The former MP, witchcraft and a big fat lawyer bust-up

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By Judge John Hack on

An anti-child abuse crusader and a top criminal law barrister go hammer and tongs over definition of a witch hunt


Take an emotive subject — what the hell, let’s go for child abuse — chuck a couple of opinionated lawyers into the mix and shake vigorously.

Hey presto — you get a cocktail called mega online row with a witchcraft garnish.

The two crucial ingredients for this version are Peter Garsden, president of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, and Matthew Scott, an outspoken senior junior criminal law barrister at Pump Court Chambers in the Temple.

It all kicked off on Friday when Garsden, who is also senior partner at Quality Solicitors-branded law firm Abney Garsden in Cheshire, fired of a broadside at former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor.

The 68-year-old ex-member for Basildon in Essex recently called a high-profile press conference to protest his innocence in relation to allegations that he was at the heart of an establishment-organised paedophile ring.

Proctor lambasted the police and a website called Exaro for running what he described as an unfounded smear campaign against him.

Garsden, writing for the online public law site The Justice Gap, took Proctor to task, not least for having invoked the term “witch hunt” to describe the tactics of plod and some keyboard warriors.

The solicitor’s rationale suggested that invoking the analogy was misplaced, and that unless bona fide witches were involved in this debate, the term should be binned.

Scott — who has recently represented the so-called Naked Rambler — rushed to Proctor’s defence.

It was entirely legitimate for the former MP to defend himself in the media, argued the lawyer, who is also known as BarristerBlogger, not least as a lead police investigator had apparently prejudiced the case by describing allegations against Proctor as “credible and true”.

But Scott reserved his most acerbic comments for Garsden’s witch hunt volley. Wrote the barrister:

It may be that he [Garsden] is uncomfortable with the analogy because, as he explains on his firm’s website, he himself actually believes in the widespread existence of witches who sacrifice children. If you believe in the existence of evil witches a witch hunt is not necessarily a bad thing.

Scott then quoted from Garsden’s own Abuse Law blog, where the solicitor does indeed suggest that witches could be among us today.

My own belief is that there are several hidden societies in England and Wales which practise ritualistic abuse to the present day, which includes the sacrifice of children described graphically in Dennis Wheatley novels.

Wheatley was a best-selling writer of occult novels and thrillers during the first half of the last century. Garsden continued on his blog:

The Wicker Man film is obviously fictional, but not far away from the truth, I believe. A similar attitude would have been adopted to child abuse 70 years ago, I would imagine. Although witchcraft was commonplace in this country in medieval times, there are many who alleged they have been a victim of it today. The point is that not enough people are brave enough to believe that it is true.

Clearly, Garsden is brave enough to call a witch a witch when he sees one. In the meantime, Harvey Proctor adamantly maintains his innocence.