Following Harvey Proctor’s press conference last week it is only natural to ask ourselves, “How did we get here ?”
This post is an attempt to answer that question. As I see it, we are where we are due to three individual factors, each on their own would not have created this awkward situation but compounded they have.
The first factor was the reporting of these allegations in the media since last Summer. I need to stress that on its own this has not created the current situation. A few experienced journalists independently described some of this reporting to me as fairly typical 1970s/1980s tabloid journalism. This appraisal wasn’t meant to be complimentary, it was intended to describe a form of journalism that uses anonymous sources and makes unprovable allegations against unnamed individuals. However, this information was also supplemented by those claiming to have inside information on social media. Still, very few would trawl through all of that and the identities of those accused remained for the most part unknown.
The second factor was last December at a Metropolitan Police press conference when Det Supt Kenny McDonald, who is overseeing Operation Midland, when asked about the claims, said officers who had spoken to the witness, including himself, thought his account was “credible and true”. He also went on to say that any witness who came forward would be “believed and supported”.
What was that all about ?
One explanation can be found in remarks made by Det Supt Jon Chadwick of Greater Manchester Police from the BBC documentary series The Detectives. The full three-part series can be viewed HERE
In the above clip Det Supt Jon Chadwick explains, “The ABC of being a detective is; Assume Nothing, Believe No-one , and Check Everything.” He goes on, “But if you treat a rape victim like that, you’ve already gone horribly wrong.”
The current issue of increased reporting of non-recent child sexual abuse is in part because, on too many occasions in the past, victims of child sexual abuse were treated like that. Things are different now, there has been a huge shift in the way that the police deal with victims of sexual assault. Det Supt Jon Chadwick is explaining the general policy approach of the GMP Serious Sexual Offences Unit, not a specific case, but perhaps Det Supt Kenny McDonald has been misunderstood ?
I’m afraid that doesn’t hold up. In this BBC News clip HERE, BBC home affairs correspondent Tom Symonds specifically asks Det Supt Kenny McDonald to clarify whether his comments regarding Nick being “credible and true” are part of a general police approach to CSA or specific to Nick as a witness. It is clear from the response that Det Supt Kenny McDonald is referring specifically to Nick.
Regardless, this statement was not in itself an issue at that time while no living suspect had been identified but it was always going to become an issue if ever someone was arrested and charged. The immediate consequence was to appear to legitimise all the previous stories that had appeared in the media for which Nick was named as the source and then to validate similar stories that followed. Anyone who might have been sceptical until that point would have to re-evaluate after such a strong statement by the senior investigating police officer.
It was only on 4 March 2015, when the police searched Harvey Proctor’s home and he was named in the media, the third factor, that all three of these factors combined to create the unsustainable situation that we see now. Harvey Proctor had been identified as the person that previous media stories had alluded to. The unmistakable inference was that Harvey Proctor had murdered boys and sadistically sexually assaulted others and that the investigating police believed that Harvey Proctor was guilty of these things.
How it came to pass that the fact that Harvey Proctor’s home had been raided was leaked to the media is fairly obvious but probably irrelevant in the long run. If it hadn’t been for the other two factors mentioned previously, the issue of his name being connected to Operation Midland would not have had the consequences it had.
Since then, the longer the police have failed to arrest Harvey Proctor the more unsustainable and untenable the situation has become.
Right now Exaro have given up any pretence of journalistic impartiality and are explicitly referring to ‘When’ not ‘If’ Harvey Proctor will be arrested on social media. Meanwhile Mr Proctor is staying with friends on the continent, the police didn’t seem to raise much of an objection…
There are some that have suggested that Harvey Proctor’s failure to submit to a voluntary DNA test is incriminating. I can think of a few good reasons why he would not wish to ‘volunteer’ a DNA sample which are not incriminating – not least that he might suspect that if he had, that news too would have been leaked to the media and then what ?
And so it goes on and it will only continue until somebody ends it.