May 21 2024
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The media only wanted me when they thought I was guilty

The media only wanted me when they thought I was guilty

Gurpal Virdi retired from the Met in 2012 following what he describes as 'institutional racism'

Growing up in the UK you think that what is being reported in the media is true. You’re told: this country has strict defamation rules, the BBC is respected throughout the world, and our journalists and reporters are truly hardworking. I grew up with a host of newspapers and programmes like World in Action, Panorama, Rough Justice, Newsnight, Channel 4 News, Dispatches and host of others exposing the evils of the world and making our government more accountable.

But the truth about our media is not quite so heroic.

I have worked hard, got a house, got married, had children who got the best that my wife and I could give them. I paid my taxes and obeyed the law. After retiring from an institutionally racist police force after three decades, I retrained and started work elsewhere in local politics.

  • You can read Will Bordell’s interview with Gurpal Virdi here

In 2014, there was a knock on the door and I found myself thrown into another bear pit: an unwanted journey prompted by false historical allegations. Because I was a high-profile policeman, I got a lot of negative publicity about these historical sexual allegations. I was labelled a paedophile. It was life-destroying. The police fuelled the media, who churned out biased reporting to get sensational stories. It was a technique that was to ruin my reputation.

In 2015, I stood in the dock at Southwark Crown Court accused of indecent assault and misconduct in public office. The allegations related to a arrest that I supposedly made in 1986. During the trial it was revealed that the police had lied on oath to a magistrate to get a summons; that their police witness had was unreliable; that the complainant was a proven liar; and above all that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service failed in their duty by persisting with their prosecution even though I was not even the arresting officer. The judge even stated that there may have been a conspiracy against me. The jury cleared me within minutes.

Did the media who reported on the original allegations report this? No, they didn’t. All I got when I was exonerated was complete silence.

Does the media not want to report on how police officers lied? Do journalists not want to explore how evidence was being excluded that undermined the prosecution and assisted my defence? Why was disclosure being withheld? Do newspapers not want to find out more about how senior officers who were present failed to deal with perjury being committed in court under oath by its witnesses? Would they not get as many clicks with the story of an upstanding officer who fought racism and inequality being targeted once again by the institutionally racist metropolitan police?

Many individuals have been subjected to false historical allegations, even rich and famous people like Sir Cliff Richard who successfully sued the BBC and the police. Powerful politicians were the subjects of the infamous Operation Midland conducted by the metropolitan police, which resulted in inquiries, apologies and compensation.

So, as an ordinary tax paying person why am I being denied justice? I do not have enough money to sue the CPS or the Metropolitan Police. But both are government-funded organisations, which should be held accountable. I am not the only one: there are many ordinary innocent people who have been falsely accused but have no access to justice or compensation.

My case has been raised in parliament several times by Sir Peter Bottomley MP, but to date there has been no inquiry. Many politicians are aware of my case but they will keep silent as it is not a vote winner.

The media has a role to play in this as they were complicit in reporting the false allegations but not reporting on the final outcome: that I was innocent of all wrongdoing.

Since the Jimmy Savile case, a lot of ordinary people have become trapped by false and malicious allegations. Allegations of historical sexual and physical abuse have become an industry in the UK. Some have realised there is money to be made as they might qualify for substantial compensation payments from the criminal injuries compensation authority if they made allegations to police.

Personal injury solicitors soon realised that most institutions, such as boarding schools, children’s homes, churches and other public sectors have public liability insurance. This offers far richer pickings for any unscrupulous claimants and, of course, for the solicitors themselves. Individual claims can easily top £100,000 and many insurers prefer to settle any claims with their associated legal costs at the earliest opportunity, rather than risk an expensive adverse judgment, along with negative publicity, in the civil courts.

These falsely accused individuals, though, were not given legal aid as most are hard working people with families and homes. The internet meant that stories were republished in several countries. Stories like those about me became part of the UK’s culture of ‘dealing with’ a long-dormant sexual abuse problem. The accused were isolated and got poor legal representation at court because they were presumed guilty. Some individuals even pleaded guilty in order to get a lower sentence or because they did not want their families to be shamed in public.

Many have been convicted on little or no evidence and locked away for a long time. They were easy pickings for the police, CPS, courts and government. False accusers and their lawyers saw this as another opportunity to get more money. Not satisfied with statutory compensation for criminal injuries, they went after family assets through the civil courts.

Some individuals put up a fight even when they didn’t have good legal teams. After getting negative publicity, some went to their MPs but only a handful got any support from them as supporting an ‘alleged’ paedophile was not a vote-winner.

After my ‘not guilty’ verdict, I made a trip to the police station to make an allegation of perverting the course of justice. A complaint to the independent office of police complaints was recorded but sent back to the very same team that was investigating me – so nothing will be done. If I were to bring a civil action, the police would blame the CPS and the CPS would blame the judge, stating that there was sufficient evidence to proceed with trial. Nobody wants to know.

It is about time our biased media woke up to report fairly and properly.