Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Matthew Parris: On Public Prosecutions

Last weekend my former parliamentary colleague Harvey Proctor published in a Sunday newspaper a moving statement. You may remember that two months ago the police raided his home in Leicestershire, spending 15 hours there and taking away his mobile phone, his laptop and all his personal records. They told him (and still tell him) he is not a suspect in their Operation Midland inquiry into historical child abuse; but they tipped off the media anyway, and a storm broke over Harvey’s head.

Declaring his complete innocence, and ignorance of anything about the fabled “Westminster gay paedophile sex ring” and anxious to put this on the record he has begged for an early interview, but the police keep postponing it. Now he has lost his home and his job. Desperate to resume his life, he challenges the police to “put up or shut up”.

I know Harvey. We talked on Monday. I’m convinced he had nothing to do with any MPs’ paedophile ring and doubt it existed. My guess is that the police have realised this too but won’t climb down and admit that by turning a routine search into a nationally publicised raid they have shattered a life and impugned a reputation. S
o they leave an innocent man to rot, until the interest they stirred up has faded.

Mr Parris does not mention this, but in a sympathetic profile in Friday's Independent, Proctor says that a supportive phone call and dinner invitation from Matthew stopped Harvey from killing himself.

I have no brief for (Lord) Greville Janner. I found him ingratiating and a bit of a bully. And I haven’t the least idea of the truth of allegations against him, nor any view on whether today he’s fit to plead.

But in attacking the judgment of Alison Saunders as director of public prosecutions, the behaviour of senior politicians, from the PM and home secretary downwards, was disgraceful. As for (Lord) Ken Macdonald, in post as DPP when it was decided not to prosecute Janner — to criticise his successor in print was offside.

DPPs are independent, they make decisions on the information they have, and the whole idea of their office is that they should accept no interference from politicians, peers or newspaper editorials. They must stand outside what some prattling MP has called — in that sinister phrase — “the court of public opinion”. This general election is corroding the judgments of people who ought to (and, worse, do) know better.

How strange so many journalists have remained silent on these two very different, but equally rum cases.

And how sad so many politicians have spoken out for the posturing populism of overturning the DPP's Janner decision.

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