On 10 November 1999 Sir Richard Body MP put down this Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons :
CONDUCT OF THE RIGHT HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR SEDGEFIELD 10:11:99
Sir Richard Body
That this House regrets that the Right honourable Member for Sedgefield [Tony Blair] attempted to persuade the Metropolitan Police to bring criminal charges against Robert Henderson, concerning the Right honourable Member’s complaints to the police of an offence against the person, malicious letters and racial insult arising from letters Robert Henderson had written to the Right honourable Member complaining about various instances of publicly-reported racism involving the Labour Party; and that, after the Crown Prosecution Service rejected the complaints of the Right honourable Member and the Right honourable Member failed to take any civil action against Robert Henderson, Special Branch were employed to spy upon Robert Henderson, notwithstanding that Robert Henderson had been officially cleared of any illegal action.
This motion is now part of the official House of Commons record.
The EDM gives the bare bones of a truly bizarre story. On 13 March 1997, during the six most important weeks of Blair’s life – the 1997 General Election campaign – Tony and Cherie Blair tried to have me put in prison. Through Belgravia Police – Parliament’s local nick – they attempted but comprehensively failed to have me prosecuted for three separate and utterly disparate criminal offences, namely common assault and breaches of the Malicious Communications and Race Relations Acts. The attempt was immediately and unceremoniously rejected by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who returned the papers within a few hours of them being submitted to them by the police.
After the Blairs’ humiliating failure to have me prosecuted, I was quite illegally placed under surveillance by the state – I used the Data Protection Act to prove that Special Branch and MI5 had opened files on me and a Daily Mirror story of 25 3 1997 stated that Special Branch were involved (“ Special Branch, who organise protection for MPs, have been informed of the situation”). This surveillance was instigated despite the fact that the CPS had said no crime had been committed and I had never made anything which could have been construed as a threat against them. Tellingly, despite having taking the time to make a complaint against me alleging criminal activity, they refused to take civil action against me despite the much lower evidential test for civil actions (the balance of probabilities test rather than the criminal case standard of beyond a reasonable doubt).
The background to the affair
I had written to Tony and Cherie Blair (as a last resort) seeking (1) help for my mistreatment by the media and (2) action against a number of members of the Labour Party including my own MP, Frank Dobson, Before approaching Tony Blair I had literally exhausted every other avenue open to me, including the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC) and my MP.
My letters to the Blairs
As might be imagined from Richard Body’s willingness to put down the EDM, my letters to the Blairs contained no threat, gross abuse or obscenity. They were short in length and reasonable in number. (I sent Tony Blair 9 letters over ten months, his wife 4. The combined text of my letters to Tony Blair totalled 2675 words: to Cherie Blair 755 words.)
The only racial references the letters contained concerned instances of publicly reported racism within the Labour Party. Moreover, I only raised those matters after (1) my MP, Frank Dobson, gratuitously called me a racist and (2) the black Labour MP Diane Abbott had sent me an unsolicited and abusive letter. I sent 13 letters only because I persistently failed to obtain any meaningful reply to my complaints.
My letters to the Blairs have also been viewed by the Crown Prosecution Service, three editors of political magazines who have published articles in support of me and a charity, resswise, which supported me. Perhaps most tellingly, the police never approached me about the matter at any time
My discovery of the use of the security services
The Data Protection Act produced the following printout from the Belgravia police database:
MET DETS S/COMMON ASSAULT- HILLINGDON
Following entered by: DC …. …. ….
This allegation relates to a series of letters received at the Palace of Westminster. On 13th
March a request was received from that police attend the Palace of Westminster to discuss letters received on that date.
DS [Connor] attended and met [Tony Blair] and [Cherie Blair] who handed over a quantity of letters received by the office, from the suspect, Mr Henderson. He is a part time journalist who regularly writes to left wing MP’s, and who holds extreme right wing views.
The letters were examined and taken to the Crown Prosecution Service, where a consultation took place with …. all lawyers from the Horseferry Road Magistrates Court Section.
It was decided that the letters fell short of an offence under the Malicious Communications Act 1988, or the Race Relations Act. At that stage the allegation was in fact ‘NO CRIME’.
Advice was given should the letters continue, that the sheer volume of them may constitute a nuisance.
[Tony Blair] did not wish, with an election campaign looming, to start collecting evidence from an irritant like Henderson was advised re civil remedies, especially an injunction, against Henderson.
In view of the personalities involved, DS …. attended Islington Police Station and spoke to DCI…. and DI …. Their details were passed to …. staff, who were advised to deal with them in the future, as …. home address was on their division, and it was that venue that they were most concerned about.
DCI….is believed to have appointed Inspector….to liaise with the…. re security.
In summary, the allegation of Malicious Communication is ‘NO CRIME’, however the security of the …. has been put in the hands of the right people. There is no further action to take at present by officers from Belgravia.
NB The missing names were omitted by the Metropolitan Police,because the Data Protection Act permits this. I have added them where I know the names. The CPS has confirmed in writing to me that the Blairs made the complaints.
Why did the Blairs try to have me prosecuted?
Tony Blair knew that I was circulating copies of my various correspondence with him, Frank Dobson and Diane Abbott to the British media. This correspondence showed Blair to be both arrogant and unwilling to discipline his own MPs, Dobson to be straightforwardly refusing to do his duty as my MP for party and ideological reasons and Abbott to be abusive and a hypocrite, a very different picture to that of New Moral Labour Party which Blair had assiduously built. Most importantly, I had raised the subject which most surely terrifies the modern British politician, namely, racism, and as a double blow, racism within the Labour Party.
The fact that Blair was willing to become involved in criminal prosecutions during a general election election campaign shows vividly how much he feared the consequences of the circulation of my letters.
The bogus nature of the attempted charges
Bear in mind that that the Blairs are both experienced lawyers and that Cherie Blair has experience as a QC in the field of Malicious Communications.
Both the Blairs must have realised that my letters constituted no offence. The failure of the police to interview me and the amazingly fast refusal of a prosecution by the Crown Prosecution Service show this. Thus the Blairs’ can only have hoped that Blair’s political celebrity would override the lack of evidence. That constitutes the criminal offence of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
It is also highly significant that the Blairs did not go to the police at the time I sent thenm the letters, but only after I had begun to send my copies of my letters to Blair to the media
How the story developed
After the Blairs’ failure to have me prosecuted I was subjected to a campaign of harassment which continued for the better part of ten years. My post was regularly delayed and opened, every now and then opened so ostentatiously that I can only conclude that it is being done deliberately in an attempt to intimidate me. I also suspect that my telephone and e-mail traffic was routinely interrupted. Modern tapping methods do not give telltale clicks and whirrs, but I did get an extraordinary number of failures to disconnect lines at the ends of calls and phantom ring-backs which occur when the receiver is replaced at the end of a call, the phone rings and no one is there when the receiver is lifted.
The Internet attacks
In 2002 the story took a new turn. On 12 April a post was made to a number of the larger UK newsgroups which accused me falsely of being a paedophile. The post contained my full name and address and incited people to attack me. The poster had also set up a paedophile web site which he or she falsely claimed was mine. 1 had no idea who had made the post. On the 6 April 1 received an anonymous phone call from a man which I taped. The caller gave me the name of the password, Fyfield, for the account of the person who had done the posting about me to the newsgroups.
On 7 May 2002 I received the following unsolicited e-mail purporting to come from a Detective Constable in the Metropolitan Police named Liz Wright:
‘Mr Henderson, the Fyfield you are concerned with is Frances Fyfield, real name Frances Hegarty; check your TV listings for last night. She is a senior CPS prosecutor and works at the CPS HQ. She deals mostly with alleged police corruption. She did me a big favour a couple of years ago and if she finds out that I’ve been in touch with you that is the end of my career so please what ever you do destroy this E-mail after you’ve read it. I’ve made exhaustive enquiries and it is true that she was the main lawyer Cherie Blair consulted. She wanted to drag you into court. Hegarty lives not far from you in Petherton Road. You will have to deal with her personally, either by force or by the civil law but don’t mention me and try not to drag in the Blairs or you will get nowhere.’ Frances Fyfield, is a crime writer and Crown Prosecutor still working with the Crown Prosecution Service. According to the police, DC Liz Wright denies knowing anything of the e-mail. I have spoken with Hegarty/Fyfield and she has denied any knowledge of the newsgroup post, being a friend of the Blairs, or having been involved in the Blairs’ attempt to have me prosecuted in 1997.
On 31 December 2002 a further newsgroup post was made which again falsely represented me as a paedophile, gave my full address and incited people to attack me. On this occasion an e-mail was sent to me which threatened me if I did not take down the Blair Scandal web site.
On 20 March 2003 the third attack on me occurred. This time it took the form of a post to newsgroups falsely purporting to be from me. The post gave the name of Francis Fyfield and an address which purported to be hers. The post claimed she was responsible for the prosecution of Muslims recently and incited violence against her.
The newsgroup post in April 2002 was made two days after l had submitted a complaint to the Chairman of the Inland Revenue.
The 31 December 2002 post and e-mail were sent eight hours after I had spoken on the phone with the countryside campaigner Robin Page. Quite absurdly in my view, Mr Page was under investigation at the time for ‘inciting racial hatred’ at a countryside rally. During our telephone conversation I offered to appear as a witness for him to demonstrate that the application of the law on racial incitement was only applied when politically expedient, something I could prove conclusively. The charges against Mr Page were dropped shortly afterwards. No one but Mr Page and I knew the phone call had taken place at the time the newsgroup post and e-mail were sent. If our conversation and the newsgroup post and e-mail are linked the only rational explanation for that would be that my phone is being tapped.
The 20 March 2003 attack occurred 4 days after 1 had made a complaint to the police about the bribing of police officers to give information by The Sun editor Rebekah Wade – who had admitted to the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee that she had done this – and The Mirror editor, Piers Morgan – who had admitted receiving information from the police in a letter to the PCC in 1997.
I reported the first newsgroup post to the police shortly after I discovered it. I made the report to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens, because my previous complaints had been either not investigated at all by my local police or investigated only in the sense of going through the motions. I contacted Sir John Stevens’ office after a week to find out what action had been taken.
The answer was none. I then wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), David Calvert-Smith, asking him to intervene. Eventually, after the intervention of his office, an investigation was begun in mid-July 2002, three months after my original notification of the complaint. By that time the computer audit trail was cold and any possible evidence from the CCTV at the Internet Cafe from which the post was made had been lost.
I have reported the two subsequent newsgroup posts attacks and the threatening e-mail to the police and investigations are supposedly underway. However, the police refused to interview the Blairs and failed to investigate properly the Frances Fyfield lead.
Failing to get the authorities to act no matter the evidence is a theme which runs throughout. For example, I provided the Met Police with a letter from the then Mirror editor Piers Morgan to the Press Complaints Commission dated 16 October 1997 which contained a clear admission of a criminal act, namely, receiving information (probably for money) from a serving police officer:
“The police source of our article (whose identity we have a moral obligation to protect) [thus the police informant behaved illegally by supplying the information] gave us the detail of the letters that we then published. “
The police agreed there was a crime to investigate, then failed to interview Morgan or the author of the Mirror article.
The Data Protection Act (DPA)
The original Mirror story mentioned that Special Branch had been asked to investigate me despite the fact that the Crown Prosecution Service had declared unequivocally that I had committed no crime. Using the Data Protection Act (DPA) I have confirmed that Special Branch did take an interest in me. It took three years before they would reveal it, but eventually the Metropolitan Police admitted that Special Branch had a file on me. Use of the DPA has also resulted (after years of trying) in confirmation from MI5 that they have had a file on me since 1997.
The Data Protection Tribunal (DPT)
I made a subject access request to MI5 under the 1998 DPA act when it became ‘live’ in 2000. I received a reply which took the regulation Security Service ‘We can neither confirm nor deny’ line. This appeared to be in direct contradiction of the 1998 DPA and the Human Rights Act (HRA). Accordingly I appealed to the DPT (now the Information Tribunal), challenging MI5′s right to neither confirm nor deny whether any data was held. (Under the DPA MI5 have the right to withhold data on security grounds but use of that power would confirmthat data was held.)
My appeal was scheduled to be heard by a panel of three. One was a retired Appeal Court judge, Sir Anthony Evans. The other two members were Michael Beloff QC and James Goudie QC. Beloff and Goudie were not only closely connected with the Blairs but also the Labour Patty. These relationships were of prime importance because my appeal concerned data which, if it existed, could only have related to the Blairs’ attempt to have me prosecuted and the aftermath of that failed attempt.
Mr Beloff was joint head of Cherie Blair’s old chambers at 4/5 Gray’s Inn, Gray’s Inn Sq, where Mrs Blair was a member from 1991 until 2000 when she left to join a new chambers, Matrix. Mr .Beloff originally intended to join Matrix but withdrew at the last moment. He is also a personal friend of the Blairs and was the lawyer called in to sort out Geoffrey Robinson’s problems with his offshore trust. He is a former chairman of the Society of Labour Lawyers.
Goudie is also a personal friend of the Blairs and the Lord Chancellor, Lord lrvine; so is his wife, Lady Goudie, who was made a baroness by Mr Blair in 1998. Goudie is a former Labour leader of Brent Council and was once a prospective Labour parliamentary candidate. He has done legal work for the Labour party. Lady Goudie is a major fund raiser for the Labour Party and acted as chief fund raiser for Frank Dobson when he ran for the post of mayor of London. Lady Goudie is , friend of Gordon Brown’s wife, Sarah Macaulay, and has done work for her PR agency Hobsbawn Macaulay. The Goudies attended the Macauley-Brown wedding.
That such a panel was allocated to my case is unsurprising because the Lord Chancellor appoints the members of DPT panels. The present Lord Chancellor, Derry Irving, is a very close friend of both the Blairs who were once pupils in his chambers. Tony Blair also practised in lrvine’s chambers until he entered Parliament. Cherie Blair’s move to Beloff’s Chambers was initiated by lrvine, lrvine is also a personal friend of Goudie and Beloff and has had a professional relationship with Mr Goudie dating back over a quarter of century. Goudie is currently joint-head of Lord lrvine’s old Chambers.
Despite the links between Blair, Goudie and Beloff, the President of the panel, Anthony Evans, refused to disbar them from sitting. Consequently, I made a complaint to the then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir John Stevens, accusing Evans and Irving of conspiring to pervert the course of justice in the most blatant fashion by deliberately packing a judicial panel. Stevens refused to begin an investigation. I then submitted a complaint against Sir John Stevens to the Met. That complaint is still under investigation by the Met’s Department of Professional Standards.
In the end my appeal never came before the DPT because the Lib-Dem MP, Norman Baker, had an appeal on the same issue of neither confirming or denying upheld by the DPT which meant that my appeal fell as the precedent was established. 1 then made a new appeal to MI5 and got an admission that they held data on me. However, the full data was not revealed
I suspect that the authorities ceased taking any interest in me once Blair announced he would be resigning as PM. Nonetheless I cannot be sure.
What the story does show is both Blair’s paranoia and the ability of a powerful politician to mobilise for his own use the resources of the state. I represented no threat to Blair other than a political one. Yet the police and the security services were only too willing both to do his bidding but to deliberately ignore well substantiated claims of crimes which I made. They also mindlessly labeled me, as did the Mirror and the Blairs, as an extreme right-winger simply because I raised the question of race, even though the only racial incidents I referred to were those which allegedly took place within the Labour Party.
The police were undoubtedly very worried about my unwilling connection with Blair. As a consequence of the various complaints I made against the Blairs, the Daily Mirror and the harassment I suffered, I was visited by a series of high ranking officers, including on one occasion the head of the Metropolitan Police’s internal investigation division after I made complaints about the failure to meaningfully investigate cast iron cases such as that of the Mirror receiving information illegally. Normally, the type of crimes I was alleging would have been dealt with by a detective sergeant. I was being visited by Chief Superintendents, superintendents and chief inspectors.
The other sinister element was the blanket refusal of the British mainstream media to take up the story either during the 1997 election or subsequently. Fearless crusaders in the public interest? Excuse me while I recover from a particularly exhausting fit of laughter.
Those wanting a third party take on the affair can refer to:
Robert Henderson vs Tony Blair
Right meets Left: The Robert Henderson/Tony Blair story