Why I, a former MP, am claiming £10million from the police for the nightmare of wrongly being accused of child sex abuse: JOHN HEMMING recalls his five years of hell over false claims
- John Hemming has started a £10 million legal action against Staffordshire Police
- He served as a Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardly from 2005 to 2015
- Staffordshire Police sent to CPS to consider him facing child sex abuse charges
The nightmare of being wrongly accused of sexually abusing a child lives with you for ever. The finger of blame is pointed and soon comes the whispering of ‘no smoke without fire’.
I am just emerging from nearly five years of such hell. In my case, I had never met my female accuser, a bookie’s clerk from Liverpool then in her early-30s.
Yet what she told police about me at the time of growing national hysteria over a later-disproved Westminster VIP paedophile ring still casts a shadow over me and my family.
John Hemming, 59, served as a Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardly from 2005 to 2015. Pictured with his partner Emily Cox
My career in the political world is on hold, for the time being at least. Last weekend, I was on the doorsteps of my old Birmingham constituency, Yardley, campaigning with the Lib Dem candidate hoping to win my former seat at the Christmas election. I was recognised by many constituents who greeted me with delight and steadfastly believe in my innocence.
Thank goodness for them.
The friends and family who have stuck by me are a godsend, too.
I cannot say the same for Staffordshire Police force which ignored evidence that the preposterous accusations about me by this woman were impossible. They sent the file to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider if I should face charges of child sex abuse.
The accuser: Esther Baker (left). Labour’s Tom Watson (right) who was then deputy leader who backed John Hemming’s accuser
My ordeal, with some key Labour Party figures (including then deputy leader Tom Watson) backing my accuser, went on until last week when I glimpsed a light at the tunnel’s end. Last Tuesday, the High Court ruled that I can receive libel damages from this woman because she made unsubstantiated rape claims against me.
I can reveal today that I have also started a £10 million legal action against Staffordshire Police over their conduct and investigations into me. My complaints file has been passed to the Independent Office for Police Conduct to investigate any wrongdoing. It, in turn, has asked Staffordshire Police to look into what I believe has been the unfair treatment of me by the officers of their force.
That is a huge relief for me.
My emotional ordeal began with an email I received out of the blue on January 17, 2015, from someone called Esther Baker.
For years, I have campaigned for families caught up in the secretive family courts and this may be how she found my name and contact details on the internet.
Whatever the truth, Ms Baker told me (and later said the same to police) that on her sixth birthday she had been raped by her father. She added in the email: ‘I was introduced to a faith-related paedophile ring and on Christmas Eve, still at the age of six, was subjected to the first of many multiple rapes.’
Such a story, if true, was heart-wrenching.
How could such a terrible thing, I thought, have happened to her?
Ms Baker told me that she had also emailed the then Home Secretary Theresa May about her childhood abuse.
I replied by email on the same day suggesting, with some sympathy, that Ms Baker should report the terrible matter to the police. And there the matter might have rested.
At the time, I was a Lib Dem MP with a busy constituency and running a software business with an annual turnover of £20 million.
That did not mean I was not listening. I felt, and do still, that I gave her the right advice about her very serious claims of paedophilia.
It was four months later that I next heard the name Esther Baker.
Sky News, on May 25, 2015, broadcast a report saying that uniformed police officers had stood guard as several men had sexually assaulted Esther Baker from the age of six in Cannock Chase in Staffordshire and at various other properties around the country.
In the televised interview, Ms Baker spoke out publicly, forgoing her right to anonymity as a ‘rape victim’. She claimed officers would ‘sort of join in’ and that her abusers had included lords and a judge.
The broadcast said Ms Baker had given video interviews to detectives detailing her abuse. It added that she had named ‘one particular politician’ in accounts of her ordeal.
Today I know I was that named politician. I know now, too, that she told police she had seen my entire naked body and later identified me to them as having a large birthmark on my back and a distinctive peculiarity to my private parts.
I possess neither feature. However, I have a different feature that my accuser did not mention.
I think, and have said so in my £10 million action against Staffordshire Police, that detectives probing her allegations should have smelt a rat. How could they suspect me of raping Esther Baker when two of the physical marks on my body she mentioned did not exist, while a third obviously did and was overlooked by her?
She also accused a peer (now dead but 74 at the time and suffering from debilitating prostate cancer) and other prominent public figures of ritualistic group-rape involving her in Cannock Chase and other places.
They included Dolphin Square, a block of flats near the Houses of Parliament used by politicians and named by the jailed fantasist ‘Nick’ — Carl Beech — as a hotspot for [he alleged] paedophilia and murder during the now discredited Westminster VIP scandal.
In the Sky News broadcast, British newspaper articles, and TV interviews overseas, she described situations akin to a horror film.
They were extravagant in everything but detail.
One such event involved a room full of naked under-age girls to which she claimed to have been taken in a foreign country. Yet she said that none of the girls she met there spoke a word, so she had no idea of their nationalities. Still the police didn’t call a halt, however preposterous her claims. They took statements from 30 people, but found no corroborating evidence against me (or indeed the late peer).
In all, Ms Baker was interviewed by 11 officers for over nearly 100 hours. There are more than 1,000 pages from those interviews and other material running to 7,000 more.
What a waste of time and money!
I have never been charged with any offence. But certainly Ms Baker set the hare running.
I warned police that she was perverting the course of justice but was told I could not take legal action to stop the process until all her allegations as a ‘victim’ had been resolved.
I think this was malicious behaviour by Staffordshire detectives.
So imagine my shock when, in early 2016, my case was referred to the CPS.
This was very serious. I should have already been eliminated as a suspect.
Only a few weeks before going to the police about the Cannock Chase allegations, Ms Baker had denied on Twitter that she had ever met a politician or an MP.
No wonder I am seeking compensation from Staffordshire Police for abusing their public power, acting perversely by referring me for possible prosecution, and harming me and my family.
I believe some of their officers were caught up in the post-Jimmy Savile frenzy over historical child abuse. They did not use their common sense but, unthinkingly, powered on parroting the now-discredited principle of ‘believe the victim’ in sex abuse cases and blow the evidence. Incredibly, even when the CPS ruled out charges against me, one of the Staffordshire detectives issued a public statement about Esther Baker, saying the police would ‘continue to support her as we do with all victims of crime’.
This was dishonest because the force knew that I was innocent.
If Esther Baker’s allegations of rape as a child are true, they did not involve me. In my demand for damages, I point out that I was harassed by her.
She approached, as I say in the documents, Liberal Democrat councillors face-to-face and accused me of rape. She tweeted the same allegations.
Tom Watson, then Labour deputy leader, was in the mix. He backed Ms Baker, saying publicly: ‘Esther has made very serious allegations. They concern a politician who is in the public eye today and is therefore different from allegations from previous eras. I hope the police will resource a comprehensive investigation’.
Worryingly, it was not only Watson. Jess Phillips MP, my successful Labour Party opponent in the last two General Elections, has invested considerable time in promoting the allegations, causing more disquiet to my family. I have said this publicly before now and I have copies of a series of tweets from Ms Phillips dating back to 2015 which show her friendship and support for Esther Baker.
Some of these Labourites have, in my view, armed the villagers with torches and pitchforks to set off a lynching.
I repeatedly complained to police about this. I gave them a letter dated July 9 last year from my daughter’s school headmistress.
She asked Staffordshire to prevent the harassment of my daughter caused by Esther Baker’s allegations against me.
For years, my child has dreaded someone turning round at school and calling her father a paedophile.
Sadly, some people have pulled away from us. Not all the children who came to stay overnight kept coming. It was not because they don’t like my daughter, but because they don’t like me, her dad, for something I haven’t done.
I have even received threats of violence and murder because of my accuser’s allegations, which were copied on social media. And one man was recently convicted for threatening to kill me.
The irony was that while Ms Baker chose to be identified, I was thrown to the wolves by the campaigners and the police who publicly confirmed my age (55 at the time), that I was a Liberal Democrat MP and a jazz pianist.
By jigsaw identification, they in effect named me and enabled the resulting vigilante harassment to grow. My file to the police shows I was put at risk by Esther Baker’s fantastical allegations against me.
I have lived in fear as a result. Yet there has been no action to date against Ms Baker.
In the 1990s, I was a world leader on e-commerce. My business was thriving and I am still a multi-millionaire developing tax software. Yet since these allegations, I have been unable to go to the City for funding to expand my business because investors would have been scared off.
I was prevented from helping at my son’s school because I would now fail, although I am innocent, a criminal records check, as I have been questioned over paedophilia.
As the keyboard player in a jazz band, I have had to withdraw from weekly performances, as the venue might be targeted if I were known to be performing there.
I am not standing as the Liberal Democrat candidate in the forthcoming election for fear it would invite more harassment of my family and partner, Emily.
Our fear of a vigilante attack has compelled us to move to a secret address and put in a top-quality CCTV system.
Embarrassingly, I have had to discuss the most intimate details of this saga with the Liberal Democrat top-brass (as I explained my decision to stand down at this election).
My voluntary legal adviser, Sam Collingwood Smith, has also been harassed on social media for criticising Ms Baker and, even last week, continued to be so. Although I am an Oxford-educated physicist and good at making money, wealth is not my God.
I am claiming £10 million compensation not for financial rewards, but because the insurance company who will pay this will make sure that police behave better in the future.
Most importantly, I hope it will be a warning to all police forces to think again before they pursue an innocent person, and their family, without evidence.
I don’t think that is a lot to ask after what we have been through at the hands of a woman who clearly lives in a fantasy world.
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