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.

 

Brian Altman: The scuba diving prosecutor who “speared” Milly Dowler’s killer

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Brian Altman – new lead counsel for the independent child sexual abuse inquiry. Pic credit: 2 Bedford Chambers

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The announcement this week that former Treasury counsel Brian Altman has been appointed lead counsel  from March to the much troubled Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse should be  good news for survivors.

The man has a formidable reputation as a forensic prosecutor and a particularly strong line in bringing criminals to justice in  ” cold case ” murders.  For once the phrase ” highly experienced”  used by the inquiry chair, Alexis Jay, is no exaggeration.

He has yet to get a cameo role as a lawyer  in ” Silent Witness” – though he did appear in a BBC 4 Real Crime and Punishment series ( sadly no longer available on BBC i-Player.).He has received much praise from journalists who regularly cover Old Bailey trials for the way he ensnares defendants who hope to escape justice for unspeakable crimes.

His case list of successful prosecutions is impressive. They include the notorious serial killer and rapist Levi Bellfield who murdered  teenager Milly Dowler and  killer Colin Ash-Smith convicted 21 years after he murdered 19 year old Claire Tiltman.

He has also prosecuted in a joint British and Dutch investigation  of canal murderer John Sweeney who killed and dismembered former American model and photographer, Melissa Halstead, in Holland in 1990, and disposed of her remains in a Rotterdam canal, and Paula Fields in London in 2000, whose dismembered body parts were found in the Regent’s Canal in 2001.

He has a string of other murder cases – where he both defended and prosecuted killers – and successfully prosecuted terrorists-including  those involved in a disrupted Islamic state terror plot and Syrian trained terrorists planning attacks in the UK.

He is familiar with the workings of the security services  and bad behaviour by MPs – he once advised on whether to prosecute one for expenses fraud – and his client list include members of a Middle  East Royal Family – though not disclosing whether it is the Saudi Arabian one or not. For a full list see his entry on his  chambers website here.

All this should bode well  for those who want forensic examinations of some of the most highly contentious cases that will be looked at by the child sexual abuse inquiry. This will in time include the Westminster paedophile ring, Greville Janner and the Leicestershire institutions involved in child sexual abuse and some of the more contentious child sex abuse scandals in London.

Historic child sexual abuse is also a ” cold case ”  issue – so this quote should comfort the sceptics.

“For cold case murders, he is the go-to barrister because he is able to draw together all the small pieces to provide a coherent analysis, and he knows these cases so well that there is nothing the defence can come up with to outfox him. He is completely relentless, extremely personable and a great team player”; “He is a master of detail who never makes a mistake.” Chambers & Partners 2016 (Crime)

Frankly  the inquiry after all the row surrounding the departure of his predecessor, Ben Emmerson, could do with a boost. Given there is also outside pressure – thankfully resisted by Theresa May who set it up – to try and get the government to close the inquiry down because of its scope and cost, this is doubly important.

Brian Altman in his Linked In profile also lists two hobbies – scuba diving and travel. I can well understand  he will sometimes want to get away from it all after all this work pressure.

He is  coy about where he has travelled and where he has scuba dived. He tells me one of the places he has not yet visited is Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – the largest scuba diving place in the world.

Given he is probably lead counsel for the largest child sex abuse inquiry in the world- perhaps he also should also get some time off to relax there as well soon.

 

 

 

 

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

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

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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.

 

 

The arrogance of judge Dame Lowell Goddard

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Justice Lowell Goddard giving evidence to House of Commons home affairs committee a year ago. Pic credit: BBC

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Before we were flooded by news of the sensational  Presidential election victory of Donald Trump, Dame Lowell Goddard. the third chair of the troubled inquiry into child sexual abuse inquiry delivered a stunning blow to Parliament.

She refused point blank to give evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee in Parliament and also announced that she would refuse to give any further interviews to the media on why she resigned.

It is no wonder that the new chair of the inquiry, Labour MP  Yvette Cooper issued such a strong statement objecting to her refusal.

Dame Lowell had written :

“As a High Court judge in New Zealand for many years before I resigned to take up the chair, I have a duty to maintain judicial independence,” she wrote.

“That is why I have volunteered detailed written reports (in preference to oral communication) so that no dispute on powers or damage to IICSA’s independence could arise.

“I am not aware of any matter which remains unanswered. Meanwhile I have been the subject of malicious defamatory attacks in some UK media.

“I am disappointed that there has been no government defence of me in England, despite the fact that information refuting some of the more serious allegations has been held by the Home Office and your committee since the time of my initial recruitment.”

She got a stiff reply

” Dame Lowell Goddard’s refusal to give evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee about her resignation from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is disgraceful,” Ms Cooper said.

“Dame Goddard has been paid significant amounts of public money to do an extremely important job which she suddenly resigned from, leaving a series of questions about what has been happening over the last 18 months and why the Inquiry got into difficulties.

“This is an astonishing response from a paid public servant who should know how important transparency is in an inquiry as sensitive and crucial as this one.

“Child abuse survivors have been let down by the extremely rocky start to this inquiry and we do need answers as to why it went wrong in order to be confident it is back on track now.”

I quite agree. She was given a very generous package running into hundreds of thousands of pounds to chair this inquiry . Her annual salary was £360,000. Her accommodation costs amounted to £119,000. Relocation costs were just short of £30,000 as well  some £67,000 spent on travel, including trips for her whole family to and from New Zealand.

Yet she doesn’t have the slightest compunction to refuse to explain what went so horribly wrong. She was offered to give evidence by video link from new Zealand but declined because she said Parliamentary privilege would not cover the video link.

Frankly her refusal is an affront to the survivors, the general public, the taxpayer who met her bills and to Parliamentary sovereignty.

If she had been a British judge living in the UK she could have been ordered to attend. As it is she better not apply for a tourist visa to come here or she might find herself having to attend Parliament. I find her attitude arrogant particularly as she never properly explained her reasons for going.

 

 

Job Half Done: Alexis Jay’s statement on the future of the Child Sexual Abuse inquiry

Alexis Jay at the Rotherham inquiry Pic credit BBC

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The statement by Alexis Jay, the chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse,  should be welcomed as an important step in the right direction.

It makes it very clear to the naysayers – from Harvey Proctor to The Sun newspaper – that the inquiry is not to be wound up and will continue and examine events covered up in the past. She could not be clearer.

“I disagree with those who say we should not consider what happened in the past. This is a necessary part of our work. Lessons have to be learnt from institutional failures and any cover-ups which have come to light, and only in this way can we look to the future with confidence. I have to say that I regard calls for us to forget the past with a high degree of scepticism, not least because some institutions may have the most to hide and a vested interest in not turning a spotlight on what happened in the past.”

She also believes the terms of reference are deliverable possibly within five years by 2020. So it will not drag its feet for over a decade.

But for me the most interesting part of her statement – and why it is particularly important – is the context she lays down for the future of the inquiry  She is moving away from a heavily legally dominated inquiry which would have dramatic hearings – which lawyers love – to a more rounded approach that it should have had in the first place.

This paragraph is the crucial one:

We need a clear focus on the truly big changes required across institutions in England and Wales. This ensures that our findings and recommendations are widely relevant and that no institution can avoid the reach of this Inquiry. To do this, we will align the elements of this Inquiry across four major themes:

a. Cultural – examining the attitudes, behaviours and values within institutions which prevent us from stopping child sexual abuse;

b. Structural – examining the legislative, governance and organisational frameworks in place, both within and between institutions;

c. Financial – examining the financial, funding and resource arrangements for relevant institutions and services; and

d. Professional and political – examining the leadership, professional and practice issues for those working or volunteering in relevant institutions.

To my mind this is providing a structure for future investigations and putting a much greater emphasis on changing how society views child sexual abuse and how we are going to fund a much better service  to help survivors and become aware of what a big problem child sexual abuse is in this country.

This comes as Simon Bailey, Norfolk’s chief constable who is co-ordinating current police investigations through Operation Hydrant, has said that as a conservative figure there are 100,000 people viewing child sexual abuse images in England and Wales. If that is not a wake up call to the scale of the problem what is.

It also chimes in with the admission from Margaret Hodge in her book Called to Account on how naive she was in the 1980s not believing that  Islington child  sexual abuse was rife because her officials and the police told her it was not true. She admits her biggest failing was not to talk to the victims and survivors at the time.

Why I say the job is half done – is that we do not know whether all the individual inquiries – from Greville Janner  to Westminster and the Church of England will go ahead  as planned.

Given following Ben Emmerson’s resignation she has no  counsel to the inquiry that is not surprising. But I would suspect that these inquiries will have to be narrowed in  scope to prevent the process being overwhelmed. It will require some very judicial decision making to decide which cases will need to be emphasised.

However survivors like Andi Lavery are totally wrong headed to call for her resignation. He does not represent the views of all survivors and it is not even clear whether he has even consulted them before demanding such action.

Her appointment has taken the direction of the inquiry away from just a series of legal type trials to a proper, well rounded scrutiny of the toxic issue of child sexual abuse. And  her role should be welcomed not denigrated.

 

 

 

 

 

Child Sex Abuse Inquiry: Theresa May’s more sensible way forward

Theresa May, home sercretary. Pic Credit: conservatives.com

Theresa May, home sercretary. Pic Credit: conservatives.com

After the complete debacle over the rushed appointment  and swift resignation of Baroness Butler-Sloss to  head the overarching inquiry into child sex abuse, Theresa May met six of the ” Magnificent” seven MPs again.

An account taken from a  couple of them appears on the Exaro site today suggests that the Home Office has now reverted to the way it has followed in setting up all other independent panels, including the Daniel Morgan and Gosport hospital inquiries which means consulting people before appointing people.

From my own sources I always thought Theresa May was rushed into making a decision by a Downing Street panicked by newspaper headlines.

The good news is that the six MPs were unanimous that a survivor MUST sit on the panel and  the home secretary  was open to names. It was also clear that the government will not be rushed again to announce a new chair of the inquiry. MPs also stressed the need for proper help for victims

As important will be the terms of reference for the inquiry, how the inquiry gathers evidence, how far it can investigate and whether the police and the security services get immunity in passing over information.

Here the Home Office will have to do some hard thinking to make sure that the inquiry panel;  must be both seen  to act without fear or favour or people  will lose confidence in its ability to  get to the real facts.

It must be able to go anywhere and tackle the issues in places where there are still secrets like Jersey and Northern Ireland.

It must not just be a lessons learned exercise from previous work – even though that  is all-encompassing in itself – given the large number of inquiries and police investigations.

This is a once in a lifetime chance to sort out the sordid history of child sexual abuse in the United Kingdom and make recommendations – from the investigation of the scandals to proper after care for survivors. The government – and any future government after 2015 – must not blow it this time.

Child Sex Abuse Inquiry: An all party victory for MPs and abuse victims

No one would have thought a week ago that Theresa May, the home secretary, would have announced today an overarching inquiry into child sexual abuse.

The odds were stacked against it for the last two years as David Cameron kept insisting that police investigations had to go first before there could be any inquiry.

Today it all changed. and it was discovered that it was perfectly possible to have both an all embracing independent inquiry and complete the current police investigations at the same time.

The reason why this changed is a combination of persistent journalism, determined abuse victims and their campaigners and a group of very, very determined MPs who put  pressure on the Prime Minister and the Home secretary to act.

The biggest victors today are the child abuse victims – whose stories have been ignored, their suffering played down, and their search for justice thwarted for decades.

Now they will have – even if it takes a couple of years to complete – the promise of a tough, vigilant independent panel that will explore all avenues from  the failure to detect these scandals to how  victims can get proper help to cope with their  damaged lives. If it uses its power to abstract information from the security services and special branch we may well get to the bottom of why prominent people were protected and were safe for decades to practice their vile pursuits..

Rumours suggest that Theresa May  wants to appoint a powerful woman to run the inquiry  which would  send a powerful signal to male dominated Whitehall and Parliament that it means business.

Credit must be paid to hundreds of Twitter followers of Exaro and myself who raised questions with MPs – a powerful use of  new media to change minds and bring attention directly to the people involved./ Without Twitter it would have been much slower and more difficult to achieve the goal.

Tribute must be paid to some tireless MP campaigners – to Zac Goldsmith for the idea of all party approach, to Tom Watson for his gutsy raising of difficult questions and championing abuse victims, to Simon Danczuk for his persistence in pursuing the paedophile Sir Cyril Smith and to the heroic former children’s minister, Tim Loughton, for his organising skills and determination to seek justice and a new system of child protection that could change the climate in this country. Tessa Munt’s skills in honing the letter to the home secretary was crucial in pushing through the case.

For once I would say  the good side of Parliament has triumphed in representing the views of an outraged public who are still reeling from the exposure of loved household celebrities as paedophiles and wanted to see things changed.

Also I hope when journalism has suffered grievous damage from the phone hacking scandal  it has shown that there are investigative journalists – all my colleagues at Exaro – who are prepared to spend  time, energy and fortitude to try and expose accurately and carefully a national scandal and then campaign to get something done. I wish more journalists would do it.