Tim Hunt Natala demina

The Tim Hunt Reporting Was False. Royal Society, Please Give Him Due Process

Trisha Greenhalgh J

If you are a scientist or academic, please email, with your name and university,

Paul.Nurse@royalsociety.org, Michael.arthur@ucl.ac.uk

and ask them to, at the very least, state publicly that there is no evidence Sir #TimHunt ever made a sexist joke, or is a sexist.

Maria Leptin J

Tim Hunt Natala demina

Sir Tim Hunt Was Misreported. Here’s How

My first blog on the shameful treatment of the Sir Tim Hunt, FRS, Nobel Laureate, 72, demonstrated how a couple of his peers pre-judged him as a sexist over a Twitter storm, before he could speak a word in his own defence.

This blog will, I hope, demonstrate how the initial portrayal of Sir Tim was based on partial, false reporting. It contains an on the record statement from Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the ERC that he had eyewitnesses plural report to him on the day of the lunch that Sir Tim had praised women in science and been warmly received: that he personally spoke both on the phone, and later face to face, with a Korean woman organizer of the conference, and she had given him “explicit confirmation” of the speech’s praise of women and warm reception.

It also contains, below, testimonies from named journalist eyewitnesses who all flatly contradict Connie St. Louis’ account.

Sir Tim Hunt was a guest of honour on June 8 at a luncheon held in honour of women scientists and engineers at a conference in Seoul.

zzzz science journalists hunt J

the only contemporary tweet during the lunch in Seoul 

Connie St. Louis Reports a Serious Attack on Women; Says Sir Tim Hunt Argued In Earnest That Labs Should Be Segregated

After this luncheon, Ms. St. Louis sent her now-notorious tweet accusing Sir Tim of having seriously insulted women in science, and seriously argued for sex-segregated laboratories.

CSL tweet

Ms. St. Louis went on the UK’s most listened-to programme, the Today Show on Radio 4. She was very insistent that Sir Tim had not been joking in any way, and that he was definitely advocating segregated laboratories.

Sarah Montague: Connie St. Louis, when he said this – I mean, you heard him, you were there – what was the reaction in the room?

Connie St. Louis: Well, there was a deathly silence, it was – who stands up and says “I hope the women have prepared the lunch”? “I’m a male chauvinist pig”. And at that point, you’d think he would get some social cues to say “Stop”, because nobody was laughing…these guys had been incredibly generous and thoughtful and inclusive by asking him to make comments at their lunch. …And I kept thinking… this is just too awful and these guys are incredibly upset.

And so this – after he’d finished, there was this deathly, deathly silence.

When Sir Tim later told the Guardian that his joke was meant to be sending up sexism, not women, and that it was misreported:

Crucially, Hunt said, he then added the words, “now seriously” before going on to praise the role of women in science and in Korean society. “The words ‘now seriously’ make it very clear that I was making a joke

Connie St. Louis was not having any of it. STOP DEFENDING SIR TIM HUNT, she wrote, also in the Guardian. He was NOT joking and he had absolutely not praised women in science or in Korea. If only that were true!

During Hunt’s outburst, the female Korean scientists and engineers were stunned and confused…Nobody was laughing. Hunt now claims he added the words “now seriously” …He did not say this, nor did he praise the role of women in science and in Korean society. I wish he had; things would have been so much better.

The EU Observer’s Report is Leaked

An internal report by an EU Observer (it is standard practice to write these up at such events, President Bourguinon told me) then leaked to the Times. It contained this ‘rough transcript, as best as I can remember.’ and a reaction in the room totally different from Connie St. Louis description:

‘It’s strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists. Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls?’ Now seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without doubt an important role in it. Science needs women and you should do science despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.”

The official added: “Sir Tim didn’t ‘thank women for making lunch. I didn’t notice any uncomfortable silence or any awkwardness in the room as reported on social and then mainstream media.”

The official added that his neighbour, a woman from the Korean National Research Council of Science and Technology and an organiser of the conference, responded positively. “Without being asked, she said she was impressed that Sir Tim could improvise such a warm and funny speech (her words). Later she told me that all other Korean lunch participants she talked to didn’t notice or hear anything peculiar in Sir Tim’s speech.”

This, of course, backed up what Sir Tim had said from day 1. At first, Blum and Oransky did not deny the extra words and context when it put to them by the Times. I suggest that Blum’s reactions on twitter show that she was afraid there was a tape.

‘Can you confirm or refute this claim? The added context is important,’ she’s asked on Twitter the day before the times published.

It’s got some of the right elements but it’s not precisely what he said. It’s more polished.’

A fellow journalist at the lunch, Nataliya Demina of Russia, had challenged St. Louis’ and Blum’s account all along and did so again:

verified J

‘Verified by many?’ Deborah Blum was sitting right next to him.

But as it becomes clear that there’s no tape recording, Connie St. Louis and Deborah Blum, and their allies, go back on the attack. ‘Not a transcript! Not an official report! Complied late! Proves nothing!’

Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the ERC, And Journalist Eyewitnesses Contradict St. Louis’ And Blum’s Account

I then do some fact-checking. There was one official document, the first, on the 10th June: a statement from the ERC President that was on the record.

President of the European Research Council on June 10th

Sir Tim Hunt has already apologised and explained that his impromptu comments were meant to be “light-hearted” and “ironic”, and that it was not his intention to demean women. In his main speech he was very supportive towards women in science and he said that he hoped there was nothing that barred women from science.

I can also add that during the time I have worked with him on the ERC Scientific Council he has only ever been a supporter of gender balance.

The ERC’s clear view is that women and men are equally able to perform frontier research at the highest level. This is the core of the ERC Gender Equality Plan, first endorsed in 2010 and revised in 2014. The plan is fully supported by the entire Scientific Council, including Sir Tim. The plan is available on the ERC website.

So…. being an ex-politician, as well as a journalist, I know that it is very difficult for political bodies to release documents, like the observer’s report, they have tried to suppress. I ignore the EU observer report because it is off the record, and I ask questions about the document which is on the record. For one thing, its date is closer to the speech – 10th June, when Connie St. Louis was talking to Today about the ‘deathly silence’ in the room.

I asked M. Bourguignon why he made the assertion that he did on June 10th that Sir Tim was in fact “very supportive to women in science.” He replied:

I based the relevant part of my June 10 statement on the testimonies of eye witnesses. These were confirmed by other testimonies that surfaced later.

7. As I recalled in the statement, gender balance has been an issue the Scientific Council has been concerned about for a long time and remains to be highly concerned with. A number of measures have been put in place, e.g. the plan quoted in the statement. All those required votes of the ERC Scientific Council, and Sir Tim always supported these pro-active actions.

Your question 7 has also another dimension, namely Sir Tim’s availability to interact with other researchers, in particular young ones, female and male of course. It is well known to very many people that, among people of his distinction, Sir Tim is exceptionally keen of talking both to audiences or to individuals about his experience and answering all kinds of question. This is precisely why I chose him to accompany two women ERC grantees to attend the very special conference in Seoul.

M. Bourguignon is clear – he heard at the time from eyewitnesses plural and confirmed it later that Sir Tim’s main speech was ‘very supportive to women in science.’

Could he shed any light on the claim that a Korean woman host had agreed with Nataliya Demina’s testimony that Tim Hunt was warmly received in the room? This was important as the head of the organization had belatedly, after the media storm, demanded an apology ‘on behalf of all women scientists in Korea and around the world’. She was contradicted by a female former pupil of Sir Tim’s, Professor Hyunsook Lee of Seoul University, who said ‘This does not sound like Tim at all’ and ‘he never treated me like a female scientist.’ If a Korean woman host present HAD INDEED praised the speech at the time, and testified to its warm reception, then the ‘apology demand’ would be so much guff from somebody who wasn’t there –  speaking on behalf of others.

Amazingly,  President Bourguignon stood up to be counted on this matter, too, and he delivered a genuine bombshell: not only had he received a verbal report on the day itself that corresponded with the contents of the written report, he had personally spoken to the Korean host himself in Brussels, face-to-face, and she confirmed the leaked account. A staffer had conveyed the reaction in the room of one of the Korean women hosts

who was present
and to whom I could speak later face-to-face (she
came later to Brussels) and get explicit confirmation of
how the event went”


Just to recap: the leaked report said:

“Without being asked, [the Korean female host] said she was impressed that Sir Tim could improvise such a warm and funny speech (her words). Later she told me thatall other Korean lunch participants she talked to didn’t notice or hear anything peculiar in Sir Tim’s speech.”

So now we aren’t in the territory of unconfirmed, off the record reports any more. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the European Research Council, confirmed that day and face to face in Brussels later that this was the truth of poor Sir Tim’s lunch.

Before I got this bombshell email on Monday morning I had spent some time gathering evidence from other eyewitnesses. The Filipino journalist Timothy Dincali had taken this picture on his Facebook page on the day of the speech, at first captioning it just “Tim Hunt” on 8th June. Only as the controversy developed did he feel the need to change the caption to note he snapped the photo “at the very moment” Tim made the joke

UPDATE: New photo by journalist eyewitness Natalia Demina. remind yourselves: Connie St. Louis said ‘he wasn’t joking at all’ ‘everybody was stony faced’; Deborah Blum wrote ‘Before his attempts to pass it of as humour he told his co-panelist something else entirely’ ‘I asked him if he was joking and he just elaborated. Sigh’

Tim Hunt Natala demina

Tim Hunt was like a rabbit who came to a dark forest with wolfes. Next time let him take a dictophone and a videocamera – Nataliya Demina, Russian science journalist

In Timothy Dimacali’s photo, Sir Tim can be seen smiling, as can a Korean woman. Connie St. Louis can be seen with her translation earpiece still in her ear. She’s not looking at Sir Tim. A TV interview she gave to France 24 states that at first she didn’t even know who was talking. ‘

joking tim

I’m so embarrassed -all the way in Korea and here I am, listening to these ridiculous comments being made by a British man.” And then I suddenly realised he was Tim Hunt

But other journalists present were paying a lot more attention than Connie – even ones who thought the joke was inappropriate (such as Dincali), as well as those who were not at all offended:

Timothy Dincali:

As I keep telling people, he said it in a very lighthearted manner with no outward hint of malice, condescension, or derision…. I’m not surprised nobody had their recorders out. The luncheon was a very laid-back affair, and Hunt’s remark was just one of those usual bits of light banter made at the start to usher in the event while waiting for food. In Hunt’s case, it seems he was too laid back for his own good

Was it followed by praising women in science? Deborah Blum insisted that Hunt had praised women in science (sorry Connie) but afterwards gone on to be insulting and argue for sex-segregated labs:

Timothy Dincali

No – the joke came ahead of everything else. That much I’m certain of

Nataliya Demina, Russia: (female)

So for me his speech during the Lucheon was a real joke. I can’t help
people who felt offended. I didn’t even pay much notice at what he
said, I laughed and applauded as my neighbors at the table, and I was
surprised to know what a scandal arraised afterwards.

I was suprised that his critics didn’t publish his whole speech.
Connie St Loius published only the beggining as if Tim didn’t speak
anything else and she said that everybody in the Lucheon Hall was
offended. It wasn’t true. Many people laughed, because Tim also
laughed. Debora Blum rearranged the beginning and the end. I remember
that Tim joked in the beginning and then he said serious things about
the conference and about his lecture.

Pere Estupinya, Spain (male)

I don’t remember Tim Hunt’s exact works, but he said something positive about women scientists after his awful joke …. I mean: he definitely made the famous comments. He made them in an humoristic tone. …Then he said some positive words towards women.

Tan Siow Chin, Maylasia (female)

What has not been reported, which I feel is important and adds balance to his earlier comments, is that he also added that men would be the worse off for it (if the genders were segregated).
I did laugh at his comments, because it was very obvious to me that he was saying it in a very light-hearted and joking manner. I was not offended at all, because I did not think he meant it seriously, in particular, his comments on segregating the sexes. And yes, I did applaud as well.
I did not notice my neighbours’ reactions at the table – to be honest, I had come in late from the previous session and was busy with my lunch – but I don’t remember hearing any particular comments from anyone after Tim Hunt’s little speech.
I think that the whole incident has been blown way out of proportion, and that Tim Hunt has been made a scapegoat for sexism in science. This is really sad because I don’t think he thinks that female scientists are inferior to male scientists, which seems to me to be the point of the whole situation. In addition, if you look at the programme, the parallel session that was sponsored by the European Research Council during the conference and moderated by Tim Hunt had female scientists as its both speakers – hardly the action of a real male chauvinist pig, yes?

And did Sir Tim sit down to “stony silence” as Connie St. Louis insisted, having shocked all his Korean hosts? Well President Bourginon has confirmed that last bit was utterly false face-to-face with the Korean woman host thought Sir Tim’s speech was warm and funny. So do journalists Nataliya and Tan Siow Chin.

Opinions differed as to whether the joke was inappropriate or not. The Korean woman organizer and the Russian and Malaysian journalists all laughed; the men were more critical, including the Spanish and Australian and Filipino witnesses cited here – but nobody has said that Sir Tim was not joking. Without exception eyewitnesses have said he was joking and that he praised women in science AFTER the joke, not, as Blum claimed, before it. Mocking himself then praising women? Absolutely.

But let’s get down to the awful suggestion of sex-segregated labs – Connie and Deborah and Ivan of the ironically named ‘Retraction Watch’ all backed each other in the account that this was a genuine argument. No mention of ‘but men would be worse off’ and then the praise of women in science.Wouldn’t people be up in arms at such a suggestion?

Timothy Dincali was explicit: Nobody on his table had complained or discussed it for the whole rest of the lunch.

But what about the deadly, deadly silence? That’s not a matter of interpretation, is it? Either everybody was shocked, and silent as Sir Tim sat down, or they were not.

So was Connie at least accurate about the horrified reaction in the room?

Sarah Montague: Connie St. Louis, when he said this – I mean, you heard him, you were there – what was the reaction in the room?

Connie St. Louis: Well, there was a deathly silence, ……. after he’d finished, there was this deathly, deathly silence.

Spoiler: NO. NO SHE WAS NOT.

Dr, Scott Watkins (a critic of Hunt)

there was probably some polite applause, and it’s possible that some of the people did laugh with him at some of the comments.

Timothy James Dincali

there was a clear, definite applause immediately after he spoke. It was a polite applause, to be sure, but not a gentle nor quiet kind of applause. And it couldn’t have been misinterpreted as being for some other speaker precisely because it happened just as he sat down.

There was laughter and there was applause. Whether or not there were any misgivings in the audience about his remarks, the fact was that there was definite laughter and applause. Could it have been that the audience was simply being polite about it? Perhaps. But they definitely did not sit in stony silence.

He certainly did NOT sit down to stony silence. Putting aside whatever misgivings people might have had with his words immediately after, I can say with absolute certainty that the rest of the lunch proceeded normally.

Pere Estupinya

there were the typical applauses after his intervention, that was at least three to four minutes long….

….when he finished, there was the conventional applause after any intervention. It would have ben weird (and noticeable) if not….

Nataliya Demina

I am surprised to read Connie’s answers, as if we were at different luncheons. Many people smiled and applauded! I saw words about deadly silence and stone faces in CSL piece… that wasn’t true, people reacted quite differently. There are several eyewitnesses who also laughed and applauded as me, no deadly silence at all

Tan Siow Chin

I did laugh at his comments…. and yes, I did applaud as well.

So we now have debunked:

1. Connie St Louis – “Nobody was laughing – everybody was stony faced – when he finished, there was a deathly, deathly silence.” This is, quite simply, false on its face.

2. The President of the Korean Federation of who said all her members were scandalized – both Professor Hyunsook Lee and the female Korean conference host at the actual event totally contradict that issued statement days later. The Korean woman present spoke personally to the president of the ERC to confirm her view of Sir Tim’s speech, and of course, that no other Korean women she spoke to present noticed anything amiss:

3. Deborah Blum’s Storify account that Sir Tim opened with some praise of women but then finished only some jokes against them. Every other eyewitness says it was the other way round. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President, ERC, confirms on the record that he received oral eyewitness accounts plural that day of Sir Tim’s support for women scientists in that speech.

But what remains? Well, the rest of Blum’s storify – namely, that Sir Tim did really think that women were too emotional etc etc  – as opposed to his personal romantic problems (a lab romance is how he met his wife, Professor Mary Collins. But Blum knew what Sir Tim had said was controversial the day before, so where is her recording?

Tim talks

This photo was taken when I was asking him if he was joking, Blum said. Yes, I can certainly see who is joking and who is serious here Debs, you pillock (British term; non-gendered insult). Blum repeatedly claims the photographer Kathryn O’ Hara ‘backs’ and ‘confirms’ her account. She does not; she merely  took the photograph. Nor was O’Hara even present at the original lunch.

Blum should have produced a contemporary recording and transcript. Frankly, if she brought one up now I wouldn’t believe it.

(Somebody pointed me to a YouTube video of one of Sir Tim’s other lectures. He is frankly a bit of an old sweetie. And it seems he uses irony pretty often as a rhetorical device “And then a wonderful thing happened,” he says in the speech. “The lab burned down.” )

Sir Tim Hunt’s reported comments, as a serious attack on women in science, and an argument for sex-segregated labs – shocking everybody in the room, scandalizing his hosts, received in deathly silence,   were indeed dreadful – but nobody bothered to fact check if the reports were true. They were not true. They were false. 

And nobody bothered to ask any of the most very basic common sense questions:

1. If Sir Tim despised women in science so much, why would he agree to be the guest of honour at their lunch?

2. How likely is it that a British man of 72 would seriously attack his hosts before a lunch?

3. Had the guy ever asked for a single-sex lab in his entire life?

4. What was the conference programme, was he doing anything for women at the goddamned conference, such as agreeing to be guest of honour at the ‘Women Scientist/Engineer lunch’ and as the female Maylasian scientist points out, moderating a session to highlight two women scientist speakers?

If you look at the programme, the parallel session that was sponsored by the European Research Council during the conference and moderated by Tim Hunt had female scientists as its both speakers – hardly the action of a real male chauvinist pig, yes?

5. If Sir Tim despised “women in the lab” so much why did he marry Professor Mary Collins?

6. Sir Tim was there as representative of the ERC. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon told me three times that since 2010 he had been working on and voting for its ERC Gender Equality Plan – five years of work.

Professor Hyunsook Lee’s mentor has obviously done more for women in science in the last five years than his critics have done in a lifetime. He got a creche installed at the Okinawa Institute.

He hasn’t yet been as successful in his fight to get one installed in the Crick Institute but, he says, he will keep fighting.

The head of the Crick is Sir Paul Nurse, who – coincidentally – is also the President of the Royal Society,

Time to consider the new evidence, UCL and The Royal Society – isn’t that what scientists do?

And lastly for those Tim Hunt attackers with any shame whatsoever here he is on the ERC website fighting breast cancer for ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’. Tim Hunt not only fighting for the ERC’s gender equality plan and for creches in Okinawa and the Crick – he’s fighting for Breast Cancer awareness AND, er, fighting ACTUAL BREAST CANCER. You know, fighting for women’s lives. 

1. The European Research Council already funds several projects related to breast cancer. Can you tell us what the ERC’s added-value is in this  field?

The ERC aims to support excellent scientists who propose excellent projects with an investigator-driven or “bottom-up” approach. Research funding from the ERC supports basic research that is higher risk than the work supported by specialist funding agencies with longer time-lines. It has therefore the potential to be of greater benefit in terms of providing major novel discoveries that could lead to new insights and ultimately to cures. There have been excellent examples of this in breast cancer research. In former times, the only treatment for breast cancer was surgery, and the main area of research simply concerned how much tissue to cut out. There was almost no understanding of the fundamental causes of breast cancer. This is exactly where the ERC’s added-value now stands for as it funds excellent basic research in many fields, including Life Sciences.

Oh shut the hell up about Breast Cancer Sir Tim! Women don’t need you! Go away! You made a joke about your own wife! Report to the nearest police station! We have plenty of Nobel-prize winning cancer scientists, ten a penny, they are!  It’s not as if you write for Buzzfeed, is it?

Lunch correction buzzfeed J

PS: I shall write a separate blog on all the falsehoods and inconsistencies in the BBC Today Show’s reporting, which put words he didn’t say in Sir Tim’ mouth and edited ‘I was only being honest’ to make it apply to something else – and in Deborah Blum’s, Charles Seife’s, and Connie St. Louis’ accounts – but to have listed everything here would have been to bog down the main point: the President of the ERC contradicts Connie St. Louis’ versions of events, and so does the Korean woman host of the lunch and multiple eyewitnesses.

And so does Sir Tim Hunt’s record of support for women – not that any of the twitterstorm rushing to judgement gave a flying **** about that. Look! Vagenda’s got a hashtag! Who needs fact-checking?

Well, I guess I like to do things in a slightly more old fashioned way, you know, like finding witnesses and colleagues and asking them questions. 

They taught me that at Oxford. You might call it “data journalism”. As in – get some data.

The “feminist” who lobbied the Royal Society to strip Sir Tim Hunt of his committee position, Dorothy Bishop, is very much against making jokes about women, because, as she said of Sir Tim “You don’t need to be a decent human being” to be an FRS.

So Professor Dorothy Bishop, FRS, I’ll just leave this one here, shall I?

zzzz In love with him t hunt

Axis of Evil J

Galloway’s Staffer, The Serjeant-At-Arms and Release of Parliamentary Data

Yesterday the news broke that IPSA, the Parliamentary regulators, having reviewed two complaints against George Galloway, the former MP for Bradford West, had referred them to the police.

It goes without saying that a referral is neither a conviction nor even a prosecution. But it does mean that Ms. Ali Khan’s complaint cannot be described as trivial, and that Parliament’s watchdog body agreed with her that there was a case the police should look at. Her lawyers, in statements, described ‘thousands of pages’ worth of evidence. Much of this evidence I have seen myself. Ms. Ali-Khan approached me last year and asked me to look at her case and see if I could help her.

As a footnote to the various articles, it was added in that I had also made a complaint which had been referred. The assumption by journalists was that I had complained on the same grounds. That assumption was incorrect.

Tom Newton-Dunn in the Sun broke the story that there was a pre-existing investigation by police into possible data protection offences which is currently being investigated after ‘a third party made a complaint’ in March. That third party was me.

On the same day that I made a complaint to the Metropolitan Police, I made an expenses-based complaint to IPSA against Mr. Galloway. This complaint, IPSA told me yesterday, they have also referred to the police (on the expenses grounds under which I made it).

It has nothing to do with how Mr. Galloway used the time of Ms. Ali Khan when she worked for him.

It has to do with how one of Mr. Galloway’s then parliamentary staff, Mr. Rob Hoveman, used his parliamentary email address and may have used parliamentary equipment and facilities, to seek data about Ms. Ali-Khan from various sources – including her parliamentary data as a House of Commons employee from the Serjeant at Arms, and including her Muslim divorce certificate – and passed that data to the Guardian newspaper.

If indeed this did happen with Mr. Galloway’s knowledge, it would be an appalling misuse of the powers, funds and office of an MP against a private citizen of the UK.

I regarded that as wrong both on grounds of data protection and on grounds of use of expenses.

My complaint to IPSA was rather different than Ms. Ali-Khan’s in that it did not contain thousands of pages of evidence. It contained one page of evidence – the email sent to me by the staffer in question from his then parliamentary email address, which I reproduce here, redacted as to references to third parties to protect their privacy:


From: Louise Mensch
Sent: 18 July 2014 16:45
Subject: Press Enquiry: Aisha Ali-Khan personal information

Dear Mr. Hoveman,

My name is Louise Mensch, and I am a journalist who writes for the Sun newspaper.

I have heard allegations that you improperly requested personal information on Ms. Ali Khan from the Serjeant-At-Arms, and that you passed on private and personal information about her to the Guardian newspaper.

Can you tell me if either of those allegations are true?

[redacted – questions about other allegations not relevant to this case]

I hope to receive a reply very shortly from you as to your personal actions relating to Ms. Ali-Khan’s data. If I do not receive one, I will send a Freedom of Information request to your office, to IPSA, and to the Serjeant-At-Arms’ office.

I will be most grateful for a contact to whom I should put my questions about Mr. Galloway, and/or if there is a direct and private email by which I can contact Mr. Galloway, or a good time at which I can speak to him directly.

I will give your office until this coming Monday, at 5pm, to respond to me.

Yours sincerely,

Louise Mensch


 Email received in reply:

Dear Ms Mensch,

I would not normally respond to any approach from a “Sun journalist” given what an atrocious paper the Sun is. I only have to recall the grotesque insult this paper made to the victims and the families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster to feel almost physically sick at the thought of dealing with someone from this particularly unpleasant part of the gutter press. Nonetheless, I think it is incumbent on me to correct the tissue of lies and disinformation that you have been fed regarding matters concerning Aisha Ali-Khan.


Ms Ali-Khan was employed by George Galloway between April 1st and December 10th 2012 when she was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct. She was suspended from work on October 14th 2014. A police investigation into her activities and those of her lover former Detective Inspector Afiz Khan followed concerns raised in parliament and directly with the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the Home Secretary. The result of this investigation was the summary dismissal of Afiz Khan from the Metropolitan Police and the conviction of both Afiz Khan and Aisha Ali-Khan for criminal offences. The two will be jointly sentenced on 31st July this year.


[redacted as reference to 3rd party]

On October 19th 2012, the Guardian published an article largely based upon the testimony of Aisha Ali-Khan. We raised objection to the bias in this and another article published on 15thOctober by the same journalist. In response to this complaint we received a reply from the then Managing Editor of the Guardian, Elisabeth Ribbans. In that response reference was made to the Guardian journalist having been shown information contained in Aisha Ali-Khan’s Security Vetting Questionnaire which Aisha Ali-Khan had been obliged to complete in order to receive her security pass giving her access to the parliamentary estate.


The specific claim made by Ms Ribbans was that the SVQ contained details of Afiz Khan as her spouse. Subsequently it was established that an Islamic but not civil marriage between Aisha Ali-Khan and Afiz Khan in 2009 had been followed by an Islamic divorce in 2010 confirmed by a Sharia Council. In the light of this information, I raised with Serjeant at Arms concerns about aspects of the security vetting of Ms Ali-Khan. Serjeant at Arms wrote back to me saying that the SVQ contained no reference to a serving police officer, from which I concluded that there was a prima facie contradiction between what Ms Ribbans had written to us in 2012 and the information provided to me by Serjeant at Arms in 2014. Naturally I raised this apparent contradiction with the Readers’ Editor at the Guardian, who is, for your information, a kind of Guardian ombudsman. His investigations into this matter are currently ongoing, but as a Sun journalist, you will no doubt be aware of just how serious a misdemeanour it would be for a journalist to fail to check the veracity and the credibility of a source properly, and even worse give false information regarding the checking of the veracity and credibility of a source, when false information could cost a newspaper very dearly.


As regards any potential breach of the Data Protection Act, I would say this. The divorce certificate confirmed by Sharia Council [redacted for a reference to a third party ]are documents in the public domain not covered either by the Data Protection Act or legal privilege. Serjeant at Arms sought advice from Speaker’s counsel before responding to me. I cannot imagine that any breach of the Data Protection Act would have occurred in such circumstances. I raised my concerns in the light of the information provided by Serjeant at Arms privately and in confidence to the Guardian Readers’ Editor. I am extremely surprised that any legitimate party to my exchanges with the Guardian Readers’ Editor would then have shared any or all of that information with the likes of a “Sun journalist”.


I trust this will correct some of the misinformation and misrepresentation to which you have been subject and ensure that you do not waste any more of your or my time on this particularly fruitless line of enquiry. As for other matters of which I have no knowledge but which relate to George Galloway and the Respect Party, I would advise you email your questions to, respectively, george.galloway.mp@parliament.uk in the former case and contact@respectparty.org in the latter.

Yours sincerely,

Rob Hoveman



Ms. Ali Khan provided me with a copy of her SVQ form. It is absolutely clear on the form that the data an employee provides thereon can only be used for parliamentary purposes. This is written on the form itself. I am unsure about the legality of reproducing a parliamentary data form, even a blank one, so at this stage I am not going to do so. However, that warning is written on the form. I do not believe that when the Serjeant-At-Arms sought advice from Speaker’s Counsel they knew that the intention was to give this data to a newspaper. Be that as it may, I nonetheless believe this was not proper and hence my twin complaints.

As to whether this Muslim woman’s private religious documentation was covered by the Data Protection Act, I am not sure. That it would be improper to use parliamentary time and resources to seek this out on a private citizen and pass it to a newspaper, I most certainly believe. Eagle-eyed readers will note that that is not the first time allies of Mr. Galloway have used a Muslim woman’s religious documentation against her.

Clearly, I am stating here that I believe expenses were wrongly used and data was wrongly passed on. It is for the police to decide if they agree that is so. What I can confirm is that the police did decide to investigate my data protection complaint of March 25, and that IPSA did refer my expenses complaint, that of improper use of staff time of this staffer on Ms. Ali Khan, on separate grounds to the Met, yesterday.

I should say that when I put various allegations to Mr. Galloway directly, his lawyers responded to me. One of my questions was if he knew of or approved of the actions of his staffer in the matter of Aisha Ali Khan’s information. Although his lawyers answered several of my questions, they declined to answer this one either to confirm or to deny it.

I am grateful to IPSA for looking into my expenses complaint and referring it to the Metropolitan Police. Despite Mr. Galloway describing me as part of a “New York-Tel Aviv axis of evil,” I will not be deterred in my reporting.

(as the matter concerns one ongoing police investigation, and possibly another should the Met Police decide to take up IPSA’s expenses referral, I am closing comments on the blog today).

Asian Grooming Gangs – where are all the other men?


don sutherland1In my Sun column yesterday I wrote in praise of Judge Peter Rook QC, a hero to women and children; a brave judge who ripped up the repellently low sentencing guidelines set by the Sentencing Council and threw them out.

Any serious advocate for sentences which reflect the real harm child abuse and gang rape does should read his sentencing remarks. I warn you now that they are unsparing in terms of detail on what was done to the victims, including when they were 12 and 13 years old.


It takes a lot of guts for a judge to tear up the loathsomely small penalties that the Sentencing Council think should be paid for gang rape of children. Be in no doubt that there is tremendous pressure on judges to pass light sentences, because jail capacity is full to overflowing. (the political answer is twofold – to remove custodial sentences where they are not necessary and to build more prisons. This is a capital infrastructure project that Osborne could usefully spend on; it provides a great many jobs, it means humane modern prison conditions, and it reassures the public who are crying out at timid sentencing).

His Honour Peter Rook QC had the necessary guts. He jailed these inhuman beasts for life, with minimum terms of 20 and 17 years etc. At the end of the blog I will excerpt the legalese with which he did true justice from the bench – the first time I can ever remember that gang rape received an appropriate sentence. God bless this judge; he has struck a blow against rape and child rape and torture that Parliament did not want and the judicial establishment did not want.

But let’s turn away from the brave determination of the man on the bench and on to the shabby cowardice of local police, local social services, and Oxfordshire county council.

We know how these children were ignored. WARNING – I am about to quote from the sentencing remarks of Judge Peter Rook to ask this question:

Why are only seven men in court? Why do the police, and Oxfordshire social services and council, not hunt down the hundreds of men who raped these little girls? Why have the phones and computers not been seized, why are the phone bills not being handed over by the mobile phone providers and pored over by analysts and detectives? WHERE ARE THE OTHER RAPISTS?

If we say “we jailed the ringleaders, job done” are we saying it is OK for a rapist of a twelve year old to walk away? It’s OK to receive a video of a little girl being gang-raped, get in your car and drive hundreds of miles to rape her yourself?


Saying “you let these little girls down” doesn’t being to cover it. You essentially colluded in their rape, trafficking and torture.

Let us look at the judge’s remarks on the other rapists:

“From the time when EF was 13 you started selling her to other men for sex. To use her words this happened “loads of times” over the next few years. Sometimes you would take photos presumably to entice further customers. Clearly it was a commercial operation. You would actually ask customers whether they were satisfied.”

Photos of a 13 year old girl. These photos were emailed, were texted. The men had phones and computers. WHY ARE THE RECIPIENTS NOT BEING HUNTED DOWN?

“There came at time before she (GH) was 13 that both of you Mohammed and Bassam Karrar started to bring strangers to have sex with her…many times…she had to endure depraved sexual demands…you, Mohammed, made videos…”


“Sometimes there were three or four men…Sometimes as many as nine or ten. GH thought that Bassam was taking lots of phone calls in relation to the Wycombe trips”


Two men were convicted at the same time as the five ringleaders who were jailed for life; just two. The names of the pigs are Assad Hussein and Zeeshan Ahmed. For their sexual offences against the victims they were jailed for seven years apiece.

Not one of the men who raped the children in High Wycombe. Paddington Station, Shotover Woods, etc, who paid money to torture and rape them, has been arrested.

No social worker has been sacked. The chief constable refuses to resign. So does the chief executive of Oxfordshire county council.

Where are the rapists? Where are the “customers”? Where is justice? WHEN WILL THE SYSTEM SAY EVERY RAPE COUNTS?

How Hillary Can Have the Last Laugh


If Hillary Clinton wins the Presidency, it’s going to be a case of Barack Who?

Hillary Clinton joined Twitter yesterday in a moment of social media fabulosity that had me thinking @CoryBooker should watch his back.

First, there was the unadulterated awesomeness of her Twitter bio.

“Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD…”

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. The humour “hair icon, pantsuit aficionado” – the CV “lawyer, women & kids advocate, US Senator, SecState” the humanizing… “Wife, mom” – special props for putting “wife” before “mom” – the history… “lawyer, FLOAR, FLOTUS…” FLOAR is such a nice touch… First Lady of Arkansas… reminding us she’s been in the game a long time, some props to Bill’s home state, deprived and unglamorous. It’s the global victrix’s “Jenny from the Block” moment. “Dog owner” – well, if you hate Hillary you just hate puppies. And the glorious ending, “…TBD…” To be determined.

You know what this is? This is Daily Show, Stephen Colbert politics. And I’m not really even using that as a metaphor. So many Americans get their only politicial fix from those shows that she is heading like an exocet missile for the demographic that matters.

And now let’s move on to the avi. And her first tweet. Which was:

Thanks for the inspiration @ASmith83 & @Sllambe – I’ll take it from here… #tweetsfromhillary

This is a reference to the Texts from Hillary tumblr, the funniest political meme in years. She used their main photo as her Twitter avatar. She checks them for inspiration. She @s them. One of the creators responded with the perfect Onion-esque “Area Tweeter Doesn’t Know What To Do With Himself.”

Why does any of this matter? Well, she’s definitely running. I said as much in my Sun on Sunday column months ago after meeting fundraisers who had been at her house discussing the PAC. Secondly, it shows how she is running. She has used her time away from politics to become a kind of legend. Obama graciously gave her clout, but she kept her distance; when Susan Rice was messing up over Benghazi Clinton just stayed quiet.

I know about the Benghazi scandal; it will be old news in 2016. Old, old news. Attempts to revive it by the GOP will have voters rolling their eyes. Unfair? Sure. But there’s no crying in baseball.

Clinton is using humour and feminism “women & kids advocate, glass ceiling cracker” to show the authentic her; to take away any age-related beefs, because her humour makes her seem the most on-it, hippest candidate around; and to pitch to women, who defeated Mitt Romney en bloc.

She’s going for youth. Traditionally a worthless vote. Not last election. Not this election. And she’s going for women. “Glass ceiling cracker, pantsuit aficionado, TBD.”

I’m dead serious about the Daily Show pitching. When my stepdaughter arrived at a university in the key swing state of Ohio last autumn, they were registering the students to vote the same day they arrived. Youth turned out for Obama last election. First election it has ever really shown up. And that is a sea-change in the electoral mathematics.

I think she will run and I think she will win. And it would be very very hard not to vote for her. Even though I support Governor Christie, and he is the best the GOP has got, running against a woman, and one as popular and competent as Hillary, is a tough, tough battle.

If Clinton wins, she will be the most successful woman in history. Barack Obama slaughtered her in a primary that she was supposed to win at a canter, but none of that will matter if Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman President. His achievement would then remain historical, and vital, but it would be dwarfed by that of a woman becoming the most powerful person alive for the first time in history. Obama’s second term is being horribly tarnished right now, with the IRS, AP, PRISM, and Benghazi scandals, with Eric Holder, and the costs of Obamacare kicking in. When Bill Clinton took the stage for Obama at the DNC during the Presidential campaign he was greeted with more enthusiasm than Obama himself. And rightly so; as good as Obama is, Clinton is galactic distances better.

Hillary lost the primary, the Presidency, and got the consolation prize of State. But if she wins in 2016, she will have the last laugh. It will be her face, and not Obama’s, that defines the modern era, progress, and liberation. And she has the chance to do it right, and to achieve great and centrist things for America, and for women’s rights across the globe. And on the latter point, I believe she’s enough of a feminist to actually do that; to hold the Saudis and others much more accountable.

And even though Michelle Obama kicks major league ass, Bill Clinton will be a much, much cooler First Gentleman.

You go girl.

photo by SSkennel

The Campaign to Ban Rape Porn is Far Too Broadly Drawn


I have been campaigning, and will continue to do so, for the Sentencing Council and the law to reflect the severity of possessing and distributing child rape images.

Women must also demand far tougher sentencing guidelines on rape and trafficking into rape.

As a reminder, to own large numbers of images of children being sadistically tortured or forced into bestiality, the starting point is one year.

For many women gang-raped daily in brothels in the most serious case, the traffickers got eight years. Out in four.

That’s the landscape on which British law operates, and which we must rise against.

However, over the last week or so campaigners I normally support and whose natural ally I am have launched a petition which makes me nervous and which I could not, in conscience, sign.

They want to ban all depictions of rape in acted pornography.

There is already a requirement in law that such depictions be obviously staged with “production values”. If that sounds comical, it isn’t – it’s designed to catch youtube videos of women being actually raped and assaulted.

Campaigners say they want to prevent or ban the following things; “extreme” rape scenarios featuring torture, pretend incest scenarios, scenarios where actresses who are eighteen are dressed or digitally altered to look far younger.

I think there is a case for banning at least the latter two categories. The law in Britain already makes it illegal to own digitised or altered or traced or drawn images of child rape/abuse (distinguishing itself from the US). This is because of the harm that could arise to children by feeding such fantasies. On the same basis, actresses pretending to be far younger or in incest scenarios are feeding the precisely same harm as traced or altered images of child rape or abuse. So far, an important addition to the law.

But to ban all images of rape itself goes far too far.

Campaigners already say that art or fantasy depictions in movies, books etc would be exempt. Consider many scenes from “Rome” for example. If classified by the BBFC they are not porn.

However, campaigners against rape – which I hope we all are – MUST be aware of free speech and where the line of incitement is truly drawn.

Not too long ago, a most dignified man, the barrister Simon Walsh, 50, was put through a disgraceful obscenity trial for owning pictures of violent pornography consenually taken, including “fisting”. He was cleared, but not before public humiliation at having his private life and sexuality exposed.


This is not a scenario feminists should campaign for as it affects other men and women. Pornography of rape that is clearly dramatized, and consensually made and shot, and does not involve imagery of children or incest, is not necessarily an incitement to actual rape. This campaign would criminalise all those indulging in consensual BDSM pornography. Yes this is embarassing to blog and talk about, but it is a lot better than having somebody like Mr. Hughes go through the dreadful national humiliation of his pornography trial.

Rape fantasy is an incredibly common female fantasy. It is VITAL that we distinguish this fantasy from rape apology, rape excuse, or anything to do with real rape. Psychologists have various explanations for the prevalence of rape fantasy in women, from its being a way for strong women to surrender control to the simpler variant of the woman who wishes to think of herself as a quote-unquote good girl, a virtuous woman, and in her dreams is simply overpowered so that sexual activity is not “her fault” and her “virtue” remains intact. In these fantasies the rapist looks like Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones and the woman finds it an enjoyable experience – it could not be more different from supporting or wishing for an actual rape in real life. Women are not stupid, and they can draw a perfectly clear distinction between fantasy and reality. The women who purchased 50 Shades of Grey – and no, I am not one of them – did not really want to be hurt by an aging billionaire.

It is important that in protecting women and children we are quite clear about what actual rape is and what incitement to hurt children is. Legislation to criminalise a community of fetishists is not right. I may not share their fetish nor am I in the same boat as Mr. Hughes, but adding ordinary, filmed, and consensually dramatised rape scenes – even involving, as in his case, some consensually undertaken depictions of pain – the government should NOT ban it, and as a feminist and one who will be concentrating on rape sentencing and the judges and quangoes who minimise it, I cannot support the campaign as it is written. It is illiberal and wrong and tramples on sexual rights.

photo by Rocketeer

Why doesn’t UK law understand rape and child abuse?


Following my blog on child rape, and multiple gang rapes in brothels being labeled “prostitution”, and multiple rapes within the home being labelled “forced marriage”, I wanted to show why all of this matters in practice.

It’s not just some PC blog about nomenclature. It’s about the fact that in the UK, rape and sexual abuse is happening every day and literally being ignored by the law.

The news in Britain today is of a teacher who has been given a police caution for viewing 143 sexually abusive images of children on his computer. A civil service panel, independent of politicians, has decided he will be allowed to return to teaching. Here is the story:


The focus of most news coverage is why the “independent panel” said this man can work again in schools. I hate almost all quangos; I believe politicians should be in charge whenever possible, and/or positions should be elected. You can fire your MP or councillor, but not a quango. This panel is unaccountable to anyone.

But I don’t want to digress. Politicians are saying they will attempt to intervene, but what happens to this individual child abuser is not as important as demanding a change in the law.

He received a police caution, for:

1. Visiting a website and viewing six images of child abuse

2. Accessing, downloading and viewing 143 sexually abusive pictures of children at the lowest end of the scale [the COPINE scale, which means pictures of children viewed for sexual gratification]

3. Having a further 46 images of children being sexually abused by having nude or underwear photographs taken of them secretly in places they are supposed to be safe, such as playgrounds or nurseries

For all of this, the abuser receives a police caution. Of course there are gradations in the severity of child sexual abuse, just as there are aggravating factors to a crime as horrific as rape. Gang rape or twenty instances of rape are even worse than one instance of rape. There are gradations to any crime. It is even worse to murder twenty people than one person, it is even worse to torture a person before murdering them than to murder them.That does not mean, however, that the initial crime is made less severe because there are even worse gradations of it.

Here are the CPS’s gradations of abusive images:

Level one: Images of erotic posing, with no sexual activity;

Level two: Non-penetrative sexual activities between children, or solo masturbation by a child;

Level three: Non-penetrative sexual activity between adults and children;

Level four: Penetrative sexual activity involving a child or children, or both children and adults;

Level five: Sadism or involving the penetration of, or by, an animal.”

Here are the sentencing guidelines. Prepare to be very shocked.


I understand if you cannot bring yourself to read the insanely low sentences mandated for owning child abuse pictures, so here is just a single example:

“Type/nature of activity: Possession of a large quantity of level 4 or 5 material for personal use only Large number of level 3 images shown or distributed  

Starting points: 12 months custody  
Sentencing ranges: 26 weeks – 2 years custody”

The British public is often being accused of being in a “paedo panic” or of Brass-Eye type hysteria being whipped up where no child abuse exists. This may be true. But these links I am posting are not tabloid exaggeration. They are Crown Prosecution Services sentencing guidelines.

Children are abused and tormented for photographs and films because there is a market for those photographs and films. Any man (and the occasional woman) who deliberately, and for gratification, views one of these images is guilty of the abuse in the image.

There are real, actual children in these images. At present, for owning a “large number” of images sadistic, penetrative rape of children by adults and animals, the Crown thinks you should get a year in jail. With good behavior, out in six months. Top sentence, two years. Out in one.

What the hell?

For viewing and owning pictures of children viewed abusively, this child abuser, who fully admitted they were child abuse pictures, received a caution. A caution. For abusing 143 children, or a smaller number of children abused 143 times when photos, like swimwear, are grouped in the context of gratification. A police caution. And the right to go back to his job.

I would like you, the reader, to try to imaging one hundred and forty three children. Is that, for example, half the children in your local village primary school? Every child in your local nursery school? This man abused that many children by creating a market for abusive photos of them, and he gets a caution.

In my more serious example, you can actually distribute large numbers of  Level Three images of children being sexually abused by adults (note terminology “sexual activity between children and adults” – there is no such thing, there is “non-penetrative sexual abuse of children by adults” – and your maximum sentence is two years. Out in one.

Now let’s look at sentencing for the ongoing gang-rape of women trafficked into brothels (CPS language – “forced to “work as prostitutes” ie to be daily gang-raped by men).


Here is their sentencing guideline for the most serious cases.

“The following cases provide guidelines on sentencing and reflect the degree of coercion, force and violence used in the exploitation of their victims:

R v Plakici [2005] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 19, Attorney General’s Reference (No 6 of 2004) dealt with a series of individual offences that amounted to an extremely serious case of trafficking. The offender had arranged for the illegal entry of women and young girls into this country in circumstances that involved both deception and coercion and forced them to work as prostitutes. Counts of illegal entry attracted sentences of 5 years, of living on immoral earning 5 years, of kidnapping 10 years, and of incitement to rape, 8 years. A total sentence of 23 years was imposed.”

Right, so, what we have here are human traffickers who kidnapped girls and women and had them raped again and again, every day, in their brothels. Try to imagine being one of those girls. Being raped perhaps ten times a day. Every day. Year in, year out. Knowing other women are suffering as you are suffering.

“Who’s counting?” says the British justice system. For all of those rapes together, the convicted gang rapist gets…. eight years.

This is the reality of rape and child sexual abuse and rape in the UK today. We don’t have a “pedo panic” we have institutionlised, state-sanctioned blind eyes turned to horrors Stephen King would shy about describing. We have joke sentences for the worst crimes imaginable against the bodies and dignity of women and children. Don’t settle for “Level One images”. Fuck your clinical terminology. Those are actual children being actually abused. A thousand rapes deserves life in prison, no parole.

When will get judges and politicians who see rape for what it is? Women must rise and demand a change in the law.

My Top Ten Rock Memories: (Rock Icon Saturday June 1, Sky Arts, 8pm)

brian car

So tomorrow night on Sky Arts, 8pm, I’m coming out of the closet as a fully-fledged metal head.

This shot is of me getting into a race car with Brian – one he’d reassuringly told me was called “The Widowmaker” right before I got inside. I’m trying not to hyperventilate.

You haven’t lived til you’ve been fighting the G-forces on a Florida racetrack with your life in the hands of Newcastle’s biggest megastar.

So to celebrate, my top ten memories in rock (that I’m prepared to print, anyway)….. click post to read!

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