The Profumo Affair is infamous as a scandal involving sex and spies from the “swinging sixties”.
But in this meticulously researched book human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson shows that it also involved a gross miscarriage of justice.
The scandal blew up in 1963 after revelations that the secretary of state for war, Tory minister John Profumo, was having an affair with Christine Keeler.
This was at the same time as Keeler had been seeing Yevgeny Ivanov, a naval attache at the Russian Embassy in London and probably a spy.
This was claimed to pose a security risk.
Profumo ended up resigning, and the scandal contributed to the fall of prime minister Harold Macmillan and to the Conservatives losing the election the following year.
A section of the ruling class wanted a scapegoat and they picked on Stephen Ward.
Ward was an osteopath to the rich and famous who had introduced the protagonists to each other and who led what was considered an “immoral” life.
Home secretary Sir Henry Brooke summoned the head of the MI5 intelligence service and the police commissioner from Scotland Yard to a meeting and told them to find a way of “fixing Ward”.
The police manufactured evidence, and Ward was charged with living off the “immoral earnings” of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies.
It was a fit-up. Robertson shows that there is no evidence that Ward was guilty. But his friends in the “establishment” deserted him, and he committed suicide when he saw how the trial was going to end, following the judge’s biased summing up.
Robertson compares the case with other miscarriages such as the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four.
Even if Ward had lived to be sentenced, however, he wouldn’t have spent anywhere near as long in prison as the innocent people imprisoned in those two cases.
Ward is not a sympathetic figure, not because of his morals, but because he happily rubbed shoulders with hypocritical members of the ruling class, the Tory government and obnoxious characters such as the notorious slum landlord Peter Rachman and the crooked businessman Emil Savundra.
Nevertheless, Robertson is right to draw attention to this injustice. The way that Ward was victimised shows how far the powers that be are prepared to go in fitting up somebody who was not guilty of any actual crimes.
When Mandy Rice-Davies was in the witness box at the trial, and she was told that Lord Astor had denied having an affair with her, she famously replied, “He would, wouldn’t he?”
This cynical attitude could equally be applied to all the rich and powerful liars involved.
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