Pastor John Hagee Recounts Shooting Attempt

The Christian Post reports on a recent appearance by Pastor John Hagee on James Robison’s TV show:

December 1971, I started to teach my congregation about the biblical position of demonology because I was raised in a denomination that did not believe it, and said they certainly couldn’t belong to our denomination, although the devil was sitting probably on every pew. …

And it was in the second series on a Wednesday night. As I’m teaching a man walks in the front door with a loaded gun in his hand; and he walks up the aisle and he roars like a lion. My people thought it was an illustrated sermon because I talked about Jesus, the demon’s coming out with a loud roar. And they thought, boy, the preacher is really going all out.

Hagee has actually told this story of the “demonized man” numerous times over the years. According to the main details as related here, the man ordered Hagee to beg for his life or face death at the count of three; Hagee stood firm, and the man fired six shots after a count of two. Despite being just eight feet away, the man missed, with the bullet holes later found to Hagee’s left and right. The man attempted to flee, but an athletic member of the church apprehended him and he was taken away by the police.

A fuller account of the story appears in Hagee’s 2004 book The Seven Secrets (pages 63-64), which dates the occurrence to 23 December 1971 (actually a Thursday). It adds the details that the man was taken by police to the Rusk Hospital “for the criminally insane”, but released 90 days later. The man then hanged himself from “the highest tree in his backyard”.

Apparently, there were “front page” newspaper reports at the time of the shooting incident; there is also an audio recording, which Hagee played to his congregation earlier this year.

Hagee also told the story to Glenn Beck in 2011, in which the man this time managed to get out of the building, where he was “knocked down”, presumably by a vehicle, before being apprehended.

An earlier version was apparently published in the John Hagee Ministries magazine in May/June 1993, although I have only been able to see a partial re-print of the text as quoted in another source. In this version, it’s “December 24, 1972” (a Sunday), and the man “was under the direct orders of a witch”. The shots all “missed”, although (unless this part of the story has not been quoted), there’s no reference to bullets on Hagee’s left and his right. I suspect the “witch” detail reflects the Satanic Panic period during which it was published, and has been discarded in later versions.

There is also another version of the story, although the source is second-hand. A writer named Ballah Kemah claims to have seen Hagee discussing the incident on TV with Paul Crouch; this time, the gun “jammed”, and just one shot was fired, into the ceiling. Of course, Kemah’s recollection could be faulty as to these details.

Re-tellings by third parties also introduce other elements, such as a comment here where we’re told told that that the man was “an ATHEIST”.

Daily Mail Probes Esther Story as Ex-MP Interviewed By Police

UPDATE (September 2017): The CPS has declined to prosecute, and the ex-MP has now identified himself as John Hemming. He has issued a “Statement re false allegations from Esther Baker”, in which he writes that “police have now made it clear that there has been a concerted effort to promote false criminal allegations against me and that the allegations had no substance whatsoever”.

Meanwhile, Staffordshire Police has issued a statement in which it says that “throughout this process our priority has been to support Esther and ensure all potential lines of enquiry were carefully assessed and investigated.” In keeping with this, a quote from Supt Amanda Davies describes Baker as “the victim” rather than “the complainant”.

From the Daily Mail:

A former MP became the latest victim of Labour’s child sex abuse ‘witch-hunt’ yesterday.

Detectives questioned him for three hours over claims he raped girls as young as six while uniformed police kept watch.

Esther Baker, 32, waived her right to anonymity earlier this year to claim she was one of several children abused by the politician.

…The politician claimed Miss Baker, who lives in Liverpool, was being ‘manipulated by third parties driving an agenda against me’.

…He said he turned up by police appointment and was interviewed between 11.30am and 2.30pm. ‘There was a detailed discussion including me providing information about her motives for perverting the course of justice,’ he said. ‘What has happened is that the police responded to the public campaign of two Labour MPs.’

…He claimed that, before accusing him of ‘monstrous’ crimes, Miss Baker had, under an assumed name, made a different set of allegations against others, claiming she had been abused by a ‘faith-based paedophile group in a church setting’.

Baker’s account has been in the public domain for some months; the same paper that now complains about “Labour’s child sex abuse ‘witch-hunt'” was more than happy to report her story in May under the lurid headline “VIPs raped me in wood as police stood guard: Child sex abuse victim claims judge and peer were among gang”.

The paper’s newly-discovered scepticism reflects a new editorial line of attacking Tom Watson, [1] who has endorsed and promoted the claims of several alleged “survivors” in ways that have given hostages to fortune. Oddly, however, although the above story includes details about Watson, the “two Labour MPs” are not identified. The Guardian, however, clarifies the point:

The former MP said: “We must continue to listen to people who allege that they have been abused as children. We must not be derailed by … politicians, like Jess Phillips and John Mann, who have been openly campaigning on one side of this case during an ongoing police investigation.”

Mann has referred to Baker’s case in Parliament; he boasts of having a list of names of VIP paedophiles, and when Harvey Proctor’s home was raided earlier this year he crowed to the Mail that this would be the “first of many” investigations.

According to Baker’s story, she was sexually abused at night in woodland (shades of Satanic Ritual Abuse, although that does not form an explicit part of the allegations), as well as in buildings in Staffordshire. On one occasion, according to one report, “she heard one of her abusers being addressed as ‘Lord’, which, she claims, made her believe that he was God.” Apparently, there has been an arrest of someone else she has accused of being a part of this.

Baker also says that she was taken to London, and that she recognised details from “Darren” of a fake “medical room” at Dolphin Square where grotesque forms of abuse took place. In turn, “Darren” says that he recognises Baker from a photograph. However, “Darren’s” credibility has now come under considerable strain: he has a long history of disturbed behaviour, including false confessions and a hoax bomb threat, and he is no longer cooperating with police. He also made an allegation against Leon Brittan, despite previously previously denying that Brittan had abused him.

Baker has not just gone public; she has become a social-media commentator on the subject of “VIP abuse” claims, often bantering with those who take a more sceptical approach to the subject. However, those tempted to get involved should be careful: in August, she told Exaro News that there are “infiltrators” on social media who are “associated” with her abusers. Handily, that casts a shadow over anyone who might dare to raise doubts.

Today’s story follows a piece in the Mail on Sunday in which it was reported that

Questions were raised about Ms Baker’s account after it was revealed that in January, months before she publicly made the rape claim, she admitted she ‘had never met a politician in my life’. Later she said she meant that she had never met a politician in a professional capacity.

The unnamed ex-MP now adds that “Not to my knowledge have I ever met her, but she may have been at a meeting I spoke at earlier this year.” Indeed, Baker claims that it was because she attended this meeting that she was able to identify her past abuser as being this man.

This brings us to the question of the “third parties” who the MP claims are “manipulating” Baker. Baker is strongly associated with a charity for abuse survivors in Liverpool run by a man named Graham Wilmer. There have been reports of infighting between survivors and survivors’ groups (particularly in relation to the child abuse inquiry), and Wilmer is in a bitter feud with two individuals in particular. On Twitter, Wilmer has accused these two individuals of having “dodgy” links to the ex-MP, and he has posted goading messages implying that some sort of devastating exposure is just around the corner (the phrase “tick-tock” seems to be a favourite). This leaves a very poor impression – in my experience, someone alluding to the existence of a police process as evidence of criminality, particularly in a gloating manner, is a big warning sign of bad faith. [2]


[1] Note, for instance, the Mail‘s reporting of “Jane”, a woman who claims that she was raped by Leon Brittan in 1967 – in June, the paper reported that the police had closed the case due to “insufficient evidence”; only in October did the paper definitively describe the allegation as “false”. The paper attempted to downplay its change of of emphasis by stating that “Now it can be disclosed the woman… may have had a political motive because she is a Labour activist”, but this was a detail that paper had previously reported more than once anyway. Background here.

[2] More background on this from Anna Raccoon.

Some Notes on Tom Watson, the Daily Mail, and Leon Brittan

From the Daily Mail:

Watson MailLeon Brittan’s brother has demanded an apology from Labour deputy leader Tom Watson for making ‘unfounded’ sex crime allegations about the former Home Secretary.

Sir Samuel Brittan, 83, called on Mr Watson to say sorry directly to his sister-in-law, Lady Brittan, for accusing her late husband of rape and child abuse.

…Days after Lord Brittan died, Mr Watson wrote an article describing how the late peer stood ‘accused of multiple child rape’ and repeated accusations he said came from victims that he was ‘as close to evil as any human being could get’.

Other papers have reported the story, but the Mail has presented it as a front-page slash in a spirit of advocacy for Brittan’s family.

There are two issues here: is this a matter that ought to trouble Watson’s conscience, and is this a subject on which the Daily Mail has the authority to be leading the charge?

Brittan and Watson

Rumours that Brittan may have been involved in sex abuse will probably be impossible to comprehensively debunk. An innocent person accused of having committed a sex crime at a certain place and on a certain date may be fortunate enough to have an alibi; but on the other hand, they may not. An innocent person accused of abusing someone (perhaps unspecified) at a vague location at some point several decades ago is in an even more difficult predicament.

In Brittan’s case, there are multiple accusers, which may strengthen the case for the prosecution. But given that the rumours are old and have been in the public domain for a long time (see below), the problem is that accusers may have heard these stories before coming forward. And the specific testimony on which Watson has based his campaigning has now been shown to be doubtful in the case of “Jane”, and fatally flawed in the case of three men currently claiming to have been abused as children by Brittan at sex parties.

Jane” claims to have been raped by Brittan as a young adult woman in the 1960s. Police, according to an recent report, undertook an “exhaustive investigation, which included tracking down key witnesses and examining Lord Brittan’s job and domestic arrangements at the time of the alleged offence”, and the results of this “undermined his accuser’s story.” The police decided there was no case to answer, and there is no serious reason to believe that this decision was unsound.

“Nick”: we now know (a) that Nick first accused his late step-father of abuse 2012; VIPs were only added to the story gradually (and, apparently, following media stories), and then the allegations of murder; (b) that his claim that a school-friend was deliberately run down in Kingston in 1979 has been investigated and found to be unsubstantiated;* and (c) that his stories contain luridly fantastical elements, such as Ted Heath intervening to prevent him from being castrated by Harvey Proctor.

Further, “Nick’s” claim that he was subjected to sadistic abuse by Jimmy Savile does not fit with other allegations against Savile; he is the only current accuser of Greville Janner to place Janner within the context of orgiastic VIP paedophilia in London (although the claim does also appear, unsourced, in David Icke’s 1998 conspiracy opus The Biggest Secret); and he is the only accuser to also claim that Brittan was present at a party where child murder was committed. Raids on the homes of Brittan, Proctor, and Lord Bramall as a result of Nick’s allegations have all drawn blanks.

Nick, I suspect, was the source of the “close to evil” quote used by Watson, for which Watson has now expressed regret.

“Darren”: “Darren” wrote an email two years ago confirming that Brittan had not abused him, and describing Brittan as a “poor man”.* He also has a history of dishonesty and disturbed behaviour.

“David”: “David” has retracted his allegation, and claims that Brittan’s name was put to him as a “joke” by Chris Fay,* a former social worker who in 2011 went to prison for fraud.

[*These details from Panorama]

Fay himself claims to have seen compromising photos of Brittan, but this is hearsay from a man with a history of criminal dishonesty.

The news site Exaro argues that we should not express scepticism while the police are still investigating, but given its aggressive and sensationalising advocacy on behalf of Brittan’s accusers, this is very hard to take. And there are now serious questions about how the police are (mis)handling VIP allegations; it is not reasonable to expect people to suspend their critical judgement indefinitely, or for those affected by the allegations not to complain when things drag on.

<>We know that Watson met “Nick” and was impressed by him, but it’s now very clear that his confidence in “Nick” and the others has been misplaced. Perhaps some credible evidence against Brittan may yet emerge, but that’s a truism that applies to many unsubstantiated accusations.

Brittan and the Daily Mail

The Mail (here meaning both the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday) has a mixed record on the subject of Brittan. As regards the allegations of child abuse, the Mail highlighted an old suggestion from Private Eye that Brittan had been the victim of an MI5 smear in the 1980s (here and here). However, it also ran a sensationalising article claiming that Brittan had been “named” in an MI5 file, as evidence of how “the VIP paedophile scandal” had “deepened”.

Further, in December last year it published an article with “chilling details” about the the Elm Guest House, based on the story of a boy who was rescued from the premises during a police raid:

Was there a cover-up? We now understand that the social worker present at the boy’s interview in 1982 was later shown copies of the resulting police statement. What struck him most was what had been left out.

The man recalled that during the boy’s testimony at Richmond Police Station, he had spoken of an abuser whom he called ‘Uncle XXXXX’. This abuser worked ‘at the big houses’, the boy said.

As the boy talked, at least two of those officials present came to independent realisations of his testimony’s significance. 

…It had become clear to them that the boy was describing a prominent politician of the time. The Mail knows the identity of the politician, but cannot name him for legal reasons.

Yet no politician was ever charged or even questioned, as far as we know, and there is a simple reason for this.

When the same eyewitness to the boy’s interview was later shown the child’s police statement — which should have been a verbatim account of all his allegations — there was no mention of ‘Uncle XXXXX’ or the naïve reference to the Houses of Parliament. It had simply disappeared (if it were ever put to paper at all).

Other reports in other papers confirm that “Uncle XXXXX” was indeed supposed to have been “Uncle Leon”; the Mail refrained from naming Brittan “for legal reasons”, not because they thought it would be unethical. The boy concerned reportedly now lives in the USA, and has declined to cooperate further with police. [1]

On the subject of “Jane”, the Mail was happy to report last year on how “campaigning Labour MP Tom Watson” had encouraged the DPP to action, under the clearly insinuating headline “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”. In June, it published an even-handed account of the police decision about “Jane”, which was re-hashed and given a more polemical angle a few days ago and bizarrely presented as if new.

However, the area where the Mail was more aggressive against Brittan concerned the claim that, while serving as Home Secretary, he had suppressed a dossier on paedophilia given to him by Geoffrey Dickens MP. Dickens was an energetic campaigner against a radical pro-paedophile lobby, but he was also a homophobe and his dossier was unlikely to contain much of value. Later in the decade, he embraced lurid conspiracy theories about Satanism and witchcraft. The dossier would have been more of media stunt than anything, and he never complained that Brittan had mishandled it. Yet the myth has arisen that this dossier was crucial evidence of VIP paeophilia, and that Brittan had “lost” it.

References to the dossier appear in several Mail articles, including a lurid piece on “Nick’s” murder allegations that headlined “the growing stench of a cover-up by the Establishment”. Brittan’s association with Fiona Woolf was raised as a reason why Woolf was not suitable to lead the judicial enquiry into child abuse, under the headline “So was this ANOTHER party with Leon Brittan you forgot, Mrs Woolf?: Pressure grows on beleaguered sex abuse inquiry chief to resign… as MoS uncovers new link to ex-minister who ‘lost’ vital evidence”. “Lost” in quotation marks obviously insinuates that Brittan had acted corruptly.

The story of the dossier was also put into a scandalous juxtaposition in an illustration to go with the December 2014 article about the “Uncle XXXXX” accuser:

Brittan Mail Elm

Further, while Watson’s pursuit of Brittan over “Jane” is now portrayed as a vindictive campaign against a dying man, the Mail was sceptical when Brittan’s health was raised in relation to Simon Danczuk MP’s grandstanding over the dossier:

Amazingly, Mr Danczuk was even warned he could be responsible for Lord Brittan’s death if he was subjected to the stress of becoming embroiled in a public row.

The Mail even foregrounded the dossier in reports about Brittan’s death earlier this year, with one report headlined “Now will we ever find truth on abuse dossier? As tributes pour in for Leon Brittan after his death at 75, a troubling question”; another piece highlighted a quote from Danczuk that Brittan’s death was “‘a sad day for the survivors of child sex abuse’ still waiting for answers over lost paedophile dossier”.

The Mail also followed Exaro in reporting that Brittan had been buried in an “unmarked grave”, although it amended this to “undisclosed location”

More generally, the Mail has been happy to promote the rantings of John Mann MP, a demagogue who boasts about having a list of VIP paedophiles and whose glee at the police raid on Harvey Proctor included the claim that Proctor “will be first of many to be investigated.” However, Mann has described himself as “blue Labour”, placing himself on the right of the party. That’s the opposite pole from Watson, who has progressed from “campaigning Labour MP” several months ago to Deputy Leader of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.

I suspect that this political promotion, and the fact that the allegations against Brittan promoted by Exaro appear to be falling apart anyway, have more to do with the reverse ferret than a newly-discovered sense of outrage over Brittan’s ruined reputation.

UPDATE (16 October): More today.


[1] According to the Mail:

…By the following year, the boy, who was in local authority care, was insisting that his original statement was largely untrue. Officials believe that Carole Kasir [the Elm Guest House manager] had managed to communicate with him in order to buy his silence.

The story followed a piece in the Telegraph, which had been published the previous July:

Scotland Yard has tracked down a child at the centre of an alleged 1980s Westminster paedophile ring who has implicated a senior political figure, The Telegraph can disclose.

…The alleged victim is understood to have named the senior figure. During his original interview in 1982 the child referred to his abuser working at “the big house”, which detectives believe was the Houses of Parliament.

…This newspaper understands the retired detective [who interviewed the boy] was reluctant to go into detail about why information about the politician was not included into witness statements at the time or submitted into evidence as part of a potential prosecution.

As this implies, and as the Mail article makes clear, there is in fact no documentation from 1982 to confirm what would have been a very early allegation against Brittan (Note also that the “the big house” here becomes “the big houses” in the Mail).

Bishop Peter Ball and Failures to Tackle Manipulative Abuse in the Church of England

From the Church Times:

Bishop [Peter] Ball, aged 83, was jailed after a hearing at the Old Bailey by the Hon. Mr Justice Wilkie on Wednes­day after pleading guilty last month to two charges of indecent assault against two boys in their teens in the 1980s, and also a charge of mis­conduct in public office (News, 11 September).

The second charge relates to “manipulative behaviour, including several specific sexual offences, against 16 young men in their late teens or early twenties”, Sussex Police said at the time.

…The Rt Revd Lord Carey of Clifton, who was Archbishop of Canterbury when Bishop Ball was cautioned in 1993, has… apologised.

He said: “I greatly regret the fact that during my tenure as Arch­bishop of Canterbury we dealt inadequately with Peter Ball’s victims and gave too much credence to his protesta­tions. In the past we failed many victims and allowed abusers to flourish in ministry.

“Allegations by some that my actions amounted to a cover-up or collusion with the abuser are wrong.

Most of these crimes occurred while he had been the suffragan Bishop of Lewes, although the initial complaint against him at the end of 1992 was made not long after he had become the Bishop of Gloucester.

The Daily Mail has some of the specific details:

Allegations against Ball were first made in 1992 by novice monk Neil Todd, one of many boys abused at the bishop’s house at Litlington, East Sussex. 

Bobbie Cheema QC, prosecuting, said the teenager had been introduced by Ball to what he called ‘penitential psalms’. 

This involved saying prayers naked at night in a chapel before Ball watched the teenager taking a cold shower and pulled down his underpants.

Ball, who called the youngster ‘love’ and ‘gorgeous’, went on to suggest he be beaten with a stick or whipped so his body could ‘bear the marks’.

The abuse emerged after he tried to commit suicide in 1992. Gloucestershire Police launched an investigation, prompting more victims to come forward.

I wrote about the case after Ball pleaded guilty last month. It’s a subject that is of some personal interest to me, having stayed at the bishop’s house in Litlington myself for a few days after leaving school. The chapel was a converted outhouse in the property’s garden; it was explained to me by Ball that the naked prayers was a penitential practice that members of his “Give a Year for Christ” scheme would sometimes choose to undergo, although I’m not aware of anyone at the house while I was there participating in the practice.

A cover-up?

As I wrote in my earlier blog entry, it does seem that a cover-up occurred; when Ball was issued with a caution in early 1993, many reports were vague and the general impression was that there had been some unfortunate grope or misunderstanding, despite an account given by the victim in the Sun under the headline “Evil Bishop Drove Me to Suicide”. Here’s what a 1993 profile by Graham Turner in the Sunday Telegraph had to say:

The details of what actually went on at Bishopscourt, [Ball’s] home in Gloucester, are still murky. As in all such matters, the whole truth is impossible to ascertain, but what seems to have happened is that, while the young man was staying there last year, there took place a series of incidents which, according to the Bishop, sprang from his desire to help and comfort someone in considerable distress and which did involve physical contact.

The young man, however, who last week sold his version of event to the Sun after offering it to at least one other national newspaper, claims that the Bishop sexually assaulted him, He duly duly complained to the police, who then spent 15 weeks turning out every cupboard in Ball’s life over the past 20 years.

Whatever else the police found – and there may well have been other allegations – they evidently decided to take no further action.

Turner may as well have just said plainly that Ball was the victim of a false allegation by someone wanting to make some money from the newspapers. The dismissive detail that “there may well have been other allegations” leaves the strong impression that Turner knew damn well that there had been.

One person who knew for sure was George Carey, who made enquiries to see if the CPS intended to look into these other allegations. When he was told that the CPS would not being doing so, Carey did not feel that the Church of England needed to enquire further, either. This apparently remained the case even when a new complaint was made in 1996 by someone who said he had been abused by Ball some years before when he was aged 13. Then, in 2006, the Bishop of Chichester, Eric Kemp (who was essentially Ball’s line manager while Ball was Bishop of Lewes) published a memoir in which he now-notoriously referred to “mischief-makers”; it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that his memoir was calculated to mislead by smearing the complainants and downplaying the extent of the allegations.

According to the BBC last month:

The CPS said a caution given to Peter Ball in 1993 was wrong as there was sufficient evidence to prosecute.

However, it said its approach to sexual abuse has changed and such a decision would not be made today.

During Ball’s sentencing, it was revealed that the police in 1993 had received many character witnesses on Ball’s behalf:

Bobbie Cheema QC, prosecuting, said: “The police report that accompanied the papers sent to the CPS in 1993 after the police had done their work stated they had received telephone calls supportive of Peter Ball ‘from many dozens of people – including MPs, former public school headmasters, JPs and even a lord chief justice'”.

She said there were many more letters of support, including from cabinet ministers and a member of the royal family.

The member of the royal family is widely thought to have been Prince Charles, who was a personal friend of Ball and who arranged for his accommodation after his resignation (I recall that Ball had a signed photograph of Charles on display at his home). While the CPS would still have been free to make its own decisions, it is obvious that such support would have been a significant informal pressure to drop the matter. The widespread view now is that this was simply “the establishment” closing ranks, but it should be remembered that, regrettably, there was genuine widespread incredulity at the idea that Ball had committed a crime: unusually (exotically, even) Ball was was a monk, and with his good-humoured and gentle manner he appeared to embody spirituality and personal holiness. I’m not sure that any other bishop would have automatically received the same amount of support.

However, once Ball had admitted an offence – in “great penitence and sorrow”, according to his statement following his caution – his supporters ought to have been more circumspect. Would a 61-year-old really have offended for the first time at such an age? If this was just a one-off mistake for which he was sorry, why had he lied for several weeks by protesting his innocence? Many people, though, retained an affectionate view of the man and would have been very willing to believe minimising spin such as Turner’s whitewash. [1]

Inevitably, the internet is awash with allegations about his association with Prince Charles, and how this in turn must have something to do with Jimmy Savile; one crackpot claim, put forward by Meirion Jones on Twitter yesterday, was that BBC Panorama‘s critical look at claims of a “Westminster paedophile ring” was scheduled for broadcast on the eve of Ball’s sentencing in order to discredit claims that Ball had benefited from the intervention of a “Tory politician”

Consent, manipulative abuse, and “public office”: some thoughts

Guardian editorial about Ball considers the issue of consent:

The greatest change between then and now is the slow emergence of a sexual ethic based on consent to replace the old one based on duty. This is not complete yet and may never be. Consent is the right test in theory, but its absence is notoriously hard to apply in court; the tangles of the human heart cannot be combed out by pretending that sexual dealings can work like clear commercial contracts.

Ball’s offending, so far as has been established by his guilty pleas (which do not include two complaints that amount to child abuse – these, oddly, have been allowed to remain on file) was an abuse of religious authority. Although there were sexual assaults that have been admitted (a Sunday Times article refers to the “groping bishop”), other offences did not involve physically overpowering or threatening his victims, and those who stayed at his home were free to leave at any time. I suspect allegations of this sort would have been tricky to pursue, despite the CPS’s new-found confidence.

Thus, presumably, the recourse to “misconduct in a public office”. The legal definition of “public officer” is vague, and Ball’s lawyers initially attempted to argue that it should not include “bishop”. Presumably again, a significant factor here would be the fact that the Church of England is the established church; would the manipulative behaviour which has led to Ball’s conviction on this score still have been an offence had he been a religious leader in some other denomination?

Also, does this now mean that vicars of the Church of England are also now confirmed as being “public officers”? If so, this must surely affect how other cases of manipulative abuse are looked at. In particular, I’m thinking of two other clerical scandals from the same period.

In 1994, it was revealed that a certain Rev Andrew Arbuthnot, of the London Healing mission, had been subjecting vulnerable women to intimate intrusions in the guise of exorcisms. From the Herald Scotland:

POLICE are investigating allegations that an Anglican priest practised exorcisms involving internal ”cleansing” of sexually abused women.

Old Etonian the Rev Andrew Arbuthnot is reported to have poured wine over the victims’ genitals and to have inserted crucifixes and used fingers to make the sign of a cross in their vaginas.

An account of the investigation, Operation Lentil, appears in Charismania, a 1997 book by a journalist named Roland Howard:

After several months of investigation Detective Inspector Turner’s team raided the London Healing Mission. They found the bottles of Dubonnet, the initialized tubs of Vaseline and the specially soundproofed room… The Arbuthnots were subsequently charged with indecent assault, false imprisonment and actual bodily harm. Much later, against the wishes of Detective Inspector Turner, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charges. “It was decided”, he says “that one of the problems evidentially was the issue of consent amongst those involved”. (page 106)

Would this be handled the same way today?

Arbuthnot is now deceased, but so far as I am aware, the perpetrator in a second case, which emerged the following year, is still alive. This is the former Reverend Chris Brain, who ran the “alternative” Nine O’Clock Service under Church of England auspices in Sheffield. Brain was a charismatic figure, who was allowed to cut a few corners on his path to ordination due to his ability to attract the youth to church – but it turned out that he was a classic sociopath who was running what the media inevitably described as being a “sex cult”. The Independent reported:

As many as 150 former members of the radical Anglican group, the Nine O’Clock Service, still in Sheffield are receiving counselling following the group’s suspension by the Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev David Lunn.

…Mr Brain, 38, who has a wife and five-year-old daughter, has admitted to church officials that he “enjoyed sexual favours” from as many as 20 of his female followers.

…The Rev Paddy Mallon, a former colleague, said: “Many members have left the Sheffield area because they were so traumatised by the whole situation. As many as 150 are now receiving counselling elsewhere as far as I know…”

Brain’s abuses caused misery, but he was never arrested. Might this now be looked at again? When compared with Ball’s predations, I don’t see why not.


[1] Not everyone was taken in by this, though; the conservative evangelical clergyman Tony Higton wrote an attack on Carey’s handling of the affair in the Christian Herald, in which – as summarised by Ruth Gledhill in the Times – he pointed out that “some of the abuses were allegedly in a religious context, which made them blasphemous” (“Carey ‘made light of bishop’s sin'”, The Times, March 24, 1993).

(Amended and updated – I had not originally been aware of the Sunday Telegraph profile or the Sun story)

Panorama Defies Police “Concerns” To Investigate VIP Abuse Claims

Another lengthy statement from the Metropolitan Police:

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has serious concerns about the impact of [BBC Panorama] on its investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse and homicide, on the witnesses involved, and on the willingness of victims of abuse to come forward to police.

We have warned previously about the risks of media investigations compromising a criminal investigation. When we initially launched our Operation Midland appeal, we specifically highlighted how a media organisation – the BBC in fact – had shown pictures of individuals to ‘Nick’ which could compromise the evidential chain should a case ever proceed to court.

We continue to be concerned about approaches to witnesses by all media, and that warning was reinforced by the Attorney General on Friday, 25 September…

Much of the same ground was covered by a statement in September. The new press release was issued ahead of  last night’s Panorama documentary, and it was received with glee by Exaro News, which was briefing furiously against the programme in the days before transmission. Exaro and its supporters take the view that when unpopular Conservatives from the 1970s and 1980s are accused of the most lurid crimes it would be very wrong to engage in any kind of critical scrutiny of how the police are handling allegations, or express any kind of doubts or scepticism (a rather odd kind of “anti-establishment” pose).

Boiled down, the statement simply makes the obvious point that complainants will be more likely to come forward with allegations involving high-profile individuals if they think they will automatically be believed. We’ve seen where this credulous approach leads already, with a slew of false accusations against entertainers and celebrities such as Jim Davidson, Jimmy Tarbuck, Paul Gambaccini, and Bill Roache.

Of course, we must always be wary of unfairly dismissing an allegation against a powerful or respected individual (as happened in the case of the abuser Bishop Peter Ball, who was regarded as a saintly figure when I was growing up), but there is no point misleading complainants about the obstacles to belief, either. Central to “Operation Midland”, for instance, is the claim that Ted Heath was an orgiastic paedophile who intervened at a sex party to prevent “Nick” from being castrated. It’s an incredible tale, and had I witnessed the scene myself I would not expect other people to believe me if I told them about it. Two other accusers who featured in the programme, “Darren” and Chis Fay, both have histories of criminal dishonesty; that it itself does not disprove their claims, but no-one making serious allegations on matters of public interest can reasonably expect that their character will not come under scrutiny.

In fact, there was nothing in the Panorama programme that would reasonably deter genuine victims or witnesses from coming forward, and the substantive information it revealed was very valuable. Many of these details are now in press reports; according to the New York Times:

One of the murders Nick said he witnessed supposedly took place in 1979. He said he had been walking down the street in Kingston, West London, with a friend from school when a car ran over his friend and killed him. Nick said he himself was dragged into the car, driven by a member of the V.I.P. gang, and warned not to make friends again.

But the BBC investigation found no public record of a murder or accident in the described location at the time. It also tracked down all the boys at Nick’s school at the time with the first name he had provided for his friend. All of them are either alive or died in different circumstances than those described by Nick.

While the Guardian explains:

A vulnerable man who made sex abuse allegations against politicians, including the former home secretary Leon Brittan, has told the BBC he “just went along with” names that were initially suggested as a joke.

The man told Panorama he may have been led into making the claims by campaigners who provided the names of a number of high-profile figures “as a joke suggestion to start with”, but which were later repeated in earnest.

This witness, named as “David” in the programme, named one of these campaigners as Chris Fay. He accused Fay of bothering him with phone calls, and said that the police had looked into a possible attempt to pervert the course of justice. “David” may be looking to downplay his own culpability for spreading a false allegation, but it remains the case that he has retracted. Another man who featured in the programme, “Mark”, flatly denied Chris Fay’s claim that he (“Mark”) had been taken to the Elm Guest House and been abused there.

A further detail in the programme concerns “Darren”; according to the report, Darren sent an email to a social worker two years ago in which he had specifically denied having been abused by Leon Brittan:

Leon Brittan never abused me or anyone I know, so why name the poor man?

This directly contradicts “Darren’s” testimony as reported by Exaro. Even if there’s some reason why this apparent denial should not be taken at face value (and that’s a very big “if”), its existence is nevertheless highly significant. Did Exaro not know about it, or did it decide that this was information (like Fay’s fraud conviction) that readers did not need to know about?

Like any other programme, Panorama had its limitations: for instance, there was no time to go into the murky forces that first smeared Brittan in the 1980s (and which explains why his name was so likely to come up again more recently), and there was nothing about one one of Exaro‘s other alleged witnesses, Esther Baker. Tom Watson came in for criticism over his communications with police about accusers (although it should be remembered that the police were not obliged to act on his suggestions), but there was nothing about John Mann, who aggressively boasts, like a latter-day Senator McCarthy, about having a list of names of abusers (on Twitter, Mann has been reduced to apoplexy by the documentary, demanding resignations, making nasty allegations of bad faith, and suggesting that the BBC should have instead reported on different allegations of abuse).

And what of the other “campaigners” mentioned in relation to “David”? Back in the 1990s, David came into contact with Fay via a charity (NAYPIC). More recently, however, Fay has been working with a man named Bill Maloney, and it is likely that both have been in contact with “David”. Maloney is an alarming character, whose conspiracy-mongering rivals anything that David Icke or Alex Jones could come up with: the Queen is a sex abuser, and so was the Queen Mother; the removal of asbestos from Parliament is a cover story for removing DNA evidence of abuse and murder; the invasion of Iraq was initiated because Saddam knew about VIP sex abuse. And so on. Yet this man, who is extravagant, reckless, and highly aggressive in his accusations, appears to be a central figure in activism on historic child sexual abuse.

There is much more work to be done. If people have been falsely accused, they deserve justice and exoneration. We also need to look at why false allegations are gaining traction, before more lives are blighted by them (I’m sure Mann would have a different view on things if he was on the receiving end of a complaint himself). This is not a distraction from uncovering genuine abuse – it’s an essential part of the same mission.

Exaro Unleashes Attacks on BBC Panorama

As the BBC’s current affairs programme Panorama prepares to broadcast a critical documentary on lurid and sensational allegations of a murderous “Westminster Paedophile Ring” supposedly operating from the 1970s to the 1990s, Exaro News, which has staked its credibility on the claims, has, as ever, decided to get its retaliation in first, with a series of increasingly vicious denunciations and manipulative distortions that rival any of the worst excesses of the tabloid media.

1 October: The “Smear” Smear

The first attack appeared on 1 October, with Mark Watts headlining “Panorama’s Plans to Smear Survivors of Child Abuse“. Gone was the pretence that the site was merely reporting the progress of a police investigation, which was the line taken after one of those accused of being a murderous abuser (the former MP Harvey Proctor) had the temerity to assert his innocence. According to Watts:

Panorama plans to smear abuse survivors, criticise Exaro and other media over their reports on VIP paeophiles, and undermine MPs who campaigned on the issue.

Watts revealed that the programme will claim that Chris Fay, formerly of the National Association for Young People in Care (NAYPIC), had made up details and manipulated alleged victims into naming VIPs. Oddly, Watts didn’t feel the need to mention that Fay was convicted of fraud in 2011, although he did manage to introduce gratuitous references to Stuart Hall and Jimmy Savile, who were both employed by the BBC.

For those wanting the short version, Exaro‘s Twitter feed had some red meat for the mob:

BBC’s Panorama seeks to discredit police witnesses and supporters despite scandal over Jimmy Savile (1); BBC journalists fear backlash from Panorama’s smears of abuse survivors, esp given BBC history with #childsexabuse (2); BBC chiefs keen to rubbish claims about #VIPaedophiles, while delaying publication of Smith review on Jimmy Savile (3)

It is supposed to be self-evident that the reporters on the programme must be exceptionally foul individuals, motivated by a wicked determination to protect dead or elderly VIP paedophiles. We do not need evidence, or even a plausible hypothesis, for such a course of action, just the repetition of “Jimmy Savile”.

2 October: Whatabouttery

The next day, this was followed by “Analysis: Why I Turned Down Panorama’s Interview Request“, in which Watts – who used to present a show on Iran’s Press TV and who was recently interviewed by George Galloway on RT – explained why he wouldn’t sully himself with the BBC:

Your letter betrays Panorama’s complete lack of objectivity in its approach to the subject. You say that you want to look at issue relating to the truth of the claims, yet you totally omit a crucial tranche of the available evidence.

A major aspect of Exaro’s work on the subject concerns claims by ex-police that as operations started to uncover evidence of child sex abuse by VIPs, senior officers shut them town improperly.

Certainly, the fact that the police may not have properly investigated various allegations against VIPs over the years is a subject that should be looked into – but Panorama‘s concern is with one story, based for the most part on the testimony of one anonymous accuser. If true, it would be most sensational story in British political history: that a former Prime Minister and the heads of MI5 and MI6 were orgiastic paedophiles, who consorted with high-profile ministers and MPs who were also child murderers, and who raped and killed with impunity.

If false, however, we must have grave concerns about whether the police have allowed themselves to get caught up in a panic comparable to the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” scare of the 1980s and 1990s. This is also a subject worthy of urgent attention.

Of course, readers looking for a reference to Jimmy Savile were not disappointed:

…The BBC is hardly a disinterested party on the subject. There are two well-established cases of VIP paeophiles. Both were VIP paedophiles… Sir Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall.

5 October (1): “I know where you used to live”

After these opening shots, Exaro decided to get personal, with Watts announcing:

Panorama reporter Daniel Foggo on #VIPaedophiles prog lived “over the road” frm Sir Peter Morrison as a boy – Exaro. (1) Daniel Foggo on living as a boy over road from Sir Peter Morrison: “I was only made aware of this earlier this yr.” (2)

Morrison, who died in 1995, has been the subject of posthumous allegations of pederasty. But what is Watts implying here? That Foggo, or perhaps his parents, had some secret association with Morrison? Or is this just intimidation based on personal intrusion?

But this particular disclosure hasn’t gone down well with some journalistic peers; comments have included: “Exaro getting desperate… What kind of mad conspiracy bullshit is this?” (James Jones); “New low… drivel” (Tim Tate, a hack not averse to “ritual abuse” stories); “What happened to @ExaroNews? This tweet feels like the final nail” (Roddy Mansfield).

5 October (2): The “Leak” Leak

The reference to Foggo also appears in passing in yet another Exaro hit piece: “Met Investigates Panorama Source over Leak of CSA Survivor’s ID“. According to this exclusive:

Police are investigating a senior detective who is a confidential source for BBC1’s Panorama over the leaking of secret identities of complainants in abuse cases.

Communications seen by Exaro reveal the Metropolitan Police Service’s directorate of professional standards launched the investigation into the officer last month. He is suspected of improperly disclosing to journalists the name, address and other details of a complainant…

Note the slippage here from “complainants” to “a complainant”, but that’s not the only problem. Exaro has two anonymous accusers. They cannot be named for legal reasons, but their identities are not “secret”: they both interacted with the media and made public statements before becoming involved with Exaro. It is entirely possible that Panorama got the information it required without any “leak” from police. According to the police themselves, according to the BBC News website:

Scotland Yard said: “The Directorate of Professional Standards is investigating a public complaint received by them in September 2015 regarding the improper disclosure of information to the media.

“At this stage there is an ongoing inquiry. We are not prepared to comment any further.”

On Twitter, Exaro has ratcheted up the implications of this:

Met’s PSD probe will investigate why Panorama police source has been trying to destabilise ongoing criminal cases. (1) Officer under investigation is, ironically, a confidential source for Panorama’s attempt to “debunk” #VIPaedophiles (2)

So, who made the “public complaint”? Tim Tate has asked Watts if it was him, but Watts has declined to respond. Given that the complaint was lodged a month ago, this all looks incredibly contrived and circular. The officer is accused – that means there has to be an investigation – that means he’s a suspect – that means there must have been a leak – that means there’s grounds for a complaint. Also, it was wrong for the officer to talk to Panorama, which means that Panorama is getting information from the wrong sort of person, someone who wants “to destabilise ongoing criminal cases”.

But we don’t know that there was a leak, or that the officer is even really “suspected” by his colleagues.


One wonders if this is the extent of Exaro‘s arsenal, or whether the impending broadcast will inspire further extravagances during the day ahead. If there’s more to come, I struggle to imagine the depths that will be plumbed.

Exaro‘s strapline is “Holding power to account”, but there is little evidence of this in the site’s recent output. Rather than “holding power to account”, the site’s main reason for being appears to be to avoid being accountable itself, by churning out self-serving smears and nasty innuendo. Given the high hopes when the site was established (A 2012 profile in the Guardian was headlined “How Mark Watts of Exaro Aims to Return to Fleet Street’s Golden Age”), this is a sad end.

Daily Mail Returns to Leon Brittan and “Jane” as VIP Abuse Claims Come Under Scrutiny

From the Daily Mail:

Woman who falsely accused Lord Brittan of raping her is a Labour activist who admitted hating the Tories

A woman who falsely claimed Leon Brittan raped her in 1967 is a veteran Labour activist with mental health problems.

…Scotland Yard exonerated him five months after his death following a drawn out inquiry. It found ‘absolutely no evidence’ to support his accuser’s account.

Now it can be disclosed the woman, known by the pseudonym Jane, may have had a political motive because she is a Labour activist who admits hating Tories.

This is a rather peculiar usage of the phrase “now it can be disclosed”; in July 2014 the same paper had reported:

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…

Which was followed in January 2015 with:


The woman who alleged Leon Brittan raped her in 1967 is a veteran Labour Party member who told police she regarded him as a political ‘enemy’. 

And then in June with:

…Lord Brittan, who went on to become Home Secretary under Margaret Thatcher, was questioned under caution last summer after Labour activist ‘Jane’ came forward and accused him of raping her in 1967.

Today’s new report is the first time (at least, so far as I can see) that the paper has definitively described the allegation as “false”; it also includes the extra detail that “Jane” had also made a false allegation against a relative, although there’s some slippage from “had earlier wrongly branded a relative a paedophile” in the subheading to “had previously suspected – also wrongly – that a close relative was a paedophile” in the main text. Further:

The exhaustive investigation, which included tracking down key witnesses and examining Lord Brittan’s job and domestic arrangements at the time of the alleged offence, undermined his accuser’s story.

However, this is all otherwise old news, which appears to have been rehashed in order to attack Tom Watson MP, now the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

Watson was formerly described by the paper as “campaigning MP Tom Watson”, and back in early 2013 the Mail‘s associate news editor Stephen Wright (whose byline appears on several of the above articles, including the most recent) was impressed enough to Tweet that “Cynics accused MP Tom Watson of seeking cheap headlines when he raised fears over alleged VIP paedophile ring. Could they eat their words?” Brittan was accused of being part of this ring, with the Mail breathlessly reporting “disturbing new allegations” from Exaro’s “Darren” (now estranged from the internet news site) in July.

The climate has now changed somewhat. The Mail was happy enough to print sensational allegations more or less uncritically for a time, but at some point the only way to generate fresh copy is to start to take a critical look. And when the right moment comes, it pays to be the first to jump ship.

But there are also three specific factors at play here:

1. Obviously, the Mail is a Conservative paper, and so “get Watson” is now a priority, given his recent elevation. Watson’s endorsement of “Jane” as “credible”, as well as his willingness to promote the claims of other alleged “survivors” who are now coming under critical scrutiny, appear to have given hostages to fortune.

2. Journalists are now alert to a very interesting story about how the police are  handling the “Westminster paedophile ring” allegations. August saw the ridiculous theatre of a police superintendent giving a press conference outside Edward Heath’s former home, inviting members of the public to come forward with accusations of child sex abuse. This was followed shortly afterwards by the revelation from Harvey Proctor that the police had put to him the allegation that Heath had on one occasion prevented him (Proctor) from castrating a boy at a paedophile orgy. Police have also apparently been taking seriously the allegation that the ring also included the heads of MI5 and MI6, among others. Of course this is going to provoke discussion, and a bit of digging.

3. Operation Yewtree has had some successes in convicting celebrities of historic sex abuse, but we have also now seen instances in which innocent men (e.g. here, here and here) have been treated as suspects for extended periods  on the basis of very flimsy testimony before the matter was dropped. Again, the time must come when everyone starts thinking, “hang on a minute…”

Thus the Mail is at last now taking a critical look at “Nick”, source of the allegations about Heath and Proctor (as well as being another Brittan accuser), while the Telegraph has revealed discrediting details about “Darren”, source of the “disturbing new allegations” about Brittan published by the Mail in July (both pieces discussed here). Their allegations include not just orgiastic child abuse at Dolphin Square, but also child murder.

The Mail has also at last discovered the old news that Chris Fay, “a child protection officer who first named former Home Secretary Leon Brittan and other prominent figures as members of an alleged VIP paedophile ring”, was “once jailed for fraud.” In December, the same paper had reported that

Chris Fay, of the now-defunct National Association of Young People in Care, said a Special Branch detective held a gun to his head, telling him to stop investigating an alleged paedophile ring at Elm Guest House in south-west London.

The fraud conviction was in 2011.

Meanwhile, the BBC is preparing to broadcast a critical documentary on the subject, as part of the Panorama strand. Exaro, which has invested heavily in the various accusers, wants us to believe that the programme is being made in order to “smear” survivors, and that it all has something to do with the BBC’s past employment of Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall (“Nick” claims that the paedophile orgies he says he was forced to attend as a child sometimes included Savile).

Labour MP John Mann (who, being on the right of the party, is not facing the same kind of critical backlash from the Mail as Watson) also appears to believe that the programme is being made in bad faith by people wanting to protect child abusers. On Twitter, he has suggested that Panorama received a list of alleged VIP paedophiles in 1984 (probably one of Geoffrey Dickens’s much-mythologised “dossiers”), and that this should have formed the basis for a programme.