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.

: ”

 

 

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.

 

 

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.