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 web editor of the New Statesman.

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.