Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse Holds Preliminary “Westminster Strand” Hearing

From The Times:

The public inquiry into child abuse is scaling back its investigations into claims of an establishment cover-up of a VIP paedophile ring in Westminster.

The decision is a significant retreat by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse because the allegations triggered its creation by Theresa May four years ago.

Andrew O’Connor, QC, the inquiry counsel on the Westminster strand, told its first hearing yesterday: “We suspect that much of the public concern relating to Westminster child abuse issues may have been created, or at least exacerbated, by a lack of knowledge.” He said that concern over the allegations had “diminished considerably” since Scotland Yard’s discredited Operation Midland inquiry into the allegations [blogged here – RB].

The inquiry would not try to make findings of fact in the cases of the late Sir Cyril Smith, who was a Liberal MP, or the late Sir Edward Heath, a Conservative prime minister.

…. The inquiry, now chaired by Professor Alexis Jay, believes that matters of public concern remain in the Westminster strand: including the role of whips in suppressing information about MPs; the honours system, including knighthoods for Smith and Jimmy Savile; and whether senior politicians supported the Paedophile Information Exchange.

Yesterday’s hearing was a preliminary one (the main event will not be until March 2019), and the transcript can be accessed here. It shows that the inquiry will also look into claims “that police investigations into cases of possible child sexual abuse linked with Westminster may have been the subject of inappropriate interference”, referring specifically to claims relating to Elm Guest House – this is somewhat meatier than the above summary in The Times. O’Connor also referred to the “Dickens dossier” (blogged here), and to claims made by Anthony Gilberthorpe (blogged here) and Don Hale (blogged here).

The retreat from findings of fact

The “retreat” mentioned in The Times actually re-states a point made by the IICSA in September, after Wiltshire Police announced that it intended to end its fruitless £1.5 million probe into Ted Heath by passing its report to the body. The IICSA responded to the force’s face-saving plan with a statement that “the inquiry will be interested to see and consider the outcome of Wiltshire police’s investigation”, but that it “is unlikely to need to examine whether allegations of abuse made against any particular parliamentarian are true during the course of its work.” The Mail on Sunday shamelessly ignored the second part of the this statement, instead running with the sensational headline “Sex Abuse Inquiry WILL Probe Ted Heath” (or “Sex Abuse Inquiry to Probe Ted Heath” in the print edition).

The September statement, was, though, a climb-down when compared to earlier statements; in November 2015 the IICSA Tweeted that

We’ll conduct objective fact-finding inquiry into allegations of abuse by people of public prominence associated w. Westminster #CSAinquiry

More on this point – in particular in relation to Greville Janner – below.

Esther Baker

O’Connor also referred to Esther Baker, explaining that she has been given “core participant” status “given her status as a complainant of relevant sexual abuse and also in her capacity as someone who has campaigned publicly on related issues in her own name.” Baker’s appointment is controversial because she made an extraordinary allegation against the former MP John Hemming that police have not been able to substantiate. Hemming has accused her of being a “fantasist”, and this term has now been used in media reports.

Baker’s allegations include the claim that she and other girls were abused by Hemming and by various VIPs in a woodland setting while corrupt police stood guard – although she has not used the phrase “Satanic Ritual Abuse”, this is the obvious implication. Baker says that she remembered Hemming’s participation after encountering him at Parliament as part of her campaigning on the issue of abuse (she has close links to the Labour MPs John Mann and Jess Phillips – and Phillips won her parliamentary seat at Hemming’s expense); and it just so happens that this was shortly after a disagreement between Hemming and Graham Wilmer, a campaigner with links to Baker (more details here).

Baker was represented at the hearing by Peter Garsden, Executive Officer of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers and a believer in the reality of human sacrifice in the UK by “hidden societies”. Garsden attempted shut down critical comment about Baker’s appointment by asking the inquiry to refer newspaper articles to the police under the terms of the Witnesses (Public Inquiries) Protection Act 1892, which makes it illegal to “to punish, damnify or injure, any person for having giving evidence upon any inquiry”. Mark Watts, a journalist who has promoted Baker’s claims, referred to this on Twitter, although for some reason he failed to similarly convey the response of the lead counsel to the inquiry, Brian Altman QC, which was that the act did not apply in Baker’s case because she hasn’t given evidence.

Garsden also told the inquiry that Baker (link added)

has taken 12 overdoses, 12 attempts to commit suicide, by the excessive ingestion of tablets, prescription drugs… 12 attempts at suicide between 2015 and now, the most recent of which was 25 January 2018, because of the publication of this article in the Sunday Times by James Gillespie on 21 January.

One recalls here an old claim by Watts that an alleged survivor had attempted suicide after a Panorama documentary had drawn attention to problems with several “Westminster VIP” abuse claims. I think we can be sure that neither Garsden nor Watts would be quite so ready to take at face value a series of suicide attempts by someone accused of a sex crime, or to blame the media for reporting information.

Garsden also provided some extra context to Baker’s allegations:

Esther Baker is a very fragile individual. She has been serially and consistently abused from the age of 6 to 19, firstly by her father, who abused her on a regular basis, and then her father introduced her to various individuals who are the persons this inquiry is interested in. She was taken to various houses in the Birmingham area and to a wood where she and other girls were abused by various individuals, one of whom has been  publicly named, another of whom hasn’t, who are either MPs or former MPs, and that’s why she is relevant to this inquiry.

…She has been ably assisted by other individuals who suggested that she make public disclosure of her allegations, which she did in 2015, principally as a method of protecting her from what she deemed to be a threat of violence or worse than that. She thought that if she disclosed her identity there was more chance of her staying alive because she was making allegations against celebrities, or, should I say, well-known  individuals who were known to the public. Since then, there has been an orchestrated campaign made against her to vilify her and call her a liar.

Older media reports, such as this one in the Guardian from 2015, state that “the abuse went on for four years from the age of six”, rather than from “from the age of 6 to 19”. The discrepancy has slipped in because Baker in fact claims to have been abused in two contexts, the latter while she was a teenager. She also states that her allegations are still under police investigation; presumably they relate to this alleged teenage abuse, although the distinction has not been made very clearly.

The 2015 Guardian article also refers to a detail that is curiously absent from Garsden’s account:

Baker has also alleged that she was sexually abused at a flat in London, which she now believes to be Dolphin Square, in Westminster – the location at the centre of the Metropolitan police’s Operation Midland inquiry into the alleged murders of three children by high-profile individuals in a paedophile ring.

Baker said that she recognised details from the Westminster accuser “Darren” of a fake “medical room” at Dolphin Square where grotesque forms of abuse supposedly took place. In turn, “Darren” said that he recognised Baker from a photograph. Soon after however, “Darren’s” credibility came under considerable strain, and he later withdrew from cooperating with the police (despite claiming to have been forced to participate in a murder of a man with Down’s syndrome). This is not some minor detail – Dolphin Square was specifically mentioned earlier in the  hearing, and Baker’s claim to have witnessed abuse there ought to be highly relevant. Why would Garsden not mention this?

Greville Janner

Garsden also took aim at Daniel Janner QC, who provided a submission in relation to his late father Lord Greville Janner (and who has been denied core participant status). Garsden complained:

So I am putting out a plea that this fantasist nonsense should stop. It has happened in other inquiries. It has happened to all my clients in the Janner module. They have also been called fantasists.

The inquiry now refers to “institutional responses to allegations made against Lord Janner”, which is in line with its statement that it “is unlikely to need to examine whether allegations of abuse made against any particular parliamentarian are true”. However, this was not always the case – as Dominic Lawson noted in the Sunday Times in 2016:

…to quote this column from last March: “On the first day of the inquiry’s proceedings, its QC, Ben Emmerson, declared that he would attempt to make ‘findings of fact’ in cases of individual abuse, blithely referring to ‘Lord Janner and other individuals allegedly associated with him in his offending’.”

I believe that Emmerson, like his favourite newspaper [the Guardian], saw Janner as the easiest of targets and that it would bring the inquiry early kudos (not to mention press coverage) if it brought “findings of fact” that the peer had indeed been a child abuser.

Emmerson later left the enquiry following an allegation of sexual assault, and the Janner allegations appear to contain some difficulties after all.

The “1961” Edward Heath Accuser

Meanwhile, a solicitor named David Greenwood provided more detail about an Edward Heath accuser – here called  WM-A1 and very clearly the “1961” accuser whose allegations included impossible dates. According to Greenwood:

A1 is not “Nick” of Operation Midland [UPDATE 2019: aka Carl Beech], but he has been let down on all levels. He describes being close to a group of politicians that were using rent boys in the 1960s, and he was neither investigated himself — he was not prosecuted — nor was he protected. This all raises the issue of blackmail and scrutiny by security services of politicians, or powerful figures, at least, at the time, and A1’s evidence needs to be looked at for evidence of this scrutiny where it may lead the inquiry into significant findings.

20 Responses

  1. It’s no wonder Peter Garsden baulks at the use of the word ‘fantasist’ as by most people’s reckoning he is one himself – a devout believer in Satanic abuse, secret societies and all that rubbish, he claims that 25 percent of the UK population have been a victim:

    “Garsden believes there will be more high-profile allegations and that more people will come forward [to the alphabet soup inquiry]. “I’ve no doubt that whatever is reported and uncovered is the tip of the iceberg.” Statistically, he says, one in four are victims of abuse.

    “If there are 60 million people in the UK, that means 15 million [!!!] are the victims of abuse – there’s no way that many people have come forward.””

    Off his rocker, and touting for at least thirteen of those fifteen million to come forward:

    “… the other individuals who were [allegedly] abused in Cannock Wood have not come forward [almost as though they don’t exist!]. I think one of them has. [Make yer bleeding mind up!] I haven’t spoken to the police officer yet, but the remainder haven’t. My client tells me there were at least 15 girls who were raped in those woods. I would like to put out a public plea for them to come forward.”

    He did however provide one interesting snippet in his rambling yesterday:

    “…because it is not surprising that she [Baker], like many other victims of abuse, are on a quite high dose of medication to help with depression and beta-blockers and some antipsychotic tablets.”

    The trusty Wikipedia tells us that antipsychotics are “primarily used to manage psychosis (including delusions, hallucinations, paranoia or disordered thought)”. I once lived with a poor soul who required such medication…

    [Garsden’s bleating would be bad enough as it is but he’s also tweeting quite astonishing statements in the middle of an ongoing trial: ]

    P.S. Regarding Elm Guest House one might detect a sneaky climbdown from one of its chief proponents:

    “I am not sure whether that will apply to the notorious [or ‘fabled’] Elm Guest House in Richmond, south west London IF IT REALLY WAS a mecca for child sexual abuse as well as a bed and breakfast for consenting gay couples.”

    “If it really was”?!? What happened to your ‘boy brothel’, Hencke?!?

  2. Just a little on The Sixth Strand:

    “The sixth issue that we propose should be investigated relates to the Paedophile Information Exchange, commonly known as PIE. The key issues of public concern in relation to PIE are its membership, which appears to have included senior members of the Westminster establishment…”

    One of those with a particular interest here is journo Tim Tate who’d asked to give evidence in person having already given them his ‘dossier’ for their perusal.
    (He can be seen here seeking a clarification from –
    gulps! – David Hencke on the nature of the strand: )

    On his own site he seems puzzled by the PIE/Westminster conflation and after many years of beavering away has this to say on the subject:

    “But IICSA’s decision to frame its PIE enquiries within the alleged Westminster and VIP paedophile investigations is distinctly odd. There is very little evidence that any MPs or famous people were members of PIE: certainly, there are none shown on the 1984 membership list I obtained and which I passed on to IICSA.”

    Looks like they’re going to have plenty of time pick Don Hale’s cretinous claims to pieces – at last, something to look forward to!

  3. Peter Garsden’s statement that Esther Baker had informed him she was one of at least fifteen young girls subjected to the less than tender mercies of a gang of paedophile politicians, judges and police officers during nocturnal Cannock Chase orgies does make me wonder why none of these alleged other victims have come forward.

    I’m no expert in these things and I do recognise that many genuine victims of abuse never disclose what happened to them. However, how statistically plausible would it be that none out of “at least” fifteen young girls exposed to these horrific alleged attacks to have eventually corroborated Baker’s version of events? The fact that not a single other person has made a complaint to the police about these same incidents, or even provided a witness statement does make me a little cynical, I’m afraid.

    • Garsden seemed as clueless about his client’s story as he is about the wisdom of shooting one’s mouth off about a defendant’s guilt in the midst of ongoing court proceedings.

      [As an aside: “Mr Bennell admitted 20 charges of abuse against the former youth footballer in 1997 but his alleged victim now claims the abuse happened more than 100 times.”

      Two decades later Bennell is being tried AGAIN because his victim has now claimed that there were more occasions of abuse than he previously disclosed… I find this quite shocking, to be honest.]

      Back to Garsden, and it’s hard to fathom why neither of the disgraced/disgraceful journos Mark Watts and David Hencke – both intimately involved in promoting the fantastical tale – bothered informing him of their explosive revelations that in fact others HAD come forward all the way back in 2015:

      “Three women name former MP as sexual abuser of children. Police investigate allegations of sex attacks on girls – and possible link to Dolphin Square…

      Last month [April 2015], a second woman named the former MP as having sexually abused her as a child. She came forward through the Church of England [who must’ve immediately got on the blower to Exaro, presumably…], which has no connection with the abuse…

      … And a third woman who has named the same ex-MP as an abuser contacted Staffordshire Police [who immediately let Exaro know via their ‘Secure DropBox’, presumably…] on Wednesday, the day after Baker’s interview on Sky News.”

      Baker was said to be relieved that someone else had come forward so I imagine she’ll be furious that her own lawyer isn’t even clear whether or not this really took place.

      Finally, with a full 15 million victims out there one would’ve thought that Garsden would be run ragged just keeping up with those who HAVE come forward without pleading for woodland waifs to give him a call.

      • Bandini, Bennell is apparently not offering a defense, so I’d reckon Garsden is on reasonably safe ground. That said, I take your point that a legal professional tweeting his views about an active cases does not set a good example.

        Idiots on Twitter have regularly breached the contempt of court rules, and in some cases continue to do so, in spite of being asked to stop and warned of the potential negative consequences of their behaviour for the causes they claim to support.

        As for the ‘woodland waifs’, are they scarier than Esther Baker or the (now thankfully former) senator Mairia Cahill.

      • TDF, I think his defence is that he’s innocent of the charges he hasn’t admitted to; that his legal team “will call no evidence and no witnesses on his behalf” is not quite the same thing.

        And what possible evidence COULD they present? It’s his word against theirs. The charges appear to relate to the same ‘pattern of offending’ for which he was already tried & convicted twenty years ago (which came about after a television programme about his activities was broadcast nationally).

        Other than the claims mentioned above of someone who has ALREADY seen Bennell prosecuted & convicted over 20 incidents but NOW wants another 80 or so to be added-on and “an apology off Manchester City and anyone else, if possible.”- we have the following:

        “He decided to go to the police after seeing media coverage of other former youth players alleging abuse by Mr Bennell in 2016… … He said he was approached by police in the 1990s, but denied having been abused by Mr Bennell.”

        Now he claims he WAS abused. “He did agree he wished to claim damages against Crewe and the Football Association.” Or this one:

        “The court heard that the same victim had made a statement in 1994 in which he had accused Mr Bennell of attempted serious sexual assault but not actual serious sexual assault.” Again, 20 years later he claims differently – it was ‘actual’. He only got £2,000 compensation last time around; I’m sure it’ll be more this time, regardless of verdict.

        Meanwhile Bennell has been banged up since March 2017, and appears via video-link due to ill-health causing him to be fed by a tube. The Daily Mail published photographs of his house – a house to which he will obviously never return.

        He appears not to have offended since his 1998 trial and this all smacks of vengence & vindictiveness, not justice. And what set it all in motion? Andy Woodward, disgraced and booted out of the police force for his own bad behaviour, deflecting attention by weeping on daytime TV sofas. Woodward had also already seen Bennell tried and convicted for crimes against him two decades earlier, but suddenly with time on his hands he wanted more…

        Sorry, but the whole thing turns my stomach.

        P.S. Curious coincidence: Dr Elly Hanson – a name that ought to ring a bell – is involved with a group “born in December 2016” after the “‘non-recent childhood sexual abuse in football’ issue that had engulfed the media”. No, not Woodward’s group – why have one group when you can have two, three, endless proliferation? – but this one:

        [Apologies to Richard for this off-topic rambling, but this is interesting:
        (On point of principle I disagree with some of it – that principle being that convicted criminals shouldn’t escape their sentences by running away – but much of it is spot on, particularly on the need of ‘capaigners’ to have their clients suffer indefinitely. Worth a read.]

      • @Bandini, I will read that link, thanks. Meanwhile Tim Tate has been putting the boot into Mark Watts on Twitter.

      • … and in return having the boot put into him by a rabid pack of ‘campaigners’ by the looks of it, TDF!
        Come on, Tim, take yer gloves off!

        (Surely that can’t be the same individual who Reverend Garsden reckons needs protecting from criticism who has turned up uninvited to pick a fight with Tate in yet another attempt to turn the spotlight on herself? Better put A&E on alert…)

      • Tate in that thread does a decent job in standing up for a fact-based evidential approach.

        It also exposes the thought process of certain ‘campaigners’ – to wit, ‘if you don’t believe the specific allegations that I/we believe, then you’re nowt better than a paedo yourself!!’

      • The thread is growing as we type, TDF, and it´s bloody brilliant!

        Baker hits the ‘panic alarm’ with David Hencke on the other end:

        “What the hell is going on? I go offline to read a William Boyd novel for our book club and there is a huge twitterstorm about the veracity of allegations of child sex abuse and whether there were nonce parties or not?”

        That Stacey nutter who was claiming a few days ago that Denis Thatcher was a paedo has now gone Stateside-crazy: President Bush the Elder was one too! And there’s a big to-do over Tabloid Tim’s involvement with the pathetic UK CSA People’s Tribunal and, cor blimey, money!

        Now Hencke is rolling out his risible lie about his Elm Guest House Fable being set in motion based on neighbours moaning about stuff decades after the event… and Stacey’s back with another corker: Leon Brittan seen raping boys AND girls – probably at the same time using the double-headed devil dick Beelezbub or Jimmy Carter bestowed him – at Chequers “in front of some Arabs.”!

        Better than the telly, this!

      • Some valid questions asked here by this tweeter:

      • It may be worthy of note that Keith Harvey Proctor, in his memoir ‘Credible and True’, states as follows:

      • For avoidance of doubt, Proctor himself is not claiming that he personally saw the late Sir Peter Hayman engaged in such activity. In fact, Proctor does not recall ever meeting Hayman.

        ‘Bob’ was the pseudonym of a person who contacted Proctor’s solicitors after Proctor’s public statement of 25 August 2015.

      • TDF, Proctor’s use of the phrase “young lads” is as helpful as that old chestnut ‘rent boy’! Here’s a little on the club where we are told Hayman may have bounced ‘young lads’ up and down upon his knee (though admittedly from a few years after the period I imagine Proctor is referring to):

        “The Last Resort, the skinhead shop in Goulston Street, East London, was a popular hang-out for hard-core skins, both straight and secretly gay. The Craven club was a similar crossover point on the gay scene. ‘It was a gay club and pub near Heaven in Craven Street, upstairs with a camera entry system,’ remembers John Byrne:

        ‘The skinheads moved in there in the mid-eighties; soon, about 98 per cent were skinheads or skinhead admirers. There were a lot of closet skinheads, especially in a place like the Craven, you used to get a lot of ‘straight’ ones as well as gay ones, but nobody cared…'”

        There’s a snap of some ‘young lads’ outside the first-mentioned club on the next page:

        From Geoffrey Dickens’ obituary in The Independent:
        “He [Dickens] was a man of highly serious [ho ho ho!] and dedicated intent. He once told me that the proudest moment of his life came in May 1984, when the diplomat Sir Peter Hayman was sent to jail after being convicted of paedophiliac practices.”

        From Peter Hayman’s obituary in The Times:
        “Three years after his exposure [by Dickens] in the Commons, Hayman suffered further disgrace when he was fined Pounds 100 for an act of gross indecency with a lorry-driver in a public lavatory in Reading.”

        Banged up for paedoing or fined for stroking off Big Jim into a Little Chef urinal? Who knows, and as he’s been dead for well over a quarter of a century, who realy cares? One for the Big Inquiry to tackle!

      • To be fair, Proctor is merely relating something he was told, the choice of expression ‘little lads’ was not his. I am well aware that the expression ‘rentboys’ usually refers to adult male prostitutes.

        As for the gay skinheads subculture I remember watching a documentary on YouTube about them a few years ago; as I recall, consistent with that extract from that book most, in so far as they were political, were very much on the left; none interviewed admitted, at least on camera, to any fascist or far right leanings.

        I’m pretty sure that the Independent obit on Hayman is wrong, I don’t think he was ever jailed. He was ‘outed’ by Dickens in the House of Commons as having been cautioned by police for possession of illegal pornography. Subsequently he seems to have gone rather ‘to pot’, and then, as you say was convicted for cottaging, though I assume that would not be an offense under today’s law, unless the lorry-driver was under 17 (unlikely).

      • ^ sorry, what I meant was that I’m pretty sure the Independent obit of Dickens is wrong to imply that Hayman was ever jailed?

      • “Young lads”, TDF, not “little lads”! For God’s sake don’t be giving the crazies ideas!

        (Or maybe you already did. Can’t check as seem to be suffering some sort of weird internet outage wherein all the accounts of the ‘campaigners’ on Twitter have gone deathly quiet. Most odd!)

      • Apologies, yes, ‘young lads’, not ‘little lads’ is the expression cited.

        As for why certain Twitter accounts have fallen silent, I simply have no idea! I can only imagine it is som’at to do with the Siberian weather!

  4. Yet another sickening mob attack against Tim Tate by all of the usual suspects on the Exaro/Baker/CSA nutterbus with Chris Stacey demonstrating his usual level of phenomenal stupidity, and the equally intellectually challenged Esther Baker demonstrating an even greater level of phenomenal stupidity, with additional comedy gold provided by the phenomenally crazy vicar.

    They should all hang their heads in shame for the damage they have done and continue to do.

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