Rape allegation: Why are the Met not following their own guidelines in Operation Fernbridge?

The latest disclosure revealed in  Exaro’s investigation into the rape of a young woman by a man who went on to become a Tory Cabinet minister raises even more disturbing questions.

It is now accepted as part of normal police procedures that if a person accuses another person of rape, the allegations are put to the alleged perpetrator.

 It is becoming increasingly clear according to the account from the victim ” Jane” that the police have told her that they have not done it in this case.

She told Exaro :“I could not understand why,” she said. “There were only two people present during the incident. But they refused to question the man who I identified.” She believes that this breaches guidance entitled, ‘Investigating and Prosecuting Rape,’ and compiled by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).

This is one of the key points in the letter of complaint sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions  by Labour MP Tom Watson on the need for a review of the case.

 To me it seems this amounts to  double standards. Under Operation Yewtree into the Savile investigations celebs and entertainers are told about the allegations and in many cases charged.

Under Operation Fernbridge politicians are not told about the allegations and so far no one is charged.

This can only add to the public anxiety that Establishment figures with power are above the law and play into the agenda that politicians can often get away with anything.

 

Met Police ” smear ” rape victim in Fernbridge investigation

More damaging revelations are published today on the Exaro website about the Met Police’s handling of a  victim who came forward saying she was raped in her youth by a man who went on to become a prominent Tory Cabinet minister.

My colleague  Mark Conrad reports  that ” Jane” who brought  the allegations to the Met Police is extremely upset that not only did they not put the allegations to the ex-minister but told other people about her medical record which could cast doubt on the validity of her claims.

She told Exaro:“I am very angry. My medical history has nothing to do with the statements that I gave to the police about the rape. I volunteered information on my background and medical history to the police, and expected that it would be treated in confidence.”

This suggests that this particular case has not been well handled. I have met ” Jane”  and  she is remarkably clear about the events that happened to her so long ago.

Again this raises the issue which Tom Watson, the Labour MP, has taken up with the Director of Public Prosecutions, that the case should be reviewed. And so it should soon.

Why Tom Watson is right to press the DPP to review the rape claim against a former Tory minister

Action is urgently needed to press the Met  Police to continue their investigation into the claims that a former Tory cabinet minister raped a 19-year-old woman when he was at the beginning of his career.

 The allegations came to light in the Operation Fernbridge investigation – which is mainly centred around the abuse of boys at a Richmond children’s home and at the Elm Guest House. It only emerged because of the alleged figures involved in child sexual abuse was also said to have raped a young woman.

So Tom Watson is right to draw attention to the way the case has been handled by the Met Police to Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions.

 The full report is on the Exaro website but it raises deep questions about the way the police treated an allegation of rape  in 2013. To give you a flavour  Tom Watson’s letter says :“The elements of lack of freedom and capacity to consent make the decision highly irregular. This is shocking in itself.

“It further troubles me that the senior police officer who dropped the case revealed to the victim that he apparently took a series of worthless stereotypes and other irrelevant points into consideration.”

“Most of these stereotypes have been blown out of the water in recent months. Or so I thought.

“There has been a sea change in the climate surrounding rape, historic cases in particular. Why is it that the tide has not reached this case?”

Those who may doubt the woman’s description of the case can listen and see her account on the Exaro website here.

What you will know is that the police never put it to the alleged perpetrator. There are too many unanswered questions in the Met Police’s handling of this for no action to be taken. So Tom Watson is right to demand it.

 

Operation Fernbridge: A worrying failure over a rape case

Before Operation Fernbridge was  launched I received a high level promise from the police that whoever participated in the Richmond child sex abuse scandal – however high and mighty – would be prosecuted if the police could get the evidence.

 This ” no holds barred” approach gave me confidence that despite three failed attempts to get to the bottom of the scandal at Richmond’s Grafton Close children’s home and the notorious Elm Guest House that we would get a result.

 My belief is now being severely tested following a series of events – including the fresh disclosures from  the Labour MP for Rochdale Simon Danzcuk about how the police never took any action against Sir Cyril Smith, despite ample examples of his connections to paedophile activity..

 What has particularly shaken me are the revelations meticulously put together by my colleague Mark Conrad and disclosed in a series of articles in Exaro News this week and in the Sunday People about the principal suspect in more than one historic paedophile scandal- A former Tory Cabinet minister.

 The  detailed allegations this time from a woman about events when she was just 19 and the man was at the beginning of his career make chilling and dramatic reading – and under today’s standards very few people would doubt she was sexually assaulted without her consent. I need not repeat the full circumstances – you can read  them in a series of articles in Exaro News if you want a blow-by-blow account.

The good news is that Tom Watson – the MP who first raised the issue of  leading political figures being involved  in historic paedophile rings – has written to Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, demanding a review of the police’s handling of the case and he is very critical of the way the police have handled it. I hope she takes notice.

The Met Police have of course said little about this. However the nearest explanation for their non action is on The Needleblog  .

My concern about this is three-fold. First of all it appears that there has been a serious failure by the Met police to take seriously a claim from a credible witness at a time when people are being encouraged to report historic rape and sexual abuse cases. This provides little confidence for others to come forward.

Second it appears that the allegations are far stronger than many of allegations being put to celebrities facing trial at the moment.

Third it is not clear that Crown Prosecution Service was presented with a full file by the Met Police who never even put such strong allegations to the perpetrator.

All this is worrying. The most worrying aspect of it all is that the police appear to be losing their appetite to pursue this high profile figure – suggesting there is one rule for celebrities and another for anybody with real power like a politician. The failure to pursue this is not an isolated incident in  Operation Fernbridge. On the contrary other allegations when they refer to the notorious Elm Guest House appear to be dropped or ignored as well.

 

Richmond child sex abuse trial postponed

The trial of John Stingemore and Father Tony McSweeney – due to start on May 6 at Southwark Crown Court – has been postponed.

Southwark crown court today  said that there will be no hearing on the 6 May and that it is due to make a fresh announcement on future court dates on 13 June.

Exaro understands that 71 year-old Stingemore, the former officer in charge of the Grafton Close children’s home in the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, is suffering from ill-health and was recently admitted to hospital.

Privately, sources close to the case have expressed fears that Mr Stingemore may not be fit enough to stand trial unless his health improves significantly.

Mr Stingemore’s solicitor was unavailable for comment this afternoon.

John Stingemore, of Stonehouse Drive, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, faces five charges of indecent assault, once count of taking an indecent image of a child, and one count of indecency with a child. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Father Tony McSweeney, a 66 year-old priest, faces two charges of indecent assault, three counts of making an indecent image of a child, one of taking an indecent image of a child, and a further count of possessing indecent images of children. Father McSweeney, of Old Brighton Road North, Pease Pottage, West Sussex, has also pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The charges had been brought following the Met police’s Operation Fernbridge. There is a back catalogue of stories explaining the Fernbridge operation on the Exaro website.

Second venue identified in Elm Guest House child sex abuse scandal

A  child sex abuse victim has identified a second house in the London borough of Richmond where children in care in the borough were taken en route to Elm Guest House.

The property in Avondale Road, Mortlake, has since changed hands but appears to be some sort of holding house for children in care who were taken out for the day.

The Met police have been informed about the existence of the property but it is not clear whether it is part of their  current investigation under Operation Fernbridge.

 A report by my colleague Mark Conrad on the Exaro website interviews  the victim who says that he knows of other children  taken to the property in the 1980s.

Elm Guest House is part of a current investigation but no charges have been brought against anybody for abusing children there. The guest house  was  at the time used by gays including it is claimed by MPs and other important figures. The Met Police have said that one of the visitors was  Sir Cyril Smith, the Liberal Democrat MP, who since his death has been exposed as a paedophile.

Stingemore and McSweeney plead not guilty to all charges in Richmond child sex abuse scandal

John Stingemore, the former deputy manager of Grafton Close  children’s home in Richmond and Father Tony McSweeney,a Roman Catholic priest have pleaded not guilty to all 14 charges against them following the Operation Fernbridge investigation. A report is on the Exaro News website

Stingemore,aged 72, has denied five charges of indecent assault, one of taking an indecent picture and one of indecency with a child. McSweeney, a 66 year old priest ,pleaded not guilty to seven charges,  two of indecent assault, three of making indecent images  of children , one of taking an indecent image of a child  and one of possessing indecent pictures of children.

 Five charges against  both men made during the initial hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court earlier this year were not pressed. They included a conspiracy with persons unknown to commit buggery and two counts of indecent assault against Stingemore and one case of indecent assault against McSweeney.
 No date has been fixed for the trial. The hearing was subject to reporting restrictions.
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Met Police probe former Tory Cabinet minister and a filmed gay sexual abuse party

Met police have seized a picture and amateur film from a known paedophile of a gay sex party attended by a former Tory cabinet minister where boys were sexually abused some 30 years ago.

A report in today’s Exaro News and the Sunday Mirror  reveals that the Met Police’s Paedophile obtained the information under their Operation Fairbank scoping inquiry. The paedophile cannot be named for legal reasons and the ex-minister is not being named as it would interfere with police operations.

The unit is focussing on a series of parties in London three decades ago at which boys were supplied for the sexual gratification of men. 

Sources close to the investigation say that this line of enquiry will spin-off from Fairbank to become a separate operation with its own name in the New Year.

Exaro has also learnt that police have “talked to” the ex-minister about his attendance at the “sex party”.

 The ex-minister, according to the sources, confirmed to police that he was at the party, and that he “knew of” a specific victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons. But the ex-minister denied that he carried out any sexual abuse.

The new information obtained by the police follows two separate but linked operations,Operation Fernbridge and Operation Fairbank – one sparked off by one of my sources and the other by Tom Watson, MP who  made allegations in the Commons.

The police action follows a setback when the Crown Prosecution Service dropped charges against two people in connection with abusing boys at Elm Guest House in the London borough of Richmond. Separately the police made a decision to release without  charge, Harry Kasir, the former co-manager of the guest house.

While it would be wrong to speculate about police inquiries, I think it is worth pointing out that in this long investigation the Met Police Paedophile Unit seems to be woefully inadequately resourced to handle all the leads it gets. When you realise that fewer police are employed in this tightly knit unit than the Met Police employ to pursue the Plebgate affair and journalists from News International, you wonder who sets the priorities. It is not to say that Plebgate or News International should not be pursued, but one would have thought the life damaging crime of child sexual abuse should receive the highest priority for police investigations. excluding say murder or terrorism. It is clearly not

Elm Guest House owner released without charge

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 former Elm Tree Guest House i  Pic courtesy: Exaro

The former Elm Tree Guest House i Pic courtesy: Exaro

Crown Prosecution Service to drop some charges in Richmond child abuse scandal

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.