The “success” of Operation Yewtree, in particular the conviction of first Max Clifford and now Rolf Harris on historical charges of sexual abuse, has led to calls for a wide-ranging inquiry into other allegations of especially child sexual abuse going back decades. The voices calling for these now have an audience that is willing to listen. What is more, there has been an extraordinary development with the questioning under caution (though not arrest) of former Home Secretary Leon Brittan on suspicion of rape.
Shocking this may be, but allegations of sexual impropriety against Leon Brittan are far from new. The important word here is allegations, or perhaps the phrase scurillous gossip is more fitting.
For those readers who have not read my previous articles on this and related subjects, here is a very brief résumé. Are you sitting comfortably, boys and girls? Then Uncle Alexander will begin.
Once upon a time there was a world without the Internet. Can you imagine that? In this world, ordinary people had extremely limited access to the mass media. If you wanted to publish a novel or a non-fiction book, best forget it, unless you were a celebrity, an accredited academic or knew someone in publishing. Or were rich. Even if you could afford to self-publish your magnum opus, chances are you would not be able to achieve meaningful distribution.
Access to newspapers and magazines was likewise severely limited, but there was always the rumour mill. Politicians, powerful men, celebrities and others were often the victims of vicious, scurrilous and totally unfounded rumours which were started by their political opponents, personal enemies, cranks, muckrakers and all manner of ne’er-do-wells. There were also rumours about government conspiracies and cover-ups, flying saucers, contacts with aliens, you name it. Although many of these rumours and claims were implausible or clearly fabricated – like that of the man who was assaulted by a ghost – the suggestion that some wealthy or powerful men have both sick minds and the wherewithal to realise their perverted desires is not so implausible. But wealthy and powerful men are able to afford expensive lawyers, which meant the law of libel kept even the gutter press in check. No one can stop rumours though, and if your enemies are both nasty enough and persistent enough, whoever you are, some rumours eventually become “common knowledge”.
The Internet has levelled the playing field by giving ordinary people a platform to distribute their own music, literary works, documentaries, rants, and to expose those in high places who need to be removed from power. That’s the good news, the bad news is that although outrageously defamatory stories still make the mainstream media only on occasion, there is now effectively no law of libel, which means anyone can make up any story about anyone else and spread it to the four corners of the Earth.
You may think this is a good idea, but when someone accuses you of raping the child next door, or having sex with your mother’s dog, or of murdering homeless men and burying them in your garden, you might have second thoughts. Kate McCann is one of many people who have been subjected to this form of baseless speculation, rumour mongering and at times outright hatred, included by self-styled criminal profilers.
Rumours about Leon Brittain have been going the rounds for well over twenty years, and now they have resurfaced with a vengeance. Is there any truth in these allegations? Absolutely not. There are alls sorts of reasons they may have started; one is that he was a high flying politician, that is reason enough. Another is that when he was Home Secretary, a manufactured scandal about the Paedophile Information Exchange hit the headlines. Brittan is also a Jew, and that is a green light for all manner of nutters to crawl out of the woodwork, joining up imaginary dots with other Jews in high places, Freemasons, and God knows who else.
The – original? - rumours about Leon Brittan were that he had been arrested in Brighton for some offence, and the police, obviously in on the plot, had let him go. Now it appears that some woman has accused him of raping her in 1967. Obviously an allegation of this nature has little if any credibility, but the police have to go through the motions. Hopefully he won’t at some point find himself in the same position as Rolf Harris, because undoubtedly other women will come forward with similar allegations, if they haven’t already.
There can also be innocent ways in which scurrilous rumours begin. For example, in 2002 there was a report of a man with the unfortunate name of Tony Blair who pleaded guilty to raping a ten year old girl. Anthony Rickman Blair admitted this and a number of other offences ten years on. It is easy to see how someone glancing over a report of that case could dredge up a confabulated memory of it ten years later. In fact, the rumours (ie lies) about Tony Blair go back way before 2002, but this is a man who has innocent blood on his hands from the Iraq war and its aftermath, so it would be churlish to accuse him of raping children as well as killing them.
Now you have I hope some insight into how these tales of depraved sex orgies and worse begin, the next question is what happens next? If they are not reported to the police, they remain rumours. It is most unlikely police officers will take any sort of professional interest in them unless they gel with an ongoing investigation. When though allegations of sexual impropriety are reported, the police have to make a judgment call. You don’t just go and arrest the Home Secretary or even a local councillor on the unsupported word of some daffy woman, fruitcake, or an individual with a track record of making false allegations.
If the allegation is sufficiently serious and there is also sufficient probable cause to follow up on it, the police will launch an investigation. If the person or persons being accused are politicians, business people or even doctors, then a certain amount of discretion is required. If it can be shown that the allegations are totally false or even malicious, then the investigation is of course finished. What happens next? Here is where the trouble proper begins; are the police really meant to issue a press release that a member of the government of the day has been accused of rape but no further action has been taken? Are they supposed to report that the headmaster of the local primary school has been accused of torturing and murdering young boys but there is “insufficient evidence” to mount a prosecution? Of course not, the files from the investigation are locked away, and in some cases destroyed. This is what all the current furore is about, a perceived cover-up. One suspects that the people making all the noise about such cover-ups would not be quite so chirpy if their own names were on some secret list of those alleged to have been sodomising young boys or raping under age girls in collusion with the staff of some local council care home. Very occasionally, when the allegations made by some delusional person or opportunist are so outrageous, the courts will step in. The case of Hollie Greig and Robert Green is a salutary lesson about believing “victims” at any cost, be they children or adults.
So are all such claims of rape and child sexual abuse totally baseless? If you had asked me that question 25 years ago I would have answered yes for sure, but in the early 1990s I stumbled across a cover-up of this nature by accident, one involving a supposedly controversial individual. Although there were no police officers involved, I have no doubt that the police knew about his activities at a high level. In the UK this involved consenting adults so there was no question of serious illegality, but I was shown evidence that he had engaged in activities outside the UK with underage boys. When I tried to expose this, I was first given the silent treatment, and then slandered from pillar to post. Years later I received out of the blue an e-mail from him that protested his innocence, but it also contained veiled threats. I reported this to the police, and heard nothing more.
I am certain that the powerful people who were using him for political purposes – although not politicians themselves – pressurised the authorities to protect him at my expense, but I have to say I would not expect even them to have covered up for child sexual abuse in this country, it would have been just too risky.
This inquiry is now certain to go ahead, and it is just as certain to be a minefield. On the one hand there will be the usual cries of conspiracy and cover-up; on the other there is the very real risk of escalating this witch-hunt so that mere allegations become first evidence and then proof, as happened in the conviction of Rolf Harris. Clearly whoever is finally put in charge will need to steer a careful course between the lunatics on one side and the crusaders on the other.
[The above article was published originally on July 9, 2014. I have made a few tiny corrections to the original, including hypenating the phrase “cover-up”].
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