News of the World, 14th December 1975
The Times, 28th February 2015
by Janice Turner
At Stoke Mandeville, the abuser was allowed to operate because of a toxic mix of his fundraising power and Tory policy
The Jimmy Savile hospital reports read like a grotesque trilogy. Leeds General is Savile Begins — the sly, young abuser honing his style and modus operandi: buy the porters a TV, flatter the top brass, brazen it out with nurses and the rest. Broadmoor is Savile Unbound — free to roam, keys jangling, inviting famous mates to gawp at women’s ward bath time, making playthings of the mad, the forgotten, the unloved.
But Stoke Mandeville is the most complex story. It is, of course, still about sexual abuse: the 60 reported victims, almost half of them children, the horror put in cool officialese that here his fondness for groping patients beneath bedclothes probably evaded detection “as paralysed individuals would not have felt anything below . . . their spinal lesion.” But this is also about how politics and money gave him absolute power. Savile, the King. And it was Margaret Thatcher who crowned him.
If “Name the NHS’s first public-private partnership” comes up in a pub quiz, here’s your answer. Although famously the birthplace of the Paralympic movement, Stoke Mandeville was a hospital village of wooden huts in rambling grounds when, in 1979, the roof of the acclaimed National Spinal Injuries Centre (NSIC) collapsed. Since the new Tory government was set on sweeping cuts, its future was grim.
Now Savile, already a prolific abuser in his guise of unpaid porter and resident celebrity, saw his chance. He offered to raise £10 million to rebuild the unit under his personal charitable trust. The Tories were excited by his financial model, saw this harnessing of private fund-raising as the NHS’s future. In a reckless act of political expediency they ceded this eccentric, with his sweaty nylon tracksuits and tendency to kiss right up women’s bare arms, total control. As Dr Androulla Johnstone’s report says, the same “it’s just Jimmy” exceptionalism that made people shrug off Savile’s bizarre acts also freed him from conventional restraints. Shackle this maverick with bureaucracy, civil servants feared, and he might “disengage”.
So Jimmy was free to choose the architect, select a more grandiose scheme, with a higher upkeep, than was required. But the government wasn’t concerned because Savile pledged also to fund the additional running costs. Millions were donated by a generous public. But how this was spent — ultimately whether Stoke Mandeville lived or died — was put solely in Jimmy Savile’s hands.
Since “his” charity had paid for it, he believed he owned the NSIC, could shape it to his whims. He insisted on thick lobby carpet though it was hell for wheelchair users, demanded pimp flourishes such as zebra-striped ward curtains, had hospital crews service his Rolls, the canteen named “Jimmy’s” and his own vast office have a gold letterbox and flip-down bed. “I’ll withdraw all the trust’s funds,” he threatened.
Once you understand that Savile was not merely a major donor or Mrs T’s well-connected New Year’s Eve party pal but a despot who could summon the hospital’s general manager to his office, making him wait while, feet on desk, he finished his call to the Duchess of York, his criminal impunity is not hard to fathom. Ministers did not know about Savile’s abuse — though were disgusted enough by his crudeness and promiscuity to withhold a knighthood, until Mrs Thatcher interceded — but placed him, as the report says, “outside the regulatory processes designed to prevent such abuses of power”.
But what does it mean to “know” anyway? Reading this report I am reminded of Gitta Sereny’s book about Hitler’s architect: “I think,” she quotes Albert Speer as saying, “that we saw only what we wanted to see and knew only what we wanted to know.” The Nazi wives who summered at the Obersalzberg with the Führer, whose husbands kissed them fresh from some Eastern Front atrocity or Final Solution conflab, did they “know”? Or did they merely not think too hard?
Certainly, on some level, the nurses knew: they detested Savile, fled when he passed by, told little girls to pretend to be asleep, sometimes physically kept him at bay. His bedroom was in the nurses’ quarters. A memo circulated warning new recruits to lock their doors. One occupational therapy tutor recalls tearful teenage students lingering in class on a Friday night because they couldn’t bear to face him. The tutor’s concerns to management were slapped down with a reprimand.
“Victim 21”, whose father made the only official complaint, was told by a Sister Cherry “that Savile would not do such a dreadful thing and that he raised a great deal of money for the hospital”. Spinal patients he abused kept silent for fear he’d kick them out of the NSIC, which was saving their lives.
And what of Savile’s secretary, Janet Cope? She is all over the Stoke Mandeville report: one victim claims she walked in on his abuse, another to have written her an unanswered letter. But after 32 years at his side, Mrs Cope says she saw, heard, knew nothing.
Savile’s abuse at Stoke Mandeville ended in 1992 around the time his absolute power was seized back by the newly created Buckinghamshire NHS hospital trust. Later, having raised money for the children’s ward, he demanded an access-all-areas swipe card as reward. It was denied. Next time the BBC or NHS are damned as dark enclaves of the Stalinist state, too huge and sclerotic to address his crimes, remember that at Stoke Mandeville Jimmy Savile was privatisation’s paedophile prince.
Unpublished letter to the editor of the Times, by Peter McKelvie:
News of the World, 17th August 1975
See also Don Hale’s recent Mirror article, which alleges that former Home Secretary Leon Brittan “ran Special Branch as his own personal ‘Gestapo’, who monitored fellow MPs.”
A recent Mail on Sunday article by Paul Cahalan and Peter Henn alleged that former Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw ordered police to drop an investigation into a VIP paedophile ring. The full article can be found here
The article mentions an Evening News story by Jeff Edwards, which is reproduced below.
Evening News (London), 7th July 1980
TOP PEOPLE NAMED IN BOYS-FOR-SEX INQUIRY [Evening News (London), 7th July 1980]
A network of homosexuals preying on schoolboys has been smashed by a special London police squad.
Detectives working from an HQ in the East End have spent almost a year on the inquiry.
Now a dozen men may face trial for a catalogue of serious sex offences including indecent assault and procuring under-age boys.
Police believe that at least one of the men has been involved in obtaining young boys for famous people, including politicians, prominent lawyers, show-business and film stars.
The youngest victim was six years old. Police say the majority of others were only 12 or 13 when the alleged offences were committed.
The investigation covers a three-year period.
Almost 40 youngsters have now made statements to the six man squad based at Arbour Square police station in Stepney and allegations of more than 350 offences, or attempted offences, including buggery, are being considered by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Police say they have found a link between homosexuals in London and Liverpool.
Many of the youngsters recruited on Merseyside were said to be retarded children from schools for the educationally sub-normal.
London detectives have spent three weeks in the north interviewing victims where 12 youngsters have now made allegations.
In some instances they have been told of boys being tied face down by their wrists and ankles to beds, stripped and assaulted.
The investigation began after detectives became suspicious about activities at an East End cafe.
They kept watch and noted a number of young boys visiting. Shortly after the first arrests were made.
One detective said: “From then on the investigation snowballed into an enormous inquiry.
“We are convinced that many other youngsters may have been dragged into the vice network but have been too afraid or ashamed to tell us.”
Strange Days (published with many thanks to the author who wishes to remain anonymous)
As we await publication of the Wanless/Whittam review, here are some brief sentences on the strange atmosphere that allowed groups calling for the decriminalization of paedophilia to lobby and infiltrate the Home Office.
It was an era of turbulence and change. Things now illegal had yet to be so defined; and things then illegal had not yet been repealed. Laws and ideas relating to sex were bitterly fought over. Many paedophiles felt emboldened in such an atmosphere and thought their moment had come.
Their lobby, presented as part of broader liberation movements, was said to stand for modernity and common sense. This actually convinced some people. One editor of Gay News claimed that: “We were fighting against a lot of outmoded laws, and perhaps the ones against paedophilia were as outmoded as those against homosexuality or cannabis.”
The Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), which existed from 1974-84, was the most notorious member of the lobby. It existed and operated openly. Most of its members maintained their anonymity, but others chose not to. In some circles members were very open indeed.
PIE members gained and held positions at legitimate, mainstream pressure groups like the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE). But PIE operated much more widely. Members associated, formally and informally, with a whole range of influential people from a bewildering array of pressure groups and community organisations, both large and small. Some maintained relationships with MPs and Civil Servants.
The Home Office seemingly lacked the will to combat these trends and, consequently, necessary legislative change was resisted. The mess in relation to child protection was summed up by The Times in February 1978: ‘At present police have difficulty in gaining a conviction under the Sexual Offences Act 1956, because there must be evidence of assault on a child. The Indecency with Children Act, 1960, is concerned only with those under the age of 14 and its wording is not clear. The Obscene Publications Act, 1959, has been described as the most useless legislation on the statute book.’
This confusion allowed for an open trade in ‘kiddyporn’. One shopkeeper, who argued that giving paedophiles access to such material prevented them from “going out after the real thing”, nevertheless had ‘no idea whether the magazines he sells will be judged indecent by police, who he says are as bewildered by the present law as he is.’
Cyril Townsend, a backbench Conservative MP, asked the Home Office to act. In response, he claimed, it said: “that the problem did not exist, then that it had all been exaggerated, and finally that it was impossible to do anything about it.”
Townsend sought to tackle child pornography by sponsoring a Private Members’ Bill that eventually became the Protection of Children Act 1978. He became a PIE hate figure in the process. He lamented the need for private action and said this was only necessary because the Home Office itself was unwilling to propose its own legislation: “MPs of all parties have expressed their support, and I do not think that I will have difficulty getting the required number of MPs in the House… The only people who are not giving me their support are the Home Office and their lawyers. I find their attitude extraordinary.”
A Times leader column, in discussing the Bill, demonstrated the liberal confusion of the day: ‘It is right that severe penalties should be readily available against those who exploit children in a detestable trade. It is more questionable whether they should fall on the addicts as well as the pushers – on the furtive swapping of pictures as well as their commercial promotion. At an earlier stage in the drafting of the Bill it was even intended to make even possession [sic] an offence, on the grounds that even that might make the owner dangerous to children. That would have been wrong, and might have resulted in blackmail.’
Another example comes from the Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship (otherwise known as the Williams Committee), which reported in November 1979 and took a relaxed, relativist line on pornography: ‘Given the amount of explicit sexual material in circulation and the allegations often made about its effects, it is striking that one can find case after case of sex crimes and murder without any hint at all that pornography was present in the background.’
The paedophile lobby was a lobby of ideas. It sought to change minds. The law, it believed, would then follow. The minds it sought above all were those within the Home Office.
A Home Office paper from 1979 (‘Sexual Offences, Consent and Sentencing’) suggested a lowering of the age of consent to 14 and that punishments be reduced for ‘consensual’ sex with girls of even younger ages. It said: “Paradoxical though it might seem to argue that [the point at which tougher sentences are applied] should be lower than the average age of puberty it is not unreasonable. The average age is 13, but it is not unusual for a girl to reach puberty before her 10th birthday or after her 16th. Thus a large number of 12-year-old girls have already attained puberty and may not only be willing to take part in sexual activity but may actually initiate it.”
Tom O’Carroll, former PIE Chairman, has written of this Home Office paper: ‘It took the recognition of “under-age” consent seriously, using the term “partners” rather than “victims”. He added that: ‘Also – and this will raise eyebrows but I said it way back in 1980 in my book Paedophilia the Radical Case – we had it on reliable authority that [Roy] Jenkins [Home Secretary] personally read PIE’s evidence to the Home Office Criminal Law Revision Committee on the age of consent and that our proposals for law reform caught his imagination.’
Other groups shared key parts of PIE’s agenda, but also had broader concerns and were thus less obviously objectionable. The Sexual Law Reform Society (SLRS), for example, grew out of the genuine need to reform laws relating to homosexuality and had several establishment figures on its executive committee, including parliamentarians, intellectuals, and a clergyman.
Nevertheless, Dr John Robinson, Chair of the SLRS and Dean of Trinity College, Cambridge, openly lectured on the ‘effect of sexual experience on children’. He quoted and described as “wise” the words of an anonymous former probation officer: “Harm results much more from the tension between an individual’s experience and that of his reference group than from the experience in itself. Some research on childhood ‘victim’ of sexual offences would appear to bear this out in that it is the subsequent parental horror, police investigation, etc., which are significantly more disturbing than the offence.”
Robinson later said: “On the age of consent it’s quite clear the law is largely an ass. There is a vast amount of illegal sexual activity going on where ultimately no one is being exploited or damaged or abused… Theoretically it would be much better not to have any age of consent at all, but to settle the matter according to any particular case – according to whether a person really is being abused or exploited.”
Groups with establishment credentials like the NCCL and SLRS were able to feed ideas in this area directly to the Criminal Law Revision Committee (CLRC) at the Home Office. But other groups, PIE included, did so too, both to the CLRC and elsewhere. One official submission, by the Gay Activists Alliance, actually signed off by declaring: ‘Gay love and paedophile kisses, or paedophile love and gay kisses to the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, from the London Gay Activists Alliance.’
The Home Office knew of all these groups and their overlapping personnel and agendas. Indeed, an official PIE submission to the CLRC had been made as early as 1975. When powerful figures were involved, as they were, the Home Office would have surely desired knowledge of their activities and intentions, just as PIE and its allies desired knowledge of Home Office activities and intentions. We can say that PIE and others sought to control and influence the Home Office. Might the reverse have also been true?
i ‘Home Truths’ by Christian Wolmar, Independent on Sunday, 8 October 2000
ii ‘Fears over children lured into pornography’ by Penny Symon, The Times, 9 February 1978
iii ‘Profiting in kiddyporn’ by George Brock, The Observer, 12 February 1978
iv ‘Fears over children lured into pornography’ by Penny Symon, The Times, 9 February 1978
v ‘Home Office criticized on child pornography’ by Penny Symon, The Times, 4 February 1978
vi ‘The Need to Protect Children’, The Times, 10 February 1978
vii Obituary: Professor Sir Bernard Williams, The Daily Telegraph, 14 June 2003
viii ‘Whitehall study wanted age of consent lowered to 14’, by Robert Booth, The Guardian, 8 July 2014
ix Tom O’Carroll blog post (26 February 2014: accessed 10 November 2014)
x ‘Sex and the law’ by the Rt. Rev. John Robinson, The Guardian, 6 July 1972
xi ‘Rights and wrongs’ by Michael De-la-Noy, The Guardian, 5 September 1974
xii Gay Activists Alliance submission to the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, April 1979
The Mirror, 19th July 2014 And today we can also reveal disgraced former Tory MP Harvey Proctor has been named by witnesses in connection with sex parties and faces being questioned by a Government inquiry…At least two alleged witnesses have also named former Tory MP Proctor, 67, as being at parties in statements for the inquiry…. A source close to the inquiry told the Sunday Mirror: “Proctor’s name has repeatedly been mentioned by at least two alleged victims. He is going to be of key interest.”…Approached for comment last week, Proctor, former MP for Basildon and Billericay, said he was unable to comment because of a gagging agreement he claims to have signed years ago. Full article
Could the ‘gagging agreement’ be linked to Proctor’s late decision to plead guilty in 1987, thus preventing further embarrassing details being made public?
Why were the Conservatives so reluctant to deselect or expel Proctor from the party despite the huge amount of negative publicity he was generating in an election year?
And why, following Proctor’s conviction, did a number of high-profile Tories, including former Deputy PM Michael Heseltine, invest over £100,000 of their own money in Cottonrose Ltd., his loss-making shirt shop business?
The People, 15th June 1986
Daily Express, 17th June 1986
The People, 5th October 1986
The People, 28th October 1986
The People, 2nd November 1986
Sunday Times, 2nd November 1986
It was also at York University that Proctor became friends with Denby, who succeeded him as chairman of the student’s Conservative association. Before Denby became embroiled in police investigations earlier this year he was one of London’s leading shipping lawyers.Denby was hired by Proctor, despite not being a specialist in libel law, to represent him in a libel action against the BBC Panorama programme, Maggie’s Militant Tendency, which linked the MP with extremist organisations. Panorama drew on a leaked, draft report, compiled by the Young Conservatives.
However, Proctor, unlike his fellow MPs Neil Hamilton and Gerald Howarth, withdrew the action without obtaining an apology, costs or damages. He asked for no publicity about the decision.
Proctor has stirred up controversy on education, immigration and race relations. He has said local authorities should suspend grants to students who lacked self-discipline. He has called for non-academic sections of universities to be sold to private enterprise.
After he was first elected as an MP, for Basildon in 1979, his first big move was a motion calling for an immediate end to immigration from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan. Proctor went on to suggest that the Commission for Racial Equality be disbanded and that 50,000 immigrants should be repatriated each year.
He was one of seven Tory MPs who rebelled against legislation allowing parents to exempt children from corporal punishment and was behind a campaign to save the golliwog.
The first public suggestion that Proctor was a homosexual was in 1981 when a friend, Terry Woods, named him in court. Woods said he had lived with Proctor for several years. However, Proctor ‘repudiated’ Woods’ comments ‘as far as they concern me’.
With police inquiring into the latest and most potentially damaging allegations against him, even the widely held belief that he has been a good constituency MP in the mainly white middle-class constituency may not be enough to remove the question mark over his political future.
News of the World, 1st March 1987
News of the World, 19th April 1987
PETER Jonathan Denby, the fugitive London solicitor hunted by police for nearly a year, was arrested yesterday after detectives, acting on a tip-off from the BBC programme Crimewatch, staged a dawn raid on a home in Yorkshire.
Denby, a former aide to Enoch Powell and friend of controversial Tory MP Harvey Proctor, was picked up in the town of Richmond, where he had been living under an alias. The 38-year-old solicitor, the nephew of a former president of the Law Society, has been on the run since last June.
Later, Denby became private secretary to Enoch Powell in the early 1970s and developed a life-long interest in the Loyalist cause.He then went into practice as one of London’s top legal experts in the specialist area of shipping law, but quickly ran into severe financial problems.
His former partners in the firm of Lloyd Denby Neal are suing him for more than pounds 250,000 after dissolving the partnership.
News of the World, 17th May 1987
Daily Mail, 21st May 1987
A TORY minister had his nose broken when he went to the aid of a former MP who was being attacked by two men, a court was told yesterday.
In July last year, Neil Hamilton, a trade minister, and his wife, Christine, were visiting a shirt shop in Richmond, southwest London, owned by Harvey Proctor, who resigned as MP for Billericay in 1987 after being involved in a sex scandal. Isleworth Crown Court, west London, was told that James Coomber and David Parker entered the shop and became abusive, asking Mr Proctor: “Have you any ties for tying up rent boys before you spank them?”
As Mr Proctor tried to usher them out, they began throwing punches. Mr Proctor was punched in the face and had his little finger broken. When Mr Hamilton tried to come to Mr Proctor’s aid he was punched in the face three times and knocked to the ground. He needed surgery for a broken nose.
Brendan Finucane, for the prosecution, said: “Mr Proctor was once a Conservative MP who had rather a coloured life relating to his sexual proclivities and the remarks put to him in this case made it abundantly clear what those were.”
Mr Proctor told the court that he was accustomed to abuse over his homosexuality. “It is all water off a duck’s back,” he said. “We were waiting for them to blow themselves out of abuse and to go away.”
Mr Coomber, 20, denies causing Mr Hamilton grievous or actual bodily harm, and affray threatening violence. Mr Parker, 21, of East Sheen, admitted causing Mr Proctor actual bodily harm on the same occasion and was remanded on bail for reports.
The trial continues today.
This Independent article from Sunday 30th October 1994 is also worth a read:
SENIOR Tory politicians including Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, and Lord Archer have invested more than pounds 100,000 in a loss-making shirt shop owned by the disgraced former Tory MP, Harvey Proctor, perusal of the register of members’ interests reveals to the curious inquirer.
The register discloses the fascinating fact that no fewer than 11 current MPs have shareholdings in a little-known clothes retailer, Cottonrose Ltd.
This turns out to be the company behind a quaint shirt shop nestling in a Georgian alley in Richmond upon Thames, one of London’s most elegant suburbs.
Its name is Proctor’s, and inside, among the bright cotton shirts, silk ties and gaudy waistcoats, is one of the more colourful figures of the Tory party’s recent past, Harvey Proctor, who was forced to resign as MP for Billericay in 1987 after being fined pounds 1,450 for acts of gross indecency; he was involved in homosexual spanking sessions with young male prostitutes.
Mr Proctor turned from politics to hosiery and opened his shop in Brewers Lane, off Richmond Green, in 1988 with a pounds 2,000 grant from the Government’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme, and a little help from his friends: a start-up fund of pounds 75,000 was organised by Tristan Garel-Jones MP, the former Tory deputy chief whip and one of the party’s best-known fixers.
Lots of former chums chipped in. Besides multimillionaires such as Lord Archer and Mr Heseltine, they included the present Paymaster-General, David Heathcote-Amory; Mark Lennox-Boyd, a former junior Foreign Office minister; and MPs Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster), Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) and David Evans (Welwyn Hatfield).
Several MPs who, like Mr Proctor, have suffered public reverses to their political careers also coughed up at least pounds 5,000 each. They included Neil Hamilton, forced to resign as Northern Ireland minister last week after allegations that he was rewarded by Mohamed Al Fayed, owner of Harrods, for helping in his battle with Tiny Rowland; Tim Yeo, the former Environment minister who was forced to resign after news broke of his adultery with Julia Stent, a Hackney Labour councillor, who bore his child; Michael Brown, who resigned as a Tory whip last May after a tabloid newspaper reported his homosexual affairs with a youth and a Ministry of Defence civil servant; and David Ashby, who suffered unwelcome publicity after admitting sleeping with a man but denying having sexual relations with him.
Then there were former MPs who, like Mr Proctor, have lost their seats: they include Sir Neil Thorne, William Benyon and Sir Charles Morrisson. All invested in Cottonrose. All have not done well. For business has not gone smoothly with the company: in the four years to March 1992 it made losses totalling pounds 109,421. Last year Mr Proctor failed to submit accounts for 1993, in breach of the Companies Act.
Asked about it yesterday, amid the gold cufflinks and Tino Cosma accessories, the silks and the satins, Mr Proctor’s response was more of the sackcloth variety. ‘I don’t talk to lying newspapers,’ he said. ‘That is my quote. If you don’t leave my shop I shall call the police.’
Mr Proctor, who invested pounds 20,000 of his own money, opened in a fanfare of publicity. He opened a second shop in Knightsbridge and, for a while, appeared to have a success on his hands. He was elected to the local chamber of commerce. John Major ditched his Marks & Spencer shirts in favour of Mr Proctor’s more elegant wares.
But from the outset the project was a flop. In its first financial year to March 1989 it lost pounds 5,311. Further cash injections were put into the firm by the Tory MPs and other investors in 1990 and 1991. A share issue in 1990 produced an extra pounds 14,000.
In 1991 the investors ploughed in another pounds 10,000. MP Neil Hamilton’s wife, Christine, bought pounds 500-worth of shares. The extra cash injections were to no avail. Losses in 1990, the second trading year, totalled pounds 26,547; in 1991 they climbed to pounds 46,066; and accounts for 1992 showed a loss of pounds 31,497. The position since is not known: Mr Proctor has yet to file accounts for 1993. Under Section 240 of the Companies Act he is obliged to file them within 10 months of the end of the financial year. They should have been lodged at Companies House by last January.
Last night MPs had resigned themselves to losing their investment. Sir Nicholas Bonsor said he feared he would not see his pounds 5,000 again. ‘It was suggested we ought to rally round because he was clearly in great difficulty. We did make an effort at one stage; I had a meeting with other MPs and Harvey Proctor and, I think it was, his brother who was working in it with him. But then it looked as if it wasn’t going to work so I think from that stage we wrote the investment off.’
Mr Heathcote-Amory said: ‘Well, if I got the money back I’d be pleased – I’d rather written it off actually. It (the investment) was a gesture to help him (Mr Proctor). I felt a bit sorry for him. I haven’t seen any accounts for a bit. That is not a complaint, but I’d rather lost interest in the thing. I think I’m braced to lose my equity.’
At least five of the Tory investors are MPs who have also suffered heavy losses on Lloyd’s insurance syndicates.
Mr Heseltine’s personal assistant declined to comment on the losses and Mr Proctor’s failure to lodge accounts, saying only: ‘The President of the Board of Trade would expect this company to be dealt with in the same way as any other. Mr Heseltine is not available at the moment.’
Sunday Express, 30th July 2000