A Note on Barbara Hewson’s Bar Standards Board Suspension

From Jonathan Ames at The Times:

A barrister who called for the age of consent to be lowered to 13 has been suspended for making “seriously offensive” comments on social media about another lawyer… Ms Hewson… was also found to be “disparaging” of the profession’s regulatory process as conducted by the Bar Standards Board.

…The ruling comes after a long-running dispute between Ms Hewson and Sarah Phillimore, a barrister in Bristol who publishes a blog on child protection issues.

In 2017 Ms Phillimore confirmed that she had made complaints about Ms Hewson’s online behaviour to the Bar regulator and to the police.

Ames previously wrote about the dispute with Phillimore at the time, as I discussed here – his reporting conflated her complaint with wild and false allegations made by a law student, which were cited selectively to exclude the most far-fetched elements. The Times eventually issued a correction, while MailOnline settled a libel action over a derivative article.

Ames’s account is most likely second-hand, based on the published Bar Standards Board announcement and perhaps contact with Phillimore. The only journalist known to have been present at the hearing itself was Mark Watts, who appears to have unlimited free time to attend and Tweet about cases that take his interest. Watts’s name of course is today inseparable from that of Carl Beech, the false accuser and sex offender responsible for the Operation Midland fiasco. Watts promoted Beech’s claims uncritically at the website Exaro, and described Operation Midland as “a police investigation that the establishment fears” – and even now, he maintains that Beech was wrongly convicted of perverting the course of justice.

Exaro imputed sinister motives to journalists and others who questioned Beech’s narrative (in one instance Watts even delved into where a BBC Panorama journalist had lived as a child as possible evidence of murkiness) – Barbara was one of the most vocal and scathing sceptics, and given that Watts’s expectations of glory as the journalist who exposed the biggest scandal in British politics have now turned to ashes it is reasonable to interpret his ongoing interest in Barbara’s activities and the disciplinary as compensatory.

Watts’s tweets brought great joy to what can fairly be called the “I Believe Nick” crowd of “VIP child sex abuse” conspiracists (“Nick” being Carl Beech’s media pseudonym before he was exposed). Watts has liberally Re-Tweeted their praise of his coverage and amplified their further complaints against Barbara, including Tweets from explicit conspiracy accounts (I discussed one such regular interlocutor with Watts here), and he is currently making liberal use of a goading “#BarbieTroll” hashtag. He also, however, outlined the arguments put forward on Barbara’s behalf, which was more than Ames managed.

Much of Barbara’s material considered by the Bar Standards Council was indefensible, consisting of crude abuse and some gratuitously intrusive personal references, but there was a case for mitigation based on the toll taken on her mental health by relentless trolling by this same group, and this was the line that her counsel took. Phillimore has interacted with members of this crowd on a regular basis, sharing their contempt and disparagement of Barbara, and I am not convinced by Phillimore’s claims that she was made fearful.

Despite a hard-as-nails and forensic exterior, Barbara made the mistake of Tweeting impulsively and in anger (many of her Tweets were quickly deleted, I believe after having second thoughts), and of confusing having a filter with self-censorship. Those who engage in Twitter controversies – sometimes a necessary activity – would be advised always to bear in mind what they hope to achieve, and whether they are making a point effectively for the benefit of a wider audience or just venting. The latter may be a temptation, but it is seldom edifying or likely to convince. It can also get out of hand, as happened here.

UPDATE: The story has now been picked up by the Telegraph, which tells the story from Phillimore’s perspective. It includes the detail that “In 2017 Ms Phillimore contacted the police to complain and they issued a Prevention of Harrassment [sic] letter, which Ms Hewson unsuccessfully tried to have judicially reviewed.” Details of the case can be seen here – the attempt failed on the specific grounds that such warnings do “not involve any formal determination of any kind… It is simply a record that the allegation has been made”. This is a significant detail that for some reason is absent from the Telegraph account.

Some Conservative MPs and “Soros” Conspiricism

The Times reports on the Sophy Ridge on Sunday show:

[Michael Gove] was asked about Sally-Ann Hart, successor to Amber Rudd as MP for Hastings & Rye, and Lee Anderson, who took Ashfield from Labour for the first time since 1979.

Ms Hart is being investigated for sharing a video in 2017 implying that George Soros, the financier and philanthropist, controlled the EU. She also “liked” a comment beneath the video saying “Ein Reich”, a Nazi slogan.

…Mr Anderson… is being investigated by the party for his activity in Ashfield Backs Boris, a Facebook group in which fellow members supported Tommy Robinson, the far-right activist, and conspiracy theories about Mr Soros were posted.

The facts in each case do not appear to be in doubt, and so the “investigations” will presumably focus on motive and context.

A case for the defence would be that Soros is an extremely wealthy individual who supports contentious causes, and that as such he should be subject to scrutiny and criticism – his Jewish heritage is irrelevant, even though antisemites may also have targeted him for their own reasons. However, this does not address the issue of conspiracy thinking – whatever the extent of Soros’s actual influence, it is not reasonable to suggest that he controls the EU.  How can such an exaggerated or distorted account of a Jewish person’s role and influence in public life not be antisemitic, by very definition? What difference can there be between the idea of a Jewish puppet-master and of a puppet-master who happens to be Jewish?

“Soros” as an all-purpose invocation that supposedly has wide-ranging explanatory value has of course been around for a long time – I first saw it on American websites years ago, and the trend has been especially weaponised in his native Hungary. In British political discourse, though, it has been largely confined to the fringe: last year, Nadine Dorries gratuitously suggested that a small anti-Brexit demo outside a Labour shadow cabinet meeting may have been “paid for by multi millionaire, George Soros”, and she also raised his name in a television interview – both times without facing any censure within her party.

Hart and Anderson will probably be able to extricate themselves with an apology – this was what happened with Lincoln MP Karl McCartney, who had RTed anti-Soros conspiracy theories by the likes of Paul Joseph Watson as well as articles promoting Tommy Robinson.

McCartney was alluded to during the head-to-head between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn a few days before the election: moderator Nick Robinson stated to Johnson “You have candidates who have Re-Tweeted Tommy Robinson talking about – quotes – ‘Muslim paedophiles'”, and Johnson replied that “All those candidates have either apologised or are now subject to investigation”. Prior to McCartney, though, Robinson was RTed by Bob Blackman in 2016 (although Blackman claims to have done so “in error”), and by Dorries last year (in circumstances I discussed here – and no investigation or apology followed).

Footnote

Hart is also controversial for promoting an article by one Cheri Berens suggesting that Muslims are involved in progressive movements as part of a plot to weaken the West, and for a comment at a hustings event that led to the disastrous headline “Tory candidate says disabled people should be paid less as ‘they don’t understand money’”. The latter controversy was a bit unfair – she was actually talking about work placements for adults with severe learning disabilities where inclusion is a social good but uneconomical. This difficult area was an odd topic for her to have got embroiled in.

A Note on the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn and a Conspiracy Website

From Daniel Trilling in the Guardian:

On Saturday [i.e. a week ago], the Sun published an exclusive story by its political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, which announced that a group of former British intelligence officers had uncovered a “hard-left extremist network” at the heart of the Labour party. “HIJACKED LABOUR” declared the piece, which went on to claim that Jeremy Corbyn sits at the centre of a “spider’s web of extensive contacts” that stretch “from Marxist intellectuals to militant groups and illegal terror organisations”.

The article was online for just a few hours, and was not included in the print edition. It seems that it was removed after some people on social media noticed that the website, itself called “Hijacked Labour”, had cited the neo-Nazi website “Aryan Unity” as a source –  although even without this particularly egregious aspect the website was an obvious crank effusion that made connections that were either banal, inexplicable or simply wrong. One link led to the actor Matt Berry, while a bizarre emphasis was placed on the supposed influence of the deceased French philosophers Michel Foucault, Jean-François Lyotard and Jacques Derrida. At least one person named on the chart complained about their inclusion: this was a doctor named David Rouse, who stated that “I quit labour the moment Corbyn got in as I disagree with his politics.  So looks like they need to try and get their facts right”.

The likely reason why Newton Dunn (or perhaps a more junior reporter providing ghosted content) chanced his arm with the story was that it presented itself as being the work of “former British intelligence officers”. Some critics of the story, eager to detect the media manipulations of “spooks”, took this at face value, but surely a propaganda operation would not have made such a hash of it. It is much more likely that Newton Dunn simply found it expedient not to probe the claims of the site’s creators in any detail, and that as such he was stung by charlatans.

The only supposed author of the site named by Newton Dunn was one Mark Bles, the pen name of a former SAS officer named Mark Whitcombe-Power who resides at a French farm and runs an olive oil business. An SAS background does not make someone an “intelligence officer”, and does not substantiate the existence of a group of such officers. Bles was afterwards contacted by the Guardian’s Jim Waterson, who quotes him as saying “I think it’s an excellent chart, it has a lot of data in it. The data that is in it has all been found on the web”. This sounds buffoonish rather than mysterious or sinister, and my instinct is that he is simply a foolish man whose vanity and confirmation bias made him prey to other bad actors.

Trilling notes that the “Hijacked Labour” website “resembles an earlier graphic that first appeared online in August, under the name the Traitor’s Chart”. That earlier site has now been deleted, along with an associated Twitter feed and YouTube channel (actually, the YouTube channel has been repurposed, with a new name and a prurient banner header that shows some young women exposing their backsides to the camera). The site that first drew attention to the “Traitors Chart” website (and that appears to follow the same website template) has also deleted a page that announced its existence.

Although the earlier “Traitors Chart” was more extensive, the similarities with “Hijacked Labour” were striking: on both sites, Martin McGuinness is misspelt as “Martin McGuiness” and Pat Doherty as “Pat Docherty” (H/T Tribune), and the reference to the three French philosophers took the form of “POSTMODERN NEO-MARXISM JF Lyotard RIP / Jacques Derrida RIP / Michel Foucault RIP”. The “Traitors Chart” website went private just as the “Hijacked Labour” website went live, thus proving an active connection between the two sites. One would like to know Bles’s explanation for this background.

The “Hijacked Labour” website described its content as being a “J2 analysis”. The meaning of this term is unclear, and I think was just a random obscurantism designed to give the impression that the site’s obvious shortcomings actually reflected some deep methodology that ordinary readers would be unable to appreciate. The site also made use of a chatbot engine designed by one Dr Andrew Edwards, who drew attention to its use on Facebook (h/t Naadir Jeewah for this detail).

UPDATE: As noted by Scram News, Newton Dunn subsequently attempted to scrub all reference to the story from his Wikipedia entry, describing it as a “falsehood”. Scram News says that the “the description of the controversy was fair and accurate”, but there was an fact one inaccuracy which I believe he seized on – the passage stated that “the piece included links to the antisemitic conspiracy website the Millennium Report”, when this ought to been “the piece’s source included links…”. Rather than correct this detail, however, Newton Dunn preferred to delete the whole thing. Seems to be a pattern.

UPDATE 2: The press regulator IPSO has declined to take up the issues I raise above, See here.

Footnote 1

The Tribune article referenced above also notes that the chart was praised online by the conservative writer and historian Giles Udy, who described it as “One of the most significant pieces of research I’ve seen for a while”. This was on the same day that the Sun story appeared, meaning that his endorsement was most likely based on a cursory assessment of the site, or perhaps just the Sun article itself.

Footnote 2

A bit more background on Mark Whitcombe-Power. The Sun describes him as having been a “hostage negotiator”, and a bit of Googling finds that he was formerly associated with Halliburton and with a company called Resource Consultants. In 2014 he was also part of a European Union Election Exploratory Mission to the Maldives, in which capacity he was described as a “security expert”.

 

Court Finds For Former MP in Counterclaim Against “VIP Sex Abuse” Accuser

From the Daily Mail:

A former Liberal Democrat MP is to receive libel damages from an alleged fantasist who made unsubstantiated rape claims against him.

John Hemming, 58, has scored a major High Court victory against Esther Baker, 36, who has tormented him for four years with unproven claims of child sex abuse.

Baker, it may be recalled, first appeared in the media in 2015, alleging that she had been subjected to sex abuse as a child at the hands of a group associated with a church. She claimed that some of this abuse had occurred in woodland, and that police officers would stand guard, on one occasion addressing an abuser as “Lord”. The Mail notes that at the time she “won the crucial backing of Labour deputy leader Tom Watson”, although he wasn’t the only MP: her name was raised in Parliament by John Mann, and she has received supportive comments online from Jess Phillips and Sarah Champion.

Media reports did not mention John Hemming by name until he himself went public in 2017 as having been accused – however, his identity by this point had been bandied around online and so effectively had been published already. In particular, he was named as an abuser at a rally opposite Downing Street in mid-2015 by one of the speakers, a high-profile conspiracy theorist named Bill Maloney, and from the context it is obvious his view was based on Baker’s allegation. A video of Maloney’s speech was uploaded to YouTube.

The judgment, by Mrs Justice Steyn, can been seen here. The issue is slightly complex in that Baker is actually the claimant and Hemming is the defendant; the “libel damages” referenced in the Daily Mail article refer to a counterclaim by Hemming concerning a Tweet made by Baker. The detail comes at the end of the judgment:

Judgment for the Defendant on the counterclaim, insofar as the counterclaim is based on the natural and ordinary meaning pleaded by the Defendant at paragraph 107 of the Amended Defence and Counterclaim, with damages to be assessed.

Baker denied “that the Tweet caused or was likely to cause serious harm to the Defendant’s reputation”, but “although the Claimant has denied the words of her Tweet bear the meanings pleaded by the Defendant, she has not pleaded what meaning(s) she contends the words complained of bear.” Further, “No defence of truth is pleaded”.

Baker’s own claim is that Hemming libelled her in relation to three statements in which he referred to her as a false accuser. However:

As I have already said in relation to the counterclaim, it was made clear to the Claimant that if she contends that the allegations of rape she made against the Defendant are true, she was required to provide details of what she alleges occurred, when, where and if she alleges the Defendant was part of a group who abused her, to plead that allegation, identifying those who she alleges were part of the same group. Having failed to do so in her claim, in breach of PD53 para 2.8 – and having chosen not to do so in her defence to the counterclaim – I consider that the Claimant should be precluded from denying that her allegations were false…

This does not mean, though, that the matter is quite at an end – Baker still has the opportunity to submit a “Re-Amended Reply to Defence… admitting or denying the truth of each allegation contained in the meanings of the first, second and third publications which the Defendant has pleaded are true”, and as regards the counterclaim an alleged “innuendo meaning” has not yet been disposed of (see footnote).

On Twitter, Baker complains that the Mail failed to use a statement that she provided to the paper. In this statement, she interprets the judge’s ruling as an acknowledgement “that my claim against Mr Hemming is strong enough to proceed to trial”, and she contrasts her situation as an “unrepresented” woman “on disability benefit and who has been made bankrupt” against “a legally represented millionaire”. She also believes that the case raises issues about whether “an accused suspect naming himself as the accused, then restricts a complainant from discussing her alleged abuse”, presumably because her Tweet did not name Hemming. The judge addresses this particular point:

The fact that the extrinsic knowledge which some readers of the Tweet would have had, enabling them to understand that her Tweet was referring to the Defendant, had previously originated from him is irrelevant. The Claimant acknowledged that such a grave allegation was bound to cause serious reputational harm. It does not assist her case to say that she did not name him expressly given that, as she has accepted, her Tweet would have been understood by a proportion of her followers as referring him.

UPDATE (24 November): It has now been reported that Hemming has won a lifetime injunction against Baker which prohibits her from repeating her rape allegations against him, and which clarifies that “the effect of my judgment is that the allegation has been found to be untrue and defamatory”.

Of course, it is impossible to positively disprove a negative, but this this the only reasonable way to interpret Baker’s failure to provide details. Baker’s public account has always been vague and insubstantial, and she has long implied on Twitter that there was some temporary legal obstacle that was preventing her from describing her story in any detail. It is difficult reconcile this with her failure to take the opportunity to put such details before the court at the judge’s invitation.

Footnote: Ritual Abuse and Dolphin Square

In relation to the “innuendo” meaning alleged in the counterclaim, the judgment also contains references to ritual abuse and Dolphin Square, the London apartment block that has long been at the centre of VIP abuse allegations and conspiracy theories:

I have not struck out or given summary judgment in respect of the Claimant’s (amended) defence to the innuendo meaning. The Claimant has denied that she has made claims of “ritual abuse” and she has denied that she has made allegations regarding “Dolphin Square abuse”, which form part of the extrinsic facts on which the Defendant has based the innuendo meaning he has pleaded. She has also put in issue whether the extrinsic facts pleaded support the Defendant’s pleaded innuendo meaning. Those are all matters to be tried.

It is true that Baker has not stressed her alleged abuse has having been “ritualistic”, but her disavowal of the term is surprising given a summary of her claims at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) (emphasis added):

Ms Baker alleges that she was sexually assaulted by her father and by persons of public prominence associated with Westminster and that there were institutional failings in connection with that alleged abuse by police and law enforcement services. She says that her father introduced her to a paedophile ring which included persons of public prominence associated with Westminster. She also says that she was abused from the age of 8 to around age 12 and that the abuse was organised and sometimes ritualistic, that it was filmed, and that the police acted in a security role.

Her story is certainly evocative of the tropes of ritualistic abuse in the popular imagination, and it has been understood in that way by some of her supporters; in particular, Bill Maloney stated that “she was being abused, Esther, in the forest. The forest is a very dangerous place to be taken to be abused, because you’re either going to wind up in the ground, but you know it’s going to be ritualistic.”

The Dolphin Square claim derives from an article that was published by Exaro News and since withdrawn and excluded from the internet archive. Baker claimed that she had been taken by night to London, and that although she had not known the location she recognised details about a secret “medical room” at Dolphin Square provided by a man named “Darren”, who has since withdrawn his claims. Darren in turn claimed to have recognised Baker, and the two accounts were brought together by Exaro‘s David Hencke, although for some reason he excluded her recognition of the “medical room”:

And to add to the complications a third survivor, a man already talking to the Met Police, about allegations in Dolphin Square, London has identified from a picture of Esther as a child, her being there. She remembers being taken to London but had no idea where she had been taken.

That past tense “had” implies that she now does know, although perhaps she could say that she wasn’t certain. However, to my knowledge she has never clarified the point on social media. Hencke settled a libel action brought by Hemming in January, although he denied that the basis for the complaint reflected his intended meaning.

Sandy Hook Conspiracism: A Note on Moon Rock Books

From CBS News, in June:

The father of a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre has won a defamation lawsuit against the authors of a book that claimed the shooting never happened — the latest victory for victims’ relatives who have been taking a more aggressive stance against conspiracy theorists.

The book, “Nobody Died at Sandy Hook,” has also been pulled to settle claims against its publisher filed by Lenny Pozner, whose 6-year-old son Noah was killed in the shooting.

“My face-to-face interactions with Mr. Pozner have led me to believe that Mr. Pozner is telling the truth about the death of his son,” Dave Gahary, the principal officer at publisher Moon Rock Books, said Monday. “I extend my most heartfelt and sincere apology to the Pozner family.”

It has now been reported that one of the book’s authors, James Fetzer, must pay $450,000, while the other author, Mike Palacek, negotiated a private settlement. The outcome of a similar action against Alex Jones is eagerly anticipated.

Here, however, I am primarily interested in the publisher, whose subsequent actions are not consistent with a man who wishes to atone for degrading the memory of a dead child and adding to grieving parents’ suffering. According to Splinter News he afterwards said that he still has “questions”, and he reportedly sold off remaining copies of the book by auction rather than destroying them. Further, although the book is no longer sold on the website, a page soliciting donations to fight Pozner remains live, along with photos of the front and back cover.

Gahary has also not felt the need to reconsider other titles which make a mockery of the grief of the bereaved by suggesting that violent deaths never happened. Thus the publisher’s website continues to sell other books by the same authors such as The Parkland Puzzle: How the Pieces Fit Together and Political Theater in Charlottesville, as well as a sequel to Nobody Died at Sandy Hook entitled And Nobody Died in Boston, Either (this is followed by And I Suppose We Didn’t Go to the Moon, Either, a silly title suggestive of cynicism rather than genuine credulity). Several of these titles are proudly advertised as “Banned by Amazon”.

Other authors associated by the imprint include one Larry Rivera (The JFK Horsemen); Preston James, PhD (The New Gutenberg Press, on “how the Deep State is threatened by the internet”); Nick Kollerstrom (Chronicles of Fale Flag Terror – “a European perspective”); and Chuck Gregory (White Rose Blooms in Wisconsin – co-edited with Palecek on “The life and accomplishments of Kevin Barrett and Jim Fetzer as representatives of ‘the American resistance’ to creeping fascism in America”). And that’s just authors who appear on the front covers – some of the books are edited volumes.

Even the title And I Suppose We Didn’t Go to the Moon, Either, which may sound relatively benign, is in fact an utterly vile miscellany that touts Holocaust revisionism. Contributors to this particular work alongside Fetzer and Palacek include Jay Weidner, Nicholas Kollerstrom, Robert Faurisson, Thomas Dalton, Jim Marrs, Yvonne Wachter, Winston Wu, James A. Larson, Anne Walsh, Zen Gardner, Sterling Harwood and Timothy Spearman.

Despite being the co-author of a book called Nobody Died at Sandy Hook, Fetzer has also expounded the contradictory theory that the massacre was real but perhaps orchestrated by Mossad. Several of the Moon Rocks Books authors are associated with Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories about Israel, and with the Veterans Today website. Gahary himself has interviewed a number of individuals for the American Press Press website – these include the Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, as well as various 9/11 Truthers, and, more unexpectedly, the late “End Times” Christian author Grant Jeffrey (previously blogged here).

Note

Fetzer and Spearman have previously featured on this blog in connection with networks promoting Satanic Ritual Abuse conspiracy theories.

BBC News Probes “Annie Tacker”

This one is being widely reported – from Phil Kemp at BBC News:

There are many unanswered questions surrounding Boris Johnson’s friendship with the US businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri.

For the past two days I’ve been investigating one of the more bizarre of them: who is her UK-based media manager and is she even real?

Kemp was following up on a detail from a hearing at Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, where Paul Farrelly MP had drawn attention to the fact this supposed person’s LinkedIn profile was using a stock image. Farrelly writes:

Shortly after the session I sent Annie a message asking for an interview. I did not hear back. But I did soon receive a request to connect with someone called “Annie Tacker” on LinkedIn

No one of that name is listed as resident in the UK, and it has since been pointed out by various people on Twitter that this is a joke name: “An Attacker”.

Kemp goes to on describe how the the LinkedIn account subsequently put up a post suggesting that the DCMS was intruding on her “gender and identity” as a “transitioning woman”, before the alleged education details were amended from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to King Mongkut University of Technology in Thailand.

The “transitioning” ruse was of course an instance of the popular strategy of attempting to discourage scrutiny by crying “harassment”, and very similar antics were observed on a Twitter feed associated with Hacker House after Arcuri’s links with Boris Johnson were revealed by Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnot at the Sunday Times last month. The account, apparently run by the co-director, accused the journalists of harassing him and staff, including when one of them was trying to take their children to school, and alluded to a family illness. More oddly, the account cryptically claimed that “it’s not @Jennifer_Arcuri company”, despite all the documentation indicating otherwise.

This odd saga has also thrown up some other strange links – it was previously known that Hacker House was working with the alleged Pentagon hacker Lauri Love, but it’s also now come to light that in 2012 Arcuri was associated with Milo Yiannopoulos. This was at a time when Yiannopoulos’s online business venture The Kernal was struggling with debts to contributors – an op-ed by Tim Bradshaw at the Financial Times describes them both in the context of “London’s scrappy start-up scene” around a time when “wannabes, freeloaders and groupies often outnumbered the real entrepreneurs and investors on east London’s Silicon Roundabout”.

More bizarre, however, is that Hacker House’s Digital Marketing Manager was none other than Wesley Hall, a man with a chequered past who has most recently been linked to the Hampstead Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax. Hoaxtead Research broke the story and has the background.

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 the same Robinson 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. His prison memoir brought him some publicity (in 2010 he appeared at an event at Stoke Newington Library alongside Farah Damji), and as well as writing true crime books, he is currently 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.