GORDON ANGLESEA, the former North Wales Police superintendent, is an enigma.
On the one hand he won a famous libel action which saw some of the country’s biggest media companies pay£375,000 in damages for falsely accusing him of sexually abusing young boys.
On the other, he was an important character in the events which led up to the decision to set up the north Wales Child Abuse Tribunal in 1996.
He was a senior police officer and a freemason in a situation where critics were alleging that the police were covering up child abuse, some of which was laid at the door of freemasons.
The Tribunal could find no evidence that would have persuaded the libel trial jury to change its mind.
But its three members expressed “considerable disquiet” about some of the evidence Anglesea gave when he appeared before them.
And now a Rebecca Television investigation reveals that the judge in his libel action also shares that “considerable disquiet”.
WHEN RETIRED police superintendent Gordon Anglesea walked into Court 13 of the Royal Courts of Justice in November 1994 he was entering one of the most dramatic rooms in British justice.
This is the cockpit where some of the country’s most celebrated libel trials have been played out.
They include the Jonathan Aitken and Jeffrey Archer cases.
The 57-year-old Anglesea was in Court 13 because he had sued two national newspapers, The Observer and the Independent on Sunday, the magazine Private Eye and HTV, the holder of the ITV franchise in Wales.
His legal costs were underwritten by the Police Federation.
Anglesea claimed the four defendants had accused him of being a child abuser during visits he made to the Bryn Estyn children’s home just outside Wrexham.
The judge, Sir Maurice Drake, was a veteran of many libel actions.
Like Gordon Anglesea, he was a freemason, but he declared that they were members of the same organisation at the start of the trial.
He retired in 1995, the year after the trial.
He told Rebecca Television about his memories of the case.
“For about five years as the Judge in charge of the civil jury list,” he said, “I tried a very, very large number of defamation cases. Many of them did not make any lasting impression on me; but others did and none more so than that of Supt Anglesea.”
Appearing before Sir Maurice was Gareth Williams, the Welsh QC representing Anglesea.
Williams was ennobled by Neil Kinnock as Lord Williams of Mostyn, and later became Attorney General.
He was to die suddenly in 2003 when he was Leader of the House of Lords.
The QC acting for Private Eye, The Observer and the Independent On Sunday was Britain’s best known libel barrister, George Carman.
He died in 2001.
It had all started three years earlier.
In December 1991 — eight months after Anglesea retired from the North Wales Police — the Independent On Sunday wrote about the police investigation into allegations of child abuse at the Bryn Estyn children’s home in North Wales.
The front page article stated:
“According to former residents of Bryn Estyn, Gordon Anglesea, a former senior North Wales police officer, was a regular visitor there.”
“He recently retired suddenly without explanation.”
One of the authors of the article, Dean Nelson, later claimed that this reference was not intended to imply that Anglesea was involved in child abuse.
Anglesea immediately went to his solicitor who wrote to the paper demanding an apology with damages.
The Independent On Sunday refused.
As a result of this article, the North Wales Police decided to investigate Gordon Anglesea as part of its broad-ranging inquiry into child abuse in North Wales headed by Superintendent Peter Ackerley.
The journalist Dean Nelson was sent back to North Wales to see if there were any witnesses who would testify against Anglesea.
Next into the frame was The Observer.
In September 1992 the paper stated:
“A former police chief has been named as a prime suspect in the North Wales sexual abuse scandal, police sources in the region confirmed last night…”
“The ex-police chief is due to be questioned this week as evidence emerges that staff in some children’s homes ‘lent’ children to convicted paedophiles for week-ends.”
When the North Wales child abuse inquiry investigated the latter claim, in the late 1990s, it concluded there was no evidence of children being farmed out to abusers.
The Observer did not name Anglesea but it was clear from the context that the reference could only refer to him.
The paper made similar comments in subsequent editions.
By this time Dean Nelson had found two former Bryn Estyn children who were prepared to testify they had been abused by the police officer.
In September 1992 the HTV programme Wales This Week broadcast interviews with the two men, one identified, the other unnamed and filmed in silhouette.
The programme was watched by another former Bryn Estyn resident.
He told a BBC researcher that Anglesea had abused him and later agreed to give evidence against the former superintendent.
Finally, Private Eye entered the fray in January 1993 with an article based on research from the freelance journalist Brian Johnson-Thomas.
This article claimed Anglesea had investigated allegations against the son of the North Wales politician Lord Kenyon.
Lord Kenyon was a magistrate, a member of the North Wales Police Authority and the Grand Master of the North Wales Province of freemasonry.
Anglesea was also a freemason.
The allegations were made by one of the three men who claimed Anglesea had abused them.
The Waterhouse Tribunal also investigated this issue — and said it could find no evidence that Anglesea had ever been involved in the investigation of the allegation.
In 1993 or 1994 Superintendent Peter Ackerley, the officer heading the police investigation into child abuse at Bryn Estyn and other children’s homes across North Wales, sent a report about Anglesea to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Ackerley recommended prosecution on the grounds that there was more than one witness claiming Anglesea had abused them.
His decision was to remain secret for many years.
The CPS decided not to charge the retired superintendent.
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