Child Sex Abuse: Will the police finally catch the perpetrators ?

The extraordinary revelations at the weekend by my Exaro colleague Mark Conrad and the Sunday People should finally dispel fears that the police have no intention of investigating the VIP paedophiles and now possible murderers in the Westminster paedophile scandal.

I could tell until this weekend  many in the mainstream media  were sceptical ( and some still are) that such horrendous acts involving MPs could ever have taken place in the 1970s and 1980s without the Westminster lobby knowing. Some, including one of my long-standing former colleagues on the Guardian, emphatically told me no MP could possibly be involved in the murder of a young boy.I’ll spare his blushes until there is an arrest.

However the disclosure at the weekend  that two former police detectives are now corroborating that they had heard about a murders and were aware of a paedophile ring in Westminster but couldn’t investigate.

As the Exaro article says :A source close to the investigation said that the two former police officers alleged: “There was a significant paedophile group in Parliament who were untouchable to the police.”

They provided new information on Sir Cyril Smith, the former Liberal MP, and Sir Jimmy Savile, the BBC star, who were exposed as paedophiles after their deaths. They have also provided potentially important information on former MPs and living perpetrators of child sex abuse.”

The key thing about the police coming forward is that the story by the brave survivor called ” Nick” has now a possible chance of being collaborated by other sources. This will be essential if they are to be prosecutions.

Also in the same week I learnt that in Durham where 900 people have come forward alleging sexual and physical abuse at the now closed Medomsley young offenders institution arrests are likely before Christmas and Operation Pallial in North Wales is also expected to lead to more arrests shortly. Even the home secretary, Theresa May, has indicated that she believes  it is only ” the tip of the iceberg” so far..

Altogether the chances of this far too long running historic scandal being dead and buried again are becoming much slimmer. The police now have to throw everything at it to get at the truth.

Anti Austerity: Time for the Job Creators Allowance

Muhammad_Yunus_-_World_Economic_Forum_Annual_Meeting_2012 (1)This month a radical thinker passed through Westminster and presented an idea that politicians tackling Britain’s economic crisis should sit up and take notice.

Nobel Peace prizewinner Muhammad Yunus was addressing a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference on growth and development en route from Bangla Desh to Mexico City. The conference attracted people from as far apart as Somalia and Paraguay and Haiti and Timor-Leste.

Yunus is the man who created an anti-bank bank called the Grameen Bank in Bangla Desh which broke every rule of traditional banking. As he put it : ” I went and talked to the banks and did precisely the opposite of everything they told me.”

His bank was only interested in lending money to the poorest in Bangla Desh – those with nothing so they could start tiny micro businesses. His ideas have now been taken up in developed economies notable the United States in New York and elsewhere.

He has been criticised however by people who say it  is still exploitative and has not worked, The idea has been hijacked by others as this review suggests.

But his bank is extraordinary. he employs no lawyers, has no detailed contracts, and lends to people with no collatoral and yet 99 per cent of the small loans are repaid. Bad news for Price Waterhouse and City lawyers as well as banks.

I was particularly struck by one phrase he tells the unemployed in Bangla Desh to say. ” I am not a job seeker. I am a job creator. I want to start at the top not be exploited at the bottom.”

Now it occurs to me that this might have a lot of resonance to Britain post the crash. Capitalism and bankers are brilliant at helping the haves have even more so they can exploit the have-nots, What about turning the idea on its head and help the have-nots for once.

Britain is rapidly becoming a more unequal society in wealth and jobs. Constituencies near to me like Hemel Hempstead face a job feast this Christmas with Amazon and Royal Mail competing against each other to fill vacancies. Constituencies like Birmingham, Ladywood and Foyle in Northern Ireland face a job famine  with over 11 per cent still out of work.

It also strikes me that among the wasted talent on the dole they must be people capable of learning skills, particularly in the  child or personal caring professions, but can’t get going because they haven’t basic qualifications or access to a few hundred readies to get started. This is why Jobcentre plus in pushing them into low paid work, zero hour contracts, to become the new exploited of companies funded by wealthy private equity groups.

Now if a politician decided that instead he was going to find a way to connect with the dispossessed by setting up a bank only interested in funding them to create their own job – this might have more resonance in the real world than in the current Metropolitan elite.

Traditionally this idea sits with Labour – the party created by trade unions, that believes in social credit organisations rather than Wonga and backs the ideals of the Co-operative movement. But it could equally apply to the Greens and some strands in other parties

What better way to reconnect to the working class than allow him and her to get cash to buy equipment so they can earn some money, even get  a second-hand white van. A veritable Job Creator Allowance.

What about the money for this?  Why not use the huge fines on corrupt banks to kick start the scheme rather than as sticking plaster for the NHS (Labour) or tax cuts (Tory)? What is a more delicious idea than taking money from bloated, arrogant money manipulators and giving it to the very people they wouldn’t give house room?

How would it work? I don’t know but I now know a man who does. He is called Muhammed Yunus. Someone should call him up and put the idea in their party manifesto. He did speak after all in the Attlee Room,  named after one of Britain’s greatest reforming Prime Ministers.

The Westminster Paedophile ring: Now a murder inquiry

Over the weekend the inquiry into a Westminster paedophile ring took a dramatic turn with Met Police officially saying it had seconded  murder detectives to the investigation.

On Sunday the People newspaper and Exaro News disclosed the inquiry was related to the horrific  revelations from a  survivor called Nick (not his real name). It involved three murders including one boy being run over, another being strangled at a party where sadistic child sexual abuse seemed to be the norm. It also suggests that other premises in Central London as well as Dolphin Square were used as venues.

Some of the more sceptical MPs and commentators, some of whom are also incidentally  are opposed to an overarching child sexual abuse inquiry, have  expressed near disbelief that this could have happened anywhere near Westminster in the 1980s.

To those doubters I would say this has been a meticulous detailed investigation – by my colleague Mark Conrad – who in a related piece on Exaro News gives the background to the events.

It has taken months to uncover and has involved building up the confidence of the brave survivor who decided himself to report it to the police after years of being told never to repeat what happened.

As he said himself : “The MP was particularly nasty, even among the group of people who sexually abused me and others. I still find it difficult to talk about these incidents after all these years.”

Some of the scepticism is based on the fact that there may have been rumours of wild parties in Westminster at the time – and that people might have been smeared by Westminster gossip.  The fact that nothing was proved at the time does not mean it did not happen.

I am reminded by the  “cash for questions” investigation which I revealed on the Guardian in the mid 1990s. That actually referred to events happening a decade previously right under the nose of the Westminster lobby. And they were proved to be true.

These  allegations will now be investigated by the Met Police who will have to decide, along with the Crown Prosecution Service, whether there is enough evidence to prosecute.

In the meantime it is becoming very clear that this historic child sex abuse scandal is not going away. More revelations in London and other parts of the country will make sure it won’t.

Plebgate comes to the courts

This weekend the Inforrm blog  ran a interesting preview of the start of the so called ” plebgate” libel case in the courts which halted the political career of Andrew Mitchell, the former international development secretary and chief whip.

The incident became infamous after The Sun published that Mitchell had sworn at the police protecting Downing Street and called them plebs for refusing to open the gates to allow him to wheel his bike through them.

I reproduce their blog below which includes a lot of good references to TV coverage and media articles on the subject.

On Monday 17 November 2014 the most high profile libel trial of the year will begin in Court 13 at 10.30am before Mr Justice Mitting.  This the joint trial of preliminary issues in two claims and is now listed for two weeks (reduced from the original three).

As is well known, the claim arises out of an incident at the gate of Downing Street on 12 September 2012 when words were exchanged between the then Government Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell MP and a police officer, PC Toby Rowland.  On 21 September 2012, the Sun reported that Mr Mitchell has shouted “you’re fucking plebs“.  This incident became known as “Plebgate“.

On 7 March 2013, Mr Mitchell issued defamation proceedings against the Sun.  It filed a defence on 17 May 2013 pleading justification and a Reynolds defence.  This case gained early notoriety in legal circles because the Master disallowed the whole of the claimant’s costs due to the late filing of a costs budget.  This decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal (Mitchell v News Group [2013] EWCA Civ 1537).

On 12 December 2013 PC Rowland issued a libel claim against against Mr Mitchell based on statements made by Mr Mitchell on six occasions between December 2012 and December 2013 in or via the media.  PC Rowland complained that, in these statements, Mr Mitchell accused him of fabricating allegations and evidence against Mr Mitchell, spreading these to the media as part of a plot to frame Mr Mitchell, and deliberately destroying Mr Mitchell’s career.  Mr Mitchell’s Defence is that these allegations are true.

The case has been before the Courts on a number of occasions.  There have been several applications for third party disclosure from the Metropolitan Police in these actions.  Judgments were given on these on 27 March ([2014] EWHC 879 (QB)) and 11 June ([2014] EWHC 1885 (QB)).

On 24 July 2014 Warby J ordered that each of those actions should be tried by a Judge sitting without a jury, and that there should be a joint trial of certain preliminary issues in the actions, starting on 17 November 2014.  Warby J gave a judgment explaining why he had ordered the trial of preliminary issues ([2014] EWHC 2615 (QB)).

In September 2014, the Sun filed an Amended Defence in which it relied on seventeen incidents which, it alleged, showed “high handed and rude” behaviour of Mr Mitchell towards police officers. There was a report of the contents of the Defence in the Press Gazette.

Warby J conducted a pre-trial review on 23 and 24 October 2014 and made orders permitting the parties to rely on expert evidence in phonetics and “field of vision/trajectory analysis” or optometry.  He also refused to exclude the “similar fact evidence” relied on by NGN and PC Rowland concerning other alleged incidents between Mr Mitchell and police officers ([2014] EWHC 3590 (QB)).

Mr Mitchell later filed an Amended Reply in to the Sun’s Amended Defence rebutting itsReynolds defence.  There was a report of the contents of the Amended Reply in the Press Gazette.

Mitting J will try three preliminary issues.  The main ones are, in each action,

  • what natural and ordinary meaning(s) the words complained of bore, and
  • whether in such meaning(s) they were substantially true.

Mr Mitchell is represented by solicitors Atkins Thomson, who have instructed James Price QC and Victoria Jolliffe.  News Group Newspapers are represented by Simons Muirhead and Burton, who have instructed Gavin Millar QC and Adam Wolanski.  PC Rowland is represented by Slater and Gordon LLP, who have instructed Desmond Browne QC and Catrin Evans.

We will have regular reports on the trial.

There was a preview of the trial in Saturday’s Guardian by Owen Bowcott: “Multimillion pound Plebgate libel case comes to court“.

The Channel 4 news item including the CCTV footage of Mr Mitchell leaving Downing Street on the night in question can be viewed here:

Young, gifted and black? Join the Equality and Human Rights Commission and be conned over your pay

Baroness Onora O'Neill: the chair of the ECHR Pic credit: Flickr

Baroness Onora O’Neill: the chair of the ECHR
Pic credit: Flickr

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is supposed to be the champion of the rights of ethnic minorities, the disabled and women against discrimination. It should be in favour of equal pay.

As a previous blog revealed its reputation is rather shaky when it comes to defending equality between men and women in the Middle East. Baroness Onora O’Neill, its part time chair, talks the big talk in the UK when  it comes defending women’s equal rights to men only to believe in her other position as a trustee of the  American University of Sharjah that women are second class citizens compared to men who are not allowed to meet privately with them as equals. I wonder whether she is allowed to be alone with a man when she is in Sharjah.

Now it turns out that her officials are quite happy to massage figures claiming the EHRC is making great progress in narrowing the pay gap between ethnic minorities and white people, the disabled  and the able-bodied and between women and men.

During recent pay negotiations with the PCS union the management  claimed that its new pay deal would reduce the gender, ethnic minority and disability pay gaps.  It turns out that the figures over ethnic minorities were false. Instead of narrowing the gap  from 15.5 per cent to 14.5 per cent it actually widened it to nearly 17 per cent. You can read the full story in Tribune magazine this week.

While there is a marginal improvement – narrowing the gap by 0.2 per cent for the disabled to 7.7 per cent – this figure is actually almost one per cent worse than in 2011.

You might wonder what the EHRC would do if they caught a private firm fiddling the figures and opening themselves to prosecution . Any clever barrister defending that firm would just have to say – well you lie about it yourself in the ECHR.

I did put this to the EHRC Ignoring their main point of my question the press office released this statement from the Commission:

“We negotiated with the Trade Unions (including PCS), to agree how to distribute the 1 per cent pay rise we are limited to by government. We agreed and implemented their proposal to pay more to those on lower pay grades and less to those on higher grades and made a slight adjustment to this.  Our adjustment was slightly more favourable towards BME staff than the Trade Unions’ initial proposals.”

Oh so the union clever enough to expose your flawed figures would be better giving up- because you can give  the staff a better deal just out of the generosity of your own heart. Really?

But the key point is if we can’t trust the body that fights for equal pay to be honest about what it is doing to narrow pay gaps, who can we trust?

When a short sharp shock policy turns into mass sexual and physical abuse

While attention has been focused on a Westminster paedophile ring an extraordinary police investigation into a now closed young offenders institution in Durham is revealing the mass abuse of inmates.

No fewer than nearly 900 people  have come forward alleging physical and sexual abuse  at Medomsley young offenders institution in Durham  dating back to 1970s and 1980s  a decade or so after a trial did convict two people of abuse.in 2003.

The investigation was triggered after former prison officer Neville Husband was jailed for eight years for abusing five youths.Others coming forward and he was subsequently jailed for a further two years for other attacks.He died in 2010, after being released from prison.

His former colleague Leslie Johnson, who was jailed for six years in 2005 for sexual offences, has also since died.

But now I gather Durham Police  have traced 24 other people involved in the abuse – six of them have also since died – but  up to 18 people could well be charged – if the Crown Prosecution Service agrees they should face justice.

The abuse not only took place inside the closed institution but I gather inmates were taken off the premises across Durham to be physically and sexually abused.

If the case goes ahead it will be the largest number of people ever abused in one institution. There is also an interesting cross reference to Neville Husband’s previous job at Portland prison in Dorset..It is worth reading a blog by Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform here linking issues at the two penal institutions.

Before  reporting restrictions severely limit what can be said – one common factor is emerging – many of the people who were abused at a time when the Thatcher government was enthusiastically pursuing under William Whitelaw the ” short sharp shock ” policy – a tough regime for petty offenders aimed at making them go straight.

I am sure Willie Whitelaw and Margaret Thatcher did not intend to promote sexual and physical abuse of young offenders – but what does appear to have happened is that the policy in this one institution became a licence for this  type of abuse.

In some sense the historic disclosures resonate with today’s government’s punitive views -pursued particularly by Chris Grayling, the current justice secretary- whether it is banning access to books for prisoners or the record suicides among young people in prisons.

If people are treated like dirt by politicians and are seen by society to be worthless – then those in charge of them might well be tempted to abuse them because it doesn’t matter what happens to them. Given Chris Grayling unlike Theresa May, the home secretary,is on record to a member of the public that he thinks having an inquiry into sexual abuse is  “a waste of money” one wonders whether there are current Medomsley’s in the present system.

News: Artist in banned child sex abuse memoir case applies for permission to appeal to Supreme Court

davidhencke:

For those following the banning of a memoir where a performing artist wanted to discuss how he fought to recover from child sexual abuse – this is a very important development and deserves to be tested in the highest court of the land. The legal significance of the ban could have serious consequences for publishing and freedom of expression – particularly as it was based on a real obscure piece of English law.

Originally posted on Inforrm's Blog:

AnonymousBindmans LLP have announced that an application for permission to appeal has been lodged with the Supreme Court by MLA, the performing artist whose autobiography has been injuncted worldwide following a widely criticised decision by the Court of Appeal.

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