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News Round-Up Week Ending 9.10.15

(Posted on 09/10/15)


VIP Paedophile Ring a Hoax?

BBC1’s Panorama this week looked into the strength of the evidence that launched Operation Midland, the Metropolitan Police investigation into historical child sex abuse and murder, which centres on allegations made by ‘Nick’.

“What we've found while we've been making this Panorama is a concern that all those big institutions - the police, press and politicians - are so determined to atone for the sins of the past that they're in danger of inventing whole new categories of mistakes,” the press release stated. “The motivation may be good, but the outcome can be awful.”

‘David’ spoke to Panorama about the so-called Westminster paedophile ring, said to have murdered three boys in the 70s and 80s. He said he had provided the names of VIPs, including former home secretary Leon Brittan,  “as a joke suggestion to start with”, but that he later repeated them. Leon Brittan died earlier this year unaware that the Met had already dismissed allegations against him.

In an unprecedented statement released before the programme was transmitted, the Met said it had serious concerns about the impact on Operation Midland, and any effect it may have on witnesses and the willingness of victims to come forward.

“We have warned previously about the risks of media investigations compromising a criminal investigation,” the force’s statement read. “When we initially launched our Operation Midland appeal, we specifically highlighted how a media organisation - the BBC in fact - had shown pictures of individuals to 'Nick' which could compromise the evidential chain should a case ever proceed to court.”

CCRC refers Ched Evans to Court of Appeal

The Criminal Cases Review Commission this week referred former footballer Ched Evans’ 2012 rape conviction to the Court of Appeal. An earlier application to appeal was refused in November 2012.

The CCRC statement reads: “Following an in-depth, ten-month-long investigation, the Commission has decided to refer the case to the Court of Appeal. The referral is made on the basis of new information which was not raised at trial, and which in the view of the Commission, could have added support to Mr Evans’s defence at trial and therefore raises a real possibility that the Court of Appeal may now quash the conviction. It will now be for the Court to hear a fresh appeal to decide the case.

“The Commission is very aware of the potential impact that its work can have in relation to victims of the crimes for which CCRC applicants are convicted. In any case where there is a high level of media interest, and/or where a referral is made, the Commission is at pains to keep the victim informed about the progress at key point in the CCRC process.”

European Court Weakens UK Ban on Prisoners Voting

Casting doubt over Britain’s blanket ban on prisoners voting, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that the vote may indeed be stripped from inmates who have been convicted of “serious” crimes with long sentences.

Legal experts have warned that criminals serving short sentences are likely to launch legal actions in an attempt to win the ballot.

David Cameron, who has previously said he feels physically sick at the idea of prisoner voting, responded: “I'm very clear, prisoners shouldn't get the vote, and it is matter for the British Parliament.”

Three Cheers for Michael Gove!

Martin Kettle described the Justice Secretary as a ‘true reformer’ in the Guardian this week, following Gove’s speech at the Tory Conference.

“Michael Gove, ignoring the usual conference targets like the European court of human rights, instead devoted almost his entire speech to a critique of the enduring preoccupation with imprisonment. The prison system fails to rehabilitate and reform, he said. It inflicts ‘pointless enforced idleness’. 

“Prisoners should not be forced to be ‘forever defined’ by their mistakes. And best criminal justice policies, he said, were ‘good welfare, social work and child protection’. The failure of imprisonment was ‘the biggest failure of all’ in the criminal justice system, he concluded. We have come a long way from Michael Howard’s 1993 boast that ‘prison works’.

“There is no disputing that the kind of approach that Gove outlined this week remains a world away from current realities. But it would simply be dishonest to pretend that this isn’t a change all the same. To state so boldly that prisons have failed makes this the most reformist speech by a senior Tory minister – and possibly by any minister – on penal policy for decades.”