Sunday, 30 November 2014
BRITISH ESTABLISHMENT SHAME
The recent reports from the UK that children may have been murdered by paedophiles — including British MPs known to have visited the notorious Elm Guest House in London — has followed a relentless pattern of allegations that the British Establishment has been sitting on one of the biggest scandals in modern times.
On Wednesday 26 November, the first conviction under the Operation Pallial investigation into allegations of sexual abuse at the Bryn Alyn Community in Wrexham saw John Allen, the former head of the children’s homes, jailed for 26 offences committed over several decades against children placed in his care.
Wrexham in North Wales is the area where local MP and paedophile Peter Morrison, a former top aide to UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, preyed on vulnerable children. It seems that the testimony of historic victims of child sexual abuse, the various campaigns to obtain evidence and other efforts to force the government to act, have begun to take effect.
Week after week it seems that more news emerges to confirm the suspicion that the Establishment is working hard to disguise the actions of MI5, Special Branch, Scotland Yard and Parliament in covering up some of the most heinous crimes against vulnerable children.
The vast majority of the public now believe MPs and ministers covered up child sex abuse by other politicians, according to a recent Sunday Mirror opinion poll.
The ComRes survey found that an overwhelming 77 per cent of those quizzed think politicians “probably” stopped details of scandals involving their colleagues from emerging. Only 5 per cent disagreed.
Of those polled, 73 per cent felt it was right that allegations of child sex abuse from the 1960s and 1970s should be probed by police. But only 30 per cent said they had faith the inquiries announced by the government will uncover the truth.
There are now so many separate police operations launched in various parts of Britain that there is a danger that testimony, forensic evidence and audit trails of paperwork may be lost.
The vast numbers of allegations are a sign that adults abused as children have now been empowered to come forward. But it also provides an opportunity for the cover-ups to continue because police cannot cope with the volume of work and mistakes can happen either by default or deliberately.
The father of a murdered boy has claimed that his son may have died at the hands of a Westminster paedophile ring and said Scotland Yard helped cover up the crime. Vishambar Mehrotra, a retired magistrate whose eight-year-old son Vishal was killed in 1981, said he was contacted by a male prostitute at the time who said the boy may have been abducted and murdered by “highly placed” paedophiles linked to the Elm Guest House in south-west London.
Paedophile Liberal MP Cyril Smith is known to have visited the guest house where vulnerable children had been taken from children’s homes in nearby Richmond. Two years ago a former Special Branch police officer, Tony Robinson, said a historic dossier “packed” with information about Cyril Smith’s sex crimes was actually in the hands of MI5 — despite officially having been “lost” decades earlier in the Home Office while led by Leon Brittan.
Another boy may also have been murdered by the same paedophile ring in 1979.
Detective Chief Inspector Diane Tudway of the Metropolitan Police told Kevin Allen last Friday that his brother Martin, who disappeared aged 15 in King’s Cross, may have been a victim of the same group of paedophiles including politicians and other high-powered figures, the Independent has reported.
The case was closed in the early 1980s, reopened in 2009 and then closed again. The Sunday People and the Exaro online investigations website also reported that a man called Nick had told them he saw a Conservative MP strangle a 12-year-old boy to death.
Scotland Yard’s Operation Midland, launched last month and the latest in a number of police investigations into high-level child abuse, has said it is looking into possible homicide connected to its other inquiries.
The British security services are facing more questions over the cover-up of a Westminster paedophile ring as it emerged that files relating to official requests for media blackouts in the early 1980s were destroyed.
Two newspaper executives recently told the Observer that their publications were issued with D-notices — warnings not to publish intelligence that might damage national security — when they sought to report on allegations of a powerful group of men engaging in child sex abuse in 1984.
One executive said he had been accosted in his office by 15 uniformed and two non-uniformed police over a dossier on Westminster paedophiles passed to him by the former Labour Cabinet minister Barbara Castle.
The other executive said that his newspaper had received a D-notice when a reporter sought to write about a police investigation into Elm Guest House. Now it has emerged that these claims are impossible to verify or discount because the D-notice archives for that period “are not complete.”
Two years ago it was revealed that at the inquest into the death of Carole Kasir, who ran the Elm Guest House and died in 1990, evidence was submitted at the coroner’s court that MPs including members of the right-wing Monday Club, judges, a bishop, a local authority children’s services director and a prominent businessman all used the Elm Guest House to rape children who had been procured from Grafton Close children’s home in Richmond.
A former Scotland Yard commander has admitted he knew of an alleged paedophile ring at Westminster. John O’Connor, once head of the Flying Squad, confirmed there were rumours of a sex scandal and he had been on standby for a major investigation.
His allegations suggest that Thatcher covered up child abuse allegations against a senior minister in the 1980s. O’Connor said: “I remember when this was first flying about. I think it was in the early 1980s but then it just seemed to die a natural death.”
The Sunday People reported in July that Thatcher had told an up and coming minister: “You have to clean up your sexual act.”
This followed allegations that the politician had abused young boys. However the same leading Tory was seen by police trying to procure young boys at Victoria railway station four years later.
In another recent development, the focus of attention has switched to Dolphin Square in Pimlico, a complex of flats used almost exclusively by MPs due to its proximity to Westminster.
One of the VIPs who sexually abused boys at Dolphin Square has been identified as Sir Peter Hayman, a diplomat and former MI6 deputy director who was also a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange.
The disclosure of his identity has been provided to Scotland Yard for its new investigation into historical allegations that MPs and other prominent people carried out child sex abuse at Dolphin Square.
Sir Michael Havers was the attorney general under the Thatcher government when many of the allegations were made. In the early 1980s, Havers was accused by campaigning MP Geoffrey Dickens of a cover-up when he refused to prosecute Hayman.
So there are a number of separate pieces of testimony being provided to the police and senior Scotland Yard commanders going back 30 years, as well as statements by former senior detectives, that information was obtained but not acted upon.
Newspapers were silenced by secrecy laws usually reserved for times of war to prevent espionage. Now these cover-ups by the security services are being reported in the national media.
Files have gone missing or been seized by MI5 and so it seems as if the full force of the state is engaged in preventing the truth coming out into the open.
Unless these investigations are allowed access to evidence and the allegations against senior politicians are brought to court, justice for childhood victims of paedophile abuse by MPs will be denied.
Steven Walker is a Unicef Children’s Champion
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
Fiona Woolf was recently appointed by Home Secretary Theresa May as head of the promised overarching inquiry into child sexual abuse after the first appointee, retired judge Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, resigned. Woolf has now gone as well, after links to former Home Secretary Leon Brittan embarrassed her. Butler-Sloss quit following revelations that her brother Michael Havers, who was attorney-general under Margaret Thatcher, limited the scope of an inquiry into child sexual abuse at the Kincora Children’s Home in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.
Cabinet minutes from 1983 reveal that Havers ensured that MPs and other prominent public figures were protected by restricting the terms of reference of the inquiry. Anglican judge and one-time failed Tory parliamentary candidate Butler-Sloss, also recently admitted covering up the crimes of Anglican priests while presiding over an inquiry into their paedophile activities. Leon Brittan, is accused by many people of involvement in a cover-up when he was home secretary. He recently admitted that as home secretary he received the now “lost” dossier on Paedophile MPs compiled by campaigning MP Geoffrey Dickens.
In the early 1980s, Havers was accused by Dickens of a cover-up when he refused to prosecute Sir Peter Hayman, a diplomat, former MI6 deputy director and member of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), a lobbying organisation for child abusers. A victim has now named Hayman as the man who sexually abused him in a block of flats used by British MP's. Another PIE member has confirmed that he kept PIE files, records and membership details in the Home Office itself.
What these inquiry appointments confirm again and again is that when it comes to the government appointing one of its own to an important public inquiry, one whose outcome is likely to impact on the legitimacy of the political Establishment, only a safe pair of hands will do. We have seen this over the decades, from the first tribunal under lord chief justice Widgery that covered up the truth around the Bloody Sunday killings in Derry in 1972 all the way through to the Hutton inquiry into the death of David Kelly in 2003 and the Butler Review into the infamous Iraq war “dodgy dossier” in 2004.
Woolf, like these previous appointees, has impeccable Establishment credentials. She is currently Lord Mayor of the City of London, the heart of British capitalism, which since deregulation in the 1980s, has operated as a giant casino that helped caused a trillion-dollar crash in 2008. Woolf was previously president of the Law Society and is a global ambassador for Britain’s financial services sector.
The City is immersed in financial scandal yet receives the lightest of regulation and no democratic scrutiny. Whether mis-selling of dubious financial products, fiddling Libor interest rates, dodging corporation tax, fixing false foreign exchange rates or money laundering the proceeds of drug cartels, the City is a cesspool of rapacious greed and mind-boggling levels of income.
Yet even the banking crash of 2008 and the wild behaviour of finance traders leading to the collapse of major financial institutions, later bailed out by ordinary workers’ taxes, has failed to prompt meaningful change in an inherently corrupt culture. Woolf took a City of London lobbying team out to Bahrain earlier this year which prompted Amnesty International to report that children are being routinely detained, ill-treated and tortured in the Gulf state.
Scores of children arrested on suspicion of participating in anti-government protests — including some as young as 13 — were blindfolded, beaten and tortured in detention over the past two years following mass unrest in 2011. Others were threatened with rape in order to extract forced confessions. “By rounding up suspected under-age offenders and locking them up, Bahrain’s authorities are displaying an appalling disregard for its international human rights obligations,” said Said Boumedouha, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme.
Amnesty posed the following questions: “Did Fiona Woolf’s team make any effort to research the notorious human rights environment in Bahrain before they went out there, and once they were there did they show any interest in finding out more about what was going on? “Did Fiona Woolf pay any attention to the abuse of human rights and in particular children’s rights in a country which presumably she already knew well from her three years spent there as representative of the lawyers CMS Cameron McKenna?”
Last November, the all-party UK Commons foreign affairs committee urged the Foreign Office to classify Bahrain as a “country of concern” if its human rights record did not improve.
Britain sold Bahrain military equipment worth £18 million in 2013, according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT). Britain also hopes to sell Bahrain Typhoon jet fighters worth £1 billion. So money counts but children don't.
Patrick Rock, a senior Downing Street aide to David Cameron, was arrested earlier this year on allegations of downloading computerised child abuse imagery. His brief was to advise Cameron on internet security for filtering online pornography. This is just the latest in a series of revelations that began with the exposure of the crimes of late paedophile Liberal MP Cyril Smith, which together prove that paedophiles have had unfettered access to the corridors of power for the past 30 years, while police investigations have been stopped and official inquiries stymied as files go missing, are shredded or seized by the Secret Intelligence Services.
Leader of the House of Commons William Hague has declined MPs’ calls for a debate into Woolf’s appointment. The independent inquiry has been broadened to shift the focus away from Parliamentary Paedophiles, and the Establishment are closing ranks, covering their tracks and making sure the truth will not get out. But the latest revelations involving the alleged murder of a child by a British MP has sent shock waves throughout the UK Political Establishment, and prompted the Police to speed up their investigations into the activities of named Paedophile MP's.
Steven Walker is the author of The Social Worker’s Guide to Child and Adolescent Mental Health
Gyles Brandreth’s new book reveals how the main Westminster party whips conceal many dark secrets about MPs and goes a small way to lifting the lid on an Establishment cover-up of paedophile MPs. In Breaking The Code: Westminster Diaries, Brandreth writes about his time as a Tory whip and confirms previous evidence of a deliberate cover-up of criminal acts against vulnerable working-class youngsters.
Asked about allegations of a paedophile ring operating in Parliament, Norman Tebbit even admitted this summer that “there was probably an Establishment cover-up.” Brandreth, Edwina Currie and others named Peter Morrison as a dangerous paedophile while serving as a Tory MP.
Morrison worked as a government whip himself and was a close adviser to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.
Police have gone on record to say that he was found sexually abusing young boys in public toilets and seen driving away from the notorious Bryn Easten children’s home with a young boy in his car near his parliamentary constituency in north Wales.
The police took no action against him and a previous inquiry led by Judge Waterhouse into organised paedophile abuse in north Wales prevented investigators from following up high-profile suspects.
In Michael Cockerell’s 1995 BBC documentary Westminster’s Secret Service, Tim Fortescue, Edward Heath’s chief whip from 1970 to 1973, stated there was a tried and tested method for cover-ups called the “Dirt Book” system.
Talking about the role of the chief whip, Fortescue said: “Anyone with any sense who was in trouble would come to the whips and tell them the truth … a scandal involving small boys … we would do everything we can because we would store up brownie points … and if, I mean, that sounds a pretty, pretty nasty reason, but it’s one of the reasons because if we could get a chap out of trouble then he will do as we ask forever more.”
Put together with the fiasco of the Home Secretary’s second attempt at appointing as head of the promised overarching child sexual abuse inquiry, it becomes clear how the rich and powerful operate within a secret world where the laws of the land don’t really apply.
Wednesday, 23 July 2014
The Establishment are getting jittery as more evidence of organised cover-ups of Paedophile MP's emerge on a regular basis. The Anglican Baroness Butler-Sloss, appointed by the Home Secretary to lead the over-arching inquiry into child protection which broadened the scope of the inquiry away from Parliament, resigned after admitting she covered up the sexual abuse of small boys by two Anglican priests in a previous inquiry. It has since also emerged that her brother the former Attorney-General Michael Havers, limited the scope into Paedophile abuse at the Kincora Children's Home in Northern Ireland in the 1970's. Cabinet Minutes from 1983 reveal that Michael Havers as Attorney General ensured that MP's and other prominent public figures were protected by restricting the terms of reference of the inquiry.
Chief constables are now conducting at least 21 separate criminal investigations. Simon Bailey, the Chief constable of Norfolk, who is running a national task force targetting VIP Paedophiles, said 30 senior officers involved in investigating MPs, Peers, and other “prominent” figures were now co-ordinating their work. The new police inquiries cover the whole country. There are 13 forces currently investigating 21 cases. These are allegations against elected officials, celebrities, people of public prominence and people directly connected to them.
There is growing evidence that The Establishment may be getting rattled at the amount of information pouring into the public domain about the role of senior Political, Religious and Judicial figures in protecting Paedophiles linked to Parliament. Government whips are the latest to admit knowing about child sexual abuse by MP's but doing nothing about it while shredding incriminating papers. Norman Tebbit has also admitted a cover-up probably has taken place.
A year ago just after announcing that the Metropolitan Police were about to arrest a former Tory Cabinet Minister, Commander Peter Spindler who had been leading the police criminal investigation into organised Paedophiles sexually abusing young children from a Council children's home in Richmond on Thames, was taken off the investigation and moved sideways to another job. The suggestion is that powerful figures had complained about Spindler's work in pursuing three major Paedophile investigations and he had to be stopped.
Fresh claims have been made that taxpayers' money was used to fund a unit within the Home Office while Leon Brittan was a Minister of State. Cash was channelled direct to the Paedophile Information Exchange. A whistleblower, former civil servant Tim Hulbert, claimed last week that the payments were made at the request of the Metropolitan Police's Special Branch. He raised concerns about the grant to the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) with his manager Clifford Hindley in 1979. This is the same time that allegations began to surface about Cyril Smith's Paedophilia in Rochdale.
The London Borough of Richmond on Thames was the Local Authority responsible for the Grafton Close children's home where it is alleged children were procured and taken to the notorious nearby Elm Guest House where MP's and others attended organised parties to attack vulnerable children who were plied with alcohol and drugs and then orally raped and buggered. Terry Earland, former head of Richmond Children's Services reported allegations to his boss Louis Minster, Director of Social Services, made by worried social workers about what children were telling them. Jenny (now Lady) Tonge was the new Liberal leader on Richmond Council and in 1983 was briefed, along with other senior Councillors about the reports of Paedophile MP's visiting Grafton Close. Louis Minster was sacked by the incoming Liberal administration which took control of the Council in 1984. Tonge was a councillor from 1981 to 1990 and served as a chair of the Social Services Committee. Did she know Liberal MP Cyril Smith was a regular visitor to Grafton Close? Did she report this to the Liberal Party headquarters and MP's? She was Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park from 1997 to 2005 when she was made a life peer as Baroness Tonge of Kew.
Peter McKelvie, the former child protection manager in Hereford and Worcestershire who worked on the conviction of Paedophile Peter Righton, said there was a “powerful elite” of Paedophiles who carried out “the worst form” of abuse. Righton was referred to by Labour MP Tom Watson in 2012, when Hansard recorded that the police file relating to Peter Righton, who was convicted in 1992 of importing child pornography from Holland, needed to be re-examined. Watson suggests that the evidence file used to convict Peter Righton, if it still exists, contains clear intelligence of a widespread Paedophile ring connected directly to Parliament. The central allegation is that a large body of material seized in the police raid on Righton's home prior to his conviction, had not been fully investigated.
Judges, Peers, Priests and MPs are among 20 prominent public figures who abused children for decades McKelvie has said, alleging that there is evidence linking the former politicians to an alleged Paedophile network. Lord Warner, the former Labour health minister, is on record as saying that the allegations were credible. Mr McKelvie triggered a police investigation in 2012 when he revealed there were seven boxes of potential evidence of a powerful paedophile network, including letters between Righton and other paedophiles being stored by West Mercia Police. Operation Cayacos among numerous other ongoing historical child abuse investigations, including Operations Fairbank, Fernbridge, and Yewtree, is investigating allegations of a Paedophile ring in Parliament linked to Righton, a founding member of the Paedophile Information Exchange.
A Labour Peer is now under police investigation although due to apparent dementia he is considered unfit to be prosecuted for Paedophile offences. Cyril Smith, the former Paedophile MP was a member of a Freemasons Lodge in Rochdale and there is an on-going investigation by The Morning Star into whether Freemasons within the Establishment actively covered up criminal actions in order to protect their 'brothers'. The Morning Star has yet to receive a response to a request to a Masonic Lodge in Rochdale (Liberty Lodge 5573) confirming whether Cyril Smith was a member of Liberty Lodge 5573, and who were the senior officers, and other Freemasons of the Lodge between 1970 and 1990.
The New Welcome Lodge, No. 5139, is a British Masonic Lodge based in the Palace of Westminster open to all MP's and Peers. Hundreds of MP's currently appear in the Masonic Year Book, along with the names of Judges, Senior Police Commanders and top Whitehall Civil Servants. The role of Freemasonry in protecting Paedophile MP's has yet to be fully established, but suspicions grow.
Clive Driscoll, a former Scotland Yard detective has claimed that he was moved from his post when he revealed plans to investigate politicians over child sexual abuse claims. Speaking about his inquiries in 1998 into activity alleged to have taken place in Lambeth children's homes in the 1980s, retired detective chief inspector Clive Driscoll said that his work was "all too uncomfortable to a lot of people".
Another cover-up has been discovered in a report that Special Branch officers seized a Paedophile dossier naming Establishment figures drawn up by Labour peer Barbara Castle in the 1980s. Officers citing ‘national security’ confiscated the file which listed 16 MPs along with senior policemen, headteachers and clergy. The dossier was collated by the late Baroness Castle of Blackburn who handed it to Don Hale, the editor of her local newspaper, the Bury Messenger. As well as key members of both the Commons and Lords, the dossier named 30 prominent businessmen, public school teachers, scoutmasters and police officers who had links to PIE.
Further evidence of selective amnesia comes from John Pierce the Chief Executive of Rochdale Council who closed Knowl View residential school in 1994 but recently denied knowing about reports of Paedophile abuse of young residents at the special school founded by predatory MP Cyril Smith. Recently he went on record to claim he knew nothing about three separate reports by health staff in 1988, 1991, and 1992 that Paedophiles were abusing children as young as eight years of age. Yet Pierce was sent a copy of the 1991 report and he admitted to The Independent newspaper in 1995 that he had indeed read the reports.
The BBC disclosed details of another cover-up last week when it revealed that a high-ranking friend of Cyril Smith tried to warn off police investigating claims that he had been sexually abusing boys. A senior detective investigating the claims against Smith said a magistrate made "veiled threats" to officers. The detective's 1970 report to the Chief Constable of Lancashire said there was "prima facie" evidence of the MP's guilt. The Director of Public Prosecution later advised against prosecuting.
The BBC disclosed details of another cover-up last week when it revealed that a high-ranking friend of Cyril Smith tried to warn off police investigating claims that he had been sexually abusing boys. A senior detective investigating the claims against Smith said a magistrate made "veiled threats" to officers. The detective's 1970 report to the Chief Constable of Lancashire said there was "prima facie" evidence of the MP's guilt. The Director of Public Prosecution later advised against prosecuting.
The 14-page report by the detective superintendent, which has been redacted, said that Smith would have been "at the mercy of a competent counsel", but also reported that the MP's magistrate "buddy" had warned of "unfortunate repercussions for the police force and the town of Rochdale" should he be prosecuted. The officer, whose name has been redacted from the report, was investigating allegations of sex abuse by eight young boys, six of whom who had been at the privately-run Cambridge House care home in Rochdale. The home closed in 1965, prior to Smith's election as a MP for Rochdale. Police and Rochdale Council are already investigating allegations that the Liberal MP sexually abused boys at Knowl View residential school for vulnerable boys which closed in 1992.
Co-Author: Safeguarding Children and Young People- a Guide to Integrated Practice. (Russell House Publishers).
Saturday, 12 July 2014
WHAT A WHITEWASH
Theresa May's predictable grandstanding announcement last week announcing an inquiry into the growing clamour for something to be done about allegations of a paedophile ring operating within Parliament was a classic Establishment dodge. It was a case study in media management as will her appearance before the Home Affairs select committee today (Monday 14 July). Perhaps there is some irony in that 14 July is Bastille Day, celebrated in Republican France as the beginning of the end of absolute Monarchy and preceding the publication of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen which enshrined the concept of free individuals protected equally by Law. Not exactly what we see being carried out in terms of the legal investigations into the vile abuse of small children by MP's.
By widening the scope of the inevitable inquiry to include the BBC the NHS, the Churches and other unnamed 'Public Bodies' the Home Secretary has sown the seeds of a strategy designed deliberately to produce a huge amount of dust and smoke in which the truth will be hidden. Crucially she has succeeded in removing the spotlight from Parliament and close scrutiny of MP's.
She even admitted that the over-arching inquiry by the Establishment Peer, Baroness Butler-Sloss, a former failed Tory parliamentary candidate and retired Family Division Judge, would not be completed before the next general election. So the public have been cheated from having details of Parliamentary Paedophiles revealed before deciding how to vote next year. Butler-Sloss is the sister of the late Sir Michael Havers, who sat in the Thatcher Cabinet alongside Lord Brittan, who has admitted as Home Secretary he received the now “lost” Dickens dossier into allegations of a paedophile ring involving MPs. Sir Michael Havers was the Attorney General under the Thatcher government when many of the allegations were made.
In the early 1980s, Sir Michael was accused by the campaigning MP Geoffrey Dickens of a cover-up when he refused to prosecute Sir Peter Hayman, a diplomat, former MI6 deputy director, and member of the Paedophile Information Exchange, (PIE) a lobbying organisation for child abusers. We now know that another PIE member has confirmed that he kept PIE files, records and membership details in the Home Office itself. Home Office advisers argued in 1979 that the age of consent be lowered from 16 to 14 and called for a reduction in the length of prison sentences for paedophiles.
The members' hotline for the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) rang inside the Home Office where Steven Smith, a convicted paedophile and chairman of PIE who worked in security in Whitehall, would tell callers where to go for the next meeting to discuss issues including decriminalising sex with children as young as four.
Baroness Butler-Sloss was forced to issue an apology in 2012 after making crucial errors in a previous inquiry into two paedophile priests. The peer was put in charge of a “flawed” investigation into how the Church of England handled the cases of two ministers in Sussex who had sexually abused boys. Eight months after her report was published Butler-Sloss (a devout Anglican) had to issue a six-page addendum in which she apologised for “inaccuracies” which, she admitted, arose from her failure to corroborate information which was given to her by senior Anglican figures as part of the inquiry.
The separate inquiry into the hundreds of missing Home Office files has now been fast tracked and due to report in a few weeks time before the Parliamentary summer recess by Mark Sedwill a career civil servant who was involved in the notorious Iraq War 'dodgy dossier' used to illegally invade Iraq in 2003. The evidence of former police officers suggests Home Office files based on the original Dickens dossier were snatched by MI5. This report has already been discounted in advance and heavily spun by the governments' media managers to downplay expectations. The files have gone and there are no records of why, how or who was involved in their disappearance or destruction. The Establishment have started another inevitable media narrative about the need to avoid 'witch-hunts' amid the tabloid newspapers climate of hysteria and wild allegations.
There are also concerns about the appointment of NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless to assist with the over-arching inquiry. The NSPCC is well-connected within Parliament and patrons include: The Queen, Knights of the Realm, various House of Lords members, the Duke of Westminster and The Bishop of London. The notorious case of the murder of Victoria Climbie in Haringey, North London in 2000 was widely reported as a failure by the council social services and in particular two social workers. Later it was revealed that a doctor had failed to spot a broken spine, but hidden among the hysteria at the time was the role of the NSPCC.
Victoria had been referred to an NSPCC-run family centre in north London seven months before her death, by which time she was being regularly beaten, tortured, trussed up in a bin bag and left in freezing baths. No one from the centre went to see her, and when forced to present evidence to the subsequent inquiry the NSPCC revealed it had lost crucial documents and altered case files raising questions about an attempted cover-up to avoid bad publicity. The NSPCC is a very wealthy charity but in recent years it has closed down direct services to support children at risk. Less than half of its annual multi-million pound budget is spent on direct child protection work, the rest is spent on publicity, campaigning and fundraising.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, a moral panic emerged over alleged ritual satanic abuse. The NSPCC provided a publication known as 'Satanic' Indicators' to social services around the country that was been blamed for some social workers panicking and making false accusations. The most prominent of these cases was in Rochdale in 1990 when up to 20 children were taken from their homes and parents after social services believed them to be involved in satanic or occult ritual abuse. The allegations were later found out to be false. The case was the subject of a BBC documentary which featured recordings of the interviews made by NSPCC social workers, revealing that flawed techniques and leading questions were used to gain evidence of abuse from the children. The documentary claimed that the social services were wrongly convinced, by organisations such as the NSPCC, that abuse was occurring and so rife that they made allegations before any evidence was considered
Frank Furedi Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent branded NSPCC a "lobby group devoted to publicising its peculiar brand of anti-parent propaganda and promoting itself." Tory MP Gerald Howarth is on record as describing it as "completely incompetent".
So there we have it. A knee-jerk response from the Home Secretary with a brief to play this scandal long, spend lots of money and appoint plausible individuals to conduct so-called independent investigations. But scratch below the glossy spin and we reveal an inquiry staffed by Establishment people with less than unblemished records in their professionalism and accuracy. But they can be depended upon to deliver the goods and stick to their brief which is to convey the appearance of competence while further muddying the waters, inadvertently protecting child abusers, and potentially wrecking several on-going police investigations closing in on bringing alleged Paedophiles to face justice in criminal trials for the most heinous offences against vulnerable children.
The award-winning journalist Philip Knightly coined the phrase - Truth: The First Casualty of War, in his book of the same name about the way The Establishment managed information about the First World War debacle. He said: "More deliberate lies were told than in any other period of history, and the whole apparatus of the state went into action to suppress the truth". At the moment we are witnessing another example of The Establishment in action doing what it has been doing for centuries, making sure that it protects its own and prevent the people from knowing the truth.
Monday, 30 June 2014
With a steady stream of revelations of paedophilia within Parliament and the media, STEVEN WALKER asks just how far the Establishment cover-up extends
Michael Gove’s little-reported request to local authorities to investigate the extent of Jimmy Savile’s paedophile attacks on vulnerable children — many of them disabled or dying in hospices — is too little too late.
It also stands in stark contrast to his much-hyped attempt to privatise child protection services, now neatly withdrawn prior to the latest revelations of the extent of Savile’s paedophilia.
Gove’s advisers seem to be knocking some sense into him about the reality and the risks of leaving vulnerable children to the mercy of the free market in education and social care.
The latest report shows 214 criminal offences, including 34 rapes, recorded against Savile’s name across the UK between 1955 and 2009.
Police said the Top Of The Pops presenter had sexually abused a teenager at a hospice, one of 14 medical sites he used to prey on his victims.
He also committed 14 offences at schools across the country, some of them when children had written to him for his popular BBC series Jim’ll Fix It.
A national investigation known as Operation Yewtree was launched after the abuse claims. Detectives have run the investigation in three strands — allegations involving Savile, those involving Savile and others, and those involving others acting without Savile.
Further research by the NSPCC claims at least 500 victims were abused by Savile.
The figures show the most common age group for Savile’s victims was 13 to 15, while the youngest victim was two years old.
In addition, fears that Savile abused children in more than 20 children’s homes and schools across England are being investigated.
Allegations dating back to the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s have been handed to the Department for Education (DfE) following a review of documents by the Met.
Among children’s homes and schools to be further investigated are Henshaw School for the Blind, one of four institutions in Savile’s birthplace of Leeds, and a Barnardo’s children’s home in the London Borough of Redbridge. Children’s homes and schools in focus are spread across England, including Bournemouth, Devon, Gloucestershire, Leeds, London and Manchester among others.
The new investigations will include considerable efforts to point the finger of blame at those who knew what was going on but stood by and did nothing.
But it is not just the roll-call of celebrities who have appeared in public accused of abusing children that is appalling. MPs have also been mired in the paedophilia scandal and a year before the general election the last thing David Cameron needs is another scandal at the heart of Parliament.
The example of former Liberal MP Cyril Smith, another predatory paedophile, is a salient example.
Like Savile, he targeted the most vulnerable children, usually in children’s homes, and like Savile, his paedophilia was well-known among senior Liberals, other members of Parliament and top public figures in his home town of Rochdale.
Recently the police admitted they had avoided three separate chances to prosecute Smith for the rape of minors, suggesting that civil servants and MI5 took control of the case and did nothing. This smacks of an Establishment cover-up.
More recently, senior Downing Street aide Patrick Rock was charged with allegations of downloading computerised child abuse imagery.
His brief was to advise Cameron on internet security for filtering online pornography.
Conservatives Edwina Currie, Gyles Brandreth and Rod Richards have previously made damning statements of how well known in Westminster circles it was that MP Peter Morrison was a dangerous paedophile, and yet his career was unaffected as he rose to be deputy chairman of the Conservative Party.
He was Thatcher’s parliamentary private secretary in 1990 and her campaign manager that same year despite this knowledge having been around for many years.
In 1991 Frank Beck, who ran care homes in Leicestershire, was found guilty of abusing more than 100 children in the 1970s and ’80s.
During the trial, a 30-year-old man claimed he had been abused by Lord Janner, who was still a Labour MP at the time. However, Lord Janner was not prosecuted and he insisted there was “not a shred of truth” in the claims.
One of Tony Blair’s former senior aides Phillip Lyon, who previously arranged his weekly Prime Minister’s question time, was arrested after police raided his Commons office. Lyon was found guilty of downloading child pornography and jailed for a year.
Stephen Carnell, who was agent for Labour MP Chris Bryant during the 2010 general election campaign, was caught with more than 12,000 indecent images and 450 films.
He was jailed for three years for collecting and distributing what the judge described as “appalling” images of child abuse.
David Cameron has yet to make good on his promise to order a full-scale investigation into allegations of widespread paedophile activity within Parliament after a request by the Labour MP Tom Watson made in 2012.
Hansard recorded that the police file relating to Peter Righton, who was convicted in 1992 of importing child pornography from Holland, needed to be re-examined.
Watson suggests that the evidence file used to convict Righton, if it still exists, contains clear intelligence of a widespread paedophile ring linked to the corridors of power.
The central allegation was that a large body of material seized in the police raid on Righton’s home prior to his conviction had not been fully investigated.
So there is a pattern here. Paedophiles with parliamentary connections, or MPs themselves, have been regularly discovered, often decades after their activity and in some cases after they have died.
There is a growing body of evidence, including testimony from victims abused in childhood, which has never been properly investigated.
There is compelling evidence of an Establishment cover-up in order to protect powerful individuals, the reputation of Parliament, and possibly revelations of the role of the secret intelligence services.
This all suggests that the ruling class is sitting on a scandal that has the potential to create a political earthquake if the truth ever gets out.
Monday, 23 June 2014
POVERTY IN THE UK
The latest report into poverty in the UK is one of the most authoritative and comprehensive pieces of detailed research in recent years. It demonstrates how recent UK government's economic policies have failed to do anything about tackling poverty. The report forms part of a steady series conducted by a variety of disparate organisations and groups who work to provide evidence of the hardships endured by millions of UK citizens. Put together they form a powerful indictment of government policies and the underlying Capitalist economic model that is based on the concept of creating unemployment and enriching a minority of individuals.
The latest study was conducted by the Poverty and Social Exclusion (PSE) in the UK project which forms part of the impressive portfolio of work undertaken in the name of Peter Townshend, the distinguished academic and social policy expert, now deceased. Peter Townsend’s 1968/69 study of Poverty in the United Kingdom Survey represented a paradigm shift in poverty research which changed the way that poverty is understood and measured around the world.
The PSE project is the largest research project of its kind ever carried out in the UK. The results provide the most detailed and comprehensive picture of poverty and exclusion in Britain and Northern Ireland in the 21st Century. According to the study, 33% of households endure below-par living standards – defined as going without three or more "basic necessities of life", such as being able to adequately feed and clothe themselves and their children, and to heat and insure their homes. In the early 1980s, the comparable figure was 14%.
The research shows that almost 18 million Britons live in inadequate housing conditions and that 12 million are too poor to take part in all the basic social activities – such as entertaining friends or attending all the family occasions they would wish to. It suggests that one in three people cannot afford to heat their homes properly, while 4 million adults and children are not able to eat healthily.
The evidence suggests that the gap between rich and poor is widening, there are more children living in poverty, and disabled people are more likely to live in poverty or be unemployed than non-disabled people. Children from working class families are less likely to receive a further or higher education and black families are more likely to live in poor housing.
Recent attention to the under-performance of working class schoolchildren emphasises the pernicious impact of poverty. Gimmicks such as re-introducing free milk in Primary schools and suggestions by Ofsted's chief inspector that parents should be fined for not properly supporting their children's education are a distraction from the real problem. Poor, hungry children cannot learn especially when they live in households where parents are stressed, demoralised and feeling hopeless.
The result is that mental health problems affect three times as many children in social class V (manual and unskilled) compared with those in social class I (professional) according to the authoritative Social Trends government data. Further official evidence on social inequalities from the Office for National Statistics states that one in ten children in the United Kingdom suffers from a poverty related mental health problem. According to other research from UNICEF the UK is fourth from the bottom of a list of relative poverty among the nineteen richest nations and has children who are among the unhappiest in Europe. Troubled schoolchildren cannot learn in school.
The Labour government target was to reduce child poverty by a quarter by 2004, to halve it by 2010 and to abolish it by 2021. That aim has been consistently revised and recently abandoned as unattainable on the basis of current government economic policies. Meanwhile the gap between rich and poor has widened to such alarming levels that social scientists argue that these are the conditions in which social order begins to break down, creating a dysfunctional society where levels of crime, violence and mental health problems increase.
The Save the Children charity recently took existing Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) projections of a third more children in relative poverty by 2020 and factored in planned welfare cuts, a calculation which it says could add 325,000 children to the IFS figure. The current measure for calculating relative child poverty (defined as children living in households with incomes below 50 per cent of the national median) does not reveal anything about the depth of poverty. Welfare spending cuts will exacerbate child poverty levels. Child poverty is also caused by low pay, and two-thirds of poor children now live in working households.
In addition last week fresh evidence emerged in a report showing 3.5 million children are expected to be in absolute poverty in Britain in 2020 – almost five times as many as the target. The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission said the absolute child poverty goal was "simply unattainable" and that this was on course to be the first decade since records began in 1961 not to see a fall in absolute child poverty. This is important given the cumulative psychological effects of persistent social exclusion which leads to despair, suicide, violence and a lack of motivation. So the latest spin from government about poverty being unrelated to poor school performance is more akin to Orwellian newspeak in which truth is inverted, the reality ignored and the powerful punish those who are the victims of injustice. The recent attempts by Ministers to muzzle the Trussel Trust which reported in May that nearly 1 million people used its Food Banks, and government attacks on Oxfam's austerity campaign are further evidence that this government wants to airbrush the poor from the news. They will not succeed.
Monday, 9 June 2014
GOVE'S MISGUIDED PLANS
A National Conference on Social Care in May heard pious words from experts and government ministers about the safety of children and what a great job the Government is doing. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, vulnerable children are going to be at greater risk of abuse than ever before thanks to Education Secretary Michael Gove's obsession with dismantling the British state education system and now attempting to privatise child protection services in Local Authorities. This is the unintended consequence of a combination of recent policies driven by Gove's obsessive free market philosophy.
Years of under-funding Education Services has created a hotch-potch of academy, faith, and free schools separated from Local Authority supervision and allowing rich parents the choice to select a decent education for their children. Not only has this created inequalities within communities but teachers are being lured into new schools paying higher salaries leaving state schools to struggle with staff shortages and harming the chances of working class pupils. But this is made worse by new plans to privatise child protection services. The combined plans- separating more schools from Local Authority supervision, and privatising child protection will leave a gaping hole in the welfare safety net designed to protect vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
The child protection system works when there are common structures, procedures and lines of communication between all those in Health, Education, Police and Social Care who are responsible for children's safety. Fragmentation of these organisations and the undermining of National and Local policies creates confusion, gaps and obscurity- the last thing needed in an already complex and murky area of work.
However even in the privileged private schools, children are far from safe. Ofsted's latest annual report says: " it has..........major concerns" about the safety of thousands of pupils in private schools that have failed to abide by rules designed to protect children in their care from abuse. Inspections of independent schools in the past year revealed that a high proportion of fee-charging schools are failing on safeguarding procedures and many are providing inadequate levels of education. State schools outperformed private schools on several educational measures, according to inspectors. "It is a major concern that about a third of non-association independent schools do not fully meet the requirements for safeguarding pupils,". Failure to comply with safeguarding procedures means the schools are not properly vetting staff who are in contact with children or training staff to identify signs of abuse and support vulnerable children properly.
This is graphically illustrated by the stream of child sexual abuse cases being brought to court such as the case involving paedophile attacks at the exclusive Chetham school of music in Manchester. Inspectors from Manchester City Council's Social Services Department were called to Chetham's school of music to carry out urgent reviews of child protection procedures at the £31,000-a-year private institution following a number of serious allegations of sex abuse against teachers past and present.
Council inspectors concluded that the Local Authority "is not confident about the overall effectiveness of the leadership and governance of safeguarding arrangements in the school". They warned: "Arrangements are present to promote a culture and climate of effective safeguarding at Chetham's school of music but the arrangements are not routinely and reliably implemented, robustly applied, monitored or evaluated by the senior leadership team, governors and Feoffees [trustees of the charity which runs the school]." The school had taken disciplinary action or issued a suspension against four staff because of concerns about their suitability to work with children between 1999 and 2013, but these incidents were not always properly referred to the Local Authority as required within good time. This adds to the suspicion that there was a cover-up and suspected paedophiles were let loose to work in other schools.
Worse still, in recent years National guidance for multi-agency investigation of child abuse has been watered down. Each local safeguarding children board now have to invent their own system of recording and tracking vulnerable children which is leading to chaotic work across authority boundaries. The previous National document: Working Together formed the basis of legal proceedings, family law, disciplinary hearings, professional training programmes and professional practice. All agencies had a copy and it was universally applicable. Everyone knew where they stood.
The guidance was geared towards helping and supporting struggling parents- often survivors of abuse themselves or marginalised by a Capitalist system that blames the unemployed and poor instead of seeing them as the natural consequence of neo-liberal economics. Now the guidance focuses on persecution and punishment forcing social workers to police the poor, rather than helping families change. Gove's current plans, if they come to fruition, will ensure that more tragedies, heartbreak, and the neglect of disadvantaged children from the poorest and most deprived neighbourhoods will continue. A generation of children will pay a terrible price for Gove's obsession if he is allowed to get away with it.
Steven Walker, former Principal Lecturer in Social Work, and co-author of: Safeguarding Children and Young People- a Guide to Integrated Practice (Russell House Publishers.)
Tuesday, 20 May 2014
CHILDREN'S SERVICES FOR SALE
Last week's revelations from the UK government that Michael Gove's Education Department has formally enabled the privatisation of child protection services has rightly sent shock waves around Local Government trades unionists and those involved in the care of vulnerable children. Social workers are the lead professionals charged with safeguarding vulnerable children. They don't just work for their vocation, on the whole they work from deep convictions about the safety of every child, and from a sense of public service. All that will change if Gove's plans succeed.
The Health and Social Care Act came into force in April 2013 and set the legal framework for privatising on a bigger scale than ever before within the NHS and Social Care. Almost immediately Richard Branson's Virgin Care company took over Devon's Integrated Children's Services responsible for some of the most disabled and vulnerable children with physical and learning disabilities. Since then Virgin Care has become one of many private companies slowly but surely signing up lucrative contracts up and down the country to run not only Local Authority, but NHS services as well. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported in 2011 that one in seven board members of the first wave of Clinical Commissioning Groups (previously PCT's) had a link to a private health care company. More than 60% of those with private links were associated with Assura Medical now Virgin Care.
The work of Ofsted is used as ammunition in the ideological arguments being put forward by those peddling the idea that service improvements and the safety of children can be left to market forces and business ethics. Ofsted inspections now include social care as well as schools. Of 50 child protection services inspected by Ofsted in 2012-13 because they had been previously identified as weak, more than one third were judged as still inadequate in terms of their overall effectiveness. The real reason for poor provision is the relentless squeeze on budgets, higher demand, and low staff morale which leads to high staff turnover and increasing use of expensive agency staff. Many child protection services are running with unfilled vacancies as Local Government funding is cut.
Ofsted reports are seized upon to name and shame Local Government social care departments and add to the refrain that staff are feckless, overpaid, poorly managed etc. The solution from the right-wing media is to allow private companies to bring market discipline and business ethics to family's with multiple problems. There is now a momentum building behind this policy aspiration in the context of financial austerity and cuts to public services where we are persuaded that there is no alternative but privatisation. It is another classic case of deliberately running down a public service and make it ready for a business takeover.
Worse, there is some heavyweight intellectual support for opening up Local Government children's social services to privateers- ironically coming from the London School of Economics, often cited as the place where modern social work was defined during the post 2nd World War welfare state political consensus. The LSE's social care guru, Professor Julian Le Grand, is pushing his plan to improve children's social care by privatising it and undermining the basic principles of the Welfare State. Councils in Doncaster, Richmond and Kingston are already experimenting with creating private companies to run social care, while Staffordshire and Bristol have allowed groups of social workers to set themselves up as independent practices separate from Local Authority control. Le Grand has been asked by the government to beef-up his earlier recommendations and is expected to report soon. Just in time to use as ammunition against the protests which will now start against the Gove plans.
The private sector has a woeful track record in these areas of service. The privatisation of Young Offenders Institutions has led to an increase in incidents involving riots, self-harm and suicide. Most inmates come from deprived and disadvantaged backgounds. It is another example of where a former public service has been contracted out to big companies such as G4S and SERCO earning millions of pounds in profits while leading to a poorer service and more problems. The number of young people who have committed suicide in Young Offenders Institutions over the past ten years averages three per year. Last year, there were over 3,000 incidents of violence in youth custody establishments and another 1,500 instances of self-harming- far more than before privatisation.
Vulnerable children are too precious to be left to the ideology and practices of private companies where profits come before people. Gove's policy must be resisted. Over time he has morphed into the most ideological of Cameron's ministers, relentless in his attack on public education and an obsessive free marketeer. The supreme irony in all this is that he was adopted as a baby and benefitted from the care of social workers and adoptive parents who were part of a public service system that put his interests above all other considerations and where money had no part to play. His plans will mean other children now in his situation are to have their futures sacrificed on the altar of free enterprise .
Former Principal Lecturer in Social Work, and co-author of: Safeguarding Children and Young People- A Guide to Integrated Practice (Russsell House Publications).
Monday, 12 May 2014
THE INVISIBLE WOUNDS
Western military intervention in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming to an end, but the legacy will linger for years, especially the invisible wounds caused by Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSD). Yet another less glamorous or newsworthy aspect of life in military service tends to be neglected. This is not post traumatic stress disorder but the more ordinary anxiety and depressive conditions which tend to be low key, chronic mental health problems that are less easy to diagnose and treat. These emotional and psychological problems acquired by younger soldiers in battle are not always apparent but are in effect a ticking time bomb which can explode months or years later requiring intervention and support in terms of mental health assessment, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, and homelessness.
It does not help that the UK recruits 16 year old children to all three branches of the military and is the only European country to reserve the right to deploy under-18 year olds in war fighting situations. There are clear contradictions in the British government’s use of minors in battle zones with its legal obligations under the 1992 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the 1989 Children Act to protect and safeguard children.
The Government has ensured that the needs of military power and political control override the best interests of those under-18s in the armed forces. Article 38 of the CRC emphasises the particular vulnerability of children as civilians and soldiers in armed hostilities and recommends signatories refrain from sending children into battle.
If the non-deployment of personnel under the recommended CRC minimum ages would destabilise the unit that they are part of, then the MOD reserves the right to deploy younger recruits. The government claims that once children are trained in the Armed Forces, they are considered to be professionals and are treated as such. They play an important role in their unit, and their removal would undermine the effectiveness and cohesiveness of the unit. This would be demoralising and unpopular among other soldiers and add to the training burden.
The World Health Organisation recognises that young soldiers exposed to conflict situations can more easily develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) leading to persisting patterns of problematic behaviour and functioning. These problems may not emerge until years later or after the symptoms are revealed by alcohol and drug addiction, domestic violence, self harm and/or criminal behaviour for example. Many young soldiers may be withdrawn, depressed, go AWOL, and display difficulties in social relationships. Or they leave military service altogether.
The majority of army recruits are from poorer socio-economic groups where a higher proportion of children and young people are at greater risk of developing mental health problems. The British army recruits in low income, high unemployment, and disadvantaged areas where children with few academic or career prospects are able to sign up to 6 year minimum service contracts at 16 years of age- captivated by glamorous images of travel, adventure, machismo, national pride, and employable skills training.
The adverse publicity over the culture of bullying and suicides at military training establishments such as Deep Cut revealed a tiny, previously hidden, glimpse of what many vulnerable young people may also be subjected to on a routine basis once they enter service. While toughening them up for what lies ahead the cost to their self-esteem and emotional well-being is very high.
CD’s/DVD’s computer games and literature that emphasise war as fun, exciting and a professional activity are widely distributed in schools, youth clubs, websites and military recruitment offices. What potential recruits will not realise is that since 1971, twenty four under 18 year olds have died and 10 were seriously physically injured while on active military service in the British army.
Young recruits under 18 years of age are still legally defined as children- even though in the context of uniforms, regiments and all the paraphernalia of the armed forces, these young people may look a lot older than they are. The evidence suggests that, paradoxically, they may be psychologically and emotionally immature due to earlier childhood neglect and deprivation and thus more at risk of developing mental health difficulties under the strain of intense combat.
Suicide rates among young men in civilian life prompted the government to invest new resources in child and adolescent mental health services. Until very recently the yearly rate of suicides among young men between the ages of 16 and 25 had risen steeply since the 1980’s. What is less well known is that the suicide rate among the equivalent age group in the army is actually higher. Among the three armed services ex-soldiers have the highest rate of suicide.
Shortfalls in recruitment targets and retention problems mean it is likely that the military will enlist previously unsuitable candidates and therefore increase the proportion of young recruits at risk of developing mental health problems and ultimately suicide, as a result of a pre-existing vulnerability to mental health problems erupting under the stress of combat- particularly in the current context of relentless, high anxiety conflict in Afghanistan.
The yearly recruitment of under-18s now represents one third of the annual intake into the armed forces. When vulnerable 16 year olds sign up to their service contracts it is doubtful that it is with fully informed consent of themselves or their parent/guardian or really understanding the implications for their future mental health. For many the prospect of a secure immediate future, with a paternalistic employer and a sense of importance will offer some hope in an otherwise bleak and impoverished life with few prospects.
The consequences for a generation of young recruits are considerably worrying. Military commanders recognise that managing the mental health of young recruits is a challenge, and recently, new measures have been put in place to help junior officers spot troubled young soldiers early. However, the use of young soldiers in combat situations in order to maintain operational levels poses an increased risk to their current mental health and will invariably produce invisible wounds leading to long-term problems for them, their families and society long after the physical scars of combat have healed.
PRIVATE PROFITS AND PERSONAL LOSS
The film Starred Up is garnering rave reviews about the talented young actor and gritty screenplay about a young man moving from a Youth Offender Institution into Adult Jail. It is being compared to the ground-breaking film Scum which highlighted the casual cruelty and violence inside. But the reality is that the privatisation of Young Offenders Institutions has led to an increase in incidents involving riots, self-harm and suicide. It is another example of where a former public service has been contracted out to big companies such as G4S and SERCO earning millions of pounds in profits while leading to a poorer service and more problems.
The number of young people who have committed suicide in Young Offenders Institutions over the past ten years averages three per year. Last year, there were over 3,000 incidents of violence in youth custody establishments and another 1,500 instances of self-harming.
These are official statistics so like general crime the numbers are likely to be a gross under-representation. Young people in custody are 10 times more likely as adults to get involved in a fight or serious assault. In 2009 an official report found bullying at a YOI in Rochester to be so serious that victims hid in their cells and refused to come out, even to eat. Last year, at just one YOI in Aylesbury there were 173 incidents of violence experienced and 187 incidents (more than three per week) of self-harm among a mere 400 inmates.
19-year-old Zahid Mubarek was bludgeoned to death by his racist cellmate in Feltham young offender institution in November 2000. Feltham was later described by the Chief Inspector of Prisons as a 'dickensian' institution with a lack of proper management and cruel staff. Last week, the latest inquest into a suicide of a young person found that a series of 12 individual failures by prison staff more than minimally contributed to his death. Jake Hardy was 17 years old and serving six months for affray and common assault, and before entering Hindley had been diagnosed with attention and conduct disorders,and was under the care of a local mental-health team. He also had special educational needs and had previouslybeen bullied at school.
The Home Office estimates that more than 70 per cent of young offenders have an undiagnosed mental health problem before entering the Youth Justice System. Young offender institutions aren't equipped to tackle what are often complex social and mental health needs. Inmates who say they want to go straight complain that the educational opportunities are inadequate. Others use their time to enhance criminal skills and contacts. The outcome of all this is that 70% of those leaving youth custody reoffend within a year
The recent privatisation of the task for transporting young offenders and children on remand in appalling conditions between courts and Young Offenders Institutions may well be contravening the spirit of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, it has emerged. The charity Young Minds has found evidence of how young people are placed under significant mental distress while being transported between courts and YOIs – some of whom are on remand and have not been found guilty of committing any crimes.
According to the UNCRC, children in trouble with the law should be dealt with by a justice system which is distinct and separate from the adult justice system and placing children in such conditions is contrary to article 3 of the UNCRC on the best interest of the child.
The prisons inspectorate, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, has an expected outcome in relation to courts, escorts and transfers under the outcome of Safety that “children and young people transferring to and from establishments are treated safely, decently and efficiently”.
Reports from visits to Feltham, Bronzefield, Warren Hill, Holloway and Cockham Wood YOIs and prisons by Young Minds found some alarming concerns which provided a further context of the significant risk factors in causing mental distress. This is especially significant when it has been recognised that one of the risk factors is the first few weeks transitioning to a YOI or prison and suicide prevention policies have specifically targeted the early stages of custody (Ministry of Justice ‘Safety in Custody Statistics Quarterly update to June 2012 England and Wales).The prisons inspectorate’s findings at Feltham YOI found that “a quarter of young people said that they did not feel safe on their journey”. The report concluded that young people should not be transported with adult prisoners and young people should not be held in court cells for unnecessarily long periods. Adding: “This was a clear breach of the contractual arrangements for court to prison moves”.
Steven Walker is the author of: Responding to Self Harm in Children and Adolescents (Jessica Kingsley Publishers).