The 60 year old shame of Home Office treatment of sexually and physically abused child migrants


The list of homes the Home Office is said to have known abused children; Photo credit: ABC News


Next month the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will hold a hearing into how British children were shipped abroad to  Australia, Canada and Southern Rhodesia ( now Zimbabwe) where they were subject to appalling physical and sexual abuse.

One of the people who has submitted evidence to the British inquiry has already raised issues about his treatment at one of these homes, Fairbridge Farm School,New South Wales in Australia.

David Hill  was interviewed by  the Guardian last year in Australia and tells a horrific story of a place where people were poorly educated and fed,brutally treated and some sexually abused. He went out with his brother in 1959 from Eastbourne in Sussex.

He has been one of the people who eventually prospered becoming chairman and managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. ABC carried a report on his decision to send evidence here.

But his most damaging evidence is that he might not have gone there if the Home Office had acted on information they  received three years earlier after a visit of UK MPs to Australia. In 1956 they came on a fact finding mission to find out about conditions in those schools.

The result, according to evidence submitted to the inquiry. is that the Home Office were given the names ( see above in a memo) of ten schools that should have been put on a blacklist and no British children should have been sent there.

But the Home Office appeared to  do nothing even though they decided that  the schools would need a ”  complete metamorphosis ” to be fit to accept children. So they appear to have ignored the findings so they could keep the migrant programme going – where British children from poor backgrounds were offered a new chance in life. Their decision was no better than when a whistleblower, Lucy Cole Hamilton, alerted the Home Office over a decade earlier about conditions at Fairbridge Farm and warned them not to send British children there. As a report by Sanchia Berg for the Today programme revealed in 2009 the decision was to “lay by ” and do nothing.

I am hoping that this callous attitude – which seems extended today by the Home Office and Theresa May’s view that we should all but ignore the plight of immigrant children seeking asylum in the UK – is thoroughly examined by the inquiry.

The inquiry’s own research report points out the whole area is remarkably under investigated.As it states no inquiry has ever undertaken a proper  and sustained  analysis of the failings of this huge programme and properly investigated whether some of the children were sexually abused by people in institutions before they were sent abroad.

Gordon Brown has apologised in 2009 about the way the children were treated. But it was enormous programme – some 150,000 children participated and it began in the early 17C when children were sent to Virginia – though some of the largest programmes were after the second world war. It did not stop until the 1970s.

A lot of questions need to be answered – not least from the one posed by David Hill about the role of the Home Office in the late 1950s.



Cameron’s Nightmare Legacy: Brutalised Britain

The London Spring - creating the brutalised society that could come to fruition by all out privatisation pursued by people like Brian Coleman

London Spring (click on this link for the full theatre programme and venue)

Image a Britain where everything is privatised and the masses impoverished and brutalised. This is background to my partner in crime and fellow author Francis Beckett’s new play, The London Spring, now on at the Etcetra Theatre in the Oxford Arms,Camden.

Set in a transit lounge at Waterloo Station where wealthy Russian, American, Australian and Chinese tourists arrive in the UK it depicts the arrival of Michael, (Mike Duran) a naive but wealthy US medic, who is totally unaware of what a moral cesspit this country has become.

In a series of literally bruising encounters he learns that the privatised police force has to be regularly bribed to provide him with any protection. His suitcase will be nicked at the earliest opportunity, he will have bribe the competing down and outs just to go to the loo and if he steps out in the street to cross Hungerford Bridge he is likely to be mugged and robbed. His only safe way around London is in a tourist coach where he is carefully shepherded and protected by guides.

The picture is of country welcoming rich tourists and health tourists to see its sights, stay at its posh hotels and get state of the art medical treatment. But they are kept well clear of the locals.The Royal Free hospital in Hampstead ( which can already take 49 per cent private patients under Andrew Lansley’s reforms) is now owned by an American owned insurance company and only treats foreign patients and wealthy Brits.

 The play is also an unrequited if a little improbable love affair between the American and down on her luck British trained doctor, Catherine (Suzanne Kendall). There is a superb performance from down and out revolutionary Trot, Jack (Michael Yale) who is both menacing and  a good ranter. And Danny Kennedy, the security officer is a believable privatised Mr Plod.

 It perhaps no coincidence that Francis lives in the London Borough of  Barnet – or Broken Barnet as prolific and hard hitting blogger Mrs Angry calls it on her site – which is the Tories’ flagship authority for planning to privatise everything. In the real world it has already had a private security force, the now bankrupt MetPro, whose officials took secret photographs of its residents attending a  council meeting approving cuts and has even been accused of driving around in fake police cars. They did not accept bribes though I have known private security officers in Britain accept bribes to allow people to park in private car parks when they can’t find anywhere else to park.

Its leading figure Brian Coleman, who harangues single mums, doesn’t believe in anyone else’s human rights and is on record in saying there is nothing that can’t be privatised, might be quite at home in this new brutal Britain. 

The play ends with a demonstration growing across London as tens of thousands gather in Trafalgar Square knowing the authorities ( no doubt  with Mr Coleman as chair of the privatised emergency services for the capital) will shoot demonstrators.

 Fanciful you might think, but the play is running in a week when on  BBC Newsnight Lord Lawson is calling for the retirement age to be raised to 80 and the right-wing Institute of Economic Affairs wants the old age pension to be phased out and people forced to save from their meagre wages or starve.

 Go, see this while it is on this weekend and next week. Perhaps Francis should invite Brian Coleman to see the nightmare results if his wet Tory dream goes wrong.