Lord McAlpine denies child sex abuse allegations

The full statement from the Tory peer.

The Guardian ran a story yesterday suggesting that Lord McAlpine, the Tory figure at the centre of sex abuse allegations, has been a victim of a case of mistaken identity. He has released the following statement clarifying his position:

Over the last several days it has become apparent to me that a number of ill- or uninformed commentators have been using blogs and other internet media outlets to accuse me of being the senior Conservative Party figure from the days of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership who is guilty of sexually abusing young residents of a children’s home in Wrexham, North Wales in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
It has additionally become apparent to me that a number of broadcasters and newspapers have, without expressly naming me, also been alleging that a senior Conservative Party figure from that time was guilty of or suspected of being guilty of the sexual abuse of residents of this children’s home.

It is obvious that there must be a substantial number of people who saw that I had been identified in the internet publications as this guilty man and who subsequently saw or heard the broadcasts or read the newspapers in question and reasonably inferred that the allegation of guilt in those broadcasts and newspapers attached to me.

Even though these allegations made of me by implication in the broadcast and print media, and made directly about me on the internet, are wholly false and seriously defamatory I can no longer expect the broadcast and print media to maintain their policy of defaming me only by innuendo. There is a media frenzy and I have to expect that an editor will soon come under pressure to risk naming me. My name and the allegations are for all practical purposes linked and in the public domain and I cannot rewind the clock.

I therefore have decided that in order to mitigate, if only to some small extent, the damage to my reputation I must publicly tackle these slurs and set the record straight. In doing so I am by no means giving up my right to sue those who have defamed me in the recent past or who may do so in the future and I expressly reserve my rights to take all such steps as I and my solicitors consider necessary to protect my interests.

On Tuesday, 6 November the Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, made a statement in the House of Commons about the historic allegations of child abuse in the North Wales police force area. She explained that in 1991, North Wales Police conducted an investigation into allegations that, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, children in homes that were managed and supervised by Clwyd County Council were sexually and physically abused. The result of the police investigation was eight prosecutions and seven convictions of former care workers. Despite the investigation and convictions, it was widely believed, she said, that the abuse was in fact on a far greater scale, but a report produced by Clwyd Council’s own inquiry was never published, because so much of its content was considered by lawyers to be defamatory.

In 1996, the Rt Hon William Hague MP, the then Secretary of State for Wales, invited Sir Ronald Waterhouse to lead an inquiry into the abuse of children in care in the Gwynedd and Clwyd Council areas. Mrs May told the House of Commons that the Waterhouse inquiry sat for 203 days and heard evidence from more than 650 people. Statements made to the inquiry named more than 80 people as child abusers, many of whom were care workers or teachers. In 2000, the inquiry’s report “Lost in Care” made 72 recommendations for changes to the way in which children in care were protected by councils, social services and the police. Following the report’s publications, 140 compensation claims were settled on behalf of the victims.

Mrs May further said that the report found no evidence of a paedophile ring beyond the care system, which was the basis of the rumours that followed the original police investigation and, indeed, one of the allegations made in the past week. Last Friday, a victim of sexual abuse at one of the homes named in the report—Mr Steve Messham—alleged that the inquiry did not look at abuse outside care homes, and he renewed allegations against the police and several individuals. I am, as is now well known to readers of the internet and to journalists working for the print and broadcast media, one of the individuals implicated by Mr Messham.

I have every sympathy for Mr Messham and for the many other young people who were sexually abused when they were residents of the children’s home in Wrexham. Any abuse of children is abhorrent but the sexual abuse to which these vulnerable children were subjected in the 1970’s and 1980’s is particularly abhorrent. They had every right to expect to be protected and cared for by those who were responsible for them and it is abundantly clear that they were horribly violated. I have absolutely no sympathy for the adults who committed these crimes. Those who have been convicted were deservedly punished and those who have not yet been brought to justice should be as soon as possible.

The facts are, however, that I have been to Wrexham only once. I visited the local Constituency Conservative Association in my capacity as Deputy Chairman. I was accompanied on this trip, at all times, by Stuart Newman, a Central Office Agent. We visited Mary Bell, a distant relative of mine and close friend of Stuart Newman. We did not stay the night in Wrexham. I have never been to the children’s home in Wrexham, nor have I ever visited any children’s home, reform school or any other institution of a similar nature. I have never stayed in a hotel in or near Wrexham, I did not own a Rolls Royce, have never had a “Gold card” or “Harrods card” and never wear aftershave, all of which have been alleged. I did not sexually abuse Mr Messham or any other residents of the children’s home in Wrexham. Stuart Newman is now dead but my solicitors are endeavouring to locate a senior secretary who worked at Central Office at the time to see if she can remember the precise date I visited that Association.

I fully support the decision (announced by the Home Secretary in the House of Commons on Tuesday) of the Chief Constable of North Wales, Mr Mark Polin, to invite Mr Keith Bristow, the Director General of the National Crime Agency, to assess the allegations recently received, to review the historic police investigations and to investigate any fresh allegations reported to the police into the alleged historic abuse in north Wales care homes. Although I live in Italy and have done so for many years and although I am in poor health, I am entirely willing to meet Mr Polin and Mr Bristow in London as soon as can be arranged so that they can eliminate me from their inquiries and so that any unwarranted suspicion can be removed from me.

I wish to make it clear that I do not suggest that Mr Messham is malicious in making the allegations of sexual abuse about me. He is referring to a terrible period of his life in the 1970’s or 1980’s and what happened to him will have affected him ever since. If he does think I am the man who abused him all those years ago I can only suggest that he is mistaken and that he has identified the wrong person.

I conclude by reminding those who have defamed me or who intend to do so that in making this statement I am by no means giving up my right to seek redress at law and repeat that I expressly reserve my rights to take all such steps as I and my solicitors consider necessary to protect my interests.

McAlpine of West Green
8 November 2012

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman.

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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.