I believe Steven Messham: examining the lies and smears in the Mail

The Daily Mail have written a vile piece smearing an abuse survivor. It is a classic example of victim smearing and is thoroughly disgusting. Let us go through each agonising point they make and examine how they are utterly fictitious yet using rape apologistic beliefs as a heuristic to allow their vile claims to sit comfortably and unquestioned in the minds of their audience.

“Newsnight failed to say that Messham triggered a 1994 libel trial by falsely claiming to have been abused by a senior police officer. His story was shown to be riddled with contradictions, costing the publications which reported his claims a total of £375,000 in damages and £1 million costs.”

When police officers rape, they have a cavalcade of their porcine comrades to cover for them. That the official investigation into the case failed is hardly a surprise: the police were the ones investigating it. It has been shown time and time again that they cover for one another: see Hillsborough, see the police coverups of their own active forging of rape investigations. This is likely to be no different and cannot be taken in any way as proof that Steven Messham has a track record of lying about abuse. Instead, he has a track record for being disregarded by virtue of having been abused by those with power.

“Messham physically attacked a lawyer at the Waterhouse public inquiry into sexual abuse in North Wales. He screamed obscenities at the barrister who was questioning him, leapt out of the witness box, and threw punches at him.”

An abuse survivor is angry! This is hardly surprising considering the emotionally traumatic event of having been systematically abused and raped by people with power, in conjunction with a public inquiry failing to fully investigate what happened to him. He was denied justice. That is a reason to be angry.

“Documents proved some of Messham’s evidence to the inquiry to be false. Although Sir Ronald Waterhouse concluded that Messham had experienced abuse, he described him as ‘an unreliable witness’ who was unlikely to be trusted by any jury – a conclusion also reached by the Crown Prosecution Service.”

Again, a powerful man has dismissed a survivor of abuse. Survivors of abuse are often taken to be unreliable witnesses due to their vulnerability and young age, and the fact they have experienced busloads of fucking abuse, repeatedly. Several people in a position of power, who, for some reason or another failed to investigate claims and dismissed a key witness. Why is the survivor being blamed here?

“Even Messham’s lawyer concedes he may be ‘disturbed’ and that he may have made up some of his claim.”

Messham needs a better lawyer. Incidentally, the lawyer actually said this: ‘People who are vulnerable . . .  a good part of them is so disturbed that they’re not going to be wholly consistent and reliable.” That is somewhat different from the Mail’s claim that the lawyer said he made it up, isn’t it?

“In 2004, Angus Stickler, the reporter behind this month’s Newsnight story, was publicly criticised for interviewing Messham on Radio 4 without mentioning he was facing charges of defrauding a charity he ran for alleged abuse victims. Messham was later acquitted.”

So Messham didn’t defraud a charity? How is that in any way related to his credibility as a witness for child sex abuse?

“In 2005, Messham was also cleared of a £33,000 benefits fraud. He admitted concealing savings of £40,000 – a result of compensation for the alleged abuse – when he made claims for income support and housing benefit, but insisted he had not intended to be dishonest.”

Again, what on fucking earth has this got to do with sexual abuse?

“Newsnight’s key claim that Messham was prevented from naming Lord McAlpine and other supposed paedophiles at the Waterhouse inquiry was clearly untrue. Transcripts show Messham could say whatever he liked about anyone he chose – and that he did so with abandon over his two weeks of testimony, during which time he did allege that a man referred to only as ‘McAlpine’ had abused him.”

This is (A) a criticism of a TV show, not what he said, and (B) completely ignoring the fact that Messham spent years thinking it was McAlpine due to a police officer showing him a photograph of the perpetrator and telling Messham it was McAlpine. Again, it’s got literally nothing to do with his credibility as a witness.

In all, then, the Mail have smeared an abuse survivor as a cheap attempt to get linkbait and profit from what happened to him, all the while continuing to create a climate where survivors are not believed. The only people who profit from this are abusers and perpetrators of rape. I have not linked to this article, because I don’t want to encourage the Mail’s cosy relationship with rapists, but the quotes are verbatim.

It is crucial that we believe Messham. He was raped and abused, and what happened to him must be investigated. The excuses the Mail have provided for him being denied justice are a vile, transparent attempt at a smear and an attempt to reinforce the culture which allows these horrific things to happen.

Addendum: the “journalist” who wrote this has a track record of trying to discredit witnesses in child abuse cases where the establishment are implicated. I can’t say I’m surprised, though I am utterly disgusted.

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7 responses to “I believe Steven Messham: examining the lies and smears in the Mail

  • marty21

    Typical Mail smearing, on today’s site they also claim there is a backlash against an advert for bread – which features a school girl in a short skirt (played by an 18 year old actor) and claimed it sexualised young children. They then linked to a video of the advert and published several stills of the girl

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2231167/Fury-Kingsmill-advert-sexualises-children-Shows-skimpy-teenager-posing-provocatively-skimpy-school-uniform.html

  • Lilybright

    Completely in support of this article. Thanks for writing it.
    I also think that the energy the right-wing are spending on discrediting any person or institution that dares to lift the lid on the reality of this web of powerful , interconnected abusers tells how close to the truth the reports have been and how threatened a class-caste of ruling men perceive themselves to be.
    Sickening that , not only did these men perpetrate the abuse but that their institutional descendants are happy to re-abuse by smears and disbelief .
    As for McAlpine, if the man had any sense of decency and honour (which de facto as a Tory scumbag he doesn’t), he’d be hiding in shame at his relative’s perverted acts instead of threatening to sue.

  • Sam

    Thank you for writing this rational and compassionate piece in support of Mr Messham.

    The Daily Mail is utterly shameful.

    But this is what we, the ordinary public and victims of any sort of abuse, are up against: a callous, corrupted establishment that will stop at nothing to destroy us when we exercise our ‘democratic right’ to speak up and make valid complaints.

  • Callie

    The sickening ones are those who lined Messham up as public witness number one when they KNEW his testimony would fall apart under questioning, as it has done on several previous occasions. You can call me names all you want, but the simple fact is that he was used by journos to get a scoop without them checking their basic facts. BTW, did you not hear Messham claim that the Mr Tory Big had rung him up and told him who he was and threatened him? Yet he never bothered to check what he looked like? It’s piffle, and pretending it isn’t is doing a massive dis-service to child protection. Resources are being wasted going over the same ground as was covered 20 years ago.

  • Baggio Camera Head

    The Daily Mail is a disgrace. What have they got to cover up i wonder when they have pulled a stunt like this. just another part of the British establishment( who we supposed to be so proud off, being mean vile lying lowlifes. how can any decent newspaper want to cover up rape and abuse unless they have something to hide.

  • Baggio Camera Head

    Let McAlpine sue, no he wont because too much would come out. The mail has just committed a henious act and will never live this one down. Hope the Sun newspaper rips in to them tomorrow. now we know all newspapers are sh.t at times,but we must take advantage of Murdoch wanting revenge and let him hopefully bring them to their knees. may God forgive the mail as this could put other survivors of reporting to the police,well if we can get an honest police force.

  • cat

    Thanks for this piece.

    I have not read the whole Mail story because I don’t want to visit their site, it makes me physically sick. But there is so much wrong with the sections you quoted. Its just badly written, poor journalism.

    For example:

    ““Messham physically attacked a lawyer at the Waterhouse public inquiry into sexual abuse in North Wales. He screamed obscenities at the barrister who was questioning him, leapt out of the witness box, and threw punches at him.”

    OK, how does the Mail know this? According to whom did Messham “physically attack” a lawyer? I don’t know if the Mail goes on to report that it’s reporter was in the courtroom and witnessed the “attack” or whether it was reported in another (more reliable!) news outlet, or what but without that attribution this is just hearsay.

    With that in mind – i.e. that this quote as it stands is an anecdote – just look at the language:

    “screamed obscenities”
    “leapt out”
    “threw punches”

    This is highly emotive language deliberately used to create a picture of Messham as unstable, a hooligan, violent, not like you’d expect a victim to behave. It’s not the language of a neutral news report.

    Now let’s say the Mail’s report is totally true (unlikely). It does not mean that Messham is a liar. As you say he may have been triggered by nasty questions put to him by a lawyer. Messham is RAPE VICTIM, rape is horrific, he is not being questioned about a parking violation.

    This is all part of a narrative that says that victims must to be nice, white middle class people or they are not really victims. You know what, rape victims who have criminal records, rape victims who are nasty, foul mouthed angry violent people – THEY ARE ALL RAPE VICTIMS.

    I’m so sick of this in the media.

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