PUBLISHED: 23:04, 19 January 2018 | UPDATED: 23:32, 19 January 2018
A woman accused of lying about a Westminster paedophile plot has been awarded special status at a public inquiry into child sex abuse.
Esther Baker, who made unsubstantiated rape allegations against a former Liberal Democrat MP, has been made a ‘core participant’ at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
Core participants are entitled to apply for taxpayer-funded legal representation. They can also make opening and closing statements at hearings, suggest lines of questioning, and receive electronic disclosure of evidence.
The decision to give her special status comes months after police dropped an investigation into her claims against ex-MP John Hemming. Prosecutors ruled there was insufficient evidence to press charges.
He and others had been accused by Miss Baker of repeatedly raping her in a forest at Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, in the 1980s and 1990s when she was between the ages of six and 11 – while police kept guard.
She waived her legal right to anonymity in 2015 to give a TV interview about her alleged ordeal.
Mr Hemming was voluntarily interviewed under caution by Staffordshire Police, but not arrested, and made a formal allegation to police that Miss Baker had perverted the course of justice.
She emphatically denies being a fantasist and making up her rape story.
Last night Mr Hemming said: ‘Appointing a complainant who has a public track record of continually changing her public allegations as a core participant brings the inquiry into disrepute.
‘She should not be trusted with the information available to core participants and under no circumstances should she get any public funding.’
Details of Mr Hemming’s claims, which he says support his complaint that Miss Baker perverted the course of justice, appear in legal papers seen by the Daily Mail.
In a High Court witness statement this month, the ex-MP claimed that two weeks before she accused him of rape, Miss Baker had emailed him and sought his help.
He said: ‘She did not accuse me of being a rapist … she said she had been abused as a child in a faith-related paedophile ring. Her own MP and the Prime Minister did not assist her so she forwarded the email to me asking for my help.
‘I believe this was because of my high-profile involvement with Justice for Families. I suggest she contact the police. There is no mention of myself or a Labour cabinet minister (whom she also accused of sex offences).’
In his statement, part of legal action he is taking against a supporter of Miss Baker, Mr Hemming alleged that prior to accusing him she tweeted that she had ‘never’ met an MP.
‘Yet only a few weeks later Baker claimed to have met two politicians – one myself … whom she claimed to have identified as the man who both raped and sexually assaulted her,’ he said.
In September, Mr Hemming told of his ordeal after Miss Baker, whom he said he had never met, accused him of being in a Westminster paedophile ring.
In a High Court witness statement this month, the ex-MP (pictured with his partner Emily Cox) claimed that two weeks before she accused him of rape, Miss Baker had emailed him and sought his help
He said: ‘Although it was obvious from the start that the allegations were nonsense, it has taken two-and-a-half years for this to be resolved. The system is too tolerant of false allegations.’
In January 2015 Miss Baker, 35, claimed she was abused in a church setting but did not mention politicians.
She accused Mr Hemming in May that year. In September she said she had asked the Crown Prosecution Service to review its decision not to press charges.
Former Tory MP Harvey Proctor, falsely accused of child sex and murder by an alleged fantasist called ‘Nick’, said: ‘Esther Baker is discredited. It beggars belief … I always thought the IICSA would become a circus.’
According to IICSA’s website it is the inquiry chairman who would grant Miss Baker special status in the Westminster part of the inquiry.
IICSA, set up in 2014, is on its fourth chairman, following the resignation of judge Dame Lowell Goddard after she allegedly lost the confidence of senior colleagues.
Ben Emerson QC, former senior counsel to the inquiry, quit after being suspended over concerns about his leadership.
He was later cleared of separate allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment. An IICSA spokesman declined to answer questions on Miss Baker’s special status.
In response to questions from the Mail last night, Miss Baker said: ‘Consider the motives of those questioning the legitimacy of my status … and of my evidence.’