Monthly Archives: April 2014

Max Clifford – Guilty verdicts in historic sex cases

UK Criminal Law Blog

max clifford

Introduction

On  28th April 2014 Max Clifford was convicted on 8 counts of indecent assault, not guilty of 2 and the jury could not decide on the last count (it is likely that there will not be a retrial on this).

The jury retired on 16th April. After five days of deliberation (including the Easter break) a majority direction was given on 23rd April. There were only 10 jurors and so a verdict had to be 10-0 or 9-1.

This post will be edited as more information becomes available.

Charges

Mr Clifford faced the following charges :

  • Count 1 – Indecent Assault relating to a girl aged 14 in 1966 – No verdict
  •  Count 2 – Indecent Assault relating to woman aged 18, in 1974/75- NOT GUILTY
  •  Count 3,4,5,6 – Indecent Assault relating to a girl, aged 15, in 1977/78 – GUILTY on all counts
  •  Count 7 – Indecent Assault…

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Were They Really Just “Ancient Allegations” Lord Steel ?

Cyril Smith witht eh then Liberal democrat leader David Steel in 1987

 

Lord Steel, on today’s BBC Radio 4 World at One, was asked whether he should have acted in the 1970s in the light of the allegations about one of his MP’s behaviour, said: “I had no locus in the matter at all. They were ancient allegations about his time as a local councillor. They were nothing to do with his life as an MP.”

And yet this eye witness account of an incident in 1979 recalled by a member of the Liberal Party and reported to the local police, Liberal Headquarters and the Region at the time suggests that the Party leadership were informed of Cyril Smith’s indecent behaviour toward a young boy while he was a Liberal MP.

In 1979, I supported the by-election for Manchester. Tony Parkinson was the Liberal Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, but Manchester (as a city centre constituency) didn’t have a local group.  The regional Liberal group therefore looked to Middleton, Prestwich and Whitefield Constituency to provide a ‘headquarters’ for the man-power and the organisation.

It was always accepted that Tony Parkinson wouldn’t win – it was one of those situations where the Liberals had to be seen to be fighting in the arena – but it was a lost cause from the beginning.  The Regional Liberal Party (run by John Towers) put up the deposit.  David Alton had made it into the House of Commons after our stalwart efforts of support.

David Whatmough had failed to make a dent in the voting when he stood for Whitefiled, Prestwich and Middleton (and we lost our deposit)
So David Alton visited our ‘headquarters’ (that was my flat) to encourage those of us who were working a full day in professional jobs, and then working another 6 hour evening, to keep the campaign going. I have nothing to say against David Alton. He was always respectful and gentlemanly in my company.

However, there was great excitement when we were told that Cyril Smith MP would come to see ‘all the workers’.  He would come to my flat and help address the postal envelopes with the other ‘workers’.  This felt like a great honour.  By that time (1979) Cyril Smith was a local celebrity.  We phoned the parents of our Young Liberals and explained that Cyril Smith would be arriving …if the Young Liberals would like to attend, they were welcome to come and address some envelopes at the same time and meet Cyril Smith.

Cyril Smith was late but eventually arrived with the Regional Organiser who was acting as his chauffeur. Tony Parkinson’s campaign manager was almost living full-time in the spare bedroom of the headquarters and not doing a lot even though he was paid!  So, Cyril Smith lumbered up my stairs, huffing and puffing and shouting that he had arrived. You can imagine our excitement…we felt so honoured that a person who was a local celebrity and a Liberal icon had graced us with his presence.

He took up the whole of the door-way into my lounge.  John Towers had to introduce him to Tony Parkinson (the PPC) and also to the campaign manager.  I asked Cyril Smith to take a seat whilst I made him a cup of tea.  His answer?  “Well, I’ll need a bigger chair than that. When I have been cheeky on one seat I get cheeky on the other”  So I brought in another kitchen chair so that he sat on TWO kitchen chairs. He was actually HUGE so I thought I was discreetly solving a problem relating to his weight.

I didn’t see anything untoward but, within minutes, when he had wiggled his bottom from left to right – shouting lewd comments across the room – he had broken one of the kitchen chairs. I told him he would have to move and gave him a wooden chair to sit on at another table. He continued to be loud and lewd which made us feel very uncomfortable. (I think this is the time when we felt more on our guard and not overwhelmed by his celebrity status.)

Cyril Smith sat next to a 14 year old boy (I deliberately kept him away from the young girls after his lewd comments). He bantered with anyone – old, middle aged or young… and then his left hand moved onto the groin area of the 14 year old boy. The boy jumped sky-high! My late hubby saw it and moved in very quickly (he sent me a signal to get the 14 year old boy into a safe space next to me).  Hubby placed a firm hand on Cyril Smith’s shoulder whilst he ‘whispered’ in Smith’s ear. I believe that my late hubby told Cyril Smith to either remove himself immediately (without bother) or my hubby would remove him without ceremony.

How my 12 stone hubby would have removed a 30 stone MP I don’t know!  Maybe we are sometimes empowered by the sense of indignity, right and safeguarding of those in our care.  Cyril Smith did leave my flat without a fuss. My hubby reported this incident to the local police, Liberal Headquarters and the Region.

No further action was taken at that time.

So, when Cyril Smith came back onto the radar in 2012 and I heard on BBC News that ‘there were no allegations against him during his life-time’ I was incensed! I hadn’t yet come to terms with all the information I had about Jimmy Savile … so many people not reporting his unacceptable behaviour, turning a blind eye, ignoring, pretending, laughing it off as ‘Just Jimmy’

Well, I phoned my local police station and attended to make a formal witness statement.  Cyril Smith is dead, but the reason I went to the police station and gave witness testimony in 2012 is because that incident was covered up and ignored by police and the Liberal party in 1979.
The local Police have tried to find the original witness statement from my hubby (2012) but apparently “it doesn’t exist”.

The Needle

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Pop Goes The Weasel…

Capture

Max Clifford Associates

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Max Clifford Needs to Unearth the Skeletons

Will Black is a writer with a background in anthropology and mental health care. He can be found on Twitter as @willblackwriter

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By Will Black

Much of the media coverage following Max Clifford’s conviction for sexually assaulting teenage girls has referred to his role in getting stories into the media. The way he latched onto those involved with ‘scandalous’ stories and brokered deals with the media is interesting but not as interesting as his role in keeping stories out of the media.

The function of PRs employed by disreputable people and companies is to kill or at least distort (spin) stories to protect clients. In doing so, PRs not only get paid but they also amass sensitive information about people, which can later be capitalised upon. For those PRs dealing with the most powerful people, this information is a goldmine. Actually, a better metaphor than goldmine is stash of powerful weaponry.

Before Clifford’s guilty verdict, I often heard it said that he ‘had enough on’ powerful people to be protected from conviction. The jury, however, listened to the evidence and diligently weighed it up for several days before passing eight guilty verdicts. So much for Clifford’s claims that Operation Yewtree, which was launched after Savile’s abuses came the light, is a “witch-hunt” and that his accusers are “fantasists and opportunists”.

There is a fascinating and disturbing clip of Clifford that I have not been able to share since his arrest. This is because the footage, which was shot in 2000, could have been deemed prejudicial to legal proceedings.

In the clip Clifford talks frankly to journalist Dominic Carman about creating a false image of prominent people to prevent them being destroyed by unwelcome truths. The footage also reveals how work conducted for those on either side of a ‘story’ gives the PR valuable and potentially incendiary information. The footage and transcript can be found HERE

Carman manages to get the subject onto deceased Tory minister Alan Clark, who Clifford says abused two underage girls while he was having an affair with their mother Valerie Harkess. Even if Mrs Harkess ultimately made money out of news of her affair with Clark, it doesn’t make his actions towards her children any less predatory or wrong. Clark himself acknowledged, when confronted by the allegations in 1994, that he deserved to be horsewhipped. He also said: “I do not want to cause the Harkess girls any distress. I wish that they would take the money Max Clifford is raising for them and push off.”

This superficial expression of empathy followed by extreme callousness is in keeping with Clark’s character. Perhaps personality disorder might be a better term than ‘character’. His life was characterised by cruelty, deceit, betrayal and manipulation. Clark married 16-year-old Jane Beuttler in 1958, when he was 30. From the moment he met Beuttler he regarded her as prey to be victimised. A diary entry written by Clark when Jane was just 14 reads: “This is very exciting. She is the perfect victim, but whether or not it will be possible to succeed I can’t tell at present.”

Such sadism perhaps shouldn’t be surprising as, in an entry from 1981, Clark described Nazism as “the ideal system”, adding: “It was a disaster for the Anglo-Saxon races and for the world that it was extinguished.”

As trade minister Clark encouraged the sale of weapons to Iraq when it was under the control of Saddam Hussein. The UK had an embargo about selling weapons to Iraq but Clark secretly encouraged the company Matrix Churchill to go ahead illegally. When the weapons – disguised as machine parts – were intercepted at customs, Matrix Churchill said Clark encouraged the sale. Clark denied involvement, which led to Matrix Churchill executives being prosecuted. They were only saved from lengthy jail sentences because Clark was forced to attend court and admit he had lied to the police.

It is perhaps poetic then that Clark should have found himself having the devious Max Clifford in the corner of Mrs Harkess. In the 2000 footage of Clifford speaking to Dominic Carman, he talks about managing the public image of powerful people under scrutiny, stating: “No problems at all as long as they’re not interfering with little kids. Absolutely no problems. Because I know that the truth will destroy them, and they don’t deserve that. So I create a false image. I’m deceiving people, I’m lying, for sure.”

In relation to Alan Clark’s affair with Mrs Harkess being publicised, Clifford claimed: “Alan Clark loved the whole thing. The only thing about it, you had…they made a lot of money out of it. He’d used them, so they wanted to make money out of it, they had a moan, so they did. He enjoyed it – he sold even more books. The only slightly serious side about it was he’d actually interfered with those girls from the age of fourteen.”

Speaking generally about information he has gathered on prominent people, Clifford went on to say: “I’ve got all the evidence. I’m the one who’s hidden it from the world. I know where everything is and the proof is…that’s why I have such a good relationship with the people I work with. Because 10, 20, 30 years go by and no one in the world knows. I could have retired on one of these things.”

As Clifford awaits sentencing, let us hope he finds it in his conscience to pass any information he has about Establishment and celebrity child abuse and other crimes to the police.

If the Clifford case had failed, there would be many people claiming that historic abuse allegations should not be pursued and they are driven by opportunism and malice. If the Savile scandal has led to any opportunity, it is for those who have been abused to come forward and to have confidence they will be listened to. This opens the way not only for those individuals to heal but also for society itself to recover from the wounds of injustice and deceit.

~

Will Black is a writer with a background in anthropology and mental health care. He can be found on Twitter as @willblackwriter

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Channel 4 Dispatches: The Paedophile MP: How Cyril Smith Got Away with It

I can’t seem to embed videos from DailyMotion and so I’m afraid it’s another link.

The Paedophile MP: How Cyril Smith Got Away with It

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Child Abuser Max Clifford Could Face More Allegations.

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I’ve always found Mark Williams Thomas extremely reliable on these matters.

Readers will have noted from yesterday’s verdicts that the 10 remaining members of the jury were unable to come to a verdict on one charge. This had left open the possibility of a retrial.

News that other women have come forward since Max Clifford had been charged increases the likelihood that a  retrial will take place though in the absence of an appeal by Mr Clifford it may be that he’ll plead guilty to any further charges that may be made against him.

I hope so for the sake of the victims.

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When Louis Met Max Clifford

Louis Theroux: Hypothetically, if a TV performer were gay, and you wanted to sort of defray that or put a stop to it, then would you put a kiss-and-tell…

Max Clifford: Well, the most effective way would be for me to create a relationship.

[Max Clifford gets out an issue of the News of the World]

Louis Theroux: Like, for example, this one.

Max Clifford: No, not like this one. It would have to be a long-term one.

Louis Theroux: [reading out the article’s headline] “Nasty Simon was my Sex Idol in bed”

Max Clifford: And she’s a very, um, sexy looking…

Louis Theroux: She is very attractive.

[he reads the article]

Louis Theroux: She went out with Clive Sinclair.

Max Clifford: He’s the one that really scored, he’s the one, Simon is…

Louis Theroux: And you believe this?

Max Clifford: Well, of course, it’s in the News of the World, so no reason not to.

Louis Theroux: [reading] “I ripped his towel off and he lay on his back and moaned as I pleasured him.” What does she get out of this?

Max Clifford: She should be earning ten thousand pounds for that. But maybe she would have got two or three thousand pounds herself.

Louis Theroux: I like this: “However when Simon discovered that Vicky had discussed his private performance with the News of the World, he rang her in a panic. ‘He begged me not to say anything about him and said he was a very private person. But he doesn’t have anything to fear from my appraisal, I gave him top marks.'”

Max Clifford: Well, there you are, you see. Says it all, doesn’t it?

Louis Theroux: It’s cobblers, isn’t it?

 When Louis Met Max Clifford

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CPS Statement – Max Clifford

Jenny Hopkins, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS London, said:

“Today’s verdicts provide a long-denied justice to the victims of serious sexual offences. I would like to thank these victims for having had the courage to come forward and give evidence. The victims of sexual abuse, whenever it may have taken place, should know that police and prosecutors will listen.

“It is only right that we now take some time to consider our position on the hung count and we will update the court accordingly.”

CPS Blog

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‘I Can Make You Famous !!’

banksy-W1200

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by | April 28, 2014 · 2:43 pm

Max Clifford Guilty

Max_Clifford

Guilty

Guilty of abusing a 15 year old girl. Guilty of being a child abuser.

Spin that one Max!

PR guru Max Clifford has been found guilty of a string of indecent assaults on teenage girls over a period of nearly 20 years.

The 71-year-old became the first person to be convicted under the high profile Operation Yewtree sex crime investigation at Southwark Crown Court today.

He was found guilty of eight indecent assaults, cleared of two and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on one other.

He denied all the charges and continues to deny one outstanding offence, which the jury were unable to reach a decision on.

He was arrested by detectives from Operation Yewtree in December 2012, and charged in April the following year.

Daily Mail

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Blair Paedophile Minister ? Ask Peter Mandelson.

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Stories over the last few days in The Mirror by respected investigative journalist Tom Pettifore, concerning allegations that a cabinet minister within Tony Blair’s first term abused young boys at Angell Road children’s home in Brixton, and that a police investigation which had identified him was dropped to protect this child sex offender, will rightly leave many members of the public concerned.

Several people should be questioned about what they knew about this. Both Alistair Campbell and Tony Blair are named in one of the articles, implying that they might have had some knowledge of what was going on.

Mr Driscoll’s investigation was scrapped soon after Ron Davies quit as Welsh ­Secretary when he was mugged by a male prostitute at a gay meeting spot on Clapham Common, South London, in October 1998.

A week later, Agriculture Minister Nick Brown was forced into revealing he was gay by the News of the World. Neither men are the minister suspected of child abuse.

Alastair ­Campbell’s entry for November 4, 1998, in his published diary, The Blair Years, states: “As TB said later, with a touch of black humour, we could get away with Ron as a one-off aberration, but if the public start to think the whole Cabinet is indulging in gay sex, we might have a bit of a political problem.”

The Mirror

But what about others close to the then Prime Minister ?

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Peter Mandelson seems to have been in an ideal position to know what was going on and any insights he might have about abuse at this children’s home would surely be useful to the police. He was a councillor for Lambeth Borough  in the early 1980s around the time that the politician in question was first seen by a witness who had been a trainee at Angell Road at the time.

Not only that but in the 5 months from July 1998 until his resignation as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in December 1998, he would have been in the same government as the alleged paedophile minister, at the time that Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll was investigating these allegations.

As a close friend and confidante of the Prime Minister, isn’t it a reasonable assumption to make that Tony Blair would have consulted with Peter Mandelson, a master of news management, about these damaging allegations ?

Has anybody asked him ?

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Blair Minister In Paedophile Cover-Up ?

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One of Tony Blair’s ministers was among a group of men suspected of sexually abusing children at a home run by a convicted paedophile.

But the probe was halted soon after an ex-social services boss told police of his alleged evening visits in the early 1980s.

Official documents seen by the Daily Mirror during a 16-month investigation reveal former residents told detectives that a group of paedophiles attacked children in a private flat in the home.

But two former Lambeth social services employees involved in the case suspect a cover-up because experienced detective Clive Driscoll was removed from the investigation and given other duties.

One, a former manager who alerted police in 1998, said: “One wonders why Scotland Yard would be so desperate to stop it being investigated.

“I believe it was stopped because somebody in power was trying to prevent any further investigation into the politician.”

The Mirror

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Who are the Mystery Liberal MPs Des Wilson refers to?

Desiring Progress

Former Liberal Party President Des Wilson has written a scathing piece about Cyril Smith and the Liberal/Liberal Democrat Party for today’s Mail. Wilson writes in disparaging terms of a self-serving parliamentary party out of touch with its own activists, of feeble MPs too afraid to stand up a sexual and political bully like Smith, the ineffectiveness of David Steel as leader, and so on. The following passage is especially interesting:

Oh, I remember them all.

There was the MP who virtually sustained the whisky industry on his own. If you lit a match too close to his breath you could have made Guy Fawkes Night look like a back-garden barbecue. Many a bar would have been bankrupted without his presence. (And this was before the days of Charles Kennedy.)

As for affairs, Paddy Ashdown was not the only parliamentary party member whose secretary was valued for more than her…

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Paedophiles To Be Sentenced Like Terrorists

PAEDOPHILES are to be treated in the same way as terrorists under a crackdown on child abuse to be unveiled in the Queen’s speech.

Sexual predators who download manuals on how to groom their victims will face the same sanctions as terrorists who download guides to bomb-making.

While it is an offence to possess indecent images of child abuse, a legal loophole means there are no sanctions for possessing manuals that provide advice to paedophiles on how to identify and win over victims and evade capture.

Other measures in the Queen’s speech on June 4 will include:
— A serious crime bill, modelled on America’s anti-mafia laws, that will enable prosecutors to jail for up to five years lawyers, accountants and other professionals who help crime lords
— A crackdown on zero hours contracts. The coalition will match Labour’s pledge to scrap exclusivity clauses, where firms bind some workers to zero hours deals and do not let them work elsewhere
— A bill to help small businesses secure faster payments from large firms
— And an infrastructure bill that will amend the trespass laws to allow fracking firms to run shale gas pipelines under private land, as revealed by The Sunday Times last month.

David Cameron decided to take action on paedophile manuals after GCHQ and the National Crime Agency (NCA) found online examples in the “dark web” during their investigations into child abuse.

The prime minister told The Sunday Times: “It’s completely unacceptable that there’s a loophole in the law which allows paedophiles to write and distribute these disgusting documents. I want to ensure we do everything we can to protect children — and that’s why I’m making them illegal.”

The new paedophile law will be in force by the time of the general election next year. It could take the form of an amendment to the Obscene Publications Act 1959 so paedophiles who possess training manuals would be prosecuted. The Terrorism Act 2000 outlaws terrorist training manuals.

Details of the crackdown come days after it emerged that a paedophile teacher drugged and molested up to 60 boys as young as 10 at a British private school after four decades spent abusing children at other schools around the world.

William Vahey, who taught history and geography at Southbank International School in London between 2009 and 2013, killed himself last month as FBI investigators began to uncover his crimes.

Paedophiles have for years shared guides on abuse but the internet has meant they are now more easily distributed among abusers.

In June last year, Andrew Bruce, a hi-fi shop owner in Leicester, downloaded a 170-page manual called Safe and Fun Sex with Children.

He was jailed for eight months after admitting 10 counts of making indecent images of children.

The judge, Michael Pert QC, described the manual as “a step-by-step guide to having unlawful sex and recommends targeting single parents”.

One guide obtained by an American television channel outlined dialogue an adult could have with children to gain their trust. “Getting yourself an animal should be the very first thing to consider if you are serious about finding a child love candidate,” states the guide. “Animals are what we like to call child magnets.”

Last May Evan Harries, 44, who is originally from Wales but lives in Ireland, was found with a 99-page guide to paedophilia after his home in Wexford was raided. The manual was entitled How to Befriend and Form a Sexual Relationship with a Child.

Harries had 7,500 images of child abuse on his computers and was sentenced to four years in prison.

In February 2002, Julian Levine, then 54, a paedophile from London, was jailed after hoarding 42,000 pictures of abuse. A guide written by Levine described being a paedophile as a “hobby” and was entitled The Hobby Dos and Don’ts.

It suggested approaches that could be used to engage children, activities that would involve meeting children and tips on approaching children in the street.

Amazon faced outrage four years ago when it was discovered that a manual called The Paedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child Lover’s Code of Conduct was being sold on its site. It withdrew the book after a threatened boycott by customers.

But most of the material to be targeted by the new law is hidden in the dark web, which cannot be accessed through conventional internet searches.

The NCA estimates that 20,000 people in Britain will soon be using the dark web. In order to access the sites paedophiles first download special software — and when they access the sites, the technology gives them anonymity.

Britain and America set up a joint taskforce last year to tackle online threats to children. It brings together experts from the FBI and the NCA and senior government sources say GCHQ is also involved.

A former Google and Facebook executive, Joanna Shields, is leading a group of industry experts to produce technological solutions to the threat. She is hosting an event in London next month to tackle the dark net and combat live video streaming of child abuse.

The crackdown on paedophile manuals follows a summit in Downing Street last November at which Cameron won agreement from internet firms to stop people seeing child abuse images and videos when they input paedophile search terms. On Google alone, child abuse search results are blocked against 100,000 search terms worldwide.

The NCA will run a key test of search engine results next month to check that child abuse results continue to be blocked.

The Sunday Times 27/04/14

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Mommy’s Little Monster

The Friday Night Song.

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Richmond child sex abuse trial postponed

Westminster Confidential

The trial of John Stingemore and Father Tony McSweeney – due to start on May 6 at Southwark Crown Court – has been postponed.

Southwark crown court today  said that there will be no hearing on the 6 May and that it is due to make a fresh announcement on future court dates on 13 June.

Exaro understands that 71 year-old Stingemore, the former officer in charge of the Grafton Close children’s home in the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, is suffering from ill-health and was recently admitted to hospital.

Privately, sources close to the case have expressed fears that Mr Stingemore may not be fit enough to stand trial unless his health improves significantly.

Mr Stingemore’s solicitor was unavailable for comment this afternoon.

John Stingemore, of Stonehouse Drive, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, faces five charges of indecent assault, once count of taking an indecent image of a child, and one…

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The Strange Case Of Teresa Cooper’s Wrongful Conviction.

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The police custody sergent stated Ms Cooper had no visible injuries when he booked her in.

At the end of April last year, 2013, Teresa Cooper was walking home from her neighbour’s house when she slipped and fell. Unconscious, she was rushed to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow,  Essex, where she remained unconscious for 3 hours, during which time she suffered respiratory arrest and her heart stopped briefly.

This is the kind of unfortunate accident that can happen to anyone and as a society we all rely on the emergency services to intervene and save us in such circumstances but this is not a story of angelic medical staff and protective policemen, this is a story of what happens when systems and legislation put in place to protect seriously injured people are ignored, and worse, what happens when powerful vested interests can not be seen to admit that they have not followed their own simple rules.

Slowly coming around, Teresa Copper must have felt drowsy and confused, this is certainly not unusual for head injury patients who can often react unpredictably after regaining consciousness. Ms Cooper, on learning that she had woken up at Princess Alexandra Hospital, a place that had previously been held legally responsible for the death of her baby a decade earlier, began to take out the drips that had been inserted into her hands and she demanded to leave the hospital. A nurse, NR, who had not been responsible for her medical care, physically restrained her, a struggle ensued and the police were called in. The nurse claimed that Teresa Cooper had assaulted her by ‘pinching her thumb’. No physical evidence of such an assault was later presented and it was able to be demonstrated later that Ms Cooper was physically incapable of assaulting NR in this way.

Within 10 minutes the police had arrived, within 15 minutes a doctor had signed off that Ms Cooper was well enough to be arrested and taken from the hospital, within half an hour, after being handcuffed and dragged through the hospital half naked, she found herself in a police cell wearing nothing but the unfastened hospital gown that she had been dressed in while unconscious.

Refused a blanket,  Ms Cooper was to spend the next 16 hours shivering alone in that police cell.

At what point did the police and the hospital realise that they had not followed their own procedures in regards to head injury patients and is it possible that both the police and the hospital understood that they might be open to legal action ?

Unless, of course,  they could secure a criminal conviction against Ms Cooper for assault that is…

The CPS seemed extremely zealous to prosecute, ignoring the wealth of evidence which clearly demonstrated that Ms Cooper was innocent and relying heavily on suspect testimony. Added to this Ms Cooper’s then solicitor seemed extraordinarily ignorant of her client’s rights and did not submit most of the evidence which would have seen her cleared.

I had been in regular contact with Teresa in the year preceding her trial and it seemed to me that she stood alone against many powerful vested interests, with many influential contacts but I was still shocked to learn of her conviction for assault in February this year.

I was even more shocked to learn that Teresa’s barrister had advised her not to appeal.

The local newspaper carried the news that she had been convicted of assaulting a nurse splashed across it’s front page. I hope Teresa doesn’t think I’m being indiscreet if I mention just how upsetting she found this. Since it became apparent that the CPS would pursue this case regardless of the evidence, Teresa had been extremely anxious that her hard won reputation as a campaigner against child abuse would be destroyed and that everything she had worked for the last 20 years would be tarnished too. That day, the day the front page of her local newspaper carried the story of her conviction, piled on newstands for her entire local community to see, was Teresa’s nightmare come true. It might have broken a lesser person but Teresa fought back as she has always done.

Recognising that her conviction had affected the law, through legal precedent, in regard to head injury patients’ rights, Teresa contacted Headway, the brain injury charity, who immediately recognised the importance of overturning Teresa’s conviction. Headway recommended Thompsons Solicitors who were quick to appeal the conviction.

The appeal had been due to take place later this year but the appeal judge, having been presented with all the evidence felt that the conviction should be immediately overturned. The CPS did not challenge.

Teresa Cooper is innocent of the crime that she had been accused and convicted of.

Much has been omitted from this very brief account. There are still bizarre incidents that need to be explained and loose ends that need to be tied up but I think this is a fair summary for now.

Congratulations Teresa! 

:)

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How To Strengthen The Rights Of Victims

Richard Scorer is Head of the Abuse unit at Slater & Gordon lawyers and acts for victims in the Rochdale child sexual exploitation case. He was a Labour Parliamentary Candidate in 2010 and currently serves as a Labour councillor in West Yorkshire. He is also the author of Betrayed: The English Catholic Church and the Sex Abuse Crisis, published this year by Biteback Books. Twitter: @Richard_Scorer

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Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, is heading a Labour group aiming to strengthen the rights of victims in the criminal justice system. What recommendations should he make? I believe we need 3 major changes:

1: Better court processes

As Starmer says, from the point of view of victims the criminal justice system is “hardly fit for purpose – for many victims, the adversarial journey through our courtrooms is such an ordeal that most vow never to repeat it”. In the Rochdale child sexual exploitation case, some of my clients were cross-examined – in the hostile environment of a courtroom packed with their abusers- by no fewer than 11 defence barristers. Although convictions were secured, the experience was exceptionally distressing for the victims. How can we achieve justice if victims are too scared to testify?

This can change for the better if we implement a reform which was originally recommended more than twenty years ago: taking children and vulnerable adult witnesses out of the formal criminal trial process altogether by videotaping their entire testimony, to include cross examination and re-examination, before trial.

This change is long overdue. We already have some ‘special measures’ to assist vulnerable and intimidated witnesses in the courtroom: things like screening witnesses from the accused, the removal of wigs and gowns , and giving evidence-in-chief by video link or in private. But due to opposition from some lawyers, not all the special measures proposed by the Pigot committee in the late 1980s were implemented. Currently, a videotaped interview of the child witness is admissible at trial as evidence-in-chief (subject to the trial judge’s discretion) but the child is still required to attend trial for cross –examination. That cross-examination, of course, will typically take place many months after the original video-taped interview, so that the current regime can actually place the child at even greater disadvantage.

In a lecture in March 2013 the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, was clear that there is an urgent need to introduce video recorded cross examination and re-examination of child witnesses. It can and should be done without delay.

We also need specialist courts for sexual offences. At present, judges, prosecutors and magistrates who hear sex cases are expected to have special training, but this does not apply to defence barristers. I have heard too many accounts of inappropriate questioning at trial: a defence barrister at a child sexual exploitation trial at Stafford Crown Court asked of a teenage rape victim, several days into harrowing evidence, whether she had ‘repented her sins’. There have been other examples. Specialist courts and specialist training would help to address this problem.

2: Mandatory reporting

Starmer rightly says that this “cannot be left in the ‘too difficult’ box forever”. In many cases organisations and institutions have failed to report allegations of abuse to statutory authorities (i.e. police and social services), because – as in the Catholic Church and many private schools dependent on their reputation for their income – fealty to an institution can outweigh the responsibility to protect children.

Currently, in England and Wales (and Scotland) there is no formal requirement in law to report child protection concerns to the authorities. There are professional reporting obligations, for example for teachers or carers, which are emphasised through local and national guidance, and various inter-agency protocols. But the failure to report abuse does not constitute a criminal offence. One victim campaigner, discussing an abuse scandal in 2008 at a Catholic private school in West London, pointed out that “The amazing fact is that in failing to report abuse at the school to the police or social services, [the school] didn’t break any laws. It is possible for a headteacher to know for certain that a member of staff has raped a pupil on school premises, and the headteacher has no statutory obligation to report anything to anybody”.

Campaigners have argued for “Daniel’s Law”, named after Daniel Pelka, a little boy starved and beaten to death by his mother; his bruising and emaciation was ignored by his school. Daniel’s Law would make it mandatory for child protection concerns to be reported by professionals and organisations working with children, introducing clarity especially in circumstances of conflicting duty, where a teacher or cleric might be torn between child welfare and protection of the institution.

There are ample precedents internationally. Many states in USA, all Canadian jurisdictions bar one, and many Australian states have mandatory reporting laws. In Northern Ireland, s5(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1967 already provides for a criminal offence of failing to disclose an arrestable offence to the police, which includes most offences against children.

Some child protection charities have expressed concern that mandatory reporting might be counterproductive and have perverse consequences, if police and social services are swamped with inappropriate reports which drain investigative resources from genuine cases. This is a reasonable concern, although the difficulty in weighing evidence from overseas is that mandatory reporting laws come in many different forms. Some mandatory reporting laws apply just to professionals, others apply to the whole population. Reporting thresholds can also vary. However, there is evidence that where mandatory reporting laws are clear and consistent, they can be effective in raising awareness of abuse and the need to pass information to investigators.

In view of the legitimate concerns expressed by some child protection professionals, and the greater problems involved in formulating a law applicable to the general population, the best way forward would be a mandatory reporting law focussing on institutions, i.e. requiring disclosure to the authorities of actual or suspected abuse in an institutional setting. The reporting obligation would be a mandatory, non discretionary duty to report imposed upon a designated person within the organisation who has a legal duty to refer all allegations of wrongdoing vis-à-vis children to external authorities. Provided such a law is accompanied by clarity around reporting thresholds, and around the rules on confidentiality of information, it will help to prevent some of the appalling abuse in schools, religious organisations and other institutions which has recently come to light.

3: Attitudinal change

But we also need a change of attitude towards victims throughout the criminal justice system. This may seem a more nebulous objective but it is fundamental. In Rochdale in 2008, the credibility and reliability of victims of child exploitation was assessed by reference to ill-informed stereotypes about whether the girls concerned (who were often in fear for their lives) reported abuse quickly, whether they returned to their abusers, whether they had previous criminal convictions, and whether their recollections were affected by drugs or alcohol. On that basis, prosecutions were rejected on credibility grounds. As a lawyer who works with some of those victims, I can testify to the subsequent change brought about by the leadership of the Chief Crown Prosecutor in the North West, Nazir Afzal, whose determination to improve the response to victims of child sexual exploitation resulted in multiple criminal convictions in cases which previously had been considered hopeless. Traditional prejudices about victim behaviour were challenged head-on. Following public debate about the Rochdale cases in 2012-13, the CPS under Starmer revised its internal guidelines for prosecution of sexual offences, to ensure that prosecutors are not misled by myths about how ‘real’ victims behave. As Starmer’s successor Alison Saunders has emphasised, that shift has to be constantly reinforced. Attitudes amongst prosecutors matter as much, if not more, than changes in court processes. If both happen, we can ensure that victims of sexual offences have a fair chance of getting justice.

~

Richard Scorer is Head of the Abuse unit at Slater & Gordon lawyers and acts for victims in the Rochdale child sexual exploitation case. He was a Labour Parliamentary Candidate in 2010 and currently serves as a Labour councillor in West Yorkshire. He is also the author of Betrayed: The English Catholic Church and the Sex Abuse Crisis, published this year by Biteback Books. Twitter: @Richard_Scorer

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Slow Burn

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In praise of Simon Danczuk

Simon Danczuk has led the front pages this week with his explosive account of how an MP could hide a lifetime of abusing children.

The Westminster reaction to his Cyril Smith allegations? Embarrassed coughs.

Simon Danczuk

Good on Simon for having the courage to speak his mind. Since his 2010 election, itself a feat of endurance, he’s demonstrated a forensic mind and a canny eye for a story. He represents a diminishing Westminster breed, a ‘character’ who speaks with an authentic voice and with conviction. In the bland world of party slogans and ‘lines to take,’ he stands out. I admire him.

And despite these qualities, maybe even because of them, I hope our colleagues in the Parliamentary Labour Party are rallying round to support Simon. Because he’s about to realise what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the liberal establishment at its most savage.

Our central concern should always be the survivors of sexual abuse.

Yet the daggers are already being sharpened in the salons of North London. ‘How can he serialise in the Mail?,’ ‘Why is he criticising Labour people?,’ and ‘He’s not a proper journalist’ are just three of the attacks I’ve heard whispered in the last few days.

This is an attempt to undermine the substance of his argument: that career child abuser Cyril Smith covered up his activities with the collaboration of colleagues in Westminster and beyond. Since then the fog of collective amnesia has enveloped his party and anyone ever associated Smith.

I’ve not yet read Simon’s book but I saw the report of television journalist Liz MacKean, who was one of the first to highlight that Special Branch intervened so that Cyril Smith died avoiding the justice which his victims deserved.

As Simon pointed out on Radio 4 yesterday, Smith is not the first MP to be named as a child abuser. Two former ministers have named Sir Peter Morrison as a ‘well-known pedarast’.

There are three things that need to happen in relation to these serious allegations.

First, all the child abuse inquires in local authorities, the NHS and other public institutions such as the BBC must be wrapped into one national independent review of historic abuse cases. In Australia, they’re having a Royal Commission. We could adopt the same practice. MPs of all parties have written to the PM urging him to make a decisive move in the right direction.

Secondly, let’s acknowledge what the police privately admit: investigating child abuse is hopelessly under-resourced. Worse, whistle-blowers in the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre tell me their work is being diluted as the National Crime Agency (NCA) absorbs them into the new organisation. Recent parliamentary questions have yielded obfuscated answers on how many dedicated specialist investigators with arrest powers are working full-time on abuse inquiries. One whistle-blower told me that a very senior director at the NCA said child abuse is ‘not their priority.’

What also needs to happen is for political parties to unite on child abuse. They need to work with campaign groups who wish to see the law changed so we have mandatory reporting of suspected abuse in regulated settings such as private boarding schools. There’s a remarkable man called Tom Perry who runs the organisation Mandate Now- he needs our support.

I’ve already documented my reasons for asking the Prime Minister about an historic case of child abuse in October 2012.

Since then, there have been numerous arrests and people are facing charges, so I have to be careful what I write.

But I can say there have been some shocking claims made, many of which police are investigating.

Labourlist.org

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