Health minister Nadine Dorries and fellow Conservative MPs Lucy Allan and Maria Caulfield all retweeted a short section of video posted by the anonymous Twitter account “Njames World”.
The video was a selectively edited clip of a 2013 media interview with Labour leader Keir Starmer.
Mr Starmer was the Director of Public Prosecutions at the time, and he had just announced changes in guidelines on how police and prosecutors deal with victims of sexual abuse.
It came after intense scrutiny of how networks of men in the north of England and elsewhere were able to groom young girls for sex for many years without facing prosecution.
The “Njames World” video, which was viewed more than 200,000 times, featured a short section of the interview in which Mr Starmer laid out reasons why victims might have been treated as unreliable in the past.
The full interview is available here. If we book-end the quote featured in the misleading video with what Mr Starmer says immediately before and afterwards (in bold), he is clearly saying that the previous approach was wrong and had to change.
“These guidelines are a recognition that the approach that’s been taken in the past was the wrong approach.
“It was based on a number of assumptions which don’t withstand scrutiny. The guidelines change that, and they require the police and prosecutors to focus intensely on the allegation actually being made, and not so much on the weaknesses or vulnerabilities that are invariably there in some of the victims who come forward.
“The assumptions that were made included the assumption that a victim of child sexual abuse will swiftly report what’s happened to them to the police, will be able to give a coherent, consistent account the first time; that they will not themselves have engaged in any offending or other behaviour, and that they will not have misused drugs or alcohol at any stage.
“Those assumptions do not withstand scrutiny. They’ve got to change. The guidelines make that clear. And so this is a clear break with the past.”
The video carried the misleading title: “Keir Starmer explains why he didn’t prosecute grooming gangs when he was head if (sic) the Crown Prosecution Service.”
In fact, while Mr Starmer acknowledges previous working practices were wrong in the interview, he doesn’t focus specifically on cases that were prosecuted during his term of office as head of the CPS from 2008 to 2013.
Indeed, many of the most notorious “grooming gang” cases featured historic abuse that went back decades.
Ms Dorries retweeted the short clip along with a single word: “Revealing”. The tweet was deleted later, amid criticism from other Twitter users.
Ms Allan, the MP for Telford, shared the original misleading post with the comment: “This… suggests a total failure to understand grooming, a dismissive attitude towards #CSE victims and a belief that the victims brought it on themselves.” This tweet has also been deleted.
Lucy Allan later posted another tweet, saying: “There was a total failure by the authorities to understand #cse #grooming, a dismissive attitude towards victims, and a belief that victims brought it on themselves.
Ms Caulfield shared the Njames World video and added the comment: “True face of the Labour leader. #shameful.”
Both the Maria Caulfield and “Njames World” Twitter accounts appear to have been deleted.
All three MPs were contacted for comment.
A Downing Street spokesman later said: “These tweets have rightly been deleted.
“The MPs involved have been spoken to by the whips’ office and reminded of their responsibility to check the validity of information before they post on social media sites.”