It began on a beautiful summer evening in 2016, when my wife and I arrived at Bristol airport, having enjoyed a brief city-break in Vienna. I was on my way to baggage reclaim when I felt on a strong hand on my shoulder which propelled me into a side room. Two detectives then placed me in hand-cuffs (“for our protection, and yours” they explained) and told me I was under arrest on suspicion of “having committed serious crimes of historical sexual abuse.” I was taken back to Cardiff and held in the cells overnight prior to being interviewed the following day. I remember every detail of that awful night, because I got little if any sleep.
At the interview I learned the name of my accuser, a woman I barely remembered who had alleged that I, and four other men had systematically abused her in a variety of horrible ways over a period of several years in the early 1990s. I denied everything, but it was clear the police officers didn’t believe a word I said. It was equally clear they believed every single word they had been told by my accuser. It also emerged that they felt there was something ‘off’ about my character. Didn’t I take an interest in alternative medicine, including acupuncture as part of my work as a GP? And wasn’t it true that one of my hobbies was juggling? I was already aware that my medical practice was a little unconventional, and my hobby somewhat unusual, but this was the first time anyone had suggested it might reflect some sort of moral flaw in my character.
I was released on bail, and at a later interview with my solicitor he disabused me of some of my more naïve notions about how the law works. What about the ‘50% rule’, where the CPS needs to feel sure there is at least a 50% chance of conviction? Not in these cases, apparently. In the present climate, where complainants are believed unquestioningly, all cases like mine are simply placed before a jury to decide. Even more worryingly, in cases of historical sexual abuse, even where there is no corroborating evidence beyond the testimony of the ‘victim’ (to be fair the police never used the word in my presence, referring to her always as ‘the complainant’), conviction rates can indeed be as high as fifty per cent. The first decision my solicitor had to make was which barrister would be best for me. Once they were appointed I was told that in order to maximise my chances of a successful defence it might be a good idea to engage the services of a QC as well. Obviously this would be expensive, I was warned, but with my freedom at stake the decision was for me a ‘no-brainer’.
How did I cope with all this? Quick answer: I didn’t. I began to chain-smoke, drink heavily and my sleep, when I got any, was regularly disturbed by nightmares where I was in prison being set on fire. A month later I was re-arrested and a further charge put to me, one which, despite eighteen hours of interviews my accuser had somehow overlooked. This was that at some unspecified date in the mid 1990s she was brought to my house by her father (who was also part of the ‘abuse ring’) where I performed an amateur abortion on her. My solicitor informed me that even though I had already been accused of child-rape, this new charge of ‘child destruction’ was perhaps the most serious of all the charges I faced, and I stood a very real prospect of spending the rest of my life in prison if convicted (I was 66 at the time).
The following months were marked by a drip, drip of disclosures and unused materials from the CPS. My legal team spent an enormous amount of time poring through them, searching for any inconsistencies. And over the weeks and months, they began to find them. Interestingly, it also emerged that the ‘OIC’ (‘Officer In the Case’) had developed an unusually close relationship with my accuser, evidenced by the release of literally thousands of chatty emails, text messages and phone calls.
By the summer of the following year I had been formally charged with thirteen separate, extremely serious sexual crimes and a trial date set. But with several months to wait before having my day in court I began to develop an impressive array of stress related symptoms, by far the worst being an escalating stiffness in my joints, specifically my knees, hips, shoulders and neck, which resulted in severe stabs of pain on the slightest movement. For example, I could barely get into, or out of, a car without being racked with pains scattered around my body. Even reaching for a cup of coffee produced the same thing. I went to my own doctor to make sure I wasn’t nursing some horrible underlying disease, but no, it was good old fashioned stress. And as the court date approached, it got worse.
The rest, shall we say, is history. As my legal team bombarded the CPS with the inconsistencies they had found, and they themselves uncovered more than one example of my accuser’s deviation from the truth, finally, on my 67th birthday on January 11th 2018, just two weeks before my trial was due to begin, I got a phone call from my solicitor to inform me the CPS were dropping all charges because of doubts raised about the reliability of their chief witness.
That year was a time of slow recovery from my stress related pains, and also when we attempted to persuade the police to prosecute my accuser for perjury, to recover my costs from the CPS (around 60,000 pounds) and to call the police to account for their behaviour. None of these attempts was successful. To be fair, we had been warned. My solicitor told me early on that these attempts would probably end in failure. But at least and I and my co-accused were free men. And in the final analysis, nothing is more important than that.
Article submitted by Dr Stephen Glascoe
Publishing 14th March 2022
Operation Violet Oak
Monday, March 14, 2022
This book concerns the contentious subject of historic child abuse. The author and publisher condemn child abuse as the most heinous of crimes, and have the utmost sympathy with those who have suffered it. Many of the people in this narrative have been anonymised, for their protection. The book asks important questions about the processes of the law and the roles of the police and the Crime Prosecution Service and, as such, joins other titles of a similar nature published by Seren.
Operation Violet Oak was the police investigation into an alleged historical child abuse ring in Cardiff. GP Stephen Glascoe was one of five men falsely accused of being a member of the alleged ring. This book is the account of how this affected him. It covers the period from his arrest in July 2016 to the dropping of all charges in January 2018, just two weeks before trial. In addition to recounting the affect on himself, his health, his marriage and his friendships, Glascoe believes that he and his co-defendants were caught up in the media hysteria surrounding several historic child abuse cases, which drove police forces to strive for convictions.
(Now available at a range of bookshops and online sellers)