February 21, 2013
A 54-year old man, believed to be Golders Green rabbi Chaim Halpern, was arrested in Barnet on Wednesday morning on suspicion of sexual assault and perverting the course of justice.
Three other men, aged between 25 and 64 years, were also arrested, on suspicion of perverting the course of justice in relation to the first man. One is believed to be a brother of Halpern, while another is understood to be a member of the Charedi community's watch group.
Police said the arrests followed an investigation by the Sapphire Unit at Barnet Police Station investigating claims of sexual assault.
While the police have refused to identify the men, several community sources named Halpern as the man detained on suspicion of sexual assault.
News of the four arrests will further feed the infighting and ill-feeling currently gripping London's Charedi community. A former religious judge for the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, Halpern became embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal in October, after he was accused of sexual misconduct with dozens of women who came to him for counselling and religious guidance.
Barnet Borough Commander Adrian Usher made a special plea for victims of abuse in the community to come forward, saying: "My message is simple: Come forward and we will listen to you, support you and believe you."
Halpern, who hails from a prominent Charedi family, was forced to resign many of his communal positions, but he continued to lead his Golders Green shul, to the consternation of other synagogues.
The UOHC, which has been roundly criticised for its handling of the case, belatedly set up a religious court to hear the case, which began deliberating last month. However, events may now overtake them, with police having until Friday morning to charge or release the men.
Victims of sexual assault or sexual abuse are asked to contact the Sapphire Unit Incident Room at Barnet Police Station on 0208 733 5062 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.