After Dark: Harvey Proctor on television in 1988, the year after first Met probe
By Mark Watts
Two police investigations gathered evidence that former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor had a sexual interest in children, Newcastle crown court heard.
One witness told the first police investigation, of 1986-7, that Proctor sexually abused him as a 14-year-old boy, while other witnesses told detectives that the then MP beat “young men or boys” and took photographs of their injuries, according to submissions to the court. One described a request for the procurement of “young things”.
Another of these witnesses, the court heard, told the police investigation that he discovered a big envelope of pictures of boys aged 11-19, “including lots of kids about 11-12 years old”. But no police action was taken on any of the claims.
The court was hearing legal submissions during the trial of ‘Nick’, Carl Beech, the man convicted yesterday of 12 charges of seeking to pervert the course of justice and one of fraud when making claims of sexual abuse by VIPs. I was the only journalist to cover the trial consistently, day by day, on Twitter @MarkWatts_1.
Sir James Goss, the High Court judge who oversaw the ‘Nick’ trial, blocked defence attempts to admit the evidence on the grounds of insufficient relevance. But the hearing on June 21, held in the absence of the jury, could only be reported following its verdicts.
And it raises questions as to whether the Metropolitan Police Service disclosed any of the material to the inquiry into child sexual abuse chaired by Alexis Jay. And, if so, why the inquiry has so far chosen to ignore the evidence.
Collingwood Thompson, barrister for Carl Beech, made an application for more disclosure to the defence and for permission to cross-examine Proctor on specific issues. He made the application to the judge the day after the prosecution finished direct examination of Proctor and ahead of his cross-examination.
He said that he was basing his application on material disclosed by the prosecution to the defence only “very recently”.
He raised material gathered, first, by the police investigation before Proctor pleaded guilty in 1987 to three counts of gross indecency with a 17-year-old man and a fourth count with a man aged 20 at a time when the age of consent was 21 and, second, by ‘Operation Midland’ that was sparked by allegations from ‘Nick’ in 2014.
At the hearing, the judge largely worked from written submissions by defence and prosecution counsel. But Thompson confirmed the judge’s understanding that the material from the first investigation related to “the circumstances of these offences… dressing as children, punishing them in a particularly… physically beating them to a stage where they were being marked.”
Thompson wanted the evidence admitted to the case because it went to Proctor’s “character”.
Beyond the two complainants in the 1987 case, he told the court, there were four other witnesses – referred to as witnesses 27, 7, 15 and 10 – who described their sexual activities with Proctor as young men or boys.
One of the complainants “alleged Harvey Proctor inflicted pain for pleasure,” said Thompson. “There is direct evidence of inflicting pain for the purpose of sexual pleasure,” adding, “A number of witness statements did appear to relate to these allegations.”
A 23-year-old said that Proctor “showed an interest in young boys,” Thompson told the court. “Someone who ran an escort agency [said]: ‘He seemed to be interested in young boys.’”
One of the witnesses knew Proctor as “Keith”, but the former MP also used the name, “David”, the court heard. A witness said that Proctor identified himself as an MP.
Thompson told the court: “These matters date from 1986, not so very long after the period we are looking at [in this trial].”
In his summary of Thompson’s submissions to the court, the judge records:
“The activities spoken of in the witness statements include paying for ‘rent boys’/escorts, asking them to dress as schoolboys in shorts, pretending to be a headmaster or school teacher and punishing them for wrong-doing by spanking or repeatedly beating them hard on their buttocks with his hand, slipper or plimsole and a cane, in many cases causing pain and leaving marks or wheals on their buttocks.
“In some cases, he took Polaroid photographs of the injuries inflicted. One witness says he discovered a big envelope containing Polaroid photos of boys aged 11-19 ‘including lots of kids about 11-12 years old’.
“On occasions he told boys to engage in sexual activity with each other and he could be involved with up to four boys at any one time. One witness described a request for the procurement of ‘young things’.
“Witness 15 states that, when aged 14, he was painfully ‘slippered’ before being made to engage in anal intercourse. The activities were for sexual gratification: he was said to masturbate himself and/or the ‘boys’. There was a range of penetrative sexual activities.”
“The defence wish to cross-examine Mr Proctor about each of these alleged activities. They point to the case against the defendant arising from allegations made by him that Mr Proctor engaged in sexual activity with young boys at around the time he is alleged to have committed the acts of which the defendant accuses him.
“They refer to the fact that there were occasions which involved more than one boy and in which boys were told to engage in sexual activity with one another, and there was a full range of sexual activity, including masturbation, oral intercourse and anal intercourse.
“There was a sadomasochistic element to such sexual activity: Mr Proctor engaged in sexual activity with boys who were made to dress and behave as if they were younger which involved inflicting some pain for the purpose of obtaining sexual pleasure. The defence wish to ask him about these aspects of the facts of, and said to be surrounding his previous convictions.”
The defence was making its application under section 100 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
Thompson went on to 2015, and the Met’s search of Proctor’s home under ‘Operation Midland’. He said that the prosecution had recently disclosed to the defence the schedule of items seized in the property search.
One of the allegations made by ‘Nick’ was that, Thompson told the court, “a victim was restrained on a table, tied to a table. One of the items here is, restraint, and another, straps.”
“Recovered a school uniform, with a child’s underwear… for a child of 13 to 14… blood stained… Harvey Proctor declined to give a blood sample.” Police had not arrested Proctor, so could only take a blood sample from him with his consent.
Thompson said: “This is someone who enjoys inflicting pain for sexual pleasure, which is one of the issues relating to him.”
The judge added that the list of seized items include “whip and the crop, restraints”.
Thompson said that seized items include whips, restraints and cane. He also referred to a “notepad relating to child abuse”, which was entitled, “Bizarre Sex”.
The defence had only seen a list of items recovered, and it wanted the judge to order the disclosure of, for example, this notepad.
Tony Badenoch, prosecuting counsel, intervened at this point to say that following the seizure by police of items in the property search, “All material was returned to Mr Proctor.” The prosecution could not disclose any of the material because the police no longer had it.
The judge added that the seized items included indecent photographs. He said that DC Danny Chatfield, who gave evidence earlier in the trial about ‘Operation Midland’ but not about this issue, formally seized the items on behalf of the Met and signed the appropriate form.
The judge added: “Perhaps we should have him tell us more about this.”
But Chatfield was not recalled.
Addressing Thompson, the judge said: “We are somewhat in the dark. You are in the dark, I am in the dark, and I’ve got to make a judgment.”
The judge summarised Thompson’s submissions on the list of seized items in these terms:
“The defence also want to question Mr Proctor about items on an ‘exhibit list’ referred to in a statement from DC Chatfield [DCJ] who was involved in the search of Mr Proctor’s home on 4th March 2015 and the descriptions of various items seized and since returned to him.
“Those items on the list about which they particularly wish to question him are (DCJ/21) a school uniform and children’s underwear (aged 13-14yrs) bloodstained, (DCJ/22) school blazer, (DCJ /23) schoolwear stained, (DCJ/24) whips/ruler with blood, (DCJ/25/3) whip/crop and (DCJ/26) restraint with leather straps.
"They submit that the possession of such items is ‘to do with the alleged facts of the offence with which the defendant is charged,’ and so judicial leave to cross examine upon such matters is not required. They argue that it is implicit in the Crown’s case that the defendant falsely accused Mr Proctor of sexually assaulting him and others in a way that involved the use of force and that the presence of such items at Mr Proctor’s home is capable of supporting the defendant’s case that he was someone with an interest in sadistic sex.”
Badenoch objected to the defence application, saying that there was a “real disconnect” between what Thompson was seeking to introduce and the charges against the defendant.
“They are a million miles away from what is alleged by Carl Beech.”
He told the court that the other matters, beyond the two complainants of 17 and 20, were not sufficiently serious for any prosecution to result.
The judge said that on those matters where Proctor had not pleaded guilty, “I am not concerned about.”
But the judge wondered out loud about the right approach in relation to the four offences to which Proctor had pleaded guilty, saying: “We have more details from these witness statements, so the issue is what facts around these circumstances have relevance.”
Badenoch insisted that they were a “million miles away” from the allegations in the trial.
The judge replied: “Well, there are differences, but there are- there is that nexus.”
He asked Badenoch for his response on the items found in the search.
Badenoch told the judge that he could see the author of the book in Chatfield’s statement. The indecent photographs “could be mild”, could be “perfectly legal”, the schedule did not specify. There was no prosecution, he said.
He repeated: “All the material was given back to him.”
In summarising Badenoch’s submissions to the court, the judge records:
“The prosecution submit that Mr Proctor’s convictions amount to no more than engaging in consensual sexual activity with two males who were then under the prevailing legal age of 21 (Witness 9 was aged 16/17 and Witness 12 was aged 20). They point to the surrounding circumstances of the accounts of Witnesses 9 and 12 not having been the subject of any criminal charge. In any event, they do not involve any allegation of unlawful, non-consensual violence, or sexual activity, rape or sexual activity involving young children. Moreover, it is to be noted that when objection was taken to any particular activity requested by Mr Procter, he accepted the witness’s wishes. The other allegations recorded during the 1986-1987 investigation (Witnesses 27, 7, 15 and 10) were not the subject of any criminal charge or conviction. They amount to unsubstantiated allegations.
“Further, the sole allegation of non-consensual sexual activity was with a young boy, Witness 15, who claimed to be 14 years old at the time of the alleged offence. However, that allegation resulted in no arrest, charge or conviction and the witness had provided an earlier statement in which he denied (by necessary implication) that he had ever met Harvey Proctor. It is, therefore, an unproven allegation from an unreliable witness, which is material to its weight.”
“The premises from which material was seized during the searches on 17 March 2015 were occupied by others, including a couple with a young child. All the property seized, including digital devices, was carefully examined. All the property was returned. Nothing illegal was recovered. No charges were brought.”
“The prosecution submit that the primary issue in the case is whether the defendant told the truth to the police when he made the detailed allegations of giving rise to the charges of perverting the course of justice. It follows that whether he told the truth in respect of his allegations against Mr Proctor is a matter of substantial importance in the context of the case as a whole. The allegations against Mr Proctor, in brief summary… are of multiple offences of rape, both oral and anal, on occasions jointly with other men, extreme physical violence, including torture and the threat of genital mutilation with a pen-knife, being part of a group responsible for killing one boy and himself murdering two boys, after having raped one of them.”
“The prosecution submit that the true ‘issue’, in the context of the defence application, is whether Mr Proctor has a propensity, as a member of a group, to (i) commit acts of serious unlawful violence against very young boys; (ii) commit acts of serious, non-consensual sexual assault against very young boys; (iii) murder; and (iv) rape. It is accepted that if there was reliable evidence in relation to these issues it would be of substantial importance in the context of the case as a whole.”
“However, they submit, there is no such evidence, let alone evidence which has a ‘substantial probative value’ in relation to those issues. Further, there is no probative evidence directed at the issues identified above at all. The prosecution led the evidence from Mr Proctor as to his four previous convictions by agreement and because they are relevant to the facts of the offences with which the defendant is accused, their case being that the defendant identified and deliberately chose Harvey Proctor as one his targets for false allegations because of his convictions in 1987 and the surrounding and resulting scandal, rumour and innuendo.
“They dispute that the ‘issues’ identified by the defendant are of substantial importance in the context of the case as a whole: they contend that whether or not Mr Proctor engaged male prostitutes, indulged in ‘corporal punishment’ schoolboy fantasies or was concerned to possess photographs of them, are not ‘issues’ of ‘substantial importance’ in the case.
“When focussing on the specific allegations made against Mr Proctor (and others) by the defendant, the ‘issues’ identified by the defendant are divorced from the true issues in the case, or are at the very least tangential to them. Further, they submit, the body of the evidence upon which the defendant asserts ‘goes to’ the issues identified lack the ‘substantial’ probative quality required for admission. Mr Proctor was convicted of four offences of gross indecency, for which he was fined. The body of evidence does not establish that he ever engaged in sexual activity with younger boys to the requisite standard, or at all.”
“The prosecution assert that the proposed cross-examination of Mr Proctor in relation to the 1987 material would inexorably lead to the litigation of ‘satellite’ issues in respect of which the Court of Appeal has repeatedly warned against, and the ‘kite-flying and innuendo against the character of a witness’ which the Court has observed section 100 of the 2003 Act was intended to guard against.”
“In relation to the evidence of items recovered from Mr Proctor’s property on 17 March 2015, the prosecution disputes that it/they has/have to do with the ‘alleged facts of the offence with which the defendant is charged’, and thereby escape the provisions of section 100 of the Act.
“They submit that if this category of evidence is capable of supporting the defendant’s case, it can only be so by way of being evidence of a propensity to act in the manner alleged, and so is ‘bad character’ evidence. The potentially relevant items were subjected to forensic scientific examination and yielded no results relevant to this case. All items were returned to Mr Proctor.
“In relation to evidence of a relevant propensity, the defence assert that the evidence is ‘capable of supporting [his] case that [Harvey Proctor] was someone with an interest in sadistic sex.’
“The prosecution say that this is not the defendant’s true case. At no stage has the defendant alleged sexual activity of the kind alleged in the offences of which Mr Proctor has been convicted. Alternatively, they submit, if it is the defendant’s case that Harvey Proctor ‘was someone with an interest in sadistic sex’, then this is not an issue of substantial probative value in the context of the case as a whole: the defendant’s case is that Mr Proctor is a violent rapist and murderer of young boys.”
The hearing started at 10.34am, and was adjourned exactly an hour later. The judge said as he adjourned that he would give his decision at midday.
At 12.01pm, the judge returned. He said: “I have re-read these witness statements and the application, its supplication by your submission made to me this morning.
“The application to cross-examine Harvey Proctor on the matter is refused, and the application to cross-examine about the items in paragraph 31 and the application to list the items seized and returned to Mr Proctor is also refused.”
In his written reasons, the judge said:
“For the reasons identified by the prosecution and summarised above, I am satisfied that the evidence the defence seek to introduce by way of cross-examination of Mr Proctor in relation to the search list is not evidence that has to do with the offences upon which is being tried [sic] nor, in any event, does any of it have substantial probative value in relation to a matter which is in issue in the proceedings and is of substantial importance in the context of the case as a whole.
“The issues in the case are those identified… [by the prosecution] above. The evidence of an interest in consensual sexual activity with young men, including the acting out of a fantasy of schoolboy punishment by a headmaster by beating is an interest and behaviour that is very far removed from the issues in this trial and has no substantial probative value in relation to any of them.
“The evidence of the witness in the 1987 case who alleged a non-consensual act was not pursued or adjudicated upon and the witness himself was demonstrably unreliable.”
“For these reasons the defence application is refused.”
Thompson then asked the judge whether he could cross-examine Proctor on his denials in relation to matters that later led to his guilty pleas.
The judge refused, saying that it was fraught with difficulty because Proctor’s denials would have depended on what questions had been asked of him exactly.
Thompson then cross-examined Proctor that afternoon, but was unable to raise any of these issues with him.
The defence team is understood to be seeking an appeal against Carl Beech’s convictions over this, and other, rulings by the trial judge, including his rejection of another disclosure application and his decision to allow the prosecution to tell the jury all about the defendant’s guilty pleas in January on five charges of downloading and possessing indecent images of children and one of voyeurism.
Mark Watts (@MarkWatts_1), co-ordinator of the FOIA Centre, is the former Editor-in-Chief of Exaro.
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