 January 2015, and then in writing on the 23 January and the 2 February. Lord Brittan died on the 21January.


This must surely undermine “the principle that police officers are independent when making decisions”. Natural justice for the accused demanded that the matter be resolved as quickly as possible; yet an operational decision was instead made for public relations reasons. As a result, Brittan died before the final outcome was known.

[Rodhouse insists that the reason he wrote to the CPS in November was to ensure good practice. However, Alison Saunders, the DPP,  says that the file did not meet the clear evidential level required for it to be considered by the CPS. I had originally imagined the CPS and the police passing the file back and forth, but having heard Saunders’ explanation I no longer think that is fair. It appears that the decision was properly that of the police].

Further comments

One can see why an argument to drop the matter on the grounds of doubts around lack of consent would be controversial, but it now seems clearer than ever that the initial police decision not to proceed in 2013 has turned out to be the correct one. Evidence and testimony since collected by the police suggest that either the story is a complete fiction, or that Brittan was a victim of mistaken identity [although “Jane” told police that she saw Brittan’s name on a certificate on the wall of the location where she claims that the offence occurred]. I don’t know which, although I do think it would be better to form a judgement based on these facts, rather than on claims that “Jane” is “mentally ill” (which, even if true, may be completely irrelevant) or speculations that she is motivated by political malice. [1]

There are, of course, other allegations against Brittan. However, the testimony of several men who have linked Brittan to VIP paedophile orgies has fallen apart: one of “Nick’s” stories involving a public event cannot be substantiated, and his tales of abuse and murder include fantastical elements; another previously insisted he had not been abused by Brittan; and third said he was pushed into naming Brittan as a “joke” (much of this revealed by the BBC’s Panorama) . Watson promoted and endorsed these people, when he ought to have been more discrete, more circumspect – and more sceptical [UPDATE 2019: Nick can now be named as Carl Beech, and his claims have been found to have been fraudulent. More details here].

Operation Midland, which was set in motion by “Nick’s” allegations, is continuing, although I’d very surprised at this stage if anything of substance about VIPs comes of it. There are, however, a couple of other loose ends involving Brittan. Ironically, we turn once again to the Daily Mail, which before turning on Watson boasted in May (H/T to Joe Public) that it had

…led the way in reporting allegations [of police corruption], particularly concerning the notorious Elm Guest House in Barnes, South London, where a VIP paedophile ring is said to have operated.

There are two specific claims: (a) that a boy rescued from the Elm Guest House had mentioned “Uncle Leon” who worked “at the big houses”, but that this had been excised from his statement to police; and (b) that Brittan had been photographed by police entering the premises of a paedophile party, and that the surveillance operation was then closed down. Papers and photographs then “went missing”.

Both stories are anonymous; the former is presented as fact, despite the lack of any hard evidence. The reference to “the big houses” (or, in another version, “the big house” – the slippage here is significant) sounds contrived to me – if he knew “Uncle Leon” worked at Parliament, why not use that word? If he didn’t know, where did “big houses” come from? If he knew something in-between, wouldn’t “the place where Big Ben is” be more likely? The boy apparently now lives in the USA and does not want to talk about it.

Investigations involving Brittan are thus continuing – but are the police actually still gathering and assessing the evidence, or procrastinating?


[1] Once again, the Mail has been shameless here – in July 2014 the paper reported that:

A woman has claimed that Lord Brittan – then in his late 20s and a rising star in the Conservative Party – raped her at his London home after they went on a blind date in 1967 when she was 19.

She then said she was subject to a ‘dirty tricks campaign’ when she finally went to police in 2012 to report the alleged crime, claiming officers then launched a smear campaign to paint her as promiscuous and mentally ill.

The woman, now 66 and reported to be a Labour Party member, did not identify Lord Brittan in her interview [with Exaro News].

Subsequent Mail articles went on to describe her as a “Labour activist”, but the whole thing was re-hashed polemically at the end of September as “now it can be disclosed the woman… may have had a political motive”. This spurious “now it can be disclosed” was obviously a crude (but effective) way to generate a sense of crisis, and to minimise the paper’s own involvement in promoting lurid stories.