In Light of the MI5 Revelation, David Cameron Must Apologise to Abuse Victims

Will Black is a writer and journalist with a background in anthropology and mental health care.

His latest book, Psychopathic Cultures and Toxic Empires, examines the corrupting influence powerful psychopaths have on societies. Examples of psychopathic and toxic cultures addressed include those within paedophile rings, politics, finance, gangs, security services, religious organisations and the media. As well as identifying distinctive characteristics of psychopathic cultures, Black highlights inherent weaknesses of organisations built on deceit and corruption.

Will also writes for the Huffington Post

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During a period last year when Gaza was being bombed relentlessly by Israel and children were routinely being killed, maimed and left homeless, I had an incredibly moving message from a contact in Gaza. They expressed concern for children in the UK who, they heard, had been abused by powerful people.
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Tragically, it would seem that, in addition to roast beef, cricket, colonialism and binge drinking, Britain is known now as a place of child abuse. Whether groomed on the streets of Oxford, Rotherham or Peterborough, or taken from children’s homes and abused by rings in London, we know that there has been organised and large scale abuse of children for decades, often at the hands of powerful people.
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Given that there has been an increase of allegations of ‘historical abuse’ in the internet age, when victims have a stronger voice, it seems likely that abuse rings have operated for much longer than since the early days of Savile and friends. Survivors from the more distant past seem less likely to have disclosed abuse, and were perhaps more likely to be disregarded and intimidated if they did. We also know from victim testimonies that some were fearful that reporting abuse would bring shame on their families.
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There is ample evidence that the intelligence services and their police arm, Special Branch, were previously involved with settings and cases where powerful people were accused of abusing children. When a story was given to the media about Cyril Smith abusing young boys, a newspaper editor had Special Branch turn up and prevent the story from coming out. MI5 links to Kincora children’s home in Northern Ireland have been alleged for decades, yet the current UK child abuse inquiry won’t cover it. The allegation, which Ken Livingstone voiced decades ago in Parliament, is that MI5 officers took politicians to the home and then filmed them abusing children, in order to gain leverage over them.
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An MI5 officer appears on a list of regular visitors to Elm Guest House in Richmond upon Thames, London, where it is alleged ‘VIPs’ abused children trafficked from care homes. We do not know at this stage what information was passed to the police by the MI5 man, but we do know that when the property was finally busted there were no charges relating to child abuse but only to running a disorderly house. Investigations into abuse at the guest house continue.
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It would seem sick to most people that spies employed to help keep the country safe would knowingly allow rings of powerful sex abusers to attack children. Although I find the following reprehensible, it could be that security services have justified covering up ‘VIP’ abuse rings in the name of political stability or national security. If it was thought that the public knowing about, for example, groups of MPs abusing children, could bring down a government and lead to loss of trust in the system, then security services could find justification to cover up abuse.
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However, recent revelations that MI5 urged a cover-up to halt an investigation into a member of Margaret Thatcher’s government abusing children throw this into question. A 1986 letter, found in a search of Whitehall documents following claims that abuse allegations involving MPs were covered up, emphasises a threat of political embarrassment rather than to national security. The letter was written by the then head of MI5 Anthony Duff.
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When the initial Wanless Review of Whitehall documents pertaining to child abuse took place, David Cameron shocked campaigners and survivors by characterising those concerned with high-level cover-ups as ‘conspiracy theorists’. This seemed to me to be an outrageous thing to have said at the time and, the more we learn about the scale of abuse and impact on victims, the more outrageous it seems.
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Members of Mr Cameron’s own party have acknowledged abuse taking place and cover-ups, including former whip Tim Fortescue who, in 1995, said: “Anyone with any sense, who was in trouble, would come to the whips and tell them the truth and say ‘now listen, I’m in a jam, can you help?’ It might be debt, it might be a scandal involving small boys, or any kind of scandal in which a member seemed likely to be mixed up in. They’d come and ask if we could help and if we could, we did. And we would do everything we can because we would store up brownie points… it does sound 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.”
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Those covering up abuse by powerful people in the 60s, 70s or 80s may have been confident that allegations could just disappear. Choosing already marginalised kids in care homes to abuse meant victims could be disregarded. ‘Who’s going to believe this kid from a home over a politician / celebrity or bishop?’ might have been a reassuring thought for abusers. That assumption has proved misguided – the public has believed them and so have courts.
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Rather than remain marginalised and discredited figures, survivors of abuse have found a stronger voice, aided by the internet and supported by many diligent campaigners. It is time that David Cameron publicly recognises the bravery that victims of abuse have shown in coming forwards and attempting to find justice for themselves and others. He could begin this by apologising for calling those seeking justice ‘conspiracy theorists’.

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The Curious Case of the Mandarin’s Memory

By Tim Tate.

When the Duff letter emerged on Thursday last week, I e-mailed Lord Armstrong to ask five fairly straightforward questions.   They were:-

  1. Whether you recall receiving this letter ?
  2. What you did with the information ?
  3. Whether you passed on the allegations concerning this MP in question to the Prime Minister and/or the Chief Whip ?
  4. Whether you made any attempt to speak with MP yourself about the allegations ?
  5. Whether, in more recent times, you informed the Home Office and/or its recent internal enquiries about the existence of this letter ?

 

He did not reply immediately, but was apparently willing to give some kind of statement to the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. He told the Telegraph:

 

My official business was the protection of national security. I have to stress that there was nothing like evidence in this case. There was just a shadow of a rumour. It’s impossible to take investigative action on shadows of rumours. . . If there is some reason to think a crime has been committed, then people like the cabinet secretary are not to start poking their noses into it. It’s for the police to do that.

 

And he told the Mail:

 

I thought MI5’s actions were correct at the time. I think they were right to report the rumour, they were right to make what inquiries they could and they were right to come to the conclusion they did. I think if there was evidence it would have been properly examined at the time. I don’t think this is a matter of important people being protected. You can’t pursue inquiries unless you have evidence on which you can base the enquiry. A shadow of a rumour is not enough.

 

This afternoon, Lord Armstrong finally sent a response (from his House of Lords email account) to my five questions. It appeared that in the three days since he had spoken to the Telegraph and Mail, his memory had suffered a catastrophic failure. He wrote:-

 

 I am afraid that I do not remember receiving Sir Antony Duff’s letter, or what I did when I received it.   It is now a long time ago, and there were a lot of other things going on at the time.

Yours sincerely,

Armstrong of Ilminster

 

Sir Robert famously brought into public usage the concept of being (as he put it during the 1986 Spycatcher trial) “economical with the truth”.    But the question of what actions the second most powerful civil servant in the country took about allegations that one of the most senior Tory politicians was a paedophile is too important to be left to this sort of evasive nonsense.

Lord Armstrong thus joins the lengthening list of the great and good who must be summonsed to testify at Lord Justice Goddard’s Public Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.    A little robust cross-examination might do wonders to help the noble Lord recover his powers of recollection.

Tim Tate Blog 26/07/15

Lord Armstrong talking to Tom Bateman (Radio 4), 31st January 2015 about Sir Peter Hayman:
The Needle

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Aylesbury Child Sex Ring

Six men involved in a child sex ring in Buckinghamshire have been found guilty of abusing two schoolgirls on a “massive scale”.
The Old Bailey heard the abuse in Aylesbury went on for years and involved rape and child prostitution.
Eleven defendants faced trial, accused of 47 sexual offences between 2006 and 2012.
Four were cleared of any wrongdoing, while the jury could not reach a verdict on one of the men.
The six who have been convicted will be sentenced in September.

BBC 24.7.15

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The Aylesbury child sex ring was not discovered as most would expect – with a victim complaining to the police, a parent voicing concerns or online surveillance. It began with the main victim – known throughout the case as child A – trying to prevent her own children being taken into care.

Between the ages of 12 and 16, she had sex with about 60 men, nearly all of them Asian. Sometimes, this sex was “consensual”, sometimes it was rape.

The efforts of Buckinghamshire social services to have Child A’s two young sons taken into care were halted when she spoke out about sexual abuse she had suffered. The case – heard in the Family Court – had centred on her own fitness to be a mother. The police investigation into Child A’s claims started soon after.

Social services were well aware of the victim – she had been on its children-at-risk register from the age of seven. And over the years the records held by various public organisations about her life swelled. But paperwork did not prevent the ongoing abuse of Child A, or a second girl – Child B – who was also abused by some of the men and who, again, was known to social services.

It is understood Child A may have raised issues of sexual abuse previously with social services but nothing was done.

David Johnston, managing director for children’s services at Buckinghamshire County Council, declined to comment on any “previous contact (Child A had) with social care”.

More…

BBC 24.7.15

 

 

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The Great Pretender

The Friday Night Song

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Jehovah’s Witnesses and Child Sexual Abuse

BBC Iplayer

In June, the High Court ruled that the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation was liable for sexual abuse committed by one of its members.

The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain – to give the group its official name – had failed to take adequate safeguarding steps when senior members of the organisation were aware that a fellow Witness was a known paedophile.

It was the first civil case in the UK of historical sexual abuse brought against the Christian-based religious movement.

The BBC’s Religious Affairs Correspondent, Caroline Wyatt, explores the implications of the Court’s decision and investigates the Jehovah’s Witnesses explicit policy of attempting to deal with all allegations of sexual abuse in-house.

The Report has gained access to confidential internal documents, sent out only to those who are senior in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. These reveal the organisation’s reluctance to involve the secular authorities in cases where a crime has been committed by one Witness against another.

Caroline Wyatt hears from former Witnesses who have suffered abuse and who claim that the organisation’s doctrine and procedures have allowed offenders within the congregation to avoid prosecution.

Presenter: Caroline Wyatt
Producer: Hannah Barnes.
BBC

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Supplement to the Wanless / Whittam Review

This report was quietly released today;

‘Following the discovery of a file that should have been submitted to Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC in their review, the Cabinet Office undertook further searches of the Cabinet Secretary’s private papers collection and identified 4 additional relevant files. Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC have reviewed this additional material and produced a supplementary report.’                    gov.uk

Of particular interest is this observation by Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam, 3rd June 2015;

‘More broadly, there were a number of references across the papers we saw that reinforced the observation we made in our Review [Review 2.5] that issues of crimes against children, particularly the rights of the complainant, were given considerably less serious consideration than would be expected today. To give one striking example, in response to claims from two sources that a named Member of Parliament ”has a penchant for small boys”, matters conclude with acceptance of his word that he does not and the observation that “At the present stage … the risks of political embarrassment to the Government is rather greater than the security danger.” [Sir Antony Duff to Sir Robert Armstrong 4/11/86]
The risk to children is not considered at all.’

Full Document:

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Key Westminster Figures in Child Abuse Papers

Peter Morrison, Leon Brittan, William van Straubenzee, Peter Hayman The Cabinet Office apologised for the ‘flaw’ in the way they responded to a request for information during the Wanless-Whittam Review.  A supplementary report to the review was released on the government website today and can be found here.

The Government reveals that unreleased files relating to child abuse allegations do exist which name key Westminster figures.

19:29, UK,Wednesday 22 July 2015

Clockwise from top left: Morrison, Brittan, Van Straubenzee, Hayman

Key Westminster figures from the 1970s and 1980s have been named in a series of Government child abuse documents.

After months of requests from Sky News the Government has revealed that papers exist that relate to Margaret Thatcher’s former parliamentary secretary Sir Peter Morrison, former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, former diplomat Sir Peter Hayman and former minister Sir William van Straubenzee.

All four have passed away and the contents of the papers have not been revealed.

Sky News 22/07/15

Extract from the letter from Richard Heaton, Cabinet Office, 5th May 2015 to Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam:

As you know, there was a flaw in the way in which the Cabinet Office initially responded to your call for a search of departmental papers. I am writing with an explanation for that error, and an apology.

The additional papers that Roger Smethurst showed you when you visited the Cabinet Office on 16 February and 24 March, and which had not been earlier identified, fall into three categories.

The first is the PREM file about Sir Peter Hayman. This file was held by the Cabinet Office and it should have been identified as relevant to your review. It was overlooked, and that may have been because it appeared in The National Archives catalogue. In any event, on behalf of the Cabinet Office, I am very sorry for the oversight and for our failure to identify this file earlier.

Second, a PREM file about Sir William van Straubenzee was identified in late January 2015. This file did not meet your search criteria and was part of a batch of files that had been selected for destruction in 2013, before your Inquiry began, as part of our routine records management process: To guard against the destruction of historically important records, The National Archives team checks files selected for destruction. As a consequence, on 22 January The National Archives referred the file to the Cabinet Office to be reviewed. On review my team noted that the file contained references to the Kincora Boys’ Home; Roger Smethurst promptly drew this to your attention.

The final group of papers about Peter Morrison, Leon Brittan, Peter Hayman, William van Straubenzee and Colin Wallace’s allegations about Kincora were found in a separate Cabinet Office store of assorted and unstructured papers. This collection, colloquially known as the Cabinet Secretary’s miscellaneous papers, has accumulated over several decades and was closed in 2007. It was largely uncatalogued and unregistered. We have been aware for some time that this is an unsatisfactory position.

Gov.uk

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