Why Did Police Fail To Pursue Rape Allegation Against Former Cabinet Minister?

Over the weekend Exaro News published a number of stories concerning an allegation that a former cabinet minister raped a 19 year old women in 1967. Part of one of the stories is quoted below with a link.

The stories suggest that the police investigating this allegation ‘bowed to political sensitivities’ by failing to pursue this allegation thoroughly and it is this suggestion that I want to look at.

Let me begin by saying that I do not doubt the account given by the victim, who Exaro call ‘Jane’. Like many I’ve been aware of this particular allegation for over a year, though I was ignorant, until now, of the precise details. A case file was passed to the CPS last summer and it was decided not to pursue charges against the individual who from this point onward I will refer to as Mr X.

Why was this when the account seemed detailed and compelling ?

It needs to first be noted that this particular allegation against Mr X is very different to other allegations that have been made against him. This allegation involves the rape of an adult female in 1967, other allegations, of varying degrees of plausibility, involve the sexual abuse of young boys in the late 1970s/early 1980s. This does not mean that Mr X could not have committed both types of crime but, as I’ll try and explain, it would have helped make the chances of a conviction remote.

At the end of the day, if the CPS had agreed to pursue charges against Mr X, it would have been Jane’s word against Mr X. After 47 years there would have been no forensic evidence and there were no witnesses to the rape. Even if Mr X could be placed at the ‘crime scene’ the prosecution would still have to have proven that Jane did not consent and all of this ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ for a jury to find Mr X guilty of rape.

This does not mean that Mr X did not rape Jane. It just means that the chances of a successful conviction would have been extremely remote.

In every recent prosecution of historic sexual abuse, whether successful or unsuccessful, there have been multiple witnesses making allegations. This is because, in the absence of forensic evidence or eye-witnesses, the prosecution hope to demonstrate through corroborative testimony of independent witnesses a Modus Operandi, of the accused.

The case of Max Clifford is a case in point. The prosecution were able to satisfactorily demonstrate to the Jury that Max Clifford had a certain way of operating because multiple independent witnesses corroborated each other’s testimony. However, if there had only been one witness making an allegation against Max Clifford, even if it had been one that has subsequently resulted in a guilty verdict, it would have been extremely unlikely to succeed.

I’m unaware of any other allegations against Mr X regarding the rape of an adult female. Other allegations involve the sexual abuse of young boys. Even if I were to believe every allegation of sexual abuse of young boys by Mr X, and I do not, and even if the police had decided to charge Mr X with the rape of Jane as well as the sexual abuse of boys, Jane could not have expected other victims to have corroborated her testimony. It would still have been her word against his.

And so, to answer the question in the title of this piece; Why did police fail to pursue rape allegations against a former cabinet minister ?

The answer is fairly simple and one doesn’t need a conspiracy or a supine police force afraid of prosecuting powerful individuals to get there. The answer is that the police do not have enough evidence.

Because it is well to remember that however compelling or detailed an allegation is the police and CPS need evidence.

My own view is that if the police ever had enough evidence to charge Mr X, or indeed any powerful person, they would not hesitate to do so.

Police stand accused of bowing to political sensitivities to avoid questioning a former Conservative cabinet minister about a claim that he raped a teenage woman.

The alleged victim says that in 1967 the ex-minister, before he became an MP, tricked her into his flat, locked her in, then raped her.  She was a 19-year-old student at the time.

In extensive interviews with Exaro the woman, and her long-term partner accuse police of looking for excuses to shelve the investigation into her allegations against the ex-minster.

She told Exaro “I am concerned people may be protecting him.”If you compare the handling of this case with some of the ‘celebrity’ investigations, there appears to be an inconsistency.  Celebrities were quickly interviewed by police, and yet the allegations are similar.”

Exaro News

39 Comments

Filed under Abuse, Fairbank, News, Politics

39 responses to “Why Did Police Fail To Pursue Rape Allegation Against Former Cabinet Minister?

  1. Pingback: Scott vs. Watson what does Matthew Scott’s attack on Tom Watson tell us? | Philosophical Politics

  2. Why is the name of mr X not already in the publc domain? Presumably if a file was sent to the CPS he had been arrested then charged? Am i missing something here as Freddie Starr had been arrested,a file had been sent to the CPS,he had been bailed but wasn’t afforded the same anonimity despite not being prosecuted.

  3. Just a point about people taking years to mention they were sexually assaulted. Two days after the allegations about Savile surfaced a colleague’s mother calmly told her family that, as a young girl working in the media in the early 80s, she was raped by a, now dead, household name. She went on to say how, for almost a decade she had simply blanked that it ever happened and it was only seeing the guy in the flesh again that brought the whole thing back to her.

    In the end, what could she have done? It would always and still is, have been his word against hers and he’d finished the act with words that made it plain that , he thought he was doing her a favour. In her case, simply telling people brought her a form of closure. My colleague is of the opinion there;’s virtually no chance his mum is making it up as it’s just not something his mum does.

  4. Agrippa

    While the points you make are valid, there are two other issues here.

    Why didn’t police question the accused?

    Did police lie to the alleged victim about how this was being handled, and if so, why?

    • Agrippa

      Also, surely it would have been routine for police to question this man in case he broke down and confessed? Under those circumstances they have a cast iron prosecution. Such things do happen.

  5. tdf

    “gojam
    May 19, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Her allegation stood alone.”

    Rubbish!! Pattern of predatory behaviour established. Just like Savile.

  6. tdf

    Green, are you aware that Peter Morrison was outed as abuser by several of his ministerial colleagues in 1990s? Your point about allegations against celebs may or may not be valid, but strike me as not particularly relevant with reference to protected political nonces.

  7. tdf

    Lol. Gojam, you are taking the piss with this blogpost. You know perfectly well that with various celebs, they were named in MSM – and this, in itself, prompted other victims to come forward.

  8. Pingback: Operation Fernbridge: A worrying failure over a rape case | David Hencke

  9. gw

    My theory (which belongs to me) is that they want to be 100% that they can nail Mr X. I’m minded to think that one slip up could be seized upon and the whole thing will collapse.

  10. I can see exactly why the Police did not pursue that case IN ISOLATION as Jon has said in his piece.

    However, if we are talking about the person I think we are, then this is only one incident of indecent assault and there were others. So if Stuart Hall can be tried for multiple attacks in one go over many years and in many circumstances, why not in the case of the ex minister?

    • Anon

      The ex minister is the Elephant in the room.

      It would only take an MP to name that person in Parliament to initiate this matter being settled by due process of Law.

  11. green

    “I do not doubt the account given by the victim, who Exaro call ‘Jane’”

    When it’s one person’s word against another and credibility is key, I think it’s reasonable to wonder why someone should wait 47 years until after the Jimmy Savile reports came out to report an alleged rape committed by someone who wasn’t even an MP at the time, let alone a cabinet minister or ex cabinet minister. Plenty of other people have been capable of reporting rapes without waiting for the person to get famous or to see reports about alleged sexual abuse by VIPs. If it’s a crime, it’s worth reporting in itself. Jimmy Savile hasn’t changed that fact, but the reports about him do seem to have prompted allegations of the kind “that reminds me, I once met a celeb and he destroyed my life”. As to several people with similar accounts corroborating a person’s guilt, when there are people out there who are capable of confessing to murders they didn’t commit, it doesn’t seem entirely impossible that more than one person might be capable of making claims based on what they’ve seen in the media and either making it up completely or embellishing an encounter that they didn’t consider worth reporting until they thought they could get their 15 minutes of fame or there might be money in it (anonymously and with no risk of prosecution), so a cuddle becomes a grope, a pat on the bottom sexual assault and voluntary sexual activity sexual abuse. It wouldn’t be difficult for several people to come up with similar anecdotes about the same person, just ratcheting it up into the corresponding abuse, especially if the person’s name had already been bandied around online.

    • Sweetcheeks

      What exactly has this to do with Jimmy Savile??? People are coming forward with historical abuse claims because they believe they will now be listened to. I believe this 66 year old woman came forward after hearing Tom Watson’s speech, to suggest that it was for ’15 minutes fame’ or money is simply disgusting. Shame on you, Green.

      • green

        Why shouldn’t she have been listened to in the past 47 years? She was an adult, there was nothing to prevent her going to the police and her alleged rapist wasn’t even an MP at the time, let alone a cabinet minister. It’s only since the Savile reports came out that this idea of celebs/VIPs (1) abusing children, (2) being too big for their accusers to be believed and (3) being protected by a conspiracy of mega proportions has become current, as well as the idea of their alleged victims being able to claim against their estates. It seems perfectly reasonable to question why people are reporting alleged abuse by celebs (i.e. rich and famous people) post-Savile when, if the crime was the main issue, there was nothing to prevent them from doing so years ago, just like all the other people who promptly go to the police to report crimes by non-VIPs, including people who even reported Savile. There seem to be people who are so desperate to believe that celebs abuse kids that they resent any attempt to question it logically. Do they really care about genuine abuse victims or just in stories that fit the celeb abuse/conspirary theory agenda?

      • green

        “Jane went to the police in 2012 in the wake of the exposure of Jimmy Savile” http://www.exaronews.com/articles/5251/ex-cabinet-minister-raped-me-when-i-was-19-woman-tells-met

  12. Jamilla

    If the police won’t proceed, there is always the possibility of a private prosecution.

  13. Terry B

    “My own view is that if the police ever had enough evidence to charge Mr X, or indeed any powerful person, they would not hesitate to do so.”

    You have much more trust in the police than I. I’ve read many a story on http://www.mojuk.org.uk/ that makes me think the police are not to be trusted and seriously hope I never end up on their radar, as one person said innocence is no defence.

  14. Sweetcheeks

    Are we to now understand that accusers will not even be questioned until they have committed more than one offence with more than one victim?
    No wonder victims do not want to come forward! :(

    • For allegations from 47 years ago ? Yep, I think that is fair to say.

      Not for current allegations as corroborating evidence might be found.

  15. Sweetcheeks

    The question should NOT be
    “Why Did Police Fail To Pursue Rape Allegation Against Former Cabinet Minister?”
    BUT
    “Why did Fernbridge, who are already investigating abuse accusations against this former cabinet minister, not question him over this additional alleged offence?”

    • Stuart Hall wasn’t questioned until 3 victims had come forward.

      As to the ‘other’ allegations. The most plausible allegation features a potential victim who is not cooperating with the police. Other allegations range from the morally ambiguous to the less plausible and into the bizarre.

      There are so many misleading stories in the press over the last 18 months that I can understand why observers may think that the police are not acting correctly but once people are made a bit more aware about the nature of each allegation, I hope they’ll better understand.

      Effectively, if Jane’s allegations had gone to trial, she would have suffered the worst year of her life, as bad as the rape itself and at the end of it ignorant observers would have equated a not guilty verdict with a notion that she was a liar.

      Her allegation stood alone.

      • Sweetcheeks

        I understand what you are saying, but this 66 year old woman chose to come forward, she clearly knew what it would entail and yet Fernbridge did not even question the accused?
        Fernbridge took it upon themselves to decide that minister would fight the case, without even asking him. He may have pled guilty.
        My opinion is that this courageous woman, deserved to be treated respectfully and have her accusations followed up, regardless of whether it ever then went to court.

      • “He may have pled guilty.”

        Your entire argument revolves around that statement.

        He would not have pled guilty and I think you know he wouldn’t Sweetcheeks.

  16. Sweetcheeks

    Disappointed to hear that it was a DCI from Fernbridge that made decision not to proceed. Clearly historical offences are difficult to prove, even more so when the police fail to even question the accused! What kind of investigation is that? The accused may even have admitted guilt but was not given that choice.
    As for the apparent comment by the DCI to the alleged victim
    “With you, it is all about WHO it is”
    A rape is a rape, traumatic no matter who commits it.
    Absolutely astounded that an abuse unit would speak to anyone like that.
    Nah, my faith in Fernbridge is shattered.

    • A file was presented to the CPS. The CPS decided not to proceed.

      As for the alleged comment by the DCI. It wouldn’t be the first time that ‘no good deed goes unpunished’. I notice that when he tried to let Ben Fellows down gently while trying to avoid in anyway blaming him, he got that thrown back in his face also.

      • Sweetcheeks

        The article does actually state that the DCI said HE made the decision not to proceed.

      • And yet the evidence is that a file was sent to the CPS and they made the decision. The DCI may have made the decision not to question Mr X but that is a different matter and the two issues shouldn’t be conflated.

      • Sweetcheeks

        Okay Gojam, only I have heard differently. Let’s agree to disagree :)

  17. Anon

    There’s never enough evidence around when considering whether to prosecute a politician (unless they are already dead).

  18. Reblogged this on Thinking Out Loud and commented:
    This is the same problem the police and the crown prosecution service face in every historical abuse case. Even if the rape had happened yesterday if there is no forensic evidence, no witnesses and no signs of physical and/or sexual abuse prosecution would be a very difficult thing to prove, particularly if for eg all any witness saw was someone willingly walking into her own home or the home of the accused.

    Investigations into historical abuse whether it be of children or adults relies heavily on there being more than one victim and sometimes even multiple victims do not make the allegations stick. Its probably the reason investigations into historical abuse often take such a long time, and that’s before you take into consideration that in the cases involving senior establishment figures there many have been and are outstanding allegations of police collusion in the cover up of such crimes.

  19. James Hanning

    Well done Jon. Somebody needed to say that (and nice to see Exaro catching up with the IoS’s story of yonks ago!). J