How a Roman Catholic paedophile priest who mixed with celebs nearly escaped justice

Father Anthony McSweeney

Father Anthony McSweeney; Nearly escaped justice Pic Credit: BBC

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

One of the successes of the Met Police investigation into the notorious Elm Guest House in Barnes was the arrest and conviction of a Roman Catholic priest Anthony McSweeney who was jailed for three years  in 2015 for sexually abusing a teenager and making indecent images of children.

The inquiry into Elm Guest House led the police to focus on a Richmond  Council children’s home – long since closed – called Grafton Close which at the time was run by a friend of the priest, John Stingemore, who would have been tried alongside him at Southwark Crown Court if he had not died just before the trial.

The allegation that boys were taken by Stingemore to Elm Guest House were never tested in court – though the CPS agreed a charge should be made – because of Stingemore’s death.

But the court heard that McSweeney and Stingemore did take boys away to a flat in Bexhill on sea where they were sexually assaulted. And when McSweeney was arrested   pornographic pictures of children were found on his computer.

Until then Anthony McSweeney had escaped his crimes that took place between 1979 to 1981 and if it had not been for Operation Fernbridge he would still be a popular priest a director of a  Catholic school in Norwich, helping with Norwich City  football youth team and local boxing clubs.

He  was held in high esteem and mixed with some of the great and good. He married the boxer, Frank Bruno and Delia Smith, the celebrity cook and supporter of Norwich City, once asked to arrange a special football service for the club.

But his secret activities could have been stopped nearly 20 years earlier when it was discovered while he was working as a priest in Harlow and Leigh on Sea, Essex, that had a stash of pornographic videos. His cleaner discovered his stash of sex toys, truncheons and pornographic videos at St Peter’s Catholic Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. Instead in 1998 the Roman Catholic Church quietly transfered him to another parish, St George’s church in Norwich.

Now an independent review undertaken by the Dioceses of East Anglia and Brentwood in the wake of his conviction has revealed serious lapses in the whole way the Church handled the discovery in 1998.

In a statement the two dioceses say:

 The Church should have taken more robust action following the discovery of video tapes in 1998, later referred to in Anthony McSweeney’s trial, and should have ensured that the matter was reported to the police so that a full investigation could have taken place.

 Local priests and parishioners were not adequately supported, their concerns were not taken sufficiently seriously, nor acted upon diligently;

 Anthony McSweeney’s subsequent transfer to East Anglia, as outlined above, was poorly managed, lacked insight and was not adequately documented.

The Church defends it behaviour by saying:

“At the time of these events awareness of the need for child protection was in its infancy. The national safeguarding procedures and processes put in place since 2001 would now ensure that such a matter would immediately be passed on to the police, via the Safeguarding Coordinator. Now over 95% of parishes have at least one Safeguarding Representative whose task it is to ensure that the concerns of the local clergy and parishioners are taken seriously, and to refer those concerns to the Diocesan Safeguarding Coordinator.”

However it is clear that the review is not satisfied even today as it recommends the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service, and the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission:

 To review and clarify the existing policy about priests transferring from one diocese to another to ensure consistency and transparency in the process in all the dioceses in England and Wales, and in particular, to ensure that any issues to do with safeguarding are resolved before any such move can take place;

 To issue clear guidelines for managing cases potentially involving indecent images;

 To review the existing “whistleblowing” policy

The Church is refusing to publish the report or even name the author who prepared it on the grounds it was an ” internal report”.

Yet it highlights one of the major perennial problems in tackling child sexual abuse – the decision by authorities to sweep scandals under the carpet – and quietly transfer the person to a new post elsewhere. Not only is this irresponsible but its is dangerous as it puts more children at risk just to preserve the reputation of the organisation.

This a good case  to be referred to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – either under its Roman Catholic investigation – or the part of the inquiry that will examine safeguarding. Alexis Jay, the chair, should seek out this report as it will help explain in detail what went wrong here and how it can be tackled in future. Otherwise valuable lessons could be missed and the Roman Catholic church will once again have to be taken on trust that it doing the right thing.

 

 

A Whitehall management disaster that could wreck Britain’s trade deals after Brexit

UKTI blog-online

Jazzy representation by UKTI of Britain’s export trade that belied the mismanagement of their contract

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

If you were running a business would you employ people without checking how much you are paying them? Would you lose your documents for  outlining  your business case for a crucial contract? Would you also sign a deal that was  so complex – running to over 600 pages – without understanding what you are doing?

Of course you wouldn’t or you’d soon be bust.

This and more was done by a Whitehall agency in a botched up privatisation contract which allowed the contractor to rip off the government and the taxpayer and left the agency looking daft.

What is more serious is that the agency is UK Trade and Investment – the very organisation that  will be at the heart of advising British firms on how to capitalise on exports and encouraging foreign firms to invest in Britain – post Brexit.

While ministers have been flying round the world promising an exciting future for trade deals outside Europe – the body that actually has to do all the  nitty gritty work has been an embarrassing failure that couldn’t organise the proverbial p… up in a brewery.

The whole sorry saga was outlined in a report by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee which came out during the recess following a National Audit Office investigation. I also wrote about this  and another privatisation failure involving tax credits in Tribune magazine.

The firm which ripped off the department was PA Consulting who were asked to supply staff to provide specialist advice to exporters. One extraordinary fact in the report is that PA Consulting jacked up consultants rates by £142 a day – some 29 per cent – between the bid and the deal ..and UKTI did not even notice it.

The MPs said : ”

“UKTI displayed poor governance and did not keep proper records. It made a simple matter as complex as possible. It negotiated significant changes to the contract with PA when it should have gone back to the market. It pushed to sign the contract before it had finished these negotiations. All this was unfair to other bidders and left UKTI exposed to being exploited by PA.

“For its part, PA fell well short of the appropriate duty of care that we expect contractors to demonstrate when in receipt of taxpayers’ money; instead of looking out for its client, PA took advantage of UKTI’s poor decision making. It sold UKTI a service it is not clear it needed and failed to give the fair breakdown of its costs and profit that UKTI asked for.

“Instead, it used the negotiations to pass on costs to UKTI that it had said in its bid that it would bear, and to increase its profit from the contract while telling UKTI that its profit had not increased. Our inquiry has been hampered by the lack of proper records from all parties concerned.”

The MPs are demanding a forensic audit of UKTI as a result of this fiasco. I should say so or otherwise I don’t see British firms getting any meaningful help from this group of naive incompetents  when we do start having to negotiate new trade deals.

Jeremy Corbyn: Can he break out from being caught between a rock and a hard place?

Jeremy-Corbyn1-440x248

Jeremy Corbyn ; a difficult but challenging task ahead

If official opinion polls are to be believed Theresa May is heading for a landslide on June 8 with a 24 point poll lead and a majority of between 140 and 160 in the House of Commons. If she wins the argument that we need  ” stable and strong leadership ” to push through Brexit and every leaver in Britain  vote for her – especially in England and Wales – she should in theory increase her share of the vote to 52 per cent and take seats like Sunderland and Stoke, leave Labour on a wafer thin majority in Newcastle and win back seats in London. She could then dream of having a 200 majority and reducing Labour to a rump party.

But will this happen?  Jeremy Corbyn is certainly not starting from a good place.

Ever since he has been elected twice as leader he has been vilified in the mainstream media. When he was first elected some colleagues in the Parliamentary lobby thought he would not last a week and have had a mind set since that he shouldn’t have survived.

The image of him alternates between a dangerous Leftie and too weak to run the country. He can’t actually be both or he wouldn’t be  dangerous. The divisions inside the Parliamentary Party culminating in no candidate of substance standing against him in the second leadership election have done a lot of damage with the electorate. And the obvious division between him and the elected deputy leader, Tom Watson, have not helped and don’t seem to have been mended on either side.

He was also put in an impossible position by Theresa May’s snap decision to call a general election. If he had opposed it the national media would have said he is frit to face the voters, if he supported it they would say as the SNP already has that it was like ” turkeys voting for Christmas.”

Nor do I see the solution at the moment in getting a new right wing electable leader as a panacea – whoever leads the Labour Party will get a rotten press from the Daily Mail and the Sun.And it won’t depend on the policies either. Look at the more muted response from the tabloids to the idea of capping energy bills when it is a Tory leader who suggests it – as opposed to Ed Miliband.

He also has a problem from the unpopular policies by some right wing Labour councils – which could paint a worse picture for him on May 4. Two of the Labour run authorities – Durham and Derbyshire – are in areas where Labour  have decided to make huge cuts in the salaries of their natural supporters – teacher assistants- who are already on low salaries. The cuts in the name of equal pay have infuriated voters in Derby and Durham – and I would not be surprised to see Labour lose seats in these strongholds. Indeed some of the teacher assistants in Durham  I talked to at the Labour conference were planning to vote Liberal Democrat in the local elections and support Jeremy Corbyn  in a general election.

And recent Labour council seats lost by Labour to the Tories have included Salford – where the Labour council backed a development by a millionaire ex footballer to build luxury flats leading to a split vote when a residents association fought the seat. It split the vote and let the Tories win. And Labour controlled Southwark , Lambeth and Haringey are unpopular with council tenants for allowing redevelopments which will deprive local people of their homes and boost the income of foreign buyers.

So it my mind given the horrendous state of the NHS, social housing, social care, schools, transport, benefit cuts and the failure of many privatisation projects both in Whitehall and the NHS the only way Jeremy Corbyn can go is a populist anti Establishment campaign – aimed at first at the core vote to highlight the state of the country.

If he can get that message over plus a commitment to do something about it the very least it will do is to prevent such a big Tory landslide. The best would be an astonishing turn around – by convincing some of the disillusioned young voters, floating voters, and people with a conscience about growing inequality – and put the present triumphant Tories on the back foot.

While Brexit will also dominate the campaign – this is likely to be more of a battle between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats – with the Lib Dems threatening Tories to take back seats the Tories took from them in 2015.

So for  Jeremy Corbyn  it won’t be easy  but when you are caught between a rock and a hard place, you have no choice but to take the biggest risks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How the Tories have fixed the road programme to maximise the motorist vote

M62

M62 motorway £161m of improvements planned before voters next go to the polls. pic credit: BBC

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

The government is fiddling its £11.4 billion road  building and improvement programme  so that  new road schemes will be timed to have their maximum impact to gain votes from motorists when they go the polls.

The Department of Transport already fiddled its present plans  by fixing the time for new road schemes to coincide with voters going to the polls in 2015.

Now they are planning to have the largest number of schemes  going ahead in 2019 to 2020  just when people go to the polls for the next general election.

This disclosure does not come from the Labour Party or the Liberal Democrats – who were party to the first part of the plan – but from an impeccably detailed analysis by Whitehall’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office – with a reputation for independence and political neutrality.

Their investigation into the highways agency programme  for motorways and A roads reveals that ministers cut short the planning period for new road schemes to just 17 months- instead of a normal 30 month period – so it could be timed to come out for the 2015 general election.

And their analysis  of present plans show the busiest period for new schemes to start will be in 2019-20 just as people are preparing to cast their votes. I have written about this in Tribune magazine.

The manipulation of the road scheme plans has however meant the ministry has  had one embarrassing drawback. Ministers over committed the number of schemes that can be built within its present budget and at least 16 may have to be scrapped because they are not value for money.  But this embarrassing decision will be taken soon – mid term – so it should not affect campaigning in the run up to the election. So in fact the promises made by the Tories in 2015 will in part be fake news.

The  NAO report says the rush to produce a plan before the 2015 election “meant that the Department and the Highways Agency could not carry out sufficient analysis and planning to ensure that the Road Investment Strategy was affordable and deliverable, and that the projects would produce high benefits relative to costs.

“In particular, the need to develop so many new projects more or less from scratch meant that the portfolio of enhancement projects contained a high level of uncertainty from the outset.”

The report says: “The Department chose to set a capital programme which was forecast to exceed funding by £652 million. 

This ‘over-programming’ had been standard practice in the Highways Agency, as it was expected that some schemes would be delayed or drop out of the portfolio as it was refined. By August 2016, the amount by which forecast capital costs exceeded available funding had increased to £841 million.”

Among the projects that have generated extra money include £234m for Project Stack – to allow lorries to be parked on the M20 while waiting to go abroad – which will be essential if border controls are introduced as a result of Brexit. Another £161m is needed to bring forward two projects on the M62 which the government wants to turn into a smart motorway  for 60 miles between Manchester and Leeds.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “The Department and Highways England need to agree a more realistic and affordable plan if they are to provide optimal value from the Road Investment Strategy”.

…Decisive action needs to be taken before the updated delivery plan is published in the summer if shortcomings in the current strategy are not to be carried over into future road investment periods.”

But the truth is the government know motorists’ votes play a part in any election. and they will do their damnest to fix schemes – from a local by pass to improved motorways – to make sure they can be used to maximum electoral advantage.

Lake Como’s little piece of paradise

IMG_20170409_170233_panorama

Grand Hotel Tremezzo and Lake Como

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

If ever you fancy a rest in perfect luxury in one of the world’s most beautiful places, there is one place well worth staying, the Grand Hotel Tremezzo overlooking Lake Como in Italy.

I don’t normally wax lyrically about hotels  but having had a week on Lake Como ( and in case you are wondering not a journo’s freebie)  and stayed in a family run hotel with  beautiful surroundings, superb food and a very comfortable and large double bed, it is difficult to avoid it.

 

IMG_20170409_135206_hdr

gardens of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo

My view may have been  coloured by the warm spring weather – enough for the Italians to open the hotel’s  outdoor garden swimming pool  early – and the magic of dining every night in a restaurant with a panoramic view of Lake Como. Or it could have the stunning situation next door to the Villa Carlotta with its huge gardens full of camellias and  wisteria. Or the boat services on the lake to Como and Bellagio, a lovely city and a town full of alleyways.

 

IMG_20170405_113757

The Villa Carlotta – you can avoid the scissor staircase if you are disabled by using lifts up to the villa

The Villa Carlotta is remarkably disabled friendly – which was great for my wife Margaret – given the fact it is built on a mountainside. There are lifts to two levels of the garden and a lift to the top floor of the villa itself.

IMG_20170405_125928

Camellias in the garden at Villa Carlotta.

Named after the daughter of the King of Prussia who married Georg, the Grand Duke of Saxe Meiningen – she is responsible for the design of the garden – but sadly only lived there for five years before dying at the age 23 in childbirth  in 1855 after having three children. He lived on until 1914, remarried twice, collected hundreds of species for the garden, and took an interest in theatre. The top floor of the villa is full of furniture, china, paintings and a flag from their stay there.

IMG_20170405_141919

Wisteria in bloom in the gardens of Villa Carlotta

The stunning beauty of the lake has always attached the wealthy – in the past rival aristocrats and politicians who vied with each other for the most stunning villas. Now it is the haunt of global celebrities  whether Greta Garbo ( who stayed at the hotel) or more recently George Clooney (said to have a £7.5m lakeside villa in Laglio), Madonna and fashion designer Versace.

IMG_20170408_135735

Menaggio – quaint old streets in the centre mask a more ordinary town beyond

Travel on the lake is also disabled friendly – the local boats and faster hydrofoils – have easy access on level gangways.And they had disabled loos. Elderly tourists get a 20 per cent discount through Britain’s EU membership ( though for how long this will be is not clear).

img_20170406_154436.jpg

Bellagio from the lake

Bus services run from Como to Menaggio along the lake – where it is not clear whether the elderly have free travel, but we were not charged for using the service, ending up by mistake at the town’s bus depot rather than the prettier centre.

IMG_20170407_155619

Statue of Pliny on the exterior of Como cathedral

The centre of Como and most of the waterfront has also been pedestrianised allowing easy access to the cathedral which intriguingly pays homage to both  the pagan Romans Pliny the Younger and the Elder as well as Catholic saints.

If you fancy splashing out and enjoy beautiful scenery or are feeling a bit romantic this is the place for you. And a welcome rest from the grim national and international situation. No wonder the rich like it.

IMG_20170409_120437

Front of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo. Lake road is busy during the day.

 

Independent Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry WILL investigate the late Greville Janner and whether there was a cover up

lord janner

Lord Janner Image courtesy BBC

The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse has decided to go ahead with a wide ranging inquiry into allegations that the late Greville Janner was involved in child sexual abuse and whether the Labour Party, the intelligence services, Parliament and government departments could have been involved in a cover up.

The decision, announced on the inquiry’s website, comes despite strong objections from Lord Janner’s family and a plea from retired  Assistant Chief Constable Tony Butler, from Leicestershire Police  to halt investigations immediately.

The terms of the inquiry are set out in a full statement  from Alexis Jay, chair of the inquiry here but the full terms are worth repeating in full.

” 1. The Inquiry will investigate institutional responses to allegations of child sexual abuse involving the late Lord Janner of Braunstone QC (“Lord Janner”).
2. In particular, the Inquiry will consider
2.1. the adequacy and propriety of law enforcement investigations and prosecutorial decisions relating to allegations falling within paragraph 1 above;
2.2. the extent to which Leicestershire County Council and the Kirkwood Inquiry were awareof allegations falling within paragraph 1 and the adequacy of their response;
2.3. the extent to which the Labour Party, Parliament, government departments, and/or the security and intelligence agencies were aware of allegations falling within paragraph 1 and the adequacy of their response;
2.4. the extent to which any other public or private institution may have failed in its duty to protect children from sexual abuse in respect of the allegations falling with paragraph 1;
2.5 whether any attempts were made to exert improper influence in order to hinder or prevent an institution from effectively investigating or otherwise responding to allegations falling within paragraph 1.
3. In light of the investigations set out above, the Inquiry will publish a report setting out its findings and recommendations to improve child protection and safeguarding in England and Wales. ”

daniel-janner-qc

Daniel Janner QC Pic credit: http://www.regulatorycriminallawyers.co.uk

In a series of private meetings Lord Janner’s three children, Daniel Janner QC,Marion Janner OBE and Rabbi LauraJanner-Klausner,  objected to further inquiries while they were pursuing cases against people who had claimed they were sexual abused by him in the civil courts.

They two daughters argued: “The Janner family and Estate remains energetically opposed to the singling out of an innocent, dead man for a paradigm case study that will, necessarily, be based on incomplete and distorted information.

“It is a further insult to Lord Janner’s posthumous reputation with consequential cost to the Janner Family and Estate, including devastating emotional upset.
It would be more representative to pick a prominent person from public life as the paradigm who is either alive,or has been subject to a prosecution process (whether convicted, or not).”

Daniel Janner argued:“the decision on whether to hold the investigation and whether it should be part of the Westminster strand should be put on hold pending the outcome of the civil case and IPCC.”  He insisted that his father was innocent.

There was also an attempt by the Janner family to have one member of the panel, Dru Sharpling removed from this particular inquiry, on the grounds that she could have a conflict of interest having worked for the Crown Prosecution Service and HM Inspector of Constabulary, but this was rejected by Amber Rudd, the home secretary.

But the strongest objection came from the former assistant chief constable of Leicestershire Tony Butler, who wanted the inquiry stopped.

He argued:”this particular investigation is unlikely, by virtue of temporal scope, number
of institutions involved or as a paradigm of the “pendulum effect”, to contribute
any unique or unusual feature”

He claimed all previous inquiries had already established what needed to be done in Leicestershire – during the time Frank Beck, who was found guilty of numerous child sex abuse attacks – in the 1990s. This is quite evidently not the case as the excellent book Abuse of Trust by  Paul Gosling and Mark D’Arcy which examined the Beck scandal reveals.

But this was rejected by alleged victims of child sexual abuse and counsel to the inquiry and their view prevailed.

I am very pleased with the decision particularly now it is known that the scope of the inquiry will be wide ranging. It is equally important that the inquiry looks at whole picture surrounding the allegations of child sexual abuse against Lord Janner which means delving into the Labour Party, Parliament, the security services and Whitehall and also forensically investigating whether there were further cover up. if they appear to be true.

So I applaud Alexis Jay for pursuing this against a background where some newspapers would rather it was not investigated.

 

An inquiry into an inquiry: Will it uncover what went wrong when Ben Emmerson quit the Child Sexual Abuse inquiry?

ben emmerson

Ben Emmerson: He resigned as leading counsel from the inquiry last September Pic Credit: UN

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

The rather bland announcement from Alexis Jay, chair of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse that she had appointed an employment judge Mark Sutton to investigate dignity at work  and safeguarding inside the inquiry poses more questions than answers.

It followed ferocious  criticism from the Commons Home Affairs Committee after the rather lurid – and now said to be untrue – tale that its leading counsel. Ben Emmerson, had sexually assaulted a woman on the inquiry’s premises.

The report concluded: “It is not for us to pass any comment on the allegations made in the media about the former Counsel to the Inquiry, which he has categorically denied. We are not in a position, and it is certainly not our responsibility, to assess either the facts of the case or the details of the processes that the Inquiry pursued.

However, on the basis of the evidence we have seen, we do not believe that IICSA has taken seriously enough its responsibility to pursue allegations of bullying or disclosures of sexual assault within the Inquiry.”

It goes on:

“Nor do we believe it has done enough to demonstrate publicly that it has a robust approach to such matters. IICSA’s public response has been inadequate, and the words attributed to an unidentified “IICSA source” in the press in response to the alleged assault are completely inappropriate, appearing to dismiss the serious nature of the matter and the credibility of the alleged victim.

“One of the Inquiry’s key purposes is to assess other organisations’ procedures for dealing with disclosures of sexual assault or abuses of power, and institutional reluctance to confront difficult issues that might jeopardise their reputation. We therefore believe that it is extremely important that the Inquiry can show that it treats these issues with appropriate rigour when they affect IICSA itself.”

 The reason for these strong words followed evidence from Hugh Davies QC, who resigned as Deputy Counsel to IICSA in December 2015, He made it clear he was unhappy with the procedures for handling such instances.  He said:“the institution cannot abdicate responsibility to the person making the disclosure, who may be vulnerable or otherwise emotionally unable to pursue a formal process”.

Also significantly the report says : “We also received a confidential submission relating to this alleged incident. Although it is not appropriate for us to publish this evidence, it has helped us to understand the incident and the way in which IICSA dealt with it. We are very grateful to the individual concerned for providing us with this information.”

How IICSA handles this will be crucial and it must not be seen to bury it. Its instructions to Mark Sutton say:

“You are requested to examine the events surrounding the Counsel to the Inquiry’s resignation from the Inquiry and to advise on the appropriateness, in the given circumstances, of the Inquiry’s actions at that time.
If you find evidence that there are structural challenges in HR / employment matters that arise due to the legal status of public inquiries and their employment model of seconded staff, self employed individuals and contractors, the Inquiry would welcome your Review making broader recommendations or observations.”

 He will not rerun or second guess the actual incident nor will he publish his advice to the inquiry. And the inquiry will see his report  before any statement is published.

I have also learnt separately that Graham Wilmer, a member of the original panel before it became a public inquiry, wants Mark Sutton, to look at the involvement  of Mr Emmerson in a  campaign conducted by members of the Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel to undermine him and the Lantern Project, which helped survivors in  the Wirral, North Wales and the North West. He has passed documentary evidence to the inquiry. Given that Mr Wilmer was a member of the first independent panel one would expect ” dignity at work ” to apply to their dealings with him.

My concern – given there have been other allegations of  bullying dating back to when Dame Lowell Goddard was in charge – is the inquiry may not do enough to allay fears and suspicions among staff working there.

If that happens people will not be satisfied. You can’t have an inquiry examining the most sensitive allegations of historical child sexual abuse which have been hidden for decades through the abuse of power  if it can’t handle sensitive allegations about its own staff.

We don’t want yet another cover up in this already troubled inquiry.