[C]HRIS MANN: The Government is refusing to release secret files on one of the central figures in the Profumo scandal of the ’60s. Ministers say that the documents contain sensitive information about people who are still alive. It’s yet another intriguing twist in the affair, which rocked the political establishment back in the early ’60s. Alan Soady reports.
(TAPE) (MUSIC: SCANDAL – DUSTY SPRINGFIELD)
ALAN SOADY: It was a tale of call-girls, Cold War secrets, and Cabinet Minister John Profumo. But the disgraced politician wasn’t the only man brought down by the ’60s scandal. The person who introduced Profumo to his mistress Christine Keeler was society osteopath Stephen Ward. He was later put on trial, accused of living off the proceeds of prostitution, but many think it was a trumped up charge by a bruised Establishment seeking a scapegoat. Andrew Lloyd-Webber has written a new musical about the story.
ANDREW LLOYD-WEBBER: I became fascinated about it. There is a general feeling that something really wrong happened in the case of Stephen Ward, and that it is relevant today in the sense that if nothing else, this case could be overturned.
ALAN SOADY: On the last day of his trial, Stephen Ward was found dead. He was thought to have committed suicide, although some more recently have claimed he might have been murdered. A Labour Member of the House of Lords, Lord Dubs, is calling for all of the documents from the court case to be made public.
LORD DUBS: The conviction of Stephen Ward is probably one of the most significant miscarriages of justice in modern British history.
ALAN SOADY: But the Government spokesman Lord Ahmed says some of the documents will continue to be kept secret.
LORD AHMED: These records contain sensitive information about living individuals, and also unsubstantiated allegations, and it would be inappropriate to release those records at this time.
ALAN SOADY: As rumours swirled, Profumo had made a statement in Parliament, denying his affair with Christine Keeler, who’d also been the mistress of an alleged Soviet spy. He was backed up by Stephen Ward, who appeared on TV to defend him.
STEPHEN WARD: It’s a dreadful thing that a man should be put in the position of having to do this as a result of entirely baseless rumours and insinuations that have been started by the press. I know them to be baseless, because I was there when the meetings took place.
ALAN SOADY: Barrister Geoffrey Robertson has been campaigning for the release of the documents from Stephen Ward’s trial, which he says was a shameful episode.
GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: It’s unique. There is no other trial in British history that is hidden. We are so ashamed of what happened to Stephen Ward, that the documents are still being kept secret.
ALAN SOADY: And that’s how they’ll stay, for now, leaving the question of who the documents mentioned, what sensitive information they include, and why, for 50 years, governments have gone out of their way to keep them hidden.
CHRIS MANN: Alan Soady there, with the continuing affair of the Profumo scandal.