• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

    Previously at:
    blogs.salon.com/0003494
    barthsnotes.wordpress.com

    Email me
    (Non-commercial only)

  • Archives

  • Twitter

  • Supporting

  • Recent comments

Australia Media Watch Highlights Problems with “Westminster VIP Child-Sex Abuse” Documentary

In Australia, ABC’s Media Watch programme has run a segment on “Spies, Lords and Predators”, a sensational documentary broadcast on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes in July 2015, at the height of journalistic frenzy over historical allegations relating to supposed “Westminster VIP” child-sex abusers. There are few surprises for those of us who have been following the story in detail, but the segment is a very useful summary of how 60 Minutes got it wrong; it is also important because 60 Minutes broke a promise made by its presenter Ross Coultart at the time that “We’ll be sure to keep you updated on the progress of the police investigation”.

The fact that the promised update never arrived has meant that viewers were never told by 60 Minutes that the allegations promoted by Coultard as “the biggest political scandal in British history” were never substantiated, and that the credibility of the accusers interviewed on the programme has come under serious question.

MediaWatch notes in particular the problems with the accusers “Darren” and Richard Kerr. Darren turned out to have had a long history of dishonesty, and by his own account (as shown in a video clip) he had been diagnosed with a “paranoid mental health disorder”, while Kerr’s claim to have been trafficked to London from the Kincora Boy’s Home in Belfast was undermined by evidence presented at the Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse in Northern Ireland. Media Watch also points out that a supposed reconstruction in “Spies, Lords and Predators” depicted Kerr as a 10-year-old being chauffeured around London, when even he wasn’t making such a claim, instead saying that he had been “16, 15, 17”.

Media Watch also refers to “Nick” and Operation Midland; this is important for understanding the general climate of the time, but Nick was not discussed in “Spies, Lords and Predators”, and Channel 9 has seized on this in its response:

Contrary to your false assertions, ‘Nick’ was not a source or a key witness for our story in any way whatsoever and no allegation in our story came from him.

Further:

We did engage with Exaro in the course of our investigation but as best we could at the time we tested the witness accounts with Police – who, at the time, strongly backed the veracity of the extraordinary VIP paedophile allegations – and other sources.

Exaro was the website most responsible for promoting the claims. However, while the Metropolitan Police had infamously declared Nick to be “credible and true”, the more general reference here to “the veracity of the extraordinary VIP paedophile allegations” elides details specific to the documentary: Darren was himself complaining in 2014 and 2015 that the police did not believe him, and while police have investigated Kincora and secured abuse convictions relating to the home, Kerr does not appear to have made a police complaint about his trafficking allegation, despite making media statements.

Channel 9 continues:

We note also that the investigations are by no means over. Many of the allegations raised by these witnesses are still under investigation by the ongoing IICSA – The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’.

This point is perhaps relevant as regards Esther Baker, who appeared in the 60 Minutes documentary claiming to have been raped during woodland rituals by a group that included a politician. Although Baker is not discussed in the Media Watch segment, that police investigation has also since ended without charges being brought, and the politician concerned, John Hemming, has now gone public with his account of how the allegation has affected his life.

Despite this outcome, and the inherent improbabilities in Baker’s account (not least of which is the fact that Hemming happened to be in a dispute with one of Baker’s associates when she accused him), Baker is now a “Core Participant” in the Westminster strand of the IICSA.

Baker also claims that she recognised from details in “Darren’s” story that she had been taken by night to Dolphin Square in London; however, that particular claim did not feature in “Spies, Lords and Predators”, and she hasn’t referred to it since the collapse of Darren’s credibility. It wasn’t even mentioned by her lawyer, Peter Garsden, when he represented her at a preliminary IICSA hearing in January.