Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #4Posted: July 10, 2014
December 3rd, 1991
Nicholas Wood, ‘MP denies abuse claim’
GREVILLE Janner yesterday told MPs that there was ”not a shred of truth” in allegations made during the Leicestershire children’s homes case that he sexually abused a teenage boy .
The Labour MP for Leicester West was making his first direct comment on the trial that ended with Frank Beck, the former head of three homes, being jailed for life for sexually and physically abusing children.
Mr Janner denied the allegations made by Beck that he had a two-year affair with Paul Winston, now aged 30. ”There is not a shred of truth in any of the allegations of criminal conduct made against me during the trial by Beck or by his accomplice Winston,” he said.
Mr Janner said that he and his family had endured a ”taste of the suffering” caused by Beck, but the real victims were the innocent people whose lives had been wrecked at his hands.
The MP added that he hoped to comment more widely on the case in a late night Commons debate tonight.
William Waldegrave, the health secretary, giving details of the two enquiries launched in the aftermath of the case, described Beck as evil. He said that the Commons had shown its support for Mr Janner. ”I am sure the House will wish to join with him in sending its sympathies to the many victims, some of whom may have suffered irreparable damage.”
Keith Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester East, condemned the ”cowardly attacks” on Mr Janner. Michael Latham, Tory MP for Rutland and Melton, said that Mr Janner had been the target of ”vile allegations and lies”.
Mr Janner was interviewed by police last March after an outburst by Beck at a preliminary trial hearing. His lawyers said in a statement at the time that he vigorously denied the claims.
December 3rd, 1991
Press Association Parliamentary Staff, ‘JANNER CLAIMS BECK PLOTTED TO FRAME HIM’
Labour’s Greville Janner said tonight he had evidence that jailed children’s home head Frank Beck had plotted to frame him in the Leicester sex abuse case. Mr Janner (Leicester W) told the Commons he had received a letter yesterday from a former cellmate of Beck, saying that Beck had told him of the bid which he hoped would “take the light off him”. The disclosure came as the Government rejected Mr Janner’s call for a swift review of the law on contempt of court, despite cross-party support. With his family watching from the public gallery, Mr Janner said in an extended adjournment debate: “Surely it must be wrong for people who have no part in a trial to be open to venemous, preposterous attacks, with no remedy, no recompense and above all no right of reply. “Surely others should not be forced to suffer as we have done. If such a review does lead to a just and useful alteration in the operation of the law of contempt, we will not have suffered in vain.” But despite an assurance from Labour’s chief whip Derek Foster that the Opposition would back a change in the law, Solicitor General Nicholas Lyell cautioned: “The law does not permit the right of the press freely to report proceedings in open court to be fettered – notwithstanding that such reporting may be or would be embarrassing, damaging or inconvenient to some individual who has featured in the case. “That would be a major inroad into a constitutional safeguard and would expose the courts to risk of pressure from interested third parties.” Beck, former head of three children’s homes, received five life sentences on Friday from Leicester Crown Court for a 13-year sexual “reign of terror” over youngsters in his care. During the trial, it was alleged that Mr Janner took part in sex sessions with an orphan boy, Paul Winston. Mr Winston, now 30, claimed the MP – a barrister and QC – sexually abused him over a two-year period and gave him expensive presents. Mr Janner was interviewed by police last March after an outburst by Beck at a preliminary trial hearing. The MP’s lawyers also said in a statement at the time that he vigorously denied the claims.
Tonight in the House, Mr Janner denounced the allegations as “disgraceful, contemptible and totally untrue” and received unanimous support from MPs. Beck, he said, had been convicted of a series of “filthy” crimes. “He called as a witness Paul Winston. Long ago when Winston was a deprived youngster living in a Leicesteshire children’s home, my family and I tried unsuccessfully to help him. Soon after he was placed in a home run by Beck. “Now after some 15 years of Beck’s influence, including a period when Winston lodged in Beck’s private home, now after I had refused to provide Beck with a reference, now only shortly before Beck’s trial was due to begin – they combined, Beck and Winston, to make disgraceful, contemptible and totally untrue allegations of criminal conduct against me.” He said their motive had been made clear in a letter sent to him yesterday by a former cellmate of Beck’s. “He writes that Beck told him that he, Beck, was going to frame me, and according to Beck, that would take the light off him.” To this end, he “enlisted the help of Winston. The former cellmate also wrote that the police knew he was willing to give evidence to that effect if the Crown thought it necessary to call him. In the event it did not.” Tory David Ashby (Leicestershire NW), opening the debate earlier, called on the Government to bring in measures to prevent people being named outside the courtroom when they were affected by evidence but could not protect themselves, as was the practice with rape victims.
said Mr Janner had made clear there was absolutely no truth in the horrible allegations made against him. To cheers, he declared: “The House, of course, immediately and unreservedly accepts that statement from you.” Keith Vaz (Lab Leicester E) told Mr Janner: “You have vindicated yourself and vindicated all of us by what you have said tonight.” Gwyneth Dunwoody (Lab Crewe and Natwich) protested that the travail suffered by Mr Janner and his family “was made 100,000 times worse because of certain members of the press”, while Simon Burns (C Chelmsford) expressed disgust at press coverage “and the pillorying of an innocent victim in a court case”. Former Labour Home Secretary Merlyn Rees complained that the press was quick to report a row between MPs but less inclined to report debates such as this. Patrick Cormack (C Staffordshire S) said the law needed to be changed. While it had been possible for Mr Janner, as an MP to speak in the Commons, that would not have been open to most other people. Barristers Alex Carlile (Lib Dem Montgomery) and Ivan Lawrence (C Burton) were among those who paid tribute to Mr Janner. Mr Carlisle said: “He is a man of determination and enthusiasm whose integrity and will power have crossed party lines.” Mr Lawrence said of the calls for a change in the law: “There is absolutely no reason why a judge should not be given the power to say in an appropriate case that the name of the person maligned should not be repeated in the press. It does not have to be a statutory ban, the matter can be left to the judgment of the court.”
, opening the debate earlier, called on the Government to bring in measures to prevent people being named outside the courtroom when they were affected by evidence but could not protect themselves. He said Beck was “an evil man” who had used Mr Janner’s name for his own ends and to “blackmail the establishment”. Yet a person in Mr Janner’s position could be subject to any libel by the media and could do nothing about it. If a statement was issued in self-defence it would be deemed to be contempt of court. Mr Ashby protested: “There cannot be any justice when that person has been pilloried, taken from pillar to post, by the press, when people are looking at him askance. “He hasn’t even been able to deny it. He hasn’t been able to say it’s untrue. “It affects himself. It affects his family and it must be a living hell.” He went on: “There ought to be a way in which evidence affecting other people who cannot protect themselves should be excluded from the newspapers, the television and the radio, in the way in which it hasn’t been. “There is a precedent for this. We do this in the case of persons who are the victims of rape.”
said Mr Janner had made clear there was absolutely no truth in the horrible allegations made against him. To cheers, he declared: “The House, of course, immediately and unreservedly accepts that statement from you.” He added: “Hopefully day has now dawned for you after the long night of despair. “But we should now look urgently at the existing procedures to see that such a horrible event can never happen again without any redress for those who have been so long and unjustly traduced.” Keith Vaz (Lab Leicester E) told Mr Janner: “You have vindicated yourself and vindicated all of us by what you have said tonight.” He said he had approached the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, during Mr Janner’s ordeal and suggested there should be legislation “to provide for the protection of the innocent – he did say he would look at this matter and consider this matter”. Mr Vaz added he himself would introduce a Private Member’s Bill if the Government would give it safe passage. Turning again to Mr Janner, he said: “You are a great survivor … I am sure you will survive this great ordeal.”
said: “This will not be the first time and will not be the last time that the law in Britain is an ass and has proven to be an ass. “We have got an opportunity to put it right.” Gwyneth Dunwoody (Lab Crewe and Natwich) said the travail suffered by Mr Janner and his family “was made 100,000 times worse because of certain members of the press”. She added: “Those who purport to be editors of responsible newspapers, of news bulletins, have to look carefully at those decisions they take and the manner in which they handle matters of this kind.” They had exploited the case “for the worst possible reasons, because they were concerned with the sale of newspapers, and not with what they were doing to an honourable, a learned and a very responsible man”. Simon Burns (C Chelmsford) expressed disgust at press coverage “and the pillorying of an innocent victim in a court case”. He said: “I am afraid that to many people in this country Mr Janner has been found guilty. They do not understand what court reporting is all about in newspapers. “They see an accusation in a newspaper and it is a fact, or it is that dreadfully trite expression: ‘There is no smoke without fire’.” To cheers, Mr Burns said he hoped newspapers that covered the case “will tomorrow morning make sure that Mr Janner gets as much coverage, so that people are left in no shadow of a doubt that there was not one scintilla of truth in those ghastly, grubby accusations that that horrendous man was prepared to make”.
Former Labour Home Secretary Merlyn Rees said the press was quick to report a row between MPs but less inclined to report debates such as this. He said: “If we were all shouting at each other, it would be there.”
He added: “The Solicitor General will be dealing with the question of contempt. I hope we are not going to forget the newspapers in particular. “I wonder how many of them will cover their pages tomorrow or the day after in the same way as they covered them in the last few weeks. “There is a great deal of talk about freedom of the press. When you look at what went on in Eastern Europe and fascist Europe before the war when I was younger, I am glad we have a free press. “We have a free press … that sometimes engages in the most scurrilous way and covers it up under the heading of a free press.” Patrick Cormack (C Staffordshire S) said the law needed to be changed. While it had been possible for Mr Janner, as an MP to speak in the Commons, that would not have been open to most other people. A village school master or vicar, named in court in the way Mr Janner had been, would have fewer opportunities to answer back. People would think there was “no smoke without fire” and “the mud would stick”. He hoped there would be a firm commitment from the Solicitor General, endorsed by the Opposition, to say the law needed to be amended. This was “not in any sense to restrict the freedom of those who are innocent until proved guilty”. But “to prevent the sort of vile calumny which we are discussing here now being perpetrated again”.
a barrister, also paid tribute to Mr Janner: “He is a man of determination and enthusiasm whose integrity and will power have crossed party lines.” Mr Carlile described Mr Beck as an “evil and corrupt” man. “Those who have trodden in the mire of corruption all too easily become corrupt to the core … ceasing to recognise what is good and what is good and bad. “And like Mr Beck they turn to corruption to wheedle their way out of their own previous corruption.” Another barrister MP, Ivan Lawrence (C Burton) praised Mr Janner. “We all have immense regard for him, not just for the way he conducts himself in Leicester, but for the way he conducts himself in the rest of the United Kingdom, and on behalf of the UK abroad. “He is a very famous personality who has helped many hundreds and thousands of people worldwide. He is precisely the kind of person who can be brought down lowest by the kind of hateful things that have been said and reported about him in a court of law.” Mr Lawrence suggested that judges should be given the power to stop things being said to the detriment of prominent people in a court of law. “There is absolutely no reason why a judge should not be given the power to say in an appropriate case that the name of the person maligned should not be repeated in the press. “It does not have to be a statutory ban, the matter can be left to the judgment of the court. As in so many other areas, the judge should be given the discretion to tell the press, ‘you may not publish the name of this person because to do so would mean contempt of court’. “The Government should take this action as soon as possible, so that Mr Janner and his family will not have suffered in vain.” Labour’s Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington) commented: “I’d like to think for a moment of all the youngsters that were so badly damaged and hurt by that evil man (Beck). “The sentence that he got is one he well deserved. Five life sentences doesn’t seem to many of us to be quite enough for what he’s done to our youngsters.” He said he was a friend of Mr Janner, and had travelled around Israel with him. Tory John Marshall (Hendon S) said he counted the Janner family as his friends. He praised them for “the quiet dignity and courage they’ve displayed in recent weeks while these vile, vicious and baseless allegations were being made by a proven liar”. Labour’s chief whip Derek Foster said he was breaking “his Trappist vow of six years”. He added: “I’ve rarely seen the House so unanimous in its warmth and its affection and especially in its understanding of the very severe ordeal which one of our colleagues and his family have had to endure for many months now.” He said Mr Janner and his family “have borne it with great fortitude, with great resilience, with great courage, and only through their great religious faith”. He said Labour leader Neil Kinnock would have liked to be there for the debate. “He has been a tremendous support to Mr Janner and his family in so many small and very touching ways which I know have been deeply appreciated,” he said. Labour would back a change in the law he said.
Replying to the debate, Solicitor General Sir Nicholas Lyell said Mr Janner had been through an ordeal which no MP would wish to share. But the principle of open justice was absolutely central to the country’s system of criminal justice. The role of criminal proceedings would be “hollow” if they could not be freely reported by the media. “The law does not permit the right of the press freely to report proceedings in open court to be fettered – notwithstanding that such reporting may be or would be embarrassing, damaging or inconvenient to some individual who has featured in the case. “That would be a major inroad into a constitutional safeguard and would expose the courts to risk of pressure from interested third parties.” He asked: “Is it possible to solve this very grave difficulty simply by suppressing a name or ordering the press not to publish it?” prompting cries of “yes” from several MPs on both sides of the House. Amid opposition and Tory protests, he added: “I invite the House to reflect very cautiously before beginning to interfere in the right of the press to make a fair and accurate report.” Sir Nicholas warned: “When you conceal matters you don’t necessarily quieten them.” To further protests, he said: “I ask the House to be careful when it has one of its own members in its charge. “We are right to sympathise with him (Mr Janner).”
[Incomplete sentences here are taken from the same form as they appear in the article on Nexis]
December 3rd, 1991
Dean Nelson, ‘Sex abuse victims in homes to get helpline’
THE National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Clwyd County Council will today announce a freephone emergency helpline for victims of sexual and physical abuse at children’s homes in North Wales, following an investigation by The Independent on Sunday.
Six child-care experts from a panel of guardians ad litem have been selected by the NSPCC to take calls from ”adult survivors” of abuse in two Clwyd homes and one in neighbouring Gwynedd, after revelations of widespread abuse.
John Jevons, Clwyd’s director of social services, said yesterday that the helpline had been planned to coincide with arrests of child abusers by police, but its launch was brought forward because of the Independent on Sunday report.
It is understood that North Wales Police may not make arrests for another fortnight.
Neil Hopkins, the NSPCC’s West Midlands and Wales regional director, said he anticipated that the helpline would be flooded with calls from throughout Wales from distressed former residents of the homes. Mr Hopkins praised the investigation, but said there was a need to help those who had been ”traumatised” by rekindled memories of abuse. The six child-care experts will offer advice and counselling.
The NSPCC also plans to establish a helpline for the victims of Frank Beck, who last week received five life sentences for buggery and assaults on children in homes in Leicestershire. Mr Hopkins said it was important for those who had been abused in care to be counselled and helped to overcome the trauma.
Clywd social services has also joined forces with the National Association for Young People in Care (NAYPIC) and Urchin, a group that represents those in care who have complaints. Clwyd plans to fund a North Wales office for NAYPIC to ensure children in care are better represented.
Gwynedd sources yesterday told The Independent that there was an ”increasing possibility” that Allan Levy QC, who was chairman of the ”pin-down” inquiry in Staffordshire, would join Barbara Kahan, his erstwhile colleague, to lead the new inquiry into abuse in Gwynedd homes.
The Welsh Office yesterday issued a statement after The Independent On Sunday revealed that Sir Wyn Roberts, the Welsh Office minister, had written a letter in July claiming that North Wales Police had already ”properly investigated” allegations of abuse in the homes. The statement stressed that his letter referred only to allegations at Ty’r Felyn Assessment Centre in Bangor, Gwynedd.
”The minister was correctly describing the circumstances at Ty’r Felyn, and only Ty’r Felyn, in July. The police had investigated allegations made in 1986 and had found no case to answer. Similarly, the social services inspectorate at the Welsh Office inspected the home in 1988 and they also found no evidence,” a spokesman said.
December 3rd, 1991
Stephen Goodwin, ‘Parliament and Politics: Both sides cheer Janner’s denial of abuse claims; The Beck case – Commons statement’
GREVILLE JANNER (Lab, Leicester West) was cheered by MPs on both sides of the Commons yesterday after he dismissed allegations made during the Leicestershire child abuse trial that he had sexually assaulted a teenage boy in care.
Last week, Frank Beck was jailed for five life terms after being found guilty at Leicester Crown Court of 17 charges of sexual and physical abuse, including buggery and rape, of children in his care at three children’s homes.
During the trial, Paul Winston, now 30, claimed Mr Janner sexually abused him for two years from the age of 13. A central plank of Beck’s defence was that he had stopped Mr Janner from seeing Mr Winston.
When Mr Janner rose to deny the allegations, after an emergency statement on the trial, there was a rumble of support for him from both sides of the chamber.
Cheers followed when he said: ”There was, of course, not a shred of truth in any of the allegations of criminal conduct made against me during the trial by Beck or by his accomplice Winston.”
Mr Janner said everyone in Leicestershire would welcome the inquiry into Beck’s regime. He said he and his wife and family had had a taste of the suffering Beck could impose on innocent people, but MPs’ ”profound sympathy” should go to the real suffers – ”the individuals who endured his homes and whose lives have been wrecked at his hands”.
William Waldegrave, Secretary of State for Health, said the Commons had ”demonstrated its feelings” to Mr Janner by the reception it gave him. Michael Latham (C, Rutland and Melton) spoke of the ”vile allegations and lies” made against Mr Janner who, pointedly and unusually for a political opponent, he called his ”honourable and learned friend”. Keith Vaz (Lab, Leicester East) condemned the ”cowardly attack” on Mr Janner’s character.
Earlier, Mr Waldegrave warned that no system of vetting child care officers was proof against ”evil people” getting into positions of power.
Detailing the inquiries set up in the wake of the trial, Mr Waldegrave said no amount of legislation or qualifications could guarantee there would be no more child abuse in children’s homes.
In addition to a statutory inquiry into abuse in the Leicestershire homes, Mr Waldegrave is setting up a national inquiry into selection and criteria for staff working in children’s homes. He said it would be chaired by Norman Warner, former director of Kent social services.
Joan Lestor, a Labour home affairs spokeswoman, called for an independent children’s rights commissioner to hear their complaints. ”The crux of the matter is that these children were not listened to. They were not believed when they complained to the very people we had put them in the care of in order to be protected.”
Mr Waldegrave said that when children went into care now, their attention was drawn to the telephone number of a named officer, quite separate from the home, to whom they could complain.
Mr Janner is expected to make a longer statement in the Commons tonight when he initiates an adjournment debate on the law on contempt of court.
December 3rd, 1991
Alan Travis, ‘Janner cheered in Commons’
MPs from all sides warmly supported Greville Janner in the Commons yesterday when the Labour MP for Leicester West insisted ‘there was not a shred of truth’ in allegations made against him during the Frank Beck child abuse trial.
His comments came as William Waldegrave, the Health Secretary, named Norman Warner, the former director of Kent social services, to head a national inquiry into the selection of children’s home staff.
During the trial, which ended last Friday in the conviction of the former head of three Leicestershire children’s homes, claims were made that Mr Janner had a two-year affair with an orphaned teenage boy.
Mr Janner’s brief intervention is expected to be followed by a fuller statement during an adjournment debate tonight.
He told the Commons: ‘There was, of course, not a shred of truth in any of the allegations of criminal conduct made against me during the trial by Beck or his accomplice, Winston . . . As my wife, my family, and I have had a taste of the suffering which Beck can impose on innocent people, will you join with me in sending to the real sufferers, the individuals who endured his homes and whose lives have been wrecked at his hands, the profound sympathy of us all?’
As he sat down there were cries of agreement around the Commons before Mr Waldegrave observed: ‘I am sure that the House has demonstrated its feelings on this matter in relation to you by the reception you have just received.’
While Michael Latham, Conservative MP for Rutland and Melton, talked of the ‘vile allegations and lies’ made against Mr Janner, his fellow Leicester MP, Keith Vaz, condemned the ‘cowardly attacks’ on the MP.
During a private notice question, the Health Secretary confirmed the announcement made last Friday that he was setting up two inquiries as a result of the Beck case – into staff selection at homes and into the handling of complaints in Leicestershire.
There had been many improvements in Leicestershire since the period of Mr Beck’s involvement, but deficiencies remained.
Mr Waldegrave said the case showed the need to look with the utmost care at staff selection in children’s homes. No amount of checking of qualifications or legislation could guarantee there would not be more child abuse.
He agreed with Joan Lestor, Labour spokeswoman on children, that the backlog in vetting certain professional staff needed to be tackled, and that children needed an independent person to whom they could confidently complain.
‘The crux of the matter is that these children were not listened to,’ she said.
December 4th, 1991
Nicholas Wood and Peter Mulligan, ‘Beck tried to frame me, says Janner’
GREVILLE Janner claimed last night that Frank Beck tried to frame him during the Leicestershire children’s homes case by falsely accusing him of sexually abusing a teenage boy.
Speaking at length for the first time in the Commons about his ordeal, the Labour MP for Leicester West appealed to the government to change the law of cntempt to stop the media repeating ”disgraceful, contemptible and totally untrue allegations” made under the cloak of legal privilege.
”Surely it must be wrong for people who have no part in a trial to be opened to venomous and preposterous attacks with no remedy, with no recompense and, above all, with no right of reply.”
Beck received five life sentences for 13 years of physical and sexual abuse of children. His allegations against Mr Janner were repeated in court by Paul Winston, now aged 30, who claimed that he had been abused by the MP for two years from the age of 13.
Mr Janner, who was strongly supported by MPs from all sides of the House in his call for a change in the law, disclosed that he had received on Monday a letter from a former cellmate of Beck’s revealing the plot against him. ”He writes that Beck told him that he, Beck, was going to frame me. According to Beck, that would take the light off him. And to that end Beck enlisted the help of Winston.” Mr Janner added that the cellmate also said that police knew that the MP would be the target of allegations.
”But the allegations against me were precisely as the prosecution alleged in Beck’s trial: an attempted diversion from the reality of Beck’s guilt, although the verdict has since showed that, happily, that attempt failed.
”Beck and Winston were able to make this terrible and wrong accusation against me and the media could and, with honourable exceptions, did report these falsehoods all under the cloak of absolute privilege. I had effectively no legal rights in the matter and I was not even allowed to nail the lie. No wonder many people were mystified by my uncharacteristic silence.”
Sir Nicholas Lyell, solictor general, argued that the right of the press to report proceedings in open court overrode the ”terrible hardship” that could be caused to individuals. ”The law does not permit the right of the press freely to report proceedings in open court to be fettered notwithstanding that such reporting may be or would be embarrassing, damaging or inconvenient to some individual who has featured in the case.”
He added: ”I invite the House to reflect very cautiously before beginning to interfere in the right of the press to make a fair and accurate report.”
In his statement, Mr Janner also spoke of his relationship with Mr Winston. ”Long ago, when Winston was a deprived youngster living in a Leicestershire children’s home, my family and I tried unsuccessfully to help him. Afterwards, he was placed in a home run by Beck.
”Now after some 15 years of Beck’s influence, including a period when Winston lodged in Beck’s private home, now after I had refused to provide Beck with references, now only shortly before Beck’s trial was due to begin, they combined to make disgraceful and totally untrue allegations against me.”
The MP added: ”I have been able to ride out the agony of this ordeal in good heart. But it has not been easy.”
December 4th, 1991
Craig Seton, ‘The ‘Janner diversion’ that failed to save Beck from justice’
Craig Seton reports on th allegations made in the Beck child-abuse trial which Greville Janner, the Labour MP, said had caused him agony.
GREVILLE Janner, the MP for Leicester West, suffered ”agony” as a result of allegations, made during the Frank Beck child-abuse trial, that he had had sex with one of the witnesses, even though those allegations had been labelled ”a red herring” and a ”charade” by Peter Joyce, QC, for the prosecution.
It was an experience which led Mr Janner to appeal last night in the House of Commons for a change in the law to prevent the media repeating ”totally untrue” allegations made under the cloak of legal privilege.
Last week, Beck, the chief officer of the Ratcliffe Road home for children in Leicester, was sentenced to five terms of life imprisonment plus 24 years.
Three statements were made to the police by Paul Winston, one of the former children in care of the home and a defence witness, but the discrepancies in the statements were of crucial importance in discrediting Beck’s defence. Mr Winston claimed that, as a 13-year-old in care, he had had a sexual relationship with Mr Janner that had lasted two years in the Seventies.
His first statement was made in August 1990, when Leicestershire police traced hundreds of young people who had been in homes where Beck had been officer in charge between 1973 and 1986, and claimed there had been mistreatment of children in homes, but made no mention of Mr Janner. He made a second statement to police in January 1991, in which he made allegations of sexual assault against Mr Janner, but said that full sex had not occurred.
On February 6, Beck himslf, in custody, made a statement to police in which he claimed that Mr Winston had been sexually abused by the MP. A day later, Winston was seen again and made even more serious allegations against Mr Janner. Later in February, during committal hearing before Leicester city magistrates, Beck shouted as he was being led to the cells: ”There has been a conspiracy. There is an MP called Greville Janner who has been abusing children … the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) know about it and it is wrong it is not being made public.”
During Beck’s trial, Mr Winston was called as a defence witness and made his claim that he had been sexually abused by Mr Janner at the Holiday Inn in Leicester and during a lecture tour of Scotland.
Mr Winston was cross-examined in detail by Peter Joyce, QC, for the prosecution, who labelled the allegations made by Mr Winston and Beck as the ”Janner diversion”. Mr Winston agreed that what he had said in court about having sexual relations with Mr Janner had differed from what he said in his statement to the police in January 1991. He told the court his evidence under oath was the true version.
He agreed that he had tried to get Mr Janner to help Beck ”in some way” because he knew the MP. He also agreed that that was before he had named the MP and that he had named the MP ”a long time” after Mr Janner had refused to help Beck.
Leicestershire police officers who investigated the Beck affair also investigated the allegations made by Paul Winston against Mr Janner. The MP was interviewed at his own request in the presence of his solicitor, Sir David Napley, and later issued a statement in which he vigorously denied the claims. Before Beck’s trial, police sent a report on the allegations made against Mr Janner to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which decided there was no evidence on which to bring charges against the MP. Sources close to the Beck affair say that Leicestershire detectives found no evidence to substantiate the allegations against Mr Janner.
Letters from the MP to Paul Winston at his care home are said by those who have seen them to be neutral in tone and not to substantiate allegations of any sexual relationship.
Beck claimed that he had ended Mr Janner’s alleged relationship with Paul Winston when the boy arrived at Ratcliffe Road. Sources close to the police investigation said it was not surprising that Beck would be anxious to turn away the enquiries of an MP as Beck was already abusing children in his care.
December 4th, 1991
Nicholas Wood, ‘Janner denies abuse’
THE Labour MP accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy said last night that an attempt had been made to frame him.
Greville Janner told the Commons that the plot to make him the target of ”totally untrue allegations” was disclosed by a former cellmate of Frank Beck.
Beck, the former head of three children’s homes in Leicestershire, was jailed last week for life for physical and sexual abuse of children.
The letter said that Beck had enlisted Mr A to divert attention from Beck’s crimes. Mr Winston, now aged 30, told the court that he was abused by the MP for two years from the age of 13.
December 4th, 1991
Press Association Parliamentary Staff, ‘JANNER CLAIMS BECK PLOTTED TO FRAME HIM’
Labour MP Greville Janner last night said he had evidence that jailed children’s home head Frank Beck had plotted to frame him in the Leicester sex abuse case. Mr Janner (Leicester W) told the Commons he had received a letter on Monday from a former cellmate of Beck, saying that Beck had told him of the bid which he hoped would “take the light off him”. The disclosure came as the Government rejected Mr Janner’s call for a swift review of the law on contempt of court, despite cross-party support. With his family watching from the public gallery, Mr Janner said in an extended adjournment debate: “Surely it must be wrong for people who have no part in a trial to be open to venemous, preposterous attacks, with no remedy, no recompense and above all no right of reply. “Surely others should not be forced to suffer as we have done. If such a review does lead to a just and useful alteration in the operation of the law of contempt, we will not have suffered in vain.” But despite an assurance from Labour’s chief whip Derek Foster that the Opposition would back a change in the law, Solicitor General Nicholas Lyell cautioned: “The law does not permit the right of the press freely to report proceedings in open court to be fettered – notwithstanding that such reporting may be or would be embarrassing, damaging or inconvenient to some individual who has featured in the case.” Beck, former head of three children’s homes, received five life sentences on Friday from Leicester Crown Court for a 13-year sexual “reign of terror” over youngsters in his care. During the trial, it was alleged that Mr Janner took part in sex sessions with an orphan boy, Paul Winston. Mr Winston, now 30, claimed the MP – a barrister and QC – sexually abused him over a two-year period and gave him expensive presents. Last night in the House, Mr Janner denounced the allegations as “disgraceful, contemptible and totally untrue” and received unanimous support from MPs. He accused Beck and Winston of having combined “to make disgraceful, contemptible and totally untrue allegations of criminal conduct against me”. He said their motive had been made clear in the letter sent to him by Beck’s former cellmate. “He writes that Beck told him that he, Beck, was going to frame me, and according to Beck, that would take the light off him.” To this end, he “enlisted the help of Winston. The former cellmate also wrote that the police knew he was willing to give evidence to that effect if the Crown thought it necessary to call him. In the event it did not.”
December 4th, 1991
Stpehen Goodwin, ‘Parliament and Politics: Janner urges reform of laws on contempt ; Adjournment debate’
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL, Sir Nicholas Lyell, was barracked from both sides of the Commons last night as he rejected a cross-party appeal for a review of the law of contempt of court following the naming of the MP, Greville Janner, in the Leicestershire child abuse case.
Mr Janner (Lab, Leicester W) said that he had been ”framed” by Frank Beck, the former head of three children’s homes who received five life sentences last week after being found guilty of 17 charges of sexual and physical abuse of children in his care.
In an unusually emotional debate, in which the MP and his family were praised from all sides for their ”courage” during Beck’s trial, Mr Janner explained that the law of contempt had meant he was unable to reply to ”disgraceful, contemptibly and totally untrue” allegations made against him.
During the trial, Paul Winston, now 30, alleged that while he was in care he had been sexually assaulted by Mr Janner for two years, until he was 15.
Mr Janner told MPs that Beck had enlisted the help of Mr Winston, who Mr Janner’s family had tried unsuccessfully to help when he was ”a deprived youngster” before he was placed in a home run by Beck. Their motive had been made clear in a letter sent to him on Monday by a former cellmate of Beck’s, Mr Janner said.
”He writes that Beck told him that he, Beck, was going to frame me, and, according to Beck, that would take the light off him.”
With his family watching from the public gallery, Mr Janner, a Queen’s Counsel, said there should now be a swift review of the ”injustices” of the operation of the law on contempt of court. ”Surely it must be wrong for people who have no part in a trial to be open to venemous, preposterous attacks, with no remedy, no recompense and above all no right of reply. Surely others should not be forced to suffer as we have done.”
Mr Janner was supported by lawyers and non-lawyers on both sides of the chamber. David Ashby (C, Leicestershire NW), a barrister, said that his friend must have been through ”a living hell”. Beck had used Mr Janner’s name to ”blackmail the establishment” in the hope of not being prosecuted.
Proposing that third parties to trials should be granted anonymity similar to that given to children or the victims of rape or blackmail, Mr Ashby said: ”There cannot be any justice when that person has been pilloried, taken from pillar to post, by the Press, when people are looking at him askance.”
Sir John Farr (C, Harborough) said that it was not the first time the law had been proved to be an ass. In this case it had been very damaging to Mr Janner and his family. Parliament had an opportunity to put it right.
But the united mood of the House was broken by Sir Nicholas, who said that MPs should reflect very cautiously before beginning to interfere in the right of the Press to make a fair and accurate report of court proceedings.
The principle of open justice was absolutely central to the country’s system of justice. ”We interfere with this at our genuine peril, and at peril to our liberties and our system of open justice.”
MPs protested at his suggestion that the problem could not be solved by suppressing a name, or ordering the Press not to publish it. One Tory backbencher shouted at Sir Nicholas to ”stop speaking as a lawyer and start to act as politician”.
Though Sir Nicholas said that Mr Janner had been through an ordeal no MP would wish to share, he said that the role of court proceedings would be ”hollow” if they could not be freely reported by the media.
”The law does not permit the right of the Press freely to report proceedings in open court to be fettered – notwithstanding that such reporting may be, or would be, embarrassing, damaging or inconvenient to some individual who has featured in the case,” he said.
Sir Nicholas warned that once the operation of justice was distorted then, through rumour and ”the insidious effect of rumour”, far more damage could be done. ”When you conceal matters you don’t necessarily quieten them,” he said.
December 4th, 1991
‘Pay offer to residential care staff’
A wage agreement aimed at raising the pay of the worst-off residential staff in local authority homes has been proposed. Local government employers offered a minimum salary for basic residential workers of pounds 10,422 from next April.
Frank Beck, 49, the former head of three Leicestershire children’s homes convicted on 17 charges of sexual and physical abuse of children in care, plans to appeal against his five life sentences.
December 4th, 1991
Nikki Knewstub, ‘MPs refused contempt law review’
THE Solicitor-General last night rejected calls from MPs from all sides of the Commons for a review of the law of contempt of court to prevent allegations against innocent third parties such as those made against the MP Greville Janner in the Frank Beck case.
Sir Nicholas Lyell angered MPs with his sterling defence of the freedom of the press and the rights of a defendant to a fair trial.
‘I suggest we interfere with this at our genuine peril,’ he said, acknowledging the ordeal Mr Janner had been through. The ultimate principle had to be that of open justice.
Mr Janner, Labour MP for Leicester West, again rejected allegations made against him during the child abuse trial, saying they were ‘disgraceful, contemptible and totally untrue.’
His family were in the public gallery to hear MPs denounce the claims made by Mr Beck, the former head of three children’s homes who was sentenced to five life sentences last Friday for sexual assaults on inmates in his care.
MPs expressed admiration for Mr Janner’s courage and urged a change in the law. Patrick Cormack, Tory MP for Staffordshire South, said such a change would ‘prevent this sort of vile calumny being perpetrated again’. Others expressed concern for those who did not have recourse to Parliament to clear their names, and criticised the press for the way the trial was reported.
During the trial it was alleged that Mr Janner took part in sex sessions with Paul Winston, now aged 30, who was one of the orphans under Mr Beck’s care.
Mr Janner was seen by police earlier this year after Mr Beck made the allegations at a preliminary trial hearing. The MP’s lawyers said in a statement then that he vigorously denied the claims.
During the recent trial Mr Janner, a QC who has been an MP since 1970, was unable to speak out about the claims because of the law on contempt.
He told the Commons on Monday that the allegations were without foundation, and last night, in an adjournment debate on the rules of contempt, he reiterated that the allegations were horrendous, despicable lying, and thanked the House for letting him ‘nail the lies’.
Mr Janner said that Mr Winston had been a deprived youngster living in a Leicestershire children’s home when he and his family tried unsuccessfully to help him. Soon afterwards he was placed in a home run by Mr Beck.
Mr Janner said: ‘Now after some 15 years of Beck’s influence, including a period when Winston lodged in Beck’s private home, now after I had refused to provide Beck with a reference, now only shortly before Beck’s trial was due to begin, they combined, Beck and Winston, to make disgraceful, contemptible, and totally untrue allegations of criminal conduct against me.’
He said the motive had been shown in a letter sent to him by a former cellmate of Mr Beck’s.
The prisoner said Mr Beck had told him that he, Mr Beck, was going to frame the MP. Mr Janner said the prisoner said Mr Beck claimed ‘that would take the light off him’. He enlisted the help of Winston to that end.
– Mr Beck is to appeal against his five life sentences and possibly his convictions for assaulting children in his care, his solicitor said yesterday.
December 4th, 1991
Ian Katz, ‘Sympathy for MP caught in legal bind: Ian Katz reports on the dilemma facing Greville Janner over abuse allegations against him in court’
THERE was an inescapable irony about Greville Janner’s attack last night on the contempt laws which, until the end of the Leicestershire child abuse trial, prevented him from rebutting allegations that he had an affair with a teenage boy.
Mr Janner, QC, ‘barrister-at law, author, lecturer, journalist and broadcaster’ according to his entry in Who’s Who, has never been publicity shy. Included in an oeuvre of more than 60 books is a tome entitled Janner on Presentation, and in an article last year he wrote: ‘Those who suffer at the hands of newspapers can usually only blame themselves.’
In his 20 years in the Commons as the MP for Leicester West, 63-year-old Mr Janner has established himself firmly in the class of busy backbenchers, campaigning for everything from a reduction in the retirement age to more protection for journalists.
Mr Janner’s 1977 Who’s Who entry is regarded by many as a collector’s item. Filling 5 1/2 column inches, more than twice as much as James Callaghan’s, it records the MP’s achievements from his Southern Junior 100 yards championship to his presidency of the Leicester ex-Boxers Association. Later editions record that he was president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews from 1979 to 1985 and an active campaigner for the release of Soviet Jews and the prosecution of war criminals.
But Mr Janner’s healthy appetite for the oxygen of publicity did not detract from the iniquity of his position as the Beck trial generated a jigsaw of allegations against him. Since the allegations were made in court, he could not sue those who made them. Yet he was not directly involved in the case and therefore could not reply to the claims in court.
Any comment outside the court could have placed him in contempt, so he was forced to maintain a potentially damaging silence until Mr Beck was convicted. Mr Janner was warmly supported by MPs on all sides when he strongly denied the allegations in the Commons on Monday.
Several barristers sympathised with his position during the trial. ‘These are allegations which are very easily made and there are no opportunities for dealing with them,’ said Anthony Scrivener, QC, chairman of the Bar. ‘Judged by any basic rules of justice it is unfair.’
However, it is not clear what judges could do to avoid the names of public figures being drawn through other people’s mud in court.
Some barristers suggest a judge should insist on witnesses writing down the names of public figures, or rule that they should be referred to under an alias, although it is unlikely such measures would thwart a defendant bent, as one lawyer put it, ‘on simply diverting the flak from themselves’.
Mr Beck had been intent on drawing Mr Janner’s name into his trial since he blurted the MP’s name during a hearing earlier this year. His counsel insisted the allegations were central to his defence, claiming they showed he fought abuse rather than practising it.
Peter Joyce, QC, for the prosecution, called them a red herring, part of ‘the great Janner diversion’.
Although the Director of Public Prosecutions has no plans to prosecute, it is difficult to see how Mr Janner can fully expunge the smears before the next election, at which he will defend a majority of only 1,201.
December 7th, 1991
‘JANNER: POLICE CONFIRM NO ACTION’
Police are to take no action against MP Greville Janner following allegations made during a child abuse case. He was cheered on all sides of the Commons this week as he said there was “not a shred of truth” in claims made against him at the trial of children’s homes head Frank Beck. Mr Janner was interviewed by police last March after an outburst at a preliminary trial hearing by Beck, who received five life sentences last week at Leicester Crown Court for a 13-year sexual “reign of terror” over youngsters in his care. The Leicester West MP’s lawyers said in a statement at the time that he vigorously denied the claims. Leicestershire police said yesterday: “On the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service, no further action is to be taken.”
December 7th, 1991
‘No action on Janner’
Police yesterday confirmed that no action is to be taken against Greville Janner, Labour MP for Leicester West, after allegations against him at the trial of Frank Beck, who was jailed for life last week at Leicester for sex offences against young people.
December 8th, 1991
Jack O’Sullivan, ‘Children Betrayed: Psychological tests may be used to detect paedophiles; Following last week’s child abuse revelations, Jack O’Sullivan talks to a residential social worker and the head of the inquiry into children’s homes’
Sophisticated psychological tests for social workers, like those used for company managers, may be introduced to stop paedophiles getting jobs in children’s homes.
The proposal is to be put to the Government’s inquiry into residential childcare, called after the conviction of Frank Beck on 17 charges of sexual and physical assault in Britain’s biggest child- abuse scandal. Beck moved between childcare posts unhindered for nearly 20 years.
Norman Warner, in his first interview since his appointment as chairman of the inquiry, told The Independent on Sunday: ”The trend has been to focus on whether someone can do the job rather than prying into backgrounds. But it is clear that we need to know a lot more about the people we employ in these homes.
”A feature of Beck’s trial and other cases was that some workers have found it difficult to commit themselves to relationships, have had problems with their sexuality and been intrinsically promiscuous. Putting people with these problems in charge of disturbed adolescents is a lethal combination. It could be said to be a dereliction of duty not to explore such issues when employing people.
”This subject could raise hackles and be presented as an invasion of privacy. It could be seen as a witch-hunt. We must not be seen to be targeting homosexuals. After all, heterosexual men are responsible for most child abuse.”
Mr Warner, 51, until recently Kent’s director of social services, is no stranger to controversy. A career civil servant, he was Barbara Castle’s principal private secretary during her battle with the medical profession in the mid- Seventies over pay beds in the National Health Service. In 1979 he provoked a march to Trafalgar Square of Britain’s sub-postmasters in protest at proposals to pay social security benefits through banks instead of post offices, and he was one of Mrs Thatcher’s first ”efficiency scrutineers” recruited by Lord Rayner.
His report on children’s homes is likely to be far more controversial than one only four months ago by Sir William Utting, former head of the Social Services Inspectorate.
He said: ”There seem to be parallels with the Sixties, when society grasped the nettle of the way long-stay psychiatric patients were being treated in closed institutions. Homes are now being inspected really for the first time. It would not surprise me if, when inspectors go poking around such uncharted territories, they uncover some unpleasant goings on. Society has chosen to leave these places alone for a very long time.”
Mr Warner is concerned about the use of often immature temporary staff in some areas. ”If you have a 25 to 30 per cent annual turnover of staff, then, frankly, I think you have a problem in running a caring regime,” he said.
The inquiry will focus on opening children’s homes to wider influences. One possibility could be smaller units of about five children, run by a married couple, or units which also provide services for children still living with parents. Mr Warner said: ”In the majority of these residential home scandals one is struck by the sheer sense of isolation of homes and staff from the mainstream. They have been very open to half-baked solutions. We have to maximise the potential number of whistle-blowers.”
Extra NHS involvement could be a key feature. ”If you isolate 10 or 12 possibly severely traumatised adolescents, common sense suggests that you need adequate psychological support services so people can understand what is normal developmental behaviour. Having unqualified staff without well-defined knowledge is a recipe for disaster.
”What it boils down to is ensuring that you place these highly traumatised children with people who really understand adolescence, have an idea of what can be achieved in a psychotherapeutic way and have access to expert help when the lid blows off. This will be more expensive than putting children in a warehouse.”
December 13th, 1991
Linda Jackson, ‘PSYCHOLOGISTS ‘COULD COMBAT CHILD ABUSE”
Psychologists should make regular visits to children’s homes as a safeguard against abuse, it was claimed today. They could play a crucial role in preventing staff from using therapy as an excuse to prey on children in their care, said the British Psychological Society. The call follows the recent trial of Leicestershire children’s homes head Frank Beck, who sexually abused youngsters under the cloak of regression therapy. The society wants social service chiefs to employ experienced psychologists to visit and advise on treatment at all children’s homes. Ruth Nissim, a psychologist who works for Oxfordshire social services, said the move would make abuse “much more likely to be picked up over a period of time”. She told a London news conference most residential staff currently giving therapy at children’s homes were unqualified for the work. Abuse by staff in children’s homes was “well-established”, claimed Nick Barlow, psychology services manager for Rugby, Warwickshire. “The idea of humiliation continues – that bare boards will make a man of you and what a child needs is discipline.”
December 16th, 1991
‘More abuse cases in Leicestershire’
FOUR MORE cases of alleged malpractice by social workers in Leicestershire children’s homes have been revealed in a report by Government inspectors. The incidents allegedly occurred after the departure in 1986 of Frank Beck, 49, who was sentenced last month to life imprisonment for abusing children in care.
Yesterday, Brian Waller, Leicestershire’s director of social services said: ”The fact that they were spotted and dealt with at once shows how much more alert we have become to abuse.”
One social worker was alleged last year to have sexually abused a mentally-handicapped girl. He was suspended.
The Jerusalem Report
December 19th, 1991
Colin Bickler, ‘THE ORDEAL OF GREVILLE JANNER’
A leader of British Jewry is finally permitted to refute charges of child abuse. The ordeal faced by prominent Jewish Member of Parliament Greville Janner over false child-abuse allegations could lead to new legislation to prevent unsubstantiated accusations made during trials in British courts from being publicized in the media.
That, in any case, is the hope of Janner, former president of the British Board of Deputies which oversees Jewish communal affairs – and a strong lobbyist for Jewish and Zionist causes. The Labor MP’s call for such a law drew cheers from both sides of the House of Commons when he was finally able to deny the allegations in Parliament last week.
The accusation that Janner had sexually assaulted a youth over 15 years ago was raised two months ago during the trial of Fred Beck, director of a children’s home in Janner’s constituency of Leicester. Beck was being tried for sexually abusing children in his care. The media were legally allowed to report the allegations made in open court, along with a prosecutor’s remark that the accusation was a “red herring” used by Beck to shift attention from the charges against him. But because British law bars comment, as distinct from straight reporting, on anything said in court, Janner could make no response but a bare denial through his lawyers.
The trial ended in late November, with Beck sentenced to five consecutive life terms plus another 24 years. Only then could Janner, 63, state publicly that local police had years earlier investigated the allegation that he had molested one of Beck’s charges – an orphan named James Winston – and found nothing to support it.
The intervening weeks were a trying time for Janner, a lawyer who has followed in the footsteps of his late father, Barnett – later Lord Janner – a prominent Jewish leader and Labor MP. Though he was unable to speak out, the allegation clearly weighed on him. On December 2, in his first public statement after Beck was convicted, he told an attentive House of Commons that “there was, of course, not a shred of truth” in the charge. Speaking again before the House the next day, he said, “The injustice imposed a special burden on my wife, on my children, on my mother and my sister and all my family.” And Solicitor-General Sir Nicholas Lyell praised the MP’s “dignity in adversity” during his enforced silence.
Janner’s remarks were welcomed with cheers from members on both sides of the House and by Health Secretary William Waldegrave, who has now ordered an inquiry into the running of the children’s homes where sexual abuse had gone on for years.
The belated denial, and the support Janner received, also brought some relief to Britain’s Jewish community. It has been battered of late with bad publicity, most prominently the fraud allegations against the late publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell, the disappearance of venture capitalist David Rubin, and the share scandals of recent years that have tainted a number of other Jewish businessmen.
Janner, who has refused personal interviews, appealed to Parliament to consider changing the law to bar the media from reporting “disgraceful, contemptible and totally untrue allegations” under the cloak of privilege. “Surely, it must be wrong for people who have no part in a trial to be open to venomous and preposterous attacks with no remedy, with no recompense and above all, no right of reply,” he said. “Surely others should not be forced to suffer as we have.”
He disclosed that among the many letters of support he received, one was from a former cellmate of Beck. The letter suggested that Beck and Winston had plotted to accuse Janner of carrying on a sexual relationship with Winston when he was 13 years old to try to divert attention during the trial. Beck and Winston had remained close friends over the years.
Janner clearly intends to put the episode behind him. His office announced last week that he intends to stand for Parliament again when elections are held next year.
December 21st, 1991
Andrew Kirkwood, QC, has been appointed to head the enquiry into child abuse at Leicestershire children’s homes following the Frank Beck case.
January 10th, 1992
‘FRANK BECK TO APPEAL’
Solicitors for Frank Beck, convicted last month of buggery and assault of children in his care in Leicestershire homes, yesterday lodged an appeal.
January 11th, 1992
‘PCA will supervise Beck case inquiry’
The Police Complaints Authority is to supervise an inquiry into claims that Leicestershire police failed to investigate adequately child sexual abuse by Frank Beck, head of three children’s homes for 13 years.
Beck, 49, was given five life sentences and 24 years’ jail in November at the end of his 50-day trial.
He was convicted on l7 charges of physical and sexual abuse of children in care and four members of staff.
Some witnesses in the trial told how they complained about alleged abuse to county council staff and police officers years before Beck’s arrest.
The trial was also told how in the years before Beck was charged, police officers returned children to homes after they said they had been abused.
January 22nd, 1992
‘Public enquiry urged on Beck’
Michael Latham and Sir John Farr, Leicestershire Conservative MPs, have demanded that the enquiry into the county council’s handling of complaints against Frank Beck, the social worker jailed for life in November for abusing children in care, should be made public when it begins today.
The enquiry, under the chairmanship of Andrew Kirkwood, QC, was ordered by William Waldegrave, the health secretary, after a court was told that Beck, aged 49, had escaped detection for 13 years.
January 22nd, 1992
Mervyn Tunbridge, ‘CHILD SEX ABUSE CASE: HOW COULD IT HAPPEN?’
One question will dominate the Leicestershire childcare inquiry ordered after senior social worker Frank Beck was convicted of sexually abusing youngsters, chairman Mr Andrew Kirkwood QC, stressed today. That question was: “How could all this have been allowed to go on unchecked for 13 years?”, he told the inquiry’s formal opening at an unused school in the Leicestershire village of Thurcaston. The Government ordered the inquiry after Beck’s two-month trial at Leicester Crown Court which ended in November with the social worker being given five life sentences for offences involving youngsters in his care in county council children’s homes. He was convicted of a total of 17 charges including rape, serious sexual assault, indecent assault and causing actual bodily harm. Father-of-three Mr Kirkwood, 47, stressed that the inquiry, which will begin hearing evidence from witnesses in private on February 12, was not a trial, a platform for opponents or supporters of Beck’s methods, or a rehearsal for any civil claims for damages. His task, he said, was to inquire into and report on management response to complaints or other prima-facie evidence of abuse, malpractice or related matters in all Leicestershire children’s homes between 1973 and 1986. He could not decide on complaints about the conduct of childcare officers in relation to the children or to each other, and if the complaints were about criminal conduct “they are within the exclusive province of the criminal court”.
January 23rd, 1992
Evidence at the enquiry into the case of Frank Beck, the Leicestershire social worker jailed for abusing children in council care, is to be heard in private, it was disclosed yesterday. Andrew Kirkwood, QC, chairman of the enquiry, told a preliminary hearing that he would take evidence in private to enable witnesses to talk freely. A full report of the enquiry’s findings would be made public.
January 23rd, 1992
Jack O’Sullivan, ‘Press ban at sex abuse inquiry is attacked’
A CONSERVATIVE MP yesterday attacked bans on the Press and public from attending a government inquiry into how sexual abuse continued unchecked for 13 years in Leicestershire children’s homes.
Solicitors representing more than 50 victims said the public might suspect a cover-up and threatened a High Court challenge.
The ban covers the inquiry into how Frank Beck, head of three Leicestershire children’s homes from 1973 to 1986, continued to abuse children in his care, despite a dozen complaints. He was then given a job reference when he left Leicestershire, after complaints that he molested fellow staff, to work in a London children’s home.
The ban means that Beck’s superiors will give evidence behind closed doors. It was ordered by Andrew Kirkwood QC, chairman of the Leicestershire inquiry, which opened yesterday. The inquiry, whose report will be made public, was established last November after Beck, 49, received five life sentences and 24 years in jail for 17 offences of sexual and physical abuse.
Reporting of Beck’s trial was also banned until The Independent and other newspapers successfully challenged it. The 11-week trial featured allegations against Greville Janner, Labour MP for Leicester West, by a former resident of Leicestershire homes.
Sir John Farr, Conservative MP for Harborough, said yesterday that Mr Kirkwood could have taken the more vulnerable witnesses in the beginning in private and then have gone into public session. ”The more you pull down the net curtains, the more the rumours multiply.”
Brian Dodds, solicitor for more than 50 victims, said: ”The public may feel that there could be a cover-up if this decision stands.”
January 23rd, 1992
‘BECK INQUIRY PRIVATE’
The inquiry into the management of Leicestershire children’s homes during the 13-year period of sexual abuse by social worker Frank Beck, jailed for life in November, will be held in private, it was announced yesterday. The inquiry will begin hearing evidence on February 12.
February 5th, 1992
David Brindle ‘SOCIAL WORK: REGULATION LOOMS AT LAST FOR SOCIAL SERVICES WORLD;
The idea is trotted out after every new scandal. Now, forty years on, an independent body looks likely’
THE great and the good of the social services world will gather next Tuesday to resume work on their grand design: the creation of a general social services council with powers to register, discipline and ultimately strike off social workers and other staff.
At this point, observers who have been following this saga for some years may be tempted to turn the page. There has been talk since the early 1950s of the need for an independent body to regulate social workers and the idea is trotted out every time there is a scandal involving failure on the part of social services. But nothing ever seems to happen. Now, however, there is a real prospect of firm plans being drawn up. Thanks to a pounds 30,000 government grant and unprecedented co-operation among all parties – even those deeply sceptical about the likely end result – remarkable progress is being made on piecing together the nuts and bolts of a scheme.
Daphne Statham, director of the National Institute for Social Work, says: “I am frankly surprised at how far we have got. There is a lot of good will around. There are obviously a lot of difficult issues to address, particularly concerning registration and discipline, but I have been surprised how positively we have moved forward.”
The immediate impetus for this progress was a report two years ago by Roy Parker, professor of social administration at Bristol university. He concluded there was a good case for establishment not of a social work council, covering merely 30,000 field social workers, but of a general social services council, covering perhaps 250,000 care staff in the local authority, voluntary and private sectors. It was resolved that work on the idea should proceed as quickly as possible. Last autumn, after the Government had agreed funding, the hard talking began.
It would be foolish, though, to conclude that one man’s report alone could have turned the tide in favour of a regulatory body: rather, there were powerful underlying trends running in the same direction.
One such trend was the deepening public antipathy to social work arising from a succession of child abuse cases. The Parker report observed: “Whether or not it’s justified, there does seem to have been something of a crisis of confidence . . . in the personal social services.” In this climate, there grew a feeling that social services should be seen to be putting its house in order.
The other important trend was the changing shape of social services: the shift towards community care and the rapid growth of the private residential sector.
As long as social workers and social care staff were largely employed by local authorities, it could be argued that regulation and discipline were imposed at local level.
With more staff being employed in the voluntary and private sectors, and with local authority care workers shifting from residential homes to unsupervised roles in the community, such an argument lost its force. Mr Parker was unable even to estimate numbers employed in the private residential sector.
He wrote: “There is a large but unknown pool of staff in private residential care settings whose appointment, performamce and training are subject to no systematic and reliable system of regulation short of the operation of market forces and consumer choice. However, in the case of the frail, confused or disabled, the value of those sanctions is likely to be severely constrained.”
Awareness that care provision will continue to fragment has helped weld the diverse interests on the action group, ranging from local authority associations to trade unions to Whitehall observers. Unity has also been encouraged by the fact that the core proposal is not restricted to social work alone. As Ms Statham says: “I would not have supported it had it moved forward on just social work.
The people who have most contact with clients are the home helps and day care staff. If you don’t pull these people in, you are not focussing the safeguarding of standards from the user and carer perspective.”
The action group is tackling on a step-by-step basis each of the key issues implicit in a general council: constitution, purpose and responsibilities, training, complaints and representation, standard-setting, scope, funding, advisory/ regulatory status and registration. If all continues according to plan, a completed framework will be ready by the autumn.
Peter Barclay, NISW president, predicted at the launch of the Parker report that a general council could be up and running by 1995. He still stands by that. “Progress has been so very encouraging that we could well by then be embarking on phased implementation of what would be a very ambitious undertaking, although we will of course require primary legislation to be passed by Parliament,” Mr Barclay says.
Ministers have been conspicuously silent on the developing initiative, although the pounds 30,000 grant was a positive sign and the heavy stress being laid on user involvement in the embryonic general council chimes well with the Citizen’s Charter. Labour, too, has said little.
But the political prospects are of little concern to the scheme’s prime movers when set against the obstacles still to be overcome within the action group.
Chief among these is the stance of Nalgo, the union representing most social workers, which is mandated by conference policy to oppose any scheme involving registration of staff that would carry the risk of “double jeopardy” for those disciplined by both their employer and the general council.
John Findlay, Nalgo assistant national officer, says: “We are not opposed to some form of national body to deal with matters of professional practice and guidelines. We are opposed to registration simply on grounds of double jeopardy. If a social worker does something wrong, there are perfectly adequate mechanisms at the local authority for measures to be taken against that person.” Such concerns are thought to be shared to a degree by some local authority associations: Peter Westland, of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, describes his body’s attitude to the scheme as one of “benign scepticism”.
On the other hand, there are reasons for thinking that Nalgo’s stance may mellow: its policy was rushed through at the end of a conference session in 1990 when some delegates were leaving; other professions, such as medicine and nursing, manage to combine employer discipline with a regulatory council; and Nalgo is planning to merge with two other care workers’ unions, Cohse and Nupe, the former being enthusiastically committed to a general council and the latter saying it has an open mind.
When push comes to shove, Nalgo may be prepared to compromise on a limited – perhaps voluntary – register which, given the problems of registering 250,000 care workers and then policing them, may be a more practical short-term goal. The union’s leadership is as aware as anybody of the advantages of being able to demonstrate a system that would represent an additional means of tackling scandals. Had a register existed, for example, would Frank Beck have been able to maintain his regime of abuse in Leicester children’s homes for 13 years and then succeed in getting a social work post elsewhere?
Ms Statham says: “A general council would not stop Frank Beck cases: every profession has people who abuse their positions of power. But it ought to prevent it going on so long.”
February 13th, 1992
‘BECK CHILD ABUSE INQUIRY OPENS’
AN INQUIRY into social worker Frank Beck’s 13 years of abuse at Leicester children’s homes opened yesterday behind closed doors.
Inquiry chairman Andrew Kirkwood QC promised to leave “no stone unturned” in his attempt to discover how Mr Beck’s paedophilia went undetected by social services management.
Mr Beck, aged 49, was jailed for life in November for numerous physical and sexual assaults on children in care at three homes he ran in Leicestershire between 1973-86.
In a two-hour opening address yesterday, Mr Kirkwood said Mr Beck’s conduct was possibly “the most serious abuse of children in residential care in Britain”.
The inquiry, by Leicestershire county council, will examine how social services officers dealt with complaints against Mr Beck, and if his experience and qualifications made him suitable for his post. It will also consider allegations that a paedophile ring was at work in the county, unchecked due to to Freemasonary connections.
February 14th, 1992
‘INQUIRY STAYS IN CAMERA’
The inquiry into Frank Beck’s years of abuse as a social worker at Leicestershire children’s homes will remain in camera, it’s chairman, Andrew Kirkwood, QC, confirmed yesterday.
Mail on Sunday
February 23rd, 1992
‘Beck workers in new inquiry’
SOCIAL workers involved in a Leicestershire ‘child abuse scandal are to be re-investigated by their bosses.
County council officials will follow up a police inquiry which led to Frank Beck being jailed last year for abusing youngsters and colleagues at three homes in his charge.
Social services director Brian Waller has asked detectives for evidence of practices that, while not unlawful, might constitute a disciplinary offence.
Last week he wrote to around 40 staff, who assisted police inquiries, telling them of the new probe.
Union officials say the move is mistimed and may make staff reluctant to give full evidence to a Government inquiry begun last
Of 120 council staff interviewed by police in the Beck inquiry, 80 have now left their jobs.
March 4th, 1992
Jack O’Sullivan, ”Regression therapy’ to get funding’
A RESIDENTIAL home which encourages mentally-ill adults to regress into infancy to the point of wearing nappies is to be officially registered and funded in spite of psychiatrists’ opposition.
Fears about ”regression therapy”, practised by the Trident Housing Association in Birmingham, surfaced last year in the trial of Frank Beck, who used the therapy as a front for sexual abuse in Leicestershire children’s homes.
Registration means residents, all adults, will be entitled to up to pounds 170 a week funding from the Department of Social Security, even though Birmingham council opposed official recognition.
The home, for 12 adults, was moved last year from Shropshire to Birmingham after social services inspectors criticised its practice of making residents stand in the corner and of tying patients to staff by rope. Birmingham council refused registration last year, but has been overruled by the Registered Homes Tribunal.
The home is to move from Small Heath to the Moseley area of Birmingham.
Yesterday the National Schizophrenia Fellowship urged Virgina Bottomley, the Health Minister, to intervene, but the department said little could be done since no law had been infringed.
Nick Morton, Trident’s director, said that patients no longer had to stand in the corner, but some vulnerable patients were linked to staff by rope.
March 17th, 1992
Jeremy Laurance, ‘Hundreds abused in care’
HUNDREDS of children in care are being sexually and physically abused in the residential homes that are supposed to protect them, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
The abuse is occurring at the hands of both staff and older children in the homes. Victims of sexual abuse are at greater than average risk of becoming abusers in their turn.
A quarter of the NSPCC’s 60 child protection teams around the country are investigating cases of institutional abuse or working with the victims, according to Jim Harding, director of child care services. ”It is one of our biggest concerns,” he said at the launch yesterday of the society’s annual report.
In Leicester, a special telephone help line set up after the Frank Beck case, which revealed widespread abuse in children’s homes in the county over many years, received more than 100 calls from adults who had suffered problems later as a result of their abuse.
”The children who go into a home are the most vulnerable you can imagine,” Mr Harding said. ”For abuse then to take place in an institution that is supposed to be caring for them must be one of the cruellest things that you can dish out to any human being.”
He said that cases had come to light in at least eight counties including Essex, Berkshire, Hereford and Worcester, Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Clwyd. ”We know of abuse in both children’s homes and boarding schools. Abuse in schools, both private and local authority, is at least as prevalent as in the homes. Given the scale of abuse that occurs in institutions we are talking about hundreds of children.”
Concern about institutional abuse has been around for a long time but has remained hidden from the public, Mr Harding says. ”In the past it has been completely ignored. But now more and more cases are coming forward. I don’t know how big the iceberg is but I’m sure there are other cases to come to light.”
Bob Lewis, secretary of the Association of Directors of Social Services, said that abuse by staff in children’s homes ”does take place on occasions”. But there was also a problem of abuse by other children. ”If you put a number of children who have been sexually abused together there is a risk that they may continue the practice but this time as the abusers.”
A high proportion of staff in residential homes are unqualified ad poorly paid. From next month local authorities are required to negotiate new higher pay scales following the interim report of the local government review of residential care chaired by Lady Howe.
This is the first of a flurry of reports due out in the next few months. An enquiry set up by the National Children’s Home is shortly to report on the extent of child abuse by other children in residential homes. The full Howe report will also be published soon. A government enquiry into the recruitment and retention of residential workers set up after the Beck case and chaired by Norman Warner, former social services director in Kent, is to report in July.
The government has said that it wants all senior staff in residential homes qualified within two years, up from the present level of 60 per cent.
Mr Harding said that the recession had increased the society’s workload. Although funds had increased they had not kept pace with the rising cost of services, and 90 staff had been made redundant. The society’s new helpline, for anyone worried about the welfare of a child, had received 120,000 calls in its first year. ”We have far morerequests for help than we can respond to,” he said.
March 17th, 1992
John Arlidge, ‘Big rise in child abuse cases at homes forecast’
CASES of sexual and physical abuse involving hundreds of children in residential homes and schools are likely to be uncovered this year, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said yesterday.
The NSPCC annual report, published yesterday, shows that its 24-hour child-protection helpline received 120,000 calls last year. Almost 10 per cent required immediate action from the society’s child-protection teams, the social services or police.
From September 1990 to last September, the society received 20,000 requests of a ”serious nature” involving 38,000 children, one third of whom were under five and almost two-thirds under 10.
Jim Harding, the NSPCC director of children’s services, said: ”There are a considerable number of cases of institutional abuse that have not yet come to light. We do know of some cases but we have to be very careful because there may be legal proceedings pending.”
Mr Harding said that those cases of institutional abuse which had been made public – notably in Leicestershire and Staffordshire – were ”not the sum total”.
”I could name about eight counties where I know there has been some form of institutional abuse involving hundreds of children and I do not believe this is the end of the line . . . I do not know how big the iceberg is.”
He predicted that new cases of abuse would be uncovered at children’s homes, boarding schools and schools for children with special needs run by local authorities, the private sector or voluntary agencies. One quarter of NSPCC child-protection teams and projects had evidence of institutional abuse in local communities.
The calls to the NSPCC’s national helpline and to special local helplines showed that children and adults abused as children in institutions were talking ”more and more” about their experiences.
More than 100 adults who had been abused in residential homes or schools contacted a local helpine set up after Frank Beck, a former Leicestershire social worker, was given five life sentences in November for abusing children in his care.
Mr Harding said that the recession may have led to an increase in abuse. ”A large number of the kind of families we deal with, who suffer from poor housing and environmental conditions, worries over financial resources and lack of care facilities, are under stress at the moment. Certainly the recession is a time when the stress is high, leading to the possibility that children would be more at risk.”
NSPCC officials investigated on average 1,962 cases involving 4,300 children every day, almost a third of whom had been sexually abused. Sixteen per cent involved physical abuse and a further 16 per cent involved neglect.
Christopher Brown, society director, said that 1.1 million children were at risk of ”significant harm” and that between 150 and 200 children die each year ”following abuse or neglect at the hands of parents or close relatives”.
April 1st, 1992
Tom Hopkins, ‘PUBLIC CONCERN WITH A PRIVATE WORRY; Cases of sex abuse have led to a government inquiry into recruiting child-care staff but, says Tom Hopkins, it falls alarmingly short’
WITH Frank Beck serving a life sentence for sexually abusing children in his care – and other cases in the offing concerning children’s homes in North Wales – the Government hopes to allay public anxiety by its inquiry into the recruitment of residential child-care staff. Yet the investigation could fail to take into account one major provider of residential child-care.
While much is known about care by social services departments and voluntary organisations, little information is yet available about the world of private residential care for children. The names and locations of homes, the number of children in residence, their gender and ethnic identities; details of their “care careers”; the numbers of staff, especially the status of their qualifications – all these are issues on which neither central government nor the local authorities who place children in private care have been able to shed much light.
For at least a half-century, private children’s homes have been able to trade almost unnoticed even by the social work profession of which they have been, and are, a small but increasingly significant part. It is this sector that has enjoyed, under the Conservative Government, a steady expansion unfettered by the regulatory requirements imposed on statutory and voluntary agencies.
Fourteen years after I first became interested in this area (as a lecturer visiting residential child-care students in training placements), there is still no central data base which professionals, politicians or the general public can consult.
Central government was, in 1978, only just beginning to contemplate registration of independent sector establishments. It is quite likely that this small measure of regulation would have gone ahead if the Conservatives had not won the 1979 election. As the Guardian later suggested, personal intervention by Mrs Thatcher put paid to the legislation early in 1980.
Curiously, when a Labour MP used a Private Member’s Bill to introduce regulatory mechanisms in the form of the 1982 Children’s Home Act, it was with the very strong support of the Tories. Since that legislation has never been implemented, it might not be too cynical to suggest that the Conservatives’ apparent volte face was simple political expediency. They simultaneously managed to help the introduction of regulation and inspection requirements while doing nothing to ensure they took effect.
Careful analysis of official statistics, combined with regular reading of professional journals carrying advertisements for staff and residents, strongly suggests that the private sector now numbers more than 200 residential homes caring for some 7,000 children. In recent years it has attracted the interest and inward investment of North American and Middle Eastern entrepreneurs who, with their UK counterparts, have been quick to spot the profits to be made on weekly fees of up to pounds 1,000 per child.
For some social service departments, using the private sector is to make a reality of “welfare pluralism”; they believe there is a need for the private sector and make free use of it. For other authorities, struggling with inadequate and charge-capped budgets, deciding to save money by closing their own children’s homes fosters reliance on the private sector to deal with some of their most troubled and troublesome youngsters. These and other sources ensure a buoyant market for private care.
Nor is it likely to dry up in the foreseeable future. Though the recently introduced 1989 Children Act suggests the possibility of fewer children going into residential care, it is worth remembering that so did the 1969 Children and Young Persons Act: within three years of its enactment some sectors of residential child care had witnessed more than 150 per cent growth.
In theory the lack of regulation is soon to change. The implementation of the 1989 Children Act, and especially Part VIII, which requires all children’s homes to be registered and inspected, should offer some guarantee to vulnerable children and young people that they will be safer in residential care than at home.
However, the act has only been in force since last October: as authorities struggle to implement the main body of the act, registration and inspection of private homes may be a very low priority. Early returns to a survey of 116 English and Welsh SSDs by myself and John Harris suggest that some authorities are ignorant of the very existence of private children’s homes.
Several of the survey questionnaires, answering the initial question “How did you identify the homes needing to be registered”, replied “We are not aware of any needing registration” and “None are known to us”. Though these eventually may prove to be accurate assumptions, they illustrate very well that the obligation is on homes to seek registration, not for the social service departments to identify them.
Yet since it is the SSDs that place children and young people in the private sector, it would be a relatively simple matter, using for example the Association of Directors of Social Services organisation, to identify the location and nature of private homes in England and Wales.
So the Government inquiry into recruitment and related issues faces failing, partly or wholly, to consider who works in this sector, what training and/or qualifications they possess and how they are recruited. On the last point, there is a strong suggestion that many homes make much use of low paid casual/temporary staff at the junior level, especially at weekends when children are often encouraged to return home if they can.
Residential child-care is now big business for the social work “temping” agencies that have sprung up in the last five years. Though reputable agencies will do their best to check on applicants’ backgrounds and career histories, they often do not have time to pursue the thorough police checks required for permanent SSD staff. This means the possibility of at least some private home staff moving from one short posting to another virtually unvetted.
Ironically, the one body that might have helped the Government inquiry no longer exists: the Association of Independent Children’s Households, formed by private home-owners partly as an industry watchdog, dissolved in 1986 “through lack of member interest”, according to its last secretary.
None of the above is intended to suggest that private homes are rife with physical or sexual abuse, or any other form of malpractice. But precisely because no single body – professional, lay, or governmental – has a clear picture of the sector’s shape and activities, we cannot simply and confidently assume all is well within it.
It would be wrong to suggest that Frank Beck’s monstrous behaviour only came to light because he worked in the public domain. Yet the fact remains that in the private sector we have a significant and growing provider of services about which those who should know know very little at all. Can we afford to wait the several years that registration and inspection will take before we are properly informed?
Tom Hopkins is principal lecturer in social work at Coventry Polytechnic.
May 13th, 1992
Tim Moynihan, ‘MP JANNER TO AID SEX ABUSE PROBE’
Labour MP Greville Janner will assist the inquiry into Frank Beck’s years of abuse at children’s homes, it was disclosed today. The member for Leicester West was drawn into Beck’s trial in 1991 when it was alleged in court by a former boy in care that he had been sexually abused by the MP. Police investigated the claims and said no action would be taken. Mr Janner was cheered on all sides of the Commons when he spoke at length of his ordeal and strongly denied the allegations. Beck, a former senior Leicestershire social worker, was jailed for life for numerous physical and sexual assaults on children in care at three homes he ran in the county from 1973-86. Today the solicitor clerk to the inquiry, Lynda Eaton, said: “Greville Janner is pleased to give assistance to the inquiry and its work. The chairman has asked him to put his evidence in writing and he is in the process of doing so.” The inquiry, chaired by Andrew Kirkwood QC, opened in February and is taking place mostly behind closed doors, although there are regular press briefings. It is trying to find out how management dealt with complaints, and is expected to take evidence until the end of next month. A report will be made public later.
It was also announced that the chairman proposed to hear oral evidence from Mr Beck at Gartree prison. No date has been fixed.
The Herald (Glasgow)
May 14th, 1992
‘MP aids Beck inquiry’
LABOUR MP Greville Janner will assist the inquiry into Frank Beck’s years of abuse at children’s homes, it was disclosed yesterday. The member for Leicester West was drawn into Beck’s trial in 1991 when it was alleged in court by a former boy in care that he had been sexually abused by the MP. Police investigated the claims and said no action would be taken. Mr Janner was cheered on all sides of the Commons when he spoke at length of his ordeal and strongly denied the allegations. Beck, a former senior Leicestershire social worker, was jailed for life for numerous physical and sexual assaults on children in care at three homes he ran in the county from 1973-86.
June 20th, 1992
‘MP at Beck hearing’
Greville Janner, Labour MP for Leicester West, gave evidence yesterday at the enquiry into the running of children’s homes in Leicestershire. The hearing was set up after Frank Beck was jailed for life for abusing children at the three county homes he ran.
Its aim is to find out how Beck’s 13-year reign of abuse was allowed to continue. At his trial Beck, 50, claimed that Mr Janner had had a relationship with a former boy in care. Mr Janner, 63, has vigorously denied the claims.
June 20th, 1992
Labour MP Greville Janner gave evidence yesterday) at the Frank Beck inquiry into the running of Leicestershire children’s homes. He was not asked about allegations against him.
June 26th, 1992
‘BECK GRANTED APPEAL’
Frank Beck, who was given five life terms last November after being convicted of sexually and physically abusing youngsters and staff at children’s homes he ran in Leicestershire, has been given leave to appeal against sentence.
June 27th, 1992
‘Beck’s jail appeal’
Frank Beck, a convicted paedophile, has been given leave to appeal against life sentences for offences committed during the 13 years he ran Leicestershire’s children’s homes.
Beck, 50, a social worker, was given five life terms and 24 years’ jail last November after being convicted of sexually and physically abusing youngsters and former staff until 1986.
His appeal before three judges will be heard this year or early next year. A government enquiry into the running of Leicestershire County Council’s children’s homes during Beck’s reign is due to complete hearing evidence next week.
September 30th, 1992
Linda Jackson, ‘POOR STAFF SELECTION ‘PUTTING CHILDREN AT RISK”
Children are at risk of abuse because of social service chiefs’ failure to appoint the right staff in care homes, according to a Government inquiry. Staff selection procedures border on the negligent, said the inquiry into recruitment set up in the wake of the Frank Beck case, which uncovered extensive abuse in Leicestershire children’s homes. Proper police checks are still not being made on the backgrounds of workers who are badly trained and destined to fail, said Norman Warner, head of the inquiry. All too often supervision consists of a chat in the corridor and there is unsatisfactory support and care of staff, he said. Mr Warner, who will shortly present his report on staff recruitment to the Government, said: “Appointment arrangements in many places are sloppy and are not designed to produce safe appointments. “This unsatisfactory situation has made it easier for a small group of people with perverted and paedophile tendencies to indulge their proclivities in children’s homes.” He called for a major overhaul in staff training and a fundamental change of attitude among employers and senior managers. Mr Warner said an inquiry survey showed some of the most troubled and demanding youngsters were being looked after by a “largely unqualified workforce”. Four out of 10 heads of homes and eight out of 10 care staff had no relevant qualifications. Mr Warner told the annual conference of the Association of Directors of Social Services on the Isle of Wight there was little evidence of any systematic attempt by social services to find out anything about the way candidates related to children. He added: “When it comes to appointments, I would suggest that it comes close to negligence to appoint staff without conducting proper inquiries of previous employers.” Interview procedures were shown to be outdated, he said. Research showed their chances of producing satisfactory staff were about 14% – worse odds than tossing a coin. In some authorities, employers took little account of past references with the result that 10% of heads of homes and a third of care workers were appointed before references were received. Mr Warner said employers should consider probation periods for employees and called for a “new and more realistic training strategy” with regular and frequent supervision of staff.
Health Minister Dr Brian Mawhinney said: “It was precisely because government ministers were concerned about the issues that arose out of the Leicestershire case that we asked Mr Warner to conduct an inquiry. “We are waiting for him to report back to us. I frankly cannot believe he was reporting the conclusions of his inquiry at this meeting rather than to ministers.” Dr Mawhinney pointed out that the amount of money available for training social workers had risen during the last two years to almost £30 million. “This is a measure of the seriousness we attach to this,” he said.
October 1st, 1992
Alison Roberts, ‘Perverts have ‘easy access’ to children
People with ”perverted and paedophile tendencies” can easily gain access to children because of inadequate staff selection procedures at children’s homes, the head of an enquiry into child abuse in care homes said yesterday.
Norman Warner, leading the enquiry into staff recruitment set up after the Frank Beck case and the subsequent discovery of extensive abuse in Leicestershire children’s homes, said that proper police checks were not being made on applicants for jobs.
He told the annual conference of the Association of Directors of Social Services on the Isle of Wight that social services lacked a systematic approach and failed to find out how candidates related to children. Four out of ten heads of homes and eight out of ten care staff had no relevant qualifications. One in ten heads and a third of other workers were appointed before references were received. The chances of recruiting satisfactory staff using the outdated interview procedures stood at about 14 per cent, the enquiry had found. Mr Warner said employers should consider probation periods for new staff members and monitor all newcomers.
October 1st, 1992
Judy Jones, ‘Lack of checks on homes staff ‘puts children at risk”
CHILDREN in residential care remain vulnerable to abuse and neglect by unsuitable staff despite a string of children’s home scandals over the past decade, social services directors were told yesterday.
A survey of more than 1,000 children’s homes in the public, private and voluntary sectors found that employers often failed to check whether job candidates had criminal convictions, and used ”sloppy” recruitment procedures. Four out of 10 heads of homes and eight out of 10 care staff had no relevant qualifications.
The study, carried out by the consultants Price Waterhouse for the government-appointed Committee of Inquiry on the Management of Residential Children’s Homes, was presented to the annual conference of social services directors on the Isle of Wight.
Norman Warner, the committee chairman, told the conference: ”It comes close to negligence to appoint staff without conducting proper inquiries of previous employers of line managers, or without conducting all approved checks.”
He added: ”This unsatisfactory situation has made it easier for a small group of people with perverted and paedophile tendencies to indulge their proclivities in children’s homes.”
The committee, set up in the wake of the Frank Beck child sex abuse case last year, is expected to demand a radical overhaul of the recruitment and training of staff in children’s homes in its report to Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, next month.
Mr Warner said that one in 10 private and voluntary homes made no police checks for criminal convictions. Moreover, there was little evidence of systematic attempts to establish how well candidates dealt with children. ”The selection and appointment arrangements in many places are sloppy and are not designed to produce safe appointments,” he said.
Interview procedures were shown to be outdated. Research showed their chances of producing satisfactory staff were about 14 per cent – worse odds than tossing a coin.
All too often supervision consisted of a chat in the corridor and there was unsatisfactory support and care of staff, he said.
About two-thirds of the 11,500 children in residential care suffered emotional or behavioural problems, and one-third had suffered sexual abuse. Yet most were being looked after by unqualified, and sometimes untrained, staff.
The committee is likely to recommend formal targets for raising the level of qualifications and training. In particular, it wants all residential child care staff to have personal development contracts to commit employers and employees to agreed training programmes.
The committee will press ministers to improve specialist support services to local authority children’s homes. Only 40 per cent currently have access to psychologists and psychiatrists.
”It is clear that in some parts of the country the NHS has largely abandoned providing specialist support to children’s homes and local authority staff have given up asking for help,” said Mr Warner.
October 1st, 1992
David Brindle, ‘STAFF AT CHILDREN’S HOMES ‘UNCHECKED’; Failure to look at social workers’ records ‘near negligence”
SOCIAL workers are being appointed to run or work in children’s homes without any real attempt to check their suitability, a government inquiry has found.
The failure to check social workers’ records in many cases comes “close to negligence”, Norman Warner, the inquiry chairman, said yesterday.
Outlining the main findings of the inquiry, Mr Warner told the annual social services conference in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, that procedures for choosing staff for children’s homes required overhaul. Training arrangements were lamentable.
“The committee of inquiry considers that the staff in children’s homes need to be given a chance to succeed with those in their care rather than being set up to fail, as often happens.”
The inquiry was set up after the children’s homes scandal in Leicestershire, where Frank Beck, the former head of three homes, was jailed for life for sexually and physically abusing children and fellow social workers over more than a decade.
Mr Warner, former social services director of Kent, told the conference that recruitment procedures were sloppy. Sometimes little account was taken of references – one in 10 heads of homes, and one in three other staff, took up posts before references were received.
“There is little evidence available to the committee that, in selecting people to work in children’s homes, there is any systematic attempt by many employers to find out anything about the way candidates relate to children, any incidents in their own past which might give rise to concerns, or their ability to cope with highly-sexualised teenagers,” he said.
The Utting report, which followed the pin down abuse scandal in Staffordshire, suggested that one in five heads of homes had no relevant qualification. A survey for the Warner committee indicates the proportion is two in five, and also confirms the Utting estimate that about four in five non-supervisory staff are unqualified.
Mr Warner said it would take 30 years for all eligible staff to obtain the new social work diploma. It would be more realistic to concentrate on work-based training and distance learning schemes.
To make real progress, he said, training should be written into staff contracts and there should be regular, formal appraisal.
The inquiry survey found that staff of homes, while poorly-qualified, are neither particularly young nor inexperienced. The average age of heads is 40, and of other workers over 30, with an average four years’ experience.
Mr Warner said local authorities’ plans for reforms over three to five years, must pay more attention to staff. “They are dealing with some very difficult young people, but know that if they misjudge fast-moving and unpleasant situations they may be disciplined.”
– A 12-year-old boy living in a children’s home recently criticised by a social services inspector was found hanged in a lavatory, police said yesterday.
He was named as William McGovern, a resident at Bellshill children’s home, near Glasgow. Police said there were no suspicious circumstances.
An inquiry into the death is being made by the Strathclyde Region’s social services, but its deputy director, Ian Gilmour, said there was no evidence linking it to the inspection, which mainly related to physical conditions at the home, and remedial work was being carried out.
The boy was taken to school by a senior member of staff as usual on Tuesday and seen by a guidance teacher, but there was no indication his life was in danger. The home caters for 18 boys and girls from primary school age to 18.
October 1st, 1992
David Jack, ‘STAFFING MISTAKES THAT PUT CHILDREN AT RISK’
STAFF recruitment at many children’s homes borders on the negligent, the head of a Government inquiry into the institutions said yesterday.
Norman Warner highlighted shortcomings that leave youngsters open to abuse.
He said many staff had no proper qualifications or training and often weren’t vetted before being put in charge of disturbed children.
He is expected to demand a major shake-up in his report in December. He was appointed last year after Frank Beck, head of three Leicestershire homes, was given five life sentences for a reign of terror against children in care.
Mr Warner told a social services conference on the Isle of Wight that 80 per cent of staff and 40 per cent of heads of homes had no relevant qualifications. A third of care workers took up posts before references had been checked.
‘It has made it easier for a small group with perverted and paedophile tendencies to indulge their proclivities in children’s homes,’ he said.
November 19th, 1992
‘COUNCIL ACTS ON ABUSE SCANDAL’
FOUR Leicestershire social workers have been suspended after an investigation into how sexual abuse went unchecked during the time that Frank Beck was in charge of three children’s homes, it was announced yesterday.
Last November Mr Beck was found guilty of sexual and physical assaults on youngsters over a 13-year period until 1986 and jailed for 24 years.
One of his deputies was also jailed, and another was conditionally discharged. A fourth accused had committed suicide.
The Government ordered an inquiry, headed by Andrew Kirkwood, QC, and its findings are expected in the new year.
But Leicestershire launched its own inquiry because victims had alleged they had told social workers of Mr Beck’s offences years before he was caught.
Twenty-one social workers have been questioned. None of the four suspended have been named, but one is being questioned by police over possible sexual abuse.
Brian Waller, head of social services, said the other cases involved professional conduct that might be subject to disciplinary procedures.
November 25th, 1992
Chris Arnot, ‘SOCIETY: COMFORT AT THE END OF THE LINE; A helpline for victims of abuse in children’s homes expects a new flood of calls’
ON SUNDAY Frank Beck will have spent a year in prison. He still has some way to go, although he has lodged an appeal against the five life terms plus 24 years he received for sexually and physically abusing children and social workers in homes where he was in charge for more than a decade.
“In my eyes he got off lightly,” says Colin. “I would kill the bastard if I could see him.” Colin (not his real name) was in jail when Beck was sentenced. He was on remand on a charge of armed robbery and assault for which he was found not guilty.
Now 21, and on bail on a charge of causing an affray, he has been in and out of penal institutions since he was 15. But he was just nine when a court order ruled he was beyond the control of his parents and he was sent to the Beeches children’s home in Leicester. It was one of three run by Beck.
Colin was abused regularly, and he was not alone. Solicitors are still processing 82 claims for compensation against Leicestershire County Council for crimes committed by Beck and his accomplices between 1973 and 1986. Police estimate that there could be more than 200 potential claimants.
“This man did tremendous damage,” says Glenis Vann, team manager of the NSPCC in Leicestershire. “The extent was far greater than came out in court.”
She is planning to reopen the NSPCC helpline for two weeks in December. The social workers who staff it are expecting a flood of calls following publication of the official inquiry into how Beck got away with such abuse for so long.
The helpline was the first of its kind in this country. It was expected to run for three months, but demand was so great that it ran for six, from the end of Beck’s trial until June 26.
“We didn’t realise the extent to which these people are still traumatised,” Ms Vann says. “And a lot of them are parents now.” The NSPCC is still offering face-to-face counselling to eight of the “survivors”, as they are termed – six men and two women.
Although Beck is classified as a paedophile rather than a homosexual, the majority of his victims were male. Only two women were among the victims of the 27 charges read out at the trial, and their anonymity was protected. The rules of reporting rape cases do not apply to men and those who gave evidence had their names published in the Leicester Mercury.
Having their darkest personal secret revealed to neighbours and acquaintances only added to the anguish. Many callers to the helpline were keen to stress their macho qualities. One admitted he had sex with as many women as he could just “to prove himself”. Another left home for months rather than face friends who had known little about his past.
Colin found the helpline provided something he desperately needed: “The person on the end of the line actually cared about me. I just started unloosening with her. It was the first time I’d really spoken to anybody about it.”
He still suffers nightmares and flashbacks of his time at the Beck-run home. “I thought I’d got it to the back of my head, but seeing it on the telly and reading about it in the papers started it all up again.”
Colin is unemployed. “You’d need a miracle to get a job at the moment,” he says. So money from a compensation claim would be very useful?
“Yes, but it’s not the money so much as knowing that you’d be getting it off Social Services.” He scowls and pulls furiously at his fingers. “. . . The big important people who weren’t willing to listen to what the staff were telling them about Beck.”
By his own admission, Colin has been left with a fear of intimacy. “I nearly spread a geezer’s face wide open in a pub just because he put his arm round me when he was pissed. My mate had to drag me off him.”
Outbursts of aggression are common among the male survivors. “A lot of men have gone on to be involved in criminal activity,” Ms Vann says.
“More than one said he only feels safe in prison. Among women there’s a lot of self-damaging behaviour – cutting themselves and overdosing.”
Have any admitted to abusing their own children?
“We haven’t had anybody who has admitted that. We would have to investigate if they did. The phone line is confidential, but our duty to children overrides all other considerations.”
John Roberts, an NSPCC worker who has taken many calls on the helpline, is keen to dispel the notion that those who have been abused as children will necessarily behave in a similar way to their own offspring.
“Some of the survivors are coping amazingly well with parenting. Some go the other way and let their kids run wild because they don’t want to discipline them.”
His colleague, Marion Clayden, emphasises the issue of trust. “Callers are not very sure about us at first. What they’re telling us is pretty horrific and they want to know whether we can cope, where the information goes and how it will be used. There’s always a fear that we will let them down.”
This is hardly surprising. Mary (not her real name) was allegedly raped by one of Beck’s staff when she was 15. She was only put into care because she was being abused by her father. Later, she went to a foster home where she was abused by the family’s eldest son. That she could trust anyone again would require something of a miracle.
December 6, 1992, Sunday
Linda Jackson, ‘TOUGH NEW GUIDELINES ON CHILDREN’S HOME STAFF’
Government is to order sweeping changes in the way staff are selected for children’s homes, in the wake of a damning report showing councils are appointing people without thoroughly checking their backgrounds. A letter is to be sent to local authorities this week demanding an end to sloppy recruitment policies which are leading to unsafe appointments. Tough new guidelines governing staff selection procedures will be issued shortly and in future child care workers may have to get a licence to practice. Ministers are said to be extremely disturbed by the findings of the Warner inquiry, set up following the Frank Beck scandal in Leicestershire. Beck received five life sentences for sexually abusing scores of youngsters while in charge of four children’s homes. He was allowed to carry on working with children despite four separate police investigations into alleged abuse by him. The 200-page report, which will be published tomorrow, will show only a handf most employers make no systematic attempt to find out how candidates relate to children, or discover incidents in their own past which might give cause for concern – despite a string of scandals over the last decade. The report will say there are no proper checks on the stability or otherwise of applicants’ sexual relationships. Members of the inquiry team found one in ten heads of homes and one in three other staff were appointed before references were received. There were delays of up to three months in checking criminal records. The report will also show training is dire, with 80% of care staff and 40% of heads of homes having no relevant qualifications. Despite 70% of children being in homes because of emotional and behavioural problems, only 40% of such homes had access to specialist support. Presenting the main findings two months ago, inquiry chairman Norman Warner described local authorities’ failure to check social workers’ past records as bordering on “negligence”. The report is expected to recommend formal targets for raising the level of qualifications and training, and the introduction of personal development contracts setting out agreed training programmes.
December 7th, 1992
‘Childcare workers to be vetted’
The government is to order greater care in choosing staff for children’s homes, after a report showing that councils are not thoroughly checking employees’ backgrounds.
A letter is to be sent to local authorities this week demanding an end to sloppy recruitment policies. Guidelines governing selection procedures will be issued shortly. Childcare workers may have to have a licence to practise.
Ministers are said to be disturbed by the findings of the Warner enquiry, set up after the Frank Beck scandal in Leicestershire, and published in full today. The 200-page report shows that only a handful of local authorities vet staff thoroughly.
December 7th, 1992
‘Child care job rules to be tightened’
Government is poised to act swiftly on a report criticising councils for failing to identify potential child abusers when they apply for jobs.
The report, to be published today, details the findings of the Warner inquiry, set up after Frank Beck, a social worker, was convicted in 1991 for abusing children at three local authority children’s homes in Leicestershire.
The Department of Health, which has already studied the report in detail, is expected to issue new guidelines to councils in response today. Timothy Yeo, Under-Secretary of State at the Health Department, described the contents of the report as ”disturbing”, adding: ”We must act immediately.”
It is understood that the report criticises local authorities for failing to check the backgrounds of applicants with police and the Department of Health, and failing to obtain thorough references.
December 7th, 1992, Monday
‘Shake-up in child care checks’
THE GOVERNMENT is ordering sweeping changes in the way staff are selected for children’s homes after a report today showed councils are appointing people without checking their backgrounds thoroughly.
A letter will go out to local authorities this week demanding an end to sloppy recruitment policies.
Tough new guidelines governing staff selection procedures will be issued shortly and child care workers may have to get a licence to practise.
Ministers are said to be extremely disturbed by the findings of the Warner inquiry, set up after the Frank Beck scandal in Leicestershire.
Beck received five life sentences for sexually abusing scores of youngsters while in charge of four children’s homes. He was allowed to continue working with children despite four separate police investigations into alleged abuse by him.
The report, which makes more than 83 recommendations, claimed most employers make no systematic attempt to find out how candidates relate to children, or discover incidents in their own past which might give cause for concern – despite a series of scandals over the past decade.
The report will say there are no proper checks on the stability or otherwise of applicants’ sexual relationships.
Members of the inquiry team found one in 10 heads of homes and one in three other staff were appointed before references were received. There were delays of up to three months in checking criminal records.
December 8th, 1992
Janet Daley, ‘Home truths for carers’
The Warner report has exposed the degradation of Britain’s children’s homes, writes Janet Daley
One scandalous exposure after another gives rise to one official enquiry after another which duly gives forth one solemn report after another: the Leeways report of 1985, the ”pindown” enquiry report of 1990, the Ty Mawr Community Homes Enquiry of 1992. Now the Warner report on residential child care adds one more to the depressing list, all of which have generated recommendations that, as the Warner authors despairingly admit, have yet to be acted upon. Adding another weighty document to that futile pile must have seemed like an exercise in pious hope.
What on earth is going on in these homes which are intended for children who are, in that most compassionate of legal phrases, ”in need of care and protection”? The first thing to be noted is that children’s homes are not the refuges for waifs and orphans which persist in public imagination. They do not exist for Dickensian urchins or the abandoned offspring of the blameless poor latter-day reincarnations of Oliver Twist or the wretched innocents of Dotheboys Hall.
Children’s residential care homes house few children (who can usually be fostered with private families) and are almost entirely filled with adolescents who are ”children” in the strict legal sense only. They do not so much ”care” for their inmates as confine them in conditions which are designed to prevent disorder. They are ”homes” in only the most degraded sense of the word.
This is not, for the most part, a matter of looking after children who do not have homes of their own for some unhappy but benign reason. As Warner acknowledges, it is a case of supervising some of the most difficult young people in the country. The catalogue of maladjustment and social aberration would be daunting to the most conscientious: the sexually abused; the violent; the abusers of substances, of self and of other children; the self-mutilating, and the catch-all category of ”behaviourally disturbed” which may include all manner of distressing and destructive acts. Who, apart from the saintly, the wildly idealistic, or those with suspect intentions, would choose to live with such cases? What is surprising is not that we have occasional scandals but that all of these homes are not permanently riddled with criminal exploitation.
To create sin bins into which the most intractable social problems may be dumped without even discriminating between child victims and child perpetrators, is to invite incurable mismanagement. How could anyone not see that this was a recipe for disaster: isolating an explosive mixture of young people who may have been corrupted by sexual predators or preyed upon by violent parents the backward and sociopathic casualties of society’s fringe and locking in with them, the temporarily displaced or the genuinely naive. Was there a serious hope of finding a large number of wholesome and sincere staff to preside over this hopeless arena?
The sort of people who are attracted to this work have a variety of reasons, some of which are admirable and some sinister. Sorting the one from the other was never going to be an easy task, particularly as those drawn by malign motives are often accomplished liars. There can be few lifestyles so well-practised in deception and concealment as that of the paedophile one of the few minority sexual tastes as yet unrehabilitated by the politically correct. The case of Frank Beck which provoked this latest report seems, with afterthought, to have been an almost inevitable consequence of gathering under one roof so many easy prey for the pederast.
Less easily definable than the determined sex abusers, are the simply power-hungry who may deceive themselves about their true interests. Both the secret sadist and the frustrated social engineer may find a haven here, the first to terrorise, the second to experiment with untried theories of psychological control like ”pindown”. The function of such homes is now a confused muddle of care, control and restriction, and this miasma of unclear objectives is, as so many reports have made relentlessly clear, largely left to fester without regular inspection or clear guidelines.
What has come under specific suspicion in this doomed cycle is the apparent negligence with which staff are assessed for such appointments.
Bearing in mind that those who come forward are few and self-selecting social services departments find residential child care posts enormously difficult to fill the criteria for appropriateness in candidates would be a gospel of perfection at the best of times. But even given the hard-pressed reality, the role of ideology in this is worth examining.
There has been a deliberate policy on the part of social services departments to be equal opportunity employers in the most extreme sense. Which is to say that not only should race, gender and sexual orientation not be a bar to appointment but neither should what is called ”non-relevant” criminal history.
Particularly in the fields of juvenile social work, there has been a move to recruit people from minority and underprivileged backgrounds who may have suffered themselves from mistreatment or neglect as children, and who could be relied on not to pressure alienated adolescents into middle-class conformity. At some point, the desire to install people who could share some of their charges’ experience became an unwillingness to question the personal histories and the real motives of those who offered themselves. And so a social service already disfavoured and demoralised was pulled into the ambit of real evil.
December 8th, 1992
Lin Jenkins, ‘Ex-marine who ran regime of terror’
FRANK Beck is serving five life sentences for the evil he perpetrated on those in his care. Over 13 years he sexually and psychologically abused children as young as eight, stealing their childhood and leaving their lives distorted.
His job as the man running three council children’s homes in Leicester and Market Harborough made committing the crimes easy. Four police investigations failed to discover them.
Peter Joyce QC, for the prosecution at the trial at Leicester Crown Court in September 1991, said: ”It was a tunnel of darkness in which they found themselves. There was no escape. If they ran away or did something wrong they were sent straight back into the darkness.”
Children came under ”his sheer power, his sheer personality, his sheer ego”. The homes were supposed to offer a safe environment but some of the weakest and most troubled in society ”had their lives totally distorted and twisted by those whose responsibility it was to help them”.
One woman, aged 31 at the trial, described being repeatedly raped under threat of being submitted to a pyschiatric unit. She had faked abdominal pains and allowed her appendix to be removed in order to escape sexual abuse. Males described being sexually assaulted in their pyjamas and given a lolly pop as a reward. Nobody listened to their complaints, they said. One man who repeatedly absconded was moved finally when he told juvenile magistrates that he would kill himself if sent back.
Beck resigned in 1986 after complaints of sexual harassment by two male care workers. Despite recommendations by the county’s legal department that he should not be employed as a social worker again, Brian Rice, a former director of Leicestershire social services, gave two references. Only by chance was Beck investigated more than three years after he resigned when a woman accused of ill-treating her son told a children’s rights officer that the blame lay in the abuse she suffered while in Beck’s care.
Beck’s charisma, his ten years in the Royal Marines and his work as a Liberal councillor on Blaby district council from 1983 helped to form his reputation as the best man to cope with difficult children. Mr Justice Jowitt drew a different conclusion. ”You are a man whose character combines considerable talent and very great evil.”
December 8th, 1992
Jeremy Laurance, ‘Children’s homes to weed out paedophiles’
SWEEPING changes in the way staff are selected for children’s homes were announced by the government yesterday, to prevent paedophiles from gaining access to vulnerable youngsters.
A letter will be sent to local authorities this week demanding an end to sloppy recruitment policies after a report condemned politicians, social workers and the public for showing indifference to the lives of children in care. Guidelines governing staff selection procedures for the 1,300 homes containing 11,000 children will be issued shortly and childcare workers may, in future, need a licence to practise.
The Warner report says that paedophiles are likely to turn their attention to other areas, such as education and youth work, as the rules on children’s homes are tightened. ”Society will need to be alert to the danger,” it says.
Ministers are known to be extremely disturbed by the findings of the enquiry, headed by Norman Warner, the former social services director of Kent, and set up after the Frank Beck scandal in Leicestershire. Children’s homes have been a neglected backwater, the report says, where ”unscrupulous individuals” have been allowed to abuse the positions of power they have acquired over children.
Beck receive five life sentences for sexually abusing scores of youngsters while in charge of four children’s homes. He was allowed to continue working with children despite four separate police investigations.
The Warner report is the eighth enquiry into children’s homes in the past few years to highlight disquiet with their management. All have drawn attention to the same shortcomings, but their findings have been unheeded. Public attitudes have been marked by a disbelief that abuse can occur in the homes.
There is a misconception that children’s homes contain orphans and truants whose lives can be transformed by human kindness. Many of the children are violent, abusive and self-mutilating, and a third have been victims of sex abuse. All make huge demands on staff. Some social work managers dismiss the homes as ”a necessary evil”.
The report says that the homes ”need their place in the managerial sun”. Resources should be switched from other parts of the social services budget to raise the status of homes and their staff.
Many employers make no systematic attempt to find out how job applicants relate to children, or to uncover incidents in their past, the report says. They place a ”touching faith” in interviews. One in ten heads of homes and one in three other staff were appointed before references were received and there were delays of up to three months in checking criminal records.
The report says that staff, 80 per cent of whom are unqualified, must be more closely supervised and given better training. The government should recognise that some ”engine for change” is required: it suggests a ”development action group”, appointed for three years, directly responsible to the secretary of state. It says that more money is not necessary but that local authorities should ”reorder priorities”.
The Association of Directors of Social Services welcomed the report but said that the 1.5 per cent public sector pay ceiling could deter good recruits.
December 8th, 1992
Nicholas Timmins, ‘Child care staff interviews criticised’
STAFF being recruited for children’s homes should be questioned about their sexual preferences and the stability of their sexual relationships, health ministers told local authorities yesterday as they published an inquiry into children’s homes.
The Warner inquiry – set up last year after Frank Beck was given five life sentences for sexual abuse of youngsters in four Leicestershire children’s homes – is deeply critical of present recruitment practices in homes that house 15,000 children.
Some councils interpret equal opportunities legislation to ask all candidates a rigid set of questions with no follow ups, failing to obtain personal details that could put at risk children in care, the report says.
”Little systematic attempt is made by many employers to find out anything about the way candidates relate to children; any incidents in their own pasts which might give rise to concerns; or the stability of their own sexual relationships and their ability to cope with often highly sexualised teenagers.”
References, and even criminal records – where there are up to three-month delays in police responding to requests – are often not checked properly, and in many places arrangements ”are not designed to produce safe appointments”, the inquiry, chaired by Norman Warner, former director of social services in Kent, found.
Far more rigorous selection procedures are needed when many employers have ”a touching faith” that a formal 30-minute interview is the best way of selecting staff to care for vulnerable and disturbed children when, alone, that produces worse odds for a satisfactory appointment than tossing a coin.
The position of trust staff are in requires a full investigation ”into candidates’ backgrounds, personalities, attitudes and track records”, the report says, detailing how that should be done.
Only 15 per cent of local authorities vetted staff thoroughly and only half passed information about ”potentially unsuitable” candidates to other councils. Many did not use the Department of Health’s central index of unsuitable employees and only 15 per cent followed up references with telephone calls.
Tim Yeo, Under-Secretary of State for Health, yesterday said local authorities were being told to report by Easter on progress in improving their recruitment procedures. He was, he said, ”greatly concerned” that many of the 83 recommendations in the report were not already routine practice.
The report underlines, however, that not just staff recruitment, but training and supervision require radical improvement, as the nature of children in the homes has changed radically.
Two-thirds suffer from emotional and behavioural difficulties and a third are reported to have been sexually abused.
”Thus some of the most troubled and demanding children in our society are being looked after in children’s homes by a largely unqualified and often untrained workforce.”
Within 12 months structured fortnightly supervision, and annual performance appraisals of staff should be introduced, with training switched to practical on- the-job training linked to distance learning, rather than the present programme which will take 30 years to train all eligible staff for the Diploma in Social Work. ”The present training strategy seems more geared to helping the staff to obtain qualifications that enable them to leave, than to providing practical training for the majority of staff in homes looking after children.”
As the children’s homes population has become more difficult, the report says, the NHS in some parts of the country ”has largely abandoned specialist support to children’s homes”.
Only 40 per cent of local authority homes have anything like regular and easy access to psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists.
December 8th, 1992
Nicholas Timmins, ‘Children’s home staff face tougher vetting’
HEALTH ministers yesterday ordered immediate action from local authorities to improve seriously deficient recruitment methods for staff in children’s homes after sexual abuse scandals.
Applicants’ sexual interests, relationships and characters should be discussed in depth at preliminary interviews while full employment histories should be taken and criminal record checks made before appointment, the Warner inquiry into children’s homes staffing recommended.
The inquiry was set up last year after Frank Beck was given five life sentences for sexually abusing children in four Leicestershire children’s homes.
But while ordering councils to act, ministers moved only to consult on a string of recommendations affecting central government – including the appointment of a Development Action Group, with a three-year life and annual public reports, to be both a watchdog and an agent for change.
Tim Yeo, Parliamentary Secretary at the Department of Health, said he accepted the report’s 83 recommendations in principle and declared the report ”will not be allowed to gather dust”. Local authorities should, however, be given an opportunity to comment on how best to implement the report’s recommendations, he said.
Noting that there have been eight inquiries affecting children’s homes since 1985, the Warner team said: ”We are concerned there have been so many inquiries whose findings have gone largely unheeded by the service as a whole.”
Warner suggests the homes are in crisis, the children in them becoming older and more disturbed and that an estimated one third of them are victims of sexual abuse. Staff training and development is described as ”dire”, with 80 per cent of care staff and 40 per cent of home heads unqualified.
Rather than the orphans and truants of a bygone era, some homes now house ”many violent, abused, abusing and self-mutilating children”. An action group would be the ”engine for change” that the homes need.
Labour and local authority associations said more money would be needed to fund the improved recruitment, supervision and work-based training that the inquiry recommends. But Norman Warner, the former Kent social services director who chaired the inquiry, said that councils could achieve more by making children’s homes a higher priority. ”The children in residence did not ask to be there,” he said.
The report says implementation of its recommendations ”will deter a small group of paedophiles who seem to have sought employment in children’s homes to gain access to vunerable children”.
But society ”will need to be alert to the danger” that determined paedophiles could turn to education and youth work as it becomes more difficult for them to secure children’s homes jobs.
The Herald (Glasgow)
December 8th, 1992
‘Child care social workers face questions on sex lives’
SOCIAL workers seeking jobs in children’s homes will be questioned about their sex lives and childhoods to weed out potential paedophiles and perverts.
The tougher vetting procedures were announced by the Government yesterday as the Warner inquiry published a report showing youngsters in care were still vulnerable to abuse by staff despite a wave of children’s home scandals and inquiries.
Councils will get a letter this week demanding that they end sloppy recruitment policies which, the report said, were leading to unsafe appointments.
Health Minister Tim Yeo said local authorities must act on the report’s recommendations and tighten staff selection procedures as a “matter of urgency”.
He said he was extremely disturbed by the findings of the inquiry, which the Government ordered a year ago following the Frank Beck scandal in Leicestershire.
Beck was given five life sentences for sexually abusing scores of youngsters while in charge of four children’s homes.
He had been allowed to work with children despite four separate police investigations into abuse allegations against him.
The Warner report, which makes 83 recommendations, showed councils were still failing to check whether job candidates had criminal convictions.
Only 15% of local authorities vetted staff thoroughly and only half passed information about “potentially unsuitable” candidates to other local authorities. Training was said to be “dire”.
The report, based on a survey of 97 of England’s 109 local authorities and covering private, voluntary, and council homes, highlighted “serious concerns about the way references and checks are handled”.
One in 10 heads of homes was offered a job and a third of care workers took up posts before references were received, it said.
The report said that more importance was placed on equal opportunity policies than on questions about candidates’ personal backgrounds.
The report says 80% of care staff and 40% of heads of homes were regarded by their employers as having no relevant qualification.
It called for the Government to give a clear lead in a radical overhaul of recruitment and training.
Targets set last year, which called for all heads of homes to be qualified within three years, were unrealistic and should be replaced with training with more emphasis on practical experience, it said.
In future, the report said, job candidates should be asked about their attitudes to “control and punishment, significant childhood events, stability of personal relationships or sexual attraction to children”.
Candidates should also have written aptitude tests and the Government should consider introducing personality profile tests.
The report also called for:
* Better monitoring, improved vetting, and more supervision of staff.
* A code of practice setting national standards for children’s homes.
* Improved arrangements for police vetting of staff.
* A licence to allow child care workers to practise.
A taskforce should be set up to monitor implementation of the recommendations, the report added.
Welcoming the report, Mr Yeo said the Government would consult local authorities and the voluntary and private sector on the report’s recommendations.
Mr Yeo was also concerned that the report’s recommendations on recruitment, selection, and appointment of staff were not already routine in every local authority.
The determination of local authorities to pursue equal opportunities policies should not be at the cost of damaging the interests of children, he said.
Mr Yeo said the Government accepted the broad thrust of the report — and added that the Department of Health accepted in principle all the recommendations.
However, asked why he was not setting up a taskforce, one of the central recommendations, Mr Yeo said it was important that local authorities’ views on the report were received first.
Social services chiefs welcomed the report, saying it provided a “sound basis” for improvements in an area that was already seen as a high priority.
However, they warned change would cost money and said it was up to central and local government to find cash for training.
Local government union Nalgo welcomed the report but warned that Government must provide a new staff training programme.
December 8th, 1992
‘LEADING ARTICLE: HOMES OUT OF RANGE’
DO WE need children’s homes? Ignore the big scandals: the 200 children sexually abused by Frank Beck in Leicestershire, the unacceptable pindown controls imposed in Staffordshire, or the horrific abuse exposed by the Kincora inquiry in Northern Ireland. Consider instead the routine life of a typical home set out in yesterday’s report from the Norman Warner Committee: perhaps one-third of the children sexually abused, most of the rest emotionally disturbed and volatile, a high turnover – of staff and children – only reinforcing the sense of instability. There is no single adult to whom the adolescents can turn as a parent substitute. The abused will have a high chance of becoming abusers. All children will have a sense of stigma. Their home will come near to the bottom of the local council’s priorities. Is it conceivable that disturbed young people can find their identity in such surroundings? All research suggests that long periods of institutional care lead to further social problems – and frequently subsequent poor parenting.
Almost 50 years ago the Curtis Committee expressed concern at the lack of affection in children’s homes. Does nothing change? Quite a bit. Many more children are now found foster parents. The number of children in institutional care has been cut by almost two-thirds since 1960. But this still leaves about 11,250 children in 1,300 homes. The Children Act will divert more, but Warner is right to conclude that a range of homes will still be needed for highly disturbed children foster families can’t handle. The role of the homes should be therapeutic rather than custodial; but they could not be more poorly equipped for the task.
Eight out of 10 of their staff do not have a relevant qualification. Even four out of 10 of the heads of homes have no qualifications. Selection, supervision and inspection of staff is archaic. Selection is far too tied to performance in interviews; most councils have no formal appraisal of staff; and 80 per cent have not worked out training needs. The ultimate paradox is that the most demanding tasks in modern social work are being left to the least skilled. Of course they do not have the field worker’s anxiety of going home at night wondering whether a child on their caseload is going to die, but physically and emotionally the work is draining.
Warner sets out sensible reforms for more systematic selection, better structured supervision and a new approach to training. His training ideas will be controversial: scrapping the recent initiative to give every head, deputy and senior a diploma with more practical work-based training. But he’s right. The Utting initiative would take 30 years, cost pounds 50,000 per place, and only provide a passport into more lucratively paid field work. Residential care, however, will never achieve equal status with field work until there is equal pay. Not only were ministers silent about that yesterday, but they were not even prepared to set up the recommended national monitoring unit. There is no point in accepting conclusions if you temporise inertly on the most crucial front.
December 8th, 1992
David Brindle, ‘NEW CHECKS ORDERED ON CHILD CARE STAFF; Inquiry demands better recruitment and supervision procedures after Leicestershire abuse scandal’
– More rigorous selection and appointment procedures for children’s home staff
– Use of wider range of selection techniques than single interview
– Fortnightly supervision and annual appraisal of staff
– New strategy for staff development and training
– Urgent review of health and educational needs of children in homes
– Better planning of children’s services and role of residential care
LOCAL authorities were yesterday ordered to take immediate steps to tighten procedures for recruiting and supervising staff of children’s homes, following publication of the report of a committee of inquiry set up in response to the scandal of systematic abuse in homes in Leicestershire.
Tim Yeo, junior health minister, said the Government was “seriously concerned about the fundamental weaknesses and deficiencies” identified in the report. Local authorities would need to report progress by next April.
However, Mr Yeo made no commitment on what action the Government would take in response to the 83 recommendations of the committee headed by Norman Warner, former social services director of Kent.
He declined to agree that a “development action group” would be set up to oversee improvements. The committee is “convinced that children’s homes need a change agent of this kind”. While the Government accepted in principle the report’s recommendations directed at the Department of Health, consultation would be held with local authority associations and other interested parties before any decisions were made.
The Leicestershire scandal centred on Frank Beck, a former head of children’s homes in the county, who ran a regime of cruelty and abuse for 13 years. When he finally resigned after two male colleagues complained he had molested them, he was given a reference and able to get work elsewhere. He was jailed for life a year ago.
The Warner report, based on a survey of all 1,300 children’s homes in England, says urgent action is needed to improve the way homes are managed and how staff are taken on and monitored. “Too many unqualified, and sometimes ineffective, residential staff are left inadequately trained, supervised and managed to deal with some of the most difficult children in our society,” says the report. “It is not surprising that things go wrong and that deeply disturbing events occur. What may be surprising is that disquieting events are not revealed more often.”
Local authorities are being told to implement the report’s recommendations on recruitment, selection, appointment, supervision and appraisal.
Mr Yeo said he was alarmed the survey had found only 15 per cent of local authorities followed up candidates’ references by telephone. He also shared the report’s view “that employers who invoke equal opportunities as the reason for not obtaining full personal details about job applicants are failing in their duty to protect the best interests of children in care.”
Issues to be subject to consultation include training, on which the report advocates abandoning the policy, implemented after a previous report by Sir Bill Utting following the Staffordshire pin-down scandal, of giving priority to training unqualified senior staff of homes in the general social work diploma, and introducing instead a training programme based on learning at the workplace and a new, specialised qualification.
The Association of Directors of Social Services said the report, if implemented, would enhance improvements already being made in the children’s home sector.
Peter Smallridge, the association president, said: “Nothing in the report’s recommendations is over-ambitious, nor unachievable.”
– Carlton Morgan, aged 34, a former residential social worker, will appear in court today charged with raping a nine-year-old girl at a children’s home in Brixton, south London. Thomas Usher, aged 50, head of Oswald Street children’s home in Hackney, east London, is to appear in court on January 1 on charges of buggery and indecent assault, police said last night.
December 8th, 1992
Anthony Doran, ‘SHAKE-UP FOR CHILD HOMES TO KEEP OUT THE PERVERTS’
SHOCKED Ministers ordered action yesterday to prevent more perverts getting jobs in children’s homes.
The clampdown followed a damning report which accused most local authorities of failing to vet staff thoroughly.
The Government wants an end to sloppy recruitment procedures which have enabled paedophiles to work among children and produced a string of child-abuse scandals.
Official guidelines expected soon could insist that the police records of everyone applying for a job are checked as well as references.
Ministers are said to be shocked by revelations in the report of the Warner inquiry, set up following the scandal surrounding 49-year-old Frank Beck, who received five life sentences for sexually abusing scores of youngsters while in charge of four children’s homes.
Beck was allowed to continue working with children despite four police investigations into his alleged abuse.
The 200-page report makes a series of recommendations, including the suggestion that care staff should have a licence to practice.
Some senior council officials had a touching faith in a 30 to 40-minute interview to select staff, the report said.
Children’s homes were in a ‘serious situation – some have called it a crisis’. It was time for senior managers, assisted by the Government, to act.
Most employers, said the report, made no systematic attempt to find out how candidates related to children or to discover incidents in the candidates’ past which might cause concern.
There were no proper checks on the stability, or otherwise, of applicants’ sexual relationships and ability to cope with often highly-sexed teenagers.
The inquiry chairman, Mr Norman Warner, 52, former social services director of Kent County Council, discovered that some staff found it difficult to commit themselves to relationships, had problems with their own sexuality and had been sexually promiscuous.
Putting people such as these in charge of disturbed adolescents was a lethal combination, he warned.
Some of the most troubled children in society were being cared for by a largely unqualified and untrained workforce, the report went on.
One in ten heads of homes and one in three other staff were appointed before references were received, the inquiry found.
There were delays of up to three months in checking whether candidates had criminal records.
And once employed, staff work was rarely appraised, particularly by councils in urban areas. The homes were not using psychologists, psycotherapists and psychiatrists frequently enough.
Staff, as well as children, needed to be cared for in such stressful work. Staff threatened or attacked by youngsters told the inquiry they were not backed up often enough by employers.
Commenting on the report, Peter Smallridge, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, admitted there was room for improvement.
‘Unfortunately children’s homes seem to have been an opportunity for people with paedophile tendencies to try to get jobs,’ he said.
The report warned that ‘the voice of the child is still very muted in some places, not only in the running of the homes but in being able to make heard their cries for help.’
The average age of children in council homes is 14. Two-thirds are suffering from emotional or behavioural difficulties. A third are reportedly victims of sexual abuse and violence in their families, and many have used drugs.
Health Minister Tim Yeo promised the report would not be left to gather dust. The Government expected urgent action from local authorities, he said last night.
CHANGING THE SYSTEM
THE report recommends that all children’s homes should:
* Publish plans which identify children’s needs and means of meeting them;
* Review management arrangements for appraising and supervising staff;
* Change, where necessary, the channels for hearing complaints;
* Introduce personal development contracts for employees and probationary periods of around 12 months for new staff;
* Ensure better checks on applicants for posts;
* Institute an audit of the education service for children in care;
* Bring in a support system for staff with outside independent counselling.
Twenty-nine of the inquiry’s 83 recommendations are devoted to ways of tightening staff selection.
February 5th, 1993
Linda Jackson, ‘TOP QC TO FIGHT FOR RELEASE OF SEX OFFENDER’
The lawyer who handled the successful appeals of the Birmingham Six and Judith Ward is set to fight for the release of one of the most notorious child sex offenders. Michael Mansfield QC, a pivotal figure in several cases involving miscarriages of justice, will represent Frank Beck in an appeal against his convictions. Beck, the 50-year-old former head of three Leicestershire children’s homes, is serving five life sentences after being convicted of sexually and physically abusing youngsters and staff in his care between 1973 and 1986. He has already been given leave to appeal against the sentences delivered in November 1991 following an eleven-week trial. He was found guilty of 17 charges including four counts of buggering children under 16 and of raping a girl. Last week solicitors acting on his behalf applied for leave to appeal against all the convictions on the grounds that vital documents were not disclosed. They expect to hear whether leave has been granted within the next two months. News that Mr Mansfield is taking on the case has been seen as giving a great spur to the appeal. It comes just three days before the publication of a highly critical report into the running of the county’s children’s homes. Mr Mansfield has achieved a high profile in several legal causes celebres. Last year he acted for Miss Ward who successfully appealed against her 18-year-old convictions for three IRA explosions. He argued that non-disclosure of a “wealth” of material lead to her wrongful conviction. He was also involved in the case of the Tottenham Three – who, in December 1991, had their convictions for the murder of Pc Keith Blakelock in the Broadwater Farm formally quashed by the Court of Appeal.
February 6th, 1993, Saturday
‘Beck appeal QC’
Michael Mansfield QC, who handled the successful appeals of the Birmingham Six and Judith Ward, is to represent Frank Beck, 50, former head of three Leicestershire children’s homes, in an appeal against his convictions for child sex offences. The report of the inquiry into the case will be published on Monday.