The Shame of Operation Midland

aaa-harveyFalse paedophile allegations are as damaging as child abuse.

I think I have made it patently clear in this forum that I not only have no time for Conservatives, but I utterly despise them and consider most of them filth. On an evolutionary scale I would not place them in the primordial soup ~ they are much further down than that. So it may come as some surprise to many of my readers that upon listening to former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor on LBC Radio on Tuesday, 8 November, I was moved to tears by him.

Harvey Proctor was Member of Parliament for Basildon from 1979 to 1983, and Billericay from 1983 to 1987. Very much to the right, Proctor was a member of the right-wing Monday Club for many years, including spending time as it’s secretary. He won his 1979 seat on a ticket of reducing the number of “coloured” (his words, not mine) immigrants, opposed the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and supported the return of capital punishment.

In June 1986 The People newspaper published allegations that Proctor had taken part in sexual relaitonships with men aged 17-20, when the age of consent for homosexuals sex was 21. The following year he was charged with Gross Indecency, and resigned his candidacy for his Billericay seat. He pleaded guilty and was fined £1,450. Wanting to put the whole matter behind him, he opened a prestigious shirtmakers shop in Richmond, London.

In November 2014 the Metropolitan Police launched Operation Midland into historic child sexual abuse allegations against politicians, celebrities, and VIPs, and included the allegation of a possible homicide or a child. Some of the allegations came from an anonymous complainant known only as “Nick”. On 4 March 2015, police raided the home of Harvey Proctor on the Belvoir Estate, based upon the allegations of “Nick”. Proctor denied any wrongdoing but resigned his post with the Duke and Duchess of Rutland on 25 March 2015 “with immediate effect”. He was interviewed by police in June 2015, and again in August 2015. On 25 August 2015 he gave a press conference in which he called the inquiry against him as a “homosexual witch hunt” and stated “I’m a homosexual. I’m not a murderer or a paedophile. I’m completely innocent of all these allegations.”

Meanwhile, Operation Midland was falling apart as claim after claim of “Nick” proved to be false or unproven. Among others investigated had been Army Lord Bramall and Lord Leon Brittan, who was gravely ill when his home was raided and he was questioned by police. Lord Brittan died in January 2015, without being told charges against him had been dropped. Harvey Proctor was the last person to be investigated by police, until 21 March 2016, when he was told that no further action would be taken, and Operation Midland was subsequently wound up.

On 8 November an independent review into the £2.3 million Operation Midland, which never resulted in one arrest, found several failings by the Metropolitan Police, and said the decision to abandon it should have been taken “much earlier”. Against many of their criticisms was the readiness of police to believe “Nick”, who had also implicated heads of UK security services.

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, accepted “accountability for these failures” and stated “It is a matter of professional and personal dismay that the suspects in the investigation were pursued for so long when it could have been concluded much earlier. He apologised to Lord Bramall, the widow of Lord Brittan, and Harvey Proctor.

Speaking on LBC Radio, Harvey Proctor, now 69, told just what a toll Operation Midland had taken on his life. He told show host Iain Dale “It’s been devastating. Unrepairable. As you know I lost my job, my home, my family, unusual family although it might be, split asunder.

“I received death threats, and I am now destitute. I have no money. When other people say they have no money, they are down to their last hundred thousand. I have no money.”

Iain Dale then asked what the darkest time was, and for a good number of seconds the line went silent. Then Mr Proctor responded, sobbing audibly ~ and I openly cried along with him, and I cried, and cried as my heart went out to him.

No innocent person, whoever they are, deserves to be reduced to that.

As my regular readers will know, I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. And some may wonder then why I should care so much because of someone under investigation for paedophile offences. A chance to clear his name, surely? No, loves, it is precisely because I am an abuse survivor that I am sad ~ and angry ~ at the haphazard dealings of Operation Midland and the way that innocent men had their lives destroyed by an individual whom I can only describe as a fantasist, a police force too ready to believe him, and a police commissioner who should have had the sense to close down the operation much earlier.

Allegations of being a child sex abuser are among the most devastating anyone can have laid at their door. As we have seen in the case of Harvey Proctor, it destroys lives. Those accused can lose their marriages, family, friends, their jobs and livelihoods, their homes and their entire reputations, and can face endless verbal abuse, threats of and actual violence. And because the public believe “no smoke without fire”, that follows the suspect to the end of their days. Now, where the allegations are true, then as far as I am and concerned, much of that ~ short of actual violence ~ they deserve everything they get. And I mean that from the child sex attacker, right down to the paedophile who masturbates to images of naked children. Contrary to what some claim, it is not a victimless crime to view naked kids ~ someone, somewhere, is abusing those children, and because it is about supply and demand, every paedophile viewing those images are complicit in that abuse.

But where the suspect is innocent of all allegations against them, it becomes a very different matter altogether. To have your life destroyed because you are labelled a “pervert” by society is certainly an experience too many reading this will be all too familiar with. Many here will have had to change their identity, and maybe even to move home, perhaps many times over. They may have been cast out by their families, had partners shun them, denied access to their children, lost their jobs, been completely ostracised by society, almost certainly faced verbal abuse and threats, and in many cases, been subjected to actual violence. Many will have suffered mental trauma, perhaps even clinical depression, due to the treatment they have suffered. Innocent suspects of paedophilia suffer exactly the same. Indeed, in some cases it can be worse.

I recall in the late-1990s, some red-top newspapers stirred up a “paedophile panic” in the UK, from which we have never recovered. It led to lynch mobs chasing innocent people, mostly men, out of their homes and beating them up. The satirical magazine Private Eye one week ran a cartoon which showed a man running from a mob with the caption “I’m a PAEDIATRICIAN, you morons.” The following week it actually happened, when a woman paediatrician had her surgery burned out.

Feeling was particularly strong in Scotland, in the wake of the 1996 Dunblane massacre, when paedophile Thomas Hamilton gunned down 16 schoolchildren and their teacher. Just down the road in the Raploch district of Stirling, housewife Mags Heaney had set herself up as head of a vigilante mob which was attacking the homes of single men suspected of being paedophiles. When one such man complained to police, Mrs Heaney was taken to the man’s door, along with cameras from Scottish Television, and was forced to apologise to him. Mags Heaney’s family at the time were among the largest drug dealers in Scotland, who were selling everything from cannabis to herion to the very kids they claimed to be protecting. So arrogant they were that they even called themselves “Heaney Heroin Limited.”

Prosecutions and jail terms against many of the Heaney family, including “Big Mags”, followed, but they had done untold damage to the lives of many men, who had to move their homes, had lost their jobs in the process, and some of whom actually changed their identity to avoid future persecution.

I cannot reiterate just how dangerous false allegations of paedophilia are, and especially as a survivor of child sex abuse, how damaging it is to those of us who genuinely suffered. Why damaging? Because every time the police are busy investigating a false accusation, every time they have to deal with misguided vigilantes, every time they have to investigate themselves for failing to recognise false allegations, a child somewhere is being sexually abused, and the attacker is getting away with it.

Paedophilia, be it active or inactive, is much more prevalent than most give credence to. And what is more dangerous is the fact that by and large it is rarely a case of “stranger danger” or the myth (which it is) of the dirty old man in a shabby raincoat in the park; the overwhelming majority of child sex attackers are known to the child and their family, often family members or friends. And because none likes to think any bad of their family or friends, few are willing to admit that. Therefore, even in 2016, when there are many more cases of child sex attacks coming to light, and many more historical survivors coming forward, what we see remains very much the tip of the iceberg. The overwhelming majority of child abuse cases still go unreported, precisely because far from being strangers committing these crimes, it is those close to the victims.

And Harvey Proctor’s sexuality, and past convictions, are not lost on me either. There is certainly evidence that many thought Mr Proctor must be guilty because of his convictions for sex with boys aged 17 to 20, and that includes among the officers investigating him. Again, there are many reading this will know all too well that all too often the public think gay / bi / lesbian / anything other than straight must equal paedophile. All us “queers” are castigated by the cishet pubic majority as perverts, and to their uneducated hive mentality, if we indulge in one “perversion”, we must indulge in all of them. In fact, not only are the majority of paedophiles known to their victims, but they are mostly heterosexual men ~ even those men who prey upon little boys (this was true of my attacker). Whilst the incidence is much lower, heterosexual women make up the second highest proportion of paedophiles. But LGBT+ paedophiles are way down at the bottom of the scale, with the incidence of sex attacks on children among the community being extremely rare indeed.

So, in the wake of the findings of the inquiry into Operation Midland, where do we go next? Harvey Proctor has called for the immediate resignation of Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. I fully back that. Sir Bernard has already opted for early retirement, due to other incompetent incidents under his tenure. I personally think that January 2017 is too late for him to go, he should go NOW. But then, I reckon if Sir Bernard had one shred of decency left in his entire frame, he would go into an empty room with a loaded gun, and take the last honourable step left open to him. And yes, dears, I do mean that.

A review of how suspected child sex attackers are identified is definitely needed, including education of police officers to recognise that sexual diversity does not equal paedophile. Do I think the Met are homophobic? Yes, and one need only look at the way some LGBT+ people have been treated by the police in London to recognise the truth of this. But then, they are not alone among police forces in that respect.

I would also urge that police across the UK receive retraining and education in the entire subject of paedophilia, it’s incidence and the huge number of historical cases which go unreported, with the survivors often staying silent until their abuser is dead (as was my experience).

Anonymity should not only be afforded to accusers, but also to the accused. Those affected by Operation Midland not only had their lives destroyed by the authorities, but also faced trial-by-media, and are to this day suffering from a cishet public who still believe “no smoke without fire”.

The investigation of accusers should always be taken seriously. But at the same time, such allegations themselves need to be thoroughly scrutinised. I would suggest interviews of accusers not by police psychologists but by independent psychologists who can be called in to do so.

“Nick” needs to be prosecuted for the enormous damage he has done to a great many people. And unless found himself to have serious psychological problems, once convicted, I do believe he should be named and shamed ~ for his activities have been every bit as damaging to innocents as child sex attackers.

Unfortunately, all this is locking the stable door after the horse has bolted, and it may have done irreparable damage to future investigations of suspected child abusers. The independent inquiry into Operation Midland made 25 recommendations, including;

  • The instruction to officers to “believe a ‘victim’s’ account” should cease.
  • Investigators should be informed that false complaints are made from time to time and should not be regarded as a remote possibility.

Whilst false complaints are indeed serious to the point of being devastating to the accused, these recommendations are nonetheless disturbing. There are so very many silent survivors of childhood sexual abuse simply because nobody believes them. I know this, because I was one. These recommendations may make that all the more difficult, and an unwillingness to believe accusers may cause a great many more children to suffer some of the worst trauma possible in silence.

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