Barrister calls for child abuse inquiry to clear former MP of ‘heinous allegations’

Former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor must be cleared by a public inquiry of “heinous allegations” of involvement in historical child sex abuse at Westminster, his barrister has said.

Adam Wagner, representing Mr Proctor (pictured) at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA), also said there should be a further investigation into how high-level figures were drawn into the scandal.

Mr Wagner urged the inquiry to consider recommending that anonymity should be given to all historical child abuse suspects before arrest or charge.

There should also be no “automatic belief” of complainants as this can lead to errors such as were made in Mr Proctor’s case, he suggested.

He was speaking at the end of the IICSA’s strand of investigation of historical child sexual abuse at Westminster.

In his closing submission, Mr Wagner said: “The inquiry must, for both principled and practical reasons, carry out a further investigation into the treatment of Harvey Proctor and other people of public prominence by the Metropolitan Police in Operation Midland – a Westminster Investigation Part 2.”

He said Mr Proctor has endured false allegations including that he tortured and even killed small boys as part of a Westminster paedophile network.

Operation Midland, a £2.5 million investigation which looked at accusations of a child sex abuse ring in Westminster, closed without a single arrest.

Mr Proctor, who was a Conservative MP in Essex from 1979 until 1987 – was cleared and received an apology in 2016 from the then Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.

Mr Wagner, suggested the panel had a “moral duty” to “clearly exonerate” him in response to evidence it has heard during its central London hearings which backs his innocence.

He added that there was “no such thing” as a Westminster paedophile network and as such there was no cover up of it.

He claimed Mr Proctor had “suffered grave reputational and grievous material damage” plus personal pain in the moral panic which grew after Jimmy Saville’s crimes came to light.

Mr Wagner told the hearing: “It is an uncomfortable truth for this inquiry that the public and political outcry which led to it being established involved senior politicians, the Metropolitan Police and certain journalists, including the now defunct Exaro news agency, giving credence to malicious and false allegations. They all at times behaved irresponsibly and, in the case of senior police officers, negligently.

“The allegations were so incredible that any reasonable person would at the least have treated them with extreme caution. Instead, a small group of self-promoting politicians, including Zac Goldsmith, John Mann, Simon Danczuk and Tom Watson, amplified the allegations and used their considerable political clout to give them status and believeability.”

He also suggested that Mr Watson became “a vehicle for conspiracy theorists and a patsy for fake news”.

As he mentioned the Elm Guest House in south west London, which has been associated with allegations of child abuse since the 1980s, a heckler shouted: “How would you know? We were there. Why don’t you listen to us? We don’t even have a voice. We have been struck down straight away.”

Former Liberal leader Lord Steel was suspended from the Liberal Democrats over remarks he made to the inquiry this month about the late Rochdale MP Sir Cyril Smith.

The inquiry heard that no formal inquiry was held by the party into child sex abuse claims against Smith, which were investigated by the police in the 1960s but no prosecution was brought.

A Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesman has said an investigation would take place.

Richard Scorer, who is representing some victims at the inquiry, told the panel that his clients wanted to express their “anger and disgust not only at Lord Steel’s attitude, but at the failure of the Liberal Democrats to truly acknowledge the party’s failings”.

In his inquiry evidence, Lord Steel said he asked Smith in 1979 about claims he abused boys at a Rochdale hostel and found they dated back to Smith’s time as a Labour councillor in the 1960s.

Lord Steel said he came away from the conversation “assuming” that Smith had committed the offences as he had not denied them.

Mr Scorer branded Lord Steel’s inaction as “completely unacceptable and unconscionable” and suggested it may have permitted Smith to commit further abuse.

He added: “These hearings have uncovered real and compelling evidence of men evading justice because of their power and social status.

“There has been evidence of cover up, of favourable treatment and of deals being done.

“The evidence has demonstrated a real culture of deference to people of public prominence and a failure of political parties to even grasp the basic elements of safeguarding.

“Political parties and state bodies have failed to treat the welfare and safeguarding of children as a factor to be considered.”

Samantha Leek QC, for the Metropolitan Police, says any suggestion that the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) or the police “whitewashed” allegations is “wholly without evidential foundation and plainly wrong”.

The (IOPC) said it would seek to determine whether any investigation should be reopened or new investigations started in response to any new evidence or allegations from the hearings.

The inquiry is aiming to publish its report next year.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Pictured (c) Jonathan Brady / PA Wire.