Esther Baker case: How the child sex abuse inquiry itself abused survivors’ trust and privacy

Alexis Jay at the Rotherham inquiry Pic credit BBC

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UPDATE: Since the publication of this blog the Crown Prosecution Service have responded to my questions. A spokesman said the CPS does not investigate allegations of a crime, including perverting the course of justice. Any allegations coming to them would be referred back to the relevant police force. In this case this would appear  to be Staffordshire police.

 Esther Baker is one of the few child sex abuse survivors who went public  about her allegations that she was abused by her father and other people.

The only other case I can think of recently is  46 year  old Andi Lavery who went public to the Scottish Sun but that followed a trial in Glasgow which led to the conviction of  paedophile Father Francis Moore after Lavery gave evidence anonymously.

Therefore it is rather surprising that independent child sex abuse inquiry should publish  considerable detail naming Esther Baker  in an adjudication in a case they themselves decided was ” highly contentious”. Even more given she had not asked them to re-investigate the case which has already been investigated by Staffordshire Police and could lead to separate civil proceedings. And then they published a false statement against her that they had to retract.

The ruling by Alexis Jay is worth quoting in some detail: This is what she said :”On behalf of Esther Baker, it was submitted that the allegations which she has made
should form part of the Westminster investigation.

Ms Baker alleges that she was sexually assaulted by her father and by persons of public prominence associated with Westminster and that there were institutional failings in connection with that alleged abuse by police and law enforcement services.

She says that her father introduced her to a paedophile ring which included persons of public prominence associated with Westminster. She also says that she was abused from the age of 8 to around age 12 and that the abuse was organised and sometimes ritualistic, that it was filmed, and that the police acted in a security role.

She says that at various times she tried to report the authorities, and as such there were institutional failings.”  I have decided that the Inquiry will not investigate the issues that Ms Baker has raised that relate to her own alleged experiences of child sexual abuse…

“Ms Baker’s allegations are highly contentious.They are the subject of both contested civil proceedings and an ongoing police investigation. I am also aware that Mr Hemming ( former Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham, Yardley) is reported to have made a complaint to the CPS that the allegations that MsBaker has made about him amount to perverting the course of justice.

“The fact that both the police investigation and the civil proceedings are ongoing is a factor that weighs strongly against the Inquiry attempting to investigate these matters. Even if it were appropriate for the Inquiry to investigate these matters before the conclusion of the other proceedings, such an investigation would be extremely resource intensive and would be likely to distract the Inquiry’s attention from the six core issues set out above.”

Now this statement has led Graham Wilmer, himself a former member of the first child sex abuse inquiry, to lodge a complaint which is now being investigated.

He wrote to them”Your decision to publish incorrect information about Esther Baker requires a robust independent investigation. The very idea that the IICSA would publish such incorrect information about a vulnerable victim of child sexual abuse is incomprehensible, and I am now asking you to investigate how this can about under your policies to protect vulnerable witnesses who come forward to the IICSA, regardless of the route.

“The below article in the Daily Mail is yet another example of why vulnerable victims of CSA/CSE should NOT come forward to the IICSA, without absolute assurance that they will be protected at all costs, which in the case of Esther Baker, you have failed completely so to do. As you are well aware, there are ongoing proceedings involving Esther, myself and others, and we will endeavour to expose the truth behind the lies, smears and malicious campaigns that have been waged against us, simply because we spoke out and disclosed what we had suffered. ”

An inquiry spokesperson did not want to comment.””The Inquiry does not comment on private correspondence it receives, nor on ongoing investigations.”

Now apart from releasing this information involving a named person – in other cases the person would have been anonymous -there is a serious flaw in the information that has been released. It implies that she could be investigated for perverting the course of justice for being as the Daily Mail put it ” a fantasist”. Worse their original public statement which was put up without Esther Baker’s knowledge  stated ” I understand that the police inquiries are now focused on whether Ms Baker should be charged with  perverting the course of justice.” 

I am told this was withdrawn after Staffordshire Police contacted them to tell them it was untrue and defamatory and it is now deleted from the website. The inquiry confirmed they had deleted it. Instead there is a reference to a complaint by Mr Hemming to the CPS.

There is NO investigation into Esther Baker about her perverting the course of justice. It is itself a fantasy. Staffordshire Police in a carefully crafted statement said she was a ” victim of crime ” and they are still supporting her. When I asked the police force whether there were further investigations into Esther Baker – after Mr Hemming is said to have complained  about the ” false accusations” against him – they made it clear there are none.

The reason why this is important is that the inquiry is already not trusted by a number of survivors who don’t believe they will get justice. Part of the reason is that survivors think the inquiry will  provide definite proof of sexual abuse against them. But that  is not the purpose of the inquiry – which is instead concentrating on the institutional failures of people not acting when they were told about sexual abuse. The inquiry in the Rochdale case was not afraid to pin people down for not doing their duty but they did not list or name fresh perpetrators.

In these circumstances you would expect the inquiry to be very sensitive about handling vulnerable survivors. Alexis Jay has already – rightly in my view – asked both survivors and those  representing people   who have been accused – to tone down their language.

Her previous ruling ends: ” I would …make a final plea that all those who report on the issues with which this Inquiry is concerned, and all those who comment on those issues using social media, should do so exercising a level of restraint and respect that is commensurate with the sensitivity of those issues, and the vulnerability of many of the individuals involved.”

Sound advice. She needs to take it herself.

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Rochdale child sex abuse: A 30 year scandal that the authorities failed to stop

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Knowl View School, Rochdale Pic Credit: TheUKdatabase.com

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The report by the Independent Inquiry Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse into Rochdale is a  detailed devastating document of the failure of its senior local authority  officials , councillors, the CPS and even the Honours Committee to tackle  the issue of long standing abuse.

The only organisation that seems to come out well over this is Lancashire Police which tried to prosecute Sir Cyril Smith – the paedophile Liberal Democrat MP  – but was frustrated by a wrong and questionable legal decision by the Crown Prosecution Service. And it might be said the brave and diligent journalists on the Rochdale Alternative Press who did expose the scandal only to be let down by a feeble mainstream media who were too frightened to taken on the popular Sir Cyril.

The damning findings go well beyond the behaviour of Sir Cyril Smith – a VIP paedophile I doubt even Daniel Janner or Times columnist David Aaronvitch could defend – they show for three decades young children were sexually abused while very senior officials, council leaders and staff in the school and hostel did nothing or deliberately turned a blind eye.

There were two main sexual abuse centres in the town – Cambridge Health, a hostel for young workers – and Knowl View School, a  residential place for maladjusted kids which was supposed to be a refuge from pretty appalling homes.

Let’s be clear who we are talking about. The inquiry quotes  Diana Cavanagh (then Rochdale’s  Director of Education), writing in 1994, children who were attending Knowl View School “… have been unable to cope with mainstream and (often) their family circumstances. Many have a poor self-image, have been abused and are on the Child Protection Register, have not found it possible to make good relationships with other children. Some are extremely withdrawn, avoiding contact or relationships with others and running away if pressurised. Some are aggressive and violent towards their family, other pupils and staff, both posing a physical risk to others and disrupting other pupils’ education. Some manipulate or bully other children and constantly use inappropriate language or inappropriate sexual behaviour. They may be out of control and attention-seeking at home and school …”

These were the kids whom the authorities failed to protect from a predatory convicted paedophile,Roderick Hilton, from camping outside the school gates and entering the premises. They were the people who allowed Sir Cyril Smith to conduct bogus medical examinations  so he could cane the bare buttocks of young kids.

They were the people once it was known that kids from the school – one possibly as young as eight – were cottaging with sexual predators in public toilets in plain sight of the social services directorate’s office and tried to lambast the staff at the school for talking to an official from the local health authority who raised the alarm.

There is also a damning finding from the inquiry about the role of the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee in their deliberations in recommending a knighthood for Cyril Smith.

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Child abuser Sir Cyril Smith Pic Credit: dreamcatchersfor abusedchildren.com

The inquiry found far from there being a cover up about his appalling behaviour – they knew all about it but didn’t believe it. The report says:

“It is also clear from the correspondence that what was of most concern to the PHSC was fairness towards Smith and concern for the reputational risk to the honours system caused by adverse media coverage.

 “Concern for those who may have been abused by Smith did not feature.

“Moreover, the documents show a marked tendency to take Cyril Smith’s progress in local and national politics, along with his previous honour (an MBE in 1966), as evidence that the allegations were unlikely to be true.

“This demonstrates a significant deference to power and an unwillingness to consider that someone in a position of public prominence might be capable of perpetrating abuse. This matters because the conferring of a knighthood on Smith was to make him even more powerful. ( my emphasis in bold).”

An interesting comment given recent events.

Then there are the two  Rochdale council leaders – one Labour and one Liberal Democrat. The former Labour leader is branded a liar by the inquiry.

“It was in our view shameful and a dereliction of his responsibility as Leader at the time that Farnell not only refused to accept any personal responsibility, but also was perfectly prepared to lay the blame on the Directors of Education and Social Services as well as the Chief Executive Officer for his claimed state of ignorance.697 In so doing, Mr Farnell soughtto shirk his responsibility and render himself totally unaccountable for the ills of Knowl View and the children who suffered. This is the opposite of honest, dutiful and responsible leadership.”

They are equally dismissive of Paul Rowen, the Lib Dem leader and later MP:

“We felt, just like Richard Farnell, that he was prepared to blame others for their faults without acknowledging his own failures of leadership. At best, he was insufficiently inquisitive about Knowl View School when the evidence that he knew about was that serious problems persisted there, which would not be resolved quickly; at worst, he turned a blind eye to the very serious problems that were in his judgment low down on the priority list.

“Although he boasted that the style of his administration was to be a departure from the past, his misplaced reliance on Council officers allowed him to sidestep his own responsibility, and blame others when he never made any or any sufficient enquiry either about the really serious problems that affected the school and its children or the efforts to deal with those problems while he was Leader. This demonstrated a lack of judgment and a failure of leadership.”

And two leading officials, were also criticised.

 Ian Davey, the Acting Director of Social Services, chose not to pursue child protection measures, a decision that was professionally indefensible and extremely poor judgment on his part.

“Diana Cavanagh, the Director of Education, commissioned reports and producedher own report. While some of this was useful, each of the reports was flawed in some respects, including factual accuracy. There was no urgency on the part of these senior officials to address the problems of sexual abuse at the school, and matters were left to drift.”

This is a catalogue of horrors. More will no doubt come out when the inquiry examine Lambeth and Nottingham. But I suspect it is the tip of a very large iceberg that even this huge inquiry will not be able to investigate. What about Richmond in south London, what will come out in Telford. What about Oxford, Staffordshire, Islington Rotherham,Leicestershire. What about other big cities and  has it been solved now. I doubt it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Janner’s family – and his accusers – denied core participation status in Westminster child sexual abuse inquiry

Alexis Jay at the Rotherham inquiry Pic credit BBC

alexis jay at her previous inquiry into Rotherham child sexual abuse

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The Janner family and their accusers have all been denied ” core participant ” status in Westminster child sexual abuse strand of the independent child sexual abuse inquiry.

Instead they will keep ” core participant” status in a separate strand of the inquiry which examine the allegations against his father in an inquiry into child sexual abuse in institutions in Leicestershire where he was an MP.

Core participants have special rights in the Inquiry process. These include receiving disclosure of documentation, being represented and making legal submissions, suggesting questions and receiving advance notice of the Inquiry’s report.

Alexis Jay, chair of the inquiry, announced the decision, following an appeal by his son, Daniel Janner and his two daughters, Marion and Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner.

Daniel Janner told the preliminary hearing in January :”The strand does risk turning into a witch-hunt of dead politicians,a circus, where fantasists will have free rein to live out their fantasies in evidence. There were no paedophile rings in Westminster, save in warped imaginations. But the evidence and findings of the Westminster strand will have an influence and bearing on the strand which follows in my late father’s name, because, madam chairman, the two strands — again,  as we have witnessed today — are inevitably and inexorably intertwined.”

Alexis Jay said yesterday: ” The extent that Mr Janner’s application is based on concerns about his father’s reputation, and his ability to respond to allegations made about his father, these are matters for the Investigation involving the late Lord Janner of Braunstone QC, in which the children of the late Lord Janner have already been granted core participant status.”

The inquiry also refused an appeal by a survivor who was sexually abused under the care of Hackney social services. but he may be able to appear as a witness.

” I acknowledge that WM-A4 may be able to provide the investigation with a first-hand account of what his lawyer described as “a system” of practices involving child sexual abuse operating at Westminster. This may well make him a useful witness to this investigation and the Inquiry will consider whether to ask him to provide a witness statement.”

Other decisions made earlier include granting core participant status to Esther Baker,

Alexis Jay said of her :
“Ms Baker alleges that she was sexually assaulted by persons of public prominence associated with Westminster and that there were institutional failings in
connection with that alleged abuse by police and law enforcement services.

“Ms Baker was under 18 years of age at the time of the sexual abuse described and therefore within the Inquiry’s terms of reference. Ms Baker also alleges related failings by public officers and bodies. I am also aware that Ms Baker has spoken publicly and in her own name about these matters, and I regard that as an important factor in considering the nature of her interest in this investigation.”

The Westminster strand also  accepted as core participants survivors who say they were sexually abused by Sir Cyril Smith- the former Rochdale MP – in  the context of Westminster. And Mike Veale, chief constable of Wiltshire Police, who ran Operation Conifer, into allegations of sexual abuse by Edward Heath, will also be a core participant.

Among others turned down for this strand include Jonathon Brackenbury who alleged sexual abuse in the military,  one from Sarah McDonagh  alleging sexual abuse involving a magistrates bench and one from Sabine McNeill on a  cult in Hampstead, London. Jonathan Brackenbury decided on his own volition to withdraw his application but is willing to be  called as a witness giving details he gave to the now closed  Met police Operation Midland while he was working as a Homeless Housing Worker in the West End / Earls Court area of London in the 1980s. He is also proposing to submit a case to the inquiry for an investigation into sexual abuse in the military.

 

 

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.