Everyone reading this will have at some time been guilty of an occasional ‘unnatural sexual proclivity’. Don’t try and deny it, you dirty sods. You got away with it, as well. How do you sleep at night, knowing this? Easy – you enact a few more; because that’s when you indulge, in the place you can do anything you like with anyone you like and nobody can touch you. They’re called fantasies, and take place in the original ‘virtual’ sense; nobody gets hurt, no laws are broken and they’re not real; they’re also nobody’s business but yours.
The former diplomat and alleged deputy-director of MI6, Sir Peter Hayman, was only ever charged with one offence – ‘An act of gross indecency in a public toilet’, something he engaged in with (one assumes) another grown man. Not uncommon at one time, especially amongst high-ranking diplomats and spies whose adolescent awakenings took place in strictly all-male environments and whose early adult lives were lived in an era when any expression of homosexual leanings could result in being placed at the mercy of blackmailers, the ruination of a career and a prison sentence. Such chaps grabbed what they could get when they could get it.
Of course, an establishment figure had a network of contacts in high places that the average importuner was denied and any potential scandal could be swept under the carpet for the greater good. When it came to national security at the height of the Cold War, and in the wake of the Cambridge Spies, it’s no wonder the powers-that-be were jittery and eager to avoid any exposure that could provide the enemy with an advantage. A cover-up simply for the sake of protecting ‘one of their own’ – an over-familiar accusation after the event – is not necessarily true where those working in such sensitive areas were concerned; as there was a far bigger picture to take into account, the odd reckless lapse by someone who should have known better meant he couldn’t simply be hung out to dry.
In the case of the late Sir Peter Hayman, the recent release (whether by accident or design) of a government file punctuated by references to his particular proclivities shows the kind of concern hardly unique for someone in his lofty position; that the document dates from the 1980s is also important. At that time, what most still regarded as the leading unnatural proclivity was homosexuality. Homosexual acts between consenting adults in private may have been decriminalised in 1967, but the gay age of consent was still twenty-one and men of a certain age weren’t keen to make such leanings public. Remember this was an era when the openly gay Peter Tatchell stood as the Labour candidate at the notorious Bermondsey by-election of 1983 and was undermined by a dirty tricks campaign rightly or wrongly attributed to his Liberal opponent, Simon Hughes; George Michael was firmly in the closet with a sun-bed as his sole companion; Boy George declared he’d rather have a cup of tea than sex; and the onset of the AIDS panic strengthened the mistrust many had of any man who wasn’t turned on by Sam Fox’s assets.
Not that any reference to homosexuality would cause today’s moral crusaders to choke on their muesli, however; indeed, under normal circumstances, there would probably be someone starting a Facebook petition to have Sir Peter Hayman’s 1984 charge overturned and demanding a posthumous pardon. But in this specific case, that won’t happen because his file contains references to paedophilia, something mercifully indefensible that has excited and aroused the Westminster witch-hunters of 2015. Apparently, Hayman was a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange, which is a Godsend to those who claim they now have evidence that the late Geoffrey Dickens MP was right all along.
Hayman subscribed to the long-defunct kiddie-fiddler’s collective, but wasn’t a member of the organisation’s executive committee. Nevertheless, he accidentally left a batch of P.I.E-related material on a bus in 1978, something that seems shocking from today’s perspective – he travelled on public transport??? When the police investigated, they traced the material to a flat in Bayswater owned by Hayman, who had used the apartment to conduct correspondence of a dubious nature and under an assumed name; whilst sniffing around, the boys in blue uncovered over forty diaries in which Hayman had chronicled his sexual fantasies. Crucially, however, there was no evidence discovered that Hayman had been an actual abuser of children beyond what went on in his imagination. He was cautioned not to employ the Royal Mail to handle any of this obscene material and, despite the fact that Geoffrey Dickens displayed his equally vivid imagination in the wake of Hayman’s non-imprisonment, no Victims came forward when ‘Private Eye’ revealed the story three years later, and that was the end of that – until now.
What’s worth remembering in the case of Sir Peter Hayman is that there is no proof that he was a serial child-abuser whatsoever; not that this matters to publicity-seeking MPs either married to women young enough to be their daughters or with a proclivity for a pie that isn’t an acronym. Believing they’d have to settle for relieving themselves on the resting place of Leon Brittan, they now have something else to support their campaign. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
I should imagine to most, the nature of Hayman’s fantasies were pretty repugnant; but was he not entitled to have them, all the same? When it comes to non-sexual fantasies, everyone has imagined doing things they would never countenance in real life, whether that be robbing a bank or committing murder; similarly, the majority have some sexual fantasies that they would equally never contemplate indulging in outside of their heads. That’s what fantasies are all about – private, imaginary daydreams that are utterly irrelevant beyond that context. Yes, Hayman made the mistake of writing his down, but isn’t that what every novelist does? Anthony Burgess was not a rapist because he created a character who is precisely that in ‘A Clockwork Orange’, and Shakespeare was not a murderer because he created Othello. All are written translations of the imagination, not confessions of actual incidents committed by the authors.
It would be easy to evoke yet one more invention by Orwell, that of the Thought Police, or even to cite Philip K Dick’s ‘Minority Report’, whereby future criminals are arrested for crimes they’ve yet to commit; but the fact that somebody can be labelled guilty of something they merely imagined is a chilling development indeed. Our minds are supposed to be the last refuge of freedom, where there are no CCTV cameras and thoughts cannot be monitored; but with Britain’s prisons beginning to house those who publicly expressed a fantasy on social media, it’s hard not to believe that even the imagination is now poised to fall under another section of another proposed piece of legislation.
Je suis coupable. As are we all.