The Archbishop admits it: sexual abuse rampant in Britain

Today my colleague Tim Wood reveals the full details of a recent private letter from Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to Marilyn Hawes,the Hertfordshire mother of three boys sexually abused at a Church of England school more than a decade ago.

The contents will confirm what everybody connected with following the child sexual abuse scandal as it has been developing, knows – that child sexual abuse has been rampant, as he puts it, across institutions in Britain.

As Tim discloses in his article on the Exaro website and in the Sunday Times the Archbishop – who is known to see this as a major problem in society – does not mince his words.

“It is now clear that in a huge number of institutions and localities, the abuse of children and vulnerable adults has been rampant. That is not in any way mitigation or excuse for the church, but is why I have been, with Paul Butler,( The Bishop of Durham) pushing for the public inquiry that the government has promised.”

“It is also clear that there is a very significant legacy of unacknowledged cases in the Church of England. We are taking all necessary steps to face these.”

The mother’s tale is very familiar to many – first denial, then being shunned, and  then receiving a brush off at the top of the Church of England until now. At least the perpetrator in  this case, a music teacher, was caught and jailed.

The tragedy of this case comes as Theresa May, the home secretary, has reluctantly finally agreed to set up an overarching child sex abuse inquiry into historic and current abuse.

Unfortunately just as something good was about to happen – after heroic efforts by MPs of almost all parties – the inquiry has now become mired in a row over the appointment of its chair, Fiona Woolf, the Mayor of the City of London. Her links with Leon Brittan, who is likely to be one of the witnesses because of documents detailing VIP abuse disappearing in the past and under his watch as home secretary in the 1980s, appear not to have been properly investigated.

Normally people could celebrate the government tasking some action to find out what has been a hidden scandal in this country for decades. But they can’t until this mess over the inquiry is sorted out.

 

 

 

Survivors speak: Fiona Woolf must declare how well she knows Leon Brittan

The remarkably busy Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Woolf, needs to come clean about her links to former home secretary Leon Brittan, according to a number of child abuse survivors who have contacted Exaro.

They want the newly appointed chairman of the inquiry – who is yet to chair her first meeting –  to explain exactly how much contact she had with the Brittans.

A report by my colleagues Mark Conrad and Tim  Wood  on Exaro highlights the concern by survivors -particularly among those involved in an alleged Westminster paedophile ring.

Two witnesses who gave accounts to Exaro of how MPs and other VIPs sexually abused them and other children at a series of parties at Dolphin Square, a residential block close to Parliament, expressed deep unease about Woolf’s appointment.

One said: “I would like to see a full and transparent statement from Fiona Woolf as to her links, and why survivors should have confidence in her ability to chair this inquiry.”

The concern about Brittan centres round the disappearance of a dossier submitted to him by former Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Dickens, allegedly naming VIP paedophiles.

Once again this seems to emphasise the need for Fiona Woolf to clear matters up  so that survivors have confidence in the inquiry.

Crunch week for the Child Sex Abuse inquiry

fiona woolf, new chair of the CSA inquiry; pic credit: www.fionawoolf.com

fiona woolf, new chair of the CSA inquiry; pic credit: http://www.fionawoolf.com

The future direction of the overarching inquiry into child sexual abuse announced by Theresa May, the home secretary, should become clearer next week.

I understand from more than one source that Fiona Woolf, the new chairman  and Lord Mayor of London, is likely to make a statement setting out exactly what her connection is with her near neighbours Leon and Diana Brittan following criticism  about them by Simon Danczuk, one of the MPs who backed the need for an inquiry , and survivors alarmed at another cover- up at Westminster.

As I write in Exaro today she has  been under fire from the Mail on Sunday about her links mainly with Leon’s wife Diana, whom she also served under for three years as a magistrate in the City of London. The Mail on Sunday is expected to return to the fray tomorrow.

Her appointment has been defended by one of the key members and a survivor himself, Graham Wilmer. As he told Exaro;

“I think that she is the right person for the job. We need someone who is not involved in the issues of child sex abuse who can apply a legal mind to a very complex and wide-ranging inquiry.

“I have been on too many inquiries entirely composed of experts on child sex abuse who spend their time arguing and do not come to a conclusion.”

Tom Watson has also  backed an inquiry going ahead despite misgivings from survivors about Fiona WEoolf’s connection with the Brittans. His blog explains.

But Simon Danczuk is still pursuing the issue.

He challenged William Hague, now leader of the House, in Parliament on Thursday demanding a debate.

He told him :“Although I am anxious for the inquiry to be got up and running, I am disturbed by the apparent links between the new chair and Lord Brittan, who is alleged to be at the heart of the paedophile scandal and cover-up surrounding Westminster.”

Mr Hague defended her: “She is a very distinguished person, who is well able to conduct the inquiry to the very highest standards of integrity.

“The government is therefore confident that she has the skills and experience needed to set the direction of the inquiry, lead the work of the panel, challenge individuals and institutions without fear or favour, really get into this issue and stop these terrible things happening again. I think that we should support her in doing this work.”

At present the Lord Mayor is abroad in Africa. You could find out all about her on her website.

She has a full programme of business trips for the City of London. You can find out about them here She is in Africa until September 18, goes to Latvia from September 21-24 and to China and Vietnam from October 5- 15.

How the inquiry develops will depend on Fiona Woolf’s response to the allegations, who else is appointed to the committee and its terms of reference. Hopefully all will be revealed by the end of next week.

Child Sex Abuse Inquiry: A job half done by Theresa May

Job half done:Theresa May, home sercretary. Pic Credit: conservatives.com

Job half done:Theresa May, home sercretary. Pic Credit: conservatives.com

Will the second attempt  by Theresa May, the home secretary, to restart the process  of setting up an overarching inquiry into child sexual abuse fall into another elephant trap?

Within days of her appointment Fiona Woolf, the Lord Mayor of London and  lawyer, to chair the inquiry questions about her suitability have surfaced in  the Mail on Sunday because of her links with the family of Leon Brittan.

Survivors who might be tempted to give evidence will be alarmed at any link with Leon Brittan  for many reasons.The row about the loss of papers by the Home Office sent in by the former MP the late Geoffrey Dickens which are alleged to named paedophiles during his watch in the early 1980s is one.

He is also- even though he vehemently denies the allegation –  still the subject of a Met Police investigation into the rape of young woman before he became an MP.

Fiona Woolf needs to clarify exactly what the relationship with her neighbours, the Brittans is- not for prurient interest in her private life – but to assure worried  survivors that no friendship will cloud judgements. Frankly it shouldn’t. If it is purely tenuous there should be no problem, if it isn’t there could be one.

But why are we back to this?

Given the furore over the appointment of first chair, Baroness Butler- Sloss, who resigned after Exaro revealed the conflict of interest because her late brother, Lord Havers, a former attorney general, had been involved in restricting the terms of the inquiry into the Kincora scandal in Northern Ireland, you would have thought every avenue would have been followed to avoid a similar problem.

As I reported over the weekend on the Exaro website indeed  at least 60 candidates were considered and  it was said to have been properly vetted by home office officials.

But before a final judgement is made we need to see the full picture – the full terms of reference, the rest of the people appointed to the inquiry, and then pass judgement.

This is because the rest of  the appointments – some of them brave –  do ensure there will be independent voices on the panel.None of the rest can be connected with the Establishment.

Graham Wilmer, whom followers of this blog will be familiar,is no push over. He is a survivor himself, a  vigorous campaigner against abuse in the Salesian order, and also runs the Lantern project in the Wirral which helps survivors, though has not received the money that is needed to really tackle the problem. He also sits on a committee about safeguarding survivors chaired by the Bishop of Durham, which is currently looking at what more work it should do.

Barbara Hearn, the former deputy chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, whom I have also met, has been wrongly traduced on Twitter just because in a previous age the body was associated with the  paedophile Peter Righton. At the moment she is providing campaigning MP Tom Watson – who raised the Righton scandal in Parliament- with expert help on how to help and counsel the many survivors who come to him.. For the record she is doing this on a voluntary basis, the antithesis of the view that anyone in Parliament must be on a gravy train.

Then there is Professor Alexis Jay, who as expert adviser, to the committee, record speaks for itself. She is the person who exposed the unbelievable scandal in Rotherham – a fount of knowledge of the exploitation of young people by sex abusers.

Finally there is the counsel, Ben Emmerson, He is not only a human rights lawyer but the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter Terrorism. He is currently looking at the use of drones  to kill terrorists and more often innocent citizens in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan.. His work is not exactly going to please the US and UK governments and campaigning MP, Tom Watson, is also backing him to the hilt over this issue as well.

Now he is going to devote his considerable legal expertise to tackling child sexual abuse and whether there have been cover ups in this country.

All this means – if there is another row over the setting up of this inquiry – we must not throw everything out.

Now is the time for careful thought and analysis not rushed judgements -Theresa May’s job is only half done.