THE SHE-WOLF THAT CRIED

Compared to the far more discreet coverage sexual assault cases once received within mainstream media – with the sole exception being those served-up as sensationalist scraps in the shock-horror Sunday tabloids – the change in recent years, one that has both facilitated and supported the confessional strain of daytime television, has undoubtedly been a double-edged sword. On one hand, it has enabled women who previously would have suffered in silence to open up about their grim experiences and to achieve long-overdue justice as a consequence; on the other, it has gifted publicity-seeking narcissists with an opportunity to spin extremely damaging yarns that, in a culture whereby every woman is now believed and every man is disbelieved, has the proven potential to ruin lives and forever brand the innocent as guilty.

Because the lopsided coverage within the media has been dictated and exploited by the extreme wing of the women’s movement and its spokeswomen in a position of power (such as the loathsome Vera Baird), an undisputed narrative has been established. In this narrative, all men are rabid sex-maniacs and all women are wilting Victorian wallflowers forever at the mercy of these marauding molesters. A dangerous climate has been fostered and encouraged that was bound to give rise to the inevitable serial liar; and it comes as a considerable relief that one such despicable character has finally received her just desserts at last.

25-year-old Jemma Beale accused no less than fifteen men of raping or sexually assaulting her over a period of three years – and every time she made her utterly false allegations she was believed on each occasion without dispute because the police forces in this country have been instructed to accept an accuser’s word as gospel at the expense of evidence. Beale said she was seriously sexually assaulted by six different men and raped by a further nine. Her lies resulted in the wrongful conviction of one man and led to another fleeing the country, but a couple of days ago at Southwark Crown Court – ironically the venue for numerous high-profile trials re ‘historical sex crimes’ – Beale was found guilty of four counts of perjury and four counts of perverting the cause of justice.

Beale claims to be a lesbian – a good career move from the perspective of her allegations – and first made herself known to the police when she accused Mahad Cassim of raping her when he gave her a lift home. Cassim was found guilty in 2010 and sentenced to seven years; during his trial, Beale said ‘I feel that any sentence he receives will never reflect the life sentence that he gave me’, a statement straight out of the approved Victims’ Handbook; for her pains, Beale received compensation payments upwards of £11,000. However, an ex-girlfriend of Beale cast doubt upon Beale’s claims in 2013, provoking the Met’s Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command (bit of a mouthful) to launch an investigation into the multiple allegations Beale had made.

Beale had also alleged she’d been gang-raped by a group of men in a car-park, an allegation that was undergoing a separate investigation at the time the SOECA decided to look into the Cassim case. It soon became evident – albeit belatedly – that Beale’s accusations bore a remarkable similarity to one another and boasted virtually identical discrepancies that should have been obvious before Mahad Cassim was even tried; but in the current climate, it’s no great surprise they weren’t. Mercifully, Cassim’s conviction was quashed on appeal in 2015. By then, Beale herself had already been arrested as suspicions grew around the accuracy of her allegations.

At Southwark Crown Court two days ago, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith referenced Beale’s ‘attention seeking’ and it comes as something of a surreal relief to hear a police officer openly discussing the lies of a false allegator. The copper in charge of the investigation into Beale’s bullshit, Detective Sergeant Kevin Lynott, said ‘Beale is responsible for fabricating a series of extremely serious allegations…her manipulation of the criminal justice system has caused police to direct serious amounts of resource into investigating her bogus complaints as well as her own offending. She has also significantly impacted on the NHS as a result of her complaints and used up many other limited resources that are relied upon by genuine survivors. Not only that, but then she went on to give false testimony at court, which resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of a completely innocent man.’

Lynott added ‘Beale has been exposed as a serial liar and I can only think that she was motivated partly by financial reward, but mainly the attention and control over her partners and family at the time she made the allegations. The impact on those she falsely accused had been devastating. However, hopefully the outcome now fully exonerates all the men she accused of such heinous crimes.’

Jemma Beale is hardly unique, but the verdict of her trial is certainly that; it has brought to the attention of both the judiciary and the wider public the dangers of introducing a system that predetermines the guilt or innocence of both accused and accuser and has offered financial and moral incentives for Victims whilst condemning the targeted to years behind bars, whether or not they did the deed. One can only hope her case sets a precedent, but I suspect the law has been distorted to such an extent that any cases in a similar vein will be few and far between in the future. Too many parties have a vested interest in the opposite outcome to make them commonplace.

© The Editor

THE SWINGEING SIXTIES

A couple of anniversaries worth marking, I thought; a regular feature of this here blog, but always a welcome break from contemporary concerns, what with most of them being pretty grim. Today marks a decade since the UK smoking ban came into force; but firstly, fifty years ago today, the Times published an editorial that remains one of the few (if indeed the only one ever) to impact considerably on pop culture, as well as marking a significant turning point in the Us and Them battle that divided young and old in mid-60s Britain. The emergence of Teddy Boys, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Beatlemania and Mods Vs Rockers all gave rise to the belief amongst the generations that had fought in two World Wars and then ran the country that the country was falling apart at the seams.

None invoked such Blimp-ish rage in establishment circles as those shaggy-haired scruffs The Rolling Stones; their appearance alone was deemed offensive enough, but the thought that these 12-bar wonders might have any kind of influence over the young beyond simply cajoling them into buying their records seemed symbolic of the decline and fall of western civilisation. Things got worse as the Stones began to adopt a more erudite, cultured persona when the arty influence of girlfriends like Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg stretched their ambitions and aspirations beyond merely recycling the Blues. They appeared to be encroaching into the Highbrow, which was bad enough; and then they began extolling the virtues of chemical mind-expansion, something previously reserved for revered (and safely dead) intellectuals like Aldous Huxley.

Fining the band for peeing against a garage wall when the petrol pump attendant refused them access the loos was one thing; but in order to stop this repulsive revolution in its tracks, there needed to be something bigger that could bring about the desired effect. In 1967, the opportunity presented itself and the cohabitating coterie of press, police and judiciary seized upon it. The loose lips of Brian Jones in a London club, unknowingly endorsing LSD to an undercover journalist, led to said Stone being mistakenly identified in print as Mick Jagger; Jagger sued the News of the World but, like Oscar Wilde’s legal action against the Marquess of Queensberry, this response then provoked the enemy into making its move, which it did a week later.

The raid on Keith Richards’ Redlands home, interrupting the aftermath of a ‘drugs party’, has long been woven into both Stones and Rock mythology – with poor Marianne Faithfull still dogged by the utterly fabricated ‘Mars Bar’ rumour; but the outcome for Mick and Keith at the time wasn’t quite so entertaining, the former charged with possession of four amphetamine tablets and the latter with allowing cannabis to be smoked on his property. They were tried at the Chichester Assizes in June 1967 and were both found guilty, with Jagger sentenced to three months’ imprisonment and Richards to a year. They both immediately launched appeals and were released on bail after a night behind bars.

The severity of the sentences and the dubious collusion between Scotland Yard and the News of the World raised many questions. The Stones’ contemporaries reacted with a show of support, with The Who rush-releasing cover versions of ‘Under My Thumb’ and ‘The Last Time’ as a single; but the most unexpected show of support came not from Us, but Them. Sensing an injustice had been done simply to teach these loutish upstarts a lesson, none other than William Rees-Mogg (yes, father of Jacob) intervened. Rees-Mogg was the editor of the Times – viewed as a bastion of the same establishment intent on persecution and punishment where the Swinging 60s were concerned – and he made an eloquent, passionate plea in the Times’ editorial on 1 July 1967, under the title ‘Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?’

‘If we are going to make any case a symbol of the conflict between the sound traditional values of Britain and the new hedonism,’ wrote Rees-Mogg, ‘then we must be sure that the sound traditional values include those of tolerance and equity. It should be the particular quality of British justice to ensure that Mr Jagger is treated exactly the same as anyone else, no better and no worse. There must remain a suspicion in this case that Mr Jagger received a more severe sentence than would have been thought proper for any purely anonymous young man.’

Coupled with the widespread outrage amongst the young over the sentences, the Times editorial prompted the authorities to bring the appeal hearings forward and a month after being sentenced, the sentences were quashed. Mick and Keith walked away from court free men again and Jagger was more or less immediately flown by a helicopter hired by ambitious Granada producer John Birt to take part in a special ‘World in Action’ debate with three members of the establishment (chaired by Rees-Mogg), who seemed to look upon Jagger as elderly scientists would look upon a fascinating new species of butterfly. But Jagger’s easy-on-the-ear middle-class accent and reassuring, unthreatening demeanour charmed both his inquisitors and the television audience.

The intervention of William Rees-Mogg and the belated realisation by the Great British Public that maybe these demonised heroes of the young weren’t quite as great a threat to the future of mankind as the atom bomb marked a sea-change in the way the transforming society was perceived by its elder statesmen. The same year as the cause célèbre of the Mick & Keith trial, homosexual acts between consenting adults in private were decriminalised, abortion was legalised, and ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ was embraced by young and old alike as Art. The affair also gifted Keith Richards, previously overshadowed in the media spotlight by Jagger and Brian Jones, the outlaw image he’s maintained ever since as the ‘soul’ of the band. There were casualties, however.

Brian Jones, targeted by the drugs squad in a separate raid and increasingly isolated within the band, embarked upon a rapid downward slide that culminated in his mysterious premature death two years later; Marianne Faithfull, denounced from the pulpit as a harlot and mercilessly mocked over the Mars Bar myth, then embarked upon her own downward slide that led all the way to being a homeless heroin addict in the 70s. But the Times stepping back from the great divide to look at it with objective sagacity was the first step towards acceptance of youth culture as a valid and relevant force within society by those too old to participate. Bar the odd moral panic over Punk Rock and Acid House, it has been recognised as such ever since, as thousands of books, documentaries and humble little articles such as this will testify.

© The Editor

THE PRESUMPTION OF GUILT

‘It was one of those immensely rare and exceptional cases where the decision to prosecute and thereafter to continue the prosecution was an unnecessary or improper act.’ So spoke His Honour Judge Martin Edmunds in his official verdict of a case he tried in which a jury cleared a deputy headmaster of raping a 14-year-old female pupil; he came to his conclusion in a written costs ruling that was published in last weekend’s Mail on Sunday. It’s hard to read the passage quoted without wondering where Judge Edmunds has been lately. ‘Immensely rare and exceptional’? Really? With an estimated half of cases brought before Crown Courts in England and Wales today being ‘sex cases’, the case His Honour commented upon seems a microcosm of everything that is wrong with the legal system and the insidious organisation spearheading its abuse known as the Crown Prosecution Service.

If just one case was to be selected as representative of the corruption of the Law and the way in which it is enacted today, the sad story of Kato Harris appears to have it all. And at the dark heart of this sorry saga that left the career and reputation of an innocent man in tatters are (yet again) the toxic twins responsible for a growing trail of injustice and misery that has served to obliterate any lingering shreds of faith in this country’s upholders of fair play – the CPS and the Metropolitan Police Force.

The 35-year-old deputy head of the fee-paying St George’s School in Ascot, Kato Harris was regarded as an inspirational teacher and a popular one; however, his rapid rise through the ranks ground to a horrific halt when a girl he’d never even taught at his previous school accused him of raping her on three separate occasions. Adhering to the ‘she who must be believed’ edict issued to all police forces where sexual offence accusations are concerned, the boys in blue demonstrated their noted subtlety by turning up at Mr Harris’ school and bundling him away in full view of bemused pupils.

What followed over the next year-and-a-half was a nightmarish ordeal for Kato Harris familiar to hundreds of men in this country who have been at the mercy of a legal system that has overturned the ‘innocent till proven guilty’ foundation stone upon which English Law was built. Never imagining he’d actually be charged, the moment he was, Mr Harris’ world collapsed. Suspended from work, barred from his local church and cricket team, publicly named and shamed whilst his accuser enjoyed the luxury of anonymity, Kato Harris became an overnight outcast in the community he had been a prominent member of.

According to a teacher at her school, Mr Harris’ accuser (whose parents used to fly her to New York for weekly therapy) was engaged in a competition with a friend as to who could concoct the most audacious story, and it would seem the name of Kato Harris was plucked out of thin air with the nonchalance of a retired footballer extracting balls from the bag during the draw for the Third Round of the FA Cup. What gave her story clout, despite the inaccuracies in her flimsy evidence, were the deep pockets of her parents, who hired Sue Akers, ex-Deputy Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard and now working as a private detective. She was recruited via a legal firm known as Mishcon de Reya, along with her partner-in-crime Alison Levitt, who just happened to be a former legal adviser to the CPS.

Sue Akers played her part in the CPS’s decision to prosecute by renewing old contacts at the Met, supplying Scotland Yard detectives with a list of tasks that could secure a conviction. Working in tandem with Levitt, she recommended they contact all of Mr Harris’ former pupils and that they seize his computer for incriminating evidence (none was found); the relentless pressure from Akers and Levitt even annoyed senior detectives working on the case who were well aware of the gaping holes in the accuser’s tall tale; but they carried on lobbying.

When bombarding the CPS and Met with emails, Alison Levitt tellingly stooped to one including a statement from personality-free Labour MP Keir Starmer, her former mentor, who highlighted Levitt’s ‘findings’ in the DPP report into Jimmy Savile. If ever proof were needed to underline Ms Levitt’s chilling agenda, this email had it in spades. Yet, still the case went to trial.

Kato Harris was cleared of the charges by a jury in the space of fifteen minutes. Despite this, St George’s School declined to resume his employment there. He is currently unemployed and is understandably reluctant to return to teaching in any capacity; why would any man even enter the profession anymore? Judge Edmunds ruled that the CPS decision to prosecute was an ‘improper act’ and that they should now pay Mr Harris’ legal fees, though they have offered a paltry amount so far. The Met, meanwhile, claim that an independent review of their actions by the Greater Manchester Police said no evidence was found that the accuser’s representatives ‘were inappropriately given any physical access to information concerning the investigation’.

An innocent man on the scrapheap, branded for life and unwilling to re-enter the profession he was apparently extremely good at; a narcissistic fantasist endorsed by wealthy parents and a despicable law firm; legal reforms that encourage such malicious vendettas; the CPS and the Met once more joining forces on an immoral crusade to appease victims lobbyists without a care for those trampled underfoot – none of these factors are unique in 2017.

Kato Harris may not feel it, but he is a lucky man. He’s not behind bars for something he didn’t do. In the current climate, that in itself is a triumph. The easiest way to ruin anyone today is to simply point the finger and shout ‘Paedo!’ Job done.

© The Editor

WHITEWASH AND GO

Hold page 17! Get through coverage of the Budget and you might find the odd reference to the fact that a trio of Scotland Yard officers in the vanguard of the infamous Operation Midland have all been cleared over their handling of the investigation into a nonexistent ‘VIP Paedophile Ring’ seen in visions by a deluded (though mysteriously unprosecuted) fantasist whom we must still refer to as ‘Nick’. Well, fancy that! That august body the Independent Police Complaints Commission has come to an utterly unexpected conclusion. Who could have seen that coming, eh?

Twelve months on from the closure of Operation Midland without a single arrest, charge or conviction, this breathtaking squandering of taxpayers’ money achieved nothing other than ruining both the reputations and financial security of those targeted by a bunch of blundering Bobbies whose instructions from on-high to believe the accuser at all costs resulted in the most high-profile case of what has become standard police practice. So standard, in fact, that the current series of hit ITV drama ‘Broadchurch’ apparently promotes this in-built belief that the accused is guilty and the accuser is innocent long before such an investigation even gets anywhere near a courtroom.

The three who were surprisingly exonerated by the IPCC included Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald, the dolt who preempted any possibility of a fair trial should it have come to that by declaring the accusations of ‘Nick’ were ‘credible and true’. DS McDonald evidently believes his role is not much different from that of Judge Dredd, futuristic super-cop who acts as judge, jury and executioner; and his belief has not been trashed by this judgement. Although the IPCC hearing, chaired by retired judge Sir Richard Henriques, identified 43 serious failings in the Operation Midland investigation – including stating the bleedin’ obvious, that too much faith had been placed in the word of ‘Nick’ – it still declared the operation was ‘extensive and carried out diligently’.

Five Met officers were referred to the IPCC, yet the clearing of three of them suggests the other two haven’t got much to worry about. ‘There is no evidence to indicate bad faith, malice or dishonesty’, says the report, adding ‘and no indication any of the officers may have behaved in a manner which would justify disciplinary proceedings’. One other area that gave the IPCC cause for concern was in regards to the detectives involved failing to present all relevant information to the district judge who gave the green light to the search warrants enabling them to kick down the doors of those named by ‘Nick’. That three of those whose homes were searched were named and shamed by the media during the investigation is apparently not thought shameful in itself.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse was also cleared of his part in a separate investigation into the involvement of the dying Leon Brittan in the same Paedo Ring, so that draws a line under a parallel farce. Even if the conclusions of the IPCC were utterly predictable and understandably regarded as a whitewash by those who suffered at the hands of the investigation (such as ex-MP Harvey Proctor), in a way one cannot hold the investigating officers wholly responsible for the disaster that was Operation Midland if the instructions they received vindicated the approach they took.

The ‘maverick cop’, that staple of British TV police dramas from Barlow in ‘Z-Cars’ and ‘Softly Softly’ through to Regan in ‘The Sweeney’ and Tennyson in ‘Prime Suspect’, no longer exists in the real world. If the police force in this country is inherently bent, it’s the natural outcome of the way in which that force is organised from the top on down rather than a Gene Hunt-style rogue cop making up his own rules. The politicised changes in procedure that declare an accused man (and, let’s face it, they’re basically always men) is guilty till proven innocent means the police have already been trained into making their minds up before an investigation even begins. Should it really come as a great surprise that the likes of Harvey Proctor are engulfed in smoke that couldn’t exist without any initial fire in the public perception when the rules have been rewritten to such a damaging degree where ancient British Law is concerned?

I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I’m absolutely bloody sick of this subject and part of me resents the fact I feel compelled to pen yet another post on it when so many others online put the work in and do it a hell of a lot better as a consequence. But it continues to represent so much of what has gone wrong with this country over the last fifteen-twenty years that any blog pertaining to deal with the great issues of the day cannot ignore it, however hard the temptation to do so truly is.

The fact is that the small army of bloggers and tweeters who follow the topic with a dedication that is admirable are in the minority. Most people don’t even give it much of a thought unless they themselves are on the receiving end of a false allegation and then a door is opened to them that had previously been barely ajar. And these are the people that are denied the platform to air their grievances that Harvey Proctor or Paul Gambaccini can call upon – the genuine silent majority who suffer the most when the finger of suspicion is aimed at them and they are at the mercy of a police force that has been politically remodelled to fit an agenda the police force was not created for. Peel must be turning in his grave.

© The Editor

THE FISHING PARTY

ted-heathIt’s probably true to say Ted Heath was his own worst enemy. Britain’s Prime Minister from June 1970 to February 1974 was famed for his cold, brusque aloofness in company, ignoring VIPs, dignitaries and his own MPs at social functions and earning a reputation as a rather pompous and grumpy old so-and-so that won him few friends and cost him support amongst his peers when he needed it. Yet he himself couldn’t understand why people found it so hard to warm to him; he always saw everyone else as the problem. He came across as uncomfortable, stiff-necked and ill-at-ease when PM both on television and when speaking in public, a poor communicator struggling to get his message across to the electorate. With the possible exception of Gordon Brown, he remains on paper perhaps the most unsuited man for the job in the post-war era, an unlikely candidate for Downing Street if ever there was one.

Yet, put a baton in his hand and stick him in front of an orchestra or sit him down at a grand piano, and he was in his element. A diffident and difficult man whose shyness was often perceived as straightforward rudeness, Heath relaxed when with those who shared his passions. Music had been the main one from day one, though later in life he applied himself to mastering the art of sailing and this became his other great love. The determination he displayed when it came to learning the latter mirrored his political ambitions. Despite his evident limitations for public office, he wouldn’t be swayed and the work he put in was eventually rewarded when he won the contest to succeed Sir Alec Douglas Home as Tory leader in 1965. Five years later he scored a shock win over Labour PM Harold Wilson, a man who had repeatedly dismissed Heath as a lightweight up until polling day in 1970.

We’re so used to the nauseating ‘family shots’ of Prime Minister with spouse and children these days that it seems even more bizarre now to have had a bachelor at No.10 forty-five years ago, let alone one who sought solace of an evening by playing the piano and then took a couple of weeks off from running the country to compete in, and win, a prestigious yachting competition. Heath was certainly his own man, refusing to enter into a marriage solely for PR reasons and brushing off predictable rumours he was an old poof (to use the parlance of the time). Heath became PM just three years after the decriminalisation of homosexuality, though the accusation remained the default insult to aim at the unmarried man; those who were genuinely homosexual during that era tended to marry, such as Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, as a means of deflecting accusations, though Heath had no idea how to interact with women in a romantic manner and didn’t bother trying just for the sake of his public image.

After innumerable difficulties with bolshie unions and Northern Ireland, as well as antagonism over his pushing of Britain to join the Common Market, the Three Day Week was the final straw for the electorate. After losing two General Elections in 1974 and surrendering No.10 to his nemesis Harold Wilson, Heath’s days were numbered. When his unpopularity in his own party gifted Margaret Thatcher the kind of support required to topple Heath as leader in 1975, Heath couldn’t fathom why it had happened and for a good year or so was convinced he could regain his position; when Thatcher won the General Election in 1979, her decision not to award a Cabinet post to her still-active predecessor provoked one of the great public sulks in British political history, one that didn’t end until Thatcher herself was toppled in 1990.

During half-a-century as a serving MP, Edward Heath made many enemies and wasn’t prepared to compromise in order to court popularity. His relatively humble origins for a Conservative leader provoked enmity from the old patrician Tories, who looked down on him as a social inferior, and his obstinacy as PM where the press and public were concerned lingered long after he had left Downing Street. Heath wouldn’t play the game and that kind of attitude inspired grudges that have lasted, even more than a decade since his death. Naming and shaming him as a closet gay, though there was no evidence to back up such a claim other than he never married, is no longer a sufficient weapon in our sexually enlightened day and age, so the default insult now is paedophile, a word that embodies all the revulsion once reserved for ‘queer’.

The last 16 months has seen 21 presumably thumb-twiddling officers of Wiltshire Police pack their rods for a fishing expedition known as Operation Conifer, a sort-of retarded country cousin of the Met’s Operation Midland, in response to unsubstantiated accusations against the deceased PM, and have so far spent £700,000 casting their nets in the vain hope of salvaging confidence in the country’s most discredited public service. Heath’s name had already been pulled out of the fantasist’s hat worn by ‘Nick’, the anonymous accuser of half-a-dozen VIPs and their alleged part in the Westminster Paedo Ring that never was, and Wiltshire Police took it upon themselves to pursue additional ‘credible and true’ accusations even when Operation Midland was rightly recognised as the criminal waste of public money and ruination of reputations it was all along.

This week Operation Conifer was even reduced to ‘investigating’ (and I use that term loosely) the anti-Common Market incident in 1972, when a protestor threw ink at Heath as he arrived to sign on the dotted line that would enshrine Britain’s membership of the EEC. What the hell that has to do with ‘paedophilia’ is nothing other than the painful sound of a barrel’s bottom being desperately scraped. After last week’s damning report into Midland, the continuation of Conifer merely confirms the priorities of the police as a time-travelling hit squad whose interest in solving twenty-first century crimes is secondary to rooting around the dirty laundry of the dead and dying on the hearsay of mentally demented finger-pointers fresh out of therapy.

It’s no surprise they should single out Heath in a last pathetic throw of the dice. His defiant oddness in Prime Ministerial terms was a gift for them, but each victim of the witch-hunt has been an individual eccentric and square peg, characteristics alien to the consensus of the day. Operation Midland has now been acknowledged as an outrage by the media, yet few have dared to allocate the same condemnation to Operation Yewtree, the granddaddy of them all, and a project responsible for the rotting in gaol of more than one household name as well as the soiled gravestones of many more. Makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it? No, me neither.

© The Editor

NATIONAL DISGRACE

coltraneWell, it was only a matter of time in a British TV landscape devoted to revivals, retreads and rehashes; and if it had to be any television channel dramatising the facts of a project so stooped in fiction as Operation It Could Be Youtree, then one would naturally imagine it had to be ITV. After all, ITV essentially sponsored the whole witch-hunt from day one, what with Essex’s answer to Matthew Hopkins, Mark Williams-Thomas, and the tabloid sensationalism of his Jimmy Savile exposé in 2012 kick-starting a free-for-all that has ruined endless lives, careers and individuals unfortunate enough to have made a mark in public life prior to the revisionist’s paradise of the twenty-first century. However, the baton of shame has been passed on to Channel 4, that one-time home of radical and innovative television and now the channel that brings us property porn, poverty porn and naked dating shows.

Robbie Coltrane, the beached Caledonian whale whose serious acting career stalled after the end of ‘Cracker’ in the 1990s (and who has subsequently been reduced to those tedious travelogue showcases for 80s has-beens that ITV specialises in), is to play a beloved celebrity targeted by a Yewtree-style Historical Sex Crimes squad in a new C4 ‘drama’ titled ‘National Treasure’ this coming week. In order to hedge their bets, C4 have even recruited genuine National Treasure Julie Walters to play ‘the wife’; Judi Dench must have been otherwise engaged when the time for casting came around.

Plugging the programme he naturally hopes will salvage his dormant thespian ambitions, Coltrane has inserted the Savile caveat into the interview promoting the series in the current issue of the Radio Times, stressing the character he plays is in no way based upon Sir Jim. It’s merely the latest missive from the publicity circuit Coltrane has been on for the past couple of weeks, and photos released to the press that unnervingly recreate the images we’ve become sadly familiar with since 2012 must bring back such happy memories for the families of Dave Lee Travis and all those other ‘perverts hiding in plain sight’.

Echoing convenient sentiments previously uttered by another face from the past struggling to re-establish his ‘rebel’ credentials – John Lydon – Coltrane declares ‘Everyone knew Jimmy Savile was a creep. Everyone. I never met him but you’d watch him and you’d feel your skin crawl.’ Indeed – the millions who tuned into ‘Top of the Pops’ and ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ every week in the 70s, 80s and 90s felt exactly the same back in the day whenever they set eyes upon that ‘wrong ‘un’, didn’t they, Robbie, which would explain why they kept tuning in. How it pays to be wise after the event.

In many respects, Robbie Coltrane is the perfect choice to play a fictitious figure whose past comes under present scrutiny in the drama; after all, he was a prominent member of the Alternative Comedy generation, those post-punk radicals whose slide into middle-aged respectability (and the establishment honours that come with it) has been utterly seamless. These early 80s undergraduates had a particular grudge against the working-class showbiz heroes of the 60s and 70s, easy targets for mock-satire as their envy of their targets’ achievements eventually led them all the way to writing appalling jukebox musicals based on the music of notable fellow radicals, Queen, on one hand, and relishing the opportunity to condemn them anew via Yewtree on the other.

It pays to remember that, whilst newspaper columnists from Hitchens to Littlejohn can today question the veracity of accusations levelled against personalities they themselves admire and revere, such voices were thin on the ground three or four years back. In the frenzied Yewtree cauldron of 2012/13/14, only thick-skinned brave bloggers dared to question the consensus during the height of the bonfire of the seventies, and they were written-off as crackpot obsessives for their troubles.

Even when the first few household names tentatively raised their heads above the parapet a couple of years ago – when, tellingly, it took the arrest of respectable broadcasters such as Paul Gambaccini to provoke them into action – it remained an unwritten rule that they had to distance themselves from Savile sympathies as they sprung to the defence of their showbiz buddies. Having been so successfully re-educated as to the ‘truth’ of the deceased eccentric charity fundraiser, the public would clearly have to be reminded that any accusation would not necessarily place the accused in the same sewer of filth as Savile. ‘Of course Jimmy Savile was an appalling human being, but…’ went the script recited ad infinitum by the fearless defenders of those caught in the net that the Met had widened.

‘National Treasure’ doesn’t come with the ‘Based on a true story’ attachment, though it’s not hard to foresee that those who still believe Fleet Street brings the Gospel to the masses will switch on and believe they’re essentially watching a documentary. Indeed, it will probably be difficult to distinguish between drama and documentary if one is a regular viewer of what passes for both on the mainstream channels, considering the recent efforts of our man from Billericay to portray himself as a cross between Roger Cook and James Bond over on ITV. I tried my best to ruin his career, but I clearly failed.

In a climate wherein Cliff Richard remains out on permanent ‘moral bail’ and questions over insecure convictions for the likes of Rolf Harris are successfully suppressed within the mainstream media, dramatising such a miserable episode in contemporary police procedure seems the apex of bad taste, though ratings are guaranteed with this kind of cynical exercise; and that’s what matters when the fate of ‘The Great British Bake-Off’ is so pivotal to the wellbeing of the nation.

There’s no doubt there is future scope for fictionalising the experience of the famous and non-famous alike where it comes to the imaginary crimes of the past impacting upon the present; but I have distinct doubts that viewers of ‘National Treasure’ will be exposed to anything other than a PR job for the Professional Victims’ lobby and the crusading integrity of both the Met and the CPS.

© The Editor

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE MET KIND

LadybirdIt’s not a question I suppose is posed every day of the week, but has anyone reading this ever made a complaint against a serving police officer? I did about two weeks ago, and it was interesting to see how the police responded with such unexpected promptness, something that encapsulated the speed with which they apparently ‘resolved’ the complaint. Perhaps two factors played a part in this promptness – a) The officer is gay; and b) The officer is with the Metropolitan Police Force. The Met has had so many PR disasters over the past decade or so that a copper intimately acquainted with Dorothy accused of being bent (albeit not in the traditional cockney lingo way) is probably not something that will do much for their attempts to improve their image. Therefore, he has been exonerated; but that fact doesn’t clean up an ongoing mystery. I think I’d better backtrack a little.

My girlfriend is a married woman, albeit one whose marriage exists on paper only. Her (soon to be) ex-husband evidently has a problem with her moving on and has extended this to ‘checking up’ on me. Only, he doesn’t have the facilities on hand to do so. How fortunate for him that he has a pal in the Met! He asked said pal to do some background research on my career as a criminal mastermind, which consists of one poxy caution for a minor offence born of financial desperation fifteen long years ago. This is something I am neither proud of nor something I make a habit of bringing up in conversation; it bears so little relation to the person I am today that it is beyond irrelevant.

However, Mr Ex couldn’t resist bragging about his ‘revelation’ to my girlfriend, despite the fact she already knew about it. He even bragged as to the means by which he acquired the information, dropping his pal in the proverbial manure in the process. He probably didn’t expect me to register my annoyance at this illicit snooping with the relevant authorities, but I did.

Having sought legal advice from an acquaintance in the legal profession, I approached the Met directly rather than the IPCC, and within a day or two of my initial phone-call, I was contacted by a Met Inspector who required the details of and reasons behind my complaint before she could take the investigation further. I knew nothing of the officer in question other than his rank and his name, which was easy to remember on account of him sharing it with a former Radio 1 DJ whose highest profile period was in the 1980s – and he is also one of that illustrious club yet to be cited as a retrospective Paedo, which admittedly narrows it down a bit.

Anyway, having told everything I knew, the Inspector promised me this would not be swept under the carpet, and a serving officer using police databases to check up on an individual who hadn’t been arrested or charged with any offence since a solitary caution in 2001 was indeed abusing his privileged position. I was right in making the complaint, and it would be taken extremely seriously. A week later, I was contacted by someone working for what I presumed was a police department that trawls through digitised records not available to the general public; further details were divulged, and it was made clear to me that an investigation into the officer’s conduct was very much in full swing.

A few more days passed and another phone-call informed me that all relevant checks had been made. Apparently, the Force responsible for my arrest and caution had deleted my offence from their records five years later due to my not having being arrested for anything else after it. That’s the unknown reward for ‘good character’. This means, according to what I was told, the arrest and caution in 2001 couldn’t have been accessed by the officer against whom I was making my complaint.

There is a national database available to all Forces across the country and I wasn’t even listed on it; I am seemingly on another database that a simple shoplifting offence shouldn’t really make me eligible for inclusion on, though I was told my star-studded entry on there hasn’t been accessed recently, which would appear to clear the officer I’d complained about from rooting around it like some grubby little knicker-sniffer sticking his nose in his sister-in-law’s drawers when pretending to pay a visit to the loo at her home. A man who one imagines to be amongst the Met’s poster-boy officers due to his sexuality is not guilty, okay? That doesn’t explain one thing, however; and that is, how did the ex receive the info he used as bragging ammunition?

There is absolutely no way this – and one other personal, albeit non-law-breaking – item of information could have been accessed other than the way Mr Ex described it. The police telling me that nobody has attempted to access the info recently just doesn’t wash, I’m afraid; I can’t help but feel they’re covering their backs and looking after their own. And, as stated earlier, the thought that a gay officer could be exposed as a wrong ‘un is the last thing they need right now.

The Met representatives I spoke to were very civil and gave every impression they were there to help, but their findings don’t ring true. I won’t be taking the matter any further, as my annoyance with the actions of the officer has been registered now; but I shouldn’t have expected anything less from a Force with one of the country’s most disreputable reputations, I guess – even on a scale as small as mine. It’s certainly not a nice feeling, knowing that one foolhardy moment of weakness fifteen years ago and several hundred miles from the capital can be located by a policeman whose day-job is supposed to be policing London in 2016. A diabolical bloody liberty, if anything. What indeed would Sgt Dixon say?

© The Editor

ALL YOU NEED IS HATE

FFPerhaps it was only when time-travelling 21st Century DI Sam Tyler was confronted by racism in 1973 and expressed his opinion that he suspected a ‘Hate Crime’ that the ludicrousness of the term seemed more blatant than ever. ‘As opposed to an I-really-love-you crime?’ asked his guv’nor in response. Okay, so DCI Gene Hunt in the celebrated BBC drama ‘Life on Mars’ may not have been the most sympathetic or sensitive of characters, but the notion of a separate category for a criminal act based solely on ‘hate’ is a contentious one that deserves to be questioned. At the time ‘Life on Mars’ was set, there were certainly plenty of retrospective Hate Crimes being committed on British streets; the daily murders by both sides of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland could be considered so – using today’s definition, anyway.

The impression sometimes given is that Hate Crime was hatched as a catch-all umbrella label to Hoover-up lots of little offences and assemble them all in a neat package that could also encompass other ‘offences’ not already catered for by the law. Many of the actions by individuals that fall under the Hate Crime banner would once have been dismissed as little more than playground-level name-calling; it’s a definition open to abuse like few others. It’s as though officers arriving at the scene of a crime who may be bemused by the evident absence of a motive pull the Hate Crime card out of a hat because it not only makes their job so much easier; it also pleases those who demand recognition as Victims.

There are numerous subdivisions that are encompassed by the Hate Crime tag. These include racially motivated violence, transphobic violence, violence against LGBT people, violence against men, violence against women, violence against people with disabilities and so forth – all of which are horrible, but all of which are virtually identical and unpleasant crimes committed by one human being against another. Should they not simply be considered age-old acts of violence full stop? Why do they require their own little label that immediately puts them in a ‘special category’?

The need to categorise everything and everyone so that every item of information on a database can be referenced and cross-referenced to see which box it belongs in has been extended from data to people; and people are utterly complicit in this. The desire to be a ‘joiner’ and belong to an officially recognised Community seems to have superseded religious definitions in many cases as a means of self-identification, and would appear to fulfil a deep need to be a member of a crowd in a world that has been shorn of its older certainties. The advent of Hate Crime could be considered a symptom of this need.

Actively promoted by pressure groups and self-proclaimed minorities seeking a pigeonhole to comfortably slot into, Hate Crime is not only redefining genuine crimes and grouping them with incidents that should barely register as such, but it appears to be a term that is being applied to any manner of minor insults, an extension of the PC Police in monitoring free speech. The whole ‘you can’t say that’ argument has been given one hell of a boost with the inception of Hate Crime.

Nowhere is this more obvious than online, where the anonymity a fake identity provides apparently gives the troll carte-blanche to say whatever he or she likes and receive no comeback. Hate Mail existed long before email, let alone Twitter, so it’s nothing new. Technology has merely facilitated a faster means of sending abuse than it used to take when posting a letter, just as it has enabled messages of a more benign nature to reach the recipient in an instant. For those who live online and can barely survive a minute without gazing at their Smartphone, any abusive text or message is bound to have a greater impact, as this is impinging upon the central hub of their existence.

The Metropolitan Police Force is clearly taking the concerns of online obsessives into account by setting up a new unit to tackle the problem for the princely sum of £1.7m. A spokesman for the pilot project claimed there was ‘no place for hate in London’ and also used that awful term ‘zero tolerance’, which always sounds too uncomfortably reminiscent of old phrases such as ‘short, sharp shock’ or even the inappropriate application of the word ‘Tsar’ to anyone heading such a taskforce.

It is the vagueness of Hate Crime as a description and how easily it can be attached to an opinion that contradicts the current consensus that makes it such a problematic term. Any police involvement in a dispute between one individual and a Community (especially an online one) always seems an unnecessary intervention, something that grown adults should be able to deal with on their own and not go crying to the Boys in Blue about. After all, they have enough issues of their own making to deal with, such as murdering former Premier League footballers by applying 50,000 volts to them simply because they resisted being restrained. That might not be a Hate Crime, but it’s pretty bloody hateful. RIP Dalian Atkinson.

© The Editor

ARMED AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS

001The photo on the left is lifted from a 1973 copy of the Radio Times, part of a feature promoting ‘The Burke Special’, James Burke’s memorable series in which he tended to take burning issues of the day and examined them in a uniquely enlightening manner, usually involving audience interaction. This particular edition of the programme saw Burke gazing into his crystal ball and predicting the future, which in 1973 was 1993. Although I’ve never seen the edition profiled, I’ve read the article, and some of the predictions are surprisingly accurate, such as the belief that the children beginning school in 1973 (I’d done just that the previous year) will become the first generation to access computer technology and master it to the point whereby it’ll be second nature. I’ve written this on here and you’re reading it on here, so he got that one right.

Interestingly, some highly prescient subjects are discussed, with much talk of ‘citizen’s dossiers, identity cards and restrictions on the individual’. The topic of ‘data banks storing personal information’ is raised – something Burke believes will be accepted rather than resented, though mainly by the young. He speaks of data banks containing ‘fingerprints and medical information, perhaps even the results of psychological testing as well as credit-rating and basic census details’, and says that 1993 will hold different ideas about personal liberty. He may have been 20 years out, but looking at the society of 2016, one whose population seem happy for any amount of intimate information to be given away and retained on file, James Burke certainly had something of the Nostradamus about him. Granted, he wasn’t quite as accurate when he predicted shorter working hours, compulsory retirement at 50 or cities being traffic-free; though one other area of contemporary interest he touches upon is that of armed police.

The caption beneath the photo imagining a Bobby-on-the-beat clutching a pistol quotes Surrey’s Chief Constable of the time, PJ Matthews (Funny how initials were still freely used in the archaic style of cricketers back then). Chief Constable Matthews says ‘I can’t foresee the ordinary policeman carrying arms in this or any other century’. I’d hazard a guess that a man old enough to have been a Chief Constable 43 years ago is probably now residing in the great police retirement home in the sky, though I can’t but wonder if he was looking down yesterday when the Met’s current top dog, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, acted as emcee for a fashion parade of this season’s chic designs for the armed policeman.

Of course, few police officers wear the old familiar helmets we all grew up with these days (Do any at all? Answers on a postcard); and I must confess those awful luminous ‘body-warmers’ are a sartorial no-no for me. But the PCs on parade toting their boy’s toys in London yesterday – a small sample of an apparently extra 600 threatened to be let loose on the capital with handguns, semi-automatic weapons and Tasers – don’t even look like policemen. What they resemble more than anything is soldiers; and one of the major objections to the introduction of a police force in the early nineteenth century was that they would merely be a military wing of the government, an army in all-but name, no different from the previous yeomanry called upon to maintain order in the event of civil unrest, ones who had no qualms over opening fire on the public.

Met founder and Home Secretary Robert Peel allayed such fears in two significant ways. Firstly, with the exception of Sergeant, he ensured police ranks didn’t share the same as those in the army; secondly, he didn’t allow them to carry arms, a necessary tactic when the aim was for the police to earn the community’s trust, policing by consent. The latter was something foreign visitors – especially those from countries such as the US – always found astonishing; but it was something Brits tended to have a small degree of pride in. Issuing firearms to specially-trained officers was an emergency measure used in exceptional circumstances. An episode of ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ from the same year as ‘The Burke Special’ has a storyline in which an individual is shot dead by an armed police officer, and the procedure for handing out the weapons beforehand is based on standard practice of the time. The viewer is left in no doubt as to how the police didn’t dispense weaponry lightly and were extremely conscious of the potential dangers of doing so. The Royal Ulster Constabulary was a special case, but armed officers on the British mainland were a rare sight indeed.

The thought that there will be 600 of them patrolling London (and, one presumes, other major cities in the country eventually) is one that is supposed to serve as reassurance to the public; but I personally don’t feel reassured by the sight at all. There is a definite ‘come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’ vibe to high visibility coppers clutching firearms that throws up images of testosterone-fuelled, trigger-happy cops of the kind that America seems incurably afflicted by. Hogan-Howe claimed the aim of yesterday’s macho show was ‘to reassure the public and deter the terrorists’. The RUC carrying weapons hardly prevented thirty bloody years on the streets of Northern Ireland, and anyone whose faith in the police force is already shaky will not feel comfortable with more guns being put in the hands of those who regularly show themselves incapable of making rational judgement when their fingers are on the triggers. The Met’s record is not a good one in this area. They get carried away enough as it is when they’ve only got Tasers.

It’s hard to see how making the capital city resemble an occupied territory will win over the ‘hearts and minds’ of those who are unconvinced by the probity of the police when only armed with truncheons. James Burke’s own 1973 opinion of future armed police is as follows: ‘It is certainly a possibility,’ he says. ‘But I know the police themselves are against the idea. I suspect our Britishness means that we will resist arms for the police – just as we’ll probably resist identity cards; but it will become important for information to be held about us.’ Welcome to 1993.

© The Editor

WORDS OR PICTURES

youtube-20100805-042515[1]I try to encompass as many subjects on here as possible, or at least ones that motivate me to write something others may also find interesting. However, I have consciously avoided a certain subject that I wrote of extensively in a past online life, partly because I didn’t really think I had anything left to say about it and partly because there are several people out there who devote more time to it and can therefore speak about it with a greater degree of knowledge and insight than me. I also began to weary of it, to be honest.

Nevertheless, the bandwagon has rumbled on without me and the situation seems to get worse rather than better, bleeding into so many areas of contemporary life that it can appear contrary to wilfully avoid it. I see excellent articles tweeted on a daily basis and often read them, coming away from the last paragraph shaking my head and somewhat in despair. What the pen shies away from, though, the video can still dip its toes into.

I was satirising this long before I wrote a word about it and see no reason why I shouldn’t return to it every once in a while via my chosen medium, especially when the dire state of affairs positively demands it. It feels like I’m shirking my duties to keep mum, and I find satire remains the best vehicle for me personally when it comes to this particular topic.

Therefore, having digested further reading material over the past few days, I have produced a couple of videos that best suit my take on the subject. One is a ‘short’ – running at barely a minute and taking the form of opening titles characteristic of the old ‘Quinn Martin Productions’ that used to grace (mainly) ITV screens in my formative years; I based it upon the opening titles for ‘The Streets of San Francisco’ and also borrowed its memorably funky theme tune. For those who don’t remember, it starred Karl Malden and his amazing nose as well as giving an early break to Michael Douglas, when he still slept with women his own age. I imagined how Quinn Martin would introduce the viewer to a series covering a contemporary police agenda in the shape of Operation Midland. Now you can see precisely how I visualised it.

The second video is a little longer, lasting just under ten minutes, and reflects my love of British police series of the 60s and 70s; as with ‘Coronation Street’ from the same era, my love manifests itself in the form of parody. I wondered how Sgt Dixon would cope with modern policing and the stark contrast with the world of law and order he knew; the major change that has altered the job over the past few years is the focus of the mini-episode, and I’d rather do it this way than churn out a collection of paragraphs repeating what I’ve said before or reading as a pale shadow of those more capable and qualified than I.

So, if satire appeals, feel free to view. I might not want to write about it, but I don’t mind parodying what sometimes seems perilously close to parody without my input.

PS: Probably best to watch these sooner rather than later. BBC Worldwide and ITV plc are becoming increasingly averse to their archive material being used for satirical purposes, and it’s only a matter of time before the dreaded phrase ‘Blocked in every country’ appears attached to both videos and I’m faced with no option but to remove them. You have been warned!

© The Editor