Lord Lexden, who used to be Alistair Cooke, a fine author and researcher before acquiring his ermine robes, rose to speak in the House of Lords on Friday.
He paid homage to Carolyn Hoyle and her team who steered the voices of the ‘other’ victims of the VIP abuse ‘hunt’ – that of the falsely accused – through the quagmire of opposition to any deviance from #Ibelieveher. Her recent publication: ‘The Impact of Being Wrongly Accused of Abuse in Occupations of Trust: Victims’ Voices‘ had, he said, ‘usefully highlighted’ those voices in an ‘authoritative’ report.
He went on to bemoan the fate of Bishop Bell; he listed the good works Bell had been responsible for and described him as ‘a man who has a special claim to the most careful treatment if posterity should ever have cause to doubt his virtue’. I don’t doubt that for one moment, though I think that every man whose behaviour is doubted in posterity has the same claim to special treatment – he is not there to answer his critics. To speak for himself.
Before Bishop Bell, he had described:
The manner in which Field Marshal Lord Bramall was treated shocked us all, as did the distress inflicted on Lord Brittan during his final illness and the additional pain suffered by his much-loved wife after his death. The sight of a senior police officer standing outside Sir Edward Heath’s former home in Salisbury and exhorting those who had allegations to make to get in touch will not fade from the memory.
Yet there were four notable exceptions to this emotive plea for ‘special treatment’ for those accused when they could no longer defend themselves. Neither Lord Janner, Clement Freud, or Cyril Smith were worthy of mention. Jimmy Savile distinguished himself by being given a special appearance in the opening paragraph of this appeal for ‘innocence until proven guilty’ especially for the dead…
“the discovery of the foul Savile crimes.”
“Much police time has been and continues to be devoted to them” he claims of Savile’s ‘foul crimes’.
I challenge Lord Lexden to show me where any police time has been devoted to investigating Savile’s ‘foul crimes’.
The only police time that has been expended has been in writing endless reports showing that claims that Savile ‘could have been stopped’ were untrue because the police did not have sufficient evidence to charge him with anything. Not just ‘insufficient evidence’ to prosecute him; but ‘insufficient evidence’ to even charge him.
On the basis of what has happened to those Lord Lexden admires, the Bishop Bell, Lord Bramall, Lord Brittan, Ted Heath et al, he moves that the House should endorse a code of practice to ensure that this couldn’t happen to er, ‘other’ friends of his:
Many would feel that an explicit ban is needed on the deplorable media stunts in which the police have been involved and on sustained, irresponsible trawling for evidence.
It would have been a fine speech, full of compassion for the families and friends of those left to defend a departed ones reputation, were it not for his ignorant espousal of the lazy journalists meme:
‘Savile’s foul crimes’.
Savile, Smith, Janner, Freud; they are all entitled to the same respect for their ‘innocence until proven guilty’ – there isn’t a special brand of justice in this country reserved for the friends of Lord Lexden, or Max Hastings, or anyone else. There was no evidence to charge Savile with; there was no evidence to charge Gambaccini with; there was no evidence to charge Cliff Richard.
Justice isn’t a matter of who you like and who you think ‘looks dodgy’ – or is still alive and could sue you if you said otherwise.
Lord Dear (formerly Geoffrey Dear, Chief Constable of West Midlands) went on to speak next, on the subject of media coverage and police ‘trawling for evidence’:
He [Lord Bramall] was, in effect, put on a hook as bait for others to come forward and say, “Yes, me too”.
…as was Cliff Richard. Yet they were both alive and managed to mount a defence to the ludicrous claims against them. Lord Dear was also moved to complain about the Bishop Bell inquiry:
The public were assured that the process of inquiry had been thorough; it was not. The allegation was presented as something very solid indeed; it is not. The statement actively incited a public judgment of guilt while allowing the Church room for manoeuvre. I would contend that that, at the best, is disingenuous. Nothing about the actual process was exposed to public scrutiny. There was complete silence as to how the decisions were reached. The independent experts, as they were called by the Church of England, were then and remain anonymous.
…and that is different from the joint NSPCC/Operation Yewtree report how?
Lord Dear concluded by lurching back into the Savile meme:
‘we have lurched as a society from the extremities of the mishandling of the Savile case into the extremes identified in the current cases’.
Lord Carey spoke next. Formerly George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury:
I too am very troubled by the ease with which complaints going back years can trash, tarnish and destroy reputation, careers and lives. […] We expect better in a land under the rule of law and in a democratic society where justice prevails. However, in the case of a dead person, the questions are much more difficult as the individual is no longer here to answer the accusations.
Before going on to speak in support of his chosen ‘dead person’ – Bishop Bell:
“So Bishop George Bell was judged a paedophile and a pervert”.
“by an anonymous, unpublished claim, upheld by a non-court which won’t explain its decision”.
A despicable situation to be sure. But would Lord Carey extend his sympathy to others judged ‘paedophile and pervert’ on the basis of anonymous, unpublished claims, upheld by a non-court which won’t explain its decision’….not a chance!
Onto Lord Cormack, formerly Patrick Cormack, like Lord Lexden, formerly an author, historian and researcher:
I was brought up […] to regard two propositions as being utterly necessary foundations for any civilised society. Any man or women is innocent until proven guilty, and it is better that a guilty man or woman goes free than an innocent one is punished, and we should all bear that in mind.
Lord Cormack at least side stepped the Savile trap by referring to the ’emotional panic that has followed the Savile case’. I congratulate him.
Lord Armstrong, a former civil servant who is credited with coining the phrase ‘economical with the truth’ spoke next:
Your Lordships will know that, in the absence of any close relatives of his, I have expressed publicly my view that Sir Edward Heath was not guilty of any criminal offences of child abuse, and that remains my view.
The police have interviewed, are interviewing, or have proposed to interview a great number of people. The operation has already cost £400,000 and is likely to run for at least another six—probably 12—months and cost more than £1 million. A number of retired policemen and other people from outside the force have been recruited to help conduct the investigation.
[…] But of course, in the case of a man who has been dead for over 10 years, that is almost a travesty of justice.
Ever since the shocking case of Jimmy Savile and others we have become accustomed to serious allegations of sexual abuse being made against well-known figures.
But now those fine Lords are faced with allegations against one of their own…’something must be done…’
I suggest that a distinction should be made between the management of allegations against a living person and those against one who is deceased.
The issue that causes me considerable concern is where the balance of probabilities is applied to historic cases of child abuse in which the alleged perpetrator is dead.
But no, it seems we are back to Bishop Bell again – and only Bishop Bell and ‘our friends in the House’. For, there is an exception to her concern:
Jimmy Savile may have been an exception because the volume of evidence of many, many victims built up to a horrifying degree.
Yes, it seems that Savile manages to evade the horror that the noble Lords feel at trawling exercises, mass publicity and calls for victims to come forward; ‘anonymous, unpublished claims, upheld by a non-court which won’t explain its decision’ are all perfectly acceptable for some members of the public.
Lord Judge, the former Lord Chief Justice, commenced by clearing up one small point which appeared to baffle former speakers:
Perhaps I will begin by saying that the presumption of innocence survives death.
Lord Judge went on to make a remarkable and emotive speech, detailing the situation of 30 or 40 years ago, when the evidence of children – and I do mean children, not middle aged adults recounting events they claimed happened 40 years ago, was positively warned against by Judges in the summation. We have moved on a long way from that point – and it is scarcely relevant to the rash of ‘Historical VIP abuse’ claims. Most of which involve people who claimed to be teenagers, near adults, not five year old chidlren.
It fell to Lord Bishop of Chelmsford, formerly Stephen Cottrell, the task of defending the church’s actions in respect of Bishop Bell to his friends in the House. These he explained, were a matter of deciding that the ‘survivor’ should not have to undergo more anguish in court by having to give her evidence again – something that appeared not to bother her when she gave media interviews. Interviews she had only given he said, because some of Bishop Bell’s friends and supporters had said ‘nasty things about her’. The lawyers had advised them that they would probably lose the case, and so it was more expedient to ‘settle’ now. ‘However’, he said, ‘the Church remains satisfied of the credibility of the allegation’.
Not that the Church has ever heard any evidence from Bishop Bell – he has been dead for 10 years…
Lord Paddick, previously Brian Paddick, former Metropolitan Assistant Commissioner, felt that when the ‘person accused has passed away and cannot defend themselves, particularly against a civil action that is decided on the balance of probabilities’ was an issue that needed to be addressed.
He also made a very sensible suggestion; that ALL victims of childhood sexual abuse come forward now – not necessarily with a view to prosecution, but to identify those who claim to have been abused on a national database. That way, the police could identify those people against whom multiple allegations have been made, and carry out an investigation ‘rather than conducting the sort of fishing expedition with dynamite that has been referred to and happens now’. Whether it would work or not is another matter, since so many victims claim to have forgotten all about ‘it’ until a TV obituary reminded them…
Lord Paddick was also the first speaker to reference the motion before the House – That this House takes note of the case for statutory guidelines relating to the investigation of cases of historical child sex abuse. – everybody else seemed to think it was just an opportunity to defend their friends.
‘Guidelines are given to the police and the Crown Prosecution Service about these sorts of cases and those guidelines clearly need to change.’
Lord Tunnicliffe, formerly Denis Tunnicliffe, Pilot and Railwayman, addressed the issue of where the current ‘guidelines relating to investigation’ emanate from. It is the College of Policing. The College of Policing, as detailed in a previous blog here, decided not two months ago, that there was no need to change the guidelines…
…it is therefore not necessary to make a change to existing standards and guidance.
Though Lord Tunnicliffe chose not to repeat that portion of their decision, merely the fact that: ‘It is vital that the Government accept the need of the police for additional funding to investigate effectively the sudden and extreme increase in the number of historic child abuse cases recorded by the police.‘
He went on to quote the words of Simon Bailey, Chief Constable of Norfolk:
“The average cost of each investigation is £19,000, so the police force is now spending a billion pounds a year on cases. If it continues at this rate we will be investigating 200,000 cases at a cost of £3 billion by 2020”.
Lord Keen of Elie answered the motion on behalf of the Government. Better known as Richard Keen, QC. He successfully defended the Libyan Fhimah at the Pan Am 103 trial; he represented the family of Diana’s chauffeur, Henri Paul; he represented Rangers football club in their interminable court cases; he is currently representing Andy Coulson…and is the Advocate-General for Scotland – an expert on Scottish law.
Quite obviously the best person to tackle the Government’s response to the disgraceful manner in which Historical Child Abuse claims have been handled recently. Quite. Obviously.
The current guidelines are indeed drawn up by the College of Policing.
The college is independent from government.
The college has the power to place this practice guidance on a statutory footing, should it choose to do so.
The Government have no plans to extend or issue statutory guidance.
So-o-o-o….Having just been told that the government had no power to force the College of Policing to change its methods, Lord Lexden, who cannot have been listening, wound up the debate by saying that the motion to introduce ‘statutory guidelines for the investigation of Historical Child Abuse’ was carried – and could he please have a ‘fundamental review’ of Bishop Bell’s case please…’cos he’s a friend of his.
Even when it involves one of their beloved friends, these decrepit and lethargic geriatrics don’t get the point that they are supposed to be representing all of us.
I posed the question two months ago as to whether ‘Hogan-Howe was a Cult Leader or Not in Control of his Force’. Neither Hogan-Howe nor the House of Lords, it would seem.