Child sex abuse survivors: a dangerous precedent to withdraw funding

 

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Graham Wilmer, head of the Lantern Project charity Picture reproduced courtesy Rory Wilmer Photography

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The recent media row over the alleged therapy techniques used by the abuse survivors charity, the Lantern Project, which led to the withdrawal of funding is a dangerous precedent.

The row pushed essentially by two newspapers by the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail ( see article here) could have much wider implications than just in the Wirral where the charity is based.

Essentially the allegations centred around two high profile survivors Esther Baker and one known as ” Darren” . Esther’s allegations are currently being examined by Staffordshire Police in a very detailed investigation which  has already led to one arrest and another person being interviewed under caution.

I am not going to comment further on the investigation particularly as the Solicitor General, Robert Buckland, has warned the media of ” the risk of publishing material that gives the impression of pre-judging the outcome of the investigation and any criminal proceedings that may follow, or which might prejudice any such proceedings.”

Indeed I am frankly surprised that both papers thought  they could comment on an active police investigation by casting doubt on the credibility of a survivor and perhaps there may be a case of drawing this to the attention of the Attorney General.

What more concerns me is the decision of the Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group to withdraw substantial funding for the charity in the wake of the Sunday Times allegations.

The reduction appears to be part of a £20m cut affecting other services but by withdrawing the £150,000 and stating firmly they disagree about the use of the therapy -Unstructured  Therapeutic Disclosure – which some people think can cause the medically  unrecognised false memory syndrome- is specifically aimed at cutting support to survivors. As it says “There is no recognition or recommendation of this approach by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).” And it questions whether the Lantern Project has the skilled staff to do this – even though the charity itself refers people back to the GPs in these cases.

However the effect of the withdrawal of the money  is not confined to just two high profile survivors – one of whom-Darren – doesn’t seem to have received the therapy anyway.

It turns out that the charity has been helping  at least 200 to 400 other families and provides or did provide a website forum for some 1000 survivors in the area. Wirral, faced with these other cuts, is not going to provide any money to other organisations – even if they could provide the services, which they can’t anyway.

Also its stance on staff could have implications for other groups that provide counselling to survivors.The Wirral decision on staffing required could provide an excellent excuse for a cash strapped NHS to withdraw support from other charities by saying they should employ psychotherapists as well as trained counsellors. And it is clear that the NHS is going to face a grim winter just providing  basic high profile services to the elderly and sick.

Those who have been concentrating on attacking the charity for supporting these two high profile cases seem to be totally unaware of the effect on other survivors who will now lose support.

They have not entirely been successful either. Norfolk Police Commissioner’s Office which is distributing the £7m to survivors organisations earmarked by the home secretary, Theresa May, is NOT withdrawing money from the Lantern Project, despite being briefed by Wirral CCG. And subject to a professional audit will continue to do so next year.

And the Daily Mail and Sunday Times coverage has had an unintended consequence- the Lantern Project has received £55,000 in two large donations from survivors or their families helped by the project. The money is part of  large compensation payments awarded by the courts on other cases taken up by the Lantern Project.

This means that the charity can continue to do some – but not all of its work. But the damage to services helping survivors has already been done.

UPDATE Dec 13: Since publication of this blog the Sunday Times (see below) has withdrawn its allegation that Esther Baker received the controversial Unstructured Therapeutic Disclosure at the time she made allegations of child sexual abuse. This does cast some doubt on  Wirral’s decision to withdraw the money.

sunday times correction

 

Naysayers at bay:The damning child sex abuse figures that should make them think again

Simon Bailey, chief constable of Norfolk, who is co-ordinating the Operation Hydrant figures Ic credit: Norfolk Constabulary

Simon Bailey, chief constable of Norfolk, who is co-ordinating the Operation Hydrant figures
Pic credit: Norfolk Constabulary

The disclosure by Operation Hydrant – the national co-ordination hub set up by the police to bring together all allegations of  historical child sexual abuse – this week  of a huge number of paedophile suspects should give any naysayer a shock.The figures are released on the National Police Chiefs’ Council website here should give massive cause for concern. There is a separate breakdown for Scotland here.

Basically they show that there are 1433  male suspects of which 216 are deceased Some 666 suspects related to institutions, and 261  are classified as people of public prominence.

Some 506 are classified as unidentified and 357 institutions have been identified within the scope of the operation.

The breakdown of the prominent people is 135  from the world of TV, film or radio,76 are listed as politicians –(it should be noted that these include local-level politicians, not just national figures); 43 are from the music industry and  7 are from the world of sport

Some 357 different institutions have been identified. These include:154 schools,75 children’s homes,40 religious institutions, 14 medical establishments,11 classified as being institutions in communities – youth clubs, community centres etc.,9 Prisons or Young Offenders Institutions, 9 sports venues and  28 other institutions (i.e. military, guest houses) In addition, 17 institutions are classified as ‘unknown’.

These figures come as a surprise even to journalists working on Exaro as they are higher than we  even thought.. But to anyone who has been campaigning to suggest that the almost every claim is based on ” false memory syndrome” or made up to claim compensation this should be a wake up call. Are they really going to say that all these people across the UK have made up these claims? This is just not credible.

Obviously the fact they are suspects means the cases are not yet proven but the perpetrators should stand trial if the police can gather enough evidence.

And when you think that probably each and every suspect has assaulted or molested often scores or more survivors – these are not after all long term relationships – the problem is severe. No wonder former CSA panel member, Graham Wilmer, of the Lantern Project, has told Sky News ” This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

These figures however are not just shocking- they raise questions about what sort of society the United Kingdom is now.

How come professional bodies from the police, social services, the NHS never suspected this was going on or possibly covered it up? How come the media both TV and print never discovered the scale of this at the time? What is going on now that we don’t know about?

It also raises questions about what sort of society we live in where it appears to be OK for minority to prey on children in this vile way? It raises questions for all religious orders – especially the Roman Catholic church where the issue of celibacy could be contributing factor to this problem.. From what I  know there is not  a religious order where they are not allegations of  child sexual abuse whether it is the Anglican Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses , the Methodists and the Mormons.

We also cannot wait EIGHT years for the Goddard Inquiry to decide what new arrangements are required for protecting children in the future.In case there is any doubt about what a horrific experience child sexual abuse is – read the judgement of the Supreme Court this week which lifted the ban on the publication of a book by James Rhodes, the pianist.

Classical pianist James Rhodes. Pic Credit: www.classicalmusic.com

Classical pianist James Rhodes.
Pic Credit: http://www.classicalmusic.com

This is an extract (Warning Strong Language) from the book read out in court:

“Abuse. What a word. Rape is better. Abuse is when you tell a traffic warden to fuck off. It isn’t abuse when a 40 year old man forces his cock inside a six-year-old boy’s ass. That doesn’t even come close to abuse. That is aggressive rape. It leads to multiple surgeries, scars (inside and out), tics, OCD, depression, suicidal ideation, vigorous self-harm, alcoholism, drug addiction, the most fucked-up of sexual hang-ups, gender confusion (‘you look like a girl, are you sure you’re not a little girl?’), sexuality confusion, paranoia, mistrust, compulsive lying, eating disorders, PTSD, DID (the shinier name for multiple personality disorder) and so on and on and on.

I went, literally overnight, from a dancing, spinning, gigglingly alive kid who was enjoying the safety and adventure of a new school, to a walled-off, cement shoed, lights-out automaton. It was immediate and shocking, like happily walking down a sunny path and suddenly having a trapdoor open and dump you into a freezing cold lake.

You want to know how to rip the child out of a child? Fuck him.

Fuck him repeatedly. Hit him. Hold him down and shove things inside him. Tell him things about himself that can only be true in the youngest of minds before logic and reason are fully formed and they will take hold of him and become an integral, unquestioned part of his being.”

Need I say more.

NO survivors on the Goddard child sex abuse inquiry panel

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

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

The Theresa May experiment to appoint survivors to the new inquiry into historical child sexual abuse is over.

Both  the new ” non establishment”  chair Justice Lowell Goddard in her evidence to the Commons home affairs select committee and Graham Wilmer,a former member of the panel, in a letter  disclosed today on Exaro confirm this.

As Lowell Goddard said: “There are inherent risks in having people with personal experience of abuse as members of an impartial and independent panel.”

Frankly the row and bitter campaign by some organisations, l am afraid like the Survivors Alliance, against people appointed to the panel has ended in excluding survivors voices in the writing of the report. They have shot themselves in the foot.

They will obviously be some appointed to an advisory panel – but no one should kid themselves – that they will have the same influence as a member of the panel. It will be up to the judge to decide how often and how much they will be consulted but up to her and her QC adviser, Ben Emmerson, to decide what  will appear in the report. A radical experiment in setting up an inquiry to deal with one of the nastiest and most persistent blots in British public life – the exploitation of children by paedophiles – has been killed  with the help of the very people who suffered that fate.

As Graham Wilmer wrote: “I wanted to inform you that I will not be making any application to be part of the new Goddard inquiry, either as a panel member or as part of any survivors’ advisory group, in whatever form that may take.

“My reasons are these: firstly, I am led to understand that the new panel will not include any survivors, so making an application would be pointless in any case.”

He also blames what he describes as “the clarion voices” of people who falsely claim to represent those who suffered sexual abuse in their childhood, “and the aggressive and abusive tactics of the lone-wolf campaigners, together with the questionable motives of some lawyers and others who claim to represent the interests of survivors.”

There will still be people appointed to the panel but it is now clear they will be professional experts none of whom have had any experience of child sexual abuse themselves.

In my view this a very great shame – it was very difficult to achieve. But survivors will be able to speak to the inquiry and also to the new People’s Tribunal now in the process of being set which has survivors on its steering committee.

” Oh my God” – Gove’s reaction to the prolific paedophile Salesian priest

Michael Gove: shock and awe at revelation at school he declined inquiry

Michael Gove: shock and awe at revelation at school he declined inquiry

Graham Wilmer’s new book The Devil’s Advocate reveals an amazing tussle he had with the Department for Education over trying to get them to consider an inquiry into the running of the Salesian schools as the Met Police Operation Torva was uncovering growing evidence of pedophilia in their order.

A report on the Exaro website reveals the full details of a row between the ministry and Graham Wilmer, who is now a member of Theresa May’s independent panel into national child sexual abuse.

Wilmer says that he “had written several times” to Gove to investigate the Salesian order, which runs several schools in the UK. Wilmer is director of the Lantern Project, a charity that supports CSA victims.

Wilmer writes, “He [Gove] did not respond initially, but one of his officials did, telling me that, while she was ‘saddened to hear what had happened to me’, they were not going to investigate because ‘it was too long ago.’

Eventually he got a letter from Edward Timpson, the children’s minister saying:

“Departmental officials have written to Mr Wilmer a number of times to explain that the secretary of state’s powers in this area are extremely limited.

“The investigation of allegations of abuse is a matter for the local police force, and it is not within the secretary of state’s powers to run a parallel investigation.

“I think that it would also, legal issues aside, be counter-productive and unhelpful. We need to see the outcome of any police investigation before concluding that the department can or should take action.”

Well as my previous blog discloses we now have a finding from the police exposing Father Terence O’Brien, being a prolific paedophile over many years.

So taking the opportunity of being at the Conservative conference I bumped into Michael Gove in a hotel corridor. I put it to him that the police investigation was now completed and they had discovered a prolific paedophile at the Salesian college in Battersea who died in the year 2000

Gove’s reaction was ” Oh my God” but before I could question him further he was hustled away by his minders who informed me he was already late for a meeting.

I have a feeling that this will not be the end of the story. the ministry claims it has few powers to investigate schools and was obviously not keen to do so.

This sounds very much like a matter that will have to be taken up by the inquiry.

Exposed: The sick priest who posed as a psychotherapist to abuse children

Psychotherapists are key people to help disturbed people and child sex abuse victims. There is probably no viler misuse of the profession than to masquerade as one to sexually abuse children.

Yet this is what Father Terence O’Brien did again and again at one of the country’s top Roman Catholic Salesian schools in Battersea, south London according to a  Met police investigation report obtained by Exaro.

The details are available in a new book The Devil’s Advocate: Child Abuse and the Men in Black by Graham Wilmer, a sex abuse victim, who runs the Lantern Project in the Wirral to help survivors and is now a member of the new national inquiry into child sexual abuse set up by Theresa May, the home secretary. You can buy his book here and all the profits go to fund his project.

He describes O’Brien as the Salesian order equivalent  to Jimmy Savile- a prolific paedophile- who died in 2000 but got away with it for years. You read the full story on the Exaro website.

But to give  you an idea of just how vile he is – here is an extract from the police report ( look away now if you are of a sensitive disposition) :

“Fr. O’Brien was a prolific paedophile, who would subject children to strip naked and be massaged, masturbated and physically penetrated, under the pretext that they were being rid of bad spirits that made them behave badly. The children were brought to Fr O’Brien by their parents in the belief that he was a child psychotherapist, and could treat them for their behaviour.

“This abuse was practised on children on a weekly basis, sometimes for years. The victims were instructed never to inform anyone of their treatment, or it would not work.

“Fr O’Brien was not a psychotherapist at all, yet he was allowed to practice his trade upon the grounds of the Salesian school without question, on a regular basis.”

Now you might have thought the Salesian order which runs this reputable school would want to make amends for such damning police findings. But this is their response:

Fr O’Brien did not at any time work from or in the Salesian College in Battersea . He did occupy Salesian property in Battersea but this was not on the school site nor was it part of the school. At no time did he conduct any of his practice from any Salesian school.

 “Fr O’Brien is a subject of Operation Torva, the inquiry being carried out by the Metropolitan Police. We are cooperating fully with the police in their inquiry and unable to comment further beyond saying that there were no allegations concerning Fr O’Brien until the late 1980s and 1990s and allegations were dealt with by the police.

  “In accordance with the Safeguarding policy of the Catholic Church, we do not investigate any allegation of offences against Children. These are passed to the Police.

 The Salesians will, of course, cooperate fully with the forthcoming government inquiry if they are required to do so.”

After further checks I am told the house actually adjoined the school. So the main concern of the Salesians is that Father O’Brien employed as a priest and teacher by the Salesians used a house next door to the school to carry out these vile acts on pupils and children ( both boys and girls) . So it is all right as  it didn’t happen technically  to be on school premises. And they won’t co-operate with the inquiry unless required.

If ever there was a need for this new national inquiry – this is it. Their attitude to this is both sickening and perverse.

 

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.