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As befits the oldest Sunday newspaper in the world, the history of the Observer is a volatile and varied one. The paper was founded in 1791 by WS Bourne on the simple premise that "the establishment of a Sunday newspaper would obtain him a rapid fortune"; within three years Bourne found himself £1,600 in debt. Though early editions of advertisements for the paper promised a paper "Unbiased by Prejudice - Uninfluenced by Party...Whose Principal is Independence", Bourne attempted to cut his losses and sell the title to the government. They declined.
In its first century, the Observer was in varying degrees a scurrilous gossip sheet, government propaganda rag and provocative thorn-in-the-side of the establishment. Throughout the nineteenth century, however, the paper's character changed and came to reflect the more sober morality of the age.
In 1820 proprietor William Innell Clement defied a government ban on reporting proceedings against the Cato Street conspirators, refused to appear in court and left a £500 fine unpaid. This victory for the freedom of the press became characteristic of the paper in future years, and was typical of the Observer as it developed a reputation for serious coverage of politics and literature.
Some glamour was restored to the title by Frederick Beer, who installed his wife Rachel (Seigfried Sassoon's aunt) as editor in 1891. Under her control the paper achieved one of its greatest exclusives: the admission by Count Esterhazy that he had forged the letters that condemned innocent Jewish officer Captain Dreyfus to Devil's Island. The story provoked an international outcry and led to the release and pardon of Dreyfus and court martial of Esterhazy. She was a remarkable woman - not content with running one national newspaper, she managed to combine editing the Observer with the same job at the Sunday Times
When the Observer entered the twentieth century, the paper was owned for a brief time by Lord Northcliffe, who appointed JL Garvin to the editorship. Garvin was a maverick Tory who contrived to edit the paper almost exclusively via a special telephone line installed between the newspaper office and his luxurious house in Beaconsfield.
It was not until 1948 that the paper became genuinely free from political allegiance, when David Astor was made proprietor and editor. Astor turned the paper into a trust-owned non-party publication and helped to establish its reputation as the voice of post-war liberal Britain. During this period many famous writers were on the staff, including George Orwell, Conor Cruise O'Brien, and more infamously Kim Philby.
Between 1977 and 1993 the paper was owned by two large international companies, first Atlantic Richfield and then 'Tiny' Rowland's company Lonhro. A controversial period in the paper's history reached its climax with the bitter battle between Rowland and Mohamed Al Fayed for control of the department store Harrods. When the Department of Trade and Industry published a damning report into the conduct of Mr Fayed, editor Donald Trelford took the momentous decision to print a midweek edition of the paper.
The birth of the Independent and subsequently its sister title The Independent on Sunday increased the pressure on the Observer in what was an already crowded Sunday broadsheet market, and when it became clear that the paper was for sale a merger between the two Sunday titles was mooted. Faced with the acquisition of a natural ally by a major competitor, the Guardian Media Group acquired the Observer in 1993. Though the Observer shares the same network of foreign correspondents as its sister paper the Guardian, they are completely separate editorially.
The editor of the Observer is assured of the same freedom as the editor of the Guardian, ensuring the continuation of the paper's long-standing tradition of liberal politics and independent journalism.
The current editor of the paper is Roger Alton, who was appointed in 1998. In January 1999 the paper launched three new sections: Cash, Screen and Escape, covering Personal Finance, Film and TV, and travel respectively.
The Observer has continued its reputation for setting, rather than following the news agenda, breaking stories including exposing the cash-for-access scandal dubbed Lobbygate, and leading the way in covering of issues like GM foods and cloning.
Alton defines the paper's stance in the context of a long and varied history: "The Observer is Britain's oldest Sunday newspaper and it has been making mischief, poking its nose where it shouldn't and reporting the best in arts, culture, politics, sport, business and skulduggery for over two hundred years. We aim to keep it that way and maintain its position as Britain's most exciting Sunday newspaper."
On 8 January 2006 The Observer relaunched in a Berliner format becoming the UK's only full colour Sunday newspaper.
A - Z of Sussex officer investigations
The above is just a few of a number of persons likely to be investigated in respect of certain cases brought against Wealden Action Group members, on the instigation or encouragement of known Masons, councillors, or planning officers, many of which are themselves Masons.
Full details of this case will be available for publishing in newspapers from 25 April 2008 subject to confirmation. This will include full disclosure of all factors relied on photographs of the officers concerned, the CPS staff, expert witnesses, teachers and the subjects of the allegations, the defendant, alleged victim and family and others, video footage, transcripts and an exclusive from the defendant. The case is to be heard in September 2007 at a Crown Court in Sussex, which we will advise of closer to the time.
Newspapers are warned that interim, they should be exceptionally careful about reporting this matter, due to a Section 39 Order. Those in attendance at Court will already know the identity of the girl and that a Not Guilty plea has been entered on all counts.
Armed with the name of the girl, newspaper reporters will be able to investigate the matter for themselves, for the purposes of balanced reporting at the appropriate time, but should take special care where allegations are already on the table with the police investigating the possibility that such reporting is likely to reveal the identity of the girl concerned to the general public.
This case looks set to be every bit as exciting as the BBC 'The Verdict' drama. It is bound to raise a whole raft of questions as to social issues, how the system works, who it protects, who it doesn't protect and what might have gone wrong within the family concerned. Just who the victim is in these cases is sometimes hard to define.
As for the players, what will happen to them? How will this affect their lives, their family and future, and what are the lesson to be learned? See below for details.
CONVICTION QUASHED OVER 'MADE UP' VAMPIRE CLAIM
A man who was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2004 after a teenager falsely alleged he repeatedly raped her in "vampire" rituals had his conviction quashed yesterday.
Leon Benjamin Forde, 21, of Lincoln, was jailed 18 months ago after the girl claimed he subjected her to a sex ordeal two years previously, when she was 13. But he won his freedom at the appeal court after the prosecution accepted the girl's testimony was undermined by evidence uncovered from a computer diary which suggested she had "made it all up".
Mr Forde later said his time in prison had been "hell".
CLEARED OF RAPE TOO LATE
after battling to clear her son Darryl's name
music teacher, who protested his innocence, died in his cell from an
undiagnosed blood cancer. He had served 18 months of an eight-year
It comes as government guidance designed to speed up investigations into alleged abuse of pupils is introduced in schools. Unions say this will reduce the risk of innocent teachers being smeared by false allegations.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “This is an extreme and tragic illustration of the consequences of malicious allegations and underlines the need for these new procedures.”
Mr Gee’s 88-year-old mother, Molly, awarded £62,493 costs by the court, said the case should be a warning to other teachers.
“It all boiled down to one girl’s word against his, and the jury believed her,” she said. “That’s all it took to send my son to prison and it has left me very angry and grief stricken. I don’t think anyone should have to work alone with a child – it is just too easy for an allegation like this to be made.”
Mr Gee, a supply teacher who taught brass instruments, was found guilty at Leeds crown court in January 2001 after being accused of raping and indecently assaulting a pupil in a Huddersfield school in 1989. He died aged 55 in August 2002, a month after a second appeal failed.
conviction was eventually quashed when his mother alerted the Criminal
Cases Review Commission, which asked a leading psychiatrist to report on
his accuser. The study cast doubt on her mental state. It also emerged
that the girl, now 26, made similar allegations against another man, whose
conviction was quashed earlier this year.
SEX ATTACK LIAR NAMED BY PEER 19th October 2006
A woman with a long history of crying rape who sent an innocent man to jail was named in Parliament amid calls for a change in the law.
Shannon Taylor was unmasked by a peer who told the House of Lords her lies had put father-of-two Warren Blackwell behind bars for more than three years.
Lord Campbell-Savours used Parliamentary privilege to expose her identity and lambast the 'shabby' police investigation that saw Mr Blackwell imprisoned.
Legal experts praised his decision to speak out to prevent other men falling victim to fake sex attack allegations.
Mr Blackwell, 36, whose loyal wife Tanya never doubted his innocence, was dramatically cleared at the Appeal Court last month after Miss Taylor's background as a serial fantasist was exposed by a Criminal Cases Review Commission investigation.
But although his name was blackened, anonymity laws meant his accuser's was automatically protected, and she became known only as Miss A.
Even the appeal judges wanted to name her - but were powerless to do so - to warn other blameless members of the public.
The Daily Mail led calls for her identity to be revealed before she put another innocent man through torment.
Yesterday, Lord Campbell-Savours - said to be motivated by 'outrage' at the case - stood up and publicly did so.
He asked fellow peers: "Is not the inevitable consequence of the workings of the law, as currently framed, that we will carry on imprisoning innocent people like Warren Blackwell, who was falsely accused by a serial and repeated liar, Shannon Taylor, with a history of false accusations and multiple identities?
"As a result of her accusations, he spent three and a half years in prison following a shabby and inadequate police investigation, and was only exonerated when the Criminal Cases Review Commission inquiry cleared him and exposed her history."
The Labour peer added: "Shouldn't mature accusers who perjure themselves in rape trials be named and prosecuted for perjury?"
Miss Taylor's own daughter backed the decision to disclose her name, saying: "She is a danger and the public needs to be warned. She needs prosecuting for what she did. She is every man's worst nightmare."
Mr Blackwell's ordeal began when his accuser, now 38, claimed she had been seized with a knife outside a village club early on New Year's Day 1999, taken to an alley and indecently assaulted.
She later picked him out of an identity parade and a jury found him guilty, even though there was no forensic evidence against him and he had no previous convictions.
Eventually, the case was investigated by the Criminal Cases Review Commission which found that the woman had made up at least seven other fake allegations of sexual and physical assault, including against her own father. She frequently changed her name and police forces did not realise they were dealing with the same woman.
Her own mother has described her as "a persistent liar, very manipulative and a bully" who frequently claimed to have been beaten, sexually attacked and raped - all of which were untrue. She has a history of mental illness and self-harm.
The original investigation by Northamptonshire Police was exposed as shoddy, with Mr Blackwell's lawyers claiming that normal safeguards and procedures were completely ignored. He plans to sue.
Yesterday, a friend of 63-year-old Lord Campbell-Savours explained why he decided to speak out. He said: "He named her because he was outraged. He doesn't think it's got anything to do with the issue of rape, he thinks it's an issue of perjury.
"This woman made up the story and told lies and he can't see why a person who has perjured themselves should be protected, irrespective of the type of offence.
"Sometimes people have to stick their heads above the parapet in cases where the law is clearly an ass and needs to be reformed.
"He thinks the law around anonymity, particularly where false accusations have been made, needs to be changed."
Welcoming the development, Mr Blackwell, from Woodford Halse, Northamptonshire, said: "It's absolutely fantastic. I didn't think anybody would have the guts to name her.
"This woman needs to be stopped. The fact is, she remains free to carry on crying rape and up till now has been enjoying the full protection of the law. It's absolutely crazy that she could not be named and shamed, because innocent men need to be warned to avoid her like the plague.
"Now I hope she will go on to be prosecuted." But she is unlikely to face charges for perjury or perverting justice.
Northamptonshire Police yesterday claimed there was "insufficient evidence", while Crown Prosecution sources have cited her mental illness as a barrier.
But Mr Blackwell's barrister Anne Johnson said: "There is a clear public interest in her being prosecuted for perjury or the very least wasting police time.
"It's fantastic that somebody of authority has finally come out and named this woman. The issue needs to be aired otherwise nothing will be done."
At Mr Blackwell's appeal last month, Mr Justice Tugendhat admitted that similar tragic cases could follow because of the lies of the 'Miss A', adding that Parliament had not seemed to have considered this possibility when framing the law. Last night the judge said he did not wish to comment on yesterday's twist.
In the 1970s, the Daily Mail campaigned for women in sex cases to be granted automatic anonymity, to protect genuine victims of genuine crimes. Although Miss Taylor has now been publicly named, there is nothing to stop her changing her identity yet again.
Callers to her most recent address were told by her boyfriend that she no longer lived there.
Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below?
It is unfortunate that in my opinion women seem to be able to make allegations and men are treated as guilty unless proven innocent. This spills over into family law where this happens all the time. It is time for laws to be changed and the system to be exposed for what it is. I take my hat of to the judge for naming this women. It is about time that more professional people i.e. judges and lawyers started looking at what is right and wrong instead of either following there own political agenda or lining their own pockets.
The sentencing for false accusations of rape should be as harsh, and enforced as harshly, as rape itself.
Warren Blackwell and wife Tanya - Guilty until Proven Innocent
Man freed but serial rape accuser remains anonymous12th September 2006
Warren Blackwell and his wife Tanya outside the Court of Appeal
An innocent man jailed for a sex attack was dramatically cleared after it emerged that his 'victim' is a serial liar with a long history of crying rape.
But because of laws that protect her anonymity, judges are powerless to name and shame her, leaving her free to make more false accusations against blameless members of the public.
Mr Blackwell, 36, hugged his loyal wife Tanya and wept as the Appeal Court quashed his conviction.
He described his accuser as "every man's worst nightmare".
Mr Justice Tugendhat admitted, however, that similar tragic cases could follow because of the lies of the woman, Miss A.
"Parliament does not seem to have contemplated this situation.
"There appears to be no means of displacing her entitlement to anonymity."
In the 1970s, the Daily Mail campaigned for women in sex cases to be granted automatic anonymity, but now there are questions about whether the law has gone too far.
Warren Blackwell's nightmare began when Miss A, now 38, claimed she had been seized with a knife outside a village club early on New Year's Day 1999, taken to an alley and indecently assaulted.
She later picked Mr Blackwell out at an identity parade.
There was no forensic evidence against him and he had no previous convictions.
'She needs to be stopped'
Yet Mr Blackwell, from Woodford Halse, Northamptonshire, was found guilty and spent three years and four months behind bars.
the case was referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) which
assigned Detective Chief Inspector Steve Glover, to investigate. He
discovered that the woman:
The Crown Prosecution Service did not oppose the appeal.
David Farrell QC, for the Crown, said: "This conviction is unsafe. What has come out of the woodwork paints a picture of a woman with immense personal problems with serious difficulties in distinguishing between truth and lies."
If this information had been known at the time of the trial, he added, "this case would not have made it off the ground".
Mr Blackwell said: "Clearly something has to be done about this woman. She needs to be stopped. The prosecution say she is psychiatrically disturbed, but insane people who murder are tried and if found guilty put away."
Mr Blackwell, who plans to sue police over his ordeal, will now have his name removed from the Sex Offender Register.
His accuser has a history of mental illness and self-harm - once inscribing the word 'HATE' on her body with scissors.
However, because she has changed her name at least eight times, and moved between addresses in at least three counties, it seems police never realised they were dealing with the same woman.
For Mr Blackwell, her accusations meant he missed more than three years of family life. His son Liam, ten, and stepdaughter Holly, 16, were three and nine when his ordeal began.
His 36-year-old wife said: "I never doubted him for a second. We were together six years before it happened, and ever since."
Add your comment | View all Comments (48)
48 people have commented on this story so far. Tell the Mail on Sunday what you think using the links above.
think that most right-thinking people would support a change to allow
these people to be identified. It might even have some deterrent effect.
you name the accused guilty or not you should also name the accuser. If
his photo is published then so should hers be. Let's have things equal
and fair all round.
government does not have the time to waste on changing this law they are
all too busy jostling for the top office job.
(Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers)
for education staff and volunteers in schools
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