Politicians like journalists can be creatures of the moment. Flitting from issue to issue – today will be the decision on implementing Leveson on press regulation – they sometimes forget the bigger picture in the adrenalin rush of a crisis or a story.
Eleven years ago David Cameron, then a backbencher sat alongside Tom Watson, Labour MP, as a member of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee. Together the two MPs signed up to a report on historical child abuse. One of the key recommendations of the report ( for those who want to read it all, the link is http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200102/cmselect/cmhaff/836/83602.htm ) was that when the police ” trawl” for abuse victims and witnesses those who are interviewed should get support from day one.
The recommendation states: “complainants should be offered appropriate victim support services, such as
counselling, from an early stage of their involvement in the investigation.”
Now 11 years later the police seem to be working overtime investigating historic child abuse cases. Operation Fernbridge – the police investigation into sexual abuse of children in the care of Richmond Council and their links to Elm Guest House in Barnes – has at least 16 potential children in its sights. The aftermath of the Savile inquiry could bring many others into its scope and the don’t forget Operation Fairbank investigating other child abuse allegations and at least 30 investigations into child grooming across Britain. The scale of abuse is obviously much higher than people realise.
Officially the police and it now appears Downing Street believe all these former kids, some now in their 40s, are getting support. But evidence from two people who can be expected to be important witnesses in any trial involving the Richmond scandal suggests otherwise.
Details were published yesterday in the Sunday People and on the Exaro website. You can read the article in the People here (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/vip-child-sex-ring-victims-1768956) and the harrowing view of two witnesses here (http://www.exaronews.com/articles/4897/witnesses-in-operation-fernbridge-plead-for-support-service) .
Suffice to say they are both highly critical. One, Sam, not his real name , says the help he was given : “as “inadequate, ill-conceived and suffered from a complete failure to understand what they (the authorities) were doing.”
He doesn’t blame the police who appear to have been sensitive in interviewing him but just left him with a list of referral agencies to fend for himself.The other is also having to find his own care while his GP prescribes sleeping pills.
I put this direct to Downing Street – including sending Mr Cameron’s office a heart-rending quote from one of them – and reminded him of what he signed up to 11 years ago.
The reply was :”Sexual abuse is a devastating crime and the Government is committed to ensuring that every victim has access to the specialist support they need. This is why the Ministry of justice is providing £10.5million in Government funding over three years to provide services to support victims of these heinous crimes.
“The Government funds 78 Rape Support Centres across England and Wales. These provide confidential and expert support, advice and counselling for victims of these heinous crimes. More centres are in the process of being established and expected to open soon.
“The Government is committed to providing a justice system that protects, supports and reaches the highest possible standards of care for victims. There are a number of measures which already exist to protect vulnerable and special victims, including rape and sexual abuse victims, throughout their involvement with the CJS, and a number of reforms are under way to improve the system further.”
The rape crisis centres are not dealing with these particular Fernbridge cases or any historic childhood sex abuse and therefore Downing Street is misleading people by suggesting that all this money is going to help victims of child sexual abuse.