Stephen Fry stuns Labour gala as he hits out at sex abuse investigation: Miliband rebukes TV star after he attacks former Director of Public Prosecutions
- Host Stephen Fry left audience at Labour fundraiser in shocked silence
- Comedian criticised Operation Yewtree investigation into historic abuse
- He complained that less than 50 per cent of those held had been convicted
Stephen Fry left an audience in shocked silence at a Labour fundraiser attended by Ed Miliband by publicly criticising the Operation Yewtree investigation into historic sex abuse.
The Labour-supporting comedian, who was hosting the event, complained that less than 50 per cent of those people held under Yewtree have been found guilty and that those who make false accusations should be prosecuted.
But last night Mr Miliband’s office issued a rebuke to Mr Fry by insisting that the party fully supported Yewtree and making clear that Mr Miliband’s ‘thoughts were with the victims’.
Mr Fry singled out for criticism Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who was present at the gala dinner last Wednesday.
Mr Starmer was the architect of the successful prosecutions under Yewtree – the Scotland Yard operation spawned by the Jimmy Savile abuse scandal – of entertainer Rolf Harris, publicity guru Max Clifford and TV presenter Stuart Hall.
But Yewtree has also led to failed prosecutions against entertainers including Coronation Street star William Roache. And cases were dropped against comedians Freddie Starr, Jim Davidson and Jimmy Tarbuck after months of destructive publicity.
Mr Fry’s friend, the BBC DJ Paul Gambaccini, was arrested in October as part of Operation Yewtree on suspicion of historical sexual offences, but was released on bail and has never been charged with any offence.
Mr Fry, 56, is understood to be infuriated that the failure to charge Mr Gambaccini has received significantly less publicity than his arrest, leaving an unfair stain on his character.
The Blackadder and QI star, who hosted the event at London’s Roundhouse – with tables of nine costing up to £15,000 – stunned the crowd by referring to the growing political storm at Westminster over allegations of an establishment cover-up over a supposed child sex abuse ring.
Mr Fry, who has a reputation for standing up for human rights, urged the crowd to remember some of ‘the essential values which the Labour Party stands for’, including that ‘people are innocent until proven guilty’.
After citing Magna Carta, the 799-year-old foundation of British constitutional rights, Mr Fry said that ‘fewer than half’ of the people held under Yewtree had been found guilty – before identifying Mr Starmer in the audience.
The comedian then launched into what one guest described as a ‘rant’ about how the law should be toughened up to deter people from inventing claims about sex abuse. ‘It was all a bit awkward,’ the guest told The Mail on Sunday.
‘There was a smattering of applause, but mostly there was this deadly silence. And Ed looked as if he had swallowed a wasp.’
However, Scotland Yard has faced criticism from a variety of quarters over its handling of high profile investigations such as its £30million inquiries into phone hacking, and allegations that journalists bribed public officials, broke into computers and were guilty of other privacy breaches.
least 30 journalists remain on bail, some of whom have been in that position – unable to resume their careers – for more than two years.
Last night, a source close to Mr Starmer, who left his office last November and is believed to be considering a career as a Labour politician, said: ‘The silence was pretty profound when Fry went off on one. It was a strange moment. I think he was falsely equating the failure to mount a successful prosecution with malicious accusations.
‘If accusations are faked then there is the crime of perverting the cause of justice, in which case the accusers do lose their right to anonymity. What Yewtree and the prosecutions has achieved was help and publicity for a previously unprotected group of victims, who felt that their abusers had been unfairly ring-fenced.’
A spokesman for Mr Miliband said: ‘Ed Miliband fully supports the work of Operation Yewtree and has made clear all along that our thoughts should be with the victims. The Labour Party gala dinner was a hugely successful event and we are very grateful to Stephen Fry for hosting it.’
Last night Mr Fry did not comment.