I can offer you two particular perspectives on the terrible crimes of child abuse.
One derives from my role as co-author of the book Abuse of Trust, which examined how Frank Beck got away with the systematic physical and sexual abuse of children who were supposed to be in his care and protection as a senior child care worker. All the warning signs were there, Beck should have been stopped, his line managers should have realised the abuse was taking place, the police were told – but the police refused to believe what children in care told them.
At Beck’s trial, very serious allegations were made against Greville Janner, then an MP, who is today Lord Janner. And probably everyone here knows a lot about those allegations, the many more allegations that have emerged since that time and the four police investigations that have been undertaken into Janner. These investigations have ended with decisions by prosecutors on three separate occasions not to prosecute Janner.
But I can also offer you a second perspective that I hope is valuable. I flew over here today from Northern Ireland, where I live.
Northern Ireland has had three separate types of child abuse undertaken there. One was in the Catholic children’s homes, where extremely cruel abuse took place. The second type was in state homes. And then there was Kincora.
I will explain about Kincora. It was a home that was run by leading loyalists, who had paramilitary links. The security forces knew about this home and condoned its operations. By this I mean they allowed the abuse to take place, did nothing to stop and indeed aided and abetted the treatment of children as sex slaves. They did so to enable the security forces to blackmail the people running the home so that they could obtain information on loyalist paramilitaries.
It is alleged that visiting abusers included senior figures in the English establishment. I don’t know if this is true, but the allegation is sufficient to say that Kincora must be included within the remit of the Goddard inquiry. There is an existing inquiry into abuse of children in Northern Ireland, but that inquiry does not have the power to require statutory bodies to provide classified files. So it will not get to the heart of the matter.
But I offer this other thought to you. We know that Cyril Smith was an abuser and was protected by some within the police, probably by Special Branch. We know of the allegations that Leon Brittan was an abuser and that those allegations swirled around for many years. There are other allegations against former senior cabinet ministers, who would all have had top level security clearance. Some were privy counsellors, so had even higher security clearance.
Whether these individuals were all guilty or not, the allegations are out there. I find it difficult to believe that the security and intelligence forces – by which I primarily mean Special Branch and MI5 – were not aware of these. If they did not, they were incompetent.
We need to understand the role of the security and intelligence forces. Did they clear these individuals? Did they not regard the abuse of children as an issue of security concern, despite the horrendous nature of the crimes? Or did they, at least on some occasions, regard this as an opportunity to exert influence and control over the political system? If this sounds extreme, I can promise you that this was the situation in Northern Ireland.
The media has been told by the chief constable of Derbyshire, Mick Creedon, that he was leaned-on not to conduct a full scale investigation into Greville Janner. We know that when Janner was called in for a police interview in 1991 that he was given the questions in advance. We know that he declined to answer any questions. We know that all four investigations failed to lead to a prosecution to test the allegations against Janner.
Separately we also know not just about the scale of abuse by Jimmy Saville, but also about the scale of access that he had. Access granted not just through employment by the BBC, but also because of his unique and bizarre role with the NHS. This was specifically facilitated by government ministers, acting outside all proper criteria and controls.
Something very rotten has taken place in the United Kingdom for several decades. It has involved people obtaining positions of access that they should never have been given. In some cases, abusers became public figures in the world of entertainment, using those positions to gain access to children. I also believe that in some cases – as with Frank Beck – abusers became politicians with the specific intention of using those positions to become ‘untouchable’ and out of reach of the law when they abused children.
There is an overwhelming duty on all political parties to take action if there is any suspicion that any of their representatives has used that position to gain access to children, or to protect themselves from crime. I don’t believe any of the major parties has accepted that responsibility.
I hope Goddard will get to the heart of this rottenness. But do not underestimate the scale and importance of the institutional abuse that has taken place, or the authority and seniority of those forces within society that do not want the truth to emerge.