The headline in the Telegraph on 16 October 2015 was “The Metropolitan Police have just admitted they’re slaves to the witch-hunters’ mob”.
In their statement about the investigation into historic abuse allegations concerning Leon Brittan the Metropolitan Police said:
“It was felt that these were highly unusual circumstances where the previous independence of the police to tackle sexual offending by VIPs had been publicly called into question. A decision to take no further action in respect of this allegation would undoubtedly have resulted in media criticism and public cynicism, and there was clearly a very strong public interest in ensuring that the correct decision had been made.”
“Lord Brittan could not therefore, at that point, have been informed that no action was to be taken in respect of this allegation. Although the MPS had concluded that there was not a strong case against Lord Brittan, the purpose of requesting a CPS view was to assess whether, in its view, it did reach the evidential standard.”
The police indicated that they did not believe there was a case to answer. The CPS believed the case did not meet the appropriate criteria. The appropriate criteria in this instance being “that cases should only be referred at this point if the police believe there is sufficient evidence to charge a suspect.”
None the less because “ … a decision to take no further action in respect of this allegation would undoubtedly have resulted in media criticism and public cynicism,” the police strung the whole thing out until long after Leon Brittan’s death.
My first blog on the Rolf Harris case was about mob rule. I said:
“ … The threat of ‘mob rule’ in a democracy is restrained by ensuring that the rule of law protects minorities and individuals against short-term demagoguery or moral panic. In the Salem Witch Trials the unified belief of the townspeople overpowered the logic of the law and is sometimes cited as an example of mob rule. In 1837 Abraham Lincoln wrote about lynching and ‘the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country—the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions in lieu of the sober judgment of courts, and the worse than savage mobs for the executive ministers of justice’.”
Damien Green, the former policing Minister, has said “ … police need to be able to say that if they have no evidence they will not carry on with an investigation that had gone nowhere.” However, the Metropolitan police have confirmed that “mob rule” is the governing principle of their operations regarding high profile individuals. They dare not declare innocence if they perceive it to go against the grain of public opinion. That is, they do not uphold the law.
Leon Brittan died with his reputation damnably destroyed. The likes of Paul Gambaccini, Jim Davidson and Jimmy Tarbuck have been taken to hell and back on the basis of accusations that quite frankly never held water. Rolf Harris is in prison, having been convicted in the absence of any credible evidence to support the charges that were brought against him.
Still we wait for “the powers that be” to be held to account for the disgraceful debacle that has been Operation Yewtree, Operation Midlands, and the rest of it. So far Tom Watson has suffered a little public castigation and made an apology that doesn’t amount to an apology. Alison Saunders’ mealy mouthed words about why no one deserves an apology are an affront to public service.
History will see this as the low point for British justice. Justice has been sacrificed to meet the needs of politicians who wanted the public to see them act and have created a witch hunt, complete with baying mob.
It is time to reinstate the rule of law.
Let’s look again at the case against Rolf Harris.
The CPS’s guidelines state that cases should only proceed to prosecution if there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against each suspect on each charge. None of the charges against Rolf Harris meets this evidential standard.
Insufficient Evidence File 1: Witness ‘B’ – Miss Cambridge
Witness B accused of Mr Harris of “rubbing” her bottom when she was a teenage waitress at a charity event in Cambridge in the 1970s.
DS Pankhurst told the court that the alleged victim had not been entirely sure of the date, but “1975 was clearly she felt the most certain“.
The prosecution’s story as told to the court went like this:
- In May 1975 Cambridge’s It’s a Knockout team got through to the It’s a Knockout final – Jeux Sans Frontières – which would take place in Southport in August 1975.
- Sasha Wass QC told the court there had been plans for a fundraising event to help the Cambridge team travel to the finals. A report from the time suggested that the organisers were hoping that a “big name celebrity” would attend.
- The event was to take place at Parker’s Piece, which was where the alleged victim recalled being assaulted.
The prosecution was never able to show that this event took place, never mind connect Mr Harris to it. They could not produce any press coverage, or photographs, or witnesses or any other evidence. There was no evidence, merely an elaborately constructed hypothesis. In order to satisfy the new post- Savile doublespeak, that where a famous person is accused it must be true, the prosecution embroidered a complete fantasy entirely to dignify the witness’s accusation.
To encourage the jury to join in the game and to accept her fantastic work of fiction Sacha Wass QC, for the prosecution, said “40 years ago the internet didn’t exist and relevant information could not simply be found on Google like today.” The prosecution case was evidence only of its ability to embellish one work of fiction by creating another.
Sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction? I don’t think so. And yet this was the case that the police and the prosecution brought into the court.
Then the prosecution got lucky. The footage of Star Games, held in Cambridge in 1978 turned up, located by a member of the public who unlike the massed forces of the police and the CPS knew how to use Google. Lo and behold, there was Rolf Harris. He wasn’t barking like a dog, as the witness alleged, but heck, he was bouncing like a kangaroo – surely that was close enough?
At that point in the proceedings the prosecution had formally closed its case and the defence had begun, but that was left hanging while the prosecution picked up its fairy tale film footage.
However, the Star Games footage didn’t match the allegation that had just been presented as testimony to the court.
To begin with, it was three years too late. So much for DS Pankhurst’s statement that “1975 was clearly she felt the most certain [date]”. Mr Harris tried to point this out but he was shouted down by Sacha Wass for spoiling her story.
The witness was not recalled to explain why the date that she had been so certain about was now suddenly and profoundly wrong.
The complainant was no longer 13 or 14 when the “buttock rubbing” incident took place. She was now 16. There’s a world of difference between being 13 or 14 or being 16 – even the law recognises it. Still the witness was not recalled to explain how she could have been so mistaken, or to be asked if she was sure.
The event was no longer a local charity fund raiser, with the witness a casual waitress earning a bob or two in pocket money. Now it was a Thames TV outside broadcast, with large outside broadcast white vans, an outdoor crew, large cables running across the place. There was even footage that showed all of this. There was no longer just one famous celebrity to jolly along a bit of local fund raising but an array of celebrities being filmed for national television. There would have been schedules and timetables and someone in charge of the catering. Still the witness wasn’t recalled. There was no explanation of who she worked for or how she came by this interesting little job; no discussion of her duties or of who else she saw at the event.
Mr Harris was called a liar because he didn’t remember being in Cambridge, even when another member of the cast said that she hadn’t known either.
Anyone who has been to Jesus Green would agree with Mr Harris. Jesus Green could be in any town or city. Unlike Oxford there are no dreaming spires or distinctive architecture in the vicinity. Yet, the witness (presumably a local lass?) who didn’t know whether she was on Parker’s Piece or Jesus Green was allowed the benefit of the doubt without further question.
However, the witch hunt must go on.
Insufficient Evidence File 2: Wendy Wild – Witness ‘A’
Wendy Wild (also known as Wendy Rosher and who has waived her right to anonymity) alleged that Mr Harris assaulted her at a junior disco in 1969 when she was seven or eight years old. Because of her age at the time of the alleged incident this is the most damaging of the allegations made against Mr Harris.
Plenty has been written about this case in many other blogs. As this is the simplest of all the cases I won’t labour the point.
Even in March 2014, less than two months before the trial was about to begin, police were still trawling the area for evidence. At the trial the senior investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Gary Pankhurst, told the court that ‘a lot of effort’ went into trying to determine if Mr Harris was at the Leigh Park Community Centre in the late 1960s. However, he admitted that ‘despite an extensive search‘ the police found no evidence to show that Mr Harris had ever appeared at the community centre.
There is plenty of evidence to shows that Mr Harris wasn’t there and never went there. Ring up a library in the Portsmouth or Havant area and ask them if they can tell you anything about Rolf Harris’s visit to the Leigh Park Community Centre in 1969. They will tell you categorically that it’s well known that Rolf Harris has never visited Leigh Park. So, on what basis did the police and the CPS bring this charge?
The only rationale is that they were interested only in satisfying the witch hunt, not in doing justice.
Insufficient Evidence File 3: Tonya Lee
There are lots of things about the Tonya Lee case that don’t hold water. The fact that she was paid for her story before it came to court; the striking similarity between her story and another that was already on the internet prior to her claim; implausible details about duffle coats and table cloths and close encounters with pot plants in a London pub. Then there is her admission in court that she told a bare faced lie to the police. There is her mistake about the dates of the alleged assault. There is the fact that she also had to pay her husband (or partner – even that isn’t clear) not to tell the police that she was lying. These are the fault lines that are threaded through her testimony.
There seems to be a glaring anomaly in the case that the police brought to the court. The date of the alleged assault on the charge sheet as put to the court at the opening of the case was quite specific. It said that the assault took place on 31 May 1986.
Ms Lee told her tale to the court. She said that the assault took place on the first night of her six-week tour with the Shopfront Theatre Youth Group. This was consistent with the story she’d already sold to the media in 2013. Then the defence showed Ms Lee the tour programme. It showed categorically that the pub dinner which Mr Harris attended (at which the incident was alleged to have happened) took place at the end of the trip – six days before the theatre group flew home to Australia.
Despite this, the charge as listed in Mr Justice Sweeney’s summing up still says that the alleged assault took place on 31 May 1986. After reading the various reports of the trial, the only explanation for this is that in fact the police and CPS knew all along that the alleged assault could only have taken place on 31 May because of the constraints of the tour itinerary. However, despite this, Tonya Lee took to the stand as a prosecution witness with a story that the prosecution knew did not stand up to scrutiny, where she had her dates conspicuously wrong.
Based on this, again, one has to question why the police ever brought this charge to court.
Insufficient Evidence File 4: Bindi’s friend – Witness ‘C’
Again, a great deal has already been written about this case.
The main point to be made is the total lack of corroboration for the witness’s story. All that can truly be said about this allegation is that the witness had a series of consensual trysts with Mr Harris when she was over the age of 18. This is agreed fact.
It is also clear that she was very upset when he ended it with her. It is clear that she asked him for money in a way that most of us would describe as blackmail. It is also clear that she only made her accusations after the affair ended.
Everything else is unsupported accusation or hearsay. In some cases it contradicts the testimony of the other witnesses; in others it contradicts common sense. Either way, there is nothing to support her accusations.
For the police to have done anything other than to charge Mr Harris would have clearly run against public opinion – and this was a witness who went to the police because she saw Mr Harris on television with the Queen. Surely there can be no greater offence to public opinion than this …
The charges are of course a house of cards. They only amount to something when they are joined together. However, as the Libertarian View blog says, lots of nonsense is still nonsense.
Perhaps if in his summing up, instead of making cryptic statements about red herrings (which even now still defy common understanding) Mr Justice Sweeney had plainly said, “lots of nonsense is still nonsense”, then perhaps it would have helped the jury see the evidence for what it was?
However, when there is a policeman on the jury, from the same force that has brought the prosecution, I am sure that the police and the CPS don’t need to worry that the jury will somehow see the charges for what they are and defy public opinion.
I quoted in my last blog from an article from 1999 about trawling for evidence:
“In these circumstances, in which both magistrates and judges have in effect relinquished their traditional responsibility to protect the public against ill-founded and dangerous prosecutions, it should scarcely be surprising that juries, misled by the court into believing that the evidence being presented to them is safe, should use this evidence as the basis for convicting the defendant. For juries, too, are susceptible to terror. And they, too, are liable to reach a verdict of guilty not on the evidence but in response to the fear that they might acquit a guilty man. If recent rulings are any guide, even some appeal court judges appear to have succumbed to the terror.
“When you are faced by an unspeakable evil, the safest course is always to convict, whatever reasonable doubts there may be about whether the defendant has actually committed the crimes of which he or she is accused. We saw that again and again in the cases brought after the IRA terror bombings.”
The judge failed to clearly direct the jury as to the deficiencies of the evidence, so the jury (no doubt aided by the metropolitan police officer among their number) did what they believed their job was to do. The Metropolitan Police, the CPS and the jury: slaves to the witch-hunters’ mob.
Rolf Harris’s convictions urgently need re-viewing. Sign the petition and make your voice count .
 Telegraph, Saturday 10 October 2015
 How the police trawl the innocent, RICHARD WEBSTER , New Statesman special report , 19 July 1999. http://www.richardwebster.net/howthepolicetrawltheinnocent.html Accessed on 14 July 2015