Operation Midland: Henriques Report

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:30 pm on 13th December 2016.

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Photo of Richard Arkless Richard Arkless Scottish National Party, Dumfries and Galloway 3:30 pm, 13th December 2016

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I have just said that I appreciate that child sexual abuse is the most heinous crime not only to commit but to be accused of, and I have certain personal sympathies with Mr Richard’s position that there should be anonymity before charge. That debate is ongoing, and it is right that we have it. I do not disagree at all that child sexual abuse is the most heinous and appalling crime to be convicted of, and I have sympathy with anyone who has ever found themselves in that position.

I suppose the public will watch debates such as this and think to themselves, “What on earth was going on 20, 30 or 40 years ago?” The allegations made in the context of Operation Midland could not be proven—rightly so, it seems—but we have had other high-profile cases such as Savile, and we now have allegations involving football players and clubs. It seems that when two or three victims, or complainants, have the courage to come forward, that unlocks a Pandora’s box that no one thought was there. Although the points that the hon. Member for Aldershot made are steeped in sense, the danger of this debate is that we somehow appear to be protecting our friends and pals. If we do that, it will completely put off more victims from coming forward, and if they do not come forward, we will never understand the scale of what seems to have happened in a time about which I quite frankly cannot understand what I have seen and heard over the past few years.

The hon. Gentleman made a fantastic and powerful speech, and I was struck by the recommendations that he made. I was interested in his points about 3 Hare Court chambers—which I used to work with, incidentally, so I trust its advice. I was quite perturbed and distressed by the words “if they exist”. Clearly, in Operation Midland, it was difficult to prove that Nick was telling the truth, but if we in this place start taking that attitude—“Do victims exist? Should these allegations be believed? Are they spurious?”—we will put a lid on people being brave enough to come forward and describe such allegations, so that we in society can face up to what people did years ago, which none of us would suggest we have any part in.

That is the main point that I wanted to make. I was going to comment on some other speeches—I have been impressed by all the speeches—but I am keen to hear what the other Front Benchers have to say. I conclude with a note of caution: although it is right that we have this debate, we should be very clear and careful about the message that we send out. Presumption of innocence is one thing, but I would rather have a debate about the thousands of people all over these islands who have been sexually abused—not by the gentlemen investigated by Operation Midland, granted—and who never had the courage to come forward. I would like those people to come forward so they can finally get justice. That is what I would prefer to be talking about.