Home Office rewrites definition of child sexual exploitation

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Home Office: trying to define child sexual exploitation Pic credit: gov.uk

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This week  the Home Office quietly announced a new definition of child sexual exploitation which will be used by all practitioners in the field – from the police and social workers to voluntary organisations and charities.

The decision was overshadowed by an announcement that the Government was spending an extra £40m tackling child sex abuse.

It included the launch of a new Centre of Expertise on child sexual abuse, an extra £20 million for the National Crime Agency to tackle online child sexual exploitation, £2.2 million for organisations working to protect children at risk of trafficking and the launch of Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (ICTAs) in 3 early-adopter sites across the UK.

The latter service will initially be provided by Barnardo’s in Wales, Hampshire and Greater Manchester ahead of a full national roll out.

However the change in the wording of what constitutes child sexual exploitation had been a minefield for the ministry. The consultation paper admitted the existing definition of child sexual exploitation adopted since 2009 had not worked and had hampered investigations.

It described  current rules as ” unclear and out of date.”

“Voluntary organisations, devolved administrations and local agencies have responded over time by developing a number of alternative definitions. Partners have told us that this has led to local agencies using different definitions or using the terms ‘child sexual abuse’ and ‘child sexual exploitation’ interchangeably, resulting in ineffective multi-agency working, inconsistent risk assessments and poor data collection.”

But changing the definition has not been easy. The first draft proposed a year ago has been attacked as both being too broad – and threatening to include all sexual relations between 16 and 17 year olds – and too narrow in its definition of exploitation over the internet.

The original proposed draft said:

“Child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse. It occurs where anyone under the age of 18 is persuaded, coerced or forced into sexual activity in exchange for, amongst other things, money, drugs/alcohol, gifts, affection or status. Consent is irrelevant, even where a child may believe they are voluntarily engaging in sexual activity with the person who is exploiting them. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact and may occur online.”

The Home Office received criticism from organisations over under 18 year olds being ” persuaded, coerced or forced into sexual activity”.

” There were concerns that the definition was too broad and had the potential to be interpreted as covering age-appropriate sexual experimentation as well as cases of child sexual exploitation. In particular, a number of respondents felt that the inclusion of the word ‘persuaded [into sexual activity]’ could cover a range of ‘normal’ behaviours within the relationships of 16 and 17 year olds that would not fit the coercive nature of child sexual exploitation.”

Persuaded has now being dropped in favour of ‘coerce, manipulate or deceive’..

The Home Office was also thought to have too narrowly defined exploitation using the internet.

“Respondents thought the phrase ‘may occur online’ in the proposed definition did not adequately capture exploitation that might occur through the use of mobile phone applications and other forms of technology.
We have amended the definition to refer to ‘the use of technology’.

The new revised definition which comes into force next month now reads:

“Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.”

The full results of the consultation can be read here.

It goes to show how difficult it can be to define what people might think is a simple issue – and also if you get it wrong it may explain while child sexual exploitation has not always been properly tackled by the police and social services if no-one agrees what it is.

Henriques: Help or Hindrance

 

Sir Richard Henriques.

Sir Richard Henriques. Pic Credit: Blackpool Gazette and loucollins.uk

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The heavily censored Henriques Report – only 84 out of nearly 500 pages released – comes firmly down on the side that all the prominent people investigated in Operation Midland are innocent of sexual abuse allegations made by “Nick” and the Met police should have closed down the investigation.

It has also triggered an investigation by Northumbria Police into whether ” Nick ”  should be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice by making such allegations.

More significantly  it  questions the whole approach of the police  in handling future complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse across the country.

It amounts to a rebalancing of the way the police handle child sexual abuse and rape cases from protecting the accuser to offering more support to the suspect.

In doing so it exposes a rift between the  judge and Operation Hydrant, the national co-ordinating investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse by prominent people headed by Simon Bailey, the chief constable of Norfolk.

Basically Henriques wants to  revert to the earlier situation where people who allege a crime was committed against them are treated as complainants and not victims of crimes and anyone who alleges child sexual abuse is not necessarily believed.

Simon Bailey clearly disagrees with this and makes it clear  that he believes  it will be detrimental to the trust people who have been abused  have in dealing with the police.

I disagree with both of them and think  they should be called survivors – as the use of the word victim  implies powerlessness- something I have not seen with the survivors I have met.

Henriques seems to want a return to historic times where from North Wales to London an accused paedophile could get away with it much more easily and die peacefully in his bed.

His assurances that people complaining have nothing to fear from telling the truth has  not worked in the past or we wouldn’t have this huge backlog of cases.

Savile and Sir Cyril Smith managed to avoid prosecutions altogether. But by taking abused people seriously years later North Wales paedophiles  Gordon Anglesea and John Allen have been convicted as a result of the Pallial investigation.

Operation Fernbridge also led to the  successful conviction of a well connected Roman Catholic priest who had escaped justice for some 40 years. Among celebrities who have been successfully convicted is Rolf Harris.

However the treatment of  the police of suspects like Paul Gambaccini, Cliff Richard and Lord Bramall that Henriques declares innocent  during the police  investigation seems to have been excessive and looks ( though he doesn’t go into the full detail in his heavily redacted report) that many procedural  mistakes were made.

He also challenges Bailey over the small number of false claims – and seems to suggest that there are likely to be more false claims against prominent people.

He says there is an imbalance between the anonymity granted to the accuser and the danger of the anonymity of the suspect being disclosed. However the police do not name the suspect until charged

His solution is to limit information released by the police while they are investigating the case by removing the age and the location of the person involved being interviewed,arrested or their home searched. I can see being reasonable over home raids and interviews but it is dangerous if it is extended to an arrest.

At present if a journalist becomes aware someone is arrested they will limit their coverage to avoid prejudicing a trial. If the police refuse to confirm this  they risk a  prejudiced trial because journalists won’t know and could  publish information that will damage their case.

There is also one serious error in his conclusion over Exaro’s coverage. He says the news organisation used a photo identity test on the survivor.  He implied we did it while there was an ongoing police investigation. Wrong. It took place before the police ever interviewed ” Nick”. It was done because if the person couldn’t recognise any of the people who he claimed had abused him, it would throw doubt on his claims. The  late Lord McAlpine case is an example where this did not happen with disastrous consequences.

I am also sceptical of him seeking ” confidentiality  agreements ” with survivors binding them forever to secrecy over their allegations which even he admits survivors would face no sanctions if they ignored it.

The survivors would in theory if the police decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute be left unable to tell anyone about his or her case. As a result they would  be left in a worse position than if they never complained to the police in the first place.

So help or hindrance? With firm evidence that there are at least 100,000 people now in this country viewing children being sexually abused for pleasure on the internet  there is a danger that a substantial shift in the balance from protecting the survivor to protecting the suspect could hinder the advances being made in bringing paedophiles to book.

You do not change the law  for the whole country based on a few very high profile cases even if a judge rules  that they were unjustly accused and there was no corroborative evidence.

Yes make some adjustments to officially confirming information to protect people who could be innocent. Don’t put back the present  direction of travel – otherwise you are giving comfort to that small minority who still persist in believing that child sexual abuse is just a ” conspiracy theory ” created by  a few people trying to make money out of innocent public figures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why prosecuting “Nick” for perverting the course of justice may not stand up in court

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Will Scotland Yard prosecute Nick? Pic Credit: Wikipedia

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The storm after the damning Henriques report  into  how the  Met Police police handled a series of high profile paedophile investigations -including Operation Midland and Yewtree  -has led to demands that one of the principal accusers called ” Nick ” be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.

I have never met ” Nick” as the story was handled by my colleague Mark Conrad but am aware of the circumstances of the Exaro investigation.

Henriques himself – while deciding that all the prominent figures accused in Operation Midland are innocent and were subject to false allegations – stops short of actually recommending this despite being pressed by the Janner family and seeing the strong demands from former Tory MP Harvey Proctor.

He says “Such a course  is well outside my terms of reference and may well be cited as a ground for staying any criminal action against ” Nick.”

But the Met Police decided to ask Northumbria Police to investigate whether ” Nick” had indeed done this.

Unless Henriques, who has only released 84 pages of a 500 page report,has secret information on Nick proving how he made all this up I have considerable scepticism that the police could make a charge of perverting the course of justice stick or even be accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service.

My reason is that there is a precedent. Just 16 months ago a person was tried at the Old Bailey in a court case that most of the national newspapers could not be bothered to cover.

I was a prosecution witness  alongside other journalists in that trial  in a case brought  by the Met Police against Ben Fellows   who had accused the former  Tory chancellor, Ken Clarke, of sexually abusing him.Clarke denied it vehemently and Henriques backs him up.

My involvement – which is contained in a statement on this website after the trial was over – was because I had given a statement to the Met Police while they were investigating his claims.

Fellows was a member of an undercover sting by the Cook Report which was looking at Ian Greer Associates, a long defunct lobbying company, and it was while he was working with us he alleged this had happened.

The Met Police in the end not only did not find any evidence but decided to prosecute him for perverting the course of justice.

He was acquitted of this charge by the jury.

We do not know why the jury decided this. However it was put  to them by his defence barrister that  it was the police that sought his statement not Fellows  who had actually initially refused. So he had not deliberately set out to pervert the course of justice.

The survivor Nick is in the same position. He did not go to the police demanding they investigate the Westminster paedophile ring. The police sought him as a potential witness when they contacted Exaro asking whether  we could provide his details to them.

Exaro made it clear to the police that it would be up to Nick whether he talked to them. Exaro also remained neutral on whether he wanted to talk to him – we did not pressurise him to go to the police. In the end he decided he would – but it was because the police requested it.

Given that – unless again there is something secret that Henriques knows but is not telling the public – it is going to require a high bar to prove he deliberately set out to force the Met Police to spend £2m on an investigation.

There is also another point to this. If the police ask a survivor to make a statement to them so they can pursue people where child sexual abuse crimes are  alleged to be committed are they now going to issue  a warning to the survivor. Are they going to tell survivors that if they cannot prove the case – or no other witnesses come forward – they will liable for prosecution for perverting the course of justice. If that is the new era  survivors are going to be very reluctant to come forward to the police in future.

 

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The Keith Vaz Westminster fan club: Why do they protect this man

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Keith Vaz MP: Now on the Justice committee

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An extraordinary event took place in Parliament last night only hours after Amber Rudd, the home secretary, made the really bad decision to turn down an inquiry or independent panel into the  ” battle of Orgreave ” in the 1984 Miners’ Strike.

Andrew Bridgen, Conservative MP for Leicestershire North West, moved a rare motion objecting to the appointment of :Labour MP, Keith Vaz, to the Commons Justice select committee.

Keith Vaz, the MP for Leicester, East stood down  as chair of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee after an exposure in the Sunday Mirror, that he was involved in sex with two male prostitutes while posing as a ” washing machine salesman” in a flat he owned in North London. Police are at present assessing whether Mr Vaz committed any offences as a result of the scandal.

Mr Bridgen’s main point was that he should not stand for the post – because he himself had ruled out standing a home affairs committee chairman.

During his speech, Mr Bridgen told the Speaker Mr Bercow: “You have often spoken that this place must reflect the society with which we make the laws and I agree with you.

“I respectfully point out to the House that in any other sphere of activity a candidate with so much hanging unresolved over him would be very unlikely to be considered for such an important office.

“I believe and if (Mr Vaz) was in his place today I’d ask him to stand down from his nomination, but he’s not.”So I’d ask this House to reject his appointment otherwise I think we cannot blame the Great British public for having a low opinion of its politician and its politics – we can only blame ourselves.”

Earlier he had been warned by Mr Bercow to ” desist” after he also referred -under Parliamentary privilege- to a current historical child sex investigation said to be being conducted by Leicestershire Police where four people had come forward alleging child sexual abuse crimes.

However the view of Vaz’s supportive  MPs was that it was perfectly proper for him to be a member of the justice committee -despite the recent scandal. And it was 159 Tory MPs and ministers that came forward in droves to support the Labour MP. Labour MPs were remarkable in their absence – though a number of MPs who have raised child sexual abuse cases did vote for him – notably Simon Danczuk and Tom Watson.

But it was the Tory Cabinet that stood out in support of him. They included Amber Rudd, the home secretary, who decided that there has been no ” miscarriage of justice in Orgreave” and was obviously happy to think that Mr Vaz had committed no offence.

Other key supporters included Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, Liam Fox, the International Secretary; James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland Secretary and  former home office minister: David Gauke, chief secretary to the Treasury;Andrea Leadsom, the environment secretary,and Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, who is advised by Craig Woodhouse, a former Sun journalist and David Lidington, leader of the House.

Only nine MPs supported Mr Bridgen’s motion. They were Nicholas Soames; Jake Berry, Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen; James Duddridge, Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East; Philip Hollobone, Conservative MP for Kettering; Scott Mann, Conservative MP for North Cornwall;Matthew Offord, Conservative MP for Hendon; and Mr Bridgen himself. Two other MPs acted as tellers, Karl McCartney, Conservative MP for Lincoln, and Nigel Mills, Conservative MP for Amber Valley.

On these occasions Parliament seems to resemble more a members’ club than a body representing the nation. And it does itself no good. I have a feeling that the loyalty of MPs to Mr Vaz’s rehabilitation plan will be misplaced and a large swathe of the Cabinet might regret their hasty decision to follow their whips advice. Parliament should not be used to play games or it will fall even more into disrespect.

 

 

 

 

Operation Pallial: Bringing too long awaited justice for child sexual abuse survivors after nearly 30 years

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Gordon Anglesea: Now a convicted paedophile Pic Credit: BBC and John Price

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The conviction of former North Wales police inspector Gordon Anglesea for indecent assault against two teenage boys has been a long time coming. Too long.

His conviction last week along with John Allen, the former owner of Bryn Alyn  and Bryn  Estyn children’s homes in North Wales, who was convicted of a further 33 offences against children, are the high spots of the National Crime Agency’s Operation Pallial investigation.

This investigation along with the Macur inquiry  into child sexual abuse in North  Wales would never have been set up unless Theresa May when she was home secretary, had seen the need for it.

And some of the victims would never had any justice or ever believed.

I  have reservations about the openness of the Macur inquiry but the police investigation has been a success contrary to views of some naysayers. My Macur reservations are heightened by revelations on Paddy French’s Rebecca website which suggests that Lady Macur was less than open about Angelsea. See the link here.

Those like Harvey Proctor  who condemn Theresa May for establishing the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse might well pause. For this police investigation has yielded results. It proved those who said that there was no need for  further investigations into the North Wales and it is not worth investigating claims of historic sexual abuse were wrong.

Both convicted men were arrogant, evil and thought because of their powerful positions in the North Wales hierarchy they were untouchable and could abuse vulnerable children at will.

Both mounted similar defences. John Allen said he wasn’t gay, was not sexually attracted to children and had suffered a “miscarriage of justice ” when he was convicted in 1996 of sexually assaulting six boys.in the first place. His accusers were making it up to get compensation money, his defence lawyers said. He is now rightly in jail for life.

Gordon Anglesea took a similar line saying it was a conspiracy by the survivors to accuse him of indecent assault so they could obtain  money.

This is the man who won  £375,000 damages  in 1994 against The Observer, the Independent on Sunday, Private Eye and HTV, the holder of the ITV franchise in Wales over allegations that he had abused children during visits he made to the Bryn Estyn children’s home just outside Wrexham. He also pursued the satirical magazine Scallywag  through its distributors.

It is worth looking at the Inforrm blog today which carries a report on how the libel case was successful.

Operation Pallial – which ceased  handling new claims last month –  has now succeeded in convicting  nine men.A total of 340 people have made contact with the investigation and 84 complaints were still being actively investigated at the end of July.

It would be a good idea if  the National Crime Agency shared with other police forces how they managed to secure convictions for historic child sexual abuse – as they seem to have made a good fist of it. And the police need advice on how to proceed with such cases – particularly in North Wales where former police officers were accused.

For the survivors it has been particularly grim – waiting all that time for justice. As Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, pointed out : ” I can’t help thinking of the witnesses who came forward to assist our case at the time, one of whom later committed suicide telling his wife that he never got over ‘not being believed”.

That about sums up the injustice survivors have had for 30 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Lord Janner Image courtesy BBC

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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.

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abuse of Trust: A horrible reminder of a child sex scandal as the Jay inquiry prepares to examine Greville Janner

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Frank Beck. Pic Credit:BBC

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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