The high-society osteopath who committed suicide after being prosecuted for his role in the Profumo scandal was the victim of a “monstrous” miscarriage of justice engineered at the highest ranks of the British judiciary, a leading lawyer has claimed.
Stephen Ward, who shared a flat with showgirl Christine Keeler and introduced her to the then War Minister John Profumo in 1961, took his life shortly before he was convicted at the Old Bailey in 1963 for living off the immoral earnings of Ms Keeler and another model, Mandy Rice-Davies.
Some 50 years later, Geoffrey Robertson, QC, the human rights barrister, has referred the conviction to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to be quashed after an investigation which he said showed that the Lord Chief Justice of the time – and his successor – had deliberately hidden evidence from the jury. Mr Robertson said the actions of Lord Parker and his successor, Lord Widgery, in holding back the evidence that Ms Keeler had perjured herself in a separate trial were part of several deliberate acts of wrongdoing by judges which meant that Mr Ward should be posthumously exonerated.
During an unusual announcement in central London which mixed the sobriety of the law with the glitz of the West End by placing Mr Robertson alongside Lord Lloyd-Webber, whose musical on Mr Ward’s demise opens this week, the lawyer said that the case was the British equivalent of France’s Dreyfus affair. Mr Robertson said: “This is the single worst unrectified miscarriage of justice in modern British history. We have grown used to injustice through wrongdoing or error by police or prosecutors. But this was injustice caused by the guardians of the law itself and it is first time we have seen such a case. For all these reasons, it must be sent for re-examination by the Court of Appeal.”
Mr Ward, the son of a cleric who became one of Britain’s first osteopaths, with clients ranging from Winston Churchill to the Hollywood star Ava Gardner, was brought to trial within 19 days of being arrested and charged after it became apparent that he was about to reveal details of how Mr Profumo had lied about his affair with Ms Keeler.
The debonair Mr Ward was one of London’s most accomplished fixers and made no secret of his taste for attractive young women in the 1960s, allowing Ms Keeler and Ms Rice-Davies to live in his London apartment. He once described himself as a “connoisseur of love-making”.
The therapist also led a clandestine life as a MI5 asset who was a personal friend of the Security Service’s director general, Sir Roger Hollis, and played a role in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis by acting as an unofficial conduit for communications with Soviet officials in London.
Mr Ward’s supporters said that the establishment had come to see him as representative of 1960s’ permissiveness. Feeling threatened, they chose the osteopath, who was also a portrait artist, to members of the Royal Family, as a target to sate its “moral panic”.
Mr Robertson, who has written a book about the case, said the actions of Lord Parker and Lord Widgery in ensuring jurors did not know of Ms Keeler’s perjury – preventing her from giving testimony which helped convict Mr Ward – were matched by the trial judge, Mr Justice Marshall, who ordered jurors to draw a negative inference from the fact that none of the defendants’ high-profile friends had testified.
The lawyer said he had found 12 separate legal grounds of appeal to be considered by the CCRC and also criticised what he said was the failure of the National Archives to disclose the transcript of the original trial, which he said would provide the raw material for the quashing of the conviction.
The National Archives said that not any of the material it holds on the Ward case, some of which is barred from disclosure until 2046 because it describes the sex lives of named individuals, is described as a “transcript”. Mr Robertson said a heavily redacted account of Ms Rice-Davies’s testimony to the trial had been released and it was clear the verbatim account existed.
Mr Ward, whose funeral in 1963 attracted just six mourners, had made it clear that he could no longer withstand the opprobrium being heaped upon him during his trial.