Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best Tortoise experience possible, please make sure any blockers are switched off and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help, let us know at memberhelp@tortoisemedia.com

From the file

Pariah | What does Harvey Proctor’s life tell us about the limits of our tolerance, and what we’re prepared to do to people who overstep them?

The high wire

The high wire

For the second time in his life, Harvey Proctor was being battered by a storm of dreadful allegations. His lawyers advised a safety-first approach. He had other ideas


transcript

Even now, there are some people who try to warn you off when you tell them you’re making a podcast about Harvey Proctor.

You know, “are you sure that’s a good idea? I think there’s a lot of stuff about him which hasn’t come out yet.”

You get that from journalists. And even from some ex-police officers.

Now – I dunno. There may be some terrible things which Harvey Proctor has managed to keep hidden all these years. 

Perhaps in a few years’ time – I don’t know, maybe a few weeks’ time? – I’ll look like an idiot for missing something really important. 

But that’s the risk you take, I think. You go with the best evidence you’ve got. And no one has put in front of me – or Alistair Jackson who’s making this podcast with me – any new facts, or any fresh evidence of wrongdoing by Harvey Proctor. If they had, we’d put it in.

So then you have to consider something else, I think. You have to try to reckon with the fact that one of the amazing things about Harvey Proctor is how unwilling people are to give up on their conviction that he’s a “wrong ‘un”. 

He was marked by the sex scandal and the court case in 1987. And for some people it turned out it was a permanent marker.

I’m Ceri Thomas, and this is Episode 3 of Pariah from Tortoise Studios.

If you’ve taken a break after the end of Episode 2, here’s where we got to.

Operation Midland – the investigation into historic allegations of child abuse, rape and murder – had come knocking on Harvey Proctor’s door. 40 police officers showed up on a spring morning in 2015 and turned his house inside out.

But even then, he didn’t know exactly what he’d been accused of. It wasn’t until June that year, as he was about to be interviewed by detectives, that he saw the full catalogue of Carl Beech’s allegations. 

Up to, and including, murder.  

Al Jackson and I were following all this super-closely at the time because we were looking at what seemed to us some very strange police tactics in Operation Midland for the BBC’s investigative programme, Panorama

And for Harvey Proctor… now he knew the scale of what he was up against, an old question reared up again. Should he keep his head down and hope everything would blow over? Or should he go out in public and fight?

I need to warn you: this podcast contains some graphic descriptions of child abuse. If that risks being upsetting, you should think about whether you want to carry on listening. 

***

After the police raid on his house in March 2015, Harvey Proctor was back in the public eye with a vengeance. He talked to Al about it.

Alistair Jackson: And was one of the consequences though that your past was thrown back, it reignited the past and reignited everything.

Harvey Proctor: It already had. It had the day after the house was searched. If you look back at the mass media that week reporting the search of my house, they went to the files to dig out what had happened 20 or 30 years before… 

Al: What would you say… 

Harvey Proctor: …and regurgitated it, even if it was wrong. And quite good newspapers regurgitated articles that they printed in the 1980s, which were bunkum.

I then started getting death threats. I had lost my job at the castle. The house went with the job, so I couldn’t stay here for any length of time, and to go with the death threats and the fact that I knew what had happened in ‘87, when I used to go in the streets in London, 87, I was spat at and abused. I thought…

Al: What were the death threats like this time?

Harvey Proctor: I thought this was far worse. 

Looking back on it, that period between March 2015 when the police raid happened, and June when he found out what he’d actually been accused of, is an odd one.

It’s odd because Al and I knew exactly what Carl Beech said Harvey Proctor had done – every gory detail – but Harvey Proctor swears blind he didn’t. 

The first time he said that to me, I found it hard to believe. But actually, I think it does make sense.

After all, Al and I were in London, talking to anyone who’d talk to us about Operation Midland. We weren’t directly in contact with Exaro who were the gatekeepers to Carl Beech… but we were in touch with other reporters who Exaro were talking to.

And we’d been able to watch a long interview Carl Beech had recorded for the BBC, almost none of which had been broadcast. 

So maybe it wasn’t surprising that we knew all this stuff which Harvey Proctor only found out about when the police sent him what’s known as a “disclosure document”, laying out the charges against him before they interviewed him for the first time.

Harvey Proctor: After that interview, I’d spoken to my solicitors, very good solicitors in Leicester, to say that I would like to hold a press conference immediately after the first interview on 18 June. They didn’t like the idea and they sought legal advice from a QC in London who came back with the advice: on no account do that. So I put up with that at that time.

In between these police interviews, Harvey Proctor was high-tailing it to Spain to escape the press.

Harvey Proctor: So I was out there keeping closely in touch with my solicitors by phone and email and then they rang me to say the Metropolitan police would like to interview you again. I said, what about? [The response was] “They haven’t said…” – so I came back, uh, to be interviewed by the Metropolitan police on 24 August. And a few days before that, I said, look, I will come back and do it. But I do want to put my side of affairs forward and I know what you said before, but you won’t talk me out of it this time. I’m going to hold a press conference.

So I thought what I have to do is to put as much information into the public arena as possible about this to arm the media, with the absurdity of some of this. The gravity… but also the absurdity.

So unlike 1987 – actually, if you ask me, because of 1987 when he did what his solicitor Sir David Napley told him to do – Harvey Proctor ignored the advice of his legal team. He decided he was going to give a press conference. 

And more than anyone, I suspect, he must have known what a high-wire act that was going to be. 

He could hear all around him those echoes of the way the press had treated him nearly 30 years before. 

It was obvious in 2015 that there was very little sympathy for him. 

And I really can’t over-emphasise the momentum that the story of Operation Midland had at this stage.

It felt unstoppable. And, to be honest, Harvey Proctor felt like the man least likely to stop it.

Al: But for you, what were your feelings going into it? Were you nervous? Were you apprehensive or…? 

Harvey Proctor: I was nervous. And my problem – knowing that it was a long statement, it was a very long statement – I was nervous that I might not get through to the end of it. 

Al: I can see you’re getting… you’re getting emotional just thinking about the press conference itself. Why is, why…?

Harvey Proctor: So the night before I read it to a mirror time and time again, to try and get all my emotions out so that when I was in front of the media, that I wouldn’t be emotional about it. Because I wanted it to be completely logical and rational and to try to eradicate the emotion. And I knew how difficult that was going to be.

Al: Why does it bring up the, do you think… it makes you so emotional now, even thinking about that press conference. Does it take you back there or…? 

Harvey Proctor: Yes. Um, very, very difficult times. And I’ve said that I’ll never get over this and I believe I won’t. So I’m sorry if I’m getting emotional now, but it’s just thinking back about those really difficult times, because I knew I’d done none of this, but it occurred to me the media didn’t and the police thought I was guilty.

I’m going to bring my colleague Alistair Jackson in here. 

Ceri: Al, Harvey Proctor told me recently that he very deliberately chose a hotel for this press conference as close as possible to Scotland Yard. He wanted his tanks on Operation Midland’s lawn. 

But at the time I would have thought… “what tanks?” What on earth can this man do when there’s so much firepower on the other side. I mean both the police investigation and a hostile press?

Anyway, I was back in the office, I remember, getting ready to watch this happen. And you… you were in the room. So set the scene for us, would you?

Al: Well I don’t think it was lost on people that it was near Scotland Yard, you actually had to walk past it on the way to this quite large hotel round the corner. But the room itself was, as I remember, in the bowels of the hotel… you know, quite a small room. The sense of anticipation was obviously overwhelming. I mean, how often does any murder suspect – let alone one accused of three murders – want to hold a press conference and tell you all about it.

And then when Harvey Proctor came into the room, I wouldn’t say it was a dramatic entrance… he was wheeling in a suitcase which was slightly odd. But when you looked up and saw him: he looked like Harvey Proctor. A dark suit, a spotted tie, well combed hair. And he walked slowly towards the lectern, and with his suitcase there, put that on one side, and the glasses were going on and off quite deliberately… the water was being sipped as he waited for calm to come… But you could tell this was not something he was going to find comfortable. And you were just left thinking: what is he gonna say? 

“Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Thank you very much for coming. My name is Keith Harvey Proctor.”

Harvey Proctor at his press conference 

And then he was off. On – categorically, I would say – the most spectacular, jaw-dropping press conference I’ve ever seen. And, from Harvey Proctor’s point of view, given what was at stake for him, the riskiest.

“So you can gauge how angry I am…and in an attempt to stop the drip, drip, drip of allegations by the police into the media… I now wish to share with you in detail the uncorroborated and untrue allegations that have been made against me by Nick. Anyone of a delicate or nervous disposition should leave the room now.”

Harvey Proctor at his press conference 

And he started to read out the allegations that Carl Beech had made (remember, we were still calling him “Nick” at this stage). 

Directly, from the document the police had sent to Harvey Proctor’s solicitors.

“Nick states he witnessed the murder of three young boys on separate occasions. He states that Mr Proctor was directly responsible for two of the allegations and implicated in the third.”

Harvey Proctor at his press conference 

Before we go on, let me just give you fair warning again. What’s coming up is quite tough to hear..

“The dates and locations relevant to Mr Proctor are as follows. Homicides, 1980: Mr Proctor was present with another male. Mr Proctor then stripped the victim and tied him to a table. He then produced a large kitchen knife and stabbed the child through the arm and other parts of the body over a period of 40 minutes. A short time later, Mr Proctor untied the victim and anally raped him on the table. The other males stripped Nick and anally raped him over the table. Mr Proctor then strangled the victim with his hands until the boy’s body went limp.”

Harvey Proctor at his press conference 

Ceri: Al, it’s a difficult moment to say this because what we’re hearing is so unpleasant but, for me, if there’s a stroke of genius in this press conference… it’s in here.  

Harvey Proctor said to you in that interview just a few minutes ago that he wanted the public and the media to know what he called the “gravity and the absurdity” of the allegations against him. 

And, basically, that’s what he’s set about doing. He’s putting the gravity and the absurdity side-by-side. But it’s such a huge risk to him, and an amazing calculation, to believe that the absurdity is going to win; that people will agree with him and say “yes, that’s absurd”. Can you remember what you were thinking when he read that stuff out?

Al: Gosh, I think the first reaction was one of horror. You know… because even those of us who had a good idea about what was being alleged… to hear them detailed like that, almost because of his slow deliberate manner – spelling it out like that. I mean, they are horrific, aren’t they? And I guess, beyond that, I remember as he did that you are undeniably realising the gravity of the situation for him. 

“1981 to 1982. The witness was among four young boys. Several men were present, including Mr Proctor… One of the men told the boys one of them would die that night, and they had to choose who. When the young boys couldn’t… wouldn’t decide, the men selected one of the boys the victim. Mr Proctor and two other males then began beating the chosen victim by punching and kicking. The attack continued until the boy collapsed on the floor and stopped moving.”

Harvey Proctor at his press conference 

Ceri: It’s worth just taking a second here because when Harvey Proctor’s giving Nick’s account, and talking about this group of men – they weren’t just any group of men, were they?

Al: No, they were, you know… there was a former prime minister, Ted Heath, on this list. There were the heads of both security services, MI5 and MI6. Very high ranking military officers like Field Marshal Lord Bramall. So the allegations taken with all those names were that the establishment, high-up figures were joining together to carry out these horrendous crimes. And it’s also worth remembering that Nick – Carl Beech – also mentioned Jimmy Savile.

“I was asked if I knew Jimmy Savile. I told them I did not. Nick alleges – surprise, surprise – that Savile attended the sex parties. I denied all and each of the allegations in turn, and in detail, and categorised them as false and untrue and in whole a heinous calendar. They amount to just about the worst allegations anyone can make against another person, including as they do multiple murder of children, their torture, grievous bodily harm, rape and sexual child abuse. I am completely innocent of all these allegations. I am a homosexual. I’m not a murderer. I’m not a paedophile or pederast.”

Harvey Proctor at his press conference  

And then, after nearly 40 minutes at the lectern, in the glare of camera lights and literally cornered in the room by some of the journalists who’d led the campaign against him, Harvey Proctor turned on a group he’d always supported.

“I speak for myself, and as a former Tory MP with an impeccable record in defending the police. I’ve now come to believe that the blind trust in them was totally misplaced. What has happened to me could happen to anyone. It could happen to you. In summary: the paranoid police have pursued a homosexual witch hunt on this issue, egged on by a motly crew of certain sections of the media and press, and a number of Labour Members of Parliament and a ragbag of internet fantasists. 

There are questions to ask about what kind of police force do we have in Britain today? How can it be right for the police to act in concert with the press with routine tip-offs of house raids, impending arrests, and the like. 

Anonymity is given to anyone prepared to make untruthful accusations of child sexual abuse, while the alleged accused are routinely fingered publicly without any credible evidence first being found. This is not justice, it is an abuse of power and authority.

In conclusion, I wish to thank my solicitors – Mr Raza Sakhi and Mr Nabeel Gatrad – and my family and friends for their support, without which I would not have been able to survive this onslaught on my character and on my life. I now propose to let you have written copies of the statement, and after that I’ll be prepared to answer any of your questions.”  

Harvey Proctor at his press conference  

Ceri: And that’s what he did, didn’t he, Al? Including from some of the journalists in the room who had been really hostile to him. 

Al: Yes, I think it’s important to remember that in that room were people who’d met Nick/Carl Beech, and who published his stories. And Mark Watts, the editor of Exaro, was straight on his feet to accuse Harvey Proctor of only being able to detail to that extent, because he was a guilty man. It wasn’t from a police statement but because he knew all about it. 

Al: You know, what was going through your mind when you were having to face those…?

Harvey Proctor: Going through my mind was my discipline from when I was a Member of Parliament. And that is if somebody criticises, you try to be even more polite and the more they criticise you, the more polite back you should be.

Ceri: And I’ve been to enough press conferences myself to know what happens when they finish. So what happens is all the journalists turn round, look at each other and say, what do you make of that then? 

Al: Absolutely. And as I say, because there were people that felt strongly about the subject in there that was, you know, pretty heated at times.

And I got this impression that certainly people were also pondering… has he had done this as a last play? Was this the last play of a guilty man? I mean, it seems absurd to think about that now, but that was definitely present in the room. 

Ceri: Like a big double bluff?

Al: A double bluff.

Al: Were you calculating that risk as well?

Harvey Proctor: I wasn’t calculating that. Some people have said it was a gamble because somebody might come out and make other allegations or to back up what Beech said. But I knew it was all untrue. 

Al: What do you remember of that press conference now looking back on it? How you were feeling and how difficult it was for you?

Harvey Proctor: Crowded. I didn’t realise how many people were going to turn up. If anybody was going to turn up. I had no idea how, um, whether the media would be interested or not in my side of things, I knew that they were interested in the police side of things. No idea whether they were going to be interested in my side of things.

I was surprised how many radio and television stations were there. It was a very hot room and this is relevant because there was a sort of photograph of me mopping my brow. The inference being that that shower was crying from the emotion: I wasn’t. It was very hot and I was just mopping my brow.

At the start of this episode, I mentioned that chorus of people – police and journalists mostly – who don’t want anyone to give an inch to Harvey Proctor. 

Who are convinced to this day that it’s only a matter of time until the truth about him, some dirty secret, comes out. 

And I’m conscious of not letting them write the script for me at moments like this. I don’t want them to stop me giving Harvey Proctor his due when he deserves it.

Because, think about what he’d just done in that press conference. 

He’d been living in the middle of a field near Grantham for fifteen years. The biggest press conference he’d done would have been about a steam engine rally at Belvoir Castle or something.

He was facing that onslaught of terrible accusations.

Everything was on the line. And he fronted up, and held it together. Somehow.

Harvey Proctor: So it was, is this going to work? Is this defence going to work?

Harvey Proctor didn’t tell the other high-profile people caught up in the so-called VIP paedophile ring – people like Lord Bramall and Lady Brittan who we heard from in the last episode – that he was going to do that press conference. 

But the thing Harvey Proctor had done – gambling that if he hung every piece of dirty washing on the line for everyone to see, then people would laugh at it, not take it seriously – that seems to have chimed with Lord Bramall, when he got the full picture.

“So I had my interviews. And it wasn’t till the interview, it came out… I hadn’t only been accused of one case, in one year of abuse of an underage male. This was spread over eight years, same victim, and they included supervision of torture of small boys on the middle of Salisbury Plain… sex with this lone witness, watched by my two most senior army colleagues… a sex orgy on Remembrance Sunday – I felt like saying, while I was in my frock coat at the Cenotaph? – and a sex pool party at Dolphin Square, where… including all the usual suspects, Jimmy Savile. And it was during the questioning for that, that the policeman said, “can you swim?” When I said, yes, I could swim. I saw his face light up: he can swim. He must be halfway to the sex pool party. I mean, I mean, if it wasn’t criminal and horrendous, it would really be bizarre.” 

Lord Bramall talking about the accusations made against him

Ceri: It’s interesting thinking back to those days, because when Harvey Proctor gave that press conference, I was actually a bit frustrated. Because we’d been working on that edition of Panorama for about nine months and we were nearly ready to broadcast it. But it was an hour long and we were struggling to find a slot for it on BBC One because that’s not easy.

And I say “frustrated” because, up to that point, we’d had a feeling that we were almost alone, trying to swim against the tide of Operation Midland. But that definitely started to change after the press conference, didn’t it?

Al: It did, yeah. I think what the press conference did is made people think about at least looking towards the person that was making these allegations – Nick/Carl Beech. To give you an example, you know, the Daily Mail started perfectly prepared to publish these allegations, to publish the fact that the police were treating them as credible and true, but you could see, you know, a month or so after that press conference, a big story, splashed: “Nick – victim or fantasist?”

And the pressure was on him, really. The suggestion that, you know, could this be complete fantasy? So there definitely was a change after that press conference. But of course, for those of us that have been making the programme, it meant there was a need now to get that programme out and quickly.

Ceri: And there was this line of attack developing, which was that by making this programme, we were going to stop genuine victims of child abuse coming forward.

Al: Yeah. And the accusation being thrown at us and, and other people that were starting to question these allegations was: you’re making the same mistakes as have been made in the past. You’re questioning a person that’s coming forward with non-recent allegations of child sex abuse. And you’re questioning them when you shouldn’t be questioning them, you should be believing them. That was what we were being accused of, yeah. 

It was… I’d not made a programme that had been so under attack even before it was aired really. Our reporter was accused in one article of having a conflict of interest, simply because as a child he’d lived close to where one of the accused people had lived, you know, I mean, clearly a ridiculous allegation, but it was, it was published as a way of putting us under attack, putting us under pressure, not really to go there and say what we wanted to say. 

Ceri: And of course, a lot of this stuff was being published online in blogs and, you know, sort of unauthorised places. I remember coming across a thing, the piece about me – actually, a friend of mine found it – that said I’d been responsible for making snuff movies in Belgium in the 1980s. Belgium?! 

Al: Yeah. I mean, it was in places, particularly on the internet, vicious. 

The final stages of getting ready to broadcast an investigative programme are always frantic. You’re editing and mixing the programme and doing the voiceover – all that technical, television stuff – but you’re also giving people who are in it a right-of-reply. So they can correct mistakes or put across their side of the story. So it’s really busy.

But then – usually a few hours or maybe a day before you’re going to broadcast – a sort of calm descends. 

All that hard graft is done. You’re going to press “play” and maybe a ton of crap will land on you afterwards – but there’s a moment of peace.

Well, not so much this time…

“The Met Police has expressed serious concerns about tonight’s edition of BBC Panorama and the impact they say it could have on the Met’s investigation into allegations of child sex abuse and homicide…”

“The documentary exposes weaknesses in the testimony of three men whose stories of abuse have fuelled much of the media coverage…”

News reports on Panorama’s Operation Midland episode 

At seven o’clock in the evening, about three hours before the Panorama on Operation Midland was going to air, the Metropolitan Police put out a press statement heavily critical of it, warning, as other people had, that it would stop victims of child abuse coming forward. 

Before it was even broadcast, the programme had become a big story.

Reporter: “Panorama’s editor says it’s right to question the most serious accusations ever levelled against figures from the top of British establishment.”

Ceri Thomas: “We can all see the harm, and the police can see it too, of a past in which victims were not sufficiently believed. But the questions I think we ask in this programme is: are there fresh mistakes we are perhaps making now, when too much is believed?”

News report on Panorama’s Operation Midland episode 

But in spite of the police’s intervention, Panorama went out as scheduled. 

“Tonight: are these the most serious accusations ever levelled against members of the British establishment?” 

“Powerful people got away with abuse in the past. But has the pendulum swung too far?” 

“For almost a year, Panorama has been investigating what lies behind these allegations… and if the most high-profile police investigation of all, Operation Midland, were to conclude it’s not true that men in powerful positions tortured, abused and murdered… what then?” 

Clips from Panorama’s Operation Midland episode 

Ceri: It’s funny sitting here now. It’s so long since I watched that programme that I’m not sure I can completely remember what you said in it…

Al: Yes, well, one of the things that Exaro had done in their reporting with Nick/Carl Beech is find a witness who corroborated some of Nick’s claims, according to Exaro. We spoke to this witness in the programme and actually he told us that he had been encouraged to say that stuff by various campaigners, and couldn’t be certain of any of it. So it was quite a destructive blow to the credibility of Nick. And also of course, we looked at that murder allegation that was made, said to have happened by Carl Beech in Kingston… 

Ceri: The hit and run? 

Al: The hit and run. And we could find no evidence to support that claim from public records, talking to teachers and things. And I think looking back, another important element of the film was that we heard from the survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Ian McFadden, who pointed out that actually, ultimately, it would be poor policing, like that happening in Operation Midland, that would damage confidence of people who wanted to report these things.

Panorama voice-over: “There’s no more highly charged question in this country than how the police, politicians and the press have dealt with child abuse. Institutions that now realise they made terrible mistakes. Are they in danger of using victims in the rush to make amends?

Ian McFadden: “I think that everybody involved in this process has to be responsible for their actions. This is not for public show. We are not a commodity. Survivors are not a commodity for people’s careers, people’s bank accounts… whether it be politicians, media… whether it be police. We are not a PR stunt for people and that’s what really needs to be made clear.”

Clips from Panorama’s Operation Midland episode 

Ceri: One of the really striking things to me in the timing of the police statement ahead of that Panorama was that they put it out at seven o’clock in the evening, which is what you do if you want to influence the coverage of the next morning’s papers. 

And that fuelled the idea that a lot of people like Harvey Proctor were putting around, that what the police were engaged in was an enormous PR exercise to rescue themselves for the problems they got into over Jimmy Savile. 

But in the end, actually, I don’t think it worked, did it?

Al: No, I think it did feel to me like a tipping point. I did start to notice some high-profile commentators now actually directly criticising Operation Midland: saying, what is going on here? But in terms of the police, actually there was no sign they were changing their position. They were still keen to point out this was an ongoing inquiry.

So I suppose what we’re seeing at that point is a line being drawn. You know, there were people prepared to say, this is nonsense, more people than we’re prepared to say it before. And the pressure very much now coming down onto the police and what they were going to do next. 

Looking back, it’s tempting to think it was obvious from there on in that Operation Midland was going to collapse. It probably wasn’t obvious at the time.

But things did unravel quite quickly. 

Al’s Panorama was broadcast in October 2015 and the following February, four months later, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, announced that he’d asked a former High Court judge – a man called Sir Richard Henriques – to review Operation Midland. That was basically game over.

The police were in full retreat. But not with any grace. They sent out one of their senior people – a man called Steve Rodhouse, who was Deputy Assistant Commissioner – to try to hold the line.

“I regret any distress this has caused to any individual, of course I do, but the Met can’t apologise for investigating serious allegations.”

Clips from interview with Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse 

When the Henriques Review was published, it was damning.

“Millions of pounds was spent on Operation Midland without a single arrest being made. The Crown Prosecution Service said Carl Beech had been proven to be a prolific and manipulative liar who thrived on being in the limelight. Our home affairs correspondent, Danny Shaw, examines how the claims of a fantasist resulted in such a high profile investigation.”

News report on Operation Midland 

And in the end, after spending more than £2 million, Operation Midland was officially laid to rest. 

A few years later, in 2019, Carl Beech went on trial charged with perverting the course of justice, and with fraud. 

“According to him, public figures, including the former prime minister, Edward Heath, and former home secretary, Leon Brittan, were leading pedophiles. It took a jury today under five hours to find this is all untrue. And that he was a fantasist.”

News report on Carl Beech’s trial

In his summing up, the judge looked for mitigating factors for Carl Beech, and he didn’t find many. 

He told him, and I’m quoting here: “Your false allegations and behaviour had another very significant aggravating feature, serving to undermine the situation and cases of those who have genuinely been abused, thereby deterring them from making or pursuing allegations because they may be disbelieved.”

And he dwelt briefly on what is actually one of the most shocking aspects of all of Operation Midland and Carl Beech’s evidence.

Again, I’m quoting. The judge said: “It was all a fabrication. In fact, far from being a victim, you were covertly taking photographs of young boys outside your home and recording your son’s friend urinating in your house.” 

While the police had been investigating Carl Beech’s made-up stories of abuse, they’d missed the fact that he was actively abusing children.

From beginning to end – from the moment he first told his story to Mark Conrad from Exaro, until he heard the judge read his sentence – Carl Beech’s moment in the limelight lasted just over five years. From May 2014 until July 2019.

The worst of it for Harvey Proctor – the real horror – lasted about a year, from the raid on his house to when the police called in Sir Richard Henriques to review Operation Midland, when Harvey Proctor’s ordeal began to come to an end. 

Harvey Proctor: The media, uh, continued to be interested in this. And so I’m constantly being asked, um, yes, on a daily basis by someone, some question about my view about Operation Midland or what has happened as a result.

Al: On a daily basis?

Harvey Proctor: On a daily basis. And what, we’re now, um, five years after the end of Operation Midland almost to the day. 

I know that I’ll be thinking about this, um, for the rest of my life. It’s not something that’s going to go away. It can’t, it, um, it gets at the soul.

Harvey Proctor is full of contradictions. One of the most glaring is that, when you meet him, the quality he seems to prize most of all is being rational. It comes up over and over again when he talks. 

He idolises Enoch Powell for his “rational” brain. And in his own mind, Harvey Proctor thinks he’s a chip off the old block: another very rational man.

Except he’s not. He’s one of the most emotional men I’ve ever met.

The thing I can’t know – which he tells me is true – is that he didn’t used to be that way. Until Operation Midland, all through the earlier troubles in his life, he says he wasn’t moved to tears as easily as he is now. 

He’s scarred by Carl Beech’s allegations, there’s no doubt about that. And you would be, of course. 

But I don’t think Harvey Proctor has made sense of the whole episode yet. Made sense of how his hard-line views, his infatuation with Enoch Powell, his rigidity, his outsider-ness, his sexuality and a host of other things came together to create a cocktail that was nearly deadly for him.

That’s what we’re going to try to understand in the next episode of Pariah. Not what happened. But why. 

Pariah is produced by Hannah Varrall. The sound design is by Karla Patella. It’s written by me, Ceri Thomas, and by Alistair Jackson. 

Next in this file

Mixing and merging

Mixing and merging

It seems important for all of us to understand the meaning of what’s happened to Harvey Proctor. What was it which liberated the media and the police to behave as they did; to create or fuel the two scandals which wrecked his life?

4 of 5