This extract is taken from Baby X (2010) written by Harry Keeble, a policeman on one of London’s child protection teams.
Injustice, Part One.
I was sitting in Bodrum’s with Patrick, discussing his latest case. He waited until the waitress had plonked down our refills before continuing. ‘This guy’s been getting away with it for such a long time, there’s no way he would have limited himself to just one child,’ he said.
Patrick had just been through a horrendous memorandum interview with a young victim of child abuse He’d claimed that a close relation had systematically assaulted him for years.
Sarah joined us. She’d just picked up a historical case. ‘I reckon it’s the same with mine,’ she said. ‘A Scout leader involved with the local amateur dramatics society. He won the trust of a child and his parents before he started abusing the poor kid. He’s been a Scout leader for decades, so I reckon there must be others. Why is it that so many paedophiles manage to find work with children? It it really so easy?
It is. Paedophiles carefully search out any opportunity they can. Unfortunately, there seem to be far too many prospects open to them and a shocking number of paedophiles manage to worm their way into jobs that require constant contact with children.
We see the stories all too often – Scout leaders, teachers, doctors, nurses, etc., facing trials for child abuse. Invariably, a long and disturbing history of abuse emerges during their trials, a history peppered with ‘second chances’ and ‘missed opportunities’ where their bosses have fallen for a paedophile’s appeals for mercy; that it was a momentary lapse and will never happen again.
Take Stephen King, for example, a former youth worker and self-styled expert in child pornography who advised police and criminal prosecutors on how to protect children. He also gave advice on sentencing paedophiles to the independent Sentence Advisory Panel. His work was credited in the final recommendations made in the panel’s report, which was used by the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Probation Service. He attended meetings where police and other bodies discussed tactics for tackling paedophiles.
He’d also been quoted in and contributed to several newspapers, including The Guardian, as an expert on child abuse. For example, after the conviction of Howard Hughes for the rape and murder of seven-year-old Sophie Hook, King had argued that demands for a sex offenders’ register were over the top. A 20 July 1996 letter from King about calls for a sex offenders’ register states: ‘A far more sensible approach would be to include on such a register the names of those who have reoffended…as the proportion of recidivists seems to be nowhere near the practically hysterical levels claimed by some apparent experts.’
Nothing could have been further from the truth: burglars can reform, paedophiles cannot. Make no mistake, when they are released back into society, they are likely to reoffend.
King proved himself to be the living embodiment of this rule. He was jailed for six months in 1989 for gross indecency with a child. Fifteen years later, in 2004, King, now fifty-four, pleaded guilty to twenty-one counts including sex with a girl under thirteen years (she was ten years old), ten counts of indecent assault, six charges of indecency with a child and four counts of taking indecent photographs of a child. The youngest of his victims was nine years old.
He kept a diary for nearly a decade in which he catalogued the abuse of his young victims. He bragged how he ‘got away with it’ when police officers decided not to press charges after an earlier inquiry.
He lured children to his flat by posing as a tutor. He set up a photographic studio in his bedroom with blacked-out windows. He tied the girls up and took hundreds of photos and filmed dozens of videos of them engaged in sexual acts alone, with each other and him. King even filed himself ‘grooming’ them, prior to the physical abuse. One of his victims had since attempted suicide by slashing her wrists with broken glass, while another had developed learning difficulties.
Judge Fabyan Evans sentenced King to seven years for ‘systematic sexual abuse’. Speaking outside the court, Detective Inspector Neil Thompson from the Met’s Paedophile Unit said he believed there were many more victims and urged them to come forward.
Many people felt the sentence was far too light. Speaking to journalists outside the court, a victim’s father said: ‘I left the court screaming, “Stop, this is not a deterrent.” We’re still very angry about what happened. His sentence is disgusting. He’ll be out in a few years. The worst thing is, you can’t protect your child. Everything you have striven for had all gone. Her innocence has been stolen.
King is by no means the exception.
Bernie Bain, a notorious paedophile who was head of one of Islington’s care homes in the seventies, targeted boys of seven or eight and was described by police as ‘extremely violent’ and ‘sadistic’. He was never brought to trial in Britain. Detectives did not discover the full extent of Bain’s activities until 1995, by which time he had abused children for three decades. Police eventually found seven people willing to testify against him in court. He was living in Morocco at the time, having served a prison sentence for abuse. He was deported to Holland, but an attempt to extradite him to Britain failed. Despite an international warrant for his arrest he disappeared again. He escaped justice by committing suicide in Thailand in May 2000.
The Evening Standard and the BBC’s Today programme had both launched investigations into Bernie Bain and the Islington Care Home scandal, the most recent of which came in 2003, when Margaret Hodge was appointed Minister for Children. Hodge was Head of Islington Council at the time concerns about Bain had first been raised. The Evening Standard called for Hodge to resign following their publication of a ‘killer memo’, which showed she was warned by senior social workers about the sexual abuse in Islington, but failed to act on their advice.
One of the victims, Demetrious Panton, had written a six-page letter to Hodge, detailing the details of his abuse at a residential unit in Elwood Street, Islington. Bernie Bain had sexually assaulted him, he wrote, ‘three or four times a week for over a year.’
Hodge dismissed Panton’s claims and labelled him an ‘extremely disturbed person’, a comment she was forced to apologize for publicly after Panton consulted lawyers and after he received a glowing public testimony from a senior police officer.
Hodge has since argued that she ‘regretted what happened in Islington children’s care homes’ adding that she had ‘learned the lessons’ and that her experience put her ‘in a better position to be Minister for Children’.
I’m sure that’s of little comfort to those who suffered under Bain. Council administrator Yvonne Williams was in Islington’s care from the age of eight to eighteen. She was sexually abused every day from the age of ten for six years.
Liam Lucas, twenty-six, was raped as a nine-year-old boy by an Islington care worker. He told the Evening Standard that he still suffered from nightmares and flashbacks.
Anne Belcher, twenty-eight, was raped by a man who visited her bedroom almost every day for two years.
Michael Fitch spent ten years in an Islington care home that turned him from a happy boy of nine into a tortured adult. He had made more than a dozen suicide attempts.
His brother Douglas was abused by the same man for four years, from the age of thirteen. ‘If Michael had been believed,’ he told the Evening Standard, ‘if Hodge had listened, I could have been saved from abuse.’
Yet nobody stepped in – despite being asked to investigate.
And so it continues.
Catholic leader Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O’Connor agreed to pay compensation to victims of Father Michael Hill, given a five-year prison sentence in 2002 for a series of ‘disgraceful and disgusting’ sex attacks on three young boys aged between ten and fourteen. Hill would ingratiate himself with families, befriending young boys with treats and outings before assaulting them. A further eight similar charges were left on file and not proceeded with, due to their historical nature.
He had previously been jailed in 1997, also for five years, for ten offences against eight boys. Before this he had worked as a priest in Sussex where he committed two more assaults. Following complaints, he left the parish in 1983 and received treatment at a church centre while temporarily suspended.
Hill went on to become the chaplain of Gatwick airport. Two of his subsequent victims included a child who missed his flight and a thirteen-year-old boy who was in a wheelchair. He systematically abused children while he was supposed to be a trusted spiritual guide, yet he had been forgiven and treated with leniency time and time again. And even with this record, the judge only saw fit to hand out the same sentence of five years that he had received in 1997.
Anthony Barron, fifty-four, was the image of respectability – a bank manager, Scout treasurer and member of the parent-teacher association. He was also a predatory paedophile who carried out sex attacks on girls as young as three, using them as ‘toys’ and storing films of his acts in an extensive video library.
He was arrested after a five-year-old child told her mother what had happened. Aft his trial in 2007, Barron was found guilty of the rape and attempted rape of a twelve-year-old girl and admitting eighty-seven offences against another ten girls between 1995 and 2006. They included assaults on two sisters on the same day, one after the other. He even abused another child while her mother was in the house.
Andrew Bright QC, defending, told the court that his client was ‘capable of reform’ and hoped to be allowed back into the community one day to ‘do what he sees as his duty to go some way to putting things right’. Let’s hope he is never given the chance. In 2007, he was given a minimum term of nine years before he can apply for parole. He will also spend the rest of his life on the sex offenders’ register.
Judge Julian Hall told jurors in the case – who had to watch some of the video footage – that he would excuse them from jury service for the next ten years because of the trauma they’d suffered. ‘Once is enough for a lifetime,’ he said.
Interestingly, the same judge had previously been accused of being too lenient on paedophiles. He once described as girl of ten, raped twice by a window cleaner, as ‘provocative’ because she wore frilly underwear. And in an earlier case, the same judge told another paedophile to buy his child victim a bicycle to cheer her up.
In 2007, another interesting sentence came from Judge Jim Spencer, who fined Kevin Harrison £500 and ordered him to pay £190 costs after Harrison, fifty-one, admitted paying for the sexual favours of a girl aged sixteen who needed the money to fund her drug habit. This offence, which outlaws sex with prostitutes under the age of eighteen, carries a maximum sentence of seven years’ jail. The judge reportedly warned Harrison to ‘keep himself to himself’. He also said: ‘Why should a girl of sixteen who wants to sleep with him not be able to – it is not a crime, is it?’ He was referring to the fact that the age of consent for sex is sixteen.
Harrison already had no less than eighteen sexually motivated offences on his record. He had been jailed for two years in 1977 for enticing two girls into his car and abusing them. He was then jailed for seven years in 1980 for a number of sex offences against children, and was given community punishments for further sexual offences against young girls in 1991 and 1992.
His 2007 crime carries a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment. By freeing him, Judge Spencer had sent out a message that the sexual exploitation of children is not a serious offence.
Also in 2007, Judge John Rogers suspended Derek William’s six-month sentence for downloading child pornography, saying that he had to consider a Home Office request to jail only the most ‘dangerous and persistent’ offenders. Williams had downloaded 200 images, some of which were given the serious ‘level four’ grading.
The judge clearly didn’t grasp that consumers of child pornography are very dangerous and persistent offenders – after all, they supply the demand for this most evil and depraved of markets. Instead, Judge Rogers’s judgement indicated the exact opposite: that downloading child pornography is not linked to the production of child abuse films and pictures, but is in fact a minor offence. Judge Rogers had only served to help other views of child pornography excuse their behaviour.
Luckily, Williams was required to register with the police as a sex offender within seventy-two hours and missed the deadline by eighteen hours. He blamed the unrelenting press who had surrounded his house after the judge’s comments. This time Judge Rogers activated the suspended sentence of six months and give him an additional two months for failing to register.
Even more seriously, a serial paedophile escaped with a one-year jail sentence in 2004 for the attempted abduction of an eleven-year-old girl while posing as a child protection officer. Gary Brown, thirty-two, was convicted after he targeted the child as she waited at a school in St John’s Wood in North London. Detective Constable Mark Gladman was stunned at the result. He said: ‘We can’t believe it. He has a record of offences against children going back to 1993’.
Even serving police officers who have been found guilty of offences against children have been treated leniently. Richard Curry, a police sergeant praised for bravery and his work in anti-paedophile operations, was jailed for just six months in 2003 after downloading child pornography. Curry, thirty-nine, admitted six charges of possessing 1,300 pictures of children as young as seven in pornographic poses.
The following year, the first serving Metropolitan Police officer was convicted for incest (he cannot be named for legal reasons). The father of two, forty-eight years old, sent a video of himself sexually abusing his underage daughter to an Internet paedophile. He was arrested after detectives discovered the film of him with the fifteen-year-old girl on another paedophile’s computer. Officers found over 300 photographs of young children – and thirty-two videos – some involving babies. He also confessed to having abused his daughter for about a year and having had sex with her up to six times. He was jailed for six years.