I am very troubled by the treatment of former Tory MP Harvey Proctor at the hands of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Midland inquiry. In some ways it mirrors that of Paul Gambaccini’s terrible year at the mercy of Operation Yewtree. I’m publishing his story in September and parts of it make your hair stand on end. I got wind that Harvey Proctor was holding a press conference on Tuesday and secured an exclusive radio interview with him. I knew it would be a difficult balance to strike. Although I had sympathy for his position I had to do a rigorous interview and ask some difficult questions. Judge for yourself if that was what actually happened in the blogpost below this one.
Proctor’s contention is that his accuser, “Nick”, is an obvious fantasist, and when he outlined some of the things he was accused of, it was difficult to draw any other conclusion. The most lurid was that Proctor was about to cut off a boy’s testicles with a penknife, when Edward Heath intervened to stop him. Somehow “Nick” was given that penknife and has now given it to the police. On the face of it, totally preposterous. Given that Proctor and Heath were sworn enemies is it even likely they would be in the same room together? I doubt it.
However, my colleagues at LBC have had dealings with “Nick”, and like the police, they regard him as credible. In some ways I don’t know what to think, but with all this publicity and the fact that “Nick” alleges there were many other boys involved, it’s odd, isn’t it, that no more have come forward? I believe there was abuse by politicians of young children in the 1970s and 1980s. I also believe that the police have a duty to investigate credible claims, especially when some of those accused are still alive. What they don’t have a right to do, though, is to act in the way they have in the Proctor case. Or the Cliff Richard case. Or the Gambaccini case. Or the Heath case.
Harvey Proctor was understandably very angry at the way he has been treated and angry in the way that his name has emerged in public. In some ways he is an easy target for any potential accuser, as a quick search of Google will uncover the fact that he pleaded guilty to four charges of gross indecency in 1987. He had sex with a 19 year old when the age of consent was 21, something which of course would not be a crime nowadays. He believed the individual to be over 21. Had it been a woman, that would be a credible defence but there was a so-called lacuna in the law and because it involved two men, that was no defence. As soon as he found that out, he pleaded guilty. He’s spent the last 28 years in private life but now it’s all over the media again.
If any living politician has committed any of these terrible crimes I hope they are brought to justice. If it turns out other politicians, including Margaret Thatcher, knew about any of this and deliberately covered it up, that needs to be exposed too. It would be very uncomfortable for many people to learn that some of their political heroes were effectively complicit in covering up these heinous crimes, but the truth must out.
But the police also need to answer for the way they are conducting some of these inquiries and enabling the public to adopt the belief that where there is smoke there must be fire. As a society we have reached a stage where whenever any famous person is mentioned in connection to child abuse, there appears to be an automatic assumption that they must therefore be guilty of something. This is a very dangerous development and it is why some people believe that the police are complicit in a media driven witch hunt against people who are often totally innocent. Their defence is that they need to shake the tree to see what fruit drops down. In some cases that may be a legitimate way of encouraging victims to come forward, but to me that should only ever happen when the police have proved to a judge there is a need to take that course of action. Otherwise, names should only come into the public sphere when they are charged.
Harvey Proctor hasn’t been arrested, let alone charged, yet his life has been ruined because the police gave his name to “Nick” who in turn passed it to the media. Proctor has been questioned about his alleged part in three murders, yet no charge has been forthcoming. Where this murky story goes next is anyone’s guess.