VIP paedophiles: Leon Brittan’s accuser says it was a ‘joke’; Tom Watson remains silent, old news is no news
The VIP paedophile story unravels by the day. Today the Times reports on the man who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by the dead former home secretary and Tory MP Leon Brittan.
The man is known only as “David”. He told the BBC’s Panorama programme that he only realised Lord Brittan of Spennithorne had molested him when a “campaigner” showed him the peer’s photo and suggested a number of names to him.
“It were just done as a joke suggestion to start with but that suggestion became reality. I just went along with it. I identified him with a photograph.”
“But there again, he’s a well-known MP and I might have seen him on TV through the years and stuff and I might just have been confused.”
Do you blur reality with fiction? Do you think EastEnders is a documentary? Are you the kind of idiot who writes letters to your MP demanding Deirdre be freed for prison?
The Times then notes the police reaction. The self-serving police have been trawling for victims. The PR-police have hounded celebrities, turning their arrest into TV entertainment.
The Metropolitan Police hit back last night, saying that it had serious concerns about the conduct of some BBC journalists who had shown photographs to a key witness in another abuse investigation. Such actions, the Met said, “could compromise the evidential chain should a case ever proceed to court”.
These journalists have saved the country the expense of a lengthy and expensive trial, one in which the accused is a corpse. They have got to the crux of a complaint against a Westminster face and exposed the machinations behind it. The BBC said it was “important and fair investigative journalism“.
Ceri Thomas, Panorama’s editor, said:
“What we’ve found while we’ve been making this Panorama is a concern that all those big institutions – the police, press and politicians – are so determined to atone for the sins of the past that they’re in danger of inventing whole new categories of mistakes. The motivation may be good, but the outcome can be awful. What has emerged is a story which, arguably, says as much about how some of this country’s most important institutions are behaving now as it does about child abuse more than 30 years ago.”
A police spokesman replies:
“We have not yet completed our work. There are still lines of inquiry to pursue which are not in the public domain and we will not reach a judgment until that work is completed.”
The police reach a judgement? No. That’s the work of the courts. Their job is to gather evidence and present it to the CPS.
A Met spokesman adds:
“We are worried that this programme and other recent [media] reporting will deter victims and witnesses from coming forward in future. Seeing an individual make allegations and then be targeted by the media is not going to encourage others to speak out.”
The story of VIP peadophiles is rooted in many claims that the police ignored alleged victims when they first complained of abuse. The media does not prevent claims. The media amplifies them. The media drives through the police cu-de-sac. Well, it can do. As the cuttings on this page show, the media also loves a good scandal, wafting the pong into a stench fog. When it clears, however, there can be little of substance to see.
Panorama also criticised Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, who raised the prospect of “a powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and No 10” in the Commons in 2012.
Watson’s the MP who played a game of Knock Down Paedo. You ring the bell, shout ‘Paedo’, give the crowd the side-eyes and saunter off. He stood in the House of Commons and suggested the existence of a “powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and No 10”. He named no names.
The programme said that he had written to the director of public prosecutions demanding a full review of allegations against Lord Brittan, and his letter prompted police to interview the peer at a time when he was gravely ill. Mr Watson told the BBC in a statement that his motivation had been to help the victims. He added: “It was clear to me very early on that some testimony would prove to be unreliable, yet not all of it.”
David Aaronovitch notes:
On January 21 this year Leon Brittan, the former home secretary, died after suffering for a long time with cancer. His family mourned and on Twitter his former cabinet colleague John Gummer expressed sadness at the news. Noting Gummer’s comments, Tom Watson, the MP and now Labour deputy leader, wrote the single word: “Hmm”.
Hmm. Or, rather, HMMM!!!!!
A few days later Watson wrote in the Mirror:
My condolences go to the family and friends of Lord Brittan. They are grieving for someone they loved very much. I don’t want to add to their grief, but what I am about to say will distress them greatly. For that I am truly sorry.
Many have urged me over the past two years to reveal allegations against Brittan using parliamentary privilege. This allows MPs to say things that are not subject to libel laws. Some will ask why I’ve waited until his death to speak out. The reason is simple. I didn’t want to prejudice any jury trial he might one day face…
…it’s a travesty that Brittan will never be asked the truth. To answer questions about his conduct under oath at a public inquiry. It’s possible to spend a lot of time with a person yet know nothing of their true nature…
I’ve spoken to a woman who said he raped her in 1967. And I’ve spoken to a man who was a child when he says Brittan raped him. And I know of two others who have made similar claims of abuse…
Today, one survivor said to me that Brittan “showed me no kindness or warmth.” That Brittan was “as close to evil as a human being could get in my view”. This survivor said that Brittan and the others “took my childhood, they took the very essence of who I was and finally he’s taken away my right to see justice done.”
It is not for me to judge whether the claims made against Brittan are true.
It’s for the police to investigate these claims as they continue to do. But I believe the people I’ve spoken to are sincere…
All the glowing tributes reminded me of the media coverage immediately after Jimmy Savile’s death. How those journalists who wrote tributes to Savile must regret them now…
Former Home Secretary Leon Brittan stands accused of multiple child rape. Many others knew of these allegations and chose to remain silent. I will not. The police must continue their investigations.
…three main strands of claim remained, two at least of them featuring in Mr Watson’s repetition of claims about Brittan. The first was the story, repeated now in many newspapers, in documentaries, in books, interviews and speeches, that a private guesthouse in southwest London — the Elm Guest House — had, during the 1980s, been a place where boys from a nearby children’s home had been trafficked and sexually abused by a whole series of celebrities and politicians, one of whom was supposedly Brittan.
This story had been on the edges of the internet for years (I came across it on a site run by a follower of the bizarre David Icke cult), but was now given credibility by a police operation set up to examine allegations.
Almost everything to do with Elm Guest House originates with a man called Chris Fay. Once a social worker in the area and then a Labour councillor, it is Fay who claims to have been given the list of “attendees” by the now deceased owner; Fay who claims to have spoken to many boys who were trafficked and Fay who “saw” photographs of Brittan at the guesthouse abusing under-age boys — photos now missing.
On last night’s Panorama, reporters spoke to one boy who Fay claimed was at the guesthouse and who said clearly that he was not there. Panorama also found a man who acted as a gay masseur in the house, who said that though sexual activity certainly went on, he never saw anyone famous or any children. Fay, it should be noted, is a convicted fraudster who went to prison in 2011.
The second strand of the accusations against Brittan concerned the supposed happenings at Dolphin Square in London in the early Eighties. Again this place had been the subject of internet rumours for years, but in the end the hard evidence boiled down to the testimony— most of it obtained by the Exaro news agency and then elsewhere — of three “survivors”: “Nick”, “Darren” and “Andrew”. Nick’s account even made it as the top item of the BBC’s Six O’Clock News last year.
Panorama chased down one of the key claims from Nick”, that he witnessed the hit-and-run murder of a schoolboy in Kingston, committed as a warning to him from his abusers. They established that no such accident happened and that no child was killed in this way in that location and timeframe.
If that murder didn’t happen, then a huge doubt must exist about his other stories, the most lurid of which (involving Edward Heath and a knife) were itemised by Harvey Proctor in a press conference last month where he protested his innocence and accused police of a witch-hunt.
Furthermore, the supposed corroboration from Darren was also highly dubious, since he is a convicted bomb-hoaxer and has been classified as delusional. The third witness, Andrew, told Panorama that he felt pressured into saying he was at Dolphin Square by Fay and the Exaro team.
Then there is the accusation of (unusually for a supposed homosexual paedophile) heterosexual rape. “Jane” contacted Mr Watson through a fellow Labour MP and claimed to have been raped by Brittan in 1967.
When the police investigated her claim a number of problems quickly arose. She said he had taken her to his basement flat, but at the time he had lived on the third floor. And friends of hers who she said could corroborate parts of her story flatly contradicted it. Finally, what she was alleging didn’t match the criteria for rape. The police concluded that they had no grounds for interviewing or arresting Brittan, who was obviously terminally ill.
And then Mr Watson wrote a remarkable letter to the DPP, in effect demanding that Brittan be interviewed and citing in addition to the case of Jane some of the other spurious allegations against him. The DPP leant on the police. The subsequent interview of the dying man resulted in Brittan’s name becoming public. In my opinion this was partly a deliberate ploy to try to “flush out” other complainants.
You can watch the Panorama show here.