A psychologist has accepted £65,000 in damages from the Mail On Sunday over “defamatory” allegations that she gave “credibility and legitimacy” to the false claims of convicted fantasist Carl Beech.
Dr Elly Hanson sued Associated Newspapers Limited over a July 2019 article which claimed she “gave legitimacy” to Beech’s “ludicrous” claims.
The opinion piece by criminologist Richard Hoskins said Beech (pictured) “should have been stopped at the outset” and that Dr Hanson was “among those signed up to the idea that anyone claiming to be a victim of abuse must be believed”.
The article also said there was “no doubting the importance of the therapists in this case”, without whom “none of this might have happened”.
It criticised “the psychotherapy industry” for “its cavalier approach to truth (which) has ruined lives, traduced reputations and damaged criminal investigations”.
At a brief High Court hearing on Wednesday, Dr Hanson settled her libel claim against ANL over the publication of the “extremely serious, false and defamatory allegations”.
Her lawyer Oliver Cox told Mr Justice Griffiths: “Dr Hanson’s involvement with Beech was limited to two instances.”
Cox said Dr Hanson “advised upon and implemented a strategy of making first contact with ‘Fred’, a potential second witness, who later turned out to be an alias operated by Beech, via email” as part of Operation Midland, the Metropolitan Police’s botched VIP child sex abuse probe into Beech’s claims.
The court heard Dr Hanson “drafted and sent” the email to ‘Fred’, which was “approved by police”.
Cox added that “the second instance of contact with Beech” was when Dr Hanson attended “the Wall of Silence childhood sexual abuse survivors event”.
“Contrary to what the article alleged, Dr Hanson had not organised the event, did not know Beech would be attending when she accepted an invitation to speak, and, Dr Hanson believes, learned that fact either shortly before or on the day,” Cox said.
“She met Beech at the event, speaking briefly with him in person for the first – and only – time that day for a couple of minutes.
“Dr Hanson had no further contact with Beech, that day or at any time thereafter.”
Cox told the court: “Given the false nature of these claims, there was in fact no basis for stating that Dr Hanson had demonstrated a lack of professional judgment.
“Nor did she give unjustified credibility and legitimacy to Beech’s claims, and she shared no responsibility whatsoever for ruining the reputations of blameless public figures who were investigated in the context of Operation Midland or for ‘wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on police investigations’, as stated in the article.”
Hoskins’ article also said Dr Hanson had previously declared she would not have “let her children near” Sir Edward Heath, and suggested that her appointment to an independent panel of advisers on Operation Conifer – Wiltshire Police’s investigation into sex abuse allegations against the former prime minister – seemed to be “a clear breach of impartiality”.
But Cox told the court: “Dr Hanson did not in fact express a prejudicial view about Sir Edward Heath prior to joining the Operation Conifer scrutiny panel, as the article also alleged.
“As such, Dr Hanson did not prejudge his guilt, nor did she demonstrate a lack of impartiality and professional judgment.”
He added: “The publication of these extremely serious, false and defamatory allegations over such a prolonged period of time caused enormous distress to Dr Hanson, as well as very considerable professional embarrassment.
“This included, for example, in one distressing instance, Dr Hanson having to defend herself to a group of people who had experienced child abuse, and who understood from the article that she had acted unprofessionally and befriended Mr Beech, someone who had damaged perceptions of child abuse complainants.”
Cox also said: “Dr Hanson did not subscribe to the idea that Beech must be believed simply because he alleged abuse.
“In stark contrast to a position of blind belief, Dr Hanson has always believed in the principle of taking allegations seriously at the outset and in the merits of thorough investigation.”
He said ANL had “agreed to pay Dr Hanson £65,000 by way of damages for libel, as well as her legal costs” and had removed the online version of the article. It published an apology at the end of January.
Picture: CPS/PA Wire