A Note on Carl Beech and the Psychotherapists

From Richard Hoskins in the Mail on Sunday:

…for eight years [“VIP sex abuse” accuser Carl Beech] had managed to con two police forces, MPs such as Labour deputy leader Tom Watson and journalists from the BBC and online news service Exaro into believing his tissue of lies.

But there is another group of professionals whose role in this fiasco should be examined, and that is the psychotherapists who gave legitimacy to the whole farrago.

Without them, none of this might have happened. 

Hoskins became involved in the case when Wiltshire Police asked him to assess allegations against Edward Heath as part of their Operation Conifer. In particular, he was asked to give his opinion about claims made by someone he called “Lucy X” and her sisters, but there was also cross-over with Carl Beech and the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Midland. Hoskins was so alarmed by police credulity that he went public – I wrote about this here and here.

The therapists Hoskins refers to in his article are Vicki Paterson and Elly Hanson. He writes:

Newcastle Crown Court heard last week that between February 2012 and October 2016, Beech saw Ms Paterson for 121 sessions and they had exchanged numerous emails. During these sessions, Beech developed his story – I have seen the psychotherapy notes and drawings – and over those four and a half years, he embellished it.

Hoskins delved into Paterson’s method further by attending her practice as a client himself:

Ms Paterson told me that she employed a method called ‘deep stasis’. Although not actually hypnotism, it is close. Lying on her couch, it would be easy to allow fantastical imaginations to run riot.

Hoskins also notes that this “deep stasis” approach was also advocated by a Canadian therapist who had treated “a ringleader among the sisters” (i.e. “Lucy X”, although he doesn’t use the pseudonym in this article) – I discussed this further here.

In Beech’s case, we now know that he undertook internet research that he presented as memories, and that he concocted fake collaborating witnesses via email. Thus his allegations cannot be explained as”false memories“, unlike the case of Carol Felstead. It may be, though, that Beech’s therapy helped him to convince himself of some of his allegations, and gave him the confidence to go as far as he did. Certainly, the therapeutic encounter provided a sympathetic setting in which he could make his claims to professionals, with the notion of “recovered memory” providing a superficially plausible explanation for late disclosure and gradual embellishments.

As Hoskins writes:

As Ms Paterson tells her clients, she works by listening ‘in a non-directive, non-judgmental way understanding your world from your point of view’. The trouble is that unless the counsellor remains discerning, a cunning and manipulative liar such as Beech can make hay.

Paterson eventually sought advice from Dr Elly Hanson, and from this time the “non-judgmental” approach expanded from being a counselling methodology into forming the basis for public campaigning:

They became friends and set up a charity exhibition called The Wall Of Silence, which displayed child abuse survivors’ pictures, stories, poems and mementoes. It was backed by Tom Watson and Beech shared a platform with Dr Hanson, speaking straight after her.

Hoskins describes Hanson as “a distinguished and influential figure who advises police, the National Crime Agency and the NSPCC”. As such, her public endorsement of Beech would have been one more reason for the police to treat Beech uncritically – indeed, she was helping to make him into something of a figurehead for the cause of “historic abuse”, despite his official anonymity. The Wall of Silence exhibition blurb made special reference to “powerful people” supposedly being involved in child sex abuse, thus promoting the “VIP” conspiracy theory

Hanson was also an adviser on Operation Conifer, as I discussed here. She was paid to assess two accusers, after which she she joined a supposedly independent panel that was looking into the investigation. As Hoskins also notes,

It was Dr Hanson who declared she wouldn’t have ‘let her children near Ted Heath’ – while adding that she wasn’t presuming his guilt.

But how could she not be presuming his guilt when she was giving presentations alongside a man who accusing him?

Footnote on names

Richard Hoskins went public with his concerns during a period during which he had temporarily transitioned to “Rachel Hoskins”.

Carl Beech was formerly referred to in the media under the name “Nick”, although among activists he was “Carl Survivor” or just “Carl”.

Elly Hanson’s early professional work was published under her maiden name of “Elly Farmer”.