Job Half Done: Alexis Jay’s statement on the future of the Child Sexual Abuse inquiry

Alexis Jay at the Rotherham inquiry Pic credit BBC


The statement by Alexis Jay, the chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse,  should be welcomed as an important step in the right direction.

It makes it very clear to the naysayers – from Harvey Proctor to The Sun newspaper – that the inquiry is not to be wound up and will continue and examine events covered up in the past. She could not be clearer.

“I disagree with those who say we should not consider what happened in the past. This is a necessary part of our work. Lessons have to be learnt from institutional failures and any cover-ups which have come to light, and only in this way can we look to the future with confidence. I have to say that I regard calls for us to forget the past with a high degree of scepticism, not least because some institutions may have the most to hide and a vested interest in not turning a spotlight on what happened in the past.”

She also believes the terms of reference are deliverable possibly within five years by 2020. So it will not drag its feet for over a decade.

But for me the most interesting part of her statement – and why it is particularly important – is the context she lays down for the future of the inquiry  She is moving away from a heavily legally dominated inquiry which would have dramatic hearings – which lawyers love – to a more rounded approach that it should have had in the first place.

This paragraph is the crucial one:

We need a clear focus on the truly big changes required across institutions in England and Wales. This ensures that our findings and recommendations are widely relevant and that no institution can avoid the reach of this Inquiry. To do this, we will align the elements of this Inquiry across four major themes:

a. Cultural – examining the attitudes, behaviours and values within institutions which prevent us from stopping child sexual abuse;

b. Structural – examining the legislative, governance and organisational frameworks in place, both within and between institutions;

c. Financial – examining the financial, funding and resource arrangements for relevant institutions and services; and

d. Professional and political – examining the leadership, professional and practice issues for those working or volunteering in relevant institutions.

To my mind this is providing a structure for future investigations and putting a much greater emphasis on changing how society views child sexual abuse and how we are going to fund a much better service  to help survivors and become aware of what a big problem child sexual abuse is in this country.

This comes as Simon Bailey, Norfolk’s chief constable who is co-ordinating current police investigations through Operation Hydrant, has said that as a conservative figure there are 100,000 people viewing child sexual abuse images in England and Wales. If that is not a wake up call to the scale of the problem what is.

It also chimes in with the admission from Margaret Hodge in her book Called to Account on how naive she was in the 1980s not believing that  Islington child  sexual abuse was rife because her officials and the police told her it was not true. She admits her biggest failing was not to talk to the victims and survivors at the time.

Why I say the job is half done – is that we do not know whether all the individual inquiries – from Greville Janner  to Westminster and the Church of England will go ahead  as planned.

Given following Ben Emmerson’s resignation she has no  counsel to the inquiry that is not surprising. But I would suspect that these inquiries will have to be narrowed in  scope to prevent the process being overwhelmed. It will require some very judicial decision making to decide which cases will need to be emphasised.

However survivors like Andi Lavery are totally wrong headed to call for her resignation. He does not represent the views of all survivors and it is not even clear whether he has even consulted them before demanding such action.

Her appointment has taken the direction of the inquiry away from just a series of legal type trials to a proper, well rounded scrutiny of the toxic issue of child sexual abuse. And  her role should be welcomed not denigrated.






Why the children of Greville Janner believe he must be innocent of 33 child sex abuse allegations

lord janner

Lord Janner Image courtesy BBC


Earlier this blog ran a piece highlighting why  I believed on the basis of current investigations and recent inquiries that Daniel Janner must be wrong to say that all the cases of alleged child sex abuse against his father, Greville, are fabricated.

I sent him the blog. He came back to me to put his case and released some documents including one sent to the child sexual abuse inquiry. He did not put me under any pressure to write anything else.

In the interests of transparency and fairness I think it worth reporting what the family think. Daniel Janner tells me his views reflect the views of his sisters,Marion and  Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner. I am not saying I agree with them but I am saying that if and when the cases are examined by Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse they have to be handled with care. The inquiry will have to ask  searching questions as to why they were not raised all that time ago.


Daniel Janner QC Pic credit:

Daniel Janner points out that the original allegations against his father were raised by the notorious paedophile Frank Beck  during his trial. As the excellent book I reviewed earlier, Abuse of Trust, reveals Beck was a sadistic, manipulative character who conned a weakly run Leicestershire social services department and the local Liberal Party into believing he had a magic touch in dealing with seriously disturbed children. Therefore he would and could manipulate  survivors at the time.

Daniel Janner’s case is that during the original  police investigation into Beck his father’s name was never mentioned despite 400 people being interviewed ( it was the first serious police investigation into child sex abuse). He also has a statement from a convicted burglar who shared a cell with Beck who says Beck planned to  falsely drag Greville Janner into the allegations against him before he stood trial.

He is particularly disparaging of  the claims of one of the survivors – who also made allegations against Janner  at the time- and points out discrepancies into the claims  made by other survivors. In one case, he produced a copy of his father’s passport to show that he was in Australia when an alleged offence took place. In another case in Scotland he says his visit was much shorter than alleged.

He also says as he had the power of attorney for his father, who had Alzeheimers before he died, he has reviewed all the evidence supplied by the Crown Prosecution Service  for the trial that was abandoned against him and in his view none of it stood up. When pressed to explain why there are 33 people making allegations his father, he says a number  of them are a conspiracy which has become a bandwagon aimed to claim money against his father’s estate.

There are at least six claimants – according to  the document submitted by his solicitors  to the inquiry – claiming compensation from the estate.

He wants them to face a civil trial where ” the Estate will be able to examine the claimant’s overall credibility, the consistency of the allegations,the reasons for the delay in bringing the claims and the authenticity of any psychiatric symptoms that are now alleged to have been caused by the abuse.”

“The Estate will also be able to explore the effect of the delay on the evidence, in particular the absence of any earlier accounts by the claimants, the effect of missing witnesses and documents and the effect on memories of the passage of time.”

He says none of this will be possible in the inquiry which could then issue a finding of fact against Janner and the letter to the inquiry from his solicitor says: ” factual findings…will prejudice the Estate’s position in any civil claims, which would be unjust.”

His family’s decision not to become ” a core participant ” in the inquiry – someone entitled to all the documents and to mount a response- does place the inquiry in difficulty.

But he is also taking a risk in the civil court. A criminal court would have acquitted Janner if there had been any  reasonable doubt about the evidence against him. A civil court will have to decide on the ” balance of probabilities” which is a lesser level of proof.

They also have a position where the Criminal Prosecution Services decided there was a case to answer and  the original police investigation which found no evidence is now under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. None of those points are in Janner’s favour.

That is why  for both the family’s sake and the survivors’ sake in my view  there needs to be a thorough investigation.











Will the BBC get all its cash from its new freedom to raise millions from video on iPlayer?

BBC Broadcasting House

BBC Broadcasting House


The BBC has taken a hammering from this government. It has had to impose cuts, agree to fund free TV licences from the over 75s, lose staff and transfer BBC3 to the internet. Further cuts could affect its 24 hour news service and its ability  to mount news investigations.

Yet is the BBC really taking advantage of the one lifeline thrown to it by the government – to be able to raise money from people who don’t watch it on TV  but via video on demand on iPlayer?

A completely unreported assessment by the National Audit Office – soon to be given powers by the government to directly audit the BBC – has called into question whether the BBC is really up to the job. I covered the report in Tribune.

The NAO after looking at the figures came to some startling conclusions. It found before the BBC had got new powers on September 1 that it was  already losing tens of millions of pounds by not chasing up people it should.

The audit office examined the BBC’s licence evasion strategy and concluded that it needed to update it and get accurate figures on how many people were watching TV on their computers, Ipads and mobile phones and no longer had a TV set. Others used game consules.

Figures in the report estimated that the BBC may lose £34m a year by not monitoring the rapidly growing group which has seen people watching iPlayer on their computers jump from 1.6m a day in 2009 to 8m now.

The findings also questioned whether the BBC was losing money by not  collecting  enough licence fees from students, military personnel, lodgers and second home owners.

The audit office estimated that while most students did not need a licence for watching TV because they went home during the vacations the BBC still only collected licence fees from half the number of students who should pay – some 22,000 out of 43,000.

The BBC, while acknowledging the shortfall, defended their decision not to concentrate on these evaders. The BBC was also found by the NAO to use forms that had not been changed for 15 years when they visited licence evaders referring only to TV sets. These have now been changed.

The BBC argued: “Students in halls of residence make up fewer than 1 per cent of addresses needing a licence, and fewer than 10 per cent of them need a licence. Students who normally live with their parents in the holidays will be covered by their parents’ licence at university if they watch live TV on a device which is not plugged into the mains e.g. a laptop or mobile phone.”

“The BBC will seek independent assurance where there are substantive changes to the model. In addition, we will assess how we deal with those likely to evade as a result of changing technology and audience behaviour… but to put this in context, these groups make up 1.15 % of the licensable base.”

Yet the same report also disclosed the scale of people who do not watch TV on TV.

The BBC’s own survey shows that 79 per cent of 16-24 year olds are now more likely to watch TV on other devices than a TV set. The figure for 25 to 34 year olds is 53 per cent.

Surely some mismatch here? And my suspicion is that the BBC is being a tad complacent about it.

Also even if the BBC is right and they have got 99 per cent of people paying a licence fee that extra £34m could make  a few more TV programmes and prevent staff being sacked.

It may be a drop compared to the £3bn raised from the licence fee but for the BBC at the moment every penny counts.




Robert Halfon v Jeremy Corbyn: The battle for the working class vote


Jeremy Corbyn’s success in attracting tens of thousands of new Labour supporters was given a rare  accolade this week at the Conservative Party Conference.

Robert Halfon, Tory MP for Harlow and the skills minister, told a Conservative  Party fringe meeting  organised by Respublica how the Labour leader had attracted these people because they saw him representing  their ” moral and ethical ” values and being fair minded rather than representing ” the privileged few”.

No doubt this would lead to a furious denial  from the Labour right wingers like Ben Bradshaw and Tristram Hunt – who see the whole exercise as a  1980s rerun of ” Reds under the Beds”  and  some predictable squealing from the Tory right who probably believe it should be a criminal offence to join a trade union.

But it was an intelligent assessment if you are a Tory at a time when capitalism is associated with unbelievable greed, inequality, globalisation and you are about to start an experiment  with Brexit that could lead to  uncertainty and an economic downturn.

For if there is another economic crisis the public- and particularly the young  -could easily turn against capitalism if it continues to crush and impoverish the working class at the expense of global multi billionaires. And Jeremy Corbyn will be ready and waiting.

Halfon’s pitch – which was reflected  in Theresa May’s speech – was basically to say unions were a good thing and should be given more power and influence in the board room. The arguments for collective bargaining  were made at this meeting – and the argument that where unions and management collaborated in other countries there was more prosperity and growth for more people.

Halfon is a member of the Prospect union and the union’s moderate general secretary Mike Clancy  was speaking at the same meeting and telling a few home truths to Tories.

Ha, ha , you might say from the party that has just passed the most vicious anti trade union laws in Western  Europe, penalised the poor and disabled ( Halfon is disabled too) and vilified people as scroungers. And it has also seen post Brexit a ferocious attack on immigration and immigrants that has led to the death of a Polish worker in Halfon’s constituency.

But what we are seeing under May and Halfon is a new battle of ideas to woo ordinary workers and families. The Tory Party is once again transforming itself – away from the uber Metro Notting Hill Set of Cameron, Gove and Osborne – to   Essex and Berkshire – combining an appeal to working class  Essex man and  middle class Berkshire woman. It always does this to maintain what it wants – to stay as the party of government.

But there is a very big elephant in the room called Brexit and in my view the conference was in total denial about it. We are going to curb immigration, tell the European Union what we want, build world wide markets for goods and services, and nobody will challenge us. Our newly trained doctors will be barred from emigrating until they have served time in the NHS, while foreign doctors will disappear from hospitals.. Our young people will spend their summers picking strawberries and hops in the UK rather than travelling  – like they used to a century ago – to bar EU workers from doing the same jobs.

And any opposition from people with different.viewpoints will be silenced. No doubt we will send a gunboat to any foreign power that dares challenge us like Palmerston in the nineteenth century.

Really? As the Daily Mail didn’t say this week, the Tories will be living in la la land if they believe this.





Austerity Britain: How Unison has helped create Durham’s new poor


Durham teacher assistants lobbying shadow chancellor John McDonnell at the Labour conference in Liverpool


While the national  press depicted Labour’s policies as “la la land”  and Jeremy Corbyn as ” unelectable” down at the grass roots  a group of feisty women campaigners were lobbying union leaders and John McDonnell at the conference over the very issues that have led to the rise of Corbyn and the demise of the metropolitan elite.

The Durham teacher assistants or assistant teachers as they prefer to call themselves are just one group who have been hard done by austerity and public service cuts that followed the banking crisis and is still going on today.

Their case has been more eloquently outlined by my former colleague on the Guardian  Adita  Chakrabortty  in this long article where he describes them as the Lions of Durham. Basically they are among 2700 TA’s paid from just £14,000 to  £20,000 a year and now facing a pay cut of 23 per cent or the sack.This follows years of no or minimal pay rises that have already cut their standard of living. Even those who decide to work longer hours still face a 10 per cent cut.

The most they have been offered is some  “compensation” a deferment of the  wage cuts for two years but by the time Britain goes to the polls in 2020 they will all be far  worse off than now.

All this  is happening under a Labour controlled council and they are represented by a Labour affiliated union, Unison, which supported Corbyn for the leadership.

Durham county council – which to be fair has faced substantial cuts under the Tories – seem to have mishandled the whole affair by not implementing properly an agreement four years ago and were faced with legal advice saying they had to bring  the system into line with other authorities and impose cuts..

But probably the worst offender is Unison itself who, according to the campaigners, has done little to represent them by negotiating hard on their behalf like say the FBU does for its firefighters or the RMT for its guards.

Until the Labour conference Unison seem to expect the workers themselves to lobby local councillors and local Labour MPs to try and persuade them to change their mind. Not altogether surprisingly the councillors – faced with advice from officials that they would  be breaking the law to do so – have shied away.

And most of the MPs with one notable exception- Grahame Morris Mp for Easington  – have said they cannot negotiate themselves with Durham County Council on their behalf as it is up to their union.

This has left a load of activist voters very, very angry. It has been made worse by the patronising  and off hand treatment from some officials in Durham County Council’s human resources department who haven’t even bothered to spell out the lower rates of pay.

And while Dave Prentis, the union’s leader, makes great rousing speeches ( he did so at fringes in the conference) on the plight of the lower paid public sector workers, his officials lower down the chain have been distinctly unhelpful, patronising and some times downright rude to their own members. No wonder one of the teaching assistants described Dave Prentis as  “all mouth and no trousers”. But then he is not facing a 23 per cent pay cut from Unison.

All this is leading to damaging repercussions. Some of the assistants are planning to vote Liberal Democrat in May’s elections while supporting Corbyn at the next general election. They want revenge on the councillors and unfortunately if the Lib Dems ( who are having a local council resurgence)  win seats it will be seen as a verdict against Jeremy when it is against a local Labour council.

Following the conference the Unison TA’s have voted overwhelmingly for strike action and want union support – their GMB colleagues voted narrowly against.

It seems to me time Unison pulled its finger out and went into hard negotiations with the local council. The deal they are being offered is worse than people in many other authorities have got – where wages have been safeguarded through regrading – and it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of regional organisers like Clare Williams to organise such talks now there a vote for strike action.

My view on Unison is also shared by local Labour  MPs like Kevan Jones, who has taken stick from the teacher assistants for not intervening. As a former trade union negotiator himself, he is not impressed by Unison’s local tactics and their failure until now  to negotiate on their behalf.

If Unison do let these workers down they will not only betray their members but bear some responsibility for creating more unnecessary poverty for low paid workers and fuel resentment and anger that is already felt by people left out in the cold by the Tories.










Labour’s best council by election result night since the General Election


Victorious Scottish Labour candidate Alex McVey with friends at Coatbridge this morning


On the eve of the Labour Party conference there is a rare fillip for the divided party .Voters turned out in sufficient numbers to elect councillors in the Midlands, North West and Scotland for the party to gain seats.

The night was not promising for Labour -particularly after spectacular defeats in council by-elections in Sheffield and  Cardiff.

Nine seats were up for grabs – 7 in England and one each in Scotland and Wales and Labour only held one in their heartland in  Gateshead. The Tories held six with the SNP and an independent holding the other seats.

By the end of the night the Tories had lost four of its seats – two to Labour and two to the Liberal Democrats. The SNP lost their seat to Labour and Plaid Cymru took  a seat from Independents.

The result in Scotland was particularly interesting as this is Labour’s second gain from the SNP in a month. The North Lanarkshire council gain at Coatbridge was hailed as “a surprise win” by the Daily Record.  It followed a Labour gain last month in North Ayrshire where Labour beat Nicola Sturgeon’s dad, Robin, to come from behind to win. In both cases it has to be said that the Labour vote fell and the SNP vote went up compared to results in 2012.

In North Lanarkshire  Labour were ahead in first preference votes. In North Ayrshire they were behind the SNP. But in both cases the STV system helped Labour gain the seats. What appears to be happening is that more people voting for opponents of SNP end up switching eventually to Labour ( even Tories in these cases) rather than helping the SNP hold the seat.

In England Labour secured two spectacular gains. In the Lake District they won a seat in Cockermouth with a 5 per cent increase in a solid Tory ward in the town. They were helped by the collapse of the Tory vote and a big 20 per cent rise in support for the Liberal Democrats which pushed the Tories into third place.

In North Warwickshire – a marginal Parliamentary seat which the Tories did particularly well in the General Election – Labour stormed to victory in a straight fight with the Tories.

They won despite a Tory campaign lambasting Labour over local issues. The Tory Party told the electorate.”There will be a clear choice at this by-election; a responsible Conservative councillor who will ensure that the residents of Arley & Whitacre ward get the best deal possible and that their voice is heard, or a Labour councillor who will fail to stand up for local people”

Interestingly UKIP which had done well in this area couldn’t field a candidate and neither did the Liberal Democrats or Greens. Result was a staggering 33.7 per cent increase in Labour share . As @britainelects tweeted:Arley & Whitacre (North Warwickshire) result: LAB: 59.7% (+33.7) CON: 40.3% (+1.7) Greens and UKIP didn’t stand this time round.

This was in area where 60 per cent of the people voted for Brexit.

The Liberal Democrats did well in Devon with a 28 per cent rise in the share of the vote to take Teignmouth from the Tories. They also won a seat from the Tories  in Suffolk  with a 12 per cent share of the vote. The Labour share of the vote in this Tory seat also went up by 5.8 per cent. The Lib Dem performance  is part of a pattern in many Tory and now some Labour seats which has meant the party has made 17 council seat gains since the General Election.

The Tories held two of their safe seats  with an 8.5 per cent vote share  increase in Adderbury near Banbury and they easily saw off a UKIP challenge in Stony Stratford, South Northants – taking over 77 per cent of the vote.

Whatever is said nationally UKIP continue to do badly. In the Labour heartland of  Gateshead where they were a distant challenger they got a mere 1.3 pc more of the vote while Labour declined by 3.7 per cent. Here again the Lib Dems did better. In other places UKIP got a derisory share of the vote – for example coming bottom in Coatbridge with just 63 votes compared to over 1350 for the winner.

My prediction is that on present performance  in council areas it is the Liberal Democrats rather than UKIP that are re-emerging as the challenger to the Tories in the rural shires and Labour in the cities. And all is not lost for Labour on this performance  provided they unite.