Thank you to Phype along with Barbara Hewson Rabbit away who introduced me to this Story. It wasn’t till I read it after the twitter convo that I saw how relevant the questions were. #dumbsheepjournalism Braying sheep etc.
Now I return to this repentant us #wannabeLawyers are allowed to make mistakes. I am glad that Barrister Blog has graciously given me permission to reblog this on this blog and publicise to my literal International Audience.
Exaro News has been drip feeding allegations and rumours of a paedophile sex ring in high places for many months.
Today – in collaboration with the Sunday People – it has alleged that it was not only a sex but a murder ring. A Tory MP strangled a 12 year old brown haired boy in a central London town house in 1980. Apparently,18 months to two years later two other men murdered a second boy in front of another Tory MP, “a cabinet minister.” Both MPs, are “still alive.” Its source is a man in his 40s to whom they have given the pseudonym “Nick”. Exaro even mentions rumours of a third child murdered by being run over in the street, though I don’t think Nick claims to have actually seen more than one murder.
The scene was set yesterday when the BBC decided to join Exaro News in broadcasting an interview with a man in his 40s known as “Nick” who alleges that he was repeatedly raped by Conservative MPs and other “VIPs” in the 1970s and 80s. Nick, it is said, is grateful to Exaro News and to his counsellor for “allowing” him to tell his story in public, and wants to encourage others to go, as he has now gone, to the police to corroborate his account. According to the BBC he has been “in counselling on and off since he was in his twenties” and has only now “found the strength to come forward.” There was no mention in the BBC interview of any murder and Exaro have never previously revealed that Nick witnessed a murder.
Mark Watts the Exaro interviewer suggests “a lot of people will find your account hard to believe,” but that does not mean that Nick is lying. Nevertheless Exaro, and now the BBC, have acted extremely unwisely by catapulting him into the public domain.
Both the BBC’s interview, and even more so Exaro’s, go into considerable detail about the alleged abuse. We are told, for example, how Nick and other children would be driven to Dolpin Square where sex parties were held. They would be made to dance and sing, before being sexually abused by a group including MPs, “an ex-Cabinet Minister,” and other “powerful people.” Nick says that he was repeatedly raped while his head was held under water in a bath, and on a number of occasions he nearly drowned. Boys were injured, and a doctor, he says, was part of the group to treat these injuries. It was, indeed, a paedophile ring.
The first effect of broadcasting Nick’s detailed allegations is that anybody wishing to make a false allegation has now been given not just rumours, which in truth have been flying around on the internet for years, but a detailed and apparently first-hand description of exactly how another witness says the abuse took place. This, of course, flies in the face of good policing practice in which the account of one witness is never given to other potential witnesses precisely because of the danger of contamination. It is true that neither Exaro nor the BBC has actually given the names of the alleged abusers but 5 minutes on the internet would supply a selection of Tory MPs and cabinet ministers about whom rumours have swirled. Most of those who were cabinet ministers in Mrs Thatcher’s first administration are now dead, so the tidbit that the Minister in question is still alive narrows the field to about 10 suspects.
In any case involving multiple complainants the defence always strives hard to show that the complainants may have colluded with each other, or at least that later complainants knew of the substance of an earlier complaint, while the prosecution tries to show that such collusion or awareness is unlikely. Well, Exaro and the BBC together have comprehensively ensured that any future complainant will be aware of the detail of Nick’s complaint and his evidence will for that reason be devalued. In a nutshell, if a future witness relates similar details to Nick’s he will be accused of having learnt them from the BBC and Exaro interviews. It is on such issues that cases turn.
And it is not just the evidence of witnesses who have yet to come forward: Nick’s testimony will itself be undermined if potentially corroborative witnesses can remember only details publicised in the interviews. Exaro insists that it has “withheld many of the details of the deaths to avoid hindering the police investigation,” which rather begs the question of why, if solving two or three murders is the objective, they have not withheld all such details.
If Nick’s account is untrue, then to broadcast it is to feed a monstrous hysteria. The broadcasting of his unchallenged and uncontradicted account can only serve to prejudice any jury at some future trial. We have sub judicerules for a very good reason: the evidence against defendants should be given, tested, argued over and assessed in court, not out of court by people from whom any ultimate jury would be selected. The broadcasting of Nick’s interview does not breach the letter of the sub judice rules since there is, as yet, no defendant and no pending trial. It is, however, about as flagrant a breach of their spirit as it is possible to imagine.
Furthermore, if Nick’s account is untrue then it is grossly unfair on innocent MPs and the ten living Cabinet Minsters from the period. Inevitably speculation will be encouraged and inevitably some of it – quite possibly all of it – will be nonsense. Such speculation is bound to damage innocent people: and for what?
The suggestion that it was necessary to broadcast the interview to encourage other “victims to come forward” sounds distinctly self-serving. When somebody makes an allegation, whether of sexual abuse or of murder the proper thing to do is to contact the police immediately, not to extract newsworthy information from the witness, and only then alert the police before placing the information in the public domain.
It is true that Exaro says the witness has now spoken to the police himself, although apparently only after he insisting that an Exaro reporter was present at the meeting. This again is a pretty bizarre state of affairs. Witnesses sometimes request a solicitor being present, but the presence of a journalist at the initial interview of the police with the main witness in a murder inquiry is most unusual. These days a witness such as Nick would in all probability have his evidential interview video recorded. Are we to understand that an Exaro journalist was sitting in on the interview? That seems to be the implication of the Exaro story and if so it is wrong. Quite apart from anything else it creates a further opportunity for confidential information to leak out, as well as putting pressure on the witness not to deviate from the account that he gave to Exaro.
I have seen nothing to suggest that Nick has been paid, or promised any financial reward by Exaro. One would assume that the organisation would not have been foolish enough to do so but the precise nature of the agreement between them is certainly something that will be very closely examined should the matter ever result in a prosecution.
What the police are making of these unorthodox arrangements it is hard to know, but it is doubtful that they can be very happy about it. The impression given – it may of course be quite incorrect – is of Exaro running a murder inquiry with the police struggling to keep up. Exaro has in its possession a considerable quantity of notes and video footage relating to Nick and perhaps other witnesses too. Clearly all such material needs to be seen by the police. Has it all been handed over? If so, when and on what terms? In these post-Leveson days it is much to be hoped that the police have not made some cosy deal to leak information back to Exaro.
As well as Exaro’s records the police will also want to see any records held by Nick’s “counsellor.” We know nothing, at present, about the sort of counselling that he was giving.
There is nothing new about allegations being made against Tory politicians of the period, and they are not necessarily truthful. A not dissimilar account of Conservative Party MPs being involved in sexual abuse was given in the 1990s by someone called Carol Felstead and it provides a cautionary tale for anyone who might wish to rush to judgement. According to Carol’s therapists, she was anally raped in Conservative Central Office by a Tory MP with a claw hammer, and raped by not one but two members of Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet.
Just like Nick, Carol supposedly said she was abused first by her parents. She had been “ritually reborn out of a bull’s stomach, placed in a grave ‘on top of her dead sister’ and rescued by her father who was dressed as the Devil.” She later claimed to have given birth to six children who were then aborted and ritually sacrificed.
Some of Carol’s story was told, not to Exaro or the BBC but to one of the country’s best known therapists and psychoanalysts, Dr Valerie Sinason, who incorporated some of it (changing Carol’s name to “Rita”) into the work that made her name: Treating Survivors of Satanist Abuse. According to Dr Sinason there are:
“Men and women, dedicated to Aleister Crowley’s guiding principle ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law’, worship Satan as their god in private houses or in churchyards and forests…They drink blood and urine and eat faeces and insects. They are involved in pornographic films and drug-dealing as a means of raising money. They are highly organised, successful in their secrecy and have a belief that through this pain and abuse they are getting closer to their god.”
Sinason is also on record as believing that Satanists go to “castles and woodlands” to practise human sacrifice, cannibalism and bestiality with dogs and goats.
Not surprisingly Sinason’s grand ouevre has been rubbished by many psychiatrists. “Credulous, superstitious, iatrogenic illness-inducing, self-righteous, incendiary garbage,” was one description of it at a Maudsley Hospital convention of psychiatrists, who together voted it the second worst psychiatric publication in the last hundred years, comfortably beating Laing and Freud. Indeed so dreadful did they find her work that it was beaten only by a bizarre 1943 experiment involving the near strangulation of prisoners and chronic schizophrenics to test the effects of stopping blood flow to the brain.
Sinason specialised (and is still paid by the NHS to specialise) in the treatment of a condition called Dissociative Identity Disorder (“DID”). This is a controversial diagnosis although it is recognised by the American Psychiatric Society’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V). Perhaps this is an over-simplification but it boils down to a person having at least two separate personalities. Thus the sufferer might be at times “controlled” by a quiet and introverted personality, and at others by a loud and extroverted one. Believers such as Dr Sinason think that the disorder arises “in response to extreme trauma and abuse.” The cure for the condition, surprisingly enough, is “long term therapy,” and it appears to be during such therapy that sufferers “find the strength” to make “disclosures” about the extreme trauma or abuse that the therapist believes must have occurred. The job of the therapist is therefore to uncover that abuse.
Now, despite the detailed and distressing history supposedly given by Carol to her therapists, her accounts of abuse at the hands of her parents were demonstrable nonsense. The family house had indeed burned down, but it did so a year before she was born so she could not possibly have remembered it as she said. She did have a sister who died in infancy, a girl who suffered from Downs syndrome and died in hospital from natural causes; again she did so before Carol was even born. As for the Satanic abuse, her four surviving brothers all agree that nothing of the sort took place and there is no evidence of it whatever from any other source. There was no coven, no witch-craft and no murdered babies: indeed her medical records show that she had never been pregnant. Her extraordinary story of being raped by politicians was likewise fantasy of a high order.
The fantasy only emerged after she had begun her therapy. Sadly she died in mysterious circumstances in 2005. Not surprisingly her family are contemptuous of therapists like Sinason and possibly even more contemptuous of a Dr Fleur Fisher who was also closely involved in her treatment.
Of course, merely because while under therapy Carol made bizarre and false sexual allegations about her parents and about Conservative politicians it does not follow that Nick’s allegations, also made after years of therapy, are false as well. However it certainly ought to serve as a reminder that such allegations cannot automatically be taken at face value.
Those involved should also be aware that people with mental health problems – and Nick’s revelation that he has been in counselling for twenty years ought at least to flag up the danger that he may have mental health or emotional problems – are not necessarily helped by being thrust into the limelight.
Even if the police cannot manage it, perhaps Theresa May’s over-arching Child Abuse Inquiry will help to get to the bottom of whether such a paedophile ring as Nick describes existed; and that it would also examine the extent to which (as has been alleged in Carol Felstead’s case) false accusations of sexual abuse have been, in effect, created or at least encouraged by rogue therapists, counsellors and psychoanalysts.
Unfortunately it seems extremely unlikely that the Inquiry will address the latter problem, not least because one of the panel members, Graham Wilmer, runs a project for the survivors of sexual abuse which itself practises an unconventional form of therapy called “unstructured therapeutic disclosure.”
A video on the organisation’s website explains how this works:
“The conventional approach involves the victims, at the outset, having to tell the police, a GP or a counsellor exactly what has happened to them, when it happened, who was involved and how long it lasted. This very detailed specific event is referred to as “disclosure” which inevitably re-traumatises the victim. Detail specific disclosure is not the place to begin the process.
After explaining that the Project’s counsellors (themselves survivors of sexual abuse) will make an “initial impact assessment” of victims “withoutthem having to disclose the detail of their abuse,” it describes the next stage in the counselling process:
“Having completed the impact assessment we explain in appropriately graphic detail exactly what happened to us. This reassures the victim that we already know what happend to them because we have been through the same trauma. This provides a bridge of trust over which they can walk, removing at a stroke any fears they may have of what they are expected to tell us and how we may react.”
Having told the victim in “appropriately graphic detail” what abuse the therapist suffered, the next stage is to ensure that their abuse is acknowledged. How is that done?
“Victims also need some form of reconciliation which is usually in the form of compensation for the abuse or punishment of their perpetrators. This is another highly complex area and we identify with survivors the most suitable route how to go about it and the support they will need in the process.”
Whatever the therapeutic benefits of this, it would be hard to devise a form of counselling more fraught with the danger of producing unreliable evidence than one in which in which therapists prompt their “patients” to disclose sexual abuse by telling them in graphic detail about their own experiences. When those same therapists are also involved in “supporting” the complainants in civil or criminal litigation the potential for injustice is manifest.
Nick’s allegations about a paedophile and murder ring in high places, if true, are both astonishing and horrific. Aside, perhaps, from the mad court of dictators like Mao or Ceausescou it is impossible to think of any modern precedent for such a thing. It would mean that for year after year senior politicians and other public figures cast aside morality, threw caution to the winds and – aided and abetted by others, including a doctor – kept a group of teenage and younger boys as their sexual playthings, confident in the belief that nobody would expose them. For some reason some of them also chose to murder two or three of these boys in front of witnesses.
The reasons to doubt the existence of such a ring are legion. What were these boys doing when they were not at Dolphin Square sex parties? Were they kept in complete isolation? Did they stop going to school, for example, or never speak to anybody outside the paedophile ring? The Exaro line seems to be that they were so terrified by the fact that the men in question were powerful that they did not expose the ring while it was active. Are we really to believe that these “powerful people” were so sure that their affairs could be kept secret from the press and, still more, from their political rivals, that they kept returning to the orgies? When even a tame affair like that of Cecil Parkinson with his secretary could lead to political disgrace; when journalists were constantly scouring Westminster for a whiff of scandal and when political rivals would have been delighted to ditch the dirt on their enemies it seems – as Exaro themselves acknowledge – very unlikely indeed.
Nevertheless, if there is evidence of such a scandal – and Nick’s interview makes it clear that there is – then it must be investigated with the utmost rigour. The people to do that are the Police.
It does not seem to me that Exaro’s actions have made their job any easier.