The arrogance of Daniel Janner over the future of the Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry

daniel-janner-qc

Daniel Janner QC Pic credit: http://www.regulatorycriminallawyers.co.uk

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

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.

 

Time for Dame Lowell Goddard to explain why she quit

lowell goddard

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

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

The shock decision of Dame Lowell Goddard to quit the child sex abuse inquiry has been compounded by her very terse statement on why she resigned. See here Dame_Lowell_Goddard_letter

Survivors have been suddenly let down  by someone who only two years ago committed herself to a five year comprehensive inquiry that would cover every aspect of child sex abuse from VIP paedophiles to institutions as varied as children’s homes, religious orders,  schools and colleges.
It already has a packed programme  including a controversial hearing of the facts surrounding the allegations against Lord Janner; the scandal in Rochdale around Sir Cyril Smith, Lambeth Council, the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England to name but a  few. It was also, I understand, to look at the Westminster paedophile ring and Operation Midland but not until 2018.

So her decision to leave at this crucial moment when the inquiry was starting to get into its stride is more perplexing. Her statement today in full  read :

“I announce with regret my decision to resign as Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, effective from today.

“When I was first approached through the British High Commissioner in Wellington in late 2014, and asked to consider taking up the role, I had to think long and hard about it. After carefully discussing the matter with the Home Secretary and her Officials and seeking the counsel of those people in New Zealand whose opinions mattered to me, I decided that I should undertake the role, given my relevant experience and track record in the area.  It was however an incredibly difficult step to take, as it meant relinquishing my career in New Zealand and leaving behind my beloved family.

“The conduct of any public inquiry is not an easy task, let alone one of the magnitude of this. Compounding the many difficulties was its legacy of failure which has been very hard to shake off and with hindsight it would have been better to have started completely afresh.

“While it has been a struggle in many respects I am confident there have been achievements and some very real gains for victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse in getting their voices heard. I have nothing but the greatest of respect for the victims and survivors and have particularly enjoyed working with the Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel which I established.”

What I find particularly perplexing is her implication that she should never have been appointed to continue the inquiry in the first place. If suggests that she did not think things through.

The inquiry following the resignations of Baroness Butler Sloss and Fiona Woolf because of conflicts of interest had already been remodelled – changing it from an independent panel to a  statutory judicial inquiry. Its work  and costs have gone up enormously and Lowell Goddard, as The Times pointed out, has taken time off and obviously misses her family.

The volume of work must be enormous – I know from sitting on a much smaller independent panel myself which I cannot talk about – that historic inquiries generate masses of documents.

In the child abuse area  a chair also needs to have a tough skin and a focused mind – since he or she is entering a minefield of controversy – and will face a barrage of complaints from a small but vocal minority who don’t believe that most of the child abuse took place – and most survivors are liars or bounty hunters.

Remember there are websites  devoted to the idea  that Jimmy Savile was totally innocent and everything has been made up by disturbed people. After all as Dame Janet Smith found the BBC either didn’t know or couldn’t bring itself to believe that he was a paedophile.

Therefore it seems to me that if she thinks there is something wrong in the process she should say so and she owes  the public who paid her a lot of money to chair this inquiry a full and frank explanation.

Reports suggested to me that her decision to go was not sudden. She has been seen as a little distant from event ( and not just physically ). There have been suggestions that Home Officials have tried to capture the direction of an independent inquiry and other suggestions that Ben Emmerson, the counsel in charge of the inquiry, may have had too much power.

Whatever happened we need a full explanation. And action from the Home Office and Theresa May, the PM who originally set up the inquiry as home secretary to make sure investigations and hearings go ahead regardless.

As I am the only person made redundant from Exaro who has a personal website – I intend to continue reporting on child sex abuse issues here and on Byline.com. Those who wish to keep abreast of developments should follow this blog or keep an eye on  Byline.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Is Lowell Goddard moving towards a ” Show Trial ” over the Westminster Paedophile Ring?

lowell goddard

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

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

Last month I  highlighted Ben Emmerson’s opening address to the Goddard Inquiry in which the leading counsel raised the argument of examining false accusations of child sex abuse and finding  against those who made them – effectively putting ” survivors on trial “.

I wrote: “this threat …must be very real for survivors who may want to give evidence in highly contentious cases. If  it does – sometime down the route – look at the Westminster paedophile ring – will ” Nick ” be expected to testify and face questions from lawyers for Harvey Proctor  who is alleged to be his abuser ( and vociferously denies it)- at the risk that a ” court” will decide he could be publicly condemned for going to the police in the first place.”

Now Lowell Goddard has confirmed this in an otherwise finely balanced statement issued surprisingly on All Fools Day ( but then she is a New Zealander and may not have known).

In it she says:

“. I am committed to ensuring that we hear all relevant testimony, including from victims and survivors as well as from those affected by false allegations of abuse. As I announced in November last year, the Inquiry intends to explore the balance which must be struck between encouraging the reporting of child sexual abuse and protecting the rights of the accused.  

I am determined to get the process of the Inquiry right.

I will ensure that all relevant evidence is considered. As is standard practice in public inquiries, questions to witnesses will normally be asked by Counsel to the Inquiry whose role will include, where necessary, the exploration of witness credibility. Affected parties will not ordinarily be permitted to ask questions of witnesses directly, but as I said in my Opening Statement in July 2015, affected parties are entitled to make an application to ask direct questions and I will grant those applications if fairness requires it. “

Yes there is a point here but the press seem to have immediately interpreted this to mean that  Harvey Proctor will have his day in court so he can condemn ” Nick” and ” Nick’s ” credibility will be judged by Lady Goddard and Ben Emmerson.

I am not going to comment further on Proctor’s case  but  draw attention  to another scenario.

Dame Janet Smith’s conclusion on the Jimmy  Savile scandal at the BBC concluded that  paedophiles were both very clever and manipulative ( Harvey Proctor’s lawyers please note this is not a reference to him).

Now just imagine if Bishop Peter Ball had appeared before Goddard after he had been first cleared but well before his recent conviction as a sex offender in a fresh police investigation.

Justice Goddard and Ben Emmerson would have heard what a decent and well respected chap he was from George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, Tory Mp, Tim Rathbone, Lord Justice Lloyd and ex Tory minister Sir Tim Renton. What chance would any  survivor have against such a phalanx of the great and good to be ” credible” let alone ” credible and true”. I can just imagine the line of questioning from Ben Emmerson and he wouldn’t be hauling the former Archbishop of Canterbury over the coals.

And how utterly stupid Lowell Goddard and Ben Emmerson would have looked when a subsequent police inquiry found the Bishop guilty.

The pitfalls of handling the Westminster paedophile allegations in such a way should be clear to see and the inquiry better think very carefully about how they are going to do it. And survivors again the  Latin words ” Caveat Emptor” – buyer beware – should be utmost in their minds  before taking part in such an inquiry.

 

 

A worrying indictment of how child sex abuse cases are handled today

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

This week the inquiry into historic child sexual abuse under New Zealand judge Lady Justice Goddard will start preliminary hearings which could last years. On Wednesday it starts with a hearing into allegations against the late Lord Janner. The following Wednesday there are two short sessions looking into abuse inside the Anglican Church and at Knowl View and other venues in Rochdale and on Thursday March 24  into child sexual abuse of people in the care of Lambeth Council. The details are here.

Last week a report came out from the United Kingdom  Child Sex Abuse People’s Tribunal- a very small scale investigation that took evidence from 24 people covering different types of sexual abuse with families, institutions and paedophile rings. What comes out – apart from horrific stories from the testimony of individuals – is a system not capable of sensitively handling the issue. As it says in this paragraph:

people's tribunal two

That to my mind  is as important as the recommendations reported on Mail On line by  the Press Association here . These include a permanent commission,provision of advocates to survivors  proper links between mental health and  police investigating abuse  and a safe channel for victims yo give evidence anonymously.plus better training for police, the judiciary and the health service to handle cases.

This report deserves to be taken seriously as its steering committee was composed ,mainly of survivors themselves  aided by professional advisers and two experts, Regina Paulose, an American lawyer and former prosecutor and Alan Collins, a British solicitor with enormous experience in handling child abuse cases from Jersey’s Haut de la Garenne inquiry  to Australia and Kenya.

If the Goddard Inquiry really wants to tackle the issue they could  not do much better than take  this on board  when they start their hearings.

The full report can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

Child Sex Abuse: The Met Police’s honest attempt to safeguard survivors and alleged abusers

Scotland Yard: a honest statement Pic Credit: Wikipedia

Scotland Yard: a honest statement
Pic Credit: Wikipedia

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

Yesterday unusually the Met Police issued a long statement on Operation Midland – the most controversial criminal investigation into allegations that young boys were murdered and sexually abused by people involved in a Westminster paedophile ring.

The press  coverage has concentrated on the mea culpa by the Met Police itself when a senior investigating officer described some very sensational allegations by an abuse survivor called ” Nick” as ” credible and true”.

The force stuck by its description as ” credible” but dropped the reference to ” true”.As their statement says:”only a jury can decide on the truth of allegations after hearing all the evidence.

“We should always reflect that in our language and we acknowledge that describing the allegations as ‘credible and true’ suggested we were pre-empting the outcome of the investigation.”

But the long statement – it is about 1200 words- also calls for the media and some of the accused,to modify their behaviour both in the interest of protecting vulnerable survivors and not defaming alleged abusers so they can get a fair trial.

The words in the statement covering survivors were particularly pertinent.- coming straight after the Daily Mail has gone as far as it could to identify ” Nick” in a piece in Saturday’s paper and on-line – including a pixellated picture and details about his mother and the job he held.

The Met Police make the eminently sensible suggestion that the press should be extremely careful about identifying vulnerable people – and suggest that print and on-line journalists should follow broadcasters and incorporate part of the regulator Ofcom’s code  when interviewing vulnerable people.

Their definition is much wider than minors. Vulnerable people “may include those with learning difficulties, those with mental health problems, the bereaved, people with brain damage or forms of dementia, people who have been traumatised or who are sick or terminally ill.”

One could  say someone who has been sexually abused as a kid has certainly been traumatised. Unsurprisingly, this does not seem to have been mentioned in the print media.

The police statement adds: ” Our other main concern is the risk that media investigations will affect the process of gathering and testing evidence in our criminal investigation. In recent weeks, one journalist reporting on Operation Midland has shown the purported real identity of someone making an allegation of sexual assault to a person who has disclosed that they have been questioned by police concerning those allegations.”

It rightly warns:”it is extremely distressing to discover that their identity might have been given to anyone else, particularly if that is to someone who may be involved in the case. Secondly, possible victims or witnesses reading the article may believe their identities could be revealed as well, which could deter them from coming forward.”

The police also make it clear  that until someone is charged they will not name anybody. There is a case for protecting individuals who stand accused of such a heinous crime – both murder and sexual abuse – who are still alive from being exposed because it will prejudice a trial. The problem with historic child sex abuse many of those involved are now dead – and it is their reputation that is at risk not a future trial.

However the accused also have to behave responsibly as well. Harvey Proctor, the former Tory MP, who has been questioned by the police as part of the investigation, has the right to call a press conference to defend himself. But it is very irresponsible to name other people who may or may not be under investigation by the Met Police or demand that his accuser be named.

It is not surprising that this has become such a controversial issue. The stakes are very high. People’s reputations face ruin and proving historic child sex abuse is a very difficult thing to do as it takes place in private and people are hardly going to admit to it.

What is required now is some space for the police to continue this complex and difficult investigation.

Everyone, not just the police, needs to tread very carefully and try to report this honestly and objectively, without fear or favour, and without blunting the detailed investigative skills needed to do the job.

Child abuse survivors strike back: A reflection on Reflections UK

Jenny tomlin: one of three organisers of the new Reflections  group

Jenny tomlin: one of three organisers of the new Reflections group

Yesterday in a community hall in Loughborough a new group  calling itself Reflections UK representing survivors of child abuse  across the UK was born.

It has arisen because many survivors – at first buoyed up by the creation of the over arching child sex abuse independent panel – have been knocked down by its replacement body, the statutory Lowell Goddard inquiry. While there was a populist demand for a statutory inquiry – many don’t seem to have realised that the price of that was to exclude survivors from sitting on it.

There has now been a strong backlash from survivors who believe their voices  have been excluded and they have decided to do something about it. Yesterday’s meeting was the start.

It is a powerful 21st century response to a government trying to find a traditionally 20th century solution to a very, very serious issue. The Goddard inquiry is a classic way governments try to solve problems – appoint an eminent judge, bring in a bevy of QC’s, hold hearings, make recommendations and spend a lot of money on an inquiry to sort it. The great and the good solve it all for the great unwashed who are eternally grateful.

Reflections UK is a 21st century response to this – made possible through instant communication on Facebook and Twitter – and expecting the survivors to be treated as equal partners. And they are not going to keep quiet and nor are they going to have their very emotive, raw and angry response to what happened to them filtered by the Whitehall bureaucracy. And in the 21st century they have the medium and the power – through the internet – to do it.

Perhaps the most telling example was the treatment of Jenny Tomlin, one of the organisers of the meeting. ( Local blog followers should know she lives in nearby Tring), She is a survivor of sexual abuse and a successful author ( see her book list on Amazon). As she told the meeting ” the great and the good” (not her words) asked her to apply to sit on their advisory group. But when she received the form it was more interested in  academic qualifications than raw experience and direct personal knowledge so she was rejected. How very last century!

The meeting itself drew a very strong cast of speakers. it was opened by Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, who made it very, very clear that she was there as the MP for Loughborough and not as a Cabinet minister. She also refused any media interviews and managed to make a speech without commenting on child sex abuse. But at least she turned up.

Speaker Jess Phillips,MP, a " big gob" for child abuse survivors? Pic Credit: Twitter

Speaker Jess Phillips,MP, a ” big gob” for child abuse survivors?
Pic Credit: Twitter

More interesting was newly elected MP, Jess Phillips.Labour, Birmingham,Yardley, who defeated Liberal Democrat John Hemming in the last election.

She didn’t hold back. As a Victims Champion for Birmingham, a person who had worked with a charity handling domestic abuse -she was well aware of the issue.

She is already making waves in Westminster as an MP. As she says in this article in Total Politics she has ” too big a gob” to shut up. And she certainly went down well at the meeting saying ” My mother told me you  only go for power to give it away” and promised to take an active role in raising cases.Indeed before she had left she had already taken some up.

Other key speakers included a GP Dr Sanjay Panwar; Graham Wilmer ( an ex panel member); Survivor Esther Baker, an Iman Muhammed Al-Hussaini  and a lawyer Nigel Thompson who pointed out how Lowell Goddard has already signed a contract promising to keep secret some of the information she may receive in her role as inquiry chair -presumably from the security services.

The most devastating personal contribution – to my mind – came from Diane House from Loughborough. She told a very familiar tale and illustrated it by going silent in the middle of her contribution. It had all the familiar ingredients of a tale from a person who had been sexually abused by seven different people. Family not believing her, friends calling her a slag, police lacking empathy and even today given a very low priority to investigating her case – which unlike some – did not include any VIPs just nasty human beings.

What was clear from this meeting organised by Phil Lafferty is that out there is a very large group of angry, frustrated people who are determined not to be ignored by the authorities and will make their views known. Lowell Goddard ignores them at her peril because they have the power in the 21st century to tell their stories which would have been denied them in the last century.

Pathetic: The Child Sex Abuse Inquiry’s slow response to stopping vital documents being destroyed

New Zealand dame Justice Lowell Goddard : tardy action over documents pic credit: http://www.teara.govt.nz/

New Zealand dame Justice Lowell Goddard : tardy action over documents pic credit: http://www.teara.govt.nz/

It was revealed yesterday by the Goddard Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse that it has only just got round to writing letters to the Cabinet Secretary, police, NHS, religious leaders and local government asking them not to destroy documents which could hinder their investigations.

The fine words from Lowell Goddard  requesting this and lists of categories  which must not be destroyed can be seen here. No one can complain about the scope of the letters. It is just that they should have been written months ago.

The home secretary,Theresa May made it clear months ago when questioned by MPs that she expected this to be done. But obviously those in charge preferred to take a more leisurely approach and spent the time trying to recruit at least 20 more lawyers instead.

Any sensible person  would have made sure that the letters went out immediately the first panel was set up. It should have been the first act of the secretariat to safeguard documents to prevent them going into shredders to save Whitehall and town hall storage costs. And I am told that at least two members of the old panel requested this be done at early meetings.

In this inquiry this is particularly important. Investigations by Exaro have already discovered that vital documents in inquiries go missing. And the inquiry by Peter Wanless  and Richard Whittam failed to discover key documents including the dossier sent by the late Geoffrey Dickens MP on paedophiles to the late  Leon Brittan, the home secretary. And that raised questions about the retention of documents as long ago as November last year.

So it is particularly galling to see how long it has taken the inquiry to act. There is a lot of stake here – VIP paedophiles will be desperate not to be found out and want to cover their tracks. By taking such a long time in such a high profile inquiry they have been given every opportunity to do that by this delay.