After the Conviction: Some Carl Beech Media Clippings

Numerous articles, comment pieces and “long reads” have appeared in the wake of the conviction of the “VIP sex abuse” hoaxer Carl Beech. In the years ahead, I expect there will be books and perhaps even dramatisations. Here are just a few items that I have found of particular interest.

The Many Lies of Carl Beech“, by Matthew Scott in Quillette. Matthew was perhaps the first person to publicly urge caution with Beech’s allegations, in a piece he wrote back in November 2014, so this is article is something of a vindication. Matthew overviews Beech’s story and notes how he was promoted by various politicians and sections of the media.

Carl Beech – The Plausibility of Liars and the Paucity of Proof“, also by Matthew Scott and published in the Guardian. He writes:

There are wider, and rather uncomfortable, lessons for the criminal justice system as a whole. Criminal trials depend on the premise that magistrates and jurors can safely spot liars. Yet it is often impossible to tell whether someone is telling the truth simply by listening to them. Those, such as top detectives and investigative journalists, who might seem likely to be well practised in spotting liars can be taken in just as easily as anyone else.

R v Beech: Into A Heart of Darkness” is an insightful piece by Barbara Hewson based primarily on her observations of the trial. The piece, published on her blog, includes a character assessment:

It is fair to describe [Beech] as a person displaying psychopathic traits: in particular grandiosity, lack of remorse, and glibness…. Carl Beech later claimed that he deliberately stopped his mother having a relationship with anyone else, by acting up and misbehaving. Whilst to a degree this is understandable [due to his former step-father’s violence], one is left with a disturbing picture of a manipulative son who could dominate his mother’s life, to the extent of denying her a satisfactory relationship with a new partner. Beech’s career as a life-wrecker had begun.

…How did Beech’s fantasies of brutal assaults begin to germinate? In his “achieving best evidence” (ABE) recorded interviews with the police, a possible alternative “backstory” seemed to lurk, involving a deeply conflicted gay man, unable to admit his orientation to his deeply religious mother (who subsequently became a vicar), who may have been picked up by strangers for casual sex during his teens, and who may even have experienced serious and humiliating assaults.

Like Matthew, Barbara saw through Beech early on, and her “#ToxicNick” Twitter hashtag (referring to the “Nick” pseudonym Beech hid behind) was not universally appreciated.

Carl Beech: He Didn’t Do It Alone“, by Simon Warr and published on his blog. Like Barbara, Simon attended some of the trial. His post considers in turn the “you will be believed” context, the involvement of various politicians and social media activists, and how institutions that Beech was involved with professionally – the NHS, the Quality Care Commission, the NSPCC and NAPAC – may have been compromised. On this last point, Simon calls for an inquiry, given Beech’s access to children over several years during which he was accessing child abuse images and fantasising about children being abused and murdered.

Simon has also been in contact with some of those who in turn were in contact with Beech:

 He made contact with those who claimed to have had experience of childhood sexual abuse. In some cases, he even misappropriated excerpts from the real life testimony of genuine victims in order to bolster his own fabricated tales… Several people who had been genuinely sexually abused also began to suspect that Beech might be a fraud. I’ve had communications from some individuals who’ve told me how they found him creepy and disturbing. They say that they tried to warn others about Beech at a time when he was being supported – even lionised – by others within the wider support community for abuse victims. However, their warnings seem to have gone unheeded and Beech became increasingly vocal with his extravagant allegations of sex, torture and murder. 

One of those whose account was stolen by Beech was that of Andi Lavery, as discussed in the Telegraph last week.

Abuse of Office“, by Alistair Jackson in the Tortoise. Jackson was the producer of the 2015 episode of the BBC Panorama news series “The VIP Paedophile Ring: What’s the Truth?“, which did much to expose the inadequacies of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Midland and the broader Operation Fairbank that preceded and ran alongside it. In his article, Jackson ponders the question “Why did anyone ever believe Carl Beech?” and he explores how the case demonstrates “the often-unhealthy relationship between the police, the press and politicians in the UK”:

The notion of Britain’s establishment protecting a VIP paedophile ring has been a kind of journalistic Holy Grail for decades. Early in their careers, investigative reporters are told tales of dark events at places like Elm Guest House and Dolphin Square. Knowledge of these stories, and an interest in pursuing them, was part of what some of the investigative crowd felt marked them out from run-of-the-mill news reporters. These locations, whispered about for years, were to become the centre of two police investigations, thanks largely to the efforts of a news organisation few people had ever heard of, Exaro News.

While on the political angle:

At the point when he met Carl Beech, Watson was one of the most powerful, crusading politicians in the country. He told me that his uncovering of the phone-hacking scandal had made it easier for him to believe police forces could suppress evidence of serious crime. And this time it wasn’t only the police who were in the frame for allegedly turning a blind eye to, or covering up, evidence of a paedophile ring; senior Conservatives were there too. The prospect of political gain would have done nothing to make Carl Beech’s story less attractive to Tom Watson.

If Watson had earned a reputation as a crusader, other MPs represented a separate, more nihilistic strand of political thought. After phone-hacking and the scandal of MPs expenses, a belief seemed to have taken root in some quarters that the establishment was capable of anything…

Here, Jackson names the MPs Zac Goldsmith and John Mann, who are also discussed in Simon’s blog; unlike Simon, though, he overlooks the involvement of the absurd former MP Simon Danczuk – this perhaps reflects Danczuk’s welcome retreat from celebrity politician to obscurity.

Conspiracy Theorist“, also by Jackson and focusing on Watson. Watson received regular briefings about the progress of the two police investigations, and Jackson writes that this “highly unusual” arrangement “had been signed off at the highest level” (1). As regards Elm Guest House, he writes:

Our source says the briefing given to Tom Watson made clear that the picture which was emerging was far less sensational than had been suggested. None of the claims of abuse involving prominent people or trafficking of children were standing up to scrutiny (although two managers at a nearby children’s home were eventually prosecuted for child abuse as a result of Fairbank’s work).

He also refers to Watson’s letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions about a separate allegation against the late Leon Brittain – this relates to the case of “Jane”, and I discussed the letter here. Jackson has further provided an item for the Mail on Sunday, headlined “Police Tried to Block TV Show that Told the Truth: BBC Panorama Producer Says all it Took to Expose Carl Beech’s Lurid Fantasy was a Single Phone Call“.

Times Letters: Political Opportunism and Carl Beech on Trial“. The Times published three letters on the subject on the day after Beech’s conviction. One is by Lord Macdonald, who was formerly Director of Public Prosecutions, in which he decries “strident political rhetoric” that has led to “demonising suspects”. He also argues that a “lesson” of the case

is that politicians should never use criminal justice, still less particular investigations, as a way of inserting themselves into a news cycle. This case, and the pain it has caused to so many innocents, is a tragic example of where such opportunism inevitably leads.

A number of articles refer to particular aspects of the case. As I noted yesterday, Richard Hoskins has written a piece criticising the involvement of psychotherapists, while the Telegraph has now reported “distress and anger in security circles” about the way allegations made by Beech against former head of MI5 Sir Michael Hanley and of MI6 Sir Maurice Oldfield were accepted. There is also an interesting Daily Mail spread in which Beech’s ex-wife Dawn Beech tells her story.

Meanwhile, Harvey Proctor has revealed that the Metropolitan Police are contesting his case against the force, and intend to pursue ruinous costs should they win; and Lord Bramall – in an interview piece with Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times (paywalled, but there is a derivative piece in the Mail on Sunday) has reiterated his claim from 2016 that Met Chief Constable Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe had told him

“We knew almost at once that none of these appalling things applied to you – but we could not stop making you a suspect or take you out of the investigation for another 10 months because we, the Metropolitan police, would have been accused of not investigating properly and giving people in high places preferential treatment.”

Bramall describes this as “perverting the course of justice”.

The ins-and-outs of Beech’s social media activities – and the online support he received from various parties – are documented on Simon Just’s Spin vs Truth blog. Simon appears to have an extensive archive of relevant social media ephemera.

Footnote

(1) While Watson’s briefings were indeed “highly unusual”, they are not the only instance of this irregularity – in particular, the Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen was provided access to Wiltshire Police’s Operation Conifer investigation into Edward Heath, of which Bridgen was an enthusiastic supporter. This enthusiasm, and willingness to brief on behalf of Chief Constable Mike Veale in the media, seems to have been sufficient for Bridgen to have been designated a “stakeholder”.