Carl Beech, pictured in a mugshot released following his conviction had placed a £10,000 deposit on a £34,000 Ford Mustang Convertible – using cash he received from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA)
Parked outside Carl Beech’s home in Gloucester not so long ago was a surprising choice of car for a man of his size — and his means.
It was a sleek, white £34,000 Ford Mustang convertible. Ordinarily, 51-year-old Beech, heavily in debt, could not have afforded such a status symbol. But the news he had been waiting for had just arrived from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
Inside an envelope was confirmation that his case had been finalised and he would be receiving a cheque for £22,000, in ‘full and final settlement’ of his claim for the psychological trauma he suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse.
The following day — March 18, 2015 — Beech put down a £10,000 deposit on the Mustang at his local Ford dealership. His greed, in light of the events of the past week, is breathtaking.
Carl Beech (aka ‘Nick’) is the serial liar and fantasist who was jailed for 18 years yesterday for making up a monstrous story about being molested and tortured by a VIP paedophile ring. How he managed to con the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority — after simply filling in an online questionnaire — escaped scrutiny, along with the scandal’s wider implications.
CICA even apologised to Beech, we have learned, after he complained numerous times that the process was dragging on interminably, ‘disgraceful’ and ‘appalling’ were the words he used in emails to officials handling his application, hence his award was brought forward.
You might have thought his rudeness and eagerness to get his grubby hands on the money — not typically the behaviour of an abuse ‘survivor’ — would have raised suspicion at CICA. But apparently not.
The seeming ease with which Beech was able to fleece the system is there in black and white on his application form, which has been made available by the Crown Prosecution Service. It probably took him no more than 20 minutes to complete. Many of the questions only required ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. If only tax returns were that straightforward.
Beech received the cash after falsely claiming he had been abused as a child by a VIP paedophile ring
Beech claimed on his form: ‘My stepfather started to physically and sexually abuse me at the age of seven. And then he gave me to a group of men who continued to hurt me until the age of 15’
It has to be acknowledged that CICA operates in a permanent catch-22 situation. It is, on the one hand, dutybound to provide an accessible and victim-centred service. On the other, it is dutybound to carry out rigorous checks and due diligence. It walks a tightrope between compassion and justice, in other words.
CICA has an anti-fraud team. And claims do get turned down. Nonetheless, the prevailing culture at CICA, many observers believe, is that it is better that some individuals like Carl Beech get away with fraud, than real victims be discouraged from coming forward. This, they say, amounts to ‘an open invitation to fraudsters’.
All CICA would say on the matter is that, in 2018/19, the organisation ‘prevented £700,000 worth of fraud’. Not an insignificant sum, until you realise this figure is less than 1 per cent of the £71 million paid out — taxpayers’ money, remember — to alleged sexual abuse victims in 2018 alone. This was a 30 per cent rise on the previous 12-month period.
Common sense tells us that the ‘£700,000’ quoted is unlikely to be the extent of criminal activity. In most cases, the decision on whether an application succeeds or not is based overwhelmingly on the testimony (no more than a few paragraphs in the space given on the CICA website’s standard questionnaire) of claimants. On their honesty, to put it bluntly.
Awards are made even where no perpetrator has been found, convicted or even identified. The very nature of sexual abuse, especially historical sexual abuse, means that sometimes victims simply don’t know who the perpetrators are. The unintended consequence of trying to help those genuinely harmed is that it also leaves the door ajar for individuals such as Carl Beech to manipulate the system.
Beech, pictured in Gothenburg before his extradition to the UK, made his compensation claim more than 15 years after the death of his step father
Other culprits we highlight today demonstrate that Beech is clearly not an isolated example.
Fuelling the compensation industry are countless ‘no win, no fee’ law firms and other claims companies who use crude ‘sexual abuse compensation’ calculators in marketing blurb (minor non-penetrative: £1,000; severe abuse over three years: £6,600; and so on, up to the £44,000 ceiling) to attract clients. ‘We can’t turn back the clock. But we can help you move forward’ is the slogan of one such firm.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that claims have soared. Forms like the one Beech filled in are available in the space of just a few clicks.
What Carl Beech wrote on his compensation forms which he used to defraud the state out of £22,000
CICA insists applications are thoroughly scrutinised. But claimants are not routinely interviewed in person.
The first — some would say only — real check carried out by the CICA is with the police, who have to believe a crime has been committed in order for the claim to succeed.
CICA contacted the police in Beech’s case and they told CICA that they believed a crime had been committed, even though there was absolutely nothing to verify his story.
If a claimant says physical injuries were sustained, the person’s medical records are obtained from their GP. But that, effectively, is it. Beech, in his form, claimed any physical injuries he had sustained were many years earlier, and had never been reported to a GP.
Beech was born in Wrexham, North Wales. But on the form he says that, although he was resident in the UK at the time he claimed he was being abused, he was not a British citizen. That will come as news to most. CICA was unable to provide clarification about this apparent discrepancy, which rather sums up this sorry saga.
You do not have to be a British citizen to claim compensation, but you must have been physically or mentally injured as a result of a crime committed in Britain.
The questions you have to answer on the form are surprisingly simple. ‘Please provide brief details of the incident,’ Beech was asked, as everyone is.
He wrote: ‘My stepfather started to physically and sexually abuse me at the age of seven. And then he gave me to a group of men who continued to hurt me until the age of 15.’ His stepfather died in 1995, nearly 20 years before Carl submitted his form.
One of the next questions for claimants concerns injuries. ‘I have ticked “no”,’ Beech wrote, ‘although it is important to know that I suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse and torture … but no medical treatment was obtained from a GP. One of the group was an army doctor who treated me when they went too far.’
Perhaps the two most ‘stringent’ CICA requirements are that claims are filed within a reasonable time (the deadline is flexible in abuse cases) and that the abuse must have been reported to the police.
The £22,000 payment undoubtedly gave Beech added credibility when he met detectives from the Metropolitan police — who did take him seriously
For those with ulterior motives, it’s no problem. Beech’s explanation for the ‘delay in applying for compensation’ was: ‘I had blocked out the abuse since childhood.’ But he confirmed that, ‘yes’, he had now reported the abuse to the police.
Beech had gone to Wiltshire police shortly before making his claim. The force took no further action. Even so, what officer in the current climate — when police are encouraged to believe ‘victims’ — would rule out that someone had been abused all those years ago, effectively branding them liars?
So when CICA contacted the detective who had interviewed Beech, he backed up his story and said Beech had exhibited a ‘significant degree of psychological suffering’ when he spoke to him. The details emerged during Beech’s trial at Newcastle Crown Court, where he was convicted of fraud and perverting the course of justice on Monday.
There is a precedent for the way Wiltshire police appeased Beech by supporting his application with CICA. The force also backed the totally unsubstantiated allegations made against former Prime Minister Ted Heath years after his death in 2005.
Around 26 abuse claims made against him were also recorded as alleged crimes, despite the fact that only seven of the accounts were found to be even credible, it was reported at the time.
At least two of the complainants who tarnished his reputation applied for compensation from CICA, raising fears that they were financially motivated just like Carl Beech. The letter confirming Beech’s own payment from CICA arrived 17 months after he first applied. He was informed by the official who made the decision: ‘I accept you have suffered psychological trauma and stress as a result of this horrific abuse.’
The assessment was based on the ‘balance of probabilities’ that a crime had been committed, not the higher standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ used in criminal law.
The £22,000 payment undoubtedly gave Beech added credibility when he met detectives from the Metropolitan police — who did take him seriously.
There are a string of similar horror stories, where the taxpayer has been left to foot the bill.
Beech was convicted on Monday of fraud and perverting the course of justice and jailed for 18 years at Newcastle Crown Court
In 2017, Jemma Beale, 25, was convicted of perjury for fabricating multiple rape allegations which resulted in one man being jailed for seven years. Beale, the court heard, had simply made up the claims for the compensation. She collected £11,000 from CICA.
The previous year, Danny Day was revealed to be a fantasist. Day had accused a Dorset fire chief, David Bryant, of raping him in the Seventies. Mr Bryant was found guilty solely on his testimony and spent three years in prison.
His conviction was overturned on appeal in 2016, after incriminating medical records were unearthed showing that Day had sought medical help for a decade for being, as he told his GP, a ‘chronic liar’, claiming he was a champion boxer who would have fought in the Olympics if he had not been so traumatised by the rape. He got £11,000 from CICA.
But it is the case of retired GP Stephen Glascoe, 68, that has the most striking parallels with the shortcomings exposed by the Carl Beech fiasco.
Dr Glascoe was due to stand trial in January 2018, along with four other men, after being falsely accused of being part of a paedophile gang that raped and tortured children in Cardiff in the Nineties.
The woman who made the allegations, and cannot be named for legal reasons, turned out to be a ‘serial fantasist’ and the charges were dropped. By then, she had received £22,000 from CICA.
Speaking at his home in Cardiff, Dr Glascoe said: ‘I’ve got a problem with the way CICA works. Public money was given to Carl Beech and my accuser. It comes out of government funds and there has been a sharp uptake in the number of complainants. I’m not trying to rubbish genuine victims because sexual abuse of children is real. It happens and the perpetrators should be punished severely.
‘But it’s very easy to make up allegations, especially if they are impossible to prove as these were — no CCTV, no chain of emails, no DNA. Everything relies solely on the word of the complainant.
‘Once word got out that complainants would be believed and that substantial compensation was available, well, you can work out the implications.’
Dr Glascoe and wife Liz, 58, spent £98,000 of their own savings to prove his innocence, employing a QC. He has lobbied his MP for a change in the compensation scheme. He believes the money should be spent on counselling like the German system.
‘Genuine victims of horrific sexual crimes need help to come to terms with these things and move on with their lives,’ Dr Glascoe said. ‘The Germans realised that the answer was not to throw money at them. I think there needs to be a Royal Commission or some kind of public inquiry into the way CICA operates.’
Additional reporting: Tom Bedford and Tim Stewart