A Note on Mike Veale in ITV Drama A Confession

From the Press Centre of British terrestrial broadcaster ITV (emphasis added):

A Confession

The series tells the story of how Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher, played by Martin Freeman (StartUp, The Hobbit, Sherlock, Fargo), deliberately breached police procedure and protocol to catch a killer, a decision that ultimately cost him his career and reputation…

Episode 5

Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher (Martin Freeman) is lionized in the media for leading an investigation that recovered not one, but two bodies murdered by serial killer Christopher Halliwell (Joe Absolom). But behind the scenes he is facing a disciplinary hearing at the hands of the IPCC, charged with gross misconduct.

Steve is suspended from duty with immediate effect by his superior ACC Mike Veale, for inappropriate contact with a journalist. Now facing two counts of gross-misconduct in a Public Office, Steve is left staring down the barrel knowing that one count alone would be enough for him to lose the job that he loves…

Mike Veale, of course, went on to become Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police, in which capacity he ordered a huge trawling investigation into allegations that the former Prime Minister Edward Heath had been involved in the sexual abuse of children. This was despite the fact that Heath had died ten years previously, and the report that was eventually produced was underwhelming. Veale’s integrity later came under question after he was found to have lied about how he came to break his mobile phone, and his subsequent tenure as Chief Constable of Cleveland Police lasted less than a year. Veale denied leaking to the press during the Heath investigation, but the Mail on Sunday‘s political editor Simon Walters appeared to have an inside track – most likely via the buffoonish rent-a-quote MP Andrew Bridgen, who received briefings from Veale as a supposed “stakeholder”.

The narrative of A Confession overlaps with the time period of the Heath investigation, although it is not referred to in the drama. According to each episode’s intro blurb, “What follows is a dramatisation based on extensive research, interviews and published accounts”, the last of which will have included Fulcher’s memoir Catching a Serial Killer. Alas, the book has no index, but from a fairly careful browse of a paper copy and an electronic search I was unable to find any reference to Veale by name, although there is material that is critical of Wiltshire Police.

As such, there are grounds for caution, in that Veale as a character in the drama (played by Daniel Betts) perhaps primarily serves as a composite embodiment of Wiltshire Police rather than as a portrayal of the man himself. Veale is depicted unsympathetically; in the first episode he informally warns Fulcher not to have any social contact with a suspended officer who later commits suicide (“DCC Ray Hayward”, a fictional character based on DCC David Ainsworth), and at the climax he is shown delivering a press statement in the wake of Halliwell’s second conviction that fails to acknowledge Fulcher’s efforts and rejects as “sensationalism” Fulcher’s belief that Halliwell has other as yet unknown victims. Such an allegation of “sensationalism” of course must ring hollow given the Ted Heath circus that was going on during the same period.

The drama is more sympathetic towards Detective Superintendent Sean Memory (played by Owain Arthur), who is depicted as tactful and sensitive in his dealings with the families of Halliwell’s victims – Fulcher writes of his respect for Memory in his book. Unfortunately, though, he will now always be remembered as the hapless officer tasked with standing in front of Heath’s Wiltshire home and appealing for “victims” to come forward.

A Note on John Sweeney, Tommy Robinson and the “Adolf Hitler Appreciation Society”

From the Independent, a few days ago:

Veteran investigative journalist John Sweeney called Tommy Robinson a “c***” as he announced his departure from the BBC.

“I’m sorry our BBC Panorama on Tommy Robinson wasn’t broadcast,” Mr Sweeney wrote on Twitter, referring to a planned edition of the programme that was not broadcast about the English Defence League.

It was cancelled after Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, covertly filmed Mr Sweeney and made a rival “documentary”.

I wrote about the fiasco at the time, here and here. Sweeney was filmed in a restaurant by an associate of Robinson who was pretending to be an informant – the journalist was shown working his way through the drinks menu, making numerous indiscreet remarks, and then ostentatiously putting £220 on expenses. He also discussed how a clip might be used to put Robinson in the worst light possible, in a way that could reasonably be seen as misleading. The BBC at the time said that it stood by the documentary, but its failure to appear speaks for itself. Sweeney, overconfident and complacent, had underestimated his quarry and undermined the credibility of the project.

Sweeney has now followed up on his “cunt” jibe with a short Twitter video that includes a clip of Robinson speaking to an enthusiastic crowd in Bavaria last year. The event had been reported at the time by Andrew Gilligan at the Sunday Times, who noted:

Robinson [received] the “European patriot of the year” award at a conference in Bavaria organised by the hard-right magazine Compact. In his acceptance speech, he said: “German people for too long have lived in the guilt of Adolf Hitler. Do not live in the guilt of Angela Merkel.”

The conference, on September 29, brought together key figures on the European far right, including Lutz Bachmann, the founder of Pegida, Martin Sellner, from the Generation Identity movement, leaders of the Alternative for Germany party and a representative of the Italian leader, Matteo Salvini. Compact has been funded by the Kremlin-created Institute for Democracy and Co-operation.

The first sentence of this quote also appears in the Sweeney video (twice), and Sweeney describes the crowd as a meeting of the “Adolf Hitler Appreciation Society”. Reiterating his fondness for crude gynaecological abuse, Sweeney ends by calling Robinson a “Nazi cunt” and pointedly quaffing some red wine.

On Twitter, the video has been lauded as a defiant gesture against Robinson, but I can’t say I’m impressed by the lazy buffoonery, which comes across as compensatory for Sweeney’s self-evident failure. The video gives the impression that Sweeney has unearthed the clip, when he’s done nothing of the kind, and many Twitter users have taken his “Adolf Hitler Appreciation Society” designation at face value – meaning that Sweeney, whatever his intentions, has effectively dumped misinformation onto social media that Robinson and his supporters will in all likelihood capitalise on.

In short, Sweeney’s latest antics are actually a hindrance to subjecting Robinson and his associates to proper critical scrutiny.

UK Prison Reform Activist Joins Conspiracy Milieu

A heady brew of conspiracy Twitter hashtags from “public speaker and activist” Shaun Attwood:

My latest YouTube video: #epstein #clinton #alexjones #infowars #davidicke #princeandrew #maxwell #illuminati #conspiracy #newworldorder #truecrime #murder #crime #clintonbodycount @davidicke #trump #georgebush

Stories about Attwood regularly appear in British media; described as “the Wolf of Widnes“, he travelled to Arizona as a young man in the 1990s, where he apparently became first a “millionaire stockbroker” and then ran an Ecstasy-importing empire. This brought him into conflict with organised crime, in the form of a rival drug ring run the mobster Sammy Gravano, and he eventually found himself a guest of the Maricopa penal system for six years. While in prison, letters to his family were published online and were a source for exposing the “subhuman” prison conditions imposed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio (1).

On his release, Attwood was deported from the US and settled in Guildford in Surrey. As well as writing true crime books, he is a pundit on issues around prison reform (represented by United Agents), and he gives talks in schools about the dangers of drug dealing.

It’s not clear when exactly Attwood decided to climb aboard the conspiracy bandwagon, but it seems to be a new development. His YouTube channel has 286,000 subscribers, and his recent uploads include interviews with the self-described police whistleblower Jon Wedger (previously blogged here) and none other than David Icke. During his talk with Icke, Attwood wore an “Illuminati” t-shirt, and as expected the main subject of discussion was the supposed existence of Satanic VIP paedophile rings.

No longer dealing in Ecstasy, Attwood has apparently turned to selling the public a cheaper and more toxic thrill – the lazy and self-righteous glow of intellectual and moral superiority that is the reward for those who align with the excesses of the conspiracy milieu and its lurid allegations.

Footnote

1. Arpaio of course is himself a conspiracy theorist, most famously promoting “Birther” claims about Barack Obama, and more recently providing a foreword to a novel co-authored by Steven Seagal about the “Deep State”.

Private Eye Looks at Clinical Psychologist Involved with Two “VIP Sex Abuse” Investigations

The latest issue of Private Eye magazine (1503) has a useful overview of clinical psychologist Dr Elly Hanson’s role during the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Midland, which was based on allegations made by the “VIP abuse” hoaxer Carl Beech, and Operation Conifer, Wiltshire Police’s probe into the deceased former prime minister Edward Heath. Hanson infamously declared in 2017 that Heath “would not meet the modern safeguarding threshold to protect [children] from risk” (a chilling example of “smear by expert opinion”, although she didn’t go so far as to assert guilt), and it was recently reported that she had provided police with a positive assessment of Beech’s counsellor, Vicki Paterson (as discussed here).

Hanson was also asked to review Beech’s police interviews, and she provided an opinion to police on 25 May 2015. She wrote:

I have conducted a brief assessment of Nick’s credibility, exploring how he reports the abuse he alleges, the nature of this abuse, his process of disclosure and reporting, and its potential impact. The above results, taken together indicate that Nick’s account of the abuse he alleges is credible. I did not find anything that raise doubts about credibility. In my view it is right that such an account triggers a methodical and thorough investigation.

This was several months after the police’s notorious “credible and true” comment endorsing Beech’s claims, and it has apparently now been submitted by the Metropolitan Police as part of its defence against a civil case brought by Harvey Proctor. Of course, such an assessment says nothing about the plausibility of Beech’s specific claims, nor about how any such investigation ought to be conducted.

The Eye goes on to note that Hanson appeared at a “Wall of Silence” exhibition event alongside Beech in January 2016, although according to Wiltshire Police she had spoken to him “only briefly”. The article then discusses her role in providing external scrutiny of Operation Conifer, despite having previously provided paid advice to the investigation (as discussed here, where I noted her specialism in “Dissociative Identity Disorder”). Hanson denies any conflict of interest.

It should also be noted that Hanson acted as a “go-between” between police and a supposed corroborative witness for Beech who had made contact via email. Hanson failed to detect that this “witness” was of course Beech himself, using the assumed name “Fred”.

When I wrote about Hanson previously I noted that some of her early work, on subjects such as domestic abuse, had been published under her maiden name of Dr Elly Farmer. This is of some relevance as it shows her links with conservative strands: in 2012 she co-authored a report for the Centre for Social Justice, a Christian-influenced conservative think-tank created and currently headed by Iain Duncan-Smith, and she provided a follow-up piece for Conservative Home.

One strong supporter of CSJ is the Tory Christian donor Lord Farmer (aka Michael Farmer – previously discussed here); a bit of research shows that the shared surname is not a coincidence, and that this is her father. Of course, we cannot draw from this any conclusions about Hanson’s own religious or political views, although it does disconnect her from a “left-wing feminist” milieu that might otherwise be assumed.

Nor is she her younger brother’s keeper – but when Lord Farmer’s son George Farmer, formerly of the right-wing activist group Turning Point UK and a close associate of Nigel Farage, asserts on Twitter that the Clintons murdered Jeffrey Epstein, one cannot help wondering about a family willingness to jump to misjudged conclusions.

Carl Beech: Former Exaro Journalist Sets Out “Miscarriage of Justice” Argument

From the website of Mark Watts:

But the public should be on the alert when the media works in near unanimity – and in lock-step with the state – to ignore the alarm bells over the way in which Carl Beech was convicted of 12 [Perversion of Justice] charges and one count of making a fraudulent compensation claim, and duly to pronounce that Britain’s scandal over VIP paedophiles was all so much nonsense.

As far as I am aware, I am a lone voice among journalists to point to reasons why the ‘Nick’ trial represents a serious miscarriage of justice.

Watts invested all of his professional credibility as a journalist in promoting Beech’s claims of “VIP sex abuse” – he described the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Midland as an “investigation that the establishment fears”, and during 2015 he and Exaro News cast aspersions on anyone who who saw through Beech’s lies long before he did. His “case for the defence” is long – and bulked out by some unhappy attempts at courtroom sketchwriting flourishes – but the main points can be set out fairly concisely.

Beech’s research

Watts disputes that Beech researched locations in order to mislead the police during interviews:

Prosecution references to Beech’s downloading specific images of locations for alleged abuse were all too often vague as to when they were downloaded. It was only probative if the downloading was before he drew the relevant sketch of a location that he supplied to the Met.

Likewise, prosecution references to his carrying out internet research on specific subjects were sometimes vague as to when they were performed. Some of the research was identified as coming after his Met interviews, so proving nothing much.

The word “some” here does a lot of work. Some dates were vague, so presumably some were not. Some research was identified as having taken place after the interviews, but some were not. Presumably he cannot say that there was no evidence that Beech researched sites or other details before interview, otherwise he would have done so. It should also be remembered that Beech maintained continuing contact with police after his interviews, and later research may have been relevant to some of this.

Continuing:

I was particularly struck by a prosecution reference to his looking up before he went to the Met articles on Exaro, where I was the editor, about Dolphin Square, the apartment complex where many MPs have their London homes.

This was entirely true.

But the prosecution’s sinister implication that he was researching Dolphin Square before his Met interviews was completely false. He had simply looked up articles about himself as the pseudonymous ‘Nick’ and his own claims to Exaro about Dolphin Square. He was not researching Dolphin Square at all.

Why, then, did Beech provide a description of the swimming pool at Dolphin Square that matched the location as depicted in a pop video, but that was actually filmed somewhere else? Watts wants us to concentrate on elements of the evidence that may be weak or arguable, but he ignores elements that are overwhelming. This is misdirection.

(It should also be borne in mind – although I don’t know if this was raised at trial – that Beech also undertook other forms of research. In particular, he visited the closed military site of Imber Village on an open day, and later impressed police with his description of it, which he claimed was based on a childhood memory).

Beech and Edward Heath

Watts disputes that Beech alleged that Edward Heath had prevented Harvey Proctor from castrating him:

Much of the media wrote ‘Nick’ off as ludicrous years before the trial began when it was claimed that he had alleged that Sir Edward Heath, the former Conservative prime minister, had stopped Harvey Proctor, an ex-MP from the same political party, using a pen-knife to cut off his genitals.

Given the political gulf between the pair, it sounded far-fetched and ridiculous.

But ‘Nick’ had told the Met in interview that he did not know who had intervened to stop Proctor cutting his genitals. Recorded on video, they are known as “ABE” interviews – achieving best evidence.

Not cutting off his genitals, note, just cutting. And, ‘Nick’ told the Met in a video interview, he had no idea who stopped it from happening.

This is digressive, since it pertains to media coverage rather than the trial, but let’s go with the flow. When I read this, I thought that perhaps a distortion had slipped in when Beech’s allegations were put to Proctor by the police, or when Proctor made them public. However, as Bandini notes in the comments below (I’ve amended this paragraph), Beech certainly did identity the person who supposedly stopped Proctor as being Heath. As Watts himself Tweeted during the trial (during which he for most part avoided using Beech’s real name, for some reason):

At one time, the defendant tells #NickTrial, Edward Heath stopped Harvey Proctor from hurting him by cutting him with a knife.

Any media distortion here about “castration” vs “genital cutting” is trivial, and if Beech never made such a claim about Heath during his interviews why did he do so when on trial? It makes no sense, and in any case, the more general point is that Proctor and Heath were presented by him as co-orgiasts. Is Watts simply unable to remember his own material, or is this a crude attempt at misdirection?

Beech’s previous conviction and jury prejudice

Watts maintains that the jury was prejudiced by Beech’s recent conviction for downloading indecent images of children and voyeurism:

The problem is that prosecutors must not usually tell juries about any previous convictions of defendants otherwise trials would be hopelessly prejudiced. This is the same reason why the media could not link Beech’s images convictions to the PCJ case.

But there was a hope for the CPS – in the Criminal Justice Act 2003. It is a handy bit of legislation that is often used in particular to discredit witnesses who allege child sexual abuse because it enables defence lawyers to introduce evidence of any “dishonest” crime to be deployed against them to undermine their credibility. The fact that the “dishonest” crime may have sprung from the childhood abuse is invariably conveniently ignored.

Could the CPS break the usual rules and turn the Criminal Justice Act 2003 on to Beech the defendant and introduce his recent reprehensible past convictions into the trial?

It is the case that at one time a defendant’s previous convictions could not be made known to a jury, and this is still the case unless a judge rules otherwise. The weakening of this prohibition was recently lamented in a piece on criminal justice by Matthew Scott, but presumably the judge at Beech’s trial would have anticipated how such disclosure might form the basis for an appeal before making his decision. The judge’s ruling is perhaps an example of a troubling trend, but it does not amount to “breaking the rules”. Note that Watts adds to this false impression by suggesting that the Criminal Justice Act 2003 was concerned with witnesses and complainants rather than defendants.

(See Update below for more on this)

Motive

Watts complains that the prosecution was inconsistent about motive, starting out with the claim that Beech was a fantasist but switching to Beech being a “liar” who was perhaps motivated by money, when it was realised that if Beech was truly delusional then he could not be guilty. But this amounts to complaining that the prosecution is covering various bases, and “delusional” covers a spectrum of which “psychotic” is just at one extreme end. Fraudsters, for instance, are sometimes delusional about the inevitability of eventual exposure despite self-conscious dishonesty.

Missing witnesses

Watts suggests that key figures from Operation Midland ought to have been called:

But no one thought to ask them, especially those who worked on Operation Midland from the outset, just what was the basis of the Met’s staggering “credible and true” assessment.

The answer would have been illuminating, putting a different complexion on the trial.

Here, Watts continues to cling to the notorious phrase “credible and true” as evidence not of police credulity, but of some indication that there is some shocking and decisive evidence that remains out of view. Why Watts cannot himself tell us what it is remains unexplained. He suggests that the prosecution was “scared” to call such witnesses, and he is critical of the defence for not doing so.

Beech’s mirror selfie

Watts also complains that the jury were shown a selfie of Carl Beech in boxer shorts:

The prosecution pulled off a master stroke by managing to persuade the judge, despite exasperated defence protests, to allow it to show the jury a picture of Carl Beech stood dressed only in his boxer shorts, taken by him in his bathroom mirror.

[Prosecutor] Badenoch sought the application on the pretext that the “selfie” disproved Beech’s comment from the witness box that he could not stand looking at his body.

Appearing as awkward and uncomfortable with himself as he did in the bathroom-mirror picture, it proved no such thing. To my mind, showing it to the jury was gratuitous.

Of course such an image cannot “prove” this point, but it may have indicative value. Watts here, though, glosses over that the photo (actually taken in a bedroom) is is also pertinent to Beech’s claims to have been repeatedly injured as a child during acts of sadistic torture (see here – whether it was right for it to have been released it to media is another matter, although I take the view that those whom Beech accused should be provided with all means to clear their names from the continuing stigma).

Blocked evidence

Watts complains that evidence from police investigations into alleged sex-abuse by VIPs was not put before the jury – this includes material from Operation Midland, which was based on Beech’s allegations, Operation Conifer, the trawling investigation into Edward Heath, and (here quoting the judge) “credible material contained in 10 investigations by other police forces and material held by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and the Independent Office for Police Conduct relating to a propensity for the sexual abuse of children by those named by the defendant”.

Further:

I know of witnesses who were keen to testify. None of these could corroborate specific episodes alleged by Beech, but they could provide relevant testimony in relation to some of the now-deceased suspects.

And there was at least one former police potential witness whose team was threatened and warned off as it investigated child sexual abuse by now-deceased VIPs at locations in London that included Dolphin Square.

Watts here appears to be suggesting that the trial ought to have become a proxy prosecution of those accused by Beech, rather than being the trial of Beech himself. But the point is not that Beech made complaints that could not be “corroborated”, it is that he told lies, presented false evidence (such as his grandmother’s penknife) and used email to concoct fake witnesses. General “similar allegation” testimony about those he has accused, or the airing of old rumours about Dolphin Square and such, is not relevant here.

In particular, Watts also refers to, again quoting the judge, “material made against Ernest Warren, who worked at Erskine Barracks, where the defendant’s stepfather, Ray Beech, was also stationed, that included the suggestion of ‘group’ child sex and child murder”. This appears to be cryptic and deliberately toned-down reference to “Lucy X”, who made Satanic Ritual Abuse allegations against Edward Heath and had a family association with the barracks. I discussed this here (Ernest Warren has apparently never been traced or positively identified). (See Update below for more on this)

“Effects of trauma”

One more point:

in my view, it was a mistake for the defence to call no expert witness as to the possible psychological effects of childhood trauma on Beech and specifically on his recall and behaviour.

Watts does not spell this out in detail, but the implication seems to be that just because an accuser tells lies and fabricates evidence, that does not mean he or she might not nevertheless have been abused (perhaps by the person they are accusing) in some other circumstance. At the level of a theoretical truism, of course, this is indeed the case – but therefore what?

Conclusion

Of course, Beech has every right to lodge an appeal, as he has now done, and perhaps (as with Tommy Robinson) some legal argument might lead to the case being re-opened despite the overwhelming evidence against him. However, there is every reason to believe that Beech provided knowingly false testimony and concocted evidence to police, and that this formed the basis for police raids and attempts to build a case against those he had accused. That’s perversion of justice, and as far as I can see Beech is currently properly in prison for it.

UPDATE 1 (27 August): Daniel De Simone vs Mark Watts

A BBC News home affairs journalist named Daniel De Simone has also engaged with Watt’s post, in a series of Tweets that I reproduce below (some full-stops and the arrangement into paragraphs added by me):

You don’t explain why Beech’s indecent images and voyeurism convictions were actually admitted into evidence. I’m able to do so since I personally attended a lot of the trial. [1] There is a framework governing the admissibility of bad character evidence in criminal trials of all kinds. Such evidence appears when it is ruled admissible. It is not an unusual occurrence [link to CPS]. [2]

In Beech’s case, his convictions were admitted into evidence after the judge decided they were relevant to important matters in issue between the parties, which is one of the ‘gateways’ through which such evidence can be admitted [3]. The judge did so for the three following reasons submitted by the prosecution: [4]

First, it demonstrated Beech had an interest in the subject matter of his allegations, namely the sexual abuse of young boys by men, entirely independent of his claim that such abuse actually took place. [5]

Second, it was relevant to whether he had a propensity to lie in relation to criminal inquiries, since he had lied to the police officers investigating his offending against children. [6]

Third, it was relevant to a propensity to deploy technology to hide his offending, which was at issue in relation to his use of an encrypted email account to pose as a fake collaborative witness during Operation Midland. [7]

On the first point, let’s be clear: some of the abuse images possessed by Beech were very extreme and sadistic by any standards, however debased. Several involved a bound and blindfolded child – horrific stuff. [8] Also, since Beech’s entire defence, when it finally emerged, was an attack on the character of others – calling them murderers, rapists and torturers – I imagine that factual evidence about his own character would have become admissible for that reason too. [9] This is another of the ‘gateways’ through which bad character evidence can be admitted into criminal trials. See ‘gateway 7’ in the above link. [10]

Regarding a separate issue you raise, there was some very precise information during the trial about research Beech carried out using his work computer. [11] With your specific example of Dolphin Square, you say it is “completely false” that Beech researched it prior to his Met interviews. But that is untrue. [12] The agreed evidence in court was that Beech researched Dolphin Square in May 2014, which was months before his Met interviews. It was also before the first Exaro article about his Dolphin Square claims. [13]

In relation to the rejected defence application about material gathered by other forces – material described by the defence as “credible” – what you don’t include is the following line from the judge’s indicative ruling: [14]

“It was not unreasonable, in all the circumstances, to rely on the conclusions of other investigating forces as to conclusions reached as to the credibility and reliability of historical complaints made against high profile individuals for the various reasons identified.” [15]

The Erskine Barracks claims that featured in Operation Conifer were obviously not detailed in its published summary report because they were not allegations for which Wiltshire said Sir Edward Heath would have been interviewed under caution if he was alive. [16] Indeed, the allegations mentioned probably fell into the ‘ritual abuse’ strand, for which Wiltshire said: “Following investigation, no further corroborative evidence was found to support the disclosures that Sir Edward Heath was involved in ritual abuse”. [17]

Regarding the fraud conviction, you say “Beech made his claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) four years before he went to the Met”. But, in fact, he submitted the claim only a year before. [18] His CICA claim form was submitted on September 2013 and his first Met interviews were in October 2014. He then received the money during Operation Midland, spending a lot of it on a convertible car. [20]

Watts responded a couple of days later:

No, Daniel, the jury was specifically told that Carl Beech had looked up articles about Dolphin Square on Exaro. Exaro had published nothing about Dolphin Square until July 2014, when it published three pieces based in large part on some claims made by ‘Nick’. [1] So when Carl Beech was, as the jury was told, looking up articles on Dolphin Square on Exaro, he was looking to see what Exaro had run about himself (which the jury was not told). [2] It was, indeed, “agreed evidence”, but that makes it worse because the jury was entitled, and indeed instructed, to take it as true when it was completely misleading, as I said in my article [3]

DeSimone’s response:

Mark, the agreed evidence – meaning a fact agreed between the prosecution and defence – is that Beech used his work computer on 23 May 2014 to search for Dolphin Square before then browsing the complex’s website, as well as looking at the location on Google Maps. [1] Quite separately – on 14 July 2014 – he accessed an Exaro story about his Dolphin Square allegations. Your whole point is resting on the inaccurate claim that he only looked at the Exaro article. [2] Don’t believe me? You even tweeted about it yourself during the trial. See attached screenshot and link to the tweet. Do you now accept your article is wrong? [3]

Watts’ relevant Tweet here was from during the trial in May. He wrote:

Prosecution and defence agree, #NickTrial hears, that defendant’s work computer shows that it was used in May 2014 to search online for Sidney Cooke, General Bramall, Peter Hayman, Operation Fernbridge, Elm Guest House, Exaro and Dolphin Square.

I think it’s clear what has happened here. In his article, Watts refers to the dates of some searches as “all too often vague”, and he has found one instance from July for which there is an innocent explanation. He pretends that the case rests on this arguable evidence, while ignoring the open-and-shut instance that relates to 23 May (and, I suspect, probably many others). Watts’s presentation is selective to the point of dishonesty.

Watts continues:

Yes, Carl Beech had made his CICA application the year before he went to Met (not 4yrs, now corrected in my article @FOIACentre ). But point still stands: he had already made his application before going to Met. He already had a crime reference number [4]… from Wiltshire Police in 2013 after alleging in 2012 child sexual abuse by his step-father, Jimmy Savile, and unnamed others. But the bulk of the PCJ case related to his Met allegations, so compensation was evidently not the motivation. [5]

The compensation motivation was always somewhat speculative, although we learnt from the trial that Beech is a spendthrift with debts. He used previous compensation to buy a status object (an expensive car), and it is reasonable to suspect that the prospect of further payouts was a factor in his decision to make new allegations (incidentally, it remains unclear when Watts and Exaro became aware that Beech had also accused Jimmy Savile).

Watts then returns to Beech’s previous conviction:

With the prosecution claim of a causal link between his interest in indecent images of under-age boys + its PCJ case. It is not unusual to seek to introduce past convictions, but that does not make it alright. [6] On the contrary, it is another example of a flaw in the criminal justice system. In the case of Carl Beech, it was an egregious example. It was compounded by the lack of full disclosure to the defence (itself another common problem in the criminal justice system). [7]

If it is “not unusual”, why, then, did Watts claim that the CPS strategised to “break the usual rules”? Jurists and philosophers may argue over whether or not it is “alright” to disclose past convictions, but DeSimone has already laid out the justifications in this particular case, and they are reasonable. Watts’s concession here completely collapses a central plank of his argument.

Watts then returns to be “blocked evidence” allegation, although here he simply repeats himself:

The case against Carl Beech rested in part on the notion that his claims were ludicrous, but the CPS/police blocked disclosure of evidence that might suggest otherwise. (I already quoted liberally from the judge’s final, rather than indicative, ruling on disclosure.) [8] And rather than defence lawyers seeing the evidence and assessing it for themselves, we have the prosecution/police doing it for them. Again, not unusual these days, but it is scandalously unfair and unjust. [9] Which reminds me… When are you reporting on the astonishing submissions made in open court re Harvey Proctor on June 21? I cannot recall whether that was one of the days when you were not there, but at least one of your BBC colleagues was. [10]

Presumably this again refers to what I take to be the “Lucy X” claims, and to the various objects that police apparently decided were not evidence of a crime, but from which Watts want us to infer suspicions about Proctor’s character (although such suspicions would fail to overthrow the evidence of Beech concocting evidence and lying).

Soon after this, Watts then Re-Tweeted a number of older Tweets, which means that casual visitors to his Twitter feed will not see the exchange without scrolling down.

UPDATE 2 (27 August): The barrister Matthew Scott has also considered the question of whether Beech received a fair trial. He addresses the basis for the lengthy prison sentence, Watts’s general confusion about the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the objects that Watts believes Proctor should have been asked about, and the supposed “missing witnesses”.

As regards the objects, he writes:

Since all those items were returned to him by the Metropolitan Police investigating Beech’s rape and murder allegations, it is reasonable to assume that they did not regard them as very significant. One of the intended effects of s.100 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (the provision that Watts disapprovingly says is “often used in particular to discredit witnesses”) was, as Pitchford LJ put it:

“… to eliminate kite-flying and innuendo against the character of a witness in favour of concentration upon the real issues in the case.”

(Incidentally, a man who was lodging with Proctor at the time of the police raid has explained some of these items on Twitter)

On the non-involvement of Operation Midland officers, while Watts claims to believe that they would have revealed some compelling reason for regarding Beech as credible and true, Matthew explains that in all likelihood they would instead have admitted to having been duped, which would hardly have helped the defence case.

New Lord Mountbatten Biography Fuels “VIP Abuse” Claims

Sunday Times puff-piece ignores “Kincora” allegations in book; preview copy was provided to Carl Beech promoter Mark Watts

From the Sunday Mirror:

Lord Mountbatten’s ‘lust for young boys’ exposed in FBI files

The decorated war hero was under US surveillance for more than three decades

Lord Mountbatten was “a homosexual with a perversion for young boys”, according to newly released FBI files.

…In Mr [Andrew] Lownie’s book, Ron Perks, who was the Earl’s driver in Malta in 1948, breaks his silence to claim one of his favourite places was the Red House near Rabat, “an upmarket gay brothel used by naval officers”.

And Anthony Daly, a rent boy to the rich and famous in the 1970s, claims he was told “Mountbatten had something of a fetish for uniforms — handsome young men in ­military uniforms and beautiful boys in school uniform”.

The article is a derivative piece based on a longer account of the book by the Sunday Timess media and entertainment editor Grant Tucker (also syndicated under a different headline to the Australian). Alongside the details rehashed by the Sunday Mirror, Tucker also refers to “an interview with a man who was Mountbatten’s lover throughout the 1970s, an unnamed neighbour then in his 20s.” Note that the man’s status as “lover” is presented by Tucker here as if this were an established fact rather than a claim

The plain meaning of the Sunday Mirror headline and opener, and of others like it, is that the FBI was watching Mountbatten’s movements, and had discovered that he was a child sex offender. However, as the story in due course makes clear, the quote in fact merely refers to a piece of aristocratic gossip that the FBI had picked up:

…one file references a 1944 interview with Elizabeth de la Poer Beresford, Baroness Decies.

The memo says: “She states that in these circles Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife are considered persons of extremely low morals.

“She stated Lord Louis Mountbatten was known to be a homosexual with a perversion for young boys. In Lady Decies’ opinion he is an unfit man to direct any sort of military operations because of this condition. She stated further his wife was considered equally erratic.”

“Young boys” in this context is unlikely to mean “children”, and the Sunday Times chose to allay this impression by amending the quote in its headline to “young men”. But the larger point is that this is not something that the FBI had verified – it was just a bit of hearsay it had noted down. One other derivative article, in Malta Today, adds further confusion with a headline stating that the “Red House” detail comes from the FBI rather than from Perks (Lownie is so careless as to have amplified this headline on Twitter without correcting it).

In fact, the FBI note (and another like it) is nothing new – Mountbatten was dogged by rumours of homosexuality his whole adult life, fuelled by his naval career, his friendships with gay men such as Peter Murphy and Noël Coward, and the fact that his wife had numerous affairs. (1)

There is something irritating about an article that relies on a book without properly explaining the basis of its claims. How did the man who claims to have been Mountbatten’s lover in the 1970s substantiate his account? Why does Perks believe that the “Red House” was a gay brothel, and is there any supportive evidence? Was it just a gay brothel, or did it also have other functions?

The alleged hearsay gossip of Tom Driberg via Anthony Daly is an odd inclusion – Daly is the author of an alleged “VIP abuse” memoir originally titled Playland and now reissued as The Abuse of Power, and Tucker’s write-up describes him as someone “who had a close relationship with Driberg”. However, from what I can find in the book itself (which lacks an index), there is just one account of a meeting with Driberg, at Driberg’s flat in the Barbican.

According to Daly, Driberg quickly began boasting about his youthful association with Aleister Crowley, even though this was afterwards a source of embarrassment to him (2). There’s no apparent reference to Mountbatten, in which case it is fortunate that Daly has just happened to remember an extra quote which now means his name is back in the media. Lownie’s confidence in Daly is also expressed in a cover blurb he provided for the second edition of Daly’s book (“A brave, honest and shocking memoir which deserves to be widely read by those in authority” – visible on Amazon but not present on the Google Books image) (3).

[UPDATE: on Twitter, Bandini notes that Daly was asked in 2015 whether he had seen “definite evidence” that Mountbatten was “a paedo/who killed Dando”. The implication is that the television presenter Jill Dando had been murdered because she had discovered something about Mountbatten 20 years after his death. Daly replied with the statement “Speculation and inference – no evidence as such”, then adding that this was “The answer was in relation to a Q re Mountbatten and Dando”. Given the outlandish nature of the proposition, one wonders what “inference” Daly had in mind, and why, on the more general point, he didn’t refer to Driberg at that time.]

However, even more extraordinary is that the book apparently delves into claims that Mountbatten was involved in organised child abuse involving boys trafficked from the Kincora children’s home in Northern Ireland. This sensational angle is covered by Joseph de Burca in a left-wing conspiracy magazine and website called the The Village, and he complains that British articles have ignored this aspect of the work. Lownie has endorsed the Village article, commending it as “one of the only magazines which has bravely trodden where other papers will not go”. The question of course is why other papers “will not go” there – lack of “bravery”, or recognition that credulity would the strained by a full account of Lownie’s claims? Either way, Grant Tucker has some explaining to do.

According to the Village summary, Lownie’s book features the testimony of several individuals who say they were taken as boys to Mountbatten for sexual abuse. The article also refers to Richard Kerr, although it’s not clear whether he features in Lownie’s book. The difficulty here is that Kerr’s claims cannot be relied upon – for example, it turns out that he was on remand in prison in Northern Ireland at a time he says he was trafficked to London to be abused by VIPs. Kerr withdrew from the Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse in Northern Ireland rather than account for difficulties such as these. The Village has since run several articles based on Kerr without acknowledging these problems, including one I discussed here after Kerr added Enoch Powell to his roster of perpetrators.

How did Lownie come into contact with these accusers? Perhaps the former Exaro journalist Mark Watts had something to do with it: Lownie provided Watts with an advance copy of his book, and Watts now writes that “In 2015, Exaro named Lord Mountbatten, Prince Charles’s great-uncle and mentor, as being one of several establishment figures who helped to cover up a paedophile network of VIPs linked to Kincora boys’ home,” adding that “At the same time, Exaro also reported that Lord Mountbatten mixed with paedophiles who went to parties in the Republic of Ireland, and that he visited Kincora, although exactly why was unclear”.

The Exaro article can be seen here – the claim about the Republic of Ireland is attributed to “an intelligence source”, while the rest of it is based on Kerr, whose name Watts now avoids mentioning. Watts also writes that “there is more to come out about Dickie Mountbatten’s alleged appetite for young cadets, ratings and servicemen, either side of today’s age of consent – and on how it was covered up”. This particular Tweet has been RTed by Lownie, who appears to retain confidence in Watts despite Watts’s central role in the Carl Beech fiasco. (4)

The end of Tucker’s article quotes Lownie as saying “I am a serious historian rather than a tabloid journalist but in a full biography I had to deal with many of the allegations which have repeatedly been raised.”

Footnotes

1. Tucker notes that Mountbatten’s official biographer was dismissive of the rumours, although for some reason he fails to name him or to set out his reasoning. The biographer of course was the eminent historian Philip Ziegler, whose Mountbatten appeared in 1985, six years after Mountbatten’s assassination by the IRA. He writes on pages 52-53:

When he first met Peter Murphy and might have fallen victim to his charms, he was besottedly in love with a series of girls… for the first few years of his married life Mountbatten was preoccupied with his wife. All his naval contemporaries who have expressed an opinion on the subject – and some worked very close to him – state emphatically that they do not believe the stories to be true.

…Observing Mounbatten [when elderly] with his hand on the arm of an attractive young man, the less charitable observer leapt to an agreeably scandalous conclusion. The fact that the arm would more often belong to an attractive young woman was neither here nor there.

…In 1975 the Daily Mirror published article about a homosexual ring centredon the Life Guards’ barracks in London. Mountbatten was told that his name had been mentioned in this connection. “I refused to take this seriously,” he recorded in his diary, “and I said I might have been accused of many things in my life but hardly the act of homosexuality.”

Why would a man who was homosexual or even bisexual write such a thing in his diary?

The subject is also discussed in the more recent Mountbatten: The Private Story (2008), by Brian Hoey. A crudely written review of the book published in the Pakistan Daily Times claims that it exposes Mountbatten as voraciously bisexual, but this doesn’t seem to be supported by a browse of the text itself, in which gay interview subjects who knew Mountbatten state that he wasn’t of their persuasion, although he was tolerant and regarded it as none of his business.

2. The scholar Marco Pasi notes that Crowley’s biographer John Symonds waited until after Driberg’s death before adding a chapter about Driberg’s relationship with Crowley. This seems unduly cautious if Driberg was happy to blab about it to anyone who happened to call.

3. In May 2018, Private Eye magazine (1469, p. 35) ran a review of Playland under the heading “Fantasy Fiction”; the piece did not attempt to debunk Daly’s story, but implied in a sceptical tone that Mirror Books (associated with the newspaper group) had published an unlikely and unsubstantiated story. Daly – who says he was inspired to speak out after reading Anthony Gilberthorpe’s claims (discussed here) – Tweeted that he had offered to show evidence to Eye editor Ian Hislop but had been ignored.

4. Watts is of the view that Beech’s trial was “unsafe”, and as such he has not felt the need to engage with the overwhelming evidence of Beech’s guilt (and in a good example of projection, he accuses the media of “avoiding” the issue), or to apologise for the aspersions he cast on sceptical journalists and the victims of Beech’s malicious falsehoods.

Watts argues that the court did not have insight into how the effects of abuse might influence the nature of disclosure, which appears to imply that Beech’s lies, fabrication of evidence and use of email to create fake collaborative witnesses does not discredit him. Watts explained this in a recent audio interview with the fringe conspiracy theorist Tony Gosling.

Hope Not Hate Notes Brexit Party Figures on the Richie Allen Show

From Hope Not Hate:

HOPE not hate can reveal that two Brexit Party MEPs and a prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) have appeared on the Richie Allen Show, a David Icke-affiliated radio broadcast that serves as an online platform for antisemitic conspiracy theorists and Holocaust deniers.

Ann Widdecombe MEP appeared on the show three times between August 2017 and April 2019, David Bull MEP appeared on the show as recently as 30 April 2019, and Stuart Waiton, PPC for Dundee West and an unsuccessful MEP candidate in Scotland, made five appearances between 27 June 2018 and 9 May 2019.

The story was picked up by the Observer, under a headline that refers to “alt-right media” (1)  – however, while it is true that Allen frequently platforms alt-right figure, his podcast’s vibe is more alternative left, and an earlier controversy about his show concerned a certain Alex Scott-Samuel, who is a Labour Party activist opposed to Luciana Berger and a member of the pro-Corbyn Jewish Voice For Labour. The Jewish Chronicle noted a 2017 appearance in February:

He said on the programme: “The Rothschild family are behind a lot of the neo-liberal influence in the UK and the US. You only have to google them to look at this.

“Ever since they funded the Napoleonic Wars and made enormous profits from them just over 200 years ago they’ve had a quiet vested interest in the pursuit of free trade and neo-liberalism.”

Mr Allen – who has continued to invite Dr Scott-Samuel on his show since splitting from Mr Icke to air his shows on his own website – hosted notorious antisemite Gilad Atzmon last July, former KKK Grand Master David Duke in 2016 and self-described “Holocaust revionist” Alison Chabloz in 2018.

(More on the “Napoleonic” Rothschild conspiracy theory here)

“Mainstream” public figures who have previously agreed to appear on the show include Michael Mansfield and Maggie Oliver. It would be wrong to assume that such guests must therefore be in sympathy with Allen or agree with his other interlocutors, but it is very reasonable to ask them to clarify their opinion of Allen once the nature of his podcast has been brought to their attention, and to ask how they justify raising the profile of a damaging conspiracy-monger by lending their names to his show.

Footnote

1. The Observer article goes on to note other material from Hope Not Hate, in particular Nigel Farage’s involvement as an interview subject in a documentary called Bilderberg: The Movie, and the willingness of Brexit Party figures to promote American alt-right figures on social media:

Farage and his MEPs Michael Heaver, Nathan Gill and Martin Daubney have shared the tweets of Jack Posobiec, a promoter of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, which claimed a Washington pizzeria was a front for a paedophile ring that stretched to the top of the Democratic party. Other figures to be retweeted by Brexit party MEPs include Mark Collett, a former BNP figure, Stefan Molyneux, a far-right Canadian YouTuber, and Mike Cernovich, who has kept a blog promoting men’s rights, anti-feminism and misogynist pick-up artistry.

Staffordshire Police Says Complaint Against VIP Abuse Accuser Esther Baker is “Being Investigated”

From the Daily Mail:

Detectives are investigating claims that a second alleged abuse victim lied about sex attacks by a VIP paedophile ring.

In 2015, Esther Baker said former Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming was part of a group which lured children into woodland at Cannock Chase in Staffordshire to be raped.

…Now Staffordshire Police, which spent more than a year investigating the allegations, confirmed they were probing whether Miss Baker, 36, misled detectives.

…In a statement, Staffordshire Police said yesterday: ‘Following a complaint made to officers, the matter is being investigated and the file is currently with Staffordshire Police’s head of crime for review and consideration of next steps.’

It is difficult to tell from this how far along the police are – have Baker’s claims be re-scrutinised, or does this just mean that the force is investigating whether to investigate?

The complainant is the former MP John Hemming, and it is odd that neither the Mail article nor a BBC report refer to the fact that the force had previously considered his complaint in 2017. Their initial view, as reported in September 2017, was that a probe of Baker’s claims “would not benefit her or the wider community” (or, we might infer, the police), and a few months later it was reported that:

Staffordshire Police informed him [Hemming] via email that following a ‘review’ of his allegations, it had decided there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to proceed with the case and no further action would be taken.

Baker has responded dismissively to the new articles, scoffing on Twitter that “Police follow normal procedure and pass file up the chain to decide whether it’s worth passing to CPS before dropping it like last time… 4 years in … they’ve still not felt the need to interview me under caution – unlike some.”

She has also once again suggested that she has information that substantiates her account that is not the public domain:

Meh. I’m actually quite bored … but one day they’ll learn that for every time they try to discredit me with lies – I get irritated enough to post a bit more truth. Stay tuned travellers.

Baker has also in the past referred to Staffordshire Police’s continuing confidence in her as a truthful complainant. This is something to be borne in mind – clearly, constructing a case that officers were “misled” might imply criticism of those officers, and any decision to proceed now (following the high-profile conviction of VIP abuse hoaxer Carl Beech) would raise questions about why Hemming’s complaint was rejected in 2017 and 2018. This is perhaps a systemic conflict-of-interest problem when it comes to perversion of justice allegations.

Alongside her Cannock Chase allegations, Baker also claims to have been taken by night to London, where she was brought to a location that she now believes to have been Dolphin Square, and she has also made teenage “grooming”-type claims. These are claims for which she has waived her legal right to anonymity, although that would not preclude her from making other allegations that cannot be publicly attributed to her.

Baker’s supporters in Parliament include John Mann (who raised her name in the House of Commons chamber), Sarah Champion and Jess Phillips, who defeated Hemming in the 2015 general election.

Hemming settled a libel action against two of Baker’s supporters in January.

A Note on Alan Dershowitz’s Accuser and a Mail on Sunday Journalist

From the Daily Beast, a few days ago:

Lawyer Alan Dershowitz claims an email buried in a mountain of just-unsealed court documents proves that one of Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers lied when she said she was farmed out for sex with him as a teenager.

The email, dating from May 2011, was from a veteran Mail on Sunday journalist named Sharon Churcher, and it had been sent to Dershowitz’s accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre a couple of months after Guiffre’s story of her time with Epstein had provided the basis for Churcher’s splash “Prince Andrew and the 17-year-old girl his sex offender friend flew to Britain to meet him“. Guiffre was attempting to put together a book, and she had emailed Churcher asking “if you have any information on you from when you and I were doing interviews about the J.E. story”, particularly as regards names of “pedo’s” (sic) “that J.E. sent me to”.

Churcher’s reply:

Don’t forget Alan Dershowitz… J.E.’s buddy and lawyer…good name for your pitch as he repped Claus von Bulow and a movie was made about that case… title was Reversal of Fortune. We all suspect Alan is a pedo and tho no proof of that, you probably met him when he was hanging out with JE.

“You probably met him” indicates that this is a name that Churcher is speculatively proposing, rather than someone Guiffre had herself previously named to her. Even though this is Churcher providing informal advice rather than working on a new story, the implications of a journalist advising a source about whom they might derive benefit from accusing are troubling.

The story continues:

Churcher, who no longer works at the Mail on Sunday, declined to comment.

Similarly, a new longer piece in the Washington Post on Dershowitz’s feud with Guiffre’s lawyer David Boies covers the same ground, and we’re told that

Churcher did not respond to a request for an interview.

However, although Church may be reticent about being part of the story, she’s still writing about the Epstein scandal – such as in the Sun, where she’s proudly bylined as “Sharon Churcher, Journalist who broke the story”.

The released cache also shows that Guiffre, when interviewed in a 2016 deposition, disputed a number of statements attributed to her by Churcher in 2011. As noted by Courthouse News:

The sweeping interview, only 20 pages of which appear in a newly unsealed exhibit, takes Giuffre through a list of statements attributed to her by Mail on Sunday reporter Sharon Churcher.

Asked by an attorney to identify whether any of the Churcher statements were inaccurate, Giuffre put check marks next to about a dozen bombshells, clarifying details such as who saw President Bill Clinton get into a “huge black helicopter” with accused Epstein accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell.

…“Donald Trump never flirted with me,” Giuffre said. “Then the next sentence is, ‘He’d laugh and tell Jeffrey, “you’ve got the life.”’ I never said that to her.”

Law & Crime, meanwhile, picks out a few further details:

In the deposition, Giuffre disagreed with reporter Churcher’s reference to herself as a “pedophile’s dream.”

“I said something along the line like . . . ‘the pedos loved me because I would do everything that they wanted for them,'” Giuffre said in the deposition. “But do I think that — yeah, I — I know [Churcher] made that line up herself, the pedos — pedophile’s dream.”

According to Connie Bruck in the New Yorker, Guiffre says that “Churcher showed her pictures of prominent men in Epstein’s circle”, and Giuffre “identified some of those she’d had sex with”. There is no indication that Churcher included any unrelated photos in order to test for false positives.

Guiffre of course did later accuse Dershowitz, and she explains the Churcher email by suggesting that the journalist had simply forgotten this. According to Bruck:

Giuffre told me, “I can’t say what she was thinking, but I think she threw Alan into it forgetting that I had already mentioned him, even informed her of the experiences I had with him.”

***

(Expanded – thanks to Bandini in the comments for the New Yorker link)

A Note on Carl Beech, Peter Saunders and NAPAC

In 2016, David Aaronovitch wrote about the climate in which the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse came into being; his account includes a detail from July 2014:

Peter Saunders, the founder of NAPAC (an organisation to support adult survivors of child abuse) told the Iranian-owned Press TV station that he had received allegations of abuse “at the highest level of government”. He went on: “Some of the men in Westminster indulged in the most disgusting abuse of young children . . . allegedly

. . . When you have good reason to believe that it goes to the top of the political tree then it’s very worrying. Past prime ministers, past senior members of the British cabinet, have been mentioned as abusing children. It doesn’t get much worse than that.”

Press TV, of course, has its own interests in promoting the idea that British institutions are utterly corrupt and depraved – Iran’s line is that “compared to Western countries, we have very few cases of abuse because of our cultural and religious characteristics”, and Press TV has not troubled to report allegations that well-connected individuals in the country can evade justice for exactly this crime. Saunders’s decision to allow himself to be used by an authoritarian regime’s propaganda outlet is a matter for his own conscience, but I would have advised against it.

The interview can be viewed on Press TV’s YouTube channel – it begins by giving the date as “9-7-2014”, and the upload date confirms that this means 9 July 2014. This date is perhaps significant, as noted by Simon Just: The Telegraph‘s recent long-lead about the Carl Beech hoax has the following detail:

The meeting between Beech and [Tom] Watson was set up for July 8th 2014. Mr [Mark] Conrad and a social worker Peter McKelvie, who was a member of a victims’ panel with the national child abuse inquiry, accompanied Beech.

Conrad was with Exaro News, and he invested heavily in Beech’s claims (I wrote about Conrad yesterday, and McKelvie a while back). Beech’s allegations did not become public until a few months later, but was there coordination between Saunders and the others here? As Simon notes, Exaro’s Mark Watts formerly had a show on Press TV – it was a while before, but contacts may have been retained.

We know that Beech had some involvement with NAPAC – in October 2012, the NAPAC newsletter ran a poem by him, which was published under his own full name (a pdf of the issue was online for long time, but has disappeared in last couple of weeks). The poem alleged sadistic sex abuse, but there was no indication of “VIPs” or murder, which later became central to his allegations (and at which point he decided he wanted to exercise his legal right to anonymity).

Saunders more recently has been active in Australia. A recent column by Gerard Henderson in the Weekend Australian has some observations:

[Saunders] will be familiar to Australians who followed the conviction of Cardinal George Pell for historical child sexual abuse. Saunders has appeared on 60 Minutes and ABC TV’S 7.30 to discuss the Pell case. He got wide publicity for describing Pell, who he has never met, as a “sociopath”.

It turns out that Saunders ­assisted Beech in advancing his claims against [Edward] Heath, [Leon] Brittan and the like. In October 2015, Saunders appeared on a BBC Panorama program and described Beech as “entirely credible”. In short, ­Saunders was convinced that Beech was telling the truth.

Not any more. On July 23, Saunders was quoted in The Guardian as describing Beech as “a fantasist and a liar” who is a “one-off”. But he provided no evidence to support the implication of his claim that there are no other such types around.

Also, Saunders provided no ­explanation, still less an apology, for being conned by Beech.

The Panorama progamme highlighted various difficulties with Beech’s claims – Saunders’ decision to appear in the documentary to put the other side was in contrast to Mark Watts, who declined to participate on the grounds that the programme-makers lacked objectivity, and that the BBC couldn’t be neutral because it had formerly employed Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall. (1)

The Henderson column is also quoted in a recent Holy Smoke Podcast, in which Damian Thompson interviews my friend Catherine Lafferty, a journalist who attended some of Beech’s trial. The podcast ranges over NAPAC’s promotion of “checklists”, which remind Thompson of older evangelical anti-Satanic Ritual Abuse indicators; the possible role of displaced anger against the Establishment caused by “economic trauma” after the Great Recession; the “frightening” way that “liberal rationalism can be abandoned so quickly”, with pressure to believe rather than evaluate evidence; the police’s desire to be seen as celebrities in a social media age; and how “the language of therapy culture” guided the disastrous investigation into Beech’s claims.

Catherine also notes that those accused “were not fashionable people”, and “there was a sense in which people wanted to believe the worst about their ideological opponents, and so they fell on these stories with glee”. This has also been the case with Cardinal Pell – reasonable doubts about a very weak case appear to have been left to commentators on the right, such as Andrew Bolt (discussed here).

Footnote

1. Henderson goes on to discuss last’s years ABC Media Watch critique of a 2015 60 Minutes documentary that was based on Beech’s claims and those of some other “VIP abuse accusers” – I discussed this here.