Day 25: Detectives are carrying out a live investigation into whether a senior Army officer leaked a photograph of Prince William in a bikini to the Sun, the phone hacking trial heard today. An email from a Sun journalist discussing a payment of £4,000 for the image, taken at a fancy dress party while the prince was undergoing his military training, referred to it coming from “
Harry Kasir, the co-owner of Elm Guest House in Barnes, south west London has been released without charge by the police.
A report in Exaro News today discloses that detectives at Operation Fernbridge released Mr Kasir who ran the guest house with his wife Carole and said to be the centre of a VIP paedophile ring between 1979 and 1983.
Investigations into Elm Guest House are still continuing by the police as are investigations into the now closed Grafton Close children’s home run by Richmond Council in south west London.
Kasir has refused to comment about what happened at Elm Guest House. He did not return calls seeking comment about the police decision to release him without charge.
Sources close to Operation Fernbridge told Exaro that detectives were hoping that Kasir would become a key witness. However, he refused to talk to them about his time as co-manager of Elm Guest House.
After a police raid on the guest house in 1982, the Kasirs were convicted at the Old Bailey of running a disorderly house – meaning a brothel – and fined £1,000 each. They were given nine-month prison sentences, suspended for two years.
The Met Police paedophile unit has suffered a set back in its long running investigation into historic child abuse in Richmond after the Crown Prosecution Service has decided to drop some of the charges.
A story in Exaro News mainly by my colleague Mark Conrad reveals that the CPS have done a U-turn by changing their mind over four out of the 18 charges against 71-year-old John Stingemore,the former deputy manager of Grafton Close children’s home in Richmond on Thames, and 66-year-old Roman Catholic priest, Tony McSweeney.
It is dropping the charge against Stingemore of conspiracy with persons unknown to commit buggery, along with two counts of indecent assault. But Stingemore, still faces six charges of indecent assault against five boys aged between 11 and 15, and two counts of taking indecent images of a child.
The CPS is also understood to have changed its mind about prosecuting one charge of indecent assault against McSweeney. McSweeney still faces one charge of indecent assault against a boy aged between 11 and 15, three counts of making indecent images of a child, one of taking indecent images of a child and a further count of possessing indecent images of a child.
The decision has left the witness bewildered at his treatment by the CPS, and he is seeking an explanation as to why prosecutors are dropping the charges when they had decided to bring them only four months ago.
He said: “I am devastated. It has taken me years to reach this point. The police knocked on my door when they sought information, and now this.” He is asking the CPS to review its decision.”
Curiously the CPS told him no other witnesses have said they were sexually assaulted at Elm Guest House, an assertion contradicted by another witness who says he gave the police a statement saying he was sexually abused there.The situation is about as clear as mud.
The government has always claimed that the main reason it is holding down pay in Whitehall, schools and the NHS is because the taxpayer can’t afford it and we need to cut the deficit. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister responsible for Whitehall’s industrial relations, claims to have safeguarded the very lowest paid and attacked perks given to richer civil servants. The ex banker is on record as saying ” It is absurd to expect that people can be paid the same amount in the public sector as they are paid in the private sector.” This reference is to the higher paid where he is pledged to end perks. It was made in 2011 just at the time when Ed Lester, head of the Student Loans Company, had secured a very lucrative deal where he avoided paying tax or national insurance at source on a £223,000 a year package.
Now in the very same organisation a new drama is being played out which also proves the government is lying about its intentions to protect the lowest paid and curb bonuses for the rich. I have written about it in Tribune.
The Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents Whitehall’s lowest paid, put forward a rather interesting negotiating ploy for 2014. They suggested that his successor, Mike Laverty, forgo a £25,000 a year bonus on top of his £160,000 salary and taxable expenses of £30,000 a year. Instead it suggested that the bonus be redistributed to the staff,benefiting the lowest paid.
The union had calculated that, if all the money available, including a below inflation rise and one off £265 payment (worth £595) for those earning less than £21,000 a year and a one-off £560 payment to those over £21,000, all 2400 staff could get an increase of more than £600 incorporated into their salaries. The few very lowest paid would get a £960 pay rise to take them up to the nationally-recognised living wage. It would benefit people working in Glasgow, Darlington and Colwyn Bay.
But it is understood that the Cabinet Office blocked this move and are insisting the bonus is paid to one person instead.
Now it is not known whether Mike Laverty, the present chief executive of the SLC, would have agreed. But he is unusual in that he returned some £80,000 to the Treasury last year from a previous redundancy deal when he got his new job. This is almost unknown among senior mandarins.
Unfortunately he is so media shy, he seems worried, like his predecessor,to talk to me. I can’t think why.
However what this sorry saga exposes is that the lower paid are not having to take a pay freeze to save taxpayers’ money to help bring down the deficit because such a deal would hardly have cost the taxpayer another penny.
What it does show is that the government WANT to keep the lower paid poor and reward the rich – probably because those at the top in the private sector are seeing their salaries soar during the recession.
The results can already be seen in the prosperous parts of the country with the rich looking for things to spend all their money while the poor economise or go into debt.
I was behind a well paid young couple in Berkhamsted Waitrose at the butchery counter who were ordering fillet steak – not for their own dinner- but to feed their dog. The complacent man boasted that he wouldn’t normally be at Waitrose because he regularly got the fillet steak for the dog at Harrods food hall.
I have no doubt Francis Maude – if it is he who approved this – is happy for the rich to buy fillet steak for their pampered pets this Christmas, while the poor juggle the cost of the fuel bills to cook their Christmas turkey. He has created a system where this happens every day.
Day 24: Hundreds of hacking calls were made from a “private wire” inside News International’s headquarters, the Old Bailey heard today.
Among those whose voicemails were accessed from the “generic” phone link at Wapping in east London were Katie Price, Tessa Jowell, celebrity PR advisor Alan Edwards and three Mail on Sunday journalists – Sebastian Hamilton, Dennis Rice and Laura Collins, the hacking trial was told.
Day 23: Fifteen million emails from Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper group have been lost to police and other investigators, the hacking trial heard today. Prosecutor Mark Bryant-Heron explained that the records were wiped during technical changes before a fresh police investigation into phone hacking began in January 2011.
A fascinating memo has been released at the hacking trial this week and published on the great blog by freelance journalist PeterJukes.
Written by Tom Crone one of News International’s former trusted lawyers and sent to Andy Coulson, then editor of the paper, it details information apparently obtained by Rebekah Brooks from the police on the progress of the police investigation into the later convicted hackers,ex Royal correspondent Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
It correctly predicts that the police are likely to ” bang to rights ” both of them. But interestingly it reveals that the police recovered invoices and payments totalling ” over a £1m” to Glenn Mulcaire revealing what a successful career the hacker had with the organisation over many,many years.
Ironically the cost of his work and others as Exaro News revealed before the trial has been secretly estimated by former News International chief executive as up to £1 billion in compensation to hacked victims,legal fees and support for suspended staff.
You can read the memo in full on Peter Jukes ‘s website plus two memos from Andy Coulson to his staff seeking new stories.
It is interesting to see how well-informed Rebekah Brooks was about the state of the investigation and what the police would later find out. A ” must read” I would say.