Police make first arrest in Esther Baker child sex abuse investigation

Esther Baker

Esther Baker

Staffordshire Police confirmed today that they had arrested a 64 year old man as part of their investigation into an historic child sex abuse ring following allegations made by  Esther Baker. a survivor.

The full statement in reply to a question from me on behalf of Exaro News is:“A 64 year old man has been arrested on suspicion of rape and conspiracy to rape in connection with the ongoing investigation in allegations of historic child sexual abuse.He remains on bail pending further inquiries.In line with our normal policy we will not confirm the details of a person under investigation until such time as charges are made.”

For legal reasons I have been told we cannot name the man but I can say for those who have followed this story it is NOT the former Liberal Democrat MP.

Police investigations are continuing into the allegations which involve a child sex abuse ring which operated in Staffordshire and the West Midlands.

Labour leadership: Stormin’ Corbyn winning the new battle of Berkhamsted

BERKHAMSTED CASTLE pPc Credit:geograph-org-uk

BERKHAMSTED CASTLE
pPc Credit:geograph-org-uk

Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire is not known as a centre of left wing radicalism. It has had only two revolutionary moments in its 1000 year history . They were the capitulation of the English to William the Conqueror in 1066 at Berkhamsted Castle and the Battle of Berkhamsted Common in 1866.

The latter was a remarkable story, A wealthy MP, Augustus Smith, was furious that a local landowner had enclosed common land above the town. So rather than just protest he took direct action. As a book, The Short History of Berkhamsted reveals he hired ” a miniature army of Cockney” toughs” and Irish labourers and charted a special train to convey them from Euston to Tring at the dead of night.”

These 120 men armed with crowbars tore down the iron railings overnight and the next day a newspaper reported ” “In carriages, gigs, dogcarts and on foot, gentry, shopkeepers, husbandmen, women and children at once tested the reality of what they saw by strolling over and squatting on the Common and taking away morsels of gorse to prove, as they said) the place was their own again.”

An Act of Parliament later guaranteed the freedom of the Common and Lord Brownlow who had tried to enclose it gave up.

Fast forward to 2015 and another extraordinary revolution seems to be taking place in the town if not the country..At a barbecue organised by the Berkhamsted and Tring branch of South West Herts Labour Party, members are talking about voting for Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn Mp, popular with Berkhamsted Labour members

Jeremy Corbyn Mp, popular with   Berkhamsted Labour members

Now Jeremy has not had to bring in Cockney ” toughies” or Irish labourers to prove his point ( though they are many still in his Islington North constituency) but merely appear at local hustings with either other candidates or their representatives.

Both new members of the party and long-standing members are saying they are fed up with Labour apologising for what it stands for and don’t know what the other candidates for the leadership want to do. One lumped Andy Burnham,Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall into the same mould. She described them as vanilla – bland and tasteless with no ideological view of society.

They contrasted this with Corbyn who at least knows what he believes, doesn’t apologise for being a member of the Labour Party and would take the fight to the Tories and revamp the organisation. I saw no sign of entryism ( which the Sunday Times suggests) here among the new members – after all Chorleywood was never a bastion of the Militant Tendency even in its heyday. And John Mann MP is ridiculed for wanting to halt the election.

Angela Eagle Benefiting  from Yvette Cooper's pro women campaign.. Pic credit: The Guardian

Angela Eagle Benefiting from Yvette Cooper’s pro women campaign.. Pic credit: The Guardian

This doesn’t mean that the people  who are going to vote for Corbyn agree with every single policy he stands for – but they seem to want something different from the present, in their words, uninspired rivals. The only pause for thought is whether this will split the party – but the history of the SDP suggests otherwise. And Yvette Cooper’s point about Labour being a club for the boys has made some impact  but not in the way she wants..It has caused people to think of voting for Angela Eagle as deputy to  gender balance their vote for Corbyn. I shall still plump for Tom Watson.

I sense rather like in the run up to the general election in Scotland that something big is happening and is becoming unstoppable. Already neighbouring Hemel Hempstead constituency party has decided to endorse Corbyn and it looked like that grassroots Labour members have suddenly decided they are fed up with the status quo and wants something different..

The impact if Corbyn wins will be game changing. Defeated Labour candidates in some areas are taking the opposite view as this article in The Guardian shows. They see that Labour didn’t take into account the views of working class voters hating scroungers and more immigration. I hear this too from the working class carers who assist my disabled wife. But don’t they realise what these voters want is NO immigration ( Britain is full that’s why public services are bad, they tell me) .They want a ban on foreigners holding British jobs and the ABOLITION of benefits for scroungers. Are Will Straw and Jessica Asato going to stand on a Labour platform banning anybody from abroad working in Britain and the abolition of large swathes of welfare to get their vote? I would be surprised – it would make an interesting article in Left Foot Forward.

Would Will Straw really campaign to stop foreigners getting British jobs to get working class votes?

Would Will Straw really campaign to stop foreigners getting British jobs to get working class votes?

No, Labour has to decide where it stands on all this and then campaign and educate people that it is cuts in public services not more immigrants that is causing a lot of the problem. That is why I am still deciding whether I should take the plunge and back Corbyn or stick with either Cooper or Burnham.

Child abuse survivors strike back: A reflection on Reflections UK

Jenny tomlin: one of three organisers of the new Reflections  group

Jenny tomlin: one of three organisers of the new Reflections group

Yesterday in a community hall in Loughborough a new group  calling itself Reflections UK representing survivors of child abuse  across the UK was born.

It has arisen because many survivors – at first buoyed up by the creation of the over arching child sex abuse independent panel – have been knocked down by its replacement body, the statutory Lowell Goddard inquiry. While there was a populist demand for a statutory inquiry – many don’t seem to have realised that the price of that was to exclude survivors from sitting on it.

There has now been a strong backlash from survivors who believe their voices  have been excluded and they have decided to do something about it. Yesterday’s meeting was the start.

It is a powerful 21st century response to a government trying to find a traditionally 20th century solution to a very, very serious issue. The Goddard inquiry is a classic way governments try to solve problems – appoint an eminent judge, bring in a bevy of QC’s, hold hearings, make recommendations and spend a lot of money on an inquiry to sort it. The great and the good solve it all for the great unwashed who are eternally grateful.

Reflections UK is a 21st century response to this – made possible through instant communication on Facebook and Twitter – and expecting the survivors to be treated as equal partners. And they are not going to keep quiet and nor are they going to have their very emotive, raw and angry response to what happened to them filtered by the Whitehall bureaucracy. And in the 21st century they have the medium and the power – through the internet – to do it.

Perhaps the most telling example was the treatment of Jenny Tomlin, one of the organisers of the meeting. ( Local blog followers should know she lives in nearby Tring), She is a survivor of sexual abuse and a successful author ( see her book list on Amazon). As she told the meeting ” the great and the good” (not her words) asked her to apply to sit on their advisory group. But when she received the form it was more interested in  academic qualifications than raw experience and direct personal knowledge so she was rejected. How very last century!

The meeting itself drew a very strong cast of speakers. it was opened by Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, who made it very, very clear that she was there as the MP for Loughborough and not as a Cabinet minister. She also refused any media interviews and managed to make a speech without commenting on child sex abuse. But at least she turned up.

Speaker Jess Phillips,MP, a " big gob" for child abuse survivors? Pic Credit: Twitter

Speaker Jess Phillips,MP, a ” big gob” for child abuse survivors?
Pic Credit: Twitter

More interesting was newly elected MP, Jess Phillips.Labour, Birmingham,Yardley, who defeated Liberal Democrat John Hemming in the last election.

She didn’t hold back. As a Victims Champion for Birmingham, a person who had worked with a charity handling domestic abuse -she was well aware of the issue.

She is already making waves in Westminster as an MP. As she says in this article in Total Politics she has ” too big a gob” to shut up. And she certainly went down well at the meeting saying ” My mother told me you  only go for power to give it away” and promised to take an active role in raising cases.Indeed before she had left she had already taken some up.

Other key speakers included a GP Dr Sanjay Panwar; Graham Wilmer ( an ex panel member); Survivor Esther Baker, an Iman Muhammed Al-Hussaini  and a lawyer Nigel Thompson who pointed out how Lowell Goddard has already signed a contract promising to keep secret some of the information she may receive in her role as inquiry chair -presumably from the security services.

The most devastating personal contribution – to my mind – came from Diane House from Loughborough. She told a very familiar tale and illustrated it by going silent in the middle of her contribution. It had all the familiar ingredients of a tale from a person who had been sexually abused by seven different people. Family not believing her, friends calling her a slag, police lacking empathy and even today given a very low priority to investigating her case – which unlike some – did not include any VIPs just nasty human beings.

What was clear from this meeting organised by Phil Lafferty is that out there is a very large group of angry, frustrated people who are determined not to be ignored by the authorities and will make their views known. Lowell Goddard ignores them at her peril because they have the power in the 21st century to tell their stories which would have been denied them in the last century.

Cunard’s 175th anniversary cruise: How the Yanks rebranded Rule Britannia

QM 2 at Liverpool at start of historic transatlantic crossing

QM 2 at Liverpool at start of historic transatlantic crossing

Last weekend  Margaret and I returned from a transatlantic cruise  on the Queen Mary 2 celebrating the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Cunard line. Most of it retraced the original route from Liverpool to Boston via Halifax, Nova Scotia with the addition of extra stops at Hamburg, Southampton and New York.

The voyage was epic with events at every port to celebrate the founding father Samuel Cunard and everything that is quintessentially British from serving cream teas to numerous renderings of Rule Britannia.. There were fireworks in two cities, a 21 gun salute, a Canadian warship joining a flotilla, a Red Arrows fly past in Liverpool and massed bands in every port.

This included a concert at Liverpool’s magnificent Anglican cathedral to celebrate the anniversary with Britain’s national treasure’s mixed with proud descendants of the Cunard family telling the story of the shipping line.

Concert at Liverpool Cathedral

Concert at Liverpool Cathedral

We had Carol Thatcher talking of the Mum’s sleepless nights in case the Argies sunk the QE II on its way to the Falklands; John, now Lord Prescott being surprisingly emollient about his former employer even though they kept him on their second league of liners because of his union activities as a bar steward. We had the former BBC’s Michael Buerk on the newsworthy side of the line and Jennie Bond, the BBC’s former Royal Correspondent on the Royals who used the Cunard liners.

The event ended with the cathedral being turned into the Last Night of the Proms with a union jack flag waving audience singing Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia. A bit OTT on the jingoistic side for us.

Fireworks  in Liverpool

Fireworks in Liverpool

But here’s the rub. As the voyage progressed it became clear that we were not celebrating some brilliant British  entrepreneur that had created these iconic ships. Samuel Cunard was the son of a Quaker German immigrant who fled his native land to avoid persecution.. His father settled in the US only to move to  Canada as one of the Empire loyalists who were defeated in the 1776 War of Independence..

His son bought up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, quickly became an entrepreneur running ferry services and mining operations. He spotted that steamships could replace sail and bid for the first British Royal Mail service between Liverpool and Halifax. He won the contract.It was an amazing success, because his ships were not prone to sink, and by providing a service to Boston as well made merchants rich in the US overnight.as both goods and mail reached their destinations. The grateful merchants gave him the ” Boston Cup ” as a present  in return.

He wouldn’t have necessarily approved of the present luxury liners – his Quaker upbringing led him to build ships that were austere and practical not  comfortable and luxurious. That came later.. You certainly couldn’t eat for 22 hours out of 24 every day on his ships as you can on Queen Mary 2..

Sunset in Halifax

Sunset in Halifax

We are also celebrating a line now run by an American company, Carnival, based in Florida with a sales office in Southampton and a ship not flying  the British flag but registered ( I suspect for tax reasons) under a flag of convenience in Bermuda.

And we are also buying nostalgia. They may in the past have carried monarchs, film stars and multi millionaires but you are not going to bump into Tom Cruise or Keira Knightly jogging on Deck 7 on the Queen Mary 2  or even Lord Ashcroft or Roman Abramovich in the dining room. They now have their own private jet or yacht..

Food:175th anniversary chocolate feast and ice scupltures

Food:175th anniversary chocolate feast and ice sculptures

Yet in a very clever sense Carnival has rebranded Britain to create an unique atmosphere.Even the Americans I talked to on the boat ( they are the second largest contingent) described sailing with Cunard “part of the British experience.”. For marketing Carnival deserve top marks, they rock you to sleep on an ocean of desire with sweet nostalgic dreams. Bon voyage!

Fireworks in Boston

Fireworks in Boston

 

Journey's End

Journey’s End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revealed: The Marie Celeste of the North Atlantic

View of the abandoned boat  passed by Queen Mary 2  on July 6 and left floundering in the North atlantic

View of the abandoned boat passed by Queen Mary 2 on July 6 and left floundering in the North Atlantic

My wife Margaret and I returned yesterday from a cruise across the Atlantic to New York on the Queen Mary 2 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Cunard line. One of the most  haunting sights was not in the staged programme of celebrations  but this abandoned  boat 500m off the coast of Ireland.

The sight of the boat – almost in the path  of the transatlantic liner – brought the Queen Mary 2 to a halt. There was no response from it when the ship blew its foghorn. The captain employed infra-red cameras on the vessel for signs of life. But there was no one alive on board. No attempt was made to board the boat and after an unscheduled 20 minute halt the QM 2 went on its way leaving the boat to continue drifting in the Atlantic.

The captain reported he had informed HM Coastguard in Falmouth about the sighting of the boat and evidently it is being left to the coastguard in Cornwall – which must be over 800 miles away – to decide whether to do anything about it.

What was extraordinary about this incident is that this appears to be the second time this boat has been sighted in the Atlantic and no one is doing anything to investigate it.

One could not but wonder if this is new maritime policy to leave small boats to drift aimlessly  across the atlantic like a message in a bottle. And one could not help speculate about the story behind this particular Marie Celeste.

Was it as someone speculate a boat cut adrift from its moorings in Ireland or the United states that had just drifted out to sea? Was it abandoned in a storm and its crew drowned? Were there still dead bodies on the boat that showed no sign of life? Or was it  a bad fishing trip, a failed transatlantic crossing that ended in tragedy, a failed and,misguided attempt to seek asylum in Ireland?

Or as some wary passengers worried a plot by Al Qaeda or Islamic State to put an abandoned boat loaded with something nasty in the Atlantic shipping lanes?

We shall probably never know. The mystery like an old sailor’s tale remains to be solved.

Another view of the abandoned boat.

Another view of the abandoned boat.

Exclusive: Michael Gove faces High Court action over selling legal services to aid Saudi beheaders and torturers

Michael Gove: Facing a High Court challenge over selling services to the Saudis

Michael Gove: Facing a High Court challenge over selling services to the Saudis

Tomorrow the High Court will receive an application from  the Gulf Centre  for Human Rights to bring a judicial review over the Justice Secretary’s decision to bid for commercial work from the Saudi Arabian government because of the regime’s appalling record of public beheadings, torturing dissidents and flogging bloggers like Raif Badawi.

The case against Michael Gove is a legacy from his predecessor Chris Grayling but is linked to an appalling case of torture against a Saudi Arabian -simply known for his own protection as AB.

The Gulf Center, a non governmental organisation based in Beirut and Copenhagen, defends independent journalists, lawyers and bloggers in the Middle East, is applying to take over the case  started by AB after it appears the Ministry of Justice retrospectively removed legal aid from him.

Central to the case is the shadowy and secretive (we know this as it vigorously finds any way not to release information) Just Solutions International, a commercial arm of the Ministry of Justice set up by Chris Grayling.As readers of this blog and those who follow the excellent  Jack of Kent aka lawyer David Allen Green will know – Just Solutions has an unenviable reputation of providing services to dodgy regimes and has a £5.9m bid for Saudi work at the moment.

The centre’s lawyers  want leave from the court to challenge whether the organisation has complied with official Whitehall guidelines before bidding for the contract and also whether Michael Gove or his predecessors  has acted illegally by creating this commercial organisation without any Parliamentary approval.

Their case cites information from  government documents on this blog and Jack of Kent’s blog. We have been separately pursuing the ministry over related issues.What they have found out is that there are no public documents saying that it followed the coalition’s  Overseas Judicial and Security Assistance guidelines.

These restrict all government departments from bidding for work from regimes which breach human rights if the Government’s reputation is damaged or is a serious risk to aiding or significantly increasing human rights abuses.These are spelled out as regimes that unlawfully detain people, have the death penalty, torture people and limit freedom of expression. Saudi Arabia ticks nearly very warning box.

Baroness Anelay: Saudi people want floggings

Baroness Anelay: Saudi people want floggings

Until now the standard response has been that this help is meant to help improve standards. that is until a comment from  foreign office minister Baroness Anelay in reference to the flogging of Raif Badawi in the Lords : ““My Lords, I think we have to recognise that the actions of the Saudi government in these respects have the support of the vast majority of the Saudi population.”

Melanie Gingell, a member of GCHR’s advisory board, said:: “It seems to us that far from improving human rights standards in the detention systems of these  regimes, the UK is more likely to be simply improving the efficiency of the systems within which these notorious abuses are being carried out.  The British public has been horrified by the public beheadings and floggings carried out in Saudi Arabia, and now mirrored by ISIS, and they have a right to know exactly what role the UK government is playing in these systems.”

She added, “We fear that the driving motivation behind these bids is purely commercial, and the veil of secrecy that has been drawn over them simply serves to deepen our concerns that the UK is making money out of the worst aspects of these regimes, that it condemns in public, but is happy to give support to in private.”

Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors (DPG) are acting for GCHR.  Adam Hundt, a partner at DPG, stated: “It is surprising that JSi’s activities have taken place shrouded in secrecy, and without parliamentary debate or approval.  If the UK is to sell its public services to regimes that behead people for sorcery, stone women to death and flog people for expressing pro-democracy views, then one would expect our Parliament to be consulted and given the opportunity to impose appropriate parameters on such activities.”

A campaign to crowd fund this action has also been launched by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. The link is http://www.gofundme.com/saudiprisons 

Revealed: How The Metropolitan Police Covered-Up For Rupert Murdoch’s News International – Joe Public

davidhencke:

This is an extremely important revelation by Bellingcat and Byline given that the Met Police have had at last to hand over huge numbers of documents to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel which is investigating his death. It suggests a wider conspiracy by the Met Police involving more people.
It is also good news that this is one of the first projects that has been ” crowd funded” by Byline showing the need for journalists to be given time and resources to investigate very serious scandals that are in the public interest.

Originally posted on Inforrm's Blog:

Mazher-Mahmood-010A Bellingcat and Byline investigation can for the first time reveal Scotland Yard had intelligence Mazher Mahmood was corrupting police officers as far back as the summer of 2000.

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