Wednesday, 9 July 2014


STEPHEN WARD WAS INNOCENT, OK: The Case for Overturning His Conviction
Biteback Publishing, 2013, 194 pages, $24.99 (hb)

Review by Phil Shannon

‘Get Ward’, was the order to the heads of Britain’s criminal and political police in 1963 by the Home Secretary.  Dr. Stephen Ward, society osteopath and portrait artist, would thus become, says human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, the scapegoat for a disgraced Tory government out to save its own neck in the sensationalist ‘Profumo affair’.

John Profumo, Minister for War, had had a brief sexual liaison with the promiscuous ‘society girl’, Christine Keeler,  whose brief fling with a Russian embassy defence attaché had implicated their mutual introducer, Ward, in a political panic that loose pillow-talk could threaten ‘national security’.  It helped, by adding some moral alarm to the mix, that Ward was promiscuous, an atheist and “vaguely left-wing”, and thus ripe pickings for a Tory government desperate to silence him, by judicial means, and keep a scandal-plagued government in office.

Grasping at the charge of Ward ‘living off immoral earnings’ from Keeler and the showgirl, Mandy Rice-Davies, who both shared Ward’s flat, police hounded potential witnesses, pressured dozens of genuine prostitutes to give false evidence, persuaded Rice-Davies to change her mind about cooperating courtesy of a spell in Holloway prison on a driver’s licence misdemeanour, and scared off Ward’s patients.

The police ruination of his medical practice prompted Ward to publicly expose the Tory moralist, Profumo, who had sworn in parliament that he had never had sex with Keeler, as a hypocrite and liar.  Thus did the Tories seek vengeance against Ward by making him the fall-guy.

The aggressive police investigation was conducted against a booming extra-judicial prosecution.  With politicians chiming in on Ward’s moral depravities, the press, both tabloid and ‘quality’, slandered Ward, the media honey-pot attracting prostitutes with preposterous stories for sale, whilst both Keeler (the star witness, and confessed perjurer) and Rice-Davies sold theirs for very large sums, with Keeler’s ghost-written ‘exclusive’ for The News of the World massively prejudicing the popular climate against Ward.

Ward’s fate was sealed by a crooked trial judge with well-known views on the sinfulness of prostitution and promiscuity.  He had already pre-judged Ward as guilty of pimping and conveyed this to the jury which convicted Ward even though Keeler and Rice-Davies were not prostitutes (they did not seek payment for the sex they had with the partners they were highly selective about) and even though it was they who lived on Ward’s considerable professional earnings, not the other way round.  The judge’s highly biased summing up was the final indignity that spurred Ward to commit suicide just before the verdict.  An “appalling misuse of state power” had finally silenced Ward.

A host of errors of law, logged with technical precision by Robertson, make a strong legal case for overturning Ward’s verdict.  The artistic case is being made by Andrew Lloyd Webber whose upcoming musical, Stephen Ward, relies on Robertson’s input.  Together, they may just help to deliver historical justice to Ward, and prevent future frame-ups of other “innocent victim[s] of public prejudice and politically expedient prosecution”.

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