Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Ward was made a scapegoat for the Profumo affair which became so toxic for the Macmillan government

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Mandy Rice-Davies was a witness, together with Christine Keeler, at the Old Bailey trial of Dr Stephen Ward, accused of living off their earnings as prostitutes. Neither was a prostitute and both women, in fact, lived off Ward’s earnings as a society osteopath and successful portrait painter. The criminal charges were a nonsense and the truth about the trial is still being covered up: the files which contain “some sensational items that would be embarrassing if released” will not be released until 2046 – a century on from the birth date of the trial’s youngest witness, Mandy Rice-Davies.

Ward was charged with crimes for which there was no evidence that he or anyone else had committed. At a time of moral panic, after John Profumo’s lies, it was possible for a prosecutor to condemn him as “a thoroughly filthy fellow” and for a judge to manipulate legal rules to ensure a conviction. The judge told the jury that it could convict Ward because none of his friends had come forward to support him – a preposterous direction, because his friends were afraid of reputational ruin.

Ward was made a scapegoat for the Profumo affair which became so toxic for the Macmillan government. He knew that Profumo had lied to Parliament about his relationship with Keeler and he was threatening to expose the truth. Sir Henry Brooke, the home secretary, personally ordered the head of Scotland Yard to “get” Ward – a breach of the rule that government ministers must not direct police operations.

Mandy Rice-Davies at Heathrow airport in July 1963, weeks before the Ward trial began (PA)

A corrupt Scotland Yard officer, Inspector Herbert, had Mandy Rice-Davies imprisoned on a trumped-up charge and agreed to her release only if she would testify against Ward. At the committal proceedings she insisted that he had never influenced her to have sex with anyone.

In recent years, Mandy had been active in attempting to clear Stephen Ward’s name. She fought an eventually successful battle against the National Archives, which were so determined to aid and abet the Profumo cover-up. The trial of Stephen Ward was a disgraceful event. There can be no justification, other than a cringing regard for the reputation of a long-gone establishment, for the National Archives to withhold papers evidencing this miscarriage of justice.

Geoffrey Robertson QC is the author of ‘Stephen Ward Was Innocent, OK’