Monday, September 21, 2015

Is the therapy that brings out false memories behind Britain's  extravagant VIP abuse claims?

This month Sir Cliff Richard is to begin a three-month concert tour to mark his 75th birthday. Yet it is being planned under a dark cloud.

Last August, the police raided his Berkshire home and tipped off the BBC to film it live via helicopter. This was part of Operation Yewtree, an investigation into 'historic sex abuse' by anyone deemed 'a celebrity' — and especially anyone who might have worked with the late Jimmy Savile.

Yesterday, that cloud had partly lifted from Sir Cliff. One of the police's three investigations into claims by unnamed men that they were abused by the singer has been dropped.

According to a report in the Sunday Times: 'The inquiry is said to have foundered because detectives have been unable to find evidence to substantiate the claims.'

Ah, evidence. In the hysteria about so-called VIP sex abuse, that word has been sorely missing. Yet it is at the very heart of our criminal justice system.

It is an unfortunate fact that the more heinous an alleged crime, the greater the pressure to bring the perpetrators before the courts — and therefore the more likely the police are to become unscrupulous in their treatment of those accused.

This accounts for such an appalling miscarriage of justice as the jailing, 40 years ago, of six innocent Irishmen for the murder of 21 people in the Birmingham pub bombings. Yet the bombings themselves were all too real. Members of the IRA were indeed responsible.

Now, however, there seems an obsessive need on the part of the authorities to pursue the perpetrators of unspeakable crimes . . . which may never have taken place at all.

This is the purpose of several police investigations, notably Operation Midland, into claims that a number of boys were sexually tortured and murdered by a group of so-called VIPs, including a former Prime Minister, sundry other peers and MPs, Army generals and senior members of the Security Service.

One of the key 'witnesses' to these proposed crimes, whose name is known to us only as 'Darren', was yesterday revealed as a man with a history of false claims.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that 'Darren' had previously been sentenced to two years' imprisonment for making hoax bomb calls, nuisance and threatening calls about neighbours and criminal damage.  He also falsely confessed to the murder of a prostitute during a high-profile police manhunt in the Nineties.

But the police have been agonisingly slow — at least for those he has accused — to come to the conclusion that they have been sent on the wildest of wild goose chases. This is partly because they have been under political and media pressure.

The former comes largely in the person of the new Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson. Watson was contacted by 'Darren' and has taken up his cause, possibly attracted by the fact that the alleged VIP murderers included at least two former Tory MPs.

'Darren's' bizarre claims — such as witnessing a man with Down's syndrome being pulled apart by two cars being driven in opposite directions by the aforementioned VIPs — have also been obsessively and profitably championed by a news agency called Exaro.

It was to Exaro, therefore, that Mr Watson declared: 'Darren told me that he fears for his safety. Were he to be attacked, I will personally make sure everyone who needs to know will know who these people are.'

The time will come for Watson to apologise. And as I believe him to be fundamentally decent, I trust he will make that apology in the same place he made some of his accusations under privilege: on the floor of the House of Commons.

One of the Scotland Yard officers involved in the investigation into 'Darren's' claims complained to the Telegraph: 'We are between a rock and a hard place. We don't want people to ever lose faith in coming to the police. We believe our victims.'

I found this disturbing. What is meant by 'our victims'? Do the police own them? And until there is proof that a crime has taken place, these are not 'victims' but claimants.

This shows a similar contempt for due process as displayed by Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald, the man in charge of Operation Midland, when last December he declared that the stories of the man who had provided many of these claims, known as 'Nick', were 'credible and true'.

When McDonald said this, he had not even interviewed a single one of the claimed VIP abusers, still less found any of the bodies of the allegedly murdered children.

On Saturday a probing Mail investigation revealed something about 'Nick'. It noted: 'On the internet he has written extensively about being abused but says therapy has helped him come to terms with his past.'

I hope, for the sake of the police's reputation, that 'Nick's' therapy was not so-called 'recovered memory' treatment, a now discredited practice described as 'the worst catastrophe to befall the mental health field since the lobotomy era'.

In the Eighties and Nineties, a number of people were induced by psychoanalysts to 'remember' appalling sexual abuse which hitherto had never crossed their minds.

Forms of hypnosis were often used, and the result was that some wretched men (and women) came genuinely to believe that they had taken part in 'satanic ritual abuse' and the like. It was all nonsense, but compelling nonsense — and some courts fell for it. In this context, I am intrigued by the report that 'Darren' had falsely confessed to a murder.

Next month, Portobello Books is to publish The Strange Case Of Thomas Quick, by Dan Josefsson. Thomas Quick was the name adopted by Swedish petty criminal and drug addict Sture Bergwall, who under 'recovered memory' therapy, confessed to raping, killing and even eating more than 30 victims.

These were supposedly reenactments of 'recovered memories of sexual abuse' he had experienced as a child.

Extraordinarily compelling in the dock as a witness to his own 'crimes' (which he had never committed), he was convicted of eight murders. He had trawled newspapers for unsolved killings and convinced the Swedish police that he was responsible — even though he never led them to a single body.

In 2008, his 'confessions' were shown to be untrue and by 2013 the last of his convictions was overturned. The Swedish government has ordered an inquiry into this devastating failure of its justice system. There will be lessons in it for our own authorities.

Original report here

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