On the 16th floor of the impressive Empress State Building, looming over Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre, the men and women of Scotland Yard’s Sexual Offences Command quietly go about some of the most distressing police work imaginable.
This is home to the ‘paedophile unit’ whose job it is to identify victims, stop abuse material being shared and distributed, categorise extreme imagery ready for court and, hopefully, catch paedophiles before they find a victim. Day in, day out officers here wade through an infinite amount of extremely distressing material. One of the most difficult jobs within the squad lies with the team of nine officers responsible for trawling the web’s “tame” to “extreme” websites that play host and distributor to an unlimited volume of child abuse material.‘Dan’, the team leader, introduces me to the “mild” websites that are often a paedophile’s starting point. “You’re going to get a flavour of the webcam society that we live in which a lot of teenagers experience and think it’s a laugh and a joke,” he says. “We’ve gone in a generation from teenagers experimenting with a kiss and a cuddle behind the bike sheds to this.”
The websites popping up in front of me all contain thousands of indecent images, all easily accessible through a simple Google search, of mainly naked selfies or full frontal shots taken in front of a mirror. The vast majority of girls are smiling or pouting – no one seems upset. What is perhaps even more startling is the number of girls who are filming or photographing themselves in pairs or groups. In one image a girl who appears no older than 12 is being hoisted by three boys the same age – all naked, all laughing.
Dan, who has been in the role for five years, says: “This is happening everywhere, in every [secondary] school around the country. We have to be realistic. You’ll see videos that have been taken in schools.”
The proliferation of supremely confident girls filming or photographing themselves like this has altered the Met’s child abuse ‘victimology’ profiles which, until recently, had assumed girls with webcam access being left alone for hours in their bedroom were the norm. Not anymore. The amount of self-generating child abuse material, from children often oblivious to the exploitation that follows, is overwhelming.
The material ends up being shared globally onto websites with chat forums as voyeurs share fantasies and, ultimately, progress to ‘contact abuse’ having found people with access to vulnerable children.
DI Phillip Royan, who leads the paedophile unit, says: “This is the mildest stuff we deal with. People record the most horrendous stuff – sadism, penetrative sex with children, in families. It’s tough to deal with. It’s a niche field and evokes a lot of emotion in police officers.”
Many of the team are parents and, like any other office, pictures of children are dotted around desks helping no doubt to take the detectives’ minds off their work for brief moments.
Full article here
The Friday Night Song
The latest story regarding the ‘Exaro Westminster Paedophile Scandal’ in the Daily Mail is a bit of a mixed bag.
Unfortunately, the obvious political agenda behind their continued attempts to associate Tom Watson, now Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, with Exaro’s unreliable stories are undermining the credibility of their own journalism on an important issue that they can rightly claim to have led on . The Daily Mail points out that both complainants Nick and Jane “had close dealings with Labour deputy leader Tom Watson and a controversial ‘investigative’ news website”. Daily Mail readers will infer more from that statement than it is correct to do so. In the last few years literally hundreds of survivors of child sexual abuse will have sought Tom Watson’s help and advice. The overwhelming majority of those survivors will not have been the subject of media stories including those published by Exaro and I would be surprised to learn that any dealings that Tom Watson had with either Nick or Jane were not at the request of Exaro.
That said I don’t believe that Tom Watson can avoid some criticism. Like too many he put too much faith in Exaro News, and he didn’t realise until it was too late that Exaro were taking advantage of his reputation.
It is not necessary to call into question Jane’s integrity or character, as The Mail have elected to do, for any impartial observer to understand why the CPS made the decision not to prosecute Lord Brittan over Jane’s rape allegation. The allegation dated from 1967, there was no evidence that Jane had even met Leon Brittan and as such it did not pass the Evidential Stage of the Full Code Test. In short, there was no realistic prospect of a conviction in a case that, if it had ever gone to trial, would have simply pitted Jane’s word against Lord Brittan’s.
And yet, understanding all of this, Exaro’s editor Mark Watts embarked on a media campaign to put pressure on the CPS and the Metropolitan Police to continue their investigations and he used Tom Watson in that campaign by somehow encouraging him to write to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and demand that Jane’s allegations be looked at once again.
Was Tom Watson in full possession of the facts when he wrote to the DPP or had he accepted Exaro’s word that it was the correct thing to do ? That, I believe, is a fair question that could be put to Tom Watson.
Let’s look for a moment at what would have happened if Exaro’s campaign on behalf of Jane had been successful, if the Met and the CPS had succumbed to the media pressure that was being exerted and they had ignored the fact that the case before them had not passed the Evidential Stage of the Full Code Test, that it had also then passed the Public Interest Stage, and that Lord Brittan had lived. What would have been the outcome ?
A trial date would have been set, probably around one year from the CPS decision being taken. In that time the complainant Jane would have felt a huge degree of pressure and stress. Frankly, it is extremely doubtful that any Judge with sight of the evidence beforehand would have allowed the trial to proceed but as we are examining a hypothetical scenario where the police, the CPS, and the judiciary are all acting negligently, we’ll put that to one side and just accept that the trial goes ahead. The jury hears the evidence and it decides that Lord Brittan is not guilty because there is no way that it can possibly come to the conclusion ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ that Leon Brittan raped Jane based on her word against his.
How would Jane have felt at that point? Under those circumstances, could it have been said that Exaro had exercised its duty of care to a vulnerable witness by encouraging her to take that course and pressuring the authorities into ignoring the proper legal processes?
Now, here is the point; Mark Watts and Exaro were completely aware of the circumstances which had led the CPS to originally decide not to prosecute and yet they embarked on their vicious campaign which included personal attacks on the Detective in charge of the investigation. Why ?
I can’t answer that question. I can only tell you what my interpretation of it all was at the time and that was that it was nothing more than an unscrupulous play to prolong and exploit the lucrative commercial value of Jane, their source, and that at no point was any consideration given to the duty of care that they owed her.
Legal sources confirmed there was no evidence to support Jane’s claims. Nor was there any proof that she had even met the former home secretary.
The exhaustive investigation, which included tracking down key witnesses and examining Lord Brittan’s job and domestic arrangements at the time of the alleged offence, undermined his accuser’s story. Lord Brittan was questioned in June last year shortly after Mr Watson complained to the Director of Public Prosecutions that the case was not being handled properly.
Prior to his intervention, the CPS had concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove a rape offence – even if the woman had met Lord Brittan.
In his letter to the DPP, Mr Watson described the alleged rape victim as a ‘very credible witness’.
Late last year, the CPS again advised the Met that there was insufficient evidence. But detectives insisted on carrying out a further review of the case, which continued after Lord Brittan’s death from cancer.
The Friday Night Song
Many thanks to M
On the cards after the Daily Mail’s story last week.
I’ve no idea what they were thinking.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is currently investigating allegations made by a complainant that he was sexually abused by a number of men including various high profile figures.
The Solicitor General, Robert Buckland QC MP, would like to remind editors, publishers and social media users that where an allegation of a sexual offence has been made, no matter relating to the complainant shall be included in a publication if it is likely to lead to members of the public identifying him. Publishing such material is a criminal offence and could be subject to prosecution.
In addition, while the Solicitor General recognises the legitimate public interest in the press commenting on cases of this nature, he wishes to draw attention to the risk of publishing material that gives the impression of pre-judging the outcome of the investigation and any criminal proceedings that may follow, or which might prejudice any such proceedings.
The Attorney General’s Office will be monitoring the ongoing coverage of Operation Midland and editors and publishers should take legal advice to ensure they are in a position to comply with their legal obligations.
If I specifically address today’s comment piece in The Times by David Aaronovitch, it is not because I have failed to recognise that other articles in other newspapers aren’t also misleading their readership by deliberately conflating genuine allegations of abuse with false ones, it is simply because the issues are already complex and it is easier to address the broad point using David Aaronovitch’s comment piece as an example.
David appears to tackle the subject of non-recent child sexual abuse allegations against establishment figures as if it were a formal debate at university in which the proposition before the society is ‘This house accepts that David Aaronovitch was right about Establishment Child Abuse allegations from the beginning’.
In such a debate both sides would speak, no quarter would be given to the opposition, and any concession would only be a tactical withdrawal from an indefensible point before bringing to bear the full power of one’s own argument – and on conclusion the assembled members would vote on which side had won. There would be a winner and a loser, the proposition would be carried or it would not.
Unfortunately, the issue of child sexual abuse is not very well suited to such a format. Each and every allegation must be examined on the evidence. This, of course, means that it is impossible to draw up hard and fast general rules, the kind so beloved of ideologists of every persuasion. Such ideological rule making abrogates the necessity for critical thinking – why trouble yourself to consider a complicated issue case by case when it is far less taxing to the mind to have recourse to a general rule that can be applied instinctively, once learnt by rote? Of course, that history has demonstrated time and again that such general ideological rules, when applied, can be dangerous, can be comfortably set aside – for the polemicist understands that such easy answers are tempting and each generation must learn for itself the folly of applying generalities to complex issues.
“A few of us (at the beginning, very few of us) watched this process with alarm. From Watson’s acorn — or alleged acorn because, of course, no names were named and no cases detailed — grew a forest of lusty oaks.”
I would suggest that at the genesis of this sturdy English oak metaphor lies a desire on David Aaronovitch’s part to be validated, an altogether different and more personal acorn if you like. So, let’s look at that. Has David Aaronovitch been one of the very few who has called this correctly right from the start?
David mentions Tom Watson’s PMQ. He writes;
Nearly two years have passed since the Savile scandal broke and — in its wake — the MP Tom Watson (now Labour’s deputy leader) stood up in the House of Commons and asked David Cameron to ensure that the police “investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and No 10”. In that time, the idea of a Westminster paedophile ring has entered the popular folklore of British politics. It has been deployed by social media partisans in the Scottish referendum campaign, in support of Ukip, and by just about anyone short of a stick to beat politicians with.
A few of us (at the beginning, very few of us) watched this process with alarm. From Watson’s acorn — or alleged acorn because, of course, no names were named and no cases detailed — grew a forest of lusty oaks. A phenomenon arose akin to a latterday McCarthyism, a general assertion that has relied on its own vigour to grow, rather than on anything as footling as evidence.
David is not the only journalist in recent weeks who has attempted to link Tom Watson’s original question to the Prime Minister [24 October 2012] and subsequent allegations of a ‘Westminster Paedophile Ring’ that have been reported in the media. Is it fair to do so?
Actually it is not – and conflating these entirely separate issues risks misleading readers.
Here are the facts
- The evidence that Tom Watson referred to was retrieved by the Metropolitan Police. The specific piece of evidence regarding a PIE member boasting to Peter Righton that ‘a senior aide to a former Prime Minister could smuggle indecent images of children from abroad’ was found in the seven boxes of evidence that the police recovered from a repository in Leicestershire. So, to be absolutely clear, the police have in their possession the evidence that Tom Watson referred to in his question.
- As a direct result of Tom Watson’s question and the investigation that followed, so far two men have been convicted for offences against children. Charles Napier was sentenced to 13 years and Richard Alston is due to be sentenced on September 28th.
- As a direct consequence of Tom Watson’s PMQ and the police investigation that followed, so far 24 survivors of child sexual abuse have seen justice done.
- The police investigation that followed from the PMQ is ongoing and the evidence that was retrieved is still being acted on.
All in all, not a bad day’s work by Tom Watson and Peter McKelvie, his source…
The point that I’m trying to make is not that David Aaronovitch has been entirely wrong or that anyone else, including myself, has been entirely right. This isn’t a university debate and justice will not be the winner if it is treated as such. Each case must be considered on the evidence.
To conflate significantly different cases just because they might superficially resemble each other is just a way of duping readers. Yes, there have been a few false allegations that have been reported in the media in the last few years but there have been many more truthful allegations reported that have led to the convictions of child abusers.
On a subject where the public have been ill-informed for decades, don’t we owe it to them to make the effort to better inform them ?
The allegations that Nick has made that readers will be more familiar with have been against powerful establishment figures. A former Prime Minister, a former Home Secretary, a former Head of MI5, a former Head of MI6, a former High Commissioner in Canada, a former Chief of the Defence Staff, a former Master-General of the Ordnance, and Harvey Proctor a former MP – among others.
*Nick has also made allegations against Leslie Goddard, Adam Ant’s father who was convicted in 1987 of child abuse as part of the notorious ‘Dirty Dozen’ which also included both Sidney Cooke and Lennie Smith who were later convicted for Jason Swift’s death.*
[A correction is needed here. I’ve been informed that despite Harvey Proctor having mentioned Leslie Goddard in his own statement, the Op Midland witness Nick has never made an allegation that Leslie Goddard abused him. This information comes from a reliable source and I accept it as true]
Yet another man that Nick has made allegations against is Jimmy Savile.
This five minute extract from a documentary called Crimes That Shook Britain: Jimmy Savile which was first broadcast on the Sky Crime and Investigation Channel on 17th August 2014, contains an interview with Nick about his abuse by Jimmy Savile. The full programme can be viewed HERE.
Nick’s allegations against Savile are very unusual. I’m not aware of any other genuine allegation against him which suggests that he was a sadist or that he ever abused within a group.
I should explain that in this documentary ‘Nick’ is referred to as ‘Stephen’
Transcript from programme
Stephen was only seven years old when he began to be abused at home.