Mark Williams-Thomas Issues Statement After Judge References Alleged “Attempts to Gain Financial Advantage from Selling Details”

I return to a Daily Mail report that I discussed in my previous blog entry, concerning the former police officer-turned-journalist Mark Williams-Thomas:

Yesterday his professional reputation was called into question after Judge Deborah Taylor delivered a withering assessment of his previous work for Surrey Police on the [Jonathan] King case. before he left the force in October 2000 Mr Williams-Thomas was the detective who interviewed the first man to accuse King of sexual assault. He [i.e. Williams-Thomas] was subsequently accused – and acquitted – of blackmail in an unrelated case.

Yesterday the judge said: ‘During the investigation into that offence a document was found on his computer offering for sale names and introductions to victims of Mr King.

‘There was also information that prior to Mr King’s arrest, Williams-Thomas said that he had been provided by a journalist with information about King. Williams-Thomas left taking his contemporaneous notebooks of his involvement with inquiries into Mr King with him.

‘No attempts had been made to obtain them, although it is the Crown’s position that he should not have taken them with him as they were the property of Surrey Police.’

The judge added that it had been suggested ‘there was deliberate concealment of his previous prosecution and of the documents indicating attempts to gain financial advantage from selling details of Mr King’s case’. Yesterday Mr Williams-Thomas denied ever knowing the victims’ identities, or offering them for sale.

Curiously, the article was bylined (online at least – I haven’t seen the print version) to a generic “Daily Mail Crime Correspondent” rather than to the paper’s usual crime correspondent Rebecca Camber; perhaps she was unable to write the piece herself for some reason, but given Williams-Thomas’s dealings with journalists over the years an anonymous article suggests to me a lack of transparency.

As I noted previously, the article fails to make clear that the blackmail investigation, which was undertaken by Sussex Police, was resolved as long ago as 2003.  Matthew Scott, who has seen Judge Taylor’s judgment, says that it conveys that the information about the document allegedly offering to sell details “came into the hands of Surrey Police’s Anti-Corruption Unit in 2014”; it’s not clear how this came to be the case so many years later, but this was the same year in which Merseyside Police conducted a review of Surrey Police’s original investigation into King that had led to his 2001 conviction.

As a result of the review, King was rearrested in 2015 and subjected to police surveillance, which did not yield any new evidence. New historic charges were brought last year, which came to trial in June this year. The new trial collapsed when the judge determined that there had been disclosure failures: from the above, it seems that these failures primarily relate to problems with evidence gathered ahead of the 2001 trial and to the findings of the 2014 review, although the pointless surveillance from 2015 indicates that the new investigation was not a model of detective work either.

Williams-Thomas has now responded to the news, via a statement uploaded as an image to his Facebook page. This format makes the statement difficult to find and to quote from; and its nature is such that a summary would fail to convey the rhetorical strategies employed and its peculiarly diffuse style. I therefore provide here a full transcript, in the public interest:

For the first time on Monday of this week, I was made aware that my name has been mentioned in a ruling by HHJ Deborah Taylor in the case against Kenneth King (aka Johnathan [sic] King) at Southwark Crown Court. Neither the Police or Crown Prosecution Service had at any stage during Mr King’s case contacted me about such matters (both have known about such matters for 15 years), and neither has done so since. It follows that I have never been asked anything to date about the allegations made against me as set out in the Judgement and have therefore not been given any opportunity to defend myself and provide an explanation or account.

Following the ruling, I immediately wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions and Surrey Police Professional Standards to seek clarification of the matters referred to by the Judge.

I would have expected the Police and Prosecution to have spoken with me about the issues concerned. I would like to set out my response to what has been recorded in open court and to what has been subsequently reported, and I do so without having had sight of any material apparently referred to as being held by the Police and Prosecution.

I took a statement from the first complainant to record a complaint against Mr King. Prior to that I had received some information from a well-connected writer (who lived on my force area) regarding Mr King and that information was submitted in full to the forces intelligence bureau and also to the then National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS).

Sometime later Max Clifford contacted Surrey Police to advise them that he was speaking with a male who was making allegations against Mr King. The Head of CID at that time saw that I had previously submitted information about Mr King and given my role at the time, I was asked to obtain a statement from the complainant. This male is the only complainant I had contact with at the time. I counter signed the statement as the taker as I would have done with any statement, therefore making me a witness in the case. His name was obviously known to me.

I have received apparent criticism for taking this statement, and I regard this criticism as unfair. The statement was taken from someone who was making an allegation against another. Given the nature of the complaint being made, a statement had to be taken. I had been asked to do so, and I simply did what was requested. The content of that statement is a matter of evidence, and the evidential value of it was always going to be considered by the Crown Prosecution Service. I simply recorded what I was told by the witness. If the circumstances of the taking of the statement was something that Mr King and his legal team looked to challenge, then I would have expected to have been contacted. Again, I was not.

Another matter that was the subject of judicial comment related to my pocket note-books. When I left the Police Force, I left with an exemplary record. At the point of leaving, I asked what I should do with my pocket note books. I was advised that the practice was for officers to keep them. This is exactly what I did.

When I left the police force, I became an investigative journalist, my current job today. As such, I am in regular contact with other journalists and also police officers. My determined work as an investigative reporter, often against overwhelming criticism, allowed me to finally expose the high-profile celebrity Jimmy Savile, where many other before had failed. Having done so, I worked closely with the Metropolitan Police Service and Operation Yewtree to secure evidence against many other offenders, including the high-profile sex offenders Rolf Harris and Max Clifford.

I am also aware form [sic] the judgement that there exists a document and that the content of that document was considered both in 2003 and in 2014 by Sussex and Surrey Police respectively. After two investigations, no action was taken against me. It must follow that no offences were disclosed. I am in regular contact with victims of all types or crimes, including those of a sexual nature. I pride myself on my ability to protect victims of such crimes, and others. I did so very successfully as a police officer and continue to do so as a report. Much of my work both in UK and overseas doesn’t get reported given the sensitive nature of it. I work to very high levels of confidentiality, integrity and trust.

It is very disappointing that I have not been asked by the Police and Crown Prosecution Service to comment previously, and crucially before a critical court judgement is realised. This has contributed to the criticism that has been levied against me. Had I have [sic] been asked to provide any information regarding my involvement in the King investigation I would have done so, and I would have had no hesitation in attending court should that have been necessary. I will continue to attempt to liaise with the DPP and Surrey Police to find out what has occurred, and in the meantime, I will continue to dedicate myself and my work to safeguarding children and to devote my time and expertise to help victims both of abuse and injustice.

For someone who spends the first three paragraphs complaining that he was not asked about the matters raised in court, and who towards the end of his statement asserts his willingness to have given testimony, it is strange that he does not anywhere specifically deny the existence of “documents indicating attempts to gain financial advantage from selling details of Mr King’s case” (or of even one such document – the basis for Taylor’s slip into the plural is not clear). It is also strange that he goes into such a lengthy justification for having taken a statement from a complainant – the report of Taylor’s judgment does not indicate that Williams-Thomas ought not to have done so, and the “apparent criticism” over this detail is not in fact “apparent” at all.

One passage in particular raises questions:

I am also aware form [sic] the judgement that there exists a document and that the content of that document was considered both in 2003 and in 2014 by Sussex and Surrey Police respectively. After two investigations, no action was taken against me. It must follow that no offences were disclosed.

This implies that he isn’t sure about which document has been under discussion, and that he wasn’t even aware of police interest until now. But it is difficult to see how there could have been “two investigations” over the matter without him being even asked about it.

Further, grounds for concern are broader than simply whether “offences were disclosed”. Of course it is not an offence to draft a document on one’s own computer offering to sell information. The mere existence of such a document does not prove that it was ever sent to anyone, or that if it was sent that any subsequent transaction occurred. But it does place its author under a heavy cloud of suspicion, and it raises doubts about character. Those doubts are not assuaged by cape-wearing platitudes about advocacy on behalf of “victims of abuse and injustice”.

Another difficulty is that given that there was apparently “deliberate concealment” of the document by Surrey Police in 2018, there seems little reason to have confidence that the matter was dealt with properly when it first came to light in 2003 (presumably Sussex would have referred the document on to Surrey) and then again in 2014 (presumably Surrey held an old record about it that was brought to light by the Merseyside review and referred to the Anti-Corruption Unit).

Perhaps it would be useful if Williams-Thomas could publish some of the investigation documentation online. He would be entitled to some via a Subject Access Request, and he could also publish the document itself. Of course, some redactions would be required, but primary sources we can judge for ourselves may do a better job of putting our minds at rest.