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.