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Today when the pendulum seems to swinging again to start disbelieving claims by survivors that they were sexually abused the republication of a book examining one of the first major child sex scandals is a timely reminder of what victims faced in the 1970s and 1980s.
Abuse of Trust looks at the case of the long dead Frank Beck, a charismatic social worker who got away with abusing possibly up to 200 children for two decades before finally being caught and convicted.
It is particularly relevant as Alexis Jay’s child sex abuse inquiry is planning to resurrect the dire situation in Leicestershire social services at the time with an examination of the role of the then local MP, Greville Janner, who was facing multiple charges of child sexual abuse at the time of his death last year.
The book written by two diligent journalists, Mark D’Arcy, a BBC Parliament correspondent and Paul Gosling, an ex Leicester councillor and an experienced freelance journalist, and has been updated by Paul with the latest information about the allegations and investigation into Greville Janner.
The involvement of Greville Janner – who always claimed he was falsely accused by the paedophile Frank Beck of sexually abusing boys – will be highly controversial as his family, led by his son, Daniel Janner,QC intend to try and stop the hearing going ahead. They want instead go to the civil courts so all the allegations from 33 survivors against him can be subject to rigorous cross examination.
This book however concentrates on the horror facing disturbed children sent to be looked after by Beck and his colleagues and the brutal techniques Beck, an ex Royal Marine, used to subdue, sexually abuse and infanticise teenagers, using faux psychological techniques. He also bullied and sexually abused his staff, manipulated and conned local councillors.
It is highly revealing about the lack of backbone among senior social work management and the failure of democratically elected councillors, particularly in the Liberal Party,who allowed him to stand as a councillor, to take a grip on the situation. The police are also seen as failing to believe the children. It is equally damning of investigations that followed by distinguished people – notably by Andrew Kirkwood,QC – into the scandal after Beck was convicted and the tragic consequences of Beck’s techniques – which led one disturbed kid to later murder a young boy simulating the strangulation technique used by Beck.
And it shows the role of insurance companies ,in this case Zurich Municipal, in trying to deny the council’s responsibility for what happened to these kids -later to be used with similar force in suppressing a report into North Wales child sex abuse.
It is also clear from the book that Beck was not the only person sexually abusing people and there could have been part of a ring that was never properly investigated. He may have murdered one of his boys – but this was never satisfactorily pursued.
He also like many paedophiles attracted people who believed in his innocence – notably Bernard Greaves, a Liberal Democrat and Lord Longford who supported killer Myra Hindley.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to remind themselves about sheer nastiness, brutality and cover ups that seem to dog this area.
Abuse of Trust: Frank Beck and the Leicestershire Children’s Home Scandal.
available from Canbury Press £15