Liz Davies: ‘Where have these people gone?’
Cllr Richard Watts (left): ‘support inquiry calls’. Yvette Cooper (right): ‘New investigation is vital’
Published: 9 November, 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON
CAMPAIGNERS are calling for a fresh criminal investigation into child abuse allegations which rocked Islington 20 years ago.
The Town Hall’s head of children’s services, Labour councillor Richard Watts, said he would support any new criminal investigation.
Allegations of paedophile rings operating throughout Britain in the 1970s and 80s continue to emerge in the wake of the Jimmy Savile revelations.
On Tuesday, Home Secretary Theresa May ordered a review of the police investigation into abuse at North Wales care homes in the 1970s and 80s.
Now whistleblower Liz Davies, who as an Islington social worker exposed the horrific abuse in the borough’s care homes in 1992, backed calls for a fresh criminal investigation after being contacted by the Tribune.
“An investigation would stop more abuse,” said Ms Davies, a senior lecturer in child protection at London Metropolitan University.
“We need a nationwide police investigation to look at all these things. There were abusers in all of Islington’s care homes. Now they’ve moved on.”
There are also allegations that a paedophile ring was linked to Parliament as well as numerous investigations into alleged abuse at the BBC.
But child experts say no nationwide inquiry can be held without looking at the allegations of paedophile rings operating in all of the borough’s care homes in the 1970s and 80s – which, it is claimed, had links to the North Wales homes and the notorious Haute de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey, where more than 100 people say there were abused.
Although the Islington scandal broke in 1992 – it was exposed by the Evening Standard – no perpetrator has ever been brought to justice. Those in charge at the time also escaped censure.
Ms Davies told the Tribune this week that abusers “melted away” from Islington and have been left free to abuse elsewhere.
“Now is a good time for a proper police investigation.
“I have a lot of information. After the story broke everybody just left the Town Hall. I found one of them was in a senior position in another borough by Googling his name just recently.
“People say that this was a long time ago, and that a lot of people are dead. But we need a criminal investigation to protect people now.
"The most important thing is childcare now. Where have these people gone? Not just known perpetrators – what about the people who colluded with them, who turned a blind eye?”
According to Eileen Fairweather, the award-winning journalist who broke the Islington abuse story in the Evening Standard, at least three of the abusers were subsequently arrested abroad for child abuse crimes.
Islington’s abuse scandal has always been a political hot potato because the leader of Islington Council at the time was Margaret Hodge, who went on to become Children’s Minister in Tony Blair’s government. She was accused of not doing enough to investigate the allegations, although she has always denied this and insisted that she acted properly.
Although there were as many as 13 inquiries – proving the abuse took place – none of them looked at the perpetrators. Rather, they led to a root-and-branch reform of the social services department.
Ms Davies first became aware of child abuse in Islington’s care homes in 1990 when she was a social services team manager. At the time each of the council’s 24 care homes was an independent entity, and abuse took place in all of them.
She had been told stories by children of homes being used as “under-age brothels” and children being taken on weekends away. Initially, her complaints to the then leaders of the council were ignored.
Once the Evening Standard published the allegations, however, a host of inquiries confirmed that they were true. But a police inquiry failed to find enough evidence to prosecute.
Yesterday (Thurs) Ms Fairweather described the original police inquiry in Islington, which didn’t find enough evidence to prosecute, as a “non-investigation”.
“We need a proper police investigation,” she said. “One at local level where all these things have been done and one at national level to coordinate all the intelligence.”
Ms Fairweather added that many of the known abusers in Islington had gone on to abuse elsewhere, with at least three prosecuted in developing countries.
One, she said, was Nicholas John Rabet, former deputy superintendent of the council’s home in Grosvenor Avenue who had links with the paedophile ring on Jersey.
He escaped prosecution because of the then council’s gross mismanagement of the scandal and fled to Thailand.
Ms Fairweather discovered that he had been arrested there in 2006 and Thai police suspected him of abusing as many as 300 children. He died of an overdose before he could be tried, however.
“Islington was a classic case in how to lose inquiries and take no real action,” she said.
“No one on the management side did badly out of it. It seriously worries me that people who failed so dismally in their duty of care went on to climb the greasy pole with their careers unimpeded.
“But worse, what really gets to me is that there was no real criminal investigation. At least three or four have been caught abroad, in developing countries, and that’s a damning statement about British justice. There should be a criminal inquiry into Islington.”
Responding to the calls, Cllr Watts said he would support any investigation into child abuse. “I don't think we need another inquiry into management,” he said. “There have been many of them and Islington is now a model of excellence as a result of the reforms that took place as a result. The council is a very different place now.
“But I would never rule out an investigation into child abuse. If there is any suggestion of criminal activity that is uninvestigated or any allegations forthcoming to the council, they should be investigated. I support the calls for a national criminal inquiry into all of the allegations."
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has called for a single investigation into all the all allegations in the UK.
She said: “The new criminal investigation into child abuse in North Wales is vital. But the police must be able to range more widely beyond North Wales to follow any evidence.
"The government needs to set up a single overarching inquiry to draw together the confusing myriad of investigations now underway into institutional failures over child abuse.”
Her spokesman said yesterday that he would not be surprised if any such investigation “looked at previous historical cases and inquiries, not just the ones that have been in the news”.