Sir Edward Heath: Paedophile or No Paedophile?

edward heath

Sir Edward Heath Pic credit: BBC

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The long awaited Operation Conifer report  by Wiltshire Police into allegations against the former late Prime Minister  Edward Heath sums up the dilemmas investigating historic child sex abuse when the alleged perpetrator is now dead.

Child sexual abuse – because it is essentially a shameful and private act – is one of the most difficult crimes to prove and even more difficult when it is historic and the person accused is dead. An adult rape victim may be able to recognise their assailant, a child will have more difficulty unless it is a member of their close family or a teacher or youth worker.

Wiltshire Police have been attacked for spending public money investigating these claims and as a result damaging the reputation of a very prominent public figure when he can’t answer back.

In my view they were completely right to do so because of the number of people who came forward making these allegations. To refuse to do so would amount to complicity in a further cover up of these allegations and to assume  that all the people who made them were liars without examining any of the facts.

And it would compound the present scandal of  child sexual abuse – which is why we are having an inquiry- because across society in churches, schools, family, politicians ( like Sir Cyril Smith) and entertainers ( Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris) there are now real examples of hidden child sex abuse going back 30 to 40 years.

The police investigation to my mind has been proportionate and fair. They have not said every one of the 42 ( actually 40 because three cases were the same person under different names) people who came forward totally proved Edward Heath abused them. And of the seven cases , including an 11 year old boy, where they believe Edward Heath should have been questioned under caution, that this meant Edward Heath was automatically guilty. It was just that other facts  suggested their allegations  sounded serious enough to warrant the ex PM being questioned. about them.

And where they think the accusers have been wrong or misled  they have said so. In three cases they decided it was mistaken identity.

And in two worse. -one is a live investigation into misleading the police and the other has been cautioned for wasting police time.

They seem to have gone about their job in a meticulous way – just as in these circumstances  any serious journalist would do – by looking for corroboration of the allegations from people who were not abusers or the abused. The fact that one case merited attention, for example, came because in questioning government chauffeurs ( which as any lobby journalist knows are some of the best sources for revealing  occasional indiscretions), one of them mentioned Heath visiting an area where separately a person alleged he was abused there.

They have also revealed what looks like one of Edward Health’s best kept secrets that he could drive and owned two cars.

They also appear to have uncovered another possible case of child sexual abuse – unconnected to Edward Heath – by contacting male sex workers in Salisbury which is still under investigation.

In their inquiries they seem to have scotched a specific rumour that he abused people on Morning Cloud and other racing yachts,  By chasing up the crew it looks extremely unlikely that he would have both the space and the privacy to do so.

The report says:”There is no indication from former crew members that children were ever taken aboard the different Morning Cloud yachts. There was no information or evidence that any of the identified crew members were complicit in child sexual abuse or witnessed Sir Edward Heath engaging in abuse.”

And it debunks suggestions that Heath was ” asexual”.

“During the investigation the issue became relevant as it was publicly implied that it was implausible for Sir Edward Heath to be an alleged suspect in child abuse related offences as he was considered to be ‘completely asexual’.
“Witnesses who were interviewed by investigators from Operation Conifer offered different opinions about Sir Edward Heath’s sexuality. However two witnesses, who have not disclosed abuse, provided evidence that he was sexually active with consenting adults during parts of his life.”

On the security services the report baldly says; “Enquiries were undertaken with UK Security and Intelligence Agencies and there was no information that progressed the investigation any further.”

I note a much fuller report is to go to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and the intention is to attach the findings to more general inquiries about paedophiles in Westminster which will be a controversial part of the investigation – given what happened to the Operation Midland inquiry.

What this report doesn’t do is lift the lid on the alleged Westminster paedophile scandal and change the direction of the inquiry. Rather it adds to the whole problem of not proven allegations and how to balance how much and what should be investigated.  It rather leaves some matters in limbo. I notice with great interest that Wiltshire Police did appoint an independent scrutiny panel to oversee their investigation – which should stop people accusing the police of time wasting – and they fully support they way Wiltshire went about it.

But I entirely reject the idea that we need another judicial review after such a meticulous investigation. That would be a waste of public money.

Full report HERE.

 

 

 

 

Esther Baker child sex abuse case: “Insufficent evidence”to prosecute as accused ex MP outs himself “

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Esther Baker

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The two year long police investigation into allegations by Esther Baker against a former Liberal Democrat MP and two other people has ended with no prosecutions against any of the people following a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service that there is ” insufficient evidence” to get a conviction in court. Her case was highlighted,among others, by Exaro News, and centred around allegations that as a young girl she was sexually abused in the woods in Staffordshire by a number of prominent people while police officers looked on.

Staffordshire Police said in a  carefully worded statement which was supportive of Esther : “We have now concluded a thorough and sensitive investigation into a number of non-recent child sexual abuse allegations made by Esther Baker.

Throughout this process our priority has been to support Esther and ensure all potential lines of enquiry were carefully assessed and investigated. We submitted the findings to specialist lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who have now concluded that there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction of any suspect in this case.

We recognise this investigation, and subsequent review by the CPS, has taken a great deal of time. ”

Supt Amanda Davies said “It was vital we gave the victim the time, space and support she needed to disclose the information. Over 100 hours of interviews were conducted by specially trained officers, and throughout the investigation we have kept her informed and continued to provide support.

“In this case Esther made the difficult decision to waive her right to anonymity and we will continue to support her, as we would with all victims of crime. We want to take this opportunity to reassure other potential victims that their identity is protected by law.”

“Supporting victims remains our absolute priority, rest assured you can contact us confident that you will be listened to and we will provide the support you need.”

Three people were interviewed under caution during this investigation, one of whom was arrested, he has now been released from bail.

John Hemming, the former Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham, Yardley, decided yesterday to reveal that he was subjected to allegations from Esther Baker and interviewed by the police though not arrested. In a long statement on his own blog, reproduced below, he attacked the Labour Party and accused his successful opponent,  Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham, Yardley of a campaign against him over the case ( even though he was never named) which he claimed was a perversion of the course of justice. He also attacked Sky News and Exaro for their reporting of it.

 He said :“I am pleased that the Police have now made it clear that there has been a concerted effort to promote false criminal allegations against me and that the allegations had no substance whatsoever.

I would like to thank Emily Cox, my children, Ayaz Iqbal (my Solicitor), my local lib dem team and many others who supported me through this dreadful experience. 

There are many worse things that happen to people, but this was a really bad experience.

It is bad enough to have false allegations made about yourself to the police, but to have a concerted campaign involving your political opponents and many others in public creates an environment in which it is reasonable to be concerned about ill founded vigilante attacks on your family and yourself. Luckily there was a more substantial lobby to the contrary as well, which included many people who were themselves real survivors of abuse, which has helped. 

I am normally someone who helps other people fight injustice. Being subject to an unjust campaign of vilification is something I do not wish to repeat.

The police themselves have handled the allegations well. However, although it was obvious from the start that the allegations were nonsense, it has taken two years for this to be resolved. Identifying why that is will take time, but I believe that the system is too tolerant of false allegations. The current CPS guidelines on handling false allegations are in my view too tolerant of malicious allegations and need review. The unnecessary delay of around 2 years in resolving the issue I believe arises from procedures that are being used being flawed.

It has been in the public domain for 2 years that the complainant changed her allegations in early 2015 from those she had made publicly previously and that she had stated publicly that she had never met a politician…

It should be noted that the newspapers generally have handled the issue reasonably well. Exaro and Exaro’s funder have behaved dreadfully. Sky should recognise that not only was their broadcast of the original allegations in May 2015 a complete nonsense, but also had it been based upon truthful allegations that it would have undermined a criminal investigation. The attempts to drum up additional false complainants through the use of publicity highlights a difficulty with publicising cases whilst a police investigation is going on. There are people who will make false allegations merely because someone suggests that they are looking for such allegations.

Some members of the Labour Party, including my opponent in the last two General Elections, have invested considerable time in promoting these allegations. The promotion of the complainant as an expert in this subject area as a consequence of these allegations has caused additional difficulties for my family.

I am not myself aware of another situation where members and supporters of a political party have promoted such allegations in such a public manner – essentially arming the villagers with torches and pitchforks and setting off on a lynching. There were public attempts to prevent me from standing as a candidate because of allegations made maliciously by a Labour Party member backed by other members of the Labour Party. Many Labour members will find this unacceptable and it is an issue that needs consideration by the Labour leadership.

I have asked the police to investigate this attempt to pervert the course of justice and await their response. There are, of course, many procedural options that are open to me to obtain justice for my family. I will consider those over the near future.”

Two points need to be made as I suspect that this case will not be going away for some time.

First because other allegations  ( not involving the ex MP) made by Esther are still under investigation by Staffordshire Police with another police force, relating to when she was a teenager and she is intending to appeal the CPS decision.

Second it is clear Mr Hemming will not let this go. On his criticism of Exaro there are two points. He wrongly blames the former owner and funder, Jerome Booth, for publication of the story. Jerome never knew or wanted to know what stories Exaro was investigating and read the stories for the first time  like everyone else when they were published.

Secondly Exaro never named him throughout the investigation and when the police revealed his age which would have made it easier to identify him through ” a jigsaw identification ” removed the tag Liberal Democrat.

 

An Establishment cover up: The sordid and sad saga of sex abuser Bishop Peter Ball

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Bishop Peter Ball at his trial . Pic Credit: BBC

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The Church of England has finally fully acknowledged the impact of the predatory sexual abuse committed by one of its most charismatic former bishops Peter Ball.

A forensic report by Dame Moira Gibb into both his activities and the cover up by the church  of his behaviour which reached the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, (now Lord Carey) to protect the Church’s reputation.

It is a grim story only coming light after the former Bishop of Gloucester was successfully prosecuted and jailed in 2015 after  a career  of physically and sexually abusing and exploiting  boys and young men, including some who were particularly vulnerable.

The report says : “He had used his position within the Church to identify those whom he then abused. and admitted two offences of indecent assault and a further offence of misconduct in public office.”

Tragically a young man, Neil Todd, who had first accused him in 1993  of abusing him in when he was 17 killed himself in 2012 when  Sussex Police re-opened an investigation when he was Bishop of Lewes.

Equally culpable, though not an abuser, is Michael Ball, his twin brother and former Bishop of Truro, who ran a campaign after his brother had been given a caution for abusing Todd in 1993 to rehabilitate him using every type of pressure he could find.

None of the authorities, with the exception of Sussex police, come out of this well, Neither the Church, Lambeth Palace, Gloucestershire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service. It is litany of failed responsibility among those in power and also the misuse of power and reputation to protect the powerful.

Peter Ball comes out of this report as a manipulative, sadomasochistic  predator who appears to have used every trick to entice young men from public schoolboys to priests and damaged and vulnerable youths coming to the Church  for his own sexual  gratification. It is not clear  even now at 85 whether he shows any remorse as he refused to co-operate with Dame Moira’s inquiry.

While on the surface being a charismatic leader he and his brother appear to have conned  the Establishment to cover up his  activity and the Establishment appear to have been prepared to do so.

The report reveals how he wanted to whip Neil Todd who was only saved by worried staff at the Bishop’s house who sent him away. He also got youths to strip off in the chapel so they could pray together in the nude and even used a ceremony to anoint a youth’s penis in some bizarre religious rite.

But  as bad is the 20 year cover up . This included dragging Prince Charles into Ball’s defence – by using his privileged access to Highgrove House – to claim, falsely, as an examination of letters between Ball  and the Prince show, that he supported his cause. According to the report even a commercial arrangement that allows Ball and his brother to rent a house off the Duchy of Cornwall was twisted to say this was a Royal favour.

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Lord Carey: Former archbishop of Canterbury Pic credit: BBC

Lord Carey emerges as a very weak character in this sorry saga. On the one level he is aware of Ball’s transgressions and tries to investigate, on another level he intervenes with the aim, whatever he says in a letter to Gloucestershire’s chief constable, to prevent a public trial of a Bishop by just issuing a caution. In the end this is done in return for his resignation as bishop. It is here that Gloucestershire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, which now admits its mistake, are totally at fault. Lord Carey also failed to pass on information to the police on people Ball abused and defended his reputation to the police.

Then after this ” escape from justice” he and his brother pursue a ruthless campaign to rehabilitate him  as a priest – which is successful. They demand  money from the archbishop to fund their expenses, insist on his reinstatement as  a priest in his brother’s parish  ( at one stage his brother actually threatens to do this without Lambeth Palace’s permission) and he even gets an honorary retired bishop’s post from the  Bishop of Chichester.

The report recommends a strengthening of safeguarding in the Church of England and will be considered by the independent child sex abuse inquiry. But what it doesn’t address – and it is outside its terms of reference – is the glaring issue of homosexuality in the Church.

To put it in its historic context these events take place when people who were homosexuals in public life often lived  a double life for fear of exposure in the press. This was the time when  David Atkinson, the Tory MP for Bournemouth East was publicly a happily married man with a wife and children while secretly leading a double gay life in the House of Commons.

It was also the time when Britain’s first successful black footballer, Justin Fashanu, led a troubled double life attracted to young men, which led to his suicide when the US law caught up with him.

One wonders whether if as now – when to be openly gay no longer is a problem  and gay marriage is acceptable  ( except to the Democratic Unionist party)  Ball could have had a stable relationship instead.  Or was he a predatory abuser anyway? This is not to excuse the Ball twins from the appalling sexual abuse and cover up that followed. But it suggests the Church has got to address a wider problem than just the abuse.

The full report is here.

 

 

The arrogance of Daniel Janner over the future of the Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry

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

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On May 3 a final decision was made by Alexis Jay, the chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse not to hold a preliminary hearing into whether there should be inquiry into Lord Janner and Leicestershire institutions of allegations of child sexual abuse.

His son and his two sisters who had already had a meeting to press the case for such a preliminary hearing were understandably unhappy. They believe their father is innocent and just the subject of an historic witch hunt and no one needs to look into it.

And it is now clear that at some suitable date there will such an inquiry so long as it does not prejudice any other investigations still under way..

Daniel Janner decided to write an article for The Times denouncing the decision and protesting again that his father was ” wholly innocent of any wrong doing ” despite up to 33 people coming award and alleging they were victims of such acts.

Thus far a perfectly understandable stance from a close relative. But then he went so far to demand that the entire inquiry should be closed down and the chair was an incompetent. He also produced one sided evidence to justify his case.

As he said: ” Professor Jay is not competent to chair the inquiry because she is not a lawyer and unqualified to make difficult complex quasi legal decisions. She is simply out of her depth.”

And on the inquiry itself : “It veers between a bloated expensive irrelevance and a vindictive witch -hunt which will be condemned by history”.

To back his case up he quoted the former judge Sir Richard Henriques in his defence : ” prominent people..are more vulnerable to false complaints than others…They are vulnerable to compensation seekers, attention seekers, and those with mental health problems.”

However he doesn’t quote what Sir Richard said about his father’s case: ” In my opinion there was sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction in 2007, and Janner should have been arrested and interviewed and his home searched.He should have been charged with offences of indecent assault and buggery.”

So Times readers would not have known  that the very judge warning of prominent people being accused of false complaints decided in his father’s case that he should be prosecuted.

My main complaint about Daniel Janner is his arrogance. Just because the inquiry chair has decided not to do what he and his family alone wanted and not investigate his father – he decides the inquiry is a sham and the chair incompetent.

It is also extremely arrogant to say that only lawyers have the intelligence to chair inquiries. On that basis the Hillsborough inquiry would never have happened – and no one denies that has been a success.

A chair will anyway be guided by counsel and I notice the counsel to the inquiry was of the same opinion.

The inquiry is not perfect and has had serious troubles and run into serious problems with survivor groups – but the idea that the whole process should be stopped because one man doesn’t like it is ridiculous. It would deny investigations and recommendations far beyond the Janner case.

I certainly will be keeping a critical look at what the inquiry does – but I am afraid abandoning it just because it won’t do what the son of VIP tells it  is no go territory.

 

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

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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.

 

 

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

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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. ”

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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?

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

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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.