Archive for the ‘The Times’ Category

THE SHAME OF ANDREW NORFOLK — PART 5: A CHAMPION OF FAKE NEWS

May 30, 2019

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IN JULY last year the chief investigative reporter of the Times published another of his sensational exposés from the “dark side” of Britain’s Muslim community.

Andrew Norfolk’s target was a small Rotherham-based racial justice charity, Just Yorkshire, some of whose trustees are Muslims.

The award-winning Norfolk told readers how one of the charity’s reports led to death threats against Rotherham’s Labour MP Sarah Champion.

It wasn’t true.

Three months later, and after Press Gang intervened on behalf of the charity, the Times dramatically withdrew Norfolk’s allegation.

In a letter from one of its lawyers, the paper admitted “no death threats … were attributable to the report”. 

It was fake news — published on the front page of a paper that once claimed to be “Britain’s Most Trusted National Newspaper”.

Before Norfolk and the Times got to work on its reputation, Just Yorkshire had never received abuse on its website.

Now there was a steady stream, including death threats. 

One of these read:

“Filthy inbred Muslim cunts. We’re going to kill you all. Britain first.”  

The charity was forced to close. 

This new scandal follows Norfolk’s now notorious “Christian child forced into Muslim foster care” investigation of 2017. 

Norfolk was exposed as a rogue reporter after the judiciary confronted his false narrative.

The court released documents which revealed that the so-called Christian girl at the centre of the story was the daughter of a woman whose parents are practising Muslims. 

For much of her life, the little girl was brought up by her grandparents — in a Turkish household of practising Muslims.

(This story has been told in the first three parts of The Shame Of Andrew Norfolk: see, for example, Retribution.)

Now comes the fake “death threats” story … 

♦♦♦

On 25 July 2018 the Times launched a campaign claiming the racial justice charity Just Yorkshire had put the life of the MP Sarah Champion in danger.

Over a four day period the paper published seven articles criticising the charity.

It was a typical Andrew Norfolk investigation — the initial front page article was buttressed by two further articles.

An editorial made it clear the Times backed its chief investigative reporter to the hilt. 

The issue was kept alive the next day with another front page article and a comment piece by columnist David Aaronovitch.

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A “SLIP”, AN “ERROR”, A “MISTAKE” …
THE DRAMATIC front page article written by Andrew Norfolk in July 2018 which claimed the Just Yorkshire report led to death threats against the MP Sarah Champion. On Christmas Eve 2018 the Times buried a 69-word paragraph on page 24 admitting there was no truth in the allegation. Lawyers for the paper privately described the allegation as a “slip”, an “error”, a “mistake”.

The campaign came to an end with a front page story on July 29. 

By then the 16-year-old charity’s reputation was in tatters — its funders were backing away and its only employee would soon be made redundant.  

Norfolk’s first article was headed:

Terror police boost MP’s security for MP over criticism of Asian sex gangs

It continued on page 7 under the headline:

Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats

The first two paragraphs stated:

An MP who received death threats after condemning the sexual abuse of girls by groups of British Pakistani men has been given increased security amid fears that hard-left and Muslim opponents are trying to force her from office.

Sarah Champion was accused by activists in her Rotherham constituency of “industrial-scale racism” for highlighting the “common ethnic heritage” of most of those implicated in the town’s sex-grooming scandal.

There were, in fact, two strands to Norfolk’s “Terror police” story.

The first was the allegation made against Just Yorkshire.

The second was an exposé of an alleged plot by Muslim Labour Party members in Rotherham to unseat Sarah Champion.

This second strand is discussed later in this piece.  

Norfolk attempted to create a link between these two separate elements but was unable to find any evidence.

Instead, he lumped the alleged plotters with Just Yorkshire branding both as critics of the MP. 

In his article, Andrew Norfolk claimed that Just Yorkshire was a major opponent of the MP:

The strongest public attacks on Ms Champion, who campaigns for the victims of child sexual exploitation, have been made by a Rotherham-based racial justice charity, Just Yorkshire.

The charity’s leader has accused the MP of “industrial scale racism” and “inciting and inviting hatred against minorities”. 

Norfolk added that a report co-authored by Nadeem Murtuja, interim director of Just Yorkshire:

… said that British Pakistanis felt “scapegoated, dehumanised and potentially criminalised” by their MP, who had “crossed a point of no return”.

The Just Yorkshire report had examined the impact of a controversial Sun article by Sarah Champion in August 2017 on the town’s 7,600-strong Asian community.

Champion’s article was headed “British Pakistani men ARE raping and exploiting white girls … and it’s time we faced up to it”.

The MP, who was Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities at the time, wrote:

There. I said it. Does that make me a racist? Or am I just prepared to call out this horrifying problem for what it is?

Champion was heavily criticised for the piece and later admitted it “should not have gone out in my name and I apologise that it did.” 

She resigned from the shadow cabinet a few days later.

Just Yorkshire’s report on the local impact of her article was published seven months later, in March 2018.

SARAH CHAMPION

SARAH CHAMPION
THE LABOUR MP for Rotherham plays a key role in Andrew Norfolk’s articles on Just Yorkshire. When Norfolk revealed that police increased her security in July 2018 after she received death threats, she declined to comment. But after the Times admitted there were no death threats and Just Yorkshire complained to the press watchdog IPSO, she sent the Times an email confirming that her security had been increased as a result of the charity’s report. She has not responded to requests by Press Gang to provide the evidence for this.

Norfolk wrote:

Its foreword accused her of “fanning the flames of racial hatred” and acting like a “neo-fascist murderer”.

He noted that “Ms Champion apologised to the Rotherham Pakistani community ‘for any hurt or adverse reaction I inadvertently caused’, but said that Just Yorkshire’s findings were ‘based on an extremely limited survey, distributed through networks not made in any way clear in the report’.”

Norfolk added:

The Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion. Scotland Yard’s counterterrorism unit increased her security risk level and she was advised to accept extra protection. The MP declined to comment.

Readers of the Times will have thought this was a charity run by Muslims whose extreme views had endangered the life of the town’s MP.

Three months later the Times, after the intervention of Press Gang and facing the threat of legal action, backed down.

The paper’s legal department admitted: 

 … the death threats made against Ms Champion since the report was published have not been directly linked to the report …

♦♦♦

FOR INTERIM director Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire, the onslaught from Andrew Norfolk and the Times came as a complete shock.

A week before his first article, Norfolk had rung Murtuja and told him about the alleged plot to unseat Sarah Champion.

“He’d also been told that one of these plotters, a local Labour councillor, had been at the launch of our report,” said Murtuja, a former senior council official in Doncaster.

“I told him this wasn’t true: whoever told him that was mistaken. It’s clear Norfolk was trying to make a connection between the councillor and Just Yorkshire’s report.”

“But Norfolk didn’t mention anything about our report leading to death threats against Sarah Champion — that came as a bolt out of the blue.” 

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NADEEM MURTUJA
THE FORMER council official took over the running of Just Yorkshire in 2017. Andrew Norfolk rang him and asked if he was a practising Muslim (he is) but never told him he was going to write an article claiming the charity’s report had led to death threats against Sarah Champion. 

For several weeks the charity, formed in the wake of the Bradford riots of 2001, watched as its reputation crumbled.

Formally known as Just West Yorkshire, the charity had been set up with the support of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust in 2003.

Funders distanced themselves and abuse began appearing on its website.

One said: 

“Soon will come a crusade and all Muslims will be butchered. Britain First”

And another:

“Filthy inbred Muslim cunts. We’re going to kill you all. Britain first.”  

On the day the Times campaign against Just Yorkshire drew to a close — 29 July 2018 — Press Gang released the first part of its damning analysis of Norfolk’s Muslim fostering care articles.

This was the first anniversary of Norfolk’s notorious Muslim foster care article .

Norfolk had accused the London borough of Tower Hamlets of forcing a Christian child to live with Muslim foster carers. 

In fact, the mother of the child was the daughter of practising Muslims from Turkey  — and the grandparents had also looked after the little girl for much of her life. 

Press Gang concluded that Andrew Norfolk was a journalist who did not let the facts stand in the way of a sensational story.

The chief investigative reporter of the Times, we noted, had won many awards: 

But among many thoughtful journalists, concerned at the rising tide of Islamophobia in some British newspapers, Norfolk’s role in the “Christian child” saga is chilling.

They cannot understand how a dedicated and courageous reporter could lower his standards to produce a series so one-sided it qualifies as rogue journalism.

When the Times published Norfolk’s sensational “Terror police boost security for MP Sarah Champion over criticism of Asian sex gangs” article, Press Gang was not willing to accept it at face value.

We spoke to Nadeem Murtuja.

He told us Norfolk had twisted the facts to fit what Just Yorkshire considered to be an anti-Muslim narrative. 

He said that when the “Temperature Report” was published on 15 March 2018, it attracted no national publicity and only BBC local radio and the magazine Big Issue North reported its findings.

Press Gang persuaded Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire to join forces with the website.

An alliance was in the interests of both parties.

For Just Yorkshire, Press Gang had expertise: a year-long investigation into the Muslim foster care case meant we had an insight into how Norfolk operated.

We had drafted the only comprehensive complaint to the press watchdog IPSO against the paper’s Muslim foster care coverage.

We also had access to legal advice from leading libel lawyers. 

For Press Gang, Just Yorkshire was an important case study.

Unlike Tower Hamlets, which had been reluctant to take on the Times, Just Yorkshire had nothing to lose. 

Unlike Tower Hamlets, which reluctantly submitted a weak complaint to IPSO, Just Yorkshire were determined to make a full complaint.

Unlike Tower Hamlets, which was extremely nervous about briefing journalists, Just Yorkshire was willing to share everything.

Throughout September and the early part of October, Just Yorkshire and Press Gang carried out a detailed examination of the seven articles which Andrew Norfolk and the Times had published. 

The analysis showed Andrew Norfolk resorted to his tried and tested technique of purgeanddeceive in order to create his sensational campaign … 

♦♦♦

NORFOLK STARTED by leaving out the title of the Just Yorkshire report from his first article on July 25.

It’s called “A Temperature Check Report: understanding and assessing the impact of Rotherham MP, Sarah Champion ‘s comments in the Sun newspaper on 10 August 2017″.

The reason why Norfolk left out the title was because, although the report was critical of Champion, it did so with restraint. 

Norfolk purged the title in order to justify the headline “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats” and deceive readers about the measured nature of the report. 

Throughout the entire four days’ coverage of the issue, the Times did not once mention the title of the report. 

Next, Norfolk completely purged his account of a section in the introduction to the report which cautioned readers about the limits of the report.

Just Yorkshire agreed to produce the report “subject to the following provisos”:

A  That this report is nothing more than a temperature check report that is only focusing on one segment of the local community.

B  That the atmosphere that exists in Rotherham cannot be directly attributed to Ms Sarah Champion’s comments; and

C  In that context, it is very difficult to assess if the impact of Ms Sarah Champion’s comments has directly resulted in an increase in racism, Islamophobia or community tensions etc. This can only be determined by South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Council through their community tensions monitoring processes;

D  Therefore, this report is a temperature check report at best – providing the local Pakistani community a platform to respond directly to Ms. Sarah Champion’s comments and have their voice heard. 

E  To acknowledge that Ms Sarah Champion should be commended for the invaluable support she has provided to some victims of the CSE [Child Sexual Exploitation] scandal.

Norfolk left out these qualifications in order to deceive his readers who might have wondered how a report prepared on this basis could possibly lead to death threats and increased security for Sarah Champion. 

Norfolk used the same techniques when it came to the major charges he levelled against Just Yorkshire: that it accused Champion of “industrial-scale racism”, of “fanning the flames of racial hatred” and of acting like a “neo-fascist murderer”.

Take the charge that Just Yorkshire accused the MP of “industrial scale racism”.

This is what Norfolk wrote:

Sarah Champion was accused by activists in her Rotherham constituency of “industrial-scale racism” for highlighting the “common ethnic heritage” of most of those implicated in the town’s sex-grooming scandal.

Again, Norfolk deceives his readers by saying that Just Yorkshire was criticising Just Yorkshire for “highlighting the ‘common ethnic heritage’ of those involved in the grooming cases”. 

Andrew Norfolk

PURGE AND DECEIVE
ANDREW NORFOLK is one of Britain’s most decorated journalists: his work on Asian sex gangs won him both the Paul Foot Award and a share of the Orwell Prize. But his recent investigations into issues involving Britain’s Muslim community have drawn criticism from many quarters. Press Gang has condemned his purge-and-deceive strategy: purging important facts and twisting others to deceive his readers. Even the press-controlled watchdog, IPSO, has found some of his articles breached the editors’ code of journalistic practice. 
Photo: Graham Turner for the Guardian

This is what the charity actually said:  

To attempt to define the issue of child sexual abuse / grooming along ethnic lines, and to see the Pakistani community through the prism of paedophilia and criminality is frankly racist — or even claiming there is something inherent in their heritage is bordering on industrial scale racism.

The charity wasn’t criticising Champion for pointing out that most of those convicted of child sexual exploitation were of Pakistani-heritage — it was criticising her for saying that all men of a Pakistani background were potential abusers. 

Norfolk then deceives his readers by selecting “industrial scale racism” from the larger quotation and leaving out the words, “bordering on”, in order to make it look more extreme. 

There was an even more serious deception: readers had no way of knowing that the “industrial scale racism” quote doesn’t even appear in the “Temperature Check” report of March 2018. 

It actually comes from the press release Just Yorkshire released on the day after Sarah Champion’s Sun article was published back in August 2017. 

But, while he was selecting what he considered to be a damaging quote, Norfolk purged his account of a highly significant statement in this press release. 

Just Yorkshire said:

“We condemn any form of threat made towards Sarah Champion for speaking out — and we urge local enforcement agencies to provide the maximum protection.”  

And when Norfolk says the charity accuses Sarah Champion of “fanning the flames of racial hatred” he purges his article of the fact that Champion had condemned her own article of doing exactly that.

In the days after her Sun article appeared Champion claimed the paper made “the headline and opening sentences highly inflammatory and they could be taken to vilify an entire community on the basis of race, religion or country of origin”.

The MP said she did not write the headline or opening sentences, which were “stripped of any nuance about the complex issue of grooming gangs, which have exploited thousands in my constituency”.

The Sun hit back, saying “Sarah Champion’s column, as it appeared on Friday, was approved by her team and her adviser twice contacted us thereafter to say she was ‘thrilled’ with the piece and ‘it looked great’.’

A spokesperson added:

Indeed, her only objection after the article appeared was her belief that her picture byline looked unflattering. Her office submitted five new photos.

Champion admitted: “The article should not have gone out in my name and I apologise that it did”.

She resigned as shadow equalities minister.

Norfolk also stated that the foreword of the “Temperature Check” report accused Sarah Champion of “acting like a ‘neo-fascist murderer’.”

But once again, he deceives his readers by stripping this provocative quote of its context.  

The preface — not foreword as Norfolk says — was written by the respected West Indian academic Professor Gus John. 

TEMPERATURE CHECK 2

TEMPERATURE CHECK
THE FRONT cover of Just Yorkshire’s report. Andrew Norfolk did not share with his readers the title for fear it might alert them to the care with which it was prepared.  Although Andrew Norfolk’s articles suggested Just Yorkshire is a Muslim charity, it was in fact run for nearly ten years by a Buddhist: the Singapore-born civil rights activist Ratna Lachman. She died of cancer in 2017 and was replaced as interim director by Nadeem Murtuja. The charity has three trustees, all of them women. Zaiban Alam is a barrister. Zlakha Ahmed, MBE is the chief executive of the organisation Apna Haq which helps domestic violence victims, including those from ethnic communities. Both Alam and Ahmed are practising Muslims. The third trustee, Leila Taleb, a human rights consultant, is an atheist. 
Photo: Just Yorkshire

He wrote that one of the reasons why Sarah Champion’s article was so offensive to Rotherham’s Muslims was that it was published on the second anniversary of a tragedy that shook the town.

In September 2015 two white thugs attacked an 81-year-old Yemeni man Muhsin Ahmed on his way to a local mosque for morning prayers.  

As they set about him, they asked if he was a “groomer” — that is, one of the men who had abused young girls in the town. 

Ahmed was so badly beaten that he later died of his injuries. The two attackers were subsequently gaoled.  

Gus John noted:

Here was a Member of Parliament, a Labour MP, whom the Ahmed family and the Pakistani community had a right to expect to conduct herself differently, effectively doing exactly what the neo-fascist murderers of their loved ones [sic] had done, motivated as they were by hatred of Muslim / Pakistani men, as a collective, for sexual exploitation of white girls.

Andrew Norfolk states that John was accusing Champion of “acting like a ‘neo-fascist murderer’,” when John was actually saying was that she was doing what the two murderers had done — assuming that all Pakistani-heritage men were potential groomers.

And, once again, Norfolk deceived his readers by tampering with the quotation.

He changed the meaning of the words “neo-fascist murderers” by reducing the plural “murderers” to the singular “murderer”.

If he had left the quote as it really was, readers might have wondered how Sarah Champion could possibly act as two murderers at the same time.

Norfolk’s opening report of 25 July 2018 was a classic example of his purge and deceive method of working.

♦♦♦

NORFOLK’S DRAMATIC front page article of July 25 was backed up by two other pieces on the same day.

Norfolk wrote a piece supporting Sarah Champion’s stand on the issue.

It was headlined “MP faced fury for stand on sex gangs”.

Norfolk  wrote:

Sarah Champion incurred the wrath of many on the political left when she told readers of the Sun that the country “has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls”.

He did not mention the fact that Champion had condemned her own article.

He also deceived readers when he claimed:

Nowhere in the [Just Yorkshire] report was it acknowledged that the MP stressed in her [Sun] article that in highlighting the ethnicity factor she was referring to a specific model of child abuse, the grooming and exploitation of “mainly white pubescent girls” by organised groups of men.

This is false. 

On page 11 of the “Temperature Check” report it states that in her Sun article Champion “described the perpetrators of the abuse as predators, working in gangs, and said that their common denominator was their ethnic heritage, namely British Pakistani. She identified their victims as ‘mainly white pubescent girls who were being sexually abused’.”

Another piece criticised the Joseph Rowntree charitable trust for supporting Just Yorkshire for much of its sixteen years existence. 

On August 25, the day that Andrew Norfolk makes the “death threats” accusation, the Times devoted one of its leading articles to the case.

It was headed “True Champion”.

It stated that “Rotherham’s MP deserves support for speaking out on sexual abuse”.  

It began with the role of the Rowntree trust. It acknowledged that it had done good work in social policy and housing but noted: 

That makes it all the more disappointing that it should be implicated in the saga in which the Labour MP for Rotherham, Sarah Champion, has received death threats for condemning the sexual abuse of girls by Pakistani men.

It said that Sarah Champion’s protection “has had to be increased”, adding: 

With the murder of the MP JO Cox still fresh in the memory, it is appalling that a local representative should need police protection.

It ended by saying that:

When Ms Champion told the Sun that Britain “has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls” she was doing no more than stating a truth. And unless the truth is confronted, the danger is that abuse will be repeated. She is, as her name suggests, a champion of her constituents.

The campaign against Just Yorkshire continued the next day with another front page article by Norfolk.

This time it concerned a private, undated letter Tory Home Secretary Sajid Javid had written to Champion and which she published on her website.

The headline was “Javid orders research into ethnic origin of sex grooming gangs”. 

In fact, the letter outlined research that was already on-going.

Buried deep in the article was the statement that if “there is a need for further research, we will take it forward.”

It was another example of Andrew Norfolk’s purge and deceive technique.

He was trying to give readers the impression that Javid had ordered research, perhaps as a result of his articles. 

The columnist David Aaronovitch also joined the fray with a piece headed “Criticising Muslims doesn’t make you a racist: activists who have denounced Rotherham’s MP are trying to shut down debate about real problems in their community.”  

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RAMPED
TIMES COLUMNIST David Aaronovitch joined in the attack on Just Yorkshire. On 26 July 2018 he wrote that “accusations of racism against Ms Champion and consequent threats to her on social media had been ramped up” by Just Yorkshire’s report. Press Gang wrote to Aaronovitch and asked him for the social media evidence that backed up this claim. He did not reply …

Aaronovitch wrote:

Yesterday we revealed that accusations of racism against Ms Champion and consequent threats to her on social media had been ramped up by a report published by a so-called racial justice charity [Just Yorkshire].

Two days later the campaign came to an end when Just Yorkshire was mentioned in a front page article by Norfolk. 

This was another attack on the Joseph Rowntree charitable trust for funding peace groups in Northern Ireland which allegedly had links to terrorists.

There were two paragraphs about the charity’s funding of Just Yorkshire.

The Times reported this week that the trust, a Quaker organisation, had given £550,000 to a group that accused a Labour MP of “industrial-scale racism” for highlighting the sexual abuse of girls by gangs of British Pakistani men.

Norfolk did not tell his readers that this sum had been spread over many years. 

Michelle Russell, the Charity Commission’s director of investigations and enforcement, said yesterday that it had opened an investigation into Just Yorkshire for its attack on Sarah Champion, the MP for Rotherham. “We are examining the administration of the charity and scrutinising some of its activities,” she said.

This was misleading.

The Charity Commission told Press Gang it had received complaints about Just Yorkshire — including one about the “Temperature Check” report — but that these had been received before Norfolk’s articles were published.

The Charity Commission also confirmed that it had not used the word “attack” in its press statement.

The Commission added that it had asked Just Yorkshire for its comments on the Times coverage.

A spokesman told Press Gang it was still considering the issue.

The result of the campaign by Andrew Norfolk and the Times against Just Yorkshire was devastating.

Funders pulled back and income dried up. 

The charity made its only employee, the interim director Nadeem Murtuja, redundant in January this year and told the Charities Commission it has decided to close.

♦♦♦

BY MID-OCTOBER last year, Just Yorkshire and Press Gang were ready to hit back at Andrew Norfolk and the Times

A nine page letter was sent to the editor of the Times, John Witherow, to say that the  articles about the charity were defamatory.

The letter, dated 16 October 2018, challenged the paper to provide the evidence that proved the “Temperature Check” report had led to death threats against Sarah Champion.

WITHEROW

JOHN WITHEROW
THIS ISN’T the first time Times editor John Witherow has been investigated by Press Gang over his attitude to Muslim issues. In 2012, when he was editor of the Sunday Times, the paper published a front page article written by the now-disgraced News of the World investigations editor Mazher Mahmood and reporter Eleanor Mills. The piece accused a Muslim dentist of being willing to perform female genital mutilation (FGM). The police investigation collapsed when it turned out that an undercover associate of Mahmood’s may have “prostituted” herself in order to persuade the dentist to carry out the procedure. Police founded no evidence the dentist was involved in FGM. See Withering Heights for the full, sordid story. 
Photo: PA

The response from the Times could not have been more dramatic. 

On November 5, Kirsty Howarth, a senior editorial lawyer at Times Newspapers Ltd which owns the Times, wrote to say:

 … the death threats made against Ms Champion since the report was published have not been directly linked to the report …

The Times was admitting that the allegation about death threats — the single most important element of Andrew Norfolk’s front page of July 25 — was false.

This was a major retreat.

The lawyer did not, however, admit that this was a mistake, nor did she offer an apology.

Indeed, she tried to argue that Norfolk’s first article was not misleading.

“What we in fact understand to be the case is that the publication of the report increased counter-terrorism police’s already significant concerns about Ms Champion’s security ie to a level beyond that which had existed when her life was previously threatened. 

“In light of the severity of those concerns … we do not consider that the article is misleading, but as the Times is a newspaper of record which aims for complete accuracy at all times, it has amended the article online and intends to publish following wording in its Corrections and clarifications column both in the paper and online subject to any reasonable comments you may have …” 

Kirsty Howarth did not provide the evidence which showed Champion’s security was increased as a result of the Just Yorkshire report.

The paragraph the Times was proposing to publish was as follows

Our article about Sarah Champion MP’s security protection being increased (News, 25 July) suggested that a report by the charity Just Yorkshire had led to death threats against Ms Champion. In fact, as was made clear elsewhere in our coverage, whilst the report led police to increase her security protection, no death threats made at that time were attributable to the report. We are happy to make that clear.

Just Yorkshire replied to this letter on November 13.

The charity said the proposed paragraph “is not acceptable, either in terms of content or prominence”.

The letter continued:

When you use the word “suggested” you know full well it is a weasel word.

The article stated bluntly: “The Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion.”

When this first article continued on page 7, the headline was even blunter: “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats”.

The letter noted that proposed paragraph now claimed Andrew Norfolk made it clear “elsewhere” in the article that no death threats were “attributable” to the report. 

Just Yorkshire said “we cannot find any such assertion”.  

The Times did not answer this letter — instead there was a series of phone calls and emails.

TIMES 5 NOV 2018

BOMBSHELL
THE DRAMATIC letter from Times lawyer Kirsty Howarth admitting that neither Andrew Norfolk nor the newspaper had any evidence to back up the sensational allegation that Just Yorkshire’s report had led to death threats against Sarah Champion.

On December 3 Kirsty Howarth emailed to ask:

Are you able to set out for me in concrete terms what the remedy package you consider appropriate would consist of in order that I may instructions?

On December 11, Just Yorkshire submitted two articles for publication — one a short front page apology and an inside news article setting out the charity’s criticism of Andrew Norfolk’s articles. 

The charity also asked for compensation and a letter from editor John Witherow to its principal funders explaining that there had been no death threats as a result of the report. 

On December 21 Howarth emailed to say this proposal had been rejected: 

… the Times editorial independence is sacrosanct and is never used as a bargaining chip in resolving complaints.

She then suggested Just Yorkshire might submit a letter for publication in the paper’s letters page: 

 … but I should warn you that the time that has passed since the articles were published is likely to be relevant here.

On Christmas Eve last year the Times published its 69 word paragraph on the bottom left hand corner of page 24 … 

♦♦♦

MEANWHILE LEGAL advice had been sought about whether Just Yorkshire could sue the Times for defamation.

A libel lawyer told Press Gang it would be risky to bring an action: 

The Times will argue that the article did not say that the report incited people to make threats against Sarah Champion, or that JY [Just Yorkshire] intended or was negligent as to that consequence. It simply says that there was a causal connection.  They will argue that there is no serious criticism of JY, certainly not one which would cause serious harm, in saying that the report led to people doing unintended things …

Since libel actions are expensive, Just Yorkshire decided to put the issue of litigation on hold.

Instead, the charity turned to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, IPSO.

Although it claims to be “independent”, IPSO is funded by Britain’s major newspaper publishers.

One of the most powerful of these groups is Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, owners of the Times, the Sun and the Sunday Times

On January 8 Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire made an official complaint to the watchdog.

Just Yorkshire’s complaint was that the Times had breached the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code which newspapers sign up to.

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FAKE NEWS
“IN AN age when world leaders routinely dismiss unwelcome reports a as ‘fake news’, readers need a source they can trust for honest journalism that informs, entertains and analyses without bias. …”
Source: The Times annual IPSO statement, 2017

This states: 

The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator. 

A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

Just Yorkshire also claimed that the paper’s coverage broke the discrimination clause which states:

The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

IPSO has few powers and the best Just Yorkshire could hope for was a adjudication that the Times had breached the Editors’ Code

There is no financial redress, the main “punishment” is that the paper might be forced to publish a judgment setting out the breaches. 

IPSO now asked the Times to respond to Just Yorkshire’s complaint. 

When the paper replied on January 25, it had changed its position.

Previously the paper argued that the first Andrew Norfolk article only “suggested” Just Yorkshire’s report led to death threats.

Now its position was that: 

The Times has openly accepted that it was not correct to say … the report ‘led’ to death threats. It regrets the error …

The letter added that the “error” was a “slip”.

However, the paper insisted that there were many other references to death threats in its coverage of Just Yorkshire, the two most important of which “clearly linked the death threats to Ms Champion’s own comments, not to the report”.

It added:

In the light of this, the Times considers it appropriate for the wording [of the paragraph published on 24 December 2018] to have said the article ‘suggested’ that the report led to the death threats and did not consider that the error, though unfortunate, was significant or that it required an apology, though clearly a correction was needed.” 

The paper also gave IPSO more information about its sources for the allegation that concerns about the “Temperature Check” report had contributed to counter-terrorism police providing extra security for Sarah Champion.

The paper: 

… is able to confirm that the information came from trusted and highly reliable and credible sources and it was accurate. The Times has since spoken to Ms Champion who has confirmed that these statements are correct. 

This was another change from the original article which had stated

 The MP declined to comment.

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MYSTERY AT THE YARD 
METROPOLITAN POLICE Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu is in charge of counter-terrorism policing in England and Wales. His staff officer Nick Bonomini told Just Yorkshire that the Met’s Parliamentary Liaison & Investigation Team “… are not, nor have they, conducted a formal investigation into the report published by [Just Yorkshire].” Another officer later confirmed that the force knew of no death threats which were linked to the report. However, the Met also confirmed that “action had been to safeguard” the MP as a result of the report. Sarah Champion later claimed that the report had led police, who already had “significant concerns” for her safety, to increase her security. Press Gang has been unable to reconcile the contradiction between these two positions. Sarah Champion has declined to answer any of our questions.
Photo: MPS

Now the MP had come out into the open on behalf of Andrew Norfolk and the newspaper. 

The Times denied its coverage discriminated against Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire.The charity’s response to the Times letter was withering.In a letter, dated February 8, it noted that the Times letter only discussed one occasion when the paper said the report “led” to death threats. The charity said: 

It seems to us that whoever wrote this letter is suffering from amnesia. 

The Times was ignoring the fact that when Norfolk’s front page article of July 25 continued to an inside page it carried the headline:

Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats.

 

Nor was Just Yorkshire impressed with the Times sources who said its report had led to increased security for Sarah Champion:

The obvious riposte to this assertion is that, presumably, these were exactly the same “trusted and highly reliable and credible sources” that told Andrew Norfolk about the death threats. 

Just Yorkshire said these sources were “evidentially worthless”. 

The charity had also cited a previous IPSO ruling, called Solash v The Times, where a complaint against the paper was upheld because it wouldn’t reveal the documentary evidence to back up its source.

Just Yorkshire invited IPSO “to make a similar ruling in this case”.

The charity also welcomed the emergence of Sarah Champion, adding:

… Sarah Champion can now furnish the evidence of increased security that Andrew Norfolk and the Times have failed to provide so far.

Just Yorkshire asked for “tangible evidence (social media records, emails, anonymous letters)” and for details of the discussions with counter-terrorism police “which led to them advising, and her accepting, increased security”. 

The letter continued:

In the circumstances, we cannot see any reason why Sarah Champion should decline to provide the documentary evidence necessary to prove that our report contributed to her being given greater security.
On its own, we are not prepared to accept that Sarah Champion’s word alone is sufficient to prove the Times position that our report contributed to increased security.
We note that Andrew Norfolk and Sarah Champion have been fellow campaigners on the issue of Asian sex gangs for several years.
We further note that Andrew Norfolk has written many articles that feature the MP all of them, as far as we know, supportive of her stand on the Asian sex gangs issue. 


The Times responded to these points in a letter dated February 20.

On Just Yorkshire’s point that the paper had ignored the existence of the headline “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats”, the Times was  … completely silent.

The letter now made the highly revealing statement that none of Andrew Norfolk’s sources actually told him about the death threats:

We were not told that the report led to death threats …. That sentence in one of the seven articles was a mistake, as we have acknowledged from the very beginning …

Just Yorkshire responded to these revelations in a letter dated March 1.

The letter asked: 

… how on earth did Andrew Norfolk come to make the “mistake” that led him to declare that “the Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion”?

What the Times now seems to be suggesting is that he conjured the “mistake” out of thin air ..

 

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MORE HYSTERIA, LESS ANALYSIS? 
THE TIMES is currently running TV ads extolling the virtues of its journalism. The ad shows hyenas dominating the benches of the House of Commons, suggesting that MPs are full of hot air — and in need of the calm, analytical approach of the Times

The letter invited IPSO 

… to come to the conclusion that the “death threats” allegation was a deliberate decision by both Andrew Norfolk (who wrote the sentence beginning “The Times understands …”) and the Times (whose sub-editor wrote the page 7 headline) in order to create a damning, malicious and sensational … article …

 

IPSO asked the Times to make any final comments before referring the Just Yorkshire complaint to its Complaints Committee.

When the Times replied, on March 7, it did not provide the evidence Just Yorkshire had asked for which proved that the “Temperature Check” report led to increased security for Sarah Champion.

The letter did, however, include an email from Sarah Champion to the Times.

The MP confirmed that her life had been threatened both before and after the “Temperature Check” report was published.

She added:

… the report’s publication (and its contents) increased counter-terrorism police’s already significant concerns about my security and led to their advice that I should increase my security protection, which duly happened.

I hereby confirm that everything that was stated by the newspaper … is true and entirely accurate.

The Times also added some further information about Andrew Norfolk’s two sources:

The Times journalist involved is an experienced, award-winning journalist. He had multiple conversations with two sources for the point regarding Ms Champion, the report, the threats she had received and her police security.

Both sources are known to the journalist as people of integrity and credibility. The newspaper only knows the identity of one of the sources who it can confirm is of some standing and who it knows to be reliable. 

The paper added:

We can say no more than that the source whose identity is known to the both the paper and journalist has direct knowledge of the security concerns raised by the police in light of the report and the measures implemented as a consequence.

Just Yorkshire also complained about the paragraph the Times had published on Christmas Eve last year.

This stated

Our article about Sarah Champion MP’s security protection being increased (News, 25 July) suggested that a report by the charity Just Yorkshire had led to death threats against Ms Champion. In fact, as was made clear elsewhere in our coverage, whilst the report led police to increase her security protection, no death threats made at that time were attributable to the report. We are happy to make that clear.

The charity argued that this paragraph was inaccurate on three grounds:

— the paper had not “suggested” its report had led to death threats. On two occasions it is stated it as a fact, first when the Times “understands” there were death threats and the second, the headline which stated the “scathing report” led to death threats

— the paper argued that it had made it clear elsewhere in its coverage that the report did not lead to death threats. Just Yorkshire said that the only source of any death threats cited by the paper was its report

—  although the paper acknowledged the “death threats” was a “mistake” and that it “regrets the error”, the paragraph did not apologise.

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FOR ROTHERHAM … 
WHEN A right wing fascist murdered 50 Muslims at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March, he plastered his magazines with slogans. One of these was marked “For Rotherham”, a reference to the Asian sex gang stories. 

The Times maintained that its paragraph was accurate.

At this point, IPSO concluded its inquiries and complaints and arbitration officer Madelaine Palacz prepared a report which was submitted to IPSO’s Complaints Committee hearing on March 13.

♦♦♦

JUST YORKSHIRE’S complaint was considered by IPSO at a time when the organisation was under fire for not protecting minorities.

On February 28, the campaign group Hacked Off issued an open letter to IPSO calling on it to stop “condoning religious and race-based hate”. 

The letter stated: 

Racist and faith-based attacks against communities are so common in parts of the press that they have become a dangerous normality. It is clear that these attacks encourage the discrimination, harassment and violence suffered by members of minority communities every day.

Yet you have taken no action. In respect of each of the examples cited in this letter, you have not upheld a single complaint. In one entire year, of over 8,000 discrimination complaints, you upheld only one.

By allowing these abuses to go on without sanction you are turning a blind eye to the continuing incitement of hatred.

We write to express our deep dismay and to ask you to address this problem urgently and publicly. While the press must be free to do its job, your implicit condoning of religious and race-based hate must stop.

Among the signatories were the charity War on Want, and cross-party politicians including Baroness Warsi, Keith Vaz, Lord David Alton and Caroline Lucas.

More than 40 others added their names: Steve Coogan, the broadcaster James O’Brien, the barrister Helena Kennedy and the Bishop of St Albans. 

The chair of IPSO, Sir Alan Moses replied:

IPSO rejects the accusation that it condones religious and race-based hate or in any way approves of offensive attacks on groups on the grounds of their beliefs or identity.

Our decisions on discrimination and accuracy make it clear that a finding that there has been no breach of the Editors’ Code does not in any way imply that IPSO approves of what has been written.

The real issue, with which the letter fails to grapple, is how to strike a balance between the freedom of a journalist or newspaper to offend a group while protecting individuals.

As well as making its complaint, Just Yorkshire also wrote to Sir Alan Moses asking the IPSO board to carry out a broad-ranging inquiry into anti-Muslim journalism at the paper. 

This is called a “standards investigation” and IPSO can order one in cases where there is a “serious and systemic” problem.

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IPSO
IN 2014 the Independent Press Standards Organisation — IPSO — replaced the disgraced Press Complaints Commission (PCC).  The PCC had been swept away by the public revulsion over the hacking of the mobile phone of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. It was the Times stablemate, the News of the World, which had been responsible — and the brand became so toxic that Rupert Murdoch closed it. But despite claims that it is a new and improved press regulator, IPSO remains firmly under the yoke of a mainstream press owned in large part by foreign-based billionaires like Murdoch. Its weakness is demonstrated by the fact that it has not been able to prevent Andrew Norfolk and the Times from publishing distorted articles about Britain’s 2.7 million Muslims.

If found guilty, the newspaper can be fined up to £1 million. 

There have been no standards investigations since IPSO started operations in 2014.

Just Yorkshire pointed out that there were broad similarities between the Muslim foster care case and false allegation that its report led to death threats against Sarah Champion.

Moses wrote back to say that the complaints investigation had not been completed but added:

“I have passed your letter to Charlotte Unwin, Head of Standards, so that the concerns you have raised can be flagged up for our ongoing standards monitoring.”

The Just Yorkshire complaint was considered at a meeting of IPSO’s complaints committee on February 13. 

Two members were unable to attend — former CPS official Nazit Afzal and the black barrister Helyn Mensah. 

As a result, there were no representatives of the Asian community — and no representative of any of the UK’s ethnic minorities. 

♦♦♦

WHEN IPSO sent Just Yorkshire its ruling on March 28, it was clear its complaints committee had bent over backwards to protect the Times.

There was little the committee could do to mitigate the impact of the headline which appeared on July 25:

Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats

It found that this was a breach of the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code:

The print headline to the first article on page 7, had made the categorical claim that the March 2018 report had “led” to the MP receiving death threats. This was a significant claim given its seriousness; it established a causal link between the actions of the complainant and the threats which the MP had received against her life. The newspaper had produced no evidence to support the claim made in the headline on page 7.

But it took a different view of Andrew Norfolk’s comment, again in the first article, that “the Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion.” 

The complaints committee’s argument was tortuous:

The MP had confirmed that her life had been threatened both before and after the publication of the March 2018 report. She had also confirmed that the report’s publication — and its contents — had increased counter-terrorism police’s already significant concerns about the potential risk to her security, and led to their advice that her security protection be increased, which subsequently happened.

The Committee considered the claim made in the first article, that the newspaper “understood” that the March 2018 report had led to death threats, in that context. Unlike the headline’s categorical claim, the article had made clear the basis for the newspaper’s belief that the report had led to death threats against MP, namely that police had increased the her security risk level and had advised that she accept extra protection. There was no further breach … 

In other words, IPSO found it was perfectly reasonable that Norfolk “understood” that increased security had led to death threats. 

What is astonishing about IPSO’s justification is that the Times, when it was discussing exactly the same remark, stated: 

The Times has openly accepted that it was not correct to say … the report ‘led’ to death threats. It regrets the error …

So IPSO actually found the paper was not inaccurate when the Times had not only admitted its comment was “not correct” but also “regrets the error”. 

In fact, the newspaper only argued that it was not a “significant inaccuracy”.

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NORFOLK UNMASKED 
PRESS GANG is not the only critic of Andrew Norfolk. Brian Cathcart, professor of journalism at Kingston University and a founder member of the pressure group Hacked Off, has been analysing Andrew Norfolk’s journalism for more than eighteen months. Earlier this year he and Press Gang editor Paddy French joined forces to produce a 72 page report exposing Andrew Norfolk. The report examined the Just Yorkshire affair and the notorious “Christian child forced into Muslim foster care” case. The report also analysed a third example of Norfolk’s distorted reporting — a November 2018 article that claimed Rotherham council had favoured a convicted rapist in family court proceedings concerning the child he’d fathered on one of its victims. Official sources later revealed that the council had merely obeyed the rules of the family court. Click here to read the report

The Times pleads guilty, IPSO finds it innocent … 

For the breach over the “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats’ headline, IPSO acknowledged that a correction was needed but concluded that the single paragraph the Times published on 24 December 2018 was adequate.

The Committee expressed some concern at the wording of the correction which was published, particularly the use of the word “suggested”; the headline of the first article had stated, as fact, that the March 2018 report had led to death threats. However it did make clear the correct position that no death threats made at that time were attributable to the March 2018 report.

Just Yorkshire had argued that a 69 word paragraph buried on the letters page did nothing to counter the impact of a front page article.

IPSO’s complaints committee did not agree:

The Committee considered that the publication of this wording in the newspaper’s established Corrections and Clarifications column as well as online, represented due prominence.

The committee found the Times analysis of the “Temperature Check” report was not inaccurate.

The committee also found there had been no discrimination against Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire. 

Just Yorkshire appealed against the ruling.

The letter pointed out that News UK, the ultimate owners of the Times, makes considerable claims for the quality of its journalism:

All News UK titles strive for the highest standards of accuracy and all editorial staff are expected to follow standard journalistic best practice in verifying stories. When reporting events not witnessed at first hand all possible steps should be taken to establish the credibility and reliability of any sources, and to corroborate their accounts.

Just Yorskhire said the paper had fallen short of its own standards. 

The charity also reminded IPSO that it also set high standards for its own deliberations.

The advice given in the preamble to the guidance which accompanies the Editors’ Code emphasises that the code:

… goes beyond a narrow, legal interpretation of the rules, which could provide loopholes, and instead talks about the Code being honoured “not only to the letter but in the full spirit”. That means that instead of legalistic quibbling, the Code should be honoured in what we might perhaps all recognise as the spirit of “fair play” and “doing the right thing”.

Just Yorkshire said that IPSO’s complaints committee had failed its own test. 

It asked the Independent Complaints Reviewer to “reconsider the complaints committee’s verdict on this matter and apply the principles of ‘fair play’ ….”

 IPSO’s “independent complaints reviewer”, former local government chief executive Trish Haines, submitted her report on May 10.  

She stated:

” … the question for the Complaints Reviewer is whether there was a substantial flaw in the decision making process. In my view, there was not.”

This was the end of the regulatory road for Just Yorkshire.

Although IPSO had proved to be a toothless watchdog, its process had revealed important information about the failings at the Times.  

Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorskhire are now considering whether to proceed with an action for defamation … 

♦♦♦

SARAH CHAMPION is a key figure in this story.

She now makes it clear — mostly, it has to be said, through her silence — that she does not support Andrew Norfolk and the Times in their assertion that the Just Yorkshire report led to death threats against her.

However, it is also clear that she did nothing to correct the falsehood as Andrew Norfolk and the Times assault on Just Yorkshire continued over several days

She also did nothing to dissuade Andrew Norfolk from running the second strand of July 25 story — the alleged plot by “hard-left and Muslim opponents” to topple her as Rotherham’s MP.

She would only say she had no “comment” to make.

Press Gang has evidence that she knew about this element of the story before it was published.

Her silence on the matter suggests that she was prepared to see it published.

In fact, Andrew Norfolk’s evidence for the plot was painfully thin.

Only two politicians were actually named as potential plotters and one of these, former Labour deputy leader Jahangir Akhtar, was no longer on the council.

The only evidence against him was correspondence — Norfolk gave no date for it — in which he called Champion an “ogre” and “if Labour wants to keep her seat, they need to get rid of her pretty quick”. 

The other alleged plotter was councillor Taiba Yasseen who had been dropped from the Labour-controlled cabinet.

Norfolk said that this was “for reasons the party has declined to reveal, but supporters of Ms Champion say that the decision was prompted by concerns that she was trying to discredit the MP.”

No evidence was advanced to support this assertion.

Nor did Norfolk gave any details of actual plotting. 

The evidence for his claim that “far-left activists” were involved appears to be that Yasseen is a membership of Momentum.

Norfolk noted that Yasseen, who has ambitions to become an MP, said the allegation was “categorically untrue”.

Yasseen is a supporter of Sarah Champion — and Sarah Champion has supported Yasseen’s bid to become a Labour candidate in other northern constituencies.

Any plot by Rotherham’s Muslim community to unseat the MP also runs up against some powerful demographics.

The town’s 7,600-strong Pakistani community makes up just over 3 per cent of the 257,000 population.

They elect three out of 61 councillors, all of them Labour.

In the 2012 by-election and the 2015 general election UKIP were the second largest party.

The town has a strong, right-wing element — in the 2012 by-election, the BNP came third to UKIP.

Press Gang asked Sarah Champion if her involvement in Andrew Norfolk’s anti-Muslim journalism is designed to keep right-wing Labour voters from switching to UKIP and the BNP.

She did not reply. 

Andrew Norfolk and Times editor John Witherow also declined to comment. 

♦♦♦

Published: 26 June 2019
© Press Gang 

♦♦♦ 

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THE SHAME OF ANDREW NORFOLK — PART TWO: HALLELUJAH!

August 30, 2018

 

Norfolk_series_head_02
A YEAR ago today The Times declared victory in its battle to save a Christian child from Muslim foster carers.

It triumphantly reported the decision of the family court to return the child to her grandmother.

The paper boasted:

The Times praised for exposing council’s failure

But storm clouds were brewing.

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EXCLUSIVE
CHILD GOES TO TURKISH GRANDMOTHER
Press Gang can today reveal that the child at the centre of The Times crusade has gone to live with her Muslim grandmother in Turkey on a permanent basis. The grandmother’s Muslim background failed to make its way into any of reporter Andrew Norfolk’s articles. The decision of the East London Family Court to grant long-term custody is believed to be against the wishes of the mother. This means the mother’s attempt to use Andrew Norfolk and The Times to force the court to give her child back to her has failed.

The court was about to publish its own version of events.

In a devastating statement, the court demolished Andrew Norfolk’s story — and showed his narrative to be little more than a crude anti-Muslim smear.

♦♦♦

WHEN THE TIMES published its dramatic “Christian child forced into Muslim foster care” story on 28 August 2017, its chief investigative reporter Andrew Norfolk knew he was on dangerous ground.

The only way he could justify the piece was to present a grossly distorted version of events.

His story left out the fact that there would be a court hearing the next day — and that the Muslim foster care would come to an end.

Andrew Norfolk

ANDREW NORFOLK 
THE CHIEF investigative reporter for The Times, Andrew Norfolk reported that a Tower Hamlets social services supervisor said the little girl “begged” not to be returned to her foster carer because “they don’t speak English”. Norfolk also reported allegations that foster carers had tried to subvert the child’s Christian faith. It wasn’t until the East London Family Court intervened that the real story emerged …
Photo: Graham Turner / The Guardian

He also left out the fact that the mother is the daughter of Muslim parents.

At this point he was banking on two factors to keep his narrative on track.

The first was that he was almost certain to be the only reporter present at the hearing on August 29.

This would allow him to publish a sanitised version of the proceedings — and allow The Times to claim his crusading reporting had saved the child. 

Secondly, he was expecting the court to order that the child should live with her grandmother — and say little more than that.

These were to prove disastrous miscalculations.

Norfolk didn’t realise the court had already decided to take on The Times … 

♦♦♦

AUGUST 29 could not have started better for Norfolk.

When he arrived at the East London Family Court security staff dramatically refused him entry.

It took the intervention of Judge Khatun Sapnara to allow him to enter the courtroom. 

Norfolk was able to report the next day:

Security staff at the court, where a case hearing took place yesterday morning, ordered a Times journalist to leave the building and threatened an escorted removal by security guards unless the reporter left voluntarily.

When Judge Sapnara was informed of the newspaper’s wish to attend the hearing, the reporter was readmitted.

Norfolk was the only reporter who filed a report on the proceedings. 

Norfolk’s article, published the next day (August 30), was headed:

Judge rules child must leave Muslim foster home

In fact, the foster care was due to end anyway.

All parties had already agreed that the child should go to live with her grandmother. 

But it was the sub-head that mattered:

The Times praised for exposing council’s failure

The Times wanted readers to be in no doubt that the verdict was a triumph for the crusading journalism of Andrew Norfolk. 

The first three paragraphs continued the narrative of the native English-speaking child forced to live with Muslim foster carers:

A girl at the centre of a care dispute was removed from her Muslim foster parents yesterday and reunited with her family as a judge urged councils to seek “culturally matched placements” for vulnerable children.

The five-year-old, a native English speaker from a Christian family, was taken to her grandmother’s home after a court ruled that she should not remain in the placement organised by the London borough of Tower Hamlets.

Judge Khatun Sapnara, a practising Muslim, said it was in the girl’s best interests to live with a family member who could keep her safe, promote her welfare and meet her needs “in terms of ethnicity, culture and religion”. The judge ordered the council to conduct an urgent investigation into issues reported by The Times, saying that the newspaper had acted responsibly in raising “very concerning” matters of “legitimate public interest”.

But once again, Andrew Norfolk was using the purge-and-deceive device he’d applied to his earlier articles.

During the proceedings, it was made clear that the grandmother, although non-practising, was from a Muslim background.

It was also clear that she was a foreign national and that her English was so poor that documents had to be translated into her mother tongue.

(Today, Press Gang also reveals the grandmother is actually from Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country.)

Norfolk didn’t report these sensational revelations.

He had to purge them or risk fatally undermining his narrative.

Remarkably, he and The Times later tried to explain away their decision not to mention the grandmother’s Muslim background.

In a submission to the press watchdog IPSO, The Times said that its approach to this article:

“was governed by its obligation not to publish any details which might identify the child.”

It claimed that Andrew Norfolk told the court that The Times:

“would not be publishing details of the grandmother’s religious and ethnic heritage, so as to avoid any risk of identification.”

DIRBYN_XoAALCx8

HYPOCRISY
ANDREW NORFOLK and The Times claimed that the reason the paper did not report the Muslim background of the grandmother was its concern not to publish anything which would reveal the child’s identity. Yet the paper had already published an actual picture of the little girl.

The submission said that “neither the judge nor [Tower Hamlets] demurred at that proposal”.

The paper added that the court later:

“put into the public domain some information about the family background which it had not expected to have been able to publish.”

Norfolk also deceived readers when he added the comment, buried deep in his article:

Judge Sapnara said her decision to order the child’s removal from foster care was not taken “as a result of undue media involvement”. “It is taken because of the evidence available to the court today, that the grandmother is an appropriate carer for the child,” she said.

What he didn’t know was that Judge Sapnara — perhaps expecting Norfolk to present a distorted version of the proceedings — had decided to make an unusual and decisive intervention.

If Norfolk and The Times would not tell readers the real background to the case, then the court would.

The next day a dramatic eight page statement was released.

It is highly unusual for a judge to order such a comprehensive statement to be published — and with such speed.

It meant that, as people were reading Andrew Norfolk’s distorted report of the hearing, they would be able to compare it to the court’s version of events. 

The statement — its full title is Case Management Order No 7 — noted:

“the court have given permission for an anonymised version of this order to be published”.

The order stated:

“Documents including the assessment of the maternal grandparents state that they are of a Muslim background but are non-practising.”

The order stated bluntly:

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Court makes it clear that the decision to approve the new care arrangements for the child to live with the grandmother under an interim care order is as a result of the application of the relevant law to the evidence now available to the court and not as a result of any influence arising out of media reports.”

Careful readers will notice there’s a significant difference between the court’s version of what happened and Andrew Norfolk’s

In his report, Norfolk added the word “undue”.

The addition of “undue” implies that his reporting had some influence when Judge Sapnara’s statement makes it clear there was none. 

Last night Press Gang asked Andrew Norfolk and The Times about this discrepancy.

We also asked them about the failure to mention the Muslim background of the grandmother. 

They did not reply.

♦♦♦

The intervention of the court was a disaster for Andrew Norfolk and The Times.

The Case Management Order, which confirmed that the child would go to live with her grandmother, hammered Norfolk’s narrative.

It stated:

— the child’s court appointed guardian had “no concerns as to the child’s welfare and she reports that the child is settled and well cared for by the foster carer”

—  Tower Hamlets proposed that the child “remains in the care of the grandmother long term. The mother opposes this.”

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JUDGE KHATUN SAPNARA
THE TIMES reported that the Bangladeshi-born judge had “praised” Andrew Norfolk for “exposing” Tower Hamlets’ “failure”. The press watchdog IPSO later ruled that this was “inaccurate”. The judge did no such thing … 

The Case Management Order continued:

— “the mother has confirmed that she did not disclose documents, confidential to this case, to the press”

— the mother must reveal “the documents from the private law proceedings relating to her older child … from Guildford Family Court”

— the mother’s solicitors are permitted to submit “segmented hair strand test results, to test for cocaine covering the last three months …”

—  the mother’s solicitors are also permitted to submit “segmented hair strand and liver function test results, in respect of alcohol, covering the last six months …”

The court also ordered Tower Hamlets to prepare a statement about the allegations made by the mother against the foster carers.

This statement, published two months later, was to inflict further damage on Andrew Norfolk’s narrative.

As Press Gang has already reported in The Shame Of Andrew Norfolk: Crusade, this document was agreed between the legal teams of Tower Hamlets and the mother.

It recorded that the grandmother:

 “… has been distressed and angered by the allegations against the foster carers which she has said were false and lies.”

These allegations were, of course, the ones made by her daughter and reported by Andrew Norfolk.

The statement added that the grandmother:

“has a good relationship with the carers and is grateful for the excellent care she says that they have provided to the child.”

The child told the grandmother that she:

“is missing the foster carer and has asked … if she can have contact with the family.”

♦♦♦

THE INTERVENTION by the court was highly damaging to the reputation of Andrew Norfolk.

Despite these developments, The Times continued to defend his reporting and did not apologise for its articles.

But another problem was brewing.

More than 150 complaints had been made about Andrew Norfolk’s reports to the press watchdog IPSO.

IPSO brushed all of these aside — except for one.

Tower Hamlets complained about The Times headline

The Times praised for exposing council’s failure

And IPSO finally ruled that this claim was inaccurate.

The watchdog forced The Times to publish a humiliating ruling — and flag it up on the front page.

The next instalment of The Shame Of Andrew Norfolk tells the inside story of the desperate attempts by The Times to ward off  this damning verdict. 

♦♦♦

NOTES

1
The original title of this series — The Fall Of Andrew Norfolk — was changed on 24 September 2018.

2
Andrew Norfolk’s third article is added as an Appendix because The Times operates a paywall. 

♦♦♦

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♦♦♦

APPENDIX

THE TIMES THIRD ARTICLE 
30 August 2017

BYLINE

Andrew Norfolk, Chief Investigative Reporter

HEADLINE

Judge rules child must leave Muslim foster home

SUB-HEAD

The Times praised for exposing council’s failure

PICTURE CAPTION
In England 84 per cent of foster carers are white, as are 77 per cent of fostered children

A girl at the centre of a care dispute was removed from her Muslim foster parents yesterday and reunited with her family as a judge urged councils to seek “culturally matched placements” for vulnerable children.

The five-year-old, a native English speaker from a Christian family, was taken to her grandmother’s home after a court ruled that she should not remain in the placement organised by the London borough of Tower Hamlets.

Judge Khatun Sapnara, a practising Muslim, said it was in the girl’s best interests to live with a family member who could keep her safe, promote her welfare and meet her needs “in terms of ethnicity, culture and religion”. The judge ordered the council to conduct an urgent investigation into issues reported by The Times, saying that the newspaper had acted responsibly in raising “very concerning” matters of “legitimate public interest”.

Friends of the child’s family said that they were hugely relieved by the decision to move her from foster placements where all was “foreign and un- familiar” into surroundings where she would feel “much more at home”.

When The Times told Tower Hamlets last week of its intention to reveal the council’s decision to place a white British child with a family whose culture, faith and primary language were alien, the local authority tried to block the story. It contacted the East London family court, where the girl’s case was the subject of care proceedings, and told Judge Sapnara that confidential court documents had been unlawfully leaked and publication of an article would be an offence.

Security staff at the court, where a case hearing took place yesterday morning, ordered a Times journalist to leave the building and threatened an escorted removal by security guards unless the reporter left voluntarily. When Judge Sapnara was informed of the newspaper’s wish to attend the hearing, the reporter was readmitted.

Earlier this week, the newspaper revealed that the child, who was taken into care in March, initially spent four months in a foster home where, she said, the family often did not speak English at home and encouraged her to learn Arabic.

Social services reports noted that she was tearful and distressed when she was returned to the home. For the past two months she has been in the care of a second Muslim couple, where she spoke of regularly eating meals on the floor. In both households, the primary foster carers veiled their face in public.

A council employee heard the child say that the first foster parent, to whose care she was due to have been returned this week, had taken away her necklace, which had a cross. The same family was said to have refused to allow her to eat a carbonara meal because it contained bacon. Any local authority making a foster placement is required by law to give due consideration to the child’s “religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background”. Addressing lawyers for Tower Hamlets yesterday, Judge Sapnara said that her “overriding concern [was] the welfare of the little girl”.

“You would presumably accept that the priority should be an appropriate, culturally matched placement that meets the needs of the child in terms of ethnicity, culture and religion?” she said. Kevin Gordon, counsel for the local authority, agreed but said that when the girl initially became the council’s responsibility, no white British foster carers were available.

The Fostering Network charity has estimated that 7,600 new foster families need to be recruited in the next year. It said there was a “particular need for foster carers to look after teenagers, disabled children, sibling groups and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children” but identified no shortfall in carers for babies and young children.

A national shortage of ethnic minority foster carers often leads to non-white children being placed with white British carers. In England, 84 per cent of foster carers are white, as are 77 per cent of fostered children.

The court was told yesterday that the family’s wish for the girl to be placed in the temporary care of her grandmother had been under consideration for a number of months. Judge Sapnara said her decision to order the child’s removal from foster care was not taken “as a result of undue media involvement”. “It is taken because of the evidence available to the court today, that the grandmother is an appropriate carer for the child,” she said. All parties, including Tower Hamlets, supported the decision.

Until the child’s future is resolved, at a date yet to be set, she will continue to have regular meetings with her mother, supervised by council staff. To protect the child, The Times is not disclosing the unusual circumstances that led to her being taken into care this year.

The judge said she had not seen reports of meetings in which a council employee observed the child’s distress and unhappiness and asked Tower Hamlets to provide her with copies.

Tower Hamlets council said it had the “welfare of children at the heart of what we do” and would like to give more details about the case to correct “inaccuracies”, but was legally restricted from doing so. “The decision to choose foster carers for a child is based on a number of factors including cultural background and proximity to contact with the child’s family . . . in order to give them as much stability as possible,” a spokesman said. “We have always been working towards the child being looked after by a family member and will continue to do so.”

ENDS

 

THE SHAME OF ANDREW NORFOLK — PART ONE: CRUSADE

August 28, 2018

 

Norfolk_series_head_01
A YEAR ago today award-winning reporter Andrew Norfolk published a piece of rogue journalism.

In a series of three articles in The Times he accused the London borough of Tower Hamlets of forcing a 5-year-old Christian child to live with Muslim foster carers.

It was a sensational exposé which made headlines around the world.

But the series was a cynical crusade against Tower Hamlets, its social workers and foster carers.

It’s part of a growing body of anti-Muslim articles in The Times.

A year-long Press Gang investigation shows Norfolk’s series was only made possible because he excluded key material.

He suppressed four important pieces of evidence:

— the mother of the child was born to Muslim parents

—  Tower Hamlets was always in favour of the child being cared for by her grandmother

— the mother has used a British-Pakistani barrister in court proceedings

— foster care experts warned Norfolk the mother’s version of events was likely to be faulty.

PRESS GANG LOGO

ANATOMY OF A SMEAR
YOU ARE reading the first part of the most comprehensive account of Andrew Norfolk’s rogue journalism. It has taken a year to produce and includes a broad-ranging complaint to the press watchdog IPSO.
Press Gang is an independent investigative website edited by the retired former ITV current affairs producer Paddy French. He is unpaid.
Press Gang played a part in the downfall of former News of the World reporter Mazher Mahmood and exposed the unscrupulous career of Piers Morgan.
However, the expense of running the site is significant — the Guardian, for example, charged us £60 for a licence to use the picture of Andrew Norfolk.
If you want to help Press Gang bring rogue journalists to book, you can make a donation, either a small one-off amount or a more useful monthly subscription. You’ll find the Donate button at the end of this article. 

One told him bluntly:

“You shouldn’t go near this story — it just doesn’t ring true.”

Norfolk’s investigation provoked a storm of protest.

The Muslim Council of Britain branded the articles “disgracefully dishonest”.

The press complaints watchdog IPSO, part-funded by The Times, declined to investigate more than 150 complaints.

It wasn’t until Tower Hamlets entered the fray that IPSO ruled Norfolk and The Times had been inaccurate.

IPSO found their coverage “gave the impression that the judge had found the placement was a ‘failure’ by the council …”

‘“This was a distortion.”

In a major humiliation for Norfolk, The Times was forced to publish a highly critical ruling — and flag it up on the front page.

Press Gang can now reveal that Tower Hamlets also made a complaint against The Sun which had followed up Norfolk’s coverage

Sun Editor Tony Gallagher — unlike Times editor John Witherow — surrendered immediately.

The paper wrote to Tower Hamlets, accepting “the article was not accurate”.

Andrew Norfolk, though, remains unrepentant.

“I think we did our job as a newspaper,” he told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 shortly after his series was published.

Until these articles Norfolk, the chief investigative reporter of The Times, was one of Britain’s most respected journalists.

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EXCLUSIVE
THE SUN RECANTS
SUN EDITOR Tony Gallagher (above) initially repeated many of the allegations made by The Times. But the tabloid threw in the towel as soon as Tower Hamlets complained. In December 2017 the paper wrote to the council accepting that these allegations were “inaccurate”. On newspaper databases which still make the article available, the paper added that “future reporting of claims made that the child was forced to speak Arabic, had a gold cross removed, was banned from eating carbonara because of the pork content and ate meals off the floor should not be reported as fact. A court appointed independent guardian visited the foster carer and interviewed the child alone and found there to be no issues with care and care to be of a good standard.”
Photo: News UK

His work in exposing the sexual grooming of  vulnerable young girls, starting in 2011, is widely regarded as a classic piece of investigative reporting.

It won Norfolk many awards.

But among many thoughtful journalists, concerned at the rising tide of Islamophobia in some British newspapers, Norfolk’s role in the “Christian child” saga is chilling.

They cannot understand how a dedicated and courageous reporter could lower his standards to produce a series so one-sided it qualifies as rogue journalism.

Press Gang investigates the shame of Andrew Norfolk.

♦♦♦

IN March last year, police were called to a building in East London.

Officers found a young woman and her 5-year-old daughter.

Because the law protects the identity of the child, Press Gang can only reveal part of what happened.

Police decided that the circumstances in which they found the child required them to exercise their “powers of protection”.

They removed the child from her mother.

Because the incident took place in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, it was the council’s social workers who took charge of the little girl.

Social services now had to find emergency foster care while the courts decided what should happen to the child.

The 5-year-old has an unusual background.

Her mother comes from a relatively humble Muslim background in a predominantly Muslim country.

The mother tongue of both the child’s mother and her grandmother is not English.

The child knows her grandmother well.

She has her own room in her grandparents’ home.

The child’s mother insists her upbringing was Christian.

She says her daughter is also Christian.

Andrew Norfolk

CRUSADER
ANDREW NORFOLK made his name with his 2011 series about mainly British-Pakistani men sexually grooming and sexually abusing young girls in Rotherham. It led to several awards including the Orwell Prize and Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism. He was named Journalist of the Year at the 2014 British Press Awards. When he first heard about the grooming allegations his immediate thought was “this is a dream story for the far right.”  
Photo: Graham Turner for The Guardian

The child’s biological father does not appear to play a significant role in her upbringing.

Social workers now had to decide where the child should go.

They chose a foster carer who was an English-speaking Muslim whose first language is Arabic.

Their own children speak English as their main language — and English is the language used in the home.

At a court hearing in March, the mother asked that her daughter be placed in the care of her grandmother.

Tower Hamlets was in favour if the grandmother passed the necessary assessment process.

The process was delayed partly because the grandmother’s main residence was in a foreign country and because official documents had to be translated into her mother tongue.

When the first foster carers went on an extended holiday in June, a second Muslim family took over.

In the summer of 2017 “friends” of the child’s mother contacted Andrew Norfolk and told him they were concerned about the foster carers.

They provided reports from a social services supervisor which stated:

— the child was sobbing and begging not to be returned to the foster home because “they don’t speak English”

— the child claimed that the carer removed her necklace which had a Christian cross and

— the child claimed the carer suggested she should learn Arabic.

Family “friends” also told Norfolk:

— the carer refused to allow the child to eat her favourite Italian food, carbonara, because it contained bacon

— the first foster carer wore a niqab while the second foster carer wore a burqa.

♦♦♦

ANDREW NORFOLK now began to examine the evidence.

He contacted experts in fostering.

One of these was Andy Elvin, chief executive of The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT).

Elvin said that, in emergency placements like this one, the number of available foster carers would be limited.

Social workers would take into account the nature of the foster carer’s home situation and their ability to give the little girl a stable home environment.

Norfolk told Elvin about the allegation that the foster carers didn’t speak English.

Elvin told him this was nonsense: all foster carers went through a lengthy assessment to make sure they were fluent in both spoken and written English.

Norfolk also asked about the removal of personal effects.

Elvin said there were likely to be sound reasons for taking this course of action.

He added:

“Norfolk also appeared to be totally unaware of basic family court proceedings.”

“This included the fact that the court appoints a guardian, independent of both the parent and the foster carer / local authority, to make sure the child is properly cared for.”

Norfolk said his sources included council reports and concerns raised by “friends” of the mother.

Elvin said he didn’t think this was good enough.

DSC_5262still life160408

IGNORED
ANDY ELVIN (above) is the chief executive of the UK’s largest fostering and adoption charity. He warned Andrew Norfolk that there were problems with the narrative he was exploring. The reporter ignored him …  
Photo: TACT

He told him:

“You shouldn’t go near this story —it just doesn’t ring true.”

At this point, Elvin says, Norfolk accused him of being “defensive”.

Norfolk also spoke to a journalist who is a foster carer.

This individual doesn’t want to be identified.

Norfolk gave him much more background information about the case.

The journalist told Press Gang:

“He knew that the child’s heritage was complex and that she was the daughter of migrants on both sides.”

“He had enough information to work out that some members of the family may also be Muslim”.

“He knew that the maternal grandmother had applied for custody and was being viewed favourably by social services.”

“As a foster carer, I challenged many of the claims made about the foster carers in Tower Hamlets.”

“I questioned the reasons why the crucifix might have been removed: we probably would have done the same, mainly for the child’s safety given her age.”

“I explained that birth families routinely — and understandably, perhaps — find fault in foster carers or make false allegations.”

“I also explained that family contact sessions are often difficult, and generally don’t reflect the quality of the placement.”

“I told him he should be very careful.”

These warnings should have been enough for Norfolk to dig deeper into the mother’s tale.

Was she telling the whole truth about her daughter’s placement?

Norfolk was also uniquely placed to investigate the mother’s background.

The Times’ news desk — like those of all national newspapers — was well aware of the circumstances in which the child came to be taken into care.

But Norfolk also had access to the mother — either directly (which he has never confirmed) or through “friends”.

He should have asked for documentary evidence of the mother’s Christianity and for the certificate showing where and when the little girl was baptised.

It would also have been easy for him (as it was for Press Gang) to establish that

— the mother has had relationships with men from several different countries

— this wasn’t the first time she’d been involved with the police

— she appeared to have issues with both alcohol and drugs

— she has an older child who has been the subject of proceedings in the family court.

If Andrew Norfolk made these inquiries, he decided not to share the results with readers of The Times.

Towards the end of August last year Norfolk and senior figures at the paper decided on the editorial line they were going to take.

The paper would publish the mother’s version of events.

The paper also decided that the story would feature on the front page on Monday, August 28.

The date was significant because there was a long-arranged hearing of the family scheduled for the next day.

And, a fortnight earlier, Tower Hamlets had informed the family court that the assessment of the grandmother had finally been completed.

It was positive.

This meant that the court was almost certain to end the foster care and place the child in the care of her grandmother.

Family court experts say that the mother’s legal team would have also have been informed of these developments.

Press Gang asked Andrew Norfolk and The Times if this was the reason why August 28 was chosen.

After that date, the child would no longer have been in the care of Muslim foster carers but have moved to be with her Muslim grandmother.

Neither Norfolk nor The Times answered the question.

♦♦♦

THE TIMES front page headline on August 28 could not have been starker:

Christian child forced into Muslim foster care

The sub-head read:

Concern for girl who ‘had cross removed and was encouraged to learn Arabic’

The first six paragraphs of the main story set out Andrew Norfolk’s thesis:

A white Christian child was taken from her family and forced to live with a niqab-wearing foster carer in a home where she was allegedly encouraged to learn Arabic.

The five-year-old girl, a native English speaker, has spent the past six months in the care of two Muslim households in London. The foster placements were made, against the wishes of the girl’s family, by the scandal-ridden borough of Tower Hamlets.

DIRBYN_XoAALCx8

In confidential local authority reports seen by The Times, a social services supervisor describes the child sobbing and begging not to be returned to the foster carer’s home because “they don’t speak English”.

The reports state that the supervisor heard the girl, who at times was “very distressed”, claiming that the foster carer removed her necklace, which had a Christian cross, and also suggested that she should learn Arabic.

It is understood that the child told her mother that when she was given her favourite Italian food to take home, the foster carer would not allow her to eat it because the carbonara meal contained bacon.

More recently, the girl is said to have told her mother that “Christmas and Easter are stupid” and that “European women are stupid and alcoholic”.

The article was illustrated by two photographs, taken from behind, which showed the second of the child’s foster carers wearing a burqa.

The child was shown wearing European clothing.

Her long hair was slightly pixellated.

The captions included the text:

“The five-year-old girl, whose identity The Times is protecting, with her present foster carer. Her mother is said to be horrified by the alien cult­ural, religious and linguistic environment in which her daughter has spent the past six months.”

The article added that Tower Hamlets was a “scandal-ridden” council, citing the removal of mayor Lutfer Rahman in 2015 for corrupt and illegal electoral practices.

It also noted an Ofsted report in April 2017 which found “widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children who need help and protection”.

Rating the children’s service as inadequate, Ofsted condemned an “entrenched culture of non-compliance with basic social work standards”.

The next day Norfolk published a second story with the headline:

Parents begged Tower Hamlets council to let child in Muslim care stay with grandmother

The article continued:

A council that forced a Christian child to live with conservative Muslim foster carers has blocked a number of attempts to move her to families where she would feel more at home.

Inquiries by The Times have established that the girl’s family has spent the past six months begging the London borough of Tower Hamlets to allow the five-year-old to be released into the care of close family friends or relatives.

The east London council has most recently opposed attempts to place the child into the temporary care of her grandmother.

♦♦♦

THE story was picked up by media in both Britain and abroad.

The credibility of The Times combined with Andrew Norfolk’s reputation persuaded many journalists and commentators to accept the paper’s narrative as fact.

Two examples show how toxic some of the coverage became.

Journalist Allison Pearson, writing in the Daily Telegraph a few days later, wrote:

It’s like something from a dark, dystopian drama.

She added

The authorities note that the child sobs and begs not to be sent back to the foster home “because they don’t speak English”. Her alarmed mother reports that her daughter says “Christmas and Easter are stupid” and that European women are “alcoholic”.

Incredibly, this is not science fiction.It’s happening right now, in Tower Hamlets, a scandal-ridden London borough, where the five-year-old has spent the past six months in the care of two different Muslim households.

The Sun published a column by Trevor Phillips, former chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, which carried the headline:

The decision to put a five-year-old Christian girl into Muslim foster care is like child abuse and the council must pay.

Phillips took The Times narrative as gospel.

♦♦♦

ANDREW NORFOLK could only publish his story by purging it of inconvenient facts and deceiving his readers about key evidence.

NATIONALITY

Norfolk bent the narrative to leave readers with the impression that the little girl was English.

Norfolk purged anything that might suggest the girl’s parents were foreign-born migrants.

He also purged the fact that the grandmother was foreign-born.

He deceived readers by describing the little girl as being a “native English” speaker. 

WITHEROW

JOHN WITHEROW
EVER SINCE he took over the editor’s chair at The Times in 2013, John Witherow has been under fire for his coverage of issues involving Britain’s Muslim population. In 2015 the press watchdog IPSO ruled that a Times story headed “One in five British Muslims has sympathy for Isis” was inaccurate. The paper had twisted a survey in which respondents weren’t even asked about the terrorist group. In 2012, when he was editor of the Sunday Times, the paper published a front page article written by the now-disgraced Mazher Mahmood, gaoled in 2016 for conspiring to pervert the course of justice. The piece accused a Muslim dentist of being willing to perform female genital mutilation. The police investigation collapsed when it turned out that an undercover “associate” of Mahmood’s had probably prostituted herself to persuade the dentist to co-operate. For the full story, see Withering Heights.
Photo: PA

He deceived readers by publishing a photo in which the little girl looked just like any ordinary English child.

MUSLIM BACKGROUND

Norfolk twisted his story to suggest the little girl was an English Christian trapped in families from an alien religious background.

To do this he had to purge the fact that the mother was from a Muslim background.

A court-approved document later made it clear her parents are Muslim.

The same document record the mother’s insistence that they are Christian.

This fundamental conflict was of no interest to Andrew Norfolk.

Norfolk also purged his narrative of the comments made by the experts he talked to.

They told him there might be innocent explanations for the removal of a necklace carrying a cross such as concerns for the little girl’s safety.

These warnings did not suit Norfolk’s chosen narrative so he simply ignored them.

LANGUAGE

In order to emphasise the horror of an apparently English-speaking girl under pressure to speak Arabic, Norfolk purged the complex linguistic heritage of the child, the mother and the grandmother.

It’s clear the child speaks at least English and the foreign language spoken by her grandmother.

The mother is multi-lingual.

The grandmother speaks English poorly at best.

TOWER HAMLETS

For Andrew Norfolk, the villain of the piece was Tower Hamlets council.

To do this he had to purge the fact that social workers had always approved the grandmother as a carer provided an assessment was positive.

Norfolk deceived his readers by using emotive language like the mother “begging” the council to allow the child to go to her grandmother.

And by stating that the council “blocked” the mother’s wish for the child to go to her grandmother.

In his first article he purged the fact that the social services supervisor’s report — the only documentary evidence he had — concerned highly charged contact sessions with the mother.

He deceived readers by leaving out the fact that the child had a court-appointed guardian who was independent of both the mother and Tower Hamlets. 

He also purged his account of the critical Ofsted report of comments which praised parts of the fostering service:

“Most children in care live in good foster homes …”

“Children living with family members and foster carers are generally settled.”

“The fostering service is actively recruiting new carers, and it supports carers well. Care proceedings are effective for most children in progressing plans for permanence.”

♦♦♦

IT WAS after Andrew Norfolk had published his first two articles that the East London Family Court sat to decide the fate of the little girl.

Judge Khatun Sapnara heard the assessment of the grandmother was positive.

Both the mother and Tower Hamlets were in favour of the child going to live with her.

The judge agreed.

Andrew Norfolk and The Times reported the hearing in a front page story the next day which included the sub-head: 

The Times praised for exposing council’s failure

But the judiciary were already moving to place a completely different narrative into the public domain.

Judge Sapnara ordered a summary of the court proceedings to be published.

It was blunt:

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Court makes it clear that the decision to approve the new care arrangements for the child to live with the grandmother under an interim care order is as a result of the application of the relevant law to the evidence now available to the court and not as a result of any influence arising out of media reports.”

The summary noted that the child’s “biological father has not been located.”

It stated that the mother’s legal representation was paid for out of public funds.

It also stated that the child’s guardian — appointed through the court and independent of both the mother and Tower Hamlets — “has no concerns as to the child’s welfare and she reports that the child is settled and well cared for by the foster carer.”

The court also ordered that legal representatives for the mother and Tower Hamlets produce an agreed statement.

Both parties accepted that the first foster carer wore a hajib [the headscarf] and not the niqab Andrew Norfolk had stated as fact in the opening paragraph of his first article. 

This statement recorded the views of the grandmother.

She “… has been distressed and angered by the allegations against the foster carers which she has said were false and lies.”

These allegations were made by the mother and reported by Andrew Norfolk.

The grandmother “has a good relationship with the carers and is grateful for the excellent care she says that they have provided to the child.”

The child told the grandmother that she “is missing the foster carer and has asked … if she can have contact with the family.”

♦♦♦

NEXT
HALLELUJAH!

THE INSIDE story of the dramatic court hearing that began to unravel Andrew Norfolk’s narrative. The judge breaks with tradition and publishes a highly revealing summary of proceedings. Noting the disagreements between the mother and the foster carers, she orders a report to be prepared that both Tower Hamlets and the mother must agree. When it’s published, it does even more damage to Andrew Norfolk’s version of events.

♦♦♦

NOTES

1
The original title of this series — The Fall Of Andrew Norfolk — was changed on 24 September 2018.

2
The full text of Andrew Norfolk’s first two articles can be found at the end of this article. Press Gang is adding them because The Times operates a pay wall. 

3
Tower Hamlets’ statement of 1 November 2017 is included as Appendix 2. This was added on 26 February 2019. 

♦♦♦

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APPENDIX 1

FIRST TIMES ARTICLE
28 August 2017

BYLINE

Andrew Norfolk, Chief Investigative Reporter

HEAD

“Christian child forced into Muslim foster care”

SUB-HEAD

“Concern for girl who ‘had cross removed and was encouraged to learn Arabic”

PICTURE CAPTION 1 

The girl with one of the two Muslim carers appointed by Tower Hamlets

PICTURE CAPTION  2

The five-year-old girl, whose identity The Times is protecting, with her present foster carer. Her mother is said to be horrified by the alien cult­ural, religious and linguistic environment in which her daughter has spent the past six months

A white Christian child was taken from her family and forced to live with a niqab-wearing foster carer in a home where she was allegedly encouraged to learn Arabic.

The five-year-old girl, a native English speaker, has spent the past six months in the care of two Muslim households in London. The foster placements were made, against the wishes of the girl’s family, by the scandal-ridden borough of Tower Hamlets.

In confidential local authority reports seen by The Times, a social services supervisor describes the child sobbing and begging not to be returned to the foster carer’s home because “they don’t speak English”.

The reports state that the supervisor heard the girl, who at times was “very distressed”, claiming that the foster carer removed her necklace, which had a Christian cross, and also suggested that she should learn Arabic.

It is understood that the child told her mother that when she was given her favourite Italian food to take home, the foster carer would not allow her to eat it because the carbonara meal contained bacon.

More recently, the girl is said to have told her mother that “Christmas and Easter are stupid” and that “European women are stupid and alcoholic”.

In any decision regarding a foster placement, local authorities are required to give due consideration to the child’s “religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background”.

Tower Hamlets refused to respond to requests to explain why it had chosen to place a white, English-speaking Christian child with Muslim foster carers, including one household where she was unable to understand the language spoken by the family.

Her first carer, with whom the girl lived for four months, is believed to have worn a niqab outside the family home. The carer at her present foster placement wears a burka, fully concealing her face, when she accompanies the child in public.

The wearing of a niqab or burka generally indicates adherence to a conservative, Salafi-influenced interpretation of Islam that is often contemptuous of liberal western values.

To protect the child, The Times has chosen not to identify her or the unusual circumstances that led to her being taken into care earlier this year.

The girl’s mother is said by friends to have been horrified by the alien cultural, religious and linguistic environment in which her daughter has spent the past six months.

“This is a five-year-old white girl. She was born in this country, speaks English as her first language, loves football, holds a British passport and was christened in a church,” said a friend.

“She’s already suffered the huge trauma of being forcibly separated from her family. She needs surroundings in which she’ll feel secure and loved. Instead, she’s trapped in a world where everything feels foreign and unfamiliar. That’s really scary for a young child.”

In some areas of the country, a longstanding shortage of foster carers from ethnic-minority backgrounds frequently leads to non-white children being, of necessity, placed with white British foster parents. It is far less common for the reverse to take place.

Published fostering statistics for England show that of the 51,800 children who were in foster placements last year, 39,900 (77 per cent) were white, as were 52,500 (84 per cent) of the 62,400 approved foster carers.

The 2011 national census found that 80 per cent of England’s population was white British, falling to 45 per cent in London and 31 per cent in inner-city Tower Hamlets.

Across the capital last year, 39 per cent of fostered children and 42 per cent of foster carers were white. In Tower Hamlets, only 24 per cent of looked-after children were white.

No figures were published nationally or at local authority level to show how many children were placed with foster carers of a different ethnicity.

Tower Hamlets declined to reveal how many cross-cultural foster placements it was overseeing. The council also refused to say whether it had a shortage of white British foster carers. It cited confidentiality obligations and accused The Times of putting at risk the stability of a vulnerable child’s foster placement and schooling.

Ten years ago a council report warned of a need to “recruit foster carers from a range of backgrounds” in Tower Hamlets to enable it “to match carers and children, taking into account a number of factors including ethnicity, religion, language, culture and location”.

The under-represented communities that it sought to target in 2008 in adverts for new foster carers were “Caribbean, African, Vietnamese, Bangladeshi (for older children) and white”.

More recently the council has earned public notoriety. In 2015 it was stripped by the government of many of its powers after its former mayor, Lutfur Rahman, was found guilty of corrupt and illegal electoral practices.

In April this year an Ofsted inspection of the council found “widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children who need help and protection”.

Rating the children’s service as inadequate, it condemned an “entrenched culture of non-compliance with basic social work standards”.

The Department for Education said it was unable to comment on cases but a spokesman stressed that “when placing a child in a foster home, the local authority must ensure that the placement is the most appropriate way to safeguard the child and support their welfare. A child’s background is an important consideration in this decision.”


SECOND TIMES ARTICLE
29 August 2017

BYLINE

Andrew Norfolk, Chief Investigative Reporter

HEAD

“Parents begged Tower Hamlets council to let child in Muslim care stay with grandmother”

PICTURE CAPTION Tower Hamlets has placed a young Christian girl into foster care with two Muslim families in turn. For the past two months, the child’s care has been entrusted by the council to a foster carer who wears a burka
A council that forced a Christian child to live with conservative Muslim foster carers has blocked a number of attempts to move her to families where she would feel more at home.

Inquiries by The Times have established that the girl’s family has spent the past six months begging the London borough of Tower Hamlets to allow the five-year-old to be released into the care of close family friends or relatives.

The east London council has most recently opposed attempts to place the child into the temporary care of her grandmother.

Instead, she initially spent four months with a carer whose family often spoke Arabic when she was with them, leading the girl to complain that she was unable to understand what they were saying.

A Tower Hamlets employee who supervised regular meetings between the child and her family recorded the child’s distress, at the conclusion of each meeting, when she was handed over to the carer.

In a written report of one meeting, the contact supervisor described the girl as “very emotional and tearful”.

“She said they don’t speak English at the home, she doesn’t understand the Arabic words where she is. [The girl] said she wants to go back home to her [mother].”

The social services employee heard the child whispering Arabic words to her mother that she was allegedly told must be said aloud to ensure that “when you die you go to heaven”.

Her reports also describe the child’s account of her necklace, which carried a Christian cross, having been removed, and not returned, by the first foster carer.

After another supervised meeting, the council worker heard the child explaining to her mother that the foster carer “said she needs to ask [her social worker] if she can learn Arabic”.

At the end of the meeting, the girl “started crying and saying that she doesn’t want to go back”.

For the past two months, the child’s care has been entrusted by the council to a second foster carer. Both women concealed their faces when they were with the girl in public, the first by wearing a niqab and the second with a burka.

It is understood that the five-year-old has also spoken of the first foster carer having refused to let her eat a meal of carbonara because it had bacon in it.

Friends of the family said she had also told her mother that “Christmas and Easter are stupid”.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says that any state agency considering a foster placement must pay due regard to “the desirability of continuity in a child’s upbringing and to the child’s ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background”.

Tower Hamlets has refused to respond to requests from The Times to explain why it has twice chosen to place the girl in an environment that is wholly alien to her heritage and upbringing.

A council spokesman said yesterday that its fostering service “provides a loving, stable home for hundreds of children every year”. All its foster carers received training and support to ensure they were “fully qualified to meet the needs of the children in their care”.

“In every case, we give absolute consideration to our children’s background and their cultural identity.”

A national shortage of foster carers from minority ethnic backgrounds, particularly in rural areas, often leads to a non-white child being placed with white British foster carers. It is far more unusual for a white child to be placed in a non-white foster home.

According to published fostering statistics for England in 2016, 84 per cent of approved foster carers were white, as were 77 per cent of fostered children.

APPENDIX 2

Tower Hamlets, 1 November 2017
Foster carer story statement

The outcome of the investigation below relates to the fostering case that was covered heavily in the media from late August, 2017. See our statement at the time.

  1. This information is from an investigation undertaken by a senior social worker from Tower Hamlets council. It forms part of the evidence filed on behalf of the local authority in two sworn statements before the Court in the public law care proceedings. This document is agreed between all parties and approved by the Court.

  2. The mother raised concern about the cultural appropriateness of the placement directly with the social work team and formally via solicitors and in a statement dated 20 March 2017 in court proceedings. The only allegation referred to in that statement was that the child’s cross had been removed from her. It was explained to her by the social workers that, as the child was placed in an emergency situation following concerns she was at risk, this was the urgent placement available. 

  3. Following earlier hearings, the case was listed before HHJ Sapnara for the first time on 31 March 2017. There was no application on behalf of any party for an order which would involve a change of foster carer. Nor was there such an application at a further hearing on 9 May 2017.

  4. At a hearing on 19 April 2017 Directions were given by the court to commence an assessment of the maternal grandmother. This assessment was delayed as a result of complexities relating to legal procedures, and international protocols required to be followed, as the grandmother was living in her country of origin at the time.

  5. In June 2017, the original foster carer was going on an extended holiday overseas so a planned move to a respite placement was required.  The mother applied to Court to on 23 June 2017 to have the child moved to her maternal grandmother (MGM) to avoid another foster placement and one which was not a cultural match.  At a hearing on 27 June 2017, that application was dismissed because the outcome of the MGM’s full assessment was not – at that time – known.   In those circumstances mother did not pursue a case (for a discharge of the interim care order) so that the foster care placement could be changed and instead awaited the completion of the assessment of her mother as a carer for the child. However, the position statement filed on behalf of the mother at the hearing on 27 June 2017 raised further allegations – in addition to the issue about the cross – as to whether the placement was culturally appropriate. These allegations related to the foster carer wearing burka; rejection of food cooked by the mother for the child and the child suggesting to her mother that she wants to be Muslim.

  6. Throughout the child’s stay in foster care she had frequent direct and indirect contact with her mother, MGM and maternal aunt as well as professionals. All contact has been formally supervised. The child was visited in both placements by the independent Children’s Guardian who raised no concerns as to the care being provided to the child. The child was visited in the second placement after two days due to reports at contact that she was distressed and the social worker saw her happily playing and settled.

  7. In response to the mother’s application in June 2017 and ongoing concerns raised by her, on 27 June 2017 the court directed the local authority to file a statement dealing with these issues raised by the mother as to the cultural appropriateness of the foster placements and the steps taken to address those concerns.  An initial enquiry took place in July 2017, which consisted of an interview with the mother and a discussion with the first social worker. Following further allegations published in the media August 2017, the mother adopted those concerns at the hearing on 29 August 2017. The Court directed a further statement to address those concerns. A further enquiry took place in which both foster carers and MGM were interviewed across August and September 2017.

  8. Age appropriate conversations were had with the child as part of the Local Authority’s statutory duties. The child also wrote a letter to the Judge in August being supported by the Children’s Guardian to do so, wherein she expressed always being happy in the placement.

  9. The child’s original foster carer is Muslim and wears a hijab not a niqab or a burka. The child’s respite foster carer is also Muslim and wears a burqa in public but not in her home.  The respite foster carer’s husband is White British Muslim.

  10. The Mother initially raised concerns about the child’s crucifix going missing. the child is recorded  to have stated on 2 occasions that the foster carer has removed the crucifix. The July investigation found that  the child had not gone to the first placement with that crucifix. This investigation found that the child had most likely lost her crucifix before she was placed. 

  11. Tower Hamlets subsequent investigation found in accordance with MGM’s report, that the child has two crucifixes. The MGM states that she had one of the child’s crucifixes in the child’s bedroom in the MGM’s country of origin and that this had been given to her by the child’s mother in March 2017. The other is a large gold piece of jewellery that belonged to the child’s great grandmother, and was given to the child by her mother during proceedings but considered by the second foster carer to be inappropriate in size and value for a small child as it might be lost or broken. It is now in the possession of the MGM, who is in the UK; which confirms the second foster carer’s account about what she did with the second crucifix. The gold second crucifix has been seen by the social worker in the MGM’s home.

  12. With regard to the allegation that the child was unable to eat pork / ham, Tower Hamlets found that there had been no rejection of food brought for the child by the mother for religious reasons. The foster carer stated that on one occasion the food was not put into a secure container so it spilled onto the buggy.

  13. The allegation that the child was distressed as the foster carer spoke only in Arabic was found by Tower Hamlets not to be correct.  It is recorded that the child stated during a contact session that the foster carers don’t speak English in the home and she was distressed prior to her return there.  The foster carer’s first language is Arabic but her husband is White British born in the UK.  The foster carer’s children’s first language is English and that is the language of the home. The child had greeted the carer with a traditional greeting which she may have heard the carer say on the telephone to her relatives as a normal greeting. When spoken to by the social worker during Tower Hamlet’s enquiry, the child said they only spoke English at home and outside the home.

  14. The allegation that the foster carer had made derogatory statements about European women to the child was not substantiated. Conversations between the social worker the child found that the child does not know what Europe is.  The MGM is clear that this is not something this child could or would have said.

  15. In respect of the allegation that the child said “Christmas and Easter are stupid”; the social worker has talked to the child about the festivals and she expressed excitement and described having an Easter egg hunt at the foster carer’s home and receiving an Easter egg from the carer. She brought an Easter egg to contact to share with her mother. She expressed no negative views about Christmas, Easter or any religious festival to the social worker. The mother proposed that the child be taken to a Christian church but this was too far from the placement.

  16. The allegations that the child was made to sit on the floor and eat has been explained; the child said she sometimes ate apples on the floor whilst sitting with the foster carer’s child. She also sometimes ate on the sofa and at the table. There was no question that this was not a matter of choice or that this was a cultural imperative.

  17. The MGM has been distressed and angered by the allegations against the foster carers which she has said were false and lies. She has a good relationship with the carers and is grateful for the excellent care she says that they have provided to the child. The child has told the MGM that she is missing the foster carer and has asked the MGM if she can have contact with the family.

  18. Although the mother disputes the findings, the Local Authority is satisfied that at all times the foster carers provided warm and appropriate care to the child. The Local Authority has been impressed with the care and commitment shown by the carers to the child.  This is reflected in the child’s description and reaction to the carers and the MGM’s positive relationship with them.

  19. The Local Authority remains concerned that the mother and contact workers were questioning the child repeatedly during contact about her foster carers. Enquiries into this are taking place.

  20. The Local Authority does not accept the allegations as made in the National press for the reasons set out above.
Posted on Wednesday 1st November 2017
ENDS