Child sex abuse:How Lady Macur exonerated the Waterhouse inquiry over convicted paedophile Gordon Anglesea

lady justice macur

Lady Macur

gordon-anglesea-pic-credit-bbc-and-john-price

Gordon Anglesea: Now a dead convicted paedophile Pic Credit: BBC and John Price

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While the political world was convulsed over Brexit  Whitehall decided to remove one of  the major redactions in last year’s report by Lady Macur, an appeal judge, which reviewed the inquiry undertaken by Sir Ronald Waterhouse  in the 1990s into the scandal of child sex abuse in North Wales.

The redaction involves her investigation and findings into the  tribunal’s role  in investigating  Gordon Anglesea, a retired North Wales police superintendent, convicted of sexually abusing two teenage boys in October last year.

He is the superintendent who won £375,000 damages in 1994 ina libel case against two national newspapers, The Observer and the Independent on Sunday, the magazine Private Eye and HTV, the holder of the ITV franchise in Wales. His legal costs were underwritten by the Police Federation.

Anglesea claimed the four media organisations had accused him of being a child abuser during visits he made to the Bryn Estyn children’s home just outside Wrexham. He denied it and jury found for Anglesea.

The recent death of Anglesea – which meant he can’t appeal  his conviction last year- allows him to be named in her report for the first time. And the findings are interesting given the subsequent conviction of Anglesea by Operation Pallial, the National Crime Agency’s investigation and also the libel case in 1994.

The references to Anglesea are in the chapter on freemasonry. She examines the investigation carried out by the Witness Interviewing Team (WIT). This was headed  by Reginald Briggs, a retired Detective Chief Inspector who had served in the South Wales police force and was a Freemason.  She sees no conflict in  the tribunal employing a freemason to investigate another freemason. Gordon Anglesea was also a freemason.

“This Review has specifically considered whether there is anything within the material which suggests that the investigations made on behalf of the Tribunal into freemasonry was less thorough by reason of this fact. I have found nothing to suggest this was the case and illustrate the point below predominately in relation to two establishment figures identified during the course of the Tribunal as Freemasons, namely Gordon Anglesea and Lord Kenyon,” [ Lord Kenyon was a Provincial Grand Master, and a member of the North Wales Police Authority in the 1980s]

She accepts that one  survivor witness against Anglesea was difficult to trace and when finally contacted mentioned other people not him. Another witness who was in prison is described as ” fixated by Anglesea’s and his alleged involvement in a
paedophile ring.”

“The statement produced records his assertions that in 1991 he had seen part of a video featuring  Anglesea sexually abusing a boy and girl.

“The video had allegedly been stolen from a local Councillor subsequently prosecuted for
possession of a large quantity of pornography.

“He said he developed photographs from the video and sent them anonymously to the Chief Constable of the NWP.”

The tribunal concluded this witness was not credible and he was never called.

A lot of time was spent tracing people who might know Anglesea and about his visits to Bryn  Estyn including finding one freemason in the same lodge but he said he only knew him by sight.

The report adds: “However, more than one contributor to this Review still question whether enough was done to find evidence against Anglesea or to properly examine the links between freemasonry and the failure to investigate child abuse allegations.”

The inquiry was hampered by one witnesses refusing to give a statement and another witness was deemed to be unreliable despite evidence of Anglesea helping the notorious paedophile Peter Howarth, who ran the home and was subsequently jailed, line up boys. The tribunal was not certain whether he was there at the time.

She does add one very interesting piece of evidence that was witheld from the tribunal.

“I am aware that an allegation of a relatively minor indecent assault was made against Anglesea by an adult acquaintance of his family prior to the commencement of the Tribunal hearings.

“It appears that Counsel to the Tribunal was informed that “the CPS had decided to take no further action in the case on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to support criminal proceedings”, but apparently not of the fact that Anglesea had lied, on his own subsequent admission, when first interviewed under caution about the allegation.”

…” I wrote to the present Chief Constable of the NWP on 15 May 2015 in relation to this
non disclosure. The Chief Constable responded indicating that there is no material
in the possession of the NWP to indicate why the file was not disclosed, but that it is
possible that the file’s relevance to the issue of credibility was overlooked.

She concludes:”I regard the evidence that had lied when first interviewed under caution about the allegation of indecent assault against an adult acquaintance of the family was relevant to the issue of his credibility.

Counsel to the Tribunal do not appear to have been made aware of this fact and would have been at a disadvantage in justifying their request for disclosure. It is likely that the NWP overlooked the issue of credibility in favour of considering whether the facts of the
alleged offence constituted similar fact evidence.

“This information may have been significant in the Tribunal’s appraisal of his credibility and would have been ‘fresh’ evidence to that which had been available in the libel trial.”

In other words in a civil case which ended up  with the media paying out £375,000 damages – the fact that Anglesea was a proven liar could have swayed the jury to bring in a different verdict.

Her overall verdict is to exonerate the Tribunal. And she is not in favour of further reviews of other tribunals covering child  sex abuse and certainly not a public inquiry. She does not accept there were any paedophile rings involving Freemasons and VIPs- witholding the information from the public.

She is in favour of thorough police investigations – and perhaps mindful that the police might secure a conviction after her report- hedges her bets on this saying police investigations are better at solving complaints than public inquiries.

Her one other recommendation suggests the police should look at the perversion of course of justice and malfeasance in public office.

She concludes:

“In general, I would advise caution in embarking upon a review of the workings of previous tribunals or boards of inquiry without a considered opinion of the time likely to be involved and the consequent outcome to be achieved.

” The conclusions of a rapid investigation into a broad and complex topic will be unlikely to allay the concerns and anxieties of interested parties or the public in general.

“An exhaustive review will produce results that may no longer be relevant to the circumstances which initiated the investigation.

“In any event, it should be appreciated that the conclusions of any such body will not meet with universal approval. Those with an interest, personal or otherwise, will seek
justification for their views and be unlikely to accept the contrary.”

A very Establishment view, Lady Macur. The full report and written statement from Alun Cairns, the Wales Secretary is here.

 

Why are we waiting for Lady Macur’s Review into child sex abuse in North Wales?

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Why does a judge having meticulously completed a major report on failings in investigating historic child sexual abuse in North Wales want to redact her own findings?

This is the bizarre  question facing  Lady  Justice Macur who on December 15 last year handed in her final independent report to the Welsh Office and the Ministry of Justice. Yet only weeks later Caroline Dinenage, the junior minister at Ministry of Justice, told Ann Clwyd, Labour MP for Cynon Valley, that the judge herself was recommending ” certain material  should be considered for redaction”.

She also disclosed that ” the report needs to be considered by law enforcement agencies and the government before it can be published. This includes considering whether redactions need to be  made”.

At the moment there is no date for publication – rather like the situation until last month surrounding  Dame Janet’s Smith’s report into Savile at the BBC which had been delayed for more than a year after being completed.

The report is particularly significant for survivors of child sexual and physical abuse in North Wales children’s homes. An inquiry  by Sir Ronald Waterhouse into the abuse of children in care in the former Gwynedd and Clwyd council areas of North Wales between 1974 and 1996 was supposed to get to the root of the problem and see perpetrators jailed.

But it is now obvious some 20 years later that it failed to do so as Operation Pallial under the National Crime Agency has brought many perpetrators to the courts where they have either been found guilty and imprisoned or not guilty and allowed to continue with their lives.

The review will examine some very important questions. Was the scope of the first review adequate or did the terms of reference allow people to escape justice? Did the North Wales police do an adequate job investigating these crimes? How did some people get away with abuse? What do the police, the authorities and the government need to do to prevent such a repetition?

Yet at least two Welsh MPs Ann Clwyd and Wrexham MP Ian Lucas are far from happy about the fresh delay – the inquiry was started four years ago.

Ann Clwyd is particularly sceptical as to why the government needs to scrutinise the report before it is published.

She points out in a letter to Caroline Dinenage that it is meant to be independent of government but now the government will decide when it will be published and what will be published.

She wants to know whether the government and law enforcement agencies have been set deadlines and who will take the decision to redact what material and why.

It may be with Operation Pallial still to bring some cases to court notably the trial of ex  North Wales police chief Gordon Angelsea whose case is not due to start until  September that some material may not be published to avoid prejudicing the trial.

However none of this has been made clear. The Wales Office and the Ministry of Justice need to get on with this – set a date for publication – or suspicions will grow that both departments have something to hide. They owe this to the survivors of these appalling cases in children’s homes in North Wales.

 

 

Why Theresa May was right to ignore David Aaronovitch over child sex abuse in North Wales

Times columnist David Aaronovitch. Pic credit :Flickr

Times columnist David Aaronovitch. Pic credit :Flickr

Two years ago when Theresa May announced she was re-opening the police investigation into the North Wales child abuse scandal  Times columnist David Aaronovitch penned a highly controversial column warning that the nation was in danger of mounting a modern witch hunt over alleged paedophilia. Indeed his post was entitled Beware a modern Salem over child abuse.

He  pointed out that both the  original John Jillings report and the ” exhaustive inquiry ” by retired judge Sir Ronald Waterhouse Lost in Care had found no evidence of a paedophile ring and therefore  there was no need for any fresh inquiries.

I remember disagreeing with him on the BBC Radio Four’s Today programme over his findings after reading the report. He was right about  Waterhouse’s findings but failed to notice that the findings somewhat jarred with the detailed evidence contained in the same report.

He also firmly disagreed with the line taken by one survivor’s solicitor, Steve Messham, that Waterhouse had too limited a remit to inquire properly into the idea of an abuse network.

Fast forward to this week and Operation Pallial, the National Crime Agency run investigation set up by Theresa May, has achieved its first scalp,John Allen. He was sent to prison for life and given he is 73 will probably die there.

Nor was this minor stuff – he was convicted of 33 extra charges – that somehow had been missed in an earlier police investigation. The full background is outlined here in the Liverpool Daily Post. And he is not the only one to face new allegations which will be heard in future trials. To be accurate the latest Pallial statistics say 13 more people are facing trial, there are over 100 new suspects and over 200 survivors coming forward.

Now if David Aaronovitch had won the argument Mr Allen would be a free man and would have got away with all this and died peacefully at home. A  lot of survivors claims would never have been proven and left to fester on no doubt ” lurid and preposterous” ( as Aaronvitch would have it) sites on the internet.

Of course Mr Allen, who had already been found guilty of previous offences, claimed in his defence he wasn’t gay, was not sexually attracted to children and had suffered a “miscarriage of justice ” when he was convicted in  the first place. His accusers were making it up to get compensation money, his defence lawyers said. The jury did not buy this.

I raise this because some of the commentariat and the Establishment believe the latest allegations of a Westminster paedophile ring and alleged murders of some of the victims is another fantasy and leading to a new witch hunt. While the investigation is in no way as advanced as Pallial – Pallial shows it needs following through.

Theresa May in setting up Pallial  and an overarching child sex abuse inquiry obviously does believe that further investigations are needed to find out  what really happened decades ago. She is in on record that this could be ” the tip of an iceberg”. David Cameron believes this is ” stuff of conspiracy theories ” and David Aaronovitch reflects this view in his own column and tweets.

I am backing Theresa May on this one.