Daily Mail Says “None of Us Should be Condemned or Vilified Until Our Guilt is Proved”

Mail Jefferies

Operation Midland

A thundering editorial from the Daily Mail:

An ugly chapter in the history of the police

As the inquiry into a fantasist’s allegations of a VIP paedophile ring draws to its ignominious close, so too does a truly ugly chapter in the history of Scotland Yard.

Nothing is more fundamental to liberty and the rule of law than the presumption of innocence – the principle that none of us should be condemned or vilified until our guilt is proved.

Operation Midland has turned that cornerstone of justice on its head.

…Adding nastiness to breathtaking credulity, Sir Bernard [Hogan-Howe, head of the Met] allowed former Home Secretary Sir Leon Brittan to die under a cloud of suspicion and vilification before deigning to let his widow know the case had been dropped. Even then, he hadn’t the grace to issue a full apology.

Operation Midland, as is widely known, was set up towards the end of 2014 to investigate the claims of a man known as “Nick”, who says he was subjected to torture and sex abuse by VIPs as a child in 1970s and 1980s, and that he witnessed the murder of three children. Leon Brittan was among those he accused, although the above paragraph actually refers to a rape allegation that was made by someone else.

Nick’s claims are gothically extravagant, and have come under increasing critical scrutiny in recent months. Allegations against Lord Bramall in particular were formally dropped a few weeks ago, and it has been recently reported that the whole Operation is set to close down. This may or may not be accurate, but it is the case that Operation Midland merged into Operation Fairbank, a broader investigation into VIP abuse allegations, in October. Earlier this week, a BBC Radio 4 documentary, The Report, reported that the investigation has failed to ask for statements from crucial witnesses – it appears that rather than starting with Nick and working outwards from his personal circumstances, the police instead decided to start with media stunts, in the form of house raids.

However, the Mail‘s outrage is very much behind the curve. The paper (meaning the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday – they are virtually indistinguishable on Mail Online) was very happy to report the raid on Harvey Proctor’s home last year uncritically, and in the months before Leon Brittan’s death the paper ran insinuating articles about his “faulty memory”, implying that he had suppressed a “dossier” of evidence relating to VIP paedophiles in the 1980s. The Mail never apologised for that particular “cloud of suspicion”, even though the story was debunked in the Sunday Times. The Mail only began to write critically on the subject of VIP abuse allegations when Tom Watson MP became Deputy Leader of the Labour Party – overnight, he went from being described as “campaigning MP Tom Watson” to being portrayed as a monster who had tormented a dying man with false accusations.

But even so, it is heartening to see that Mail is now committed to “the principle that none of us should be condemned or vilified until our guilt is proved”. This has not been a major theme in the Mail‘s history.

Guilty until Proven Innocent: the Mail‘s libels against Chris Jefferies and John Yapp

Most famously, at the end of 2010 it reported the questioning of Chris Jefferies on suspicion of murder as  “Murder police quiz ‘nutty professor’ with a blue rinse”, and followed up with “Does this man hold the key to Joanna’s murder?” – a sensationalising speculation that turned out to be a QTWTAIN. Both items were front page splashes that vilified a completely innocent man, and subsequently led to a substantial libel payout.

The smearing of Jefferies came in the wake of disastrous Mail on Sunday articles in 2008, in which an innocent diplomat named John Yapp had been falsely accused of groping an adult female. The first was entitled “Britain’s man in Belize, the PM’s girlfriend and a very sudden exit“, and it was followed by “How Britain’s man in Belize was ordered home after groping an ex-minister’s wife – and making a lewd joke about the full moon” (“The full story of why a senior British diplomat has been ordered home from his post in Central America can be revealed today”). Both articles were written by Dennis Rice, who later went on run an abusive sockpuppet account on Twitter called TabloidTroll.

At the time, Yapp was facing a employment disciplinary over the allegation, and as with Jeffries two years later it seems that the paper felt safe to press on ahead of the investigation on the assumption of “no smoke without fire”. In fact, however, Yapp was exonerated – and the Mail paid costs and damages in an out-of-court settlement in 2009. Yapp’s firm of lawyers, Collyer Bristow, issued a scathing statement:

The articles were sensationalised and false. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed that an official enquiry has exonerated Mr Yapp of these allegations. I am happy to say that The Mail on Sunday have now published an apology making this clear and apologising for the considerable distress caused to Mr Yapp.

The appalling allegations and false reports caused my client serious and long-lasting damage both personally and professionally. The articles also caused his partner, Anne, and family profound distress.

Yapp also went on to successfully sue his former employer, the Foreign Office, in 2013, which the Mail reported without reference to its own earlier role in tormenting an innocent man. Perhaps the paper hoped the later report would obscure the timeline, and its own culpability.

Jefferies recently appeared at an event with Paul Gambaccini, who spent a year under a false suspicion of child sex abuse due to Operation Yewtree. I didn’t attend, but from reports it appears that both men lamented the stupidity of the police and the way they worked with journalists.  Gambaccini 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.

The Operation Elveden Explanation

So, what’s happened to this cosy relationship between media and police? Let us return to the Daily Mail editorial:

[Hogan-Howe] is the man who spent £11million on Operation Elveden, assigning 70 detectives to investigate payments by journalists to whistleblowers and public officials (especially police sources).

More than 60 were arrested and 29 were charged. Yet only one was convicted in court, while another pleaded guilty under an obscure 13th century law. Both received suspended sentences.

Those two paragraphs, buried deep in the article, are the nearest thing to a declaration of having an interest. It is true that only two journalists have been convicted, although the above neglects to note – one suspects deliberately – that Operation Elveden has also led to a number of  police officers (and one prison officer) being convicted. In this light, the Mail‘s “ugly chapter in the history of the police”, while a valid assessment of the Operation Midland fiasco, is also opportunistic revenge.

Brittan Mail Elm

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.

2 Responses

  1. A well written, accurate and well researched expose of the hypocrisy of the British Media. However Richard omits to mention that the Daily Mail is not unique in its schizophrenic approach to reporting.

    ALL the British press, including the so called ‘quality’ tabloids have massaged the scares of the child-abuse-industry since the 1970s, got most of it wrong and failed to apologise or even tell it’s readers when they did so.

    All newspapers have political angles to pacify their market share. The ‘highbrow’ newspapers have mislead their readers abominably see:
    for an example of the Independent Newspaper doing awful things at the behest of the child-abuse-industry.

    Although a beloved whipping-boy of the left the Daily Mail is the ONLY newspaper to have gone against the grain and influentially campaigned consistently for proper insight and perspective on the hysterical exaggerated claims of abuse. They were the ONLY newspaper to puncture the 1990 Satan Scare, consistently finding and publishing factual information to counter the lies and deceit of feminists and radical social workers along with their pet false-accusers. To do this they had to spend astronomic amounts on high-court hearings to bust the censorship and secrecy of the CSAI

    Today, during the Westminster VIP paedophile allegations the Mail eventually got back it’s professional dignity and put all its influence towards getting the truth of the matter out. Without the input and clout of the Mail this myth would not have been punctured and would have continued to harm innocent people.

    Yes, they are self-serving. Yes they are hypocrites. Yes they are out to victimise or persecute anyone to sell more copies, but ALL of the British media do this as a matter of course. Only the Mail has striven to protect principles of law and the rights of ordinary people and for that they should be applauded.

    The entire British Media is decrepit and deceitful. ALL of it requires an overhaul to deprive it of it’s careless and vandalistic approach to human rights. This is what the Leveson Inquiry was supposed to be about but of course the Tory govt. capitulated to the press barons and appear to have shelved it.

    Experience shows it is no use relying on the duty of the press to do what is right. What it requires is an easy thing. A statutory Right of Reply so anyone criticised can put their own view on the same page on the same day of the week. Lord Clive Soley spent his political career fighting for a curbing of the press and the instigation of a statutory Right of Reply but as usual the Press Barons were able to stonewall him out. Everyone knows the answer, the problem is that those in power don’t give a shit about the rights of ordinary people and are willing to execute them publicly at the slightest excuse just to sell more newspapers.

    This should have been Richard’s message, not that the Mail is a hypocritical newspaper.


  2. That link Tony gave above – when the Independent claimed they had found a photograph of a satanic abuse cannibal eating a baby – was typoed and will not work. The correct link is:




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