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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
David, does the book cast any light on Janner’s claim not to have known Beck apart from possibly having spoken to him once on the phone?
Yes in the last chapter on Janner it says there is an allegation since the case that Beck and Janner abused a survivor – but this allegation is denied by his son Daniel
I’m intrigued by the “Rebekah Brooks” tag on the post. Anything significant?
Thanks for pointing that out, that was an error and I have removed the tag!
Didn’t the Labour Party control Leicester Council at all relevant times?
Labour controlled Leicester but Beck was employed by Leicestershire County Council – which was normally Tory but during part of his employment became Labour and Liberal controlled. The Liberals who even agreed to Beck standing as a councillor for them were the closest to Beck.
I wonder if the second edition retains some interesting detail from the first which tends to exonerate Lord Janner. Like the fact that the first witness to claim Janner was abusing ‘Tony’ was herself a chronic fabricator. And that ‘Tony’ himself changed his evidence and tried to sell his story to the press, all the while of course trying to exonerate Beck. And that gossip circulated about Janner only after the trial, which moves the authors to comment on the local political culture (I think ‘venomous’ is the word used). It might also be worth pointing out that the author’s source for the Beck murder story was himself a murderer.
It seems, to judge from your review, that other important details may have been missed out . Of course the police knew there were other abusers and two of them stood trial with Beck. Colin Fiddaman, who was suspected of being as serious an abuser as Beck, would undoubtedly have stood trial also, had he not committed suicide. As for those who believed Beck to be innocent, it should in fairness be pointed out that Lord Longford changed his mind on this point. A similar change of heart overcame Beck’s solicitor, D’Sa, who had previously sincerely believed in Beck’s innocence and pushed the ‘Janner defence’ hard to support this. So I’m not quite sure what point is being made there.
Thanks for your comment. You are indeed right that the allegations against Janner were made by a witness who was defending Beck and that Lord Longford changed his mind about his innocence – though he did send flowers to Beck’s funeral.
However the new edition of the book takes the Janner allegations further with an up to date chapter by Paul Gosling which does both deal with new allegations about Janner and the shortcomings of the police investigation.
I see that Daniel Janner wants Nick prosecuted and threatens to take him to court himself. I say bring it on Daniel, but don’t stop there bring the other couple of dozen “fanaticists” too. Oh and include Gavin Littaur a former family friend who claims your old man propositioned him, wouldn’t want to think you were picking on the low hanging fruit would we.
Daniel is more than welcome to take me to court, where he will find that this man is hetero, unlike his father, and definitely NOT a “fantasist”, as idiotically claimed by you, Colin, whoever you are, from the safe comfort of your home, and with no evidence to support your untrue allegation, as none exists! Come to court, sunshine, and say it to my face – you will receive the same, courteous brush off, that I gave cocky little Janner all those years ago.
I don’t know what to believe about Grevill Janner, at this point, so I’ve stopped speculating about what Janner might be, or might not be, guilty of.
I’ll reserve judgement about the new edition of “Abuse of Trust” until I’ve had a chance to read it, but I’m not expecting this: “the new edition of the book takes the Janner allegations further with an up to date chapter by Paul Gosling which does both deal with new allegations about Janner and the shortcomings of the police investigation”, to clear much up for me. Sometimes the more allegations the clearer the case appears – but with respect to Janner, many allegations appear to be working at cross-purposes.
Complainant 1’s 1991 statement describes Greville Janner to be a quite specific type of offender, a pederastic groomer fixated on delusional rationalizations about a mutual “loving relationship” with Complainant 1. That type of offender doesn’t typically share their “special friend” with other offenders, and Complainant 1 made no statements that Janner involved any other offenders in their activity, nor that Janner passed him to other members of a “ring”. Other allegations describe Janner to be a callous and sadistic member of a “group rape” ring, still others describe him to be wholly opportunistic – exploiting random children that he had no relationship with, who just happened to be “convenient”.
At least one allegation has Janner and Frank Beck “sharing” a boy victim, some people have claimed that they “worked together” to abuse children, and several people have claimed that Janner and Beck were “together, all the time” and hence Janner was a constant presence at Beck’s care homes. But Complainant 1’s statement has Beck blocking the boy’s access to Janner and Janner’s access to the boy, refusing Janner’s gifts to the boy, and Beck ultimately “curing” Complainant 1 of his “unhealthy” relationship with Janner. And Mick Creedon stated: “To my memory and knowledge, during a comprehensive and successful investigation, none of the numerous Frank Beck victims made any direct allegations against Janner”.
Recent allegations state that Greville Janner was close friends with Michael Densham & Tony Ford, suspected pedophiles accused of abusing boys at the school Janner’s son attended, and that Janner and Densham were “always together” and hence Janner was a constant presence at his son’s school and in the lives of other students also. Speculation has Janner, Densham and Ford running a “ring”. But “Nick” didn’t name Beck, Densham or Ford as members of Janner’s alleged VIP ring, and I’m not aware of any Densham-Ford victim claimants alleging they were taken to Westminster and abused by Heath, Brittan, Hanley or Oldfield.
If Janner was “always together” with Frank Beck and Michael Densham, a constant presence at various care homes and schools, and hanging out with the Westminster VIP ring, it seems unlikely that he could have found time for a family, a career, and various advocacy & community interests.
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