Edward Heath: Some Notes on the Denouement

No Satanic Grocer

Exclusive: Harvey Proctor says he was “misled” by Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale – see footnote

From the website of Wiltshire Police:

Operation Conifer was a national investigation, led by Wiltshire Police on behalf of the National Police Service, into allegations of non-recent child abuse made against the late Sir Edward Heath.

…The disclosed offences spanned from 1956 to 1992, and each was alleged to have occurred whilst Sir Edward Heath was a publicly elected member of parliament.

In the case of seven individual disclosures, if Sir Edward Heath had been alive today, it has been concluded that he would have been interviewed under caution in order to obtain his account in relation to the allegations made against him.

No inference of guilt should be drawn by the decision to interview under caution….

In the case of 19 individual disclosures, it has been concluded that there is undermining information available, such that the threshold to interview under caution would not be met.

In the case of three disclosures, the persons reporting alleged abuse have subsequently concluded that they were genuinely mistaken in naming Sir Edward Heath as the perpetrator.

In the case of ten disclosures, the alleged abuse was reported by a third party, and in the case of another three; the victim reported the alleged abuse anonymously. In the case of these respective disclosures no findings have been concluded.

The announcement and the force’s Summary Closure Report have been widely reported and discussed in the media; details were leaked in advance, and the report itself was published yesterday. Nevertheless, there are a few points that I think it is worth highlighting.

First, the above uses the word “victim” to mean “complainant”, and “disclosure” to mean “allegation”. This is grossly unfair, and it is a practice that is specifically advised against by the Henriques review of Operation Midland. How can there not be an “inference of guilt” when such terms are used? It seems to me that there are of course many circumstances where it would be pedantic and in bad taste to actively avoid using the term “victim”, but that this is problematic where the victim accuses a particular person or where it remains to be established that a crime has indeed occurred. However, the Summary Closure Report states that its usages are in line with “current national guidance” on policing.

Second, it should be noted that the only criterion for deciding which allegations meet the bar for an interview under caution is the presence or absence of “undermining evidence”. As the report explains, the force considered:

Whether the account could physically have taken place as reported.

Whether there were inconsistencies in relation to the timing or location of the alleged offending.

Whether there was the existence of third party material that contradicted the account given.

Whether there was available witness evidence that contradicted the disclosure made by the victim.

Thus it is not the case that the seven allegations which police insist would have merited an interview are necessarily the most serious, or that there is positive corroborative evidence that amounts to a case to answer: it is simply that there is no obvious flaw in the complainant’s account. Further, the above criteria indicate that “undermining evidence” does not include any general assessment of character or credibility – a claim would not have dismissed just because it came from someone with a history of dishonesty or delusions, for instance.

In February it was claimed that Veale had privately expressed the opinion that he is confident “120%” that Heath was a paedophile, but this is not reflected in the Report – indeed, the Report explicitly cautions against making such a conclusion.

The seven allegations identified “where Sir Edward Heath would have been interviewed under caution to gain an account” relate to incidents that range from 1961 to 1992. One allegation pertains to the supposed rape of an 11-year-old in “a paid sexual encounter in private in a dwelling”; three to opportunistic indecent assaults of children in public places (a ten-year-old, a 15-year-old, and someone who was between ten and 12 years old); one to three indecent assaults of a 15-year-old during “paid sexual encounters”; one to an opportunistic indecent assault of an adult male; and one to the indecent assault of an adult male who had withdrawn consent from a paid sexual encounter.

Information about the other allegations is limited (I discussed various media reports here), but the report says that it found no evidence of Satanic Ritual Abuse, or of child abuse or murder pertaining to Heath’s yacht. There are no records “of children disappearing in the specific circumstances alleged”, either. Further, there is no evidence that police missed previous opportunities to investigate Heath – an SRA complainant mentioned Heath in 1989 (this must have been “Lucy X”, previously discussed here), but her allegations against others were not pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service. The report also discusses Heath’s sexuality – there is no reference to any past police caution or warning for “cruising for gay sex” in the 1950s, which was a rumour that appeared in the Daily Mirror in 2015.

That same Mirror article focused on an allegation that Heath had raped a 12-year-old in 1961 – the details are consistent with the “paid sexual encounter in private in a dwelling” allegation, aside from the fact that the police give the boy’s age as 11 years old. However, the Mirror seems to have got its sums wrong: it says that the accuser was 64 years old in mid-August 2015, which means that he must have been born in either 1950 or 1951.

If this inference is correct, then it is surprising that the police did not identify “undermining evidence” in this case – Simon Jenkins noted in 2015 that the accuser says he went to Heath’s home in Mayfair in 1961, when in fact Heath did not live there until 1963 (as I discussed here).

Speaking last night on Newsnight, the former MP Harvey Proctor asked whether the police would have arrested Heath had he declined a voluntary interview (1); a further question, it seems to me, would be whether the police would have passed the allegations on to the CPS had Heath given a “no comment” interview. Despite news articles based on leaked information last week, the report makes clear that an interview under caution does not necessarily mean that a referral to the CPS must follow. Declining to answer questions may give the impression of having something to hide, but in cases where the police present no evidence that needs to be refuted, a suspect’s active cooperation may only drag things out and provide information that assists a false accuser in building a case. (2)

Operation Conifer has been justified in terms of demonstrating that there was no “cover up”. It seems to have achieved that, but at a cost – a shadow has been cast over Heath’s name that may never be resolved one way or the other, while conspiracy theorists will use the outcome to continue to promote the most extravagant allegations.


1. Proctor was invited onto the show as a former suspect in Operation Midland, along with Richard Hoskins and a representative from NAPAC. Hoskins explained that Operation Midland’s files had been given to him to assess as part of Operation Midland – this was despite an assurance from Chief Constable Veale to Proctor that he was not under investigation as part of Operation Conifer. This assurance, then, was misleading, as Proctor explains in a comment left on this blog yesterday.

2. The comedian Jim Davidson says in his book No Further Action that when he provided evidence that disproved an “Operation Yewtree” allegation against him, the complainant simply said that she had misremembered some details and amended her complaint.

Also, despite Wiltshire Police’s assurance that it “follow[ed] the evidence, whether it supports or negates the allegations”, the purpose of a police investigation is to build a case against a suspect. I refer here to a paper by Dr Michael Naughton of the Innocence Project, titled “How the Presumption of Innocence Renders the Innocent Vulnerable to Wrongful Convictions” (Irish Journal of Legal Studies 2 (1): 40-54):

[A]nalyses of recent successful appeals demonstrate how normal and acceptable methods of police investigations fundamentally undermine the [Presumption of Innocence] at the initial and most crucial stage of the criminal justice process when information is being gathered and cases are being constructed and can lead to wrongful convictions. This is because the role of police investigations in an adversarial system is not to find evidence that suspects of crime are innocent but, rather, to treat situations that they are called to as potential crime scenes and seek evidence that incriminates suspects for alleged criminal offences to pass to the Crown Prosecution Service (C.P.S.) to supply a criminal charge.