In An Open Letter to the Labour Party recently, I revealed that the official reason given for my expulsion from the party with no possibility of defending myself was because the party had learned, apparently from a Daily Mail report last month, that I had been convicted in December of a “serious offence”.
My priority last time, as the “Open Letter” title suggests, was to focus on the Labour Party. I drew upon the thinking of radical leftists, from Friedrich Engels on the family to Roy Jenkins on the “permissive society”, to explain why I had become a member and why I thought the party should think again before repudiating the socially liberal strand within its own tradition. Fat chance of that, I fear, although I note that leader Jeremy Corbyn is now publicly saying prostitution should be legalised, thereby infuriating his own more censorious MPs. Well done Jez!
This focus of mine on politics meant I could only briefly touch upon the “serious offence” in question. It is now time to put the record straight. Heretics here know better than to take mainstream media monsterings of Kind people at face value, so thank you everyone for taking it all in your stride and waiting patiently for me to begin.
As I briefly indicated in the Open Letter blog, I was intimately involved with a 10-year-old boy in the 1970s. Recently, in December, his adult incarnation testified at a trial in Caernarfon, Wales. A Daily Mail report said I had “narrowly escaped jail” last year after “preying” on the boy and his 9-year-old brother.
The question that will leap to mind is how could I possibly have got off scot free, with no time whatever behind bars? In today’s savagely punitive climate, “predatory” offences against children are routinely attracting prison terms into double figures, including a whopping 35 years, no less, for the “ringleader” in the Rotherham “grooming” case last month.
So how did I “escape”? Did I bribe the judge? Did I whip out a smuggled gun, leaving a trail of bloodied corpses as I blasted a way clear of the courtroom?
There is another explanation, one the Daily Mail was understandably coy about because it failed to fit their preferred narrative. The real reason I left the court a free man is that neither the judge, nor the prosecution, nor crucially even the “victims” themselves, appeared to have seen me as callously “predatory”. Which might leave you wondering why this “historic abuse ” case came to court at all after nearly forty years.
All will be revealed.
First, we need to take ourselves back all those years, to 1977 and a very different social climate. As a young man then, I worked for a while as a group leader at an outdoor activities camp for kids, in Wales. One of the youngsters in my charge was a nine-year-old boy I will call Adam (other names will be changed too). Unlike some of the other kids, who were with their school mates or a sibling, Adam was on his own. He latched onto me, and during his week’s stay we became fond of each other. At the end of the week he gave me his address – I hadn’t asked for it – and he invited me to come and meet his family sometime.
A year later I did. It would have been about August when I met his parents at the family’s country home, and also his younger brother, Zac. By now Adam was 10 and Zac 9. These were by no means “vulnerable” children from a disadvantaged background. Quite the contrary. Their father, Sebastian, headed a significant organisation and was later knighted for his services. Their mother, Cassandra, was a highly cultured woman. The privately educated brothers now in their mid-forties, are doing well in their own careers, with families of their own ranging from young adult to early teens. They are in good shape, too: tall, slim, handsome. Adam’s relaxed warmth is still apparent. Zac has style, a touch of rock star glamour.
I felt I got on well with the whole family at that first meeting, an impression borne out by the fact that a couple of months later I was allowed to take Adam and Zac for a week’s hiking based at a holiday cottage in Snowdonia. We had a great time. Cassandra’s diary from all those years ago was an exhibit in the case. Her entry, when the boys arrived back home, records that they went straight off to some friends to tell them “what a fantastic holiday they had had.”
Adam, the only witness in the trial, had plenty of good things to say about me. I had seemed “a really nice guy” when we first met, an impression that did not change. He remembered the week at the cottage not just for the mountain walking, which he enjoyed, but also the fun. He liked my humour. There was plenty of joking and laughter. I was always “very respectful” towards him. He told the court I had been “very charming”.
He had not been sexually unwilling either. At age of seven or eight an older boy had introduced him to “wanking”, and he needed no further encouragement. When he did this quite openly at the cottage, naked and in full view of his brother and me, he had not objected when I became intimate with him. He didn’t feel pressured into anything. He did not feel he had been harmed in any way.
Asked in court if such activity might unconsciously affect a willing child participant, he agreed that it could: it might cause them to grow up with ultra-liberal sexual views without knowing why! This was as close as Adam came to saying why he eventually gave a statement to the police more than six months after Zac had done so. Zac, it is clear, was the prime mover in the case. He never claimed I touched him sexually, but on the basis that he saw me in a sexual situation I eventually admitted gross indecency towards him.
Zac, it has to be said, was always a very different character to Adam. Both were great kids. But, unlike Adam, Zac was just not physical. Whereas Adam loved to hold hands and snuggle close, Zac preferred to keep his distance. I thought I respected that. But not enough, apparently. He was the one who brought matters to the attention of the police. He claims to have suffered erectile dysfunction and marital problems as a result of his childhood encounter with my sexuality. I do not doubt his sincerity. I am sure he has suffered the issues he mentions but do not think they can reasonably be attributed to any aspect of his time with me.
The fact is that people with all sorts of problems, not just sexual ones but also drugs, gambling, business failure, you name it, are apt to look for a scapegoat. We all try to blame our woes on something beyond ourselves. In recent decades the scapegoat of choice has been childhood sexual abuse. Even people who were never “abused” will go to therapists, desperate to be told that they were, because that would “explain” everything.
Fortunately for me, Zac was not vindictive. As part of his victim impact statement in court, he said he did not wish to see me punished. As for his testimony as a witness, that was not needed. Following Adam’s testimony, word reached me through my barrister that changing my initial Not Guilty pleas to Guilty (indecent assault against Adam and gross indecency towards Zac) would result in a suspended sentence, and I accepted that.
So, if Zac had not been out to punish me, what did he want? His written prosecution statement was very revealing. What prompted him to make his complaint against me was not just what happened on a very enjoyable holiday in 1978 but what was going on in the media in 2014 shortly before he went to the police. Specifically, he objected to what a TV news bulletin had reported me as saying about paedophilia at a time when PIE’s supposed political connections were under the media spotlight. He wrote:
“What concerns me is that paedophiles may have read his book or his online blogs and used that information to justify their own actions.”
In other words, he was bidding to use a criminal prosecution in order to shut me up. His ideological motivation is to be seen even more clearly in a remarkable admission: until several years after the holiday he “felt no resentment” towards me and “probably thought upon him as a nice guy”.
That changed only after I went to prison in 1981 for conspiracy to corrupt public morals. He knew about this because his mother told him. She had found out from the Guardian. Nothing surprising about that. What might astonish many now, though, is that Cassandra’s response was remarkably civilized: she wrote a very kind letter to me in prison and received me at the family home again when I came out in 1982. By this time she had even dipped into my book Paedophilia: The Radical Case. I had given her a copy before the public morals trial, in part at least because I felt she and her husband should learn about my philosophy through my own words rather than media distortions. She showed no sign of agreeing with my views but had the grace to say she thought my position was well argued.
Whereas Cassandra was calm and compassionate, resolutely refusing to be freaked out, her newly teenage son Zac started to take a much dimmer view in ’82 and has continued to do so. In his victim statement he said his object was to dissuade me from encouraging others to break the law. Regular readers of Heretic TOC will know that I absolutely do not do that and could be prosecuted if I did. But Zac appears to have been under a different impression.
The judge, in his sentencing remarks, quite properly emphasised that I was entitled to express my views. He seemed genuinely puzzled, though. He could see just from my bearing in the dock that I was deeply upset by the case. So he knew I was very much taking to heart everything that was said, including Zac’s own emotional statement as to the pain and distress I had caused to him and his family. What was going through the judge’s mind, plainly, was the paradox of my sincere response to Zac’s certainty that I caused harm, combined with the fact that I had given no indication that I intended to stop blogging, or otherwise speaking out publicly in ways that Zac feels are wrong and dangerous.
Through my barrister, I had said that if I had known in 1978 what I know now, I would not have behaved as I did. It was an honest statement. When we defy the law we put children at grave risk of growing up feeling they must have been damaged – because our culture virulently insists it is so, on a daily basis – even when that is not how they felt at the time. Only in a culture which has changed so much that it is ready to accept more liberal laws will child-adult sexual relationships be ethically feasible. It is because I refuse to give up on that vision that I continue to write.
Zac said in his written statement that he wanted to “challenge” me. But he has made it impossible for me to answer his challenge. Part of the sentence was a court order preventing me from contacting him or Adam, so I find myself unable to pick up the gauntlet he threw down: I can neither explain myself to him, nor probe his thinking. I find this hugely frustrating. To coin a phrase, it is hard to find closure.
I wish him well, though. Adam too, and Cassandra and Sebastian. They are a remarkable family and I still have fond memories – shattered ones now, but still precious, like shards from a dropped Ming vase.