Former Liberal Democrat MP, John Hemming, is pursuing a claim for damages totalling £10million against Staffordshire Police following their handling of allegations of non-recent child abuse made against him. The allegations were notified to Staffordshire Police by Esther Baker in 2015 who accused several men, including Hemming, of being part of a paedophile ring who sexually assaulted her as a child from the age of 6 in Cannock Chase, Staffordshire.
Hemming maintained his innocence throughout the investigation and is alleging the Police displayed “malicious behaviour” in referring the case against him to the CPS when there was a lack of evidence and he should “have been eliminated as a suspect” at a very early stage. In relation to the criminal allegations against him, the CPS ultimately recommend that no further action be taken against Hemming owing to “insufficient evidence.”
Hemming’s claim for damages against the Police follows his success earlier this year in a direct action for libel against Ms Baker. According to Hemming the significant award he seeks in his Civil action is not for financial gain but to ensure that lessons are learned “because insurers will pay the settlement, this will make sure the police behave better in the future.”
Hemming’s action follows former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor’s 18 month legal battle with the Metropolitan Police following their handling of accusations of child abuse made against him by Carl Beech. Beech’s fictitious claims, which formed the basis of Operation Midland, saw several former MP’s homes raided in an 18 month long operation between November 2014 and March 2016 to uncover the alleged VIP paedophile ring accused of raping and torturing young boys in the 1970’s & 1980’s. Proctor who maintained his innocence throughout the investigation pursued the Met in negligence for their handling of the investigation setting out that the handling of the investigation and delay in identifying Beech’s allegations as fraudulent had caused him a “major depressive illness” and resulted in him losing his job and home.
Proctor agreed to settle his claim against the Met by accepting an out of court settlement of £500,000 in damages plus £400,000 towards his legal costs. The settlement was described by Proctor’s legal team as the largest ever made to a complainant who had not gone to prison and the first time the police had ever “bought off” a claim for negligence.
The Met’s settlement of Proctor’s claim follows the significant criticism they received over their handling of Operation Midland in the independent review undertaken by Sir Richard Henriques published in October 2016.
Written by Sarah Murray-Smith, partner at BLM