Quis Custodiet Custodes?
(loosely: "Who polices the police?" )
In summer 1993, Strathclyde Police were engaged in investigating Francis Currens, a scoutmaster suspected of serious sexual abuse of young boys. Currens undoubtedly was a violent, sadistic paedophile: the investigation would discover a quantity of video-tapes showing him raping little boys.
According to the official version of events, some weeks beforehand Currens had broken up his "library of pornographic material", including these tapes of himself in action, and had cached them in the houses of at least two of his victims - relying on their intense fear of him to keep them quiet. However, one of these victims was dying of Aids and figured he had nothing to lose, so he handed his own portion of the tapes etc. to the police anonymously, and gave them the name of a second victim to whom Currens had done the same thing. This second victim was "Wee Burney"actor Eric Cullen, one of the most famous comedy stars in Scotland.
In the early morning of 30th August 1993, a number of policemen went to Eric's house. They treated him quite politely, as a witness rather than a suspect, and told him they understood that pornographic material had been left at his house by someone else. He handed the material over immediately and started to tell them what had been happening to him, hysterical with a mixture of shock and relief - knowing that whatever else happened, their arrival had put an end to the years of abuse which he had suffered.
Even though he was 28 Eric, an achondroplastic dwarf, still had the size and to some extent the appearance of a child. He had been abused sexually, physically and mentally from the age of 13, first by an uncle and then by an organized and sadistic paedophile ring to whom this uncle had offered him as a sort of titbit. There is no realistic doubt that this was true: of the three men whom he named as his principal abusers, two are now serving long jail sentences for repeated rape of children.
Because of Eric's childlike appearance this pattern of routine gang-rape and beatings had continued well into his twenties. As he grew older the sexual aspect of the abuse had tailed off to some extent, but once he became a star his abusers switched to extortion reinforced by physical violence - slapping him around and threatening to reveal his years of abject sexual humiliation to the tabloids unless he paid them to keep quiet. They had extracted around £7,000 from him by this method.
Ideally he should have gone to the police, especially once he had the tapes of Currens in his house as concrete evidence. But he was terrified of his abusers, whom he described as "gangsters", and like many victims of abuse he had been systematically brainwashed into believing that he was helpless to take any action against his abusers; that he was dirty and bad and deserved to be abused; and that if people found out he'd been forced to have sex with strangers in public lavatories the whole world would recoil from him in disgust.
The police who came to his house clearly accepted that Eric was a victim and not a villain. They told him that they were investigating Currens, and warned him to keep their visit a secret - since if Currens heard about it he would know the police now had tapes of him, and would destroy any further evidence in order to protect himself. It was obvious that they did not regard Eric as a fellow-paedophile who would deliberately warn Currens.
This fairly friendly visit took place at about 8am. By lunchtime the news that a police raid had removed child pornography from the house of "Wee Burney" was all over Radio Clyde. Immediately thereafter it was also all over the telly and the tabloids: and Currens, as predicted, destroyed most of the evidence against himself, so that his victims could not be traced and helped.
Being in a state of hysterical collapse Eric did actually tell one person about the police visit - he called his friend and colleague Charles Kearney, told him that the police had raided his house and asked him to come and collect him, as he himself was too shattered to stay where he was and too dazed to drive. Kearney took him to the house of a friend who was presumably also told roughly what was going on. However Eric told no-one else prior to the story being leaked, nor did he go into details over the 'phone - so it is very unlikely that he could have been the accidental source of the leak even if his 'phone was being tapped by a reporter.
It's just about possible that the information came from someone listening illicitly to the police radio frequency - but by far the likeliest explanation was that someone in either Strathclyde Police or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) gave or sold the story to the media, irrespective of its likely effect on the investigation of Currens. This is particularly so since the whole of the rest of this case was marked by a close collusion between Strathclyde Police and the tabloids, which was at best unhealthy and at worst actively illegal, and which would eventually result in a severe reprimand from the Lord Advocate.
Having been given only a fraction of the facts, the tabloids assumed that if child pornography had been found at Eric's house he must be the owner and user of it, and went overboard on headlines about "Wee Pervy". The police themselves, however, still evidently did not regard Eric as a paedophile, since they didn't come near him again for many weeks.
Eric co-operated fully with the investigation into his abusers. Now that the thing was out in the open anyway, and it was less likely that they would come round in the night and cut his throat if he talked about them, he was determined to give evidence against them and see them convicted - partly out of a natural desire for revenge, but mainly to stop them abusing other children.
He himself told the police about a recent incident in which his abusers had reinforced their control over him by deliberately compromizing him, by forcing him to commit a minor offence on film - raping him and threatening him with worse if he disobeyed.
The police may or may not have believed his explanation, but must have known it was perfectly feasible - since a) there was no other evidence that Eric had perverse tendencies (in fact one of the top psychiatrists in Britain would later state categorically that he showed no trace of any perversion whatsoever) and b) it is routine practice for paedophile rings to compromize their victims, often in much more extreme ways.
While investigating Currens police found a roll of film, shot at least five years previously and still undeveloped, on which were two "vulgar" snaps. One showed two youngish boys dropping their pants somewhere on the banks of the River Clyde, and the other showed one of these boys and Eric (who was then a college student in his early twenties), also doing the same.
One report described these photographs as showing the subjects "flashing" - but I am very reliably informed that they actually showed Eric and these lads "doing a moony", which in Scotland is generally regarded as normal boyish larking about with no sexual content. In any case Eric insisted these shots were taken by Currens, who had ordered him to expose himself to the camera as part of a pattern of abuse in which he was routinely photographed naked. It is known that Currens liked to film his victims, and that he abused boys in this sort of countryside setting.
At this point the Crown accepted that Eric had appeared in these "mooning" shots only under extreme duress. Nevertheless a decision was taken to prosecute him for having exposed himself to minors (i.e. having "mooned" in the presence of younger boys), and for having had obscene material in his house - even on the basis that he had done so only because he had been ordered to by his abusers and had been too terrified to refuse.
As a result of the shock of having his hideously embarrassing private suffering made so public, and the stress caused by the tabloids' immediate assumption that he must be a paedophile himself, and of finding himself about to be prosecuted for having been abused, Eric suffered a severe mental breakdown and spent several weeks on a psychiatric ward.
While he was still an acutely ill psychiatric inpatient, the police interviewed him - with neither a doctor nor a nurse present. Although in theory he was keen to give evidence, in practice he was so ill that being pressed to remember the abuse in detail reduced him to a state of hysterical collapse: eventually he physically ran from the police, and ended up curled up in a ball in a cupboard, screaming. Even then, it was only the arrival of visitors which put a stop to this interrogation.
It was clear that at that point Eric was far too incoherent to be a useable witness. However this extreme phase of his breakdown was quite short-lived. The sensible move would have been to talk to his psychiatrist about it and then interview him again in a month or two when his mental state had stabilized.
This is particularly true considering that the police had watched Currens' tapes and had seen for themselves what Eric's abusers did for entertainment: neither they nor the Crown Prosecution Service can have been in any doubt that the testimony he wished to give would relate to extremely serious crimes. They must also have been aware that these men were still active and would continue to rape and torture children until forcibly stopped.
Nevertheless, according to a later statement by the Lord Advocate the Fiscal Depute ordered the police not to investigate Eric's allegations until after the completion of an investigation into Eric himself. In the event this was to lead to a two-year delay, during which Eric's abusers were left free to continue raping their way around Greater Glasgow, and Eric himself was crucified by the tabloid press while being forbidden to defend himself because the matter was sub judice.
On October 1993, while Eric was assisting the investigation into Currens, the police required him to watch some of the tapes which had been dumped on him, to see if he could identify the people portrayed - hour after hour of children being raped as he'd been. Far from being a user of child pornography himself, Eric was scared and revolted by this material - having been forced to pose for this sort of thing himself.
The immediate effect of having to watch several hours of Currens abusing other children was to destroy the mental defence-mechanisms which Eric had used to hang on to his sanity throughout his own abuse. As a direct result, for the rest of his life he suffered acute Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ("shell-shock"): raving nightmares; intense flashbacks to being raped and tortured; panic-attacks; episodes of near-catatonic collapse; suicide attempts; and bouts of battering his head against the wall until he bled.
In spring 1994 Eric was charged with having had illegal pornography in his house and with exposing himself to the boys in the "mooning" shots (i.e. having mooned where they could see it). He agreed to plead guilty to both offences, though always insisting his abusers had forced him to commit them.
No-one except the tabloid press ever seriously suggested Eric owned the pornographic material, or that he had ever viewed it except at the police-station. The CPS always accepted that he'd been terrorized into storing it. Technically just having this material in his house was an offence, even with no motive except terror of his abusers. However, it is very unusual for an abuse victim to be prosecuted for incidents which occurred while being abused, especially if these did not involve harm to anyone else. Eric seemed to have been singled out for being famous, and/or so the tabloids wouldn't claim he'd been let off because he was famous.
He did actually ask why the fellow victim who was said to have handed tapes to the police had not also been prosecuted, since he too had been in possession of extreme child pornography. He was variously told a) that the police did not know who this man was, since he had handed the tapes etc. in anonymously and b) that the police knew that the man had since died of Aids. As Eric pointed out, these two statements could hardly both be true.
Eric expected that having agreed to plead guilty the case would be over in a couple of months, and he would then be free to get on with the vital business of testifying against his abusers - knowing that the longer the police put off acting on his evidence, the more children's lives would be destroyed. However, in the event the Fiscal Depute was to fritter away two years arguing about the precise circumstances under which a college boy had once done a moony, while ignoring Eric's evidence regarding the sadistic rape and torture of large numbers of young boys.
At some point the police started to treat Eric as a possible pervert himself. When they saw that he owned a computer they removed it on suspicion that he was using it to link to a pornography ring in Amsterdam - and this idea was leaked to the press. In fact the machine in question was an elderly single-function Amstrad word-processor with neither modem nor graphics capability: one might as well try to surf the Net on a cash-register. This flatly impossible suggestion may have been the result of somebody with sloppy shorthand or handwriting confusing the words Amstrad and Amsterdam.
At some stage the Daily Record was also told that police had removed two video-recorders and a "sex-toy" from Eric's house, heavily implying that this proved he was a pervert who was mass-producing pornographic films. In fact neither video worked, and the sex-toy was just a vibrator which had been a prize in a raffle at the King's Theatre - as everyone who was present when Eric won it could presumably have confirmed.
The Daily Record was to play a significant and suspect rôle in the whole affair. I am reliably informed that in Scottish legal circles the Record is regarded as the mouthpiece of Strathclyde Police.
The police also wasted some time trying to prove that a list of names found at Eric's house was a roll-call of paedophile contacts - before grudgingly conceding that it was the guest-list for an anniversary party he'd planned for his parents.
The CPS refused to investigate Eric's abusive uncle Jack Williams, a church elder, on the grounds that he had no history of sex offences and there was nothing against him except Eric's word. Years later, during Williams' successful trial for abusing three other boys over a period of many years, it emerged that he had a prior conviction for a serious sexual assault on a teenage boy in a cinema. The CPS explained the discrepancy by saying that it had lost the records from the earlier conviction.
I have been told that Eric told police the tapes etc. belonged to, and/or had been dumped on him by, not Currens but another convicted sex-offender whom he said was the leader of the gang who abused him, and the worst of them. I am not sure about the ins and outs of this, since Eric did himself say on the Moment of Truth programme that it was Currens who left the pornography at his house. It may be that he followed that line because the matter of the other man was sub judice.
Eric certainly told the police this even worse paedophile existed, and there was certainly a good chance that members of the gang other than Currens had watched and handled the tapes - but the police never fingerprinted this material.
If the police ever suspected Eric was lying when he said the pornography wasn't his they should have checked it for his prints. He himself took the view that if the police actually did think he might be a pervert (however mistakenly), then they should have been more pro-active and charged him etc. at the outset - rather than letting the matter drop for several weeks. If they didn't think he might be a pervert, they shouldn't have charged him at all.
As things stood, not only were they persecuting a victim of abuse for having been abused - they weren't even doing it out of a sincere if confused zeal to save children. Instead, they were consistently lax about protecting other children from abuse.
Conversely, if the police believed Eric was telling the truth, they should have checked the pornography for his abusers' prints. At best their failure to do so was gross incompetence: at worst, a deliberate decision not to identify any of Eric's abusers other than Currens himself. [There was I suppose no need to look for Currens' prints, since the evidence against him was already overwhelming.] Since the police were by this point looking for things with which to charge Eric, the fact that they never bothered to check this material for his fingerprints is further evidence that they were sure from the outset that Eric neither owned nor handled this stuff.
Many of the police preferred not to believe that Eric had been abused himself, and went out of their way to avoid finding any evidence that he had been. Eric wasn't even called as a witness against Currens (who is now doing 14 years); despite having been a major source of information against him.
Over the years Eric had told various friends and colleagues that he had been abused: he had even revealed it in an official context when he was interviewed prior to serving on a Children's Panel. None of these people were interviewed by Strathclyde Police: instead, it was suggested that Eric's nightmare history of abuse might be just something he had made up on the spur of the moment when he found the police on his doorstep, and his shattering breakdown might have been faked.
Police did interview many children whom Eric had worked with over the years - and did not find any child with any complaint against him whatsoever. However, they did not interview the McFarlan children, who were known to be particularly close to him.
If the police/CPS seriously thought Eric might be a pervert these were precisely the children they should have been looking at. If they didn't seriously think he might be a pervert, that means that they accepted his explanation of events - and then knowingly prosecuted a desperately ill psychiatric patient, for having broken under torture and done as his tormentors told him.
As with the matter of the fingerprints, their behaviour was bizarre, and indicated either gross incompetence or deliberate malpractice (or both - it is of course perfectly possible to be incompetently corrupt). Or was it that they have so little sense of proportion/priority that they really didn't understand that mooning - even when performed by a future celebrity - is a less serious matter than raping and torturing scores of children?
Eric himself believed that the police and CPS didn't want to admit that they had put children at risk by not acting on his evidence against his uncle and the gang leader: didn't want to admit it to the press and public, certainly, and perhaps not even to themselves. The only way they could get out of it was to convince themselves that Eric was lying.
Strathclyde Police certainly do have a history of getting hold of the wrong end of the stick and then hanging on to it regardless. In a recent (i.e. late '90s) case, Strathclyde believed that they had found the fingerprint of Shirley McKie, one of their own policewomen, at a murder-site, even though she swore she hadn't been there. Ms McKie was suspended, charged with perjury, arrested and subjected to an inappropriate and unneccessary intimate body-search. Seven top-class experts on fingerprints and a judge have since informed Strathclyde Police that the fingerprint in question certainly did not belong to Ms McKie, but Strathclyde Police and the Scottish Criminal Records Office are sticking to their version of events and are still trying to find another expert - any expert at all - who will say it was her fingerprint. The unfortunate ex-policewoman, needless to say, has suffered severed and prolonged stress as a result.
The man convicted of the murder in this particular case was convicted mainly because a biscuit-tin containing money was found at his house, and although he insisted both tin and money were his the jury was told that the murdered woman's fingerprint had been found on the tin. However, an independent expert has now stated that this print too was misidentified...
Around New Year 1995, just before Eric was due in court, he was suddenly charged with actually taking the "mooning" shots, and with making a "lewd" video at a Boys' Brigade camp.
As regards the "mooning" photo's, Eric couldn't possibly have taken them both since he was in one of them, but the suggestion was that he had persuaded the second boy to photograph him. However, the prosecution traced the two boys concerned, and as far as I have been able to ascertain it at no point claimed that the boys themselves had said that Eric took the shots. It reported only that neither boy had any complaint against him, and one couldn't even remember the incident.
If the boys had said Eric took the photographs the prosecution would presumably have said so. Even if it had said the boys said Eric took the shots that would not, of course, have proved that either it or the boys were telling the truth. But if it didn't say it, the implication is that the boys in fact confirmed Eric's statement that an older man had been present and had taken the shots.
Eric himself said he believed that these photographs had never been in his house - not even among the stuff belonging to his abusers. Rather, he reckoned they had been found during the investigation of Currens himself, and had become mixed in with the material from his house during the investigation. Since the two men, Cullen and Currens, had almost the same surname and were being investigated by the same team, it is easy to see how such a mix-up could occur quite innocently. Bad handwriting can be dangerous (in hospitals it can be fatal).
[If anyone thinks that such a mix-up is impossible, I invite them to consider an incident which occurred some years ago in England. A pathologist was called to examine a teenage boy who had been found stabbed to death, and gave his opinion that it was suicide. The police replied that this was impossible, since the knife which had been used to stab the boy was found on a mantelpiece on the far side of the room, and there was no way the dead boy could have walked over and put it there himself after stabbing himself. The pathologist stuck to his diagnosis of suicide and the police stuck to their belief that it was murder. They were about to make an arrest when a junior policeman admitted that he had removed the knife from the dead boy's hand while examining him, had placed it on the mantelpiece for safe-keeping - and had then forgotten to tell anyone that he had done so.]
Examination of other photographs from the same film might have established who really owned it - i.e. if they showed scenes or people associated with Currens or with Eric. The police did not show anyone else what else might be on the film. Again, if there had been anything else on it to link it to Eric they would have said so - so we can be virtually certain there wasn't.
As for the supposedly "lewd" video, this was a single 15-second clip - and the only item police considered at all questionable out of 300 hours of Eric's home-movies. Part of film of an entire BB weekend, it showed boys milling about in tracksuits, plus a few still dressing.
Home-movies were Eric's hobby. He had made this tape with the intention that it be shown publicly at Christmas - so it was vanishingly unlikely that he would knowingly have included a lewd interlude. It was shot in the presence of the camp's organizer, who said that Eric - who had extremely poor sight - had been busy chivvying the boys to hurry up, and hadn't been really looking at what he was filming.
This woman viewed the whole tape for the police and gave a sworn deposition that she saw nothing sexual in it whatsoever (and she wasn't saying this out of friendship for Eric: she didn't even like him). Indeed, until the police told her, she could not tell which part of the tape was supposed to be suspicious. All the boys concerned insisted they had no complaint against Eric.
He was accused of "repeatedly" focusing on boys' genitals, because one undressed boy walked across the field of view and the focus zoomed very rapidly in and out around his middle - about Eric's eye-level - several times. This flickering focus would probably be impossible to produce by hand. It would certainly be impossible to do it in front of someone else, i.e. the camp organizer, without them noticing anything odd; since it would require the photographer to yank the manual focus back and forth several times so fast they risked dislocating their own wrist. It is, however, typical of an autofocus camcorder like Eric's "searching" automatically - all by itself - on a large pale object which has interrupted its field of view.
Eric at first refused to plead guilty to taking the mooning shots, and to having any sexual motive for the BB camp tape. However, the Fiscal Depute set out to intimidate him into pleading guilty. The Regional Fiscal later ordered an investigation into his Depute's conduct towards Eric, though the result was not made public.
Eric was threatened that the incident in which he had been deliberately compromized would be made public. The matter was unbearably painful to him; and he couldn't explain properly what had happened, and why it didn't mean he had perverse tendencies, without revealing information which was sensitive in relation to the case he intended to make against his abusers. The Fiscal Depute was presumably aware that making this matter public could reduce the chances of getting a future conviction against a serial rapist - but threatened to do it anyway.
Eric was refused permission to plead guilty to only two of the four charges, and told that if he pled not guilty to taking the two "mooning" shots, and to having sexual motivation for the BB tape, he must also plead not guilty to storing the tapes of Currens, which would then be shown in court in his presence. Since watching these at the police-station the first time had pushed him into an acute breakdown, threatening to make him watch them again was psychological torture.
He was told that if he stuck to his story that it was Currens who took the "mooning" shots, Currens himself, of whom he was utterly terrified, would be brought to the court to cross-examine him. He was also told that unless he pled guilty to all charges his case wouldn't reach court for another year. That meant a) another year with the case hanging over him, forbidden to defend himself to the press; and b) another whole year in which his evidence against his abusers would be ignored, leaving them free to brutalize more young boys.
Eric was already very ill with clinical depression and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome - a thing of which both the police and CPS were well aware (though they didn't know that he was also dying of heart-disease). As a result of this campaign of psychological bullying, he now suffered a second and catastrophic breakdown. Once again, he spent weeks on a psychiatric ward, and his court-appearance was delayed 5 months. During that time he had to be watched 24-hours-a-day to prevent him from killing himself.
While Eric was actually in hospital Strathclyde Police held an unprecedented press-briefing on what was a sub judice case. For this they would later receive a severe reprimand from the Lord Advocate, and were obliged to promise him that no such briefing would ever be held again.
Journalists were fed an inflated, inaccurate version of the charges against Eric: so inaccurate that the Procurator Fiscal warned some papers "Don't touch the police stuff - it's rubbish". Eric himself described it as "peppered with factual mistakes, inaccuracies, misleading times and assumptions". For some of it the police seemed to have mixed up Cullen with Currens, who was then on trial. Reporters who asked what the connection was between Cullen and Currens were told that the two had "met in a Gents' lavatory", implying they were partners in perversion - omitting to mention Eric was 14 and had been taken there in school uniform for Currens to rape.
At some point during the investigation of both Eric and Currens, the police had found a quantity of photographs showing boys' fully-clothed behinds. While individually these would have been seen as harmless, as a group they were suspect.
These suspect snaps had production-marks on the backs which showed that they had not been developed at the same time or in the same way as the photographs which were known to belong to Eric. As I understand it these production-marks indicated that they had been developed by the police themselves: i.e., like the "mooning" shots they had been found on undeveloped film.
The Herald [one of the most "heavyweight" broadsheets in Britain] would later report that the police had traced the boys in these photographs, and had established that none of them was known to Eric at all; and the Crown would eventually accept that these were part of the material belonging to Eric's abusers. If indeed they both belonged to Eric's abusers and had been found undeveloped, that made it even more likely that the undeveloped "mooning" shots were part of the same set - therefore, that the only association between Eric and any of these photographs was that he was simply one of the many boys who had been made to pose for them.
However, at the time of the illegal briefing the police presented these shots to reporters - and even to Eric's lawyer - as having been found mixed in randomly among Eric's own photographs. This was extremely unlikely, considering the distinctive production-marks: even if they had belonged to Eric one would have expected them to be together in a distinct batch, since at minimum they had certainly not come from the same rolls of film as other photo's known to belong to Eric. Nevertheless many reporters left the briefing thinking that Eric definitely owned them - even that he had taken them. The tale then grew in the telling, such that several papers later reported that they were explicit images of genitalia.
During the 5 months between Eric's second breakdown and his appearance in court - and for the rest of his life after that - Eric was the patient of Dr Prem Misra, one of the foremost experts in Britain on the psychiatric treatment of sex-offenders and their victims. It was and is Dr Misra's expert professional opinion that Eric showed no trace of any sexual deviancy whatsoever; and that he was never in any way, shape or form a sex offender himself, but only a victim. Dr Misra is sure that Eric could not have concealed any perverse tendencies so completely for so long: if he couldn't see any perverse tendencies in Eric, that was because there weren't any to see.
Exhausted and suicidal, and disoriented by a situation in which he didn't know what the police and the press might say about him next, Eric eventually gave in and agreed to plead guilty - though he always insisted that he had done so falsely.
In court, it was accepted absolutely that he was not the owner or user of the pornographic material found in his house, but had simply been too terrified to refuse when ordered to store it for his abusers. The sheriff stated that an extensive police investigation had absolutely cleared Eric of any suspicion that he might be a child abuser, and the court agreed to Eric's lawyer's description of the "mooning" shots as "more vulgar than sexual" - irrespective of who had taken them.
Dr Misra was out of the country at the time, so a Social Worker was appointed to present his views to the court. In an interview with The Mail on Sunday Dr Misra was later to say :
"The social worker did not correctly report my views. He reported me as saying that the risk of Eric Cullen re-offending was 'relatively low'. What does that mean? He's either a risk or he isn't.
"I made it clear in the appeal that followed that in my opinion, Eric Cullen had not shown evidence of any sexually deviant behaviour. He was a victim, not an abuser."
As regarded the tapes etc. which had been found at Eric's house, the wording used in the Sheriff's Report was that "The appellant was too frightened to resist Currens' demand that the appellant store part of Currens' library of pornographic material". If it is correct that Eric had told the police that it was not Currens but the leader of the gang - one of the men the police had refused to investigate - who owned this material, then this wording was distinctly odd. It looked as if the police/CPS found it easier to pin an extra accusation on a man already in prison than to acknowledge the existence of the even worse abuser whom they had ignored.
Currens, incidentally, had apparently been receiving intensive psychotherapy in prison. He was reported to have assured the Fiscal that Eric had never been involved in paedophile activities except as victim, and expressed the wish to apologize to Eric for abusing him.
For having been too scared to go to the police when the tapes etc. were dumped on him, Eric was fined £1,000. But for having once "done a moony" while at college, and having included a few seconds-worth of bare skin in 300 hours of film, he was sentenced to 9 months in Barlinnie - though the prosecution neither requested nor expected a custodial sentence. The presiding sheriff, Alexander Macpherson, was certainly aware that Eric was in the highest category of suicide-risk, and that by sending him to prison he was putting his life in extreme danger.
While Eric was in prison, wildly exaggerated tabloid stories portrayed him as a "child-porn pervert" and made it sound as if he owned his abusers' sadistic tapes. Predictably, this put his life in extreme danger from other prisoners. These inaccurate reports continued during the run-up to his successful appeal against sentence, and bordered (at best) on an attempt to pervert the course of justice.
The worst offender was the Daily Record. This paper endangered Eric's life and his later appeal by publishing numerous accusations attributed to an anonymous "senior detective close to the inquiry". These ranged from slanted to completely fictional. E.g. readers were told falsely that Eric was suspected of taking enormous numbers of photographs implied to be close-ups of genitalia - as opposed to having been cleared of owning some fully-clothed rear views, as was actually the case.
Most interestingly, on the day after Eric was sent down this anonymous police source was quoted as saying: "Cullen made allegations that he had been abused, and we investigated them. He also made allegations about who gave him the videos, and we went into that. There was no evidence to corroborate either claim...". This tells us two things:
Of course, one can't trust anything which appears in the tabloids, so the attribution of this quote to DI Heath may have been incorrect, or distorted. Indeed it is possible that the Record's reporter invented the whole thing, and there never was any anonymous police source. However, since the Record is regarded in Scottish legal circles as the mouthpiece of Strathclyde Police - who themselves are regarded in Scottish legal circles as "notoriously corrupt" - it is much more probable that this nonsense really did come from a real policeman with some personal agenda.
DI Heath and other members of Hamilton police force certainly had a vested interest in doing Eric down - since Eric had publicly stated that he was considering suing DI Heath and his team for malpractice. Whether or not he was the Record's source, DI Heath appears to be a liar anyway, since he reportedly told the press conference the police had investigated Eric's allegations - unless it is the Lord Advocate who is lying, which is extremely unlikely.
The anonymous policeman who may or may not have been DI Heath also told the Record about the incident in which Eric had been compromized - even though he presumably knew this might jeopardize a future case against Eric's abusers. However, he apparently forgot to tell the paper what Eric's explanation had been, or even that he had offered one: instead, it was presented as if there was no possible explanation except that he was a pervert.
The Record has admitted, on paper, that it quite deliberately suppressed Eric's own statements about the story of which he was the chief protagonist because Eric's version of the charges against him did not match that supplied by this anonymous police source. Eric's version, of course, matched that of the court.
Eric did indeed sue DI Heath and members of his Hamilton team for malpractice, but his sudden death let them off the hook.
The conduit for these works of fiction was the Record's then Crime Reporter, Stephen Wilkie. Wilkie may genuinely have believed in Eric's guilt: he certainly became obsessed with him, and was in effect stalking him. He was subsequently sacked from the Record for what Private Eye called "increasingly bizarre behaviour" which culminated in his own arrest on a drugs charge - in a dawn raid, so we presumably aren't talking about pot here (unless grown in industrial-size greenhouses). Both the drugs charge and a police investigation into accusations that Wilkie had criminally harassed Eric and his friends were later dropped: this may or may not be sinister.
Just after the original court-case Betty Maxwell Carter, a former Strathclyde policewoman turned Defence Investigator, offered to help with Eric's appeal against sentence. Between then and the appeal, only three months later, she and some of Eric's other friends were able fairly easily to obtain the corroborative evidence which DI Heath had said did not exist. This took the form of several other victims of the same gang who were prepared to testify against them.
At the Court of Appeal Lord Ross - a famous martinet who is more likely to increase sentences than reduce them, and who is now the second-highest-ranking lawyer in Scotland - quashed Eric's prison sentence and put him on probation. Since Eric had pled guilty Lord Ross was obliged to work from that basis, but he stressed that the offences of which Eric had been convicted were "very much at the lower end of the scale" and that Eric never physically touched the boys concerned, and none suffered harm of any kind.
No sooner was the appeal over than Eric and his friends approached the Lord Advocate, pleading with him to order the police at last to investigate Eric's abusers. They asked that this be done by a force other than Strathclyde. This last point was refused, but Strathclyde officer Detective Superintendent Val Grzybek was instructed to investigate Eric's uncle Jack Williams.
Grzybek was a decent man who dealt very sympathetically with the stress Eric suffered when giving evidence. He seems to be called in when an irreproachable investigator is required: a couple of years later it was he who conducted an enquiry into an incident in which several senior members of Strathclyde's Drugs Squad had beaten a suspect with baseball bats and then lied about it in court.
Giving evidence - having to remember and describe being abused in detail - was extremely hard for Eric: at one point it triggered flashbacks so terrible that he took an overdose, just to break the cycle of memory. He was determined to testify anyway, knowing it was worth sacrificing himself if he could get his abusers off the streets and away from other children, but he feared the sacrifice would be wasted. "I have a sneaky feeling that the police won't take any action because if they do they are admitting they should have done it way back at the beginning of all this. They won't look great and that's what they want to avoid." His fear would prove to be partially correct.
Even after Eric's death his taped evidence could have been used in court, provided there were other, live witnesses as well. With intensive nagging from Eric's friends the police/CPS did continue to investigate Eric's uncle Jack Williams, and initially said that Eric's evidence could and probably would be used.
Even after Eric's death, however, the police asked his psychiatrist Dr Misra whether Eric could have been lying about having been abused. Dr Misra answered that he was absolutely sure Eric was telling the truth. Nevertheless, the CPS decided not to charge Williams over Eric himself - though Eric's friends weren't told until just before the case came to court.
The CPS also declined to call other witnesses against Williams. This may have been on grounds of cost, since one would have had to be flown in from America, and there was enough evidence to secure a conviction anyway. However, the effect was that Williams was charged only with the abuse of three boys in his direct care, to which he pled guilty. There was no mention of Williams' involvement in an organized paedophile ring, or that he might have abused children outside his immediate circle, or that other men might have been involved and be still at large. These were all things which Eric and the other uncalled witnesses would have confirmed.
At time of writing, on 30th August 1999, exactly six years have elapsed since Eric first named three men as leaders of an organized paedophile ring of the most unpleasant and sadistic kind, and offered to give evidence against them. There can be no realistic doubt that he was telling the truth, since two of the three are now serving long prison sentences on multiple counts of rape of young boys. Yet there has still been no investigation at all into the third man, whom Eric described as the ringleader of the gang, and the most vicious of them. This despite the fact that the man is already a known sex-offender, and Eric was not the only witness against him.
It is possible that the police/CPS have left this career-rapist free just to save face, as Eric thought - just because they don't want to admit they made a mistake in not acting on his evidence when it was first offered. However, the fact that the police/CPS refused to investigate this man from the outset, and failed to take even the obvious and basic step of fingerprinting the tapes of Currens, raises the possibility that this man had set Currens up in return for immunity from prosecution, and had himself told police they would find tapes of Currens in Eric's house.
Such things certainly can happen. In 1980 there was a cause célèbre in Britain when it was revealed that the authorities in Northern Ireland had allowed a paedophile ring to rape numerous children in the Kincora Boys' Home over a period of many years. One of these men was an informer for the security services, and it had been decided that the information he could provide about terrorist activities was worth more than the many lives he was ruining. Indeed it was reported that the security service had deliberately encouraged this paedophile ring, as a means of entrapping other potential sources of information.
If Eric's principal abuser was indeed granted immunity from prosecution, it would certainly explain the anomaly about the other victim who was supposed to have taken pornography to the police and sparked off the enquiry into Currens - the man of whom the police said a) that they had no idea who he was and b) that they knew he had since died of Aids. He may have been a fictional front for information received from this master-paedophile whom the police are still refusing to investigate.
It would also explain why the Fiscal Depute ordered the police not to investigate Eric's abusers until the case against Eric himself was concluded, and then faffed about changing the details of what were in any case very minor charges, so that a case which Eric had expected would be over in two months actually took two years. It looks rather as if the police/CPS hoped that if they kept moving the goalposts they could get Eric so scared and disoriented that he would go away - possibly even kill himself - and stop badgering them to hear his evidence. But he was made of sterner stuff than that - as stubbornly persistent as a terrier.
The suggestion that the police/CPS granted the gang leader immunity from prosecution in return for information against Currens is actually the least venal explanation for their behaviour. If they did make such a bargain, it was a bad one, since they let a very big fish go in order to catch a smaller one; but it would at least mean that they were motivated by a desire to stop Currens attacking children.
The other possibilities - that they turned a blind eye to a serial rapist in return for embarrasing information about a TV star, just so they could hit the headlines - or that this rapist bribed or blackmailed them into letting him continue abusing children - or that some fellow paedophile in the police/CPS arranged matters for him - or that they let him go just to cover up their own incompetence - or that they really don't think the rape and torture of a few dozen children is worth getting excited about - are all much worse.
Whether Strathclyde Police/the CPS really did promise Eric's principal abuser immunity from prosecution, either in return for his shopping one of his sidekicks or for more corrupt reasons; or whether they left him free simply to conceal their own incompetence; or whether they did it just for the high-profile media attention they got out of crucifying a famous TV star for microscopic offences committed under duress; the following things are certainly true:
This kind of mess is not unique in the annals of Strathclyde Police. In one particularly bizarre case, beginning in the late '90s, Strathclyde became convinced that Shirley McKie, one of its own female officers, had been present at a murder scene even though she swore she had not. This was based on the evidence of a thumbprint found at the scene and initially believed to be hers. She was suspended and charged with perjury, but the case was thrown out after numerous fingerprint experts from all over the world testified that this was not her thumbprint and bore only the most cursory resemblance to it.
Strathclyde Police, however, refused to accept this ruling, and continued to trawl the world looking for somebody - anybody - who would say the fingerprint was Ms McKie's. On 8th February 2000 the Herald reported that all 14 civilian fingerprint experts at Lothian and Borders Police had written to the Scottish Executive, stating that "At best, the apparent 'misidentification' is a display of gross incompetence by not one but several experts within [the Scottish Criminal Records Office]. At worst it bears all the hallmarks of a conspiracy of a nature unparalleled in the history of fingerprints."
Some time in the mid 1980s a gentleman whose name I didn't catch visited the Defence Desk at The Daily Telegraph, and commented on some current military situation thus: "Personally I am a great believer in the cock-up rather than the conspiracy theory of history". It is not immediately clear which of these two theories applies in the case of Strathclyde Police versus Eric Cullen: but it has to be one or the other. Or possibly both.