Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #5

(Continued from Part 4)


United Press International

February 8th, 1993

‘Report criticizes social service in Britain over sex offense case’

A county social services department ignored repeated sex offense complaints against one of its employees for more than seven years, allowing him to abuse scores of youngsters in three childrens’ homes because they were afraid ”to rock the boat,” said a report released Monday.

The employee, Frank Beck, 50, was sentenced to five life sentences in 1991 for sex offenses, including rape, sodomy and physical abuse against young people in three homes for children. It was the biggest sex abuse case ever to come before a British court.

Since the trial, 84 people claiming to be Beck’s victims have sought compensation. A report on Beck’s employment by Leicestershire County Social Services from 1973 to 1986 was commissioned by the government after the court case revealed complaints against him seven years before his dismissal.

The 355-page report released Monday found that the social services department had no child-care strategy, no firm leadership and no framework for investigating complaints.

The report said Leicestershire Social Services chiefs allowed Beck to continue working with youngsters although police had made four separate investigations into allegations that he was abusing children.

The report described the department as a ”management vacuum within which abuse and bad practice could generally flourish,” and said there was a general attitude of ”out of sight, out of mind.”

Beck was allowed to introduce his own controversial style of regression therapy, although he had no qualifications in that sort of work, the report said. It said he was also allowed to foster a boy even after complaints about him were passed to police.

The report criticized former council director Brian Rice, who provided a good reference for Beck.

”That he wrote a reference for Mr. Beck…is inexcusable,” it said. ”There is no evidence in the hands of the inquiry to suggest that Mr. Rice was other than grossly negligent in writing the reference.”

The report named three people with direct responsibility for Beck during his employment and also singled out two former directors of social services for particular criticism.


Press Association

February 8th, 1993

‘BLAME LIES WITH LOCAL AUTHORITY, SAYS MINISTER’

Blame for the Frank Beck affair rested squarely with the local authority and could not be attached to the Government, junior health minister Tim Yeo, who is responsible for residential homes, said today. There was not a single paragraph in the report of the Government inquiry headed by Mr Andrew Kirkwood QC “which suggests that any action by Government could have countered the dreadful mismanagement and neglect of the situation by Leicestershire County Council”, Mr Yeo said. He rejected a suggestion by Leicestershire social services director Brian Waller that it was now up to the Government to monitor existing guidelines better to ensure another Beck did not slip through the net. “I think it is pretty shoddy that Mr Waller should try and pass the blame on to the Government,” he told the BBC Radio 4 programme The World at One. Mr Yeo added: “As far as Frank Beck is concerned the blame has to lie firmly with the local authority.” The Government had already set up the Warner Committee of inquiry, which reported in September, and implemented a number of recommendations which related to recruitment and selection of staff. “We have accepted recommendations that there should be better-trained and qualified staff in the childcare field generally,” Mr Yeo said. “The only way to ensure that this appalling catalogue of abuse is not repeated is if the local authorities themselves are constantly vigilant in the way they supervise what happens in those establishments for which they are directly responsible.”


Press Association

February 8th, 1993

Linda Jackson and Mervyn Tunbridge, ‘WE’LL LEAVE NO STONE UNTURNED, SAYS SOCIAL SERVICES CHIEF’

No stone will be left unturned to investigate allegations against members of care staff, a social services chief pledged today. The promise came from Leicestershire County Council social services director Brian Waller shortly after the publication of the hard-hitting report of a Government inquiry into the Frank Beck affair. Mr Waller said: “No stone will be left unturned in looking at past conduct. “We will continue this process and we intend to ensure our homes are run by people of impeccable reputation and behaviour.” He went on: “Residential care has been a Cinderella service for more than two decades. “It has become a backwater which is used as a last resort when everything else fails. Generally staff are unqualified and lowly paid, which creates a climate where abuse might foster.” Residential childcare services needed urgent attention at both local and national government level, he said. Mr Waller, who has been with Leicestershire County Council since 1988, said that in the wake of the Frank Beck affair allegations were made against a total of 24 people – of whom four were currently suspended. In addition three senior members of staff – including deputy director of social services Michael Wells – were currently being investigated. Of the four suspensions, one involved an allegation of sexual abuse against a child, two were for alleged assault, and one involved a claim of poor child care practices. Five allegations were investigated by the police, he said, while in four cases members of staff would face a disciplinary panel later this month.

Mr David Prince, chief executive of Leicestershire County Council since 1991, said no responsible authority could be other than profoundly concerned about the way in which important responsibilities towards vulnerable young people were neglected. “We owe it to the children now in our care, to future generations of children and to the public at large to ensure that every possible action is taken to prevent a repetition of these events,” he said. “The county council has already been pursuing a number of initiatives and any further action necessary will be taken.” The events surrounding the Beck case took place at a time of major change, when residential care was a neglected service, Mr Prince went on. Constant monitoring and permanent vigilance were the only way to protect children in local authority homes. The county council would ensure that the conduct of existing staff members was investigated urgently and thoroughly. In recent years a series of positive measures had been taken to improve childcare services and restore public confidence. But the best guarantee of children’s safety arises from ensuring that their voices were both heard and taken seriously, Mr Prince said. There was now much tighter control on recruitment and selection and improved training and supervision of residential home staff. The events described in Mr Kirkwood’s report made very distressing reading, and the authority was totally committed to learning from past mistakes, Mr Prince added.

Leicestershire’s Assistant Chief Constable Mr Tony Butler today appealed to abused youngsters not to suffer in silence. Mr Butler said children should “be confident that they will be listened to”. “Children are at risk and the police service as a whole are doing everything they can to minimise that risk,” he said. Mr Butler said it was unfair to point the finger at any individual officers over mistakes made during investigations and he said there was no evidence of any serious misconduct. “Although the report makes some criticisms of past performance, these have to be set in the overall context of the public awareness of child abuse during this period extending back 20 years,” he said. “Because the investigation was concerned with incidents which occurred more than seven years ago, the changes in police practice and procedures covered by recommendations in the report have already been implemented.” Mr Butler added: “The decision to undertake an independent investigation should reassure the public that we are committed to being open and accountable in our work, and determined to learn lessons from the past to improve services in the future.”


Press Association

February 8th, 1993

‘BECK IN TEARS ON RADIO’

Frank Beck was still protesting his innocence and defending his methods as he spoke to his solicitor from Gartree prison tonight. He broke down in tears as he told his lawyer Oliver D’Sa: “I am not a bloody monster despite what they say. I have got feelings.” During the telephone conversation, broadcast on BBC Radio Leicester, Beck protested he was the victim of a witch hunt. “The media are guilty of almost murder. They drive people to the end just to get a good story.” He claimed that the inquiry had access to documents which were not available at his trial and which drew into question allegations that he ran his homes in isolation, and the use of regression therapy. His voice shaking, Beck said: “It has been going on so long, people saying the same thing. Someone’s got to listen, someone’s got to read the file.”


Press Association

February 8th, 1993

Linda Jackson, ‘ABUSES THAT SHOCKED THE NATION’

The case of Frank Beck, who was given five life sentences in 1991 for his sytematic abuse of children in care, horrified the nation. During the 11-week trial involving the biggest case of child sex abuse to come before a British court, details were given of Beck’s 13-year “reign of terror”. Up to 200 youngsters were said to have been preyed on by the former head of three Leicestershire children’s homes. Ministers were appalled by the case. They were even more disturbed to discover Leicestershire allowed Beck to continue working with youngsters despite four separate police investigations into alleged abuse by him. As Beck was sentenced, William Waldegrave, the former health secretary announced two inquiries. One would investigate the selection of staff in Britain’s children’s homes. The other, chaired by Andrew Kirkwood QC which is reporting today, would find out why staff at one of Britain’s biggest social services departments failed to act on warnings which would have lead them to the discovery of a catalogue of abuse. Allegations of physical and sexual abuse were first made in 1980 – seven years after Beck started working as an officer in charge of a children’s home. They continued over the next six years, from children and social workers, and on four different occasions were passed on to police. After one investigation, police charged Beck with assault. However, he was subsequently acquitted after a crown court trial in 1982. Despite these allegations, Beck continued working at The Beeches, Leicester Forest East, where he had been officer in charge since 1978. He had spent the previous five years working at The Poplars – a home in Market Harborough – before moving to Ratcliffe Road children’s home. He eventually resigned in 1986 after he was suspended following an allegation of sexual harassment by a fellow member of staff. However he was given references which enabled him to take jobs with Brent and Hertfordshire social services. He also worked with charities. Twelve months later, Brian Rice, the then director of social services and three senior officers left to take early retirement.


Press Association

February 8th, 1993

Linda Jackson, Mervyn Tunbridge and Grania Langdon-Down, ‘COMBINATION OF BLUNDERS ALLOWED SEX ABUSER’S REIGN OF TERROR’

Social worker Frank Beck was able to conduct a 13-year reign of terror in children’s homes and systematically subject youngsters to sexual abuse thanks to a combination of blunders, two damning reports said today. Leicestershire County Council’s social services department, which allowed Beck to run three of its children’s homes, was in a state of chaos. It lacked a child-care strategy and firm leadership, and youngsters’ complaints were not believed, said a Government inquiry into the scandal. And police who were called in to investigate children’s complaints made mistakes “through a combination of incompetence, negligence and prejudice compounded by a lack of understanding of child abuse”, according to an inquiry by a senior detective. The two investigations were launched after Beck was sentenced to five life terms in jail in 1991 after an 11-week trial – the biggest child sex abuse case to go before a British court. It was said that Beck, a former Royal Marine and Liberal councillor, could have preyed on up to 200 children. Police conducted four separate investigations into allegations about Beck’s activities in Leicestershire. But when Beck left the county, its then social services director, Brian Rice – who took early retirement in 1987 – wrote him a reference which enabled him to work for other social service agencies.

The 355-page report on the Government inquiry by Mr Andrew Kirkwood QC said:

Social services managers did not believe youngsters who complained to sexual abuse, while warning signs were ignored by managers whose behaviour was “naive” and at times “astonishing”.
The department had a “management vacuum within which abuse and bad practice could generally flourish”.
Junior staff and middle managers confronted with complaints were anxious not to rock the boat, and there was a general attitude of “out of sight, out of mind”.
Beck was allowed to introduce his own controversial style of regression therapy – although he had no qualifications in therapeutic work.
At the time of Beck’s employment there was no coherent childcare strategy, homes were shrouded in secrecy, and little monitoring of individual children’s homes.
Record-keeping within the social services care branch was at best “slipshod and haphazard” – with no impetus for change or improvement.
Beck’s willingness to take on the most difficult children, combined with his “forceful, manipulative and at times petulant personality”, made managers “afraid to challenge” him.
Any investigations which were made into complaints were not recorded properly. Key witnesses were not interviewed.
The police report, by West Mercia Police Chief Superintendent David Foster under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority, said:
Mistakes occured “through a combination of incompetence, negligence and prejudice compounded by a lack of understanding about child abuse” and through an inadequate system.
It was more than possible that Beck’s activities would have been exposed at an earlier date, particularly through the investigations in 1977, 1985 and 1986 – “The substance of these complaints was greater than that of the complaint in 1989 which led to Beck’s ultimate conviction.”
In almost every case, contact with police came because a child absconded from a children’s home – but officers failed to establish why the children ran away, and the force policy on missing persons failed to identify running away as a potential indicator of abuse.
Officers openly disbelieved youngsters’ complaints, with some being openly hostile and looking on them as young criminals.
In almost every case, police returned children to the home where the abuse took place – and in every case, the social worker alleged to have carried out the abuse was allowed to remain at work throughout the investigation.
Police interviewed the children either at the home where they were abused, often in front of the abuser, or in a police station, but failed to record or investigate complaints and did not question vital witnesses.
One officer allowed the abusers to control and manipulate his inquiries so he failed to obtain crucial evidence.
The circumstances meant that children who complained of abuse “and other child witnesses” were intimadated and manipulated, in some cases leading to further abuse.

Publication of Mr Kirkwood’s report prompted Leicestershire social services director Brian Waller to pledge: “No stone will be left unturned in looking at past conduct. “We will continue this process and we intend to ensure our homes are run by people of impeccable reputation and behaviour.” He went on: “Residential care has been a Cinderella service for more than two decades. It has become a backwater which is used as a last resort when everything else fails.” Residential childcare services needed urgent attention at both local and national government level, added Mr Waller, who has been with Leicestershire since 1988. Allegations were made against a total of 24 people – of whom four were currently suspended – in the wake of the Beck affair. Three senior members of staff – including deputy director of social services Michael Wells – were also being investigated, Mr Waller said. Five allegations were investigated by police, he said, while in four cases members of staff would face a disciplinary panel later this month. Leicestershire County Council chief executive David Prince said: “We owe it to the children now in our care, to future generations of children and to the public at large to ensure that every possible action is taken to prevent a repetition of these events. “The county council has already been pursuing a number of initiatives and any further action necessary will be taken.”

The police report was requested by former Leicestershire Chief Constable Michael Hirst, who retired at the end of January, and its findings were endorsed by the PCA. PCA member William McCall praised Leicestershire police for commissioning the inquiry but said that while much was done to put mistakes right, there were still lessons for all police forces. “All forces should test their procedures for handling abuse cases in the light of these recommendations,” he said. The police report’s recommendations include:

Training officers to interview abused children and recording all allegations as crimes, irrespective of the youngsters’ character or background.

Ensuring that no child was returned to the home or made to repeat his or her comments to a social worker at the home.

Improving relationships between police and social services. Mr Kirkwood’s report was directly critical of a number of Leicestershire county council officials. But it was damning in condemning Mr Rice, saying it was “inexcusable” of him to write the reference which enabled Beck to leave Leicestershire after being suspended over a sexual harrassment allegation and go to work for other local authorities and charities. The report added: “There is no evidence in the hands of the inquiry to suggest that Mr Rice was other than grossly negligent in writing the reference.” Mr Kirkwood said today that most of the events with which his inquiry was concerned were now more than seven years old, but it was not safe to treat it all as merely past history. The report provided a factual basis upon which constructive discussion could now take place in the quest for the best standards of practice and management in the difficult area of residential childcare.


Local Government Chronicle (LGC)

February 8th, 1993 Monday

‘LEICESTERSHIRE PROMISES TO ACT ON KIRKWOOD REPORT’

HIGHLIGHT: Leicestershire CC has pledged to do everything possible to prevent a repeat of the abuse perpetrated by Frank Beck …

Leicestershire CC has pledged to do everything possible to prevent a repeat of the abuse perpetrated by Frank Beck in the county’s children’s homes.In response to Andrew Kirkwood QC’s report on his inquiry into the Beck affair, published this morning, the county council says: ‘No responsible authority could be other than profoundly concerned about the way in which important responsibilities towards vulnerable young people were neglected’.The Kirkwood report, commissioned by the Department of Health, strongly criticises Leicestershire social services management for allowing Mr Beck’s crimes to go unchecked. Mr Beck was jailed last year for abusing children in the county’s residential homes which he ran between 1973 and 1986.Mr Kirkwood attacks the ‘management vacuum’ in the social services department, where managers ignored complaints and failed to stand up to Mr Beck. There was an inadequate complaints procedure and children who complained were not believed, he found.In a parallel report commissioned by the Police Complaints Authority, West Mercia Police Chief Superintendent David Foster found the Leicestershire police were also negligent in failing to act on complaints of abuse which they were receiving as early as 1973.Leicestershire CC this morning welcomed Mr Kirkwood’s report, which will be considered at a special social services committee meeting on 24 February.The county admits residential care was a neglected service at the time of these events.

‘Although residential child care in Leicestershire is now very different in its management and general approach, the county council is in no way complacent’, it says.The conduct of existing staff members criticised in the report will be investigated ‘urgently and thoroughly’, the council says. Some employees have already been suspended and disciplinary proceedings started.The county says it has taken measures to: ensure children in its homes are safe from abuse; strengthen complaints procedures; improve management; and introduce a development plan for the children’s residential service.Introducing his report, Mr Kirkwood said he hoped the lessons of ‘these very worrying events’ would be learnt widely, not just in Leicestershire. It must not be treated as past history, he said.Mr Kirkwood said he had made few recommendations because many recommendations and reforms have already been made in the field of residential child care over the past three years.’This report touches on a number of practical topics and provides a factual basis upon which discussion can take place in the quest for best standards of practice and management’, he said.


Evening Standard

February 8, 1993, Monday

Patrick McGowan, ‘A CAREER MARKED BY HISTORY OF COMPLAINT’

SOCIAL worker Frank Beck was able to conduct a 13-year reign of terror in children’s homes and systematically subject youngsters to sexual abuse thanks to a combination of blunders, two reports said today.

Leicestershire County Council’s social services department, which allowed Beck to run three of its children’s homes, was in a state of chaos, according to a £1.25 million Government inquiry into the scandal.

And police called to investigate children’s complaints made mistakes ‘through a combination of incompetence, negligence and prejudice compounded by a lack of understanding of child abuse’, according to an inquiry by a senior detective.

The Government inquiry report paints a picture of a social services department lacking a child care strategy and without firm leadership. Some officers were afraid to stand up to Beck.

As a result Beck, 50, now serving five life terms and 24 years in jail, was able to continue his attacks on the children in his care.

The £report, by Andrew Kirkwood QC, says: ‘There was a general predisposition not to believe children.

‘There was an assumption that children either had an ulterior motive for complaints or would be likely, for whatever reason, to fabricate.’

The 355-page report highlights a ‘management vacuum within which abuse and bad practice could generally flourish’.

Despite being confronted with complaints, junior staff and middle managers were anxious not to rock the boat.

There was a general attitude of ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ it says.
Those investigations which were made into complaints were not recorded properly and key witnesses were not interviewed.

In most cases there was no process for senior officers to consider thoroughly whether an investigation was conducted satisfactorily.

The abuse was able to continue because staff at the homes Beck ran were subject to a rule of secrecy which forbade discussion about treatment methods. Also Beck controlled visits by parents and outside social workers.

Concerns about Beck should have been noted by management when he first applied for a job in 1973. However, he was allowed to continue his questionable ‘regressive therapy’, in which adolescents were put into nappies and abused, despite having no qualifications in therapeutic work.

The report describes Beck, a former commando, as ‘a forceful, manipulative and at times petulant personality’.

This made him a person management officers were afraid to challenge.

Several senior officers in Leicester social services come in for severe criticism, including Edwin Ross and John Cobb, both principal assistants, and John Noblett, a principal officer.

But the most damming criticism is saved for social services director Brian Rice who wrote a glowing reference for Beck as evidence of child abuse mounted against him.

‘There is no evidence in the hands of the inquiry to suggest that Mr Rice was other than grossly negligent in writing the reference.’


The Times

February 9, 1993, Tuesday
Jeremy Laurance, ‘Disbelief that allows perverts to thrive’

THE Kirkwood enquiry is the ninth report in eight years to highlight disquiet at the way children’s homes are run. All have drawn attention to the same shortcomings but their findings have gone unheeded.

Public attitudes have been marked by a disbelief that abuse can occur in the homes combined with a lack of interest in the purpose of the homes. Mr Kirkwood says it would ”not be wise” to assume that the events his report records could never happen again. Brian Waller, director of social services in Leicester, said it would be dreadful if the Kirkwood report was not acted upon. ”Every authority needs to build in checks and balances and the government must help create a more positive view of residential care.”

The number of children in care has fallen by more than a third in the past ten years but the problems of looking after them have grown worse. The fall reflects greater efforts by local authorities to keep families together and minimise heavy-handed intervention. Those left in care are the most damaged and vulnerable.

About 11,000 of the most disturbed children, who are not considered suitable for fostering, are in 1,300 homes. These are not orphans and truants whose lives can be transformed by kindness, but often violent, abusing and self-mutilating children, a third of them sex abuse victims and who make huge demands on staff.
In spite of the demands of the work, four out of five staff in children’s homes are unqualified. The recent Warner report into social worker recruitment found many homes made no attempt to discover how candidates related to children or to uncover incidents in their past that could cause concern. 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.

Since the Beck case, the government has announced tougher rules for the inspection of homes and selection of staff. Specialists believe that more needs to be done.

David Berridge, of the National Children’s Bureau, said: ”Residential care has gone into a vicious spiral over the past ten years and suffered appalling neglect from government and professional associations which has required a series of scandals to focus attention on it.”


The Times

February 9th, 1993

Jeremy Laurance, ‘Police prejudice and negligence helped Beck escape detection’

THE social worker Frank Beck was able to abuse and terrorise children for 13 years because police and social services managers never believed their claims of sexual abuse.

Two reports published yesterday condemn Leicestershire County Council and the police for a combination of blunders that failed to stop Beck’s cruel reign until 1989, when he received five life sentences in Britain’s biggest child sex abuse trial.

The 355-page report on the government enquiry into the case said Leicestershire County Council’s social services department, which allowed Beck to run three of its children’s homes, was in chaos. It lacked a child-care strategy and firm leadership.

Police who were called in to investigate children’s complaints made mistakes ”through a combination of incompetence, negligence and prejudice compounded by a lack of understanding of child abuse”, according to an enquiry by Chief Supt David Foster of West Mercia police.

The two investigations were launched after the 11-week trial of Beck and two other child abusers, at which it was said that the former Royal Marine and Liberal councillor may have abused up to 200 children.

Police conducted four separate investigations into allegations about Beck’s activities in Leicestershire. But when Beck left the county because of alleged sexual harassment, its then social services director, Brian Rice, wrote a reference that enabled him to work for other social services agencies.

The report on the government enquiry, by Andrew Kirkwood QC, said social services managers did not believe children who complained of sexual abuse, and warning signs were ignored by managers whose behaviour was naive and at times astonishing.

Mr Kirkwood said the department had a ”management vacuum within which abuse and bad practice could generally flourish”. Junior staff and middle managers confronted with complaints were anxious not to rock the boat, and there was a general attitude of ”out of sight, out of mind”.

Any investigations that were made into complaints were not recorded properly. Key witnesses were not interviewed. At the time of Beck’s employment, there was no coherent child-care strategy, homes were surrounded by secrecy and there was little monitoring of individual homes. Mr Kirkwood said Beck’s willingness to take on the most difficult children, combined with his ”forceful, manipulative and at times petulant personality”, made managers ”afraid to challenge” him.
He was allowed to introduce his own controversial style of regression therapy even though he had no qualifications in therapeutic work.

David Prince, chief executive of Leicestershire County Council, said: ”We owe it to the children now in our care, to future generations of children and to the public at large to ensure that every possible action is taken to prevent a repetition of these events.”

Brian Waller, director of Leicestershire social services, said: ”No stone will be left unturned in looking at past conduct.”

The police report, carried out under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority, said Beck’s activities could have been exposed by investigations into his conduct in 1977, 1985 and 1986. ”The substance of these complaints was greater than that of the complaint in 1989 which led to Beck’s ultimate conviction.”

In almost every case, contact with police came because a child absconded from a children’s home but officers failed to establish why the children ran away.
Officers openly disbelieved children’s complaints, with some being hostile and looking on them as young criminals, Mr Foster said.

In nearly every case, police officers returned children to the home where the abuse took place, and in every case the social worker alleged to have carried out the abuse was allowed to remain at work throughout the course of the investigation. Police interviewed the children either at the home where they were abused, often in front of the abuser, or in a police station, but failed to record or investigate complaints and did not question vital witnesses.

William McCall, a member of the Police Complaints Authority, said the report contained lessons for police everywhere. ”All forces should test their procedures for handling abuse cases in the light of these recommendations.”

The recommendations include training officers to interview abused children and to record all allegations as crimes, irrespective of the youngsters’ character.


The Times

February 9th, 1993

Jeremy Laurance, ‘Eight staff face brunt of criticism’

EIGHT senior managers, three of whom are still employed by Leicester County Council, are picked out for criticism in the Kirkwood report. Allegations have been received against a further 24 staff, independently of the enquiry, who are now under investigation.

The most stringent criticisms are levelled at five staff who have retired: Dorothy Edwards, director until 1980; Brian Rice, director from 1980-7; Terry Smith, deputy director; Peter Naylor, assistant director; and John Noblett, principal officer for children’s homes.

Also named and still employed by the authority are Michael Wells, the present deputy director; John Cobb, team manager for old people’s homes; and Ron Fenney, senior solicitor. Brian Waller, director of social services, said they would be investigated with others named in the report who were less severely criticised and could be subject to disciplinary action.


The Times

February 9th, 1993

Jeremy Laurance, ‘Blunders by council and police blamed for child sex scandal’

A SERIES of blunders by social services managers and police was responsible for one of the worst child sex abuse scandals of recent years, two reports said yesterday.

Incompetent managers allowed the social worker, Frank Beck, to abuse and terrorise children for 13 years because they were blind to the warning signs and deaf to the children’s complaints. Beck was sentenced to five life terms in jail in 1989 for abusing up to 200 children.

A government enquiry into the case by Andrew Kirkwood, QC, and a police report condemn Leicestershire County Council and the police for incompetence, negligence and bad practice. Tim Yeo, parliamentary secretary at the health department, said the report revealed a horrifying story of neglect and mismanagement. ”There can be no excuse for the history of neglect and incompetence which rings out of every page of this report. The terrible catalogue of abuse perpetrated by Frank Beck, a qualified social worker, and others ran unchecked as a result of Leicestershire County Council’s abysmal failure to conduct even the most basic management scrutiny of what was happening in one of their own homes.”

Leicester County Council yesterday pledged to carry out a full investigation. ”No stone will be left unturned in looking at past conduct,” Brian Waller, its social services director, said.

Three senior managers among the eight singled out for criticism in the Kirkwood enquiry are still employed by the council. Allegations against a further 24 staff currently employed are being investigated. Mr Waller said he was ”absolutely confident” that there could be no repetition of the Beck scandal.

But David Berridge, research director of the National Children’s Bureau, said there had been gross neglect of residential care for children for 20 years. ”Faced with constant criticism, residential social workers have not believed in what they have been doing and have gone into a spiral of despair. Central and local government share some of the responsibility but a major part of the blame must be laid at the door of social services managers,” he said.

Beck, who has lodged an appeal, continued to protest his innocence yesterday.


The Times

February 9th, 1993

‘The lessons of abuse’

Residential childcare needs to become more professional

Half a century after the Curtis committee revealed the deplorable shortcomings of children’s residential institutions, yesterday’s report by Andrew Kirkwood, QC, tells a depressingly familiar tale. The enquiry into the case of Frank Beck, the Leicestershire care worker who abused 200 children physically and sexually over 13 years, is the ninth such investigation since 1985 to identify serious flaws in the system of residential care. Piecemeal change will no longer do.

Beck, who is now serving five life sentences, headed three children’s homes despite a series of police investigations into allegations of abuse. According to Mr Kirkwood’s report, Leicestershire officials betrayed ”astonishing” naivety in their dealings with Beck. Where professionalism was most needed, amateurism was most evident.

More than half of all children in care are now fostered outside institutions, a proportion which is expected to grow. Those left in residential care will increasingly be the most disturbed, disruptive and unloved. This makes reform all the more urgent.

The Beck case has already forced change on those who monitor child care. The health department inspectorate is under review, as are local inspection services. The Children Act has formalised the requirement for independent inspection and entrenched a complaints procedure which should rescue many more children from silent suffering. Chief police officers should also heed yesterday’s separate report by West Mercia police, which recommends special training for officers dealing with abuse cases and better local liaison between police and social services departments.

But quality control mechanisms will be meaningless without a transformation of the profession which provided Beck with a grotesque niche. Becoming a careworker should be both harder and more rewarding. Eighty per cent of employees in children’s homes have no professional qualification. A compulsory diploma in residential child care, taking into account experience as well as formal training, is an essential first step.

Beyond this, the Kirkwood report must pave the way for structural change. Local authority control of children’s residential care appears to be virtually irredeemable. Ministers should now consider withdrawing homes from council management and handing them over to local governing bodies, which should include distinguished lay members as well as town hall, police and staff representatives.

Local authorities would remain responsible for placement of children in care. But each grant-maintained home would be free to hire and fire, investigate complaints, and develop its own character. A properly constituted governing body could tap the local support and expertise that these bleak institutions need. Like the children in its custody, the system itself needs a new kind of care.


The Irish Times

February 9th, 1993,

Linda Jackson, Grania Langdon Down, Mervyn Tunbridg, ‘Blunders favoured child sex abuser, two inquiries find. Leicestershire’s social services department lacked a child-care strategy’

A SOCIAL worker, Frank Beck, was able to conduct a 13-year reign of terror in children’s homes and systematically subject youngsters to sexual abuse thanks to a combination of blunders, two reports said yesterday.

Leicestershire County Council’s social services department, which allowed Beck to run three of its children’s homes, was in a state of chaos.

It lacked a child-care strategy and firm leadership, said a government inquiry into the scandal.

Police who were called in to investigate children’s complaints made mistakes “through a combination of incompetence, negligence and prejudice, compounded by a lack of understanding of child abuse”, according to an inquiry by a senior detective.

The two investigations were ordered after Beck was sentenced to five life terms in jail in 1991 after an 11-week trial.

It was said that Beck, a former Royal Marine and Liberal councillor, could have preyed on up to 200 children.

Police conducted four separate investigations into allegations about Beck’s activities in Leicestershire.

But when Beck left the county, its then social services director, Mr Brian Rice – who took early retirement in 1987 – wrote him a reference which enabled him to work for other social service agencies.

The 355-page report of the government inquiry by Mr Andrew Kirkwood QC, said:
Social services managers did not believe children who complained of sexual abuse, while warning signs were ignored by managers whose behaviour was naive” and at times “astonishing”.

Junior staff and middle managers confronted with complaints were anxious not to rock the boat, and there was a general attitude of “out of sight, out of mind”.
Beck was allowed to introduce his own controversial style of regression therapy – although he had no qualifications in therapeutic work.

Record-keeping within the social services care branch was at best “slipshod and haphazard”.

Beck’s willingness to take on the most difficult children, combined with his “forceful, manipulative and at times petulant personality”, made ‘ managers
“afraid to challenge” him.

Any investigations which were made into complaints were not recorded properly.
The police report, by West Mercia Police Chief Supt David Foster under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority, said:

Mistakes occurred “through a combination of incompetence, negligence and prejudice, compounded by a lack of understanding about child abuse” and through an inadequate system.

It was more than possible that Beck’s activities would have been exposed at an earlier date, particularly through the investigations in 1977, 1985 and 1986.

In almost every case, contact with police came because a child absconded from a children’s home – but officers failed to establish why the children ran away, and the force’s policy on missing persons failed to identify running away as a potential indicator of abuse.

Officers openly disbelieved children’s complaints.

In almost every case, police returned children to the home where the abuse took place – and in every case, the social worker alleged to have carried out the abuse was allowed to remain at work throughout the investigation.

Police interviewed the children either at the home where they were abused, often in front of the abuser, or in a police station, but failed to record or investigate complaints and did not question vital witnesses.

Publication of Mr Kirkwood’s report led Leicestershire’s social services director, Mr Brian Waller, to pledge: “No stone will be left unturned in looking at past conduct.

“We will continue this process and we intend to ensure our homes are run by people of impeccable reputation and behaviour.”

Allegations were made against a total of 24 people – of whom four were currently suspended – in the wake of the Beck affair, he said.

The police report was ordered by the former Leicestershire Chief Constable Michael Hirst, who retired at the end of January, and it’s findings were endorsed by the Police Complaints Authority.

The ‘slice report’s recommendations include:

Training officers on how to interview abused children and recording all allegations as crimes, irrespective of the youngsters’ character or background.

Ensuring that no child was returned to the home or made to repeat his or her comments to a social worker at the home.


The Independent

February 9th, 1993

‘Beck could have been stopped ‘as early as 1977”

THE full horror of Frank Beck’s sadistic and perverted regime began to come to light only in 1989 when a former resident in his ”care” made a statement to a social worker, and then to the police, cataloguing physical abuse and humiliation suffered at the Ratcliffe Road children’s home.

”The hell started on the day I walked into the place . . . When I tried to explain that I missed my mother they trapped me between their legs and dug their fingers in my ribs and made me scream and cry out in pain. Then they put me in a wooden playpen. They just pounced on who they fancied. We were forced to use bottles. We were humiliated and degraded. We were angry and hurt.”

The police investigation which followed resulted in Beck’s conviction for a series of sex attacks and five life sentences for four offences of buggery and one of rape. Mr Justice Jowitt described him as ”a man of very great evil who abused his position of trust to pursue evil and lustful desires”.

But for 13 years the cries for help from abused children at the three homes run by Beck between 1973 and 1986 went unheeded, despite complaints to police and Leicestershire County Council. The report by Chief Superintendent David Foster, of West Mercia Police, into Leicestershire Police’s involvement makes clear Beck’s activities could have been exposed by 1977. Chief Supt Foster said that after considering 15 of the 29 complaints: ”It is the view of this inquiry that . . . there is more than a possibility Beck’s criminal activities would have been exposed at an earlier date. This is particularly true of the investigations in 1977, 1985 and 1986. The substance of these complaints was greater than that of the complaint in 1989 which led to Beck’s ultimate conviction.”

But the report said that there was no ”equitable basis” for bringing disciplinary charges against any officer. It also emphasised that there was no evidence of any criminal misconduct by the officers: ”. . . many of the police officers we have identified in these 29 cases are now retired but there are other officers in these cases no less open to criticism whom we have not been able to identify”.

The report of the government inquiry by Andrew Kirkwood QC criticised a succession of council officers, including three serving officers – Michael Wells, deputy director of social services; John Cobb, a team manager in the social services department; and Ron Fenney, deputy county secretary. Criticisms of them and other named staff will be investigated by a team of officers who started work yesterday. If complaints are upheld, disciplinary proceedings could result in dismissal.

Brian Rice, who was director of Leicestershire social services from 1980 to 1986, is accused by Mr Kirkwood of gross negligence for ”inexcusably” writing a reference for Beck after he had resigned over sexual harassment complaints from two members of staff, which enabled Beck to continue working with vulnerable and disturbed children.

Mr Kirkwood makes no specific recommendations. But the police report calls, among other things, for the Home Office to review the legal position over the disclosure of information by police when, at the end of a criminal investigation, it is decided there is insufficient evidence to justify charges but the person’s conduct gives rise to serious concerns.

The police merely advise social services of the decision. They are reluctant to make other disclosures which could enable social services to consider the problem because it could lead to civil litigation or breaches of police discipline regulations. So a suspected child abuser could remain in post, the report said. ”Understanding the police reticence, this inquiry believes the Home Office should urgently review the legal and disciplinary position and provide adequate protection and safeguards for the police.”

The report found that officers had openly disbelieved the youngsters’ complaints, some showing outright hostility. They looked on them as young criminals and some considered that a beating was ”no more than summary justice”.

They interviewed the children either at the home where they had been abused, often in front of the abuser, or in a police station; failed to record or investigate complaints; and did not question vital witnesses. One officer allowed the abusers to control and manipulate his inquiries so that he failed to obtain crucial evidence.

In almost every case, police returned the child to the home where the abuse had taken place. In every case, the social worker alleged to have carried out the abuse remained in post throughout the investigation. ”The inquiry has established that these circumstances allowed the child complainant and other child witnesses to be intimidated and manipulated,” the report said – in some cases leading to further abuse.

Among the recommendations in the report were:

Officers should be properly trained to interview abused children and all allegations should be recorded as a crime, irrespective of the youngsters’ character or background;
No child should be taken back to the home or made to repeat his or her comments to a social worker at the home;
Consideration should be given to suspending or transferring temporarily an employee alleged to have carried out the abuse and to removing the child from the home until the investigation is complete;
Interviews with children should be held in an informal atmosphere, with no more than two adults present. Complainants should be told in person the outcome of the inquiry.


The Independent

February 9th, 1993

Marianne Macdonald and Rosie Waterhouse, ‘Minister pledges to improve the quality of staff’

A Government minister yesterday promised to give residential child care a higher status so that suitable, better qualified people are attracted to the job.
Welcoming the Kirkwood report, Tim Yeo, Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health, said: ”We have accepted recommendations for better qualified people to run children’s homes. It will be harder for others to follow the likes of Frank Beck: we have tightened the legislation considerably with the Children Act. But in the end it does depend on constant vigilance in the way staff are selected and recruited and the way complaints for children are handled.”

Endorsing Mr Yeo’s comments, Brian Waller, Leicestershire’s director of social services, said: ”Residential care has been a Cinderella service for more than two decades. It has become a backwater which is used as a last resort when everything else fails.” Homes had been staffed by people who were unqualified, lowly paid and badly managed, he said.

David Prince, chief executive, said the council had embarked on a development programme to improve the care of children through enhancing the status of social workers and attracting high-calibre staff.

Calls for a social services council to prevent paedophiles ”playing the system” were repeated by the National Institute for Social Work. Such a body would stem similar abuses by issuing licences for all social workers, including residential care staff, and would provide an independent avenue of complaint.

A formal proposal for a general social services council was made to the Department of Health last month by social services, local authority and trade union representatives. Initial government response was described as ”cautious”.

Daphne Statham, of the National Institute for Social Work, said the proposed council would plug the loopholes in the system which Beck exploited. ”What Frank Beck and a number of others have done very effectively is to play the system by moving to a job in another area when people get suspicious. Under the current system, when they resign investigations cease. . .

”The proposed council would check that by keeping a record of any suspicious circumstances when someone moved on, and that suspicion would follow them to their next employment.”

Dick Clough, of the Social Care Association, which represents residential and care staff, said the inquiry showed how experienced people such as Beck could run regimes unchallenged. ”If he had been questioned by the police four times and if the local authority was not listening to complaints someone could have contacted the council, had it existed, and it could have been investigated.”

Peter Smallridge, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, said the report by Andrew Kirkwood QC, ”should draw the line under what has been a sickening, though fortunately rare, example of a thoroughly unpleasant person gaining access to young children”.

He commended Leicestershire social services for improving child protection following the Beck case by establishing comprehensive complaints procedures, appointing children’s rights officers and tightening appointment procedures.

But the British Association of Social Workers voiced fears that yesterday’s report would give rise to counter-productive bureaucracy in children’s homes. Gwen Swire, assistant general secretary, said: ”If you’re looking after kids 24 hours a day you can’t rush to a manual to see what you can and can’t do when a kid is going bananas. You may end up preventing staff from doing a good job.”


The Independent

February 9th, 1993

Rosie Waterhouse, ‘Child abuse victims welcome reports’

CLAIMS for compensation for 86 victims of Frank Beck will be strengthened by reports detailing incompetence and mismanagement, according to a solicitor overseeing their cases.

Damages are expected to reach at least pounds 1m against Leicestershire County Council.

It employed Beck during his 13- year reign of terror in children’s homes and is thought to have set aside pounds 5m to cover damages and costs.

Brian Dodds, the liaising solicitor for the 86 complainants who allege abuse by Beck and other staff in the county’s children’s homes, welcomed the report into their management by Andrew Kirkwood QC.

”It will be extremely useful. It can only reinforce the claims being made and will very significantly increase the damages because of the aggravating feature of negligence it highlights,” Mr Dodds said.

He added that many complainants would receive relatively small amounts, but at least 10 were likely to win pounds 70,000- pounds 100,000 in
damages.

Beck, a social worker, is serving five life sentences after being convicted in 1991 of charges of buggery, rape and sexually abusing children in his care.

The Kirkwood report, and another into the actions of Leicestershire police, said that the abuse continued, despite a succession of complaints, because of a combination of incompetence and negligence, ignorance and navety, by police officers and social services staff.

Despite scathing criticism of the inaction and mishandling of a succession of complaints by police and the social services, no police officer or Leicestershire County Council staff member involved in the Beck scandal has yet been dismissed or faced disciplinary proceedings.

A report by Chief Superintendent David Foster, of West Mercia police, said no officer would be disciplined because there was no ”equitable basis” for bringing disciplinary charges.

It also emphasised that there was no evidence of any criminal misconduct by officers.

The report added: ”It is not only the fact that many of the police officers we have identified in these 29 cases are now retired but there are other officers in these cases no less open to criticism whom we have not been able to identify.”

The council has set up a team of officers to see if any named member of staff or officer named in the report should face disciplinary action. ”No stone will be left unturned” in investigating the past conduct of staff, Brian Waller, Leicestershire’s director of social services since 1988, said. But no action will be taken against staff and officials who have since resigned or retired.
Mr Waller also disclosed that in an internal council inquiry into the running of children’s homes since Beck’s conviction, complaints against a further 24 employees had been investigated.

Five of the complaints were investigated by police. One allegation of sexual abuse is still being investigated but in the other four cases no charges were brought.

Four staff were suspended, one for alleged sexual abuse, two for assault and one for bad child care practice. These are in addition to staff named in yesterday’s report by Mr Kirkwood.

The police report contains some of the most serious criticism of officers in recent years, attacking their prejudice against the children and their open disbelief.

The police inquiry, conducted under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority, revealed that Beck’s activities could have been exposed as early as 1977.

Ch Supt Foster’s inquiry into 29 cases in which children complained of abuse between 1973 and 1986 uncovered a catalogue of errors by investigating officers.
”Mistakes occurred through a combination of incompetence, negligence and prejudice compounded by a lack of understanding about child abuse. They were also the product of an inadequate system,” he wrote.

The Kirkwood report shows that Beck was given a free hand to practise dubious ”regression therapy” techniques; that his methods were fundamentally abusive and that although unqualified in therapeutic techniques he was considered an expert by nave officers.

It criticises the lack of a coherent child care strategy, weaknesses in every tier of management, ineffectual monitoring of homes, and says warning signs of Beck’s gross sexual offences and humiliating regression therapy went
unheeded.

Tim Yeo, an Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health, said: ”The terrible catalogue of abuse perpetrated by Frank Beck, ran unchecked as
a result of the council’s abysmal failure to conduct even the most basic management scrutiny.”


The Herald (Glasgow)

February 9th, 1993

‘Blunders condemned in 13-year saga of abuse in children’s homes’

A SOCIAL worker was able to subject youngsters in children’s homes to sexual abuse over 13 years because of a combination of blunders, two reports said yesterday.

Leicestershire County Council’s social services department, which allowed Frank Beck to run three of its children’s homes, lacked firm leadership, and youngsters’ complaints were not believed, said a Government inquiry into the cases, for which Beck received five life terms in 1991.

An inquiry by a senior detective also said that police called in to investigate children’s complaints made mistakes “through a combination of incompetence, negligence, and prejudice compounded by a lack of understanding of child abuse”.
It was said that Beck, a former Royal Marine and Liberal councillor, could have preyed on up to 200 children.

Police conducted four separate investigations into allegations about his activities. But when Beck left Leicestershire its then social services director, Mr Brian Rice, who took early retirement in 1987, wrote him a reference which enabled him to work for other social service agencies.

The 355-page report on the Government inquiry by Mr Andrew Kirkwood, QC, said social services managers did not believe youngsters who complained of sexual abuse, while warning signs were ignored by managers whose behaviour was naive and at times astonishing.

The department had a “management vacuum within which abuse and bad practice could generally flourish”.

Publication of Mr Kirkwood’s report prompted Leicestershire social services director, Mr Brian Waller, to promise: “No stone will be left unturned in looking at past conduct.

“We will continue this process and we intend to ensure our homes are run by people of impeccable reputation and behaviour.”

Mr Waller has been with Leicestershire since 1988.

Blame for the affair rested squarely with the local authority and could not be attached to the Government, Health Minister Tim Yeo, who is responsible for residential homes, said later.

There was not a single paragraph in the report by Mr Kirkwood “which suggests that any action by Government could have countered the dreadful mismanagement and neglect of the situation”.

He rejected a suggestion by Mr Waller that it was now up to the Government to monitor existing guidelines better to ensure another Beck did not slip through the net.

“I think it is pretty shoddy that Mr Waller should try and pass the blame on to the Government,” he told the BBC Radio 4 programme The World at One.

“The only way to ensure that this appalling catalogue of abuse is not repeated is if the local authorities themselves are constantly vigilant in the way they supervise what happens in those establishments for which they are directly responsible.”

Mr Kirkwood’s report said that junior staff and middle managers confronted with complaints had not been anxious not to rock the boat, and there was a general attitude of “out of sight, out of mind”.
Beck was allowed to introduce his own controversial style of regression therapy, although he had no qualifications in therapeutic work.

At the time of Beck’s employment there was no coherent childcare strategy, homes were shrouded in secrecy, and little monitoring of individual children’s homes was carried out.

Beck’s willingness to take on the most difficult children, combined with his “forceful, manipulative, and at times petulant personality,” had made managers afraid to challenge him.

The police report, by Chief Superintendent David Foster of West Mercia Police and carried out under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority, said mistakes had occurred “through a combination of incompetence, negligence, and prejudice compounded by a lack of understanding about child abuse”.

It was more than possible that Beck’s activities would have been exposed at an earlier date, particularly through investigations in 1977, 1985, and 1986 — “The substance of these complaints was greater than that of the complaint in 1989 which led to Beck’s ultimate conviction,” Mr Foster said.

In almost every case, contact with police came because a child absconded from a children’s home — but officers failed to establish why the children ran away, and the force policy on missing persons failed to identify running away as a potential indicator of abuse.

Officers openly disbelieved youngsters’ complaints, with some being openly hostile and looking on them as young criminals.

In almost every case, police returned children to the home where the abuse took place — and in every case, the social worker alleged to have carried out the abuse was allowed to remain at work throughout the investigation.

The police report was requested by former Leicestershire Chief Constable Michael Hirst, who retired at the end of last month.

Leicestershire’s Assistant Chief Constable, Mr Tony Butler, felt it was unfair to point the finger at any individual officers over mistakes made during investigations, and he said there was no evidence of any serious misconduct.

Mr Butler added: “The decision to undertake an independent investigation should reassure the public that we are committed to being open and accountable in our work, and determined to learn lessons from the past to improve services in the future.”

Mr Kirkwood’s report was directly critical of a number of Leicestershire County Council officials.

But it was damning in condemning Mr Rice, saying it was “inexcusable” of him to write the reference which enabled Beck to leave Leicestershire after being suspended over a sexual harassment allegation and go to work for other local authorities and charities.

Mr Kirkwood said yesterday that most of the events with which his inquiry was concerned were now more than seven years old, but it was not safe to treat it all as merely past history.

The report provided a factual basis upon which constructive discussion

The Guardian (London)
February 9th, 1993

‘LEADING ARTICLE: THE BECK RECKONING’

MUCH has changed since those cries for help from abused children in Leicestershire’s residential homes were ignored by both police and social workers. Frank Beck, the head of three homes, began serving five life sentences 14 months ago for sexually and physically abusing children under his care. Two new reports on the Leicester scandal were published yesterday, documenting the separate failures of police and social services. Yet, long before Beck was prosecuted, changes were already taking place, with far fewer children in residential homes. The 1989 Children Act added impetus. Last week’s review of its first year showed substantially fewer children being taken into compulsory care. Then there have been the special inquiries into residential care (Warner and Howe), with many new regulations and procedures. Yet only a fool would suggest that the system has eliminated the risk.

The failure of social service departments to eradicate abuse in their homes has been well documented. Only last month, a separate inquiry in Sheffield found the local department had taken “no appropriate action” in the face of complaints over 13 years against a residential social worker involving children as young as six. Yesterday’s reports show the police equally at fault in not listening to children. A study of 29 Leicestershire cases – out of an alleged 200 involving Beck – suggests that he could have been exposed as early as 1977, but for police incompetence, negligence and prejudice.

It would be silly to ignore the new procedures that have been put in place; yet there is still no room for complacency. Last week’s review of the Children Act found continuing and considerable uncertainty within some local councils over what they should do when abuse in a residential home occurs. Yesterday’s report points to the need for a new procedure that would allow the police to pass on information to social service departments after investigations where there is insufficient evidence for a prosecution. Tim Yeo, the social services minister, spoke yesterday of the need for “constant vigilance” on the part of local councils. If only he would take a spoon of his own medicine. The Minister is still refusing to set up a monitoring unit, as advocated by the Warner Committee, to act both as a watchdog and as an agent for change. Yet social services have moved from a locally governed local service to become virtually a locally administered national service, receiving 85 per cent of funds (and regulations) from Whitehall. Ensuring vulnerable people are protected is now the inalienable responsibility of the Minister. Children should not have their childhood stolen from them.


The Guardian

February 9th, 1993

David Brindle, ‘BECK INQUIRY: POLICE DID NOT BELIEVE ABUSED CHILDREN; David Brindle looks at two reports which show police and social services failed children in council care / ‘Evidence of physical injury was often not taken seriously. Some saw a beating as summary justice”

POLICE did not believe children who said they had been abused by Frank Beck, the social worker later given five life sentences for systematically sexually and physically molesting youngsters in his care in children’s homes in Leicestershire.

This is the stark central conclusion of an inquiry report, published yesterday, into the police role in the affair. “Some officers showed their disbelief and even openly expressed it,” says the report by Chief Superintendent David Foster, of West Mercia constabulary, and endorsed by the Police Complaints Authority.

Even where there was evidence of physical injury, it was often not taken seriously. “From our discussions with officers, there is no doubt that some considered that a beating was no more than summary justice,” the report states.

Mr Foster’s conclusions raise serious questions about police attitudes to young people in care. He says Leicestershire officers disbelieved Mr Beck’s victims purely because they were in care and might have absconded in order to complain; because they might have been initially hostile to questioning or told lies; and because “such children normally committed crime whilst missing and told lies, including false allegations, to divert attention from their criminal activities”.

Without such prejudice, and without the incompetence and negligence which blemished the police role in the affair, Mr Beck’s activities would have been exposed sooner than they were in 1990, Mr Foster says.

The inquiry was carried out at the request of Leicestershire police. It looked at 29 cases where complaints were made about Mr Beck; in 15 some form of investigation was launched. In two of them, the “investigation” involved returning the youngsters to the children’s home and making them repeat their allegations to a social worker; in another eight cases, the children were interviewed by police but no complaint of crime was recorded and reports were submitted in only three instances. The inquiry report says the police acted wrongly on all 10 occasions.

Of the remaining five cases, one has no records surviving but the records of the other four all reveal defects: in one instance, in 1982, a prosecution was brought against Mr Beck but he was cleared possibly, it is said, because of flaws in the police evidence.

In another case, in 1977, Mr Beck was himself asked by the police to facilitate their inquiries into alleged abuse at a home he was running.

In a third, in 1985, the investigating officer displayed “manifest incompetence” in failing to conduct full inquries.

In almost every case, the youngster making the complaint was returned to the home in question and, in every case, the social worker named as the abuser was allowed to remain in post throughout the investigation – in some instances being present during interviews with the accuser.

Notwithstanding these failures to investigate complaints, the report says Leicestershire police had an information system, monitoring missing children, which ought to have enabled collation of a picture of consistently suspicious incidents involving Mr Beck. “Had the system analysed the information it received, then Beck should have been identified as being worthy of serious investigation at a much earlier date.”

The report calls on the Home Office to review the law in respect of information disclosure, so that chief police officers may be given discretion to alert employers to suspicions about their staff even when investigation of alleged child abuse leads to no charges.

“Because such disclosure might well lead to formal disciplinary proceedings, then the facts disclosed should only be those which the police themselves would have been prepared to present as evidence in court,” Mr Foster says. “This inquiry identifies this aspect of disclosure to be of great importance, if only to ensure that child abusers are identified and removed from post.”

A summary of the report is available, free of charge, from the PCA, 10 Great George Street, London SW1P 3AE


The Guardian

February 9th, 1993

‘POLICE DID NOT BELIEVE ABUSED CHILDREN; ‘Management vacuum’ created atmosphere for ill-treatment’

THE EASE with which Frank Beck was able to physically and sexually abuse youngsters in his care was due in large part to a “management vacuum” in Leicestershire social services department, the independent inquiry into the county council’s role in the affair reported yesterday.

Much of the responsibility must lie with Dorothy Edwards and Brian Rice, successive social services directors during Mr Beck’s 13-year career in the county, according to the report by Andrew Kirkwood, QC.

The attitude of senior managers as a whole, Mr Kirkwood says, was summed up by one who had said: “I have hard-to-place kids and here is someone who will take them without asking too many questions. I dare not upset him.”

Mr Beck, a former Royal Marines sergeant, was recruited to work in Leicestershire children’s homes in 1973. He quickly started applying his own highly irregular therapeutic techniques, although he had no qualifications to do so, and was given a virtual free hand by his superiors.

“Their naivety in believing that Mr Beck had established a local specialist resource ‘on the cheap’ and without meeting any of the necessary criteria is astonishing, but is part and parcel of the shortcomings of (the department’s) care branch as a whole,” Mr Kirkwood says.

“Mr Beck’s treatment methods, the product of untutored and ill-digested study of therapeutic theories, were the antithesis of good child care and were fundamentally abusive.”

Mr Beck’s trial in 1991, which led to him being jailed for five life terms, heard how these methods sometimes involved so-called regression therapy.

Teenagers would be put in nappies, given babies’ bottles, placed in playpens and cuddled on the knees of staff in a purported attempt to take them back to their formative years.

Complaints by youngsters, parents, staff and outsiders about this, and about the abuse that went with it, went unheeded or were acted upon in a half-hearted fashion.

Mr Kirkwood says the management vacuum in the then social services care branch meant it operated in 1985 just as it had in 1975. Mr Beck had the misplaced confidence of Miss Edwards, under whom he was appointed, and was regarded as “an especially valuable resource”. “Added to all that, a forceful, manipulative and, at times, petulant personality and a ready facility for plausible self-justification made Mr Beck a man whom management officers were afraid to challenge.”

Under Mr Rice, who became director in 1980, the management drift worsened and he was ultimately asked to take early retirement in 1988.

When Mr Beck was finally obliged to resign in 1986, Mr Rice wrote a reference for him to get a post with a social work agency, describing his reliability and trustworthiness as “above questioning”. Mr Kirkwood says this was inexcusable: “Mr Rice must have been well aware of the circumstances.”

Relations between Mr Beck and John Cobb, his immediate superior for much of his time in Leicestershire, are encapsulated by evidence cited in the report: “When John Cobb walked into the room, Frank Beck was verbally aggressive to him and during the conversation used words to the effect of ‘if you can’t provide what I fucking want, you might as well fuck off’.”

Mr Cobb is one of 10 senior managers named as being responsible for the management vacuum and one of three still employed by the council.

The authority said yesterday their roles would be scrutinised Brian Waller, social services director since 1988, said: “If the evidence warrants it, we will dismiss members of our staff.”

The Leicestershire Inquiry 1992; Leicestershire County Council, County Hall, Glenfield, Leicester LE3 8RL; 10 pounds.


The Guardian

February 9th, 1993

David Brindle, ‘BECK REPORT SEEKS WIDER POLICE ROLE’

POLICE should be given powers to tell employers about suspected child abusers even when an investigation produces no criminal charge, an inquiry into the police role in the Frank Beck scandal in Leicestershire children’s homes reported yesterday.

The inquiry found that police handling of complaints about Mr Beck during his 13-year career in Leicestershire was characterised by incompetence, negligence and prejudice against youngsters in care, compounded by lack of understanding of child abuse.

However, it concludes that the police must have greater recourse to warn employers of suspicions about staff who may be in contact with children. At present, when no charges are laid, police can merely say that an investigation has failed to produce sufficient evidence to warrant proceedings.

The recommendation, in an inquiry report by Chief Superintendent David Foster, of West Mercia police, and endorsed by the Police Complaints Authority, is likely to be criticised for giving too much discretion to the police about whom they choose to denigrate.

David Jones, general secretary of the British Association of Social Workers, said he would want to know more about the proposal. Although safety of children in care was paramount, civil rights of staff must be protected.

“I am sure that if there were suspicions about an individual, they would be passed verbally. The question here is of things being written down and recorded on people’s files when no prosecution is being brought,”he said.

The police inquiry report was published simultaneously with the findings of a 1.5 million pounds government inquiry, carried out by Andrew Kirkwood, QC, into how Leicestershire social services department failed to stop Mr Beck’s systematic abuse of youngsters in his care, for which he was jailed for five life terms in November 1991.

Mr Kirkwood found that senior managers proved unable to deal with Mr Beck. Tim Yeo, junior health minister responsible for social services, said the findings showed their “abysmal failure to conduct the most basic management scrutiny”.
It emerged yesterday that about 80 victims of the Beck regime are suing Leicestershire for damages and that 24 present social services staff have been investigated over complaints made since the trial.

Four of the 24 are suspended: one for alleged sexual abuse, two for alleged assaults and one for poor practice. Four face disciplinary action and another has been given a final warning.

Mr Beck, speaking from Gartree prison, last night said he was the victim of a “witch hunt”. He said: “I am not a bloody monster despite what they say. I have got feelings.”


Evening Standard

February 9, 1993, Tuesday

Peter Oborne, ‘Probe on BBC interview with sex offender’

HOME SECRETARY Kenneth Clarke today ordered a high-level inquiry into how child sex offender Frank Beck got round prison rules to give an interview to BBC television news.

Home Office officials are livid about the interview, which was broadcast on prime-time TV and radio last night. They regard it as a blatant abuse of the spirit of prison regulations.

Mr Clarke has told deputy Peter Lloyd to urgently review the prison guidelines to prevent a similar incident happening.

At Westminster there was fury over the interview. Sir Ivan Lawrence, chairman of the Home Affairs select committee, said: ‘This looks to me like another abuse of media power.

‘It is thoroughly undesirable, and apparently in breach of the rules that sex offenders or convicted criminals should not be given the glory of publicity.’
The episode follows the interview with mass murderer Dennis Nilsen last month, broadcast by ITV despite a bid by the Home Office to block it.

Under prison rules Beck, who is serving five life sentences, would have been forbidden to speak to the BBC, but it got round the regulations by asking his solicitor to record an emotional telephone call he made from jail in Gartree Prison.

A Home Office spokeswoman stressed today that Beck was taking advantage of a concession to prisoners made in the wake of the Strangeways riots two years ago.
A commission concluded that the absence of family links played a large part in causing the riots and recommended the use of the Card phones abused by Beck.

Mr Lloyd threatened to take away that privilege, saying: ‘The use of card phones is a privilege and like all privileges they can be given and can be taken away.’
A spokesman for National Heritage Minister Peter Brooke said it was ‘a matter for the taste and judgment of the BBC’.


Daily Mail

February 9th, 1993, Tuesday

Aubrey Chalmers, ‘The police just wouldn’t listen; TWO SCATHING REPORTS CONDEMN OFFICERS AND SOCIAL SERVICES STAFF OVER 10-YEAR REIGN OF TERROR IN THREE COUNCIL HOMES’

Child victims of sex abuser Frank Beck were dismissed as lying young criminal POLICE and social workers could and should have prevented Britain’s worst-ever case of child sex abuse, two damning reports said yesterday.

A disastrous mixture of incompetence, negligence and indifference allowed former Royal Marine Frank Beck to impose a ten-year reign of terror at three council children’s homes.

Police did not believe runaway youngsters who claimed they had been abused by Beck and other staff.

‘They looked on them as young criminals and some considered a beating was no more than summary justice,’ said a report from the Police Complaints Authority.
Children who sought sanctuary with the police were returned to face more assaults.

Social work chiefs carried out no inquiries of their own, despite increasing evidence of abuse.

They took the view that troublesome children were ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ said a QC called in by Leicestershire County Council.

Even after Beck, 50, resigned ‘under a cloud’ in 1986, social services director Brian Rice astonishingly wrote him a reference for a similar job.

Beck was finally brought to justice in 1991, convicted of 50 offences of sexual and physical assault against children in care and even some of his own staff. He was sentenced to life five times over.

The council now faces paying out £5million in compensation to 86 victims of Beck’s regime. His trial was told he could have preyed on as many as 200 highly-vulnerable children.

None of the police or social services staff blamed in the two reports has faced any sanctions, though three council employees are still under investigation.
The Police Complaints Authority report, by Chief Superintendent David Foster of West Mercia police, says: ‘It is more than a possibility that Beck’s criminal activities could have been exposed at an earlier date.’

Police investigated complaints in 1977, 1985 and 1986 which were stronger than the one received in 1989 which led to his trial.

The second report follows a six-month inquiry by Andrew Kirkwood, QC, into Leicestershire’s social services department.

It says senior officers abdicated their responsibility for running the three homes involved – The Beeches, The Poplars and Ratcliffe Road.

Though he was not properly qualified, Beck hoodwinked his bosses into thinking his ‘regression therapy’ was providing expert help on the cheap for troublesome youngsters.

Mr Kirkwood says: ‘Complaints came to the notice of the care branch from children, parents, foster parents, teachers, field social workers, students and residential care staff.

They were all potential ‘whistle blowers’, yet managers took no action.
‘Monitoring appeared to stop at the office door,’ said Mr Kirkwood. ‘There was a management vacuum within which abuse and bad practice could flourish.’

Beck’s willingness to take on the most difficult children, combined with his ‘forceful, manipulative and at times petulant personality’, made managers afraid to challenge him.

They made no attempt to discover how he was able to deal with children who had been too difficult for other social workers.

Mr Kirkwood says: ‘It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the relevant management officers took an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ atttitude.’

His most scathing criticism is of former social services director Brian Rice, now retired.

Mr Rice, director from 1980 to 1988, is branded a poor leader who had neither the skill nor the experience for the task.

He was ‘culpable’ for failing to put Beck’s name on a DHSS ‘blacklist’ of social workers after Beck left Leicestershire. He even provided him with a reference for another job.

‘That Mr Rice wrote the reference for Beck is inexcusable. He had access to Beck’s personal file. There is no evidence to suggest that Mr Rice was other than grossly negligent,’ said Mr Kirkwood.

Lawyers for Mr Rice, 62, who was forced to take early retirement in 1988, said last night he bitterly regretted his action.

One of Beck’s victims, a 27-year-old man who was indecently assaulted when he was ten, said yesterday: ‘It is a scandal that the former director should get away scot free. Mr Rice did nothing.

‘Many people have been scarred for life by their experience. In my case it helped destroy my marriage.’

Leicestershire chief executive David Prince said: ‘The county council has no redress against people who have retired. They cannot have their pension taken away or reduced.’

The present social services director, Brian Waller, revealed that in the aftermath of the Beck case another 24 social workers are under investigation because of complaints. One is being seen by the police.

He said: ‘We are leaving nothing to chance. We need to restore the confidence of the public.

‘Some of the allegations may turn out to be groundless and some may require disciplinary action.’

Junior Health Minister Tim Yeo last night denied that the Government should carry any responsibility for the scandal.

Mr Yeo, who has special responsibility for residential homes, said there was not a paragraph in the Kirkwood report which suggested that any action by Ministers could have avoided the dreadful results of mismanagement and neglect by Leicestershire Council.

He rejected suggestions by Mr Waller that the Government should now monitor existing guidelines more strictly to ensure another Beck did not slip through the net.

Mr Yeo said: ‘I think it is pretty shoddy that Mr Waller should try to pass the blame on to the Government. As far as Beck is concerned the blame has to lie firmly with the local authority.’

He said the Government has already set up the Warner Committee of inquiry on the recruitment and selection of social workers.

‘We have accepted the recommendations that there should be better-trained and qualified staff,’ said Mr Yeo. ‘The only way to ensure that this appalling catalogue of abuse is not repeated is for local authorities themselves to be constantly vigilant.’

But Jim Harding, the NSPCC’s director of children’s services, said: ‘No matter how careful employers are, those who are determined to cruelly abuse will always find ways to gain access to children. We would urge the Government to review the resources of residential care, which is an expensive but vital service.

* Beck has lodged an appeal against his conviction and sentence.

Comment

SOCIAL SERVICES Bosses ‘out of their depth’ did not control how centres were run THE ten social services executives named in the Kirkwood report are:

John Cobb, team manager responsible for Beck at The Beeches home, who admitted he could not manage him. ‘He was out of his depth,’ says the report. ‘Beck not only abused him verbally and publicly but did his best to bypass him.

‘The effectiveness of inspections of The Beeches by Mr Cobb is open to substantial doubt. No reports exist, even though they were made at the time. If he had studied the remarkably candid daily log he must surely have begun to appreciate the scale of violence.’

Mr Cobb, still employed by the council, is under investigation.

John Noblett, middle manager and qualified social worker, ‘failed to appreciate and address the problem of Mr Cobb being unable to manage Beck.

‘Mr Noblett was surely aware of heavy handedness towards children at The Beeches but did nothing. He was a poor, unenthusiastic and unimaginative investigator and must bear a heavy burden of responsibility.’

Mr Noblett has since left.

Peter Naylor, responsible for the care branch, suffered an ‘almost total loss of memory’ when he faced the inquiry. According to the report: ‘Notwithstanding the accumulation of complaints, Mr Naylor took no steps to introduce procedures for handling them. His failure to investigate a complaint of sexual assault in 1977 potentially had wide-ranging consequences.’

Mr Naylor has since left.

Michael Wells, an assistant social services director, overlooked a possible allegation of homosexuality when Beck applied to become a foster parent. Mr Wells, now deputy director, is under investigation.

Terence Nelson, senior assistant director, handled complaints which led to Beck’s resignation ‘under a cloud’ in 1986. The report attacks his ‘contorted reasoning’ in trying not to involve the police.

Mr Nelson has since left.

Terry Smith, former deputy director, received information that Beck may have made a homosexual approach to a former child care officer. He passed it on but might well have taken a more ‘positive response’ himself, the report says.
Mr Smith took early retirement in 1988.

Dorothy Edwards, director until she retired in 1980. ‘There is no doubt Miss Edwards was impressed by Beck and developed an unwarranted faith in his methods. She failed to recognise warning signs.’

Brian Rice, director from 1980 to 1988. His leadership was poor. ‘He had sufficient information available to him in March 1983 to require him to call for a thorough investigation of Beck.’

Mr Rice, now 62, was forced to take early retirement in 1988.

Ron Feeny, deputy county secretary, did not warn his superiors of ineffective management. He is currently under investigation.

Edward Ross, now dead, had management responsibilty for two homes. ‘There is evidence that he was not at all sure about Beck’s methods,’ the report says. ‘His management did not inform him of the details of care practices.’

COUNTY CONSTABULARY Taken back to face their tormentors

THE Police Complaints Authority looked at 29 cases where children who had run away from Beck’s homes later complained of sex abuse.

Their stories were greeted with almost total disbelief.

Officers ‘investigated’ only 15, and their inquiries involved little more than returning the children to the home and making them repeat their allegations to a social worker – often the one committing the abuse.

In eight cases, police interviewed the children but nothing was recorded as a crime complaint.

The report adds: ‘In three cases where reports were submitted the officers’ disbelief is so apparent it resulted in no action.’

Most officers thought the children were no more than criminals who habitually told lies.

All but two of the 29 had convictions ranging from theft and arson to prostitution and drugs.

Ten had been dealt with for more than 50 offences and four had 100 on their records.

Beck’s dominant character and reputation as a child care expert also allowed him to influence police officers.

After one complaint, in 1986, the investigating officer did not interview staff or children at the home and allowed himself to be talked out of seeing relevant social services papers.

The report describes his actions as ‘manifest incompetence’.

But it did not recommend disciplinary action because the social services had admitted they were less than frank with police unless pressed.

The two groups treated each other with suspicion and mistrust.

The authority stressed that none of the officers was involved in criminal misconduct.

Many have now retired and others who may be equally responsible cannot easily be identified.

The report recommends that police should be properly trained to interview abused children and all allegations should be recorded as a crime, irrespective of the youngsters’ background.

No child should be taken back to a home or made to repeat comments to a social worker there.

Last night Leicestershire’s acting chief constable, Tony Butler, said police practices have now been changed.


Daily Mail

February 9th, 1993

Tim Jotischky, ‘Outrage at BBC phone talk with a sex beast’

THE BBC was under fire last night after broadcasting an interview with child sex abuser Frank Beck.

Home Office officials said permission would have been refused if they had known about it.

But the BBC got round the rules by getting Beck’s solicitor to record a telephone call he made from jail where he is serving five life sentences.

Then they broadcast it on radio and TV bulletins, including last night’s Nine O’Clock News.

The new row follows soon after controversy surrounding the broadcast of an interview with mass murderer Dennis Nilsen.

That was screened by ITV last month after the courts overruled Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke’s application to block it.

This time the decision to broadcast was made by the BBC’s controller of editorial policy, John Wilson.

Last night the Home office said it had reported the matter to the governor of Gartree Prison, Leicestershire, where Beck is being held.

There will be an investigation into a possible breach of prison rules. They state that a prisoner’s legal adviser is allowed to use a cassette recorder to interview an inmate providing he gives a written undertaking to use it only in connection with the proceedings or specific legal business.

The telephone interview was carried out after Beck exercised his right to phone his solicitor from prison, using a phone card he had bought with his own money.

In it, his voice breaking with emotion, Beck protested his innocence. He said: ‘I can only hang on for so long.’ Then he sobbed: ‘They keep on saying the same thing. You can’t keep it up, someone has got to listen. I have got feelings.’

A Home Office spokesman said it was a matter of interpretation whether the rules were intended to cover cell visits only or included taped phone calls.

Last night Sir Teddy Taylor, vice-chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, vowed to raise the issue with the Home Secretary next week.

He said: ‘It’s deplorable. The last thing we need in Britain is for people like Frank Beck to be glamorised in this way.

‘Such interviews with prisoners should never be broadcast. By giving them access to broadcasting facilities you give them a kind of glamour.’


Local Government Chronicle (LGC)

February 10th, 1993

‘LEICESTERSHIRE SEX ABUSE CLAIMS THREATENED BY TIME RULING’

HIGHLIGHT: Up to three quarters of the court actions against Leicestershire CC arising from the conviction of the disgraced so…

Up to three quarters of the court actions against Leicestershire CC arising from the conviction of the disgraced social worker Frank Beck could be ruled out of time, the Independent reports (p5).Over 80 former residents of the county’s children’s homes hope to bring actions against the council. But following the Lords ruling in the case of Lesley Stubbings, a 36 year old who had been abused between the ages of two and 14, many of the complaints may be ruled out of time.


The Independent

February 10th, 1993

Marianne Macdonald, ‘Time ruling threatens actions over sex abuse’

UP TO three-quarters of the complainants alleging sexual abuse by Frank Beck the former Leicestershire social worker may be disqualified from damages actions by a Law Lords’ ruling.

About 86 hope to bring actions against Leicestershire County Council, which employed Beck – who was given to five life sentences for child sexual abuse in 1991 – and other staff from the county’s children’s homes. Damages and costs against the council could reach pounds 5m.

But a ruling in December could affect many of the actions. It was made by five Law Lords who decided that Lesley Stubbings, 36, of Wivenhoe, Essex, could not claim damages for alleged sexual abuse by her adoptive father between the age of 2 and 14, and alleged rape by her adoptive brother when she was 12, because she was outside the legal time limits.

The 1980 Limitation Act requires damages claims for personal injury, for rape and indecent assault to be brought within six years of the incident, or within six years of reaching 18.

The Law Lords’ decision set a precedent for such actions, reversing earlier High Court and Court of Appeal rulings that Ms Stubbings’ action was not time-barred. Some complainants in the Beck case fear they may be disqualified as a result.

Brian Dodds, the liaising solicitor for the complainants, said: ”The ruling in the Stubbings case may or may not apply to us. If it is found the six-year limit applies it would affect a very large chunk of our people. About 75 per cent are over 24. We are looking very closely at the ruling. If necessary we will go to the European courts, although it would add 2 to 10 years to the claims.”

Ms Stubbings’ solicitor, Tony Fisher, may take her claim to the European Court of Human Rights. ”I believe the ruling in my client’s case effectively means the victims in the Frank Beck case have been left without any remedy,” he said.

”In other parts of the world, such as Canada and several US states, they have changed the limitation laws to give a more flexible limit to cases involving sexual abuse. Their only hope for compensation is the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, which in special cases allows sexual abuse claims to be pursued outside the limitation period.”

A board spokesman said there was a three-year limit for claims but it could be waived. ”The board’s discretion is by and large sympathetic where no claim was made on the complainant’s behalf at the time, or where they were subsequently unable to claim,” he added.

Browne Jacobson, the solicitors’ firm acting for MMI insurers which provides cover for Leicestershire County Council, declined to comment.


The Guardian

February 10th, 1993

David Sharrock, ‘INQUIRY INTO JAIL PHONE CALLS’

THE Home Office yesterday launched an inquiry into prisoners’ rights to make telephone calls, following the broadcast of interviews with the child sex offender Frank Beck and the serial murderer Dennis Nilsen.

Peter Lloyd, the Home Office Minister of State, was “looking into this whole area,” a spokswoman said yesterday.

Under present rules, prisoners are allowed to buy phonecards to call members of their families or close friends.

“There have been a number of abuses of phonecards and there have also been a number of cases where interviews have been conducted without Home Office permission.

“We help wherever possible with interviews with prisoners, for example, for documentaries about how prisoners are coping with their sentences. The idea is not to sensationalise or to glamorise particular offenders, which may give offence to the victims or their families.”

Asked if there would in future be tighter restrictions on use of phonecards, a spokesman said: ” I wouldn’t like to be drawn on that.”

On Monday evening, the BBC broadcast an interview with Frank Beck from Gartree Prison in response to two reports into Leicestershire county council’s social services department. The interview was conducted by his solicitor, thus bypassing Home Office regulations.

Two weeks ago Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, failed to secure an injunction blocking the broadcast of an interview with Mr Nilsen in a TV documentary. The Home Office is taking legal action against Central TV for breach of contract and copyright.


The Scotsman

February 11th, 1993

Ruth Wishart, ‘Stuck in the middle; When Child Sexual Abuse Scandals Like The Frank Beck Affair Are Uncovered, Social Workers Are Blamed For Doing Too Little, Too Late. When They Do Act, They Are Often Attacked For Being Too Hasty And Intrusive. What Exactly Does Society Want From The Social Services? And What Effect Does The Current Ambivalence Have On The Ultimate “Client” The Child? Ruth Wishart Examines The Dilemma’

‘PEOPLE,” says Ian Gilmour, “do dreadful things to their children.”

And when they do in Strathclyde Region this Depute Director of Social Work knows that the buck stops on his desk.

His staff are charged with every aspect of child care from adoption and fostering to dealing with all manner of child abuse.

The problems they face stem not just from the extent of the need but from the public’s perception of their role.

Often the reason people will call the RSSPCC rather than the Social Work Department is because of an entrenched suspicion that the latter will take the kids away first and ask questions later.

In fact, says Gilmour, the Place of Safety Order is a last resort, granted under stringent procedures, and valid for just a week without a case for extension being made and having to be reprocessed.

But the difficulty all social workers face, particularly in the ultrasensitive field of child abuse, is that society is more than a little ambivalent about what it wants from them.

When tragedy strikes in cases like Jasmine Beckford in 1985, Kimberly Carlile in 1987 and the uncovered abuse of men like Frank Beck, the subject of this week’s report, the criticism is that the social services did too little too late.

When the focus is shifted to different kinds of parental concern such as the removal and examination of children in Cleveland, the judgment is that the workers were too hasty and too intrusive.

Small wonder then, that social work has become one of the more demoralised professions in a world of mounting social problems.

Yet as Louis Blom Cooper QC said in the Kimberly Carlile report: “Those who undermine the confidence and morale of the people society is sending out in its name to protect children, should realise that they are unwittingly putting children at risk.”

But in the midst of slender resources, widespread suspicion, and occasional disaster, some very important work is being done in trying to deal with the quite frightening level of child abuse which has been uncovered since the topic has been forced from the closet over the last 15 years.

Ironically, one of the resources which has done the most intensive work in Scotland over the last half dozen years has just become a funding casualty.
The Overnewton centre in Glasgow closed this month when two of its four funding bodies, Strathclyde Region and the Scottish Office, withdrew their support.

Run by the RSSPCC, Overnewton is thought by many to have died in the wake of inter agency difficulties in the Orkney aftermath, rather than because of a simple failure of the various sums to add up.

But its legacy lives on in the pages of its last published review of practice covering 1987 to 1991.

Because of its remit in dealing with whole families where sexual abuse had occurred, the centre had to provide a rounded social service which included working with the non abusing parent, almost always the mother, working with the victim or victims, and working with the perpetrator.

Overwhelmingly child sexual abuse (around 97 per cent) is perpetrated by men against girls and boys.

Which isn’t to say that some mothers fail to protect their children or that a large number of them may neglect their kids or physically assault them.

But the work done by Overnewton and similar agencies in the UK suggests that child sexual abuse is not the result of families living in circumstances where relationships are chaotic.

As their report states quite baldly: “The abuser is solely responsible for the abuse. Work with abusers can only be effectively carried out within the criminal justice system.”

Yet having made that point they go on to assert that if we are serious about protecting children the problem isn’t resolved by imprisonment.

“Abusers require to be confronted with their abuse and an assessment made of their potential to control their behaviour and change their attitudes.”

The centre’s view is that some social workers, children’s panels and courts underestimate the addictive nature of the offence, the level of risk, and the likelihood of reoffending.

That conclusion is echoed by a team of workers in the same field in Rochdale who also suggest that sex offenders “abuse large numbers of children throughout their lives”, and that “this is an addictive cycle of deviant and compulsive behaviour.”

Both sets of workers reckon treatment can control but not cure and that there is still “a lifelong risk.”

Of necessity that treatment is likely to involve two years of working with men who will typically deny their abuse at first, and later deny the ill effects on their victims The issues of sexuality, control, abuse of power, and betrayal of trust are not easy for the workers to deal with either, and those involved over a long period rely on team work and contact with other professionals and agencies to minimise their own personal stress.

Another problem is sheer lack of numbers.

Everyone agrees that the ideal is for all members of the family, who may ultimately be involved in group counselling, to be dealt with initially by their own case worker.

That rarely proves practicable.

Yet as one senior social worker in an RSSPCC resource centre put it: “You get to the stage where you begin to wonder who the client is. You’re trying to work with the victim, but the mother needs help and support too. You get pulled in all directions, and the fact that both mother and child know you are talking to the other doesn’t always help.”

The role of the mother in all of this is both crucial to the long term welfare of the child, and much misunderstood.

In most cases, according to Overnewton, she will have to protect the child in the long term, “and victims who have the complete support of the non abusing parent will have a far greater chance of successfully recovering.”

Nevertheless “at the very time when a mother is in a crisis and faced with overwhelming loss she is most needed by her child.”

Facing up to her partner’s behaviour, losing that relationship, and suddenly having to care alone for her family is described by some workers as similar to a bereavement.

Neither does working with families in trouble conform neatly to social work guidelines.

You may want the child to have minimal disturbance by staying in the same neighbourhood and going to the same school, but their schoolmates and the mother’s neighbours may make that intolerable.

So the worker spends most of the time trying to fix entirely practical housing financial and care problems.

Or, as the jargon has it: “working therapeutically in the midst of chaos.”

Brian, working in a Scottish housing estate with a high reported incidence of child abuse, uses part of a family centre which hosts a whole range of other activities for his base, which he shares with a colleague.

The room he uses for interviews looks as much as possible like an average living room.

His clients often come from backgrounds where not just a parent, but the older children abuse younger ones.

Involving brothers and sisters, after all, is a useful way of the main abuser extending control and ensuring their complicity and silence.

Brian tells you of boys as young as eight caught trying to assault their schoolmates, of little girls exposed so often to sexual practices that when confronted with a male social worker they try and clamber on his knee.

Of families where the children regularly witness casual and promiscuous sex.

One of his lads, put into foster care, insisted on using the lewdest possible language in his new home, and masturbated at his foster mother’s living room window.

Given the emotional carnage all that implies, you ask him how he can continue to work with the perpetrators and not get angry.

“You can’t. I do get angry. What I don’t get is aggressive. Not even when some of the things they tell me might make me want to shake them by the throat.”

Or, as the Overnewton report starkly has it: “In working with child abuse there is no avoiding the pain.”

Nor is there any avoidance of the central dilemma of protecting children from abusing parents, while still giving a service to families and respecting parental rights.

So desperately delicate is the subject, and so lurid has been some of the coverage, that many loving parents are actually frightened to give their children physical affection for fear it is misconstrued.

As the Rochdale team grimly noted, getting the balance between children’s needs and parents’ rights is “a minefield.”

But they add they are clear “that the real consumer is the child, and that parental rights are not absolute rights but duty rights which are to be exercised in the interests of children.”

Many small, bewildered, abused and desperately unhappy clients of all the child protection services would say amen to that.


Evening Standard

February 11th, 1993

Ken Hyder, ‘RUNAWAY CHECKS COULD STOP ABUSE’

THE Government has been accused of ignoring a possible new early warning system for identifying sexual abuse in children’s homes.

Despite massive public concern arising out of the case of Frank Beck, who abused children physically and sexually over 13 years, Government departments have failed to act on recommendations which could bring such abuses to light much earlier.

The accusation comes from Barrie Irving, director of the Police Foundation which last year published a report on runaway children jointly with the National Children’s Home and the Metropolitan Police.

The research showed that examining where children ran away from showed patterns that gave cause for concern.

Mr Irving said: ‘It became apparent that children were running away from some homes at a higher rate than from other homes.

‘While there will always be a number of children running away from residential care, when the numbers from one individual home are particularly high it becomes a signal that this home should come under scrutiny.’

He said that children beaten and abused while in the care of Frank Beck often ran away.

But that case showed that children were disbelieved when they made complaints.
Mr Irving believes that nationally collated statistics on runaways would single out children’s homes where something was going wrong.

He added: ‘One advantage would be that the monitoring would be external. It would be difficult for homes or individual departments to cover up this information.

‘We approached both the Department of Health and the Home Office with this report and this specific recommendation. But both departments have failed so far to act.’

Another recommendation for a pilot scheme to identify problems was also turned down.

The suggestion was that runaway children should be given a follow-up interview in which reasons for running away would be examined.

The report estimated that around 43,000 young people run away each year. While fewer than one per cent of children are in care, they made up 30 per cent of runaways.

At the home with the highest number of incidents, which had 70 places, 64 children ran away in a year, a total of 565 times.

The report said: ‘There is little effective joint working between social services and the police. In most areas no agency has an overview of the runaway problem because records are not maintained.

‘No one in authority may appreciate that a single care establishment has a worryingly high volume of runaway incidents.

‘The study findings show that the residential care sector makes a substantial contribution to the runaway problem, yet in most areas little appears to have been done to find out why this should be, and to seek solutions.’

Caroline Abrahams, one of the report’s authors, said: ‘It’s worrying and disappointing that, with the concern about abuse in homes, these recommendations are not being acted on.

‘We can’t afford to be complacent about abuse in care and the links with running away.’

The Health Department received the recommendations last March but a spokesman denied that they were being ignored.

He said: ‘We are in consultation with the Home Office and the Association of Directors of Social Services on these proposals.

‘It may be taking some time, but it is important to get it right and take social services departments with us.’


Daily Mail

February 11th, 1993

Keith Waterhouse, ‘The welfare of whelks; IS NO ONE EVER SACKED FOR BEING OTHER-ABLED IN THE FIELD OF BRAINPOWER?’

POLITICIANS are fond of saying of this or that opponent that they could not run a whelk stall. I have always thought this unfair to whelk stall owners.
It is a tricky business, selling whelks. You have to be able to tell the difference between a bad whelk and a good one. You have to know how many pints of whelks you can sell in a day. You have to master the European Community regulations on the care and maintenance of marine gastropod molluscs.

Nevertheless, if ten executives were to be put in charge of a whelk stall, and they were to display the following characteristics, would you not be slightly put off eating shellfish?

One of them shows ‘poor leadership’. Another is ‘unenthusiastic and unimaginative’. A third is ‘out of his depth’. A fourth ‘did not warn his superiors of ineffective management’. A fifth ‘failed to recognise warning signs’. And so on, through the whole sorry bunch.

This wrecking crew were not, of course, in charge of anything so important as a whelk stall. They were in charge of children’s homes. Thanks to their incompetence and inertia the vicious Frank Beck was able to terrorise children in three Leicestershire council homes for ten long years.

We are assured that it could never happen again. We would be, wouldn’t we? In a rare turn of phrase the director of Leicestershire social services says: ‘No stone will be left unturned.’ What does he intend to do with these upturned stones? Throw them at somebody, I hope.

But the promises of social services chiefs that from now on it is all going to be different remind me of the pledges of drunks that starting tomorrow they will never touch another drop. Few things in this life are certain but of one we may be sure. There will be another major scandal involving children and the social services before the year is out. Perhaps even, given their track record, before the month is out.

At least on this occasion no one has had the gall to put the failure of the system down to ‘lack of resources’. Or if they have, I have missed it. Yet, in a way, lack of resources was what this case was all about – lack of intelligence, lack of initiative, lack of imagination. Lack of the human resources that should be part and parcel of the job.

We have report after report after report on the damage done to children by the very people who are there to protect them, either by neglect, misjudgment, apathy or misplaced zeal. And in every single case, ranging from the solitary battered child whose scream went unheeded to the entire community absurdly accused of satanic sex abuse, there is one constant factor. Incompetence.

WHY are Dave and Roz so daft? That they are is incontestable. A Government inquiry into their daftness – although the preferred phrase is ‘the recruitment and selection of social workers’ – is even now under way. And it is not only Dave and Roz themselves who are daft. They move in a whole aura of daftness. The Kirkwood report on the Frank Beck scandal – the ninth in eight years on the disturbing way children’s homes are run, by the way – saves its most scathing criticism for ‘the grossly negligent’ Brian Rice – ‘a poor leader who has neither the skill nor the experience for the task’. Mr Rice was the county social services director for eight years.

How do these goons get the work – and having got it, how do they manage to keep it? We know the social services are featherbedded but is no candidate ever turned down for having nothing between the ears? Is no one ever sacked or demoted for being other-abled in the field of brainpower?

There have been almost as many reports on the social services as the social services themselves have provoked. There have been many recommendations on the training of social workers but none properly addressing the quality of the material that is being trained in the first place, or how it is possible to rise to the top of this profession with ‘neither the skill nor the experience for the task’.

And they’re left in charge of children. If children were whelks, and under the care of a whelk stall owner, they would get a better deal.

Not my cuppa
[….]


Daily Mail

February 12th, 1993

Ludovic Kennedy, ‘WHY THIS TV TITILLATION MUST STOP; WITH CHANNEL 4’s NAKED CHAT SHOW ABOUT TO GO ON AIR, ONE OF OUR TOP BROADCASTERS LAMENTS THE CULTURAL VOID BENEATH THE VULGARARITY’

WHEN you get to my age, there’s a tendency to think that all social change is for the worst, that things were much better yesterday.

To criticise is to risk being called a fuddy-duddy. So for some time now, I have tried to ignore the current sickness in our once great broadcasting industry and tell myself that if that is what the young want, that is what the young should have, and who are the geriatric brigade to stop them?

But is this endless diet of sex, and a sick sort of sex at that, really what the young want? I have talked to many 20, 30 and 40 year olds, including my own children, and they seem to be as depressed about the present trend as I am.

Nothing, it seems, is too crass nowadays. I see that Chennel 4 is planning a new series called Come On Down And Out, a thoroughly sick and nasty game show which will exploit some of the most unfortunate people in our society. Researchers are already scouring the country for contestants among the poor and homeless with the promise that if they win, they’ll receive ‘a brand new luxury home’.

Not so long ago I saw a television programme in which a group of exceptionally unattractive women gave themselves (but who else?) a good time by fitting condoms on to plastic penises with their mouths. If there was any adverse comment on this, I missed it.

Then at midnight this Saturday, Channel 4 is going to give us something called The Naked Chat Show in which guests and some of the audience will be stark naked, although the deputy director of programmes there has assured us that ‘no one will be waving their genitalia in the air’. Well, I should hope not. But what on earth is the point of it? To inform? To entertain? Or just to shock, and thereby up the ratings?

And that’s not all by way of Channel 4’s contribution to St Valentine’s Day, a day if ever there was one for celebrating love – not lust. Yet, of lust there will be plenty: an ‘educational’ film called Get A Grip On Sex (spot the innuendo there, did you?), a sex quiz programme called Carnal Knowledge, another programme on bondage and sado-masochism and an Australian documentary on orgies and sex cults.

So as not to be left behind by the Joneses, BBC radio is getting in on the act, too. In a two-hour special, a lesbian cabaret artiste called Maria Esposito (Italian for ‘exposure’) will be giving us her act from a gay nightclub in Blackpool.

There is to be a travel report for ‘hiking dykes’ while the usually stolid Woman’s Hour will be providing a list of ten lesbian novels, excerpts from which (presumably the jucier parts) may be read out.

Who are all these programmes for? Homosexuals? Well, they know it all already. Certainly not the old like me. The young then? But from talking to them, I gain the impression that they consider voyeurism a poor substitute for getting out and about and doing their own thing.

I also worry who the broadcasters are aiming at with their current vogue for the reminiscences of long-serving criminal perverts. Recently Central Television broadcast a ‘How I did it’ monologue by the infamous Dennis Nilsen, now serving a life sentence for murdering more than a dozen unfortunate young men.

The fact that there was no attempt to sensationalise it somehow made it much worse, as though this was just part of routine viewing. And for all the pre-transmission hype to increase the ratings, the programme would have lost nothing by excluding it.

And now only this week on BBC television and radio news we had to hear the voice of that disgusting pederast Frank Beck who betrayed his trust as warden of children’s homes in Leicestershire by abusing more than 50 over a period of 13 years.

This was part of a conversation between Beck and his solicitor, and should never have been broadcast. As with Nilsen, what he said gave no insight into his character or motivation. So is this the start of a new trend, a programme called, perhaps, Convicts Confidential in which kinky prisoners tell their macabre tales for the benefit of kinky viewers?

I am not a prig. Mrs Patrick Campbell once said: ‘I don’t mind what people do so long as they don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses.’ I am in favour of freedom of information, too, and wish there was an Act of Parliament to sanctify it. But all this seems to me to be an abuse of freedom of information. I ask myself, as others must, why this cancerous spread of nihilism, and exactly where is it leading us?

Today, posh hotels now provide soft-porn films (i.e. everything except below the belt) for ‘adult’ viewing, while the sex scenes in feature films are every year becoming more explicit. The way things are going, it won’t be long before, at the touch of a button, we shall find ourselves gawping at scenes of perversion and sodomy on the hour, every hour.

Those who want to look at these things have to take the initiative to do so. If that is what they really want, good luck to them. But in the media of radio and televison, you don’t need to take much initiative. Both sound and vision are beamed directly into our homes. And the decline of standards there, both in content and style, increasingly disturbs me.

As if to confirm this trend, a new book has just come out called Hollywood vs Hollywood. In my youth Hollywood peddled a dreamworld whose fantasies gave enormous pleasure to the drab lives of millions. But today’s Hollywood, writes Michael Medved, is more of a poison factory than a dream factory, full of violence and horror.

I believe it is all part of the same process: a growing tendency for some broadcasters to despise the ordinary concerns of ordinary citizens, a tendency in which nothing has value unless it shocks, challenges, undermines or even insults the standards with which we’ve grown up.

You can see this in the growing tendency of presenters to pull faces and cavort about, with the sort of jokey facetiousness is increasingly seen in breakfast programmes.

It is as though we – and by we I mean the Western world – have run out of creative ideas and no longer attach importance to the values on which our civilisation was founded. Why that is, I wish I knew; but it could be that, as the poet Wordsworth said: ‘The World is too much with us; late and soon,/Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers . . .’

He could have been talking about today. Through satellite, radio and television links we witness the world’s upheavals almost in the act of their happening. The media feeds us with a daily diet of the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the worldwide spread of AIDS, the destruction of the rainforests, the damage to the ozone layer, uncontrolled pollution, economic recession.

Have we come to a stage in our evolution when, considering all these things, we feel we can no longer control them? Are we starting to give up any hope for the future? I hope not, but I am beginning to think so.


The Guardian

February 13th, 1993

Eleanor Hadley, ‘LETTER: RAPE: WHEN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM LACKS CONVICTION’

WHO do you report to when the rapists are police? PC Eileen Waters has alleged she was raped by a colleague, yet nothing was ever done, and an independent survey confirms that rape and sexual assault is “rife in the police” (Guardian, February 11).

The police inquiry into the Leicestershire police response to the case of Frank Beck (Guardian, February 9), the social worker who raped and abused children in care, documents “prejudice, incompetence and negligence” by the police which resulted in young people’s accusations against Beck being dismissed for years.

Our experience during 16 years of campaigning and providing resources and services, is that women and girls regularly experience disbelief, hostility, intimidation, racism, sexism and worse when they go to report rape, sexual assault and/or domestic violence. No wonder then, that our 1985 Ask Any Woman survey found that only one in 12 women who are raped actually report to the police.

Every time police illegality or negligence is exposed in one area, it is disconnected from every other area. So that confessions extracted under duress, evidence which is fabricated, women being bullied, Black people being targeted for arrest, prioritising the policing of consensual sex over rape, are all seen as isolated examples of “human error”. How come the criminal justice system does not treat their wrongdoings in the same way as other “human errors”? And does this mean – as it seems to – that in reporting crime, you may be reporting to criminals?

When a woman is deciding whether to go to the police, all of these factors inevitably enter into her consideration. Given this context, special rape suites painted pink are at best cosmetic, at worst a cover-up.

Policemen who rape or sexually assault fellow officers, and those who encourage and condone them, are guilty of criminal activities. We are waiting for their arrest, their convictions and their being put away.

Eleanor Hadley.
Women Against Rape,
71 Tonbridge Street,
London WC1.


The Times

February 18th, 1993

Roger Singleton, ‘Lessons of abuse’

From Mr Roger Singleton
Sir, Your leader of February 9 on residential child care, ”The lessons of abuse”, calls for greater professional training of residential staff. But that in itself will not prevent abuse.

Frank Beck, the Leicestershire care worker sentenced in 1989 for abusing up to 200 children, possessed the right pieces of paper. So did Tony Latham, creator of the infamous ”Pindown” regime in Staffordshire. What these men lacked was effective management.

Children’s homes need competent, caring and resilient people to staff them. They also need stringent recruitment policies and a commitment to boost morale among the current workforce by providing encouragement and improving salaries.

But, perhaps most important of all, they need confident and rigorous management from the outside, by people who will challenge dubious practices, hold staff to account, listen to children’s complaints and take them seriously.

Yours faithfully,

ROGER SINGLETON
(Senior Director),
Barnardos,
Tanners Lane, Barkingside,
Ilford, Essex.
February 11.

Local Government Chronicle (LGC)
February 19th, 1993

‘LEICESTERSHIRE TO CONSIDER KIRKWOOD REPORT ON ABUSE’

HIGHLIGHT: A special meeting of Leicestershire CC will be held on 24 February to consider a report by director of social servi…

A special meeting of Leicestershire CC will be held on 24 February to consider a report by director of social services Brian Waller on the recently published findings the inquiry by Andrew Kirkwood QC.The Kirkwood inquiry was set up after the conviction in 1991 of former county children’s home manager Frank Beck and two other former staff on multiple counts of abuse.Mr Waller’s report identifies the main issues arising from the Kirkwood inquiry and makes detailed proposals for further action by Leicestershire to improve the care provided in the county’s nine children’s homes.Mr Waller said: ‘The distressing events in Leicestershire between 1973 and 1986 make for very sobering reading in showing how inadequate management can lead to appalling consequences for people who should have been protected and properly cared for.’Almost all of the issues raised in the Kirkwood report have been subject to significant improvement since the time of Frank Beck’s employment with Leicestershire’.But he said: ‘The department cannot be complacent. Work still remains to be done’.


Local Government Chronicle (LGC)

March 9th, 1993

‘LEICESTERSHIRE ABUSE DAMAGES EXPECTED TO REACH £1 MILLION’

HIGHLIGHT: Damages against Leicestershire CC by the victims of abuse by former children’s homes manager Frank Beck are expecte…

Damages against Leicestershire CC by the victims of abuse by former children’s homes manager Frank Beck are expected to reach at least £1 million, the Independent reports (p1).The claims for compensation by 86 abuse victims will be strengthened by two reports published yesterday detailing incompetence and mismanagement by social services staff and police officers.But despite scathing criticism of the inaction and mishandling of a succession of complaints by the constabulary and the county, no police officer or Leicestershire employee has yet been dismissed or faced disciplinary proceedings, the paper says.Brian Dodds, the liaising solicitor for the 86 complainants who allege abuse by Beck and other staff, welcomed the report into the homes’ management by Archie Kirkwood QC.’It will be extremely useful. It can only reinforce the claims being made and will very significantly increase the damages because of the aggravating feature of negligence it highlights’, Mr Dodds said.He said many complainants would receive relatively small amounts, but at least 10 were likely to win £70,000-£100,000 in damages.The second report, whose publication coincided with the Kirkwood report, was conducted by West Mercia Chief Superintendent David Foster into the conduct of Leicestershire Police. It uncovered a catalogue of errors by investigating officers, the Independent says.In a separate report (p5), the paper says junior Health minister Tim Yeo promised to give a higher status to residential child care so that suitable, better qualified people are attracted to the job.Welcoming the Kirkwood report, Mr Yeo said: ‘We have accepted recommendations for better qualified people to run children’s homes.
It will be harder for others to follow the likes of Frank Beck: we have tightened the legislation considerably with the Children Act.’But in the end it does depend on constant vigilance in the way staff are selected and recruited and the way complaints for children are handled’.Endorsing Mr Yeo’s comments, Leicestershire Social Services Director Brian Waller said: ‘Residential care has been a Cinderella service for more than two decades. It has become a backwater which is used as a last resort when everything else fails’.Homes had been staffed by people who were unqualified, lowly paid and badly managed, Mr Waller said.Chief executive David Prince said the council had embarked on a programme to improve child care through enhancing the status of social workers and attracting high calibre staff.Calls for a social services council to prevent paedophiles ‘playing the system’ were repeated by the National Institute for Social Work. Such a body would stem similar abuses by issuing licences for all social workers, including residential care staff, and would provide an independent avenue of complaint.News and further in depth pieces on the two Beck reports are carried by all the other broadsheets.


The Guardian

March 11th, 1993

‘SOCIAL STAFF REPRIEVE’

No disciplinary action is to be taken against 16 of the 29 Leicestershire social services staff under investigation after the Frank Beck child abuse scandal, including Michael Wells, the deputy director. Seven will face action and six cases remain under scrutiny.


The Times

March 25th, 1993

Edward Fennell, ‘Shopping for social services’

The new ”community care” approach to social services being introduced this spring will pose one of the biggest tests yet of the government’s policy on the welfare state.

In the public mind at least, social service management is scarcely regarded as a model of efficiency. How well will it respond to the creation of a market of purchasers and providers?

Although community care has some enthusiastic supporters, the cynical view is that many authorities will pay little more than lip service to the new approach by setting up merely a cosmetic operation to satisfy the government’s minimum requirements.

”If you have taken community care seriously then it involves a complete change in the landscape of care,” says David Townsend, director of social services for Croydon. ”We are cautiously optimistic we can handle the new system well because we are adequately resourced and ahead with our preparations. But the national scene is going to be very patchy.”

Given the repeated scandals and failures among local authority social service departments, however, there must be concern that any new system risks going off at half-cock.

”It’s really going to be a matter of social service departments experimenting as they go,” says Henri Giller, of the consultancy Social Information Systems. ”New managerial structures have been put in place but the real question is whether they are going to be strong enough to work.”

With more than 100 social service departments involved in the reforms, the exact pace and extent of change has been left largely to be decided at local level. ”The resulting diversity is likely to be particularly confusing when it comes, for example, to hospital discharge procedures,” says Mr Giller. With different liaison arrangements operating, compounded by reforms in the National Health Service, the handover relationship from medical to social service care will tax the management system severely.

If community care is going to work, however, the most critical area in the long run will be operation of the inspection units. Particularly sensitive to this is Brian Waller, head of Leicestershire social services, where for years there was a failure to respond to complaints that a residential manager, Frank Beck, was involved in child abuse.

Mr Waller says: ”Mindful of what has happened in the past, there is now a robust audit and inspection procedure with quality right at the top of the department’s list of priorities.”

Backing up inspection will be the new complaints procedure. In Leicestershire this is already working smoothly, Mr Waller claims. ”Real safeguards now exist. There is a quite explicit system available which I am absolutely confident will work.”

Underlying all these changes, however, is the urgent need to ensure that the government gets more (and better) care for its money. Philosophically this has heightened the need for social workers to be careful allocators of resources. But the question facing management is obviously whether their pursuit of ”business effectiveness” will be compatible with their need to assure quality of care provided to their ”clients”.

With money seen as the essential lubricant keeping the system going, it may well be that managerial skills will come to be viewed as more important than social service experience in making the system work effectively. Croydon’s Mr Townsend already foresees that in a few years a new breed of professional manager may emerge to take on the job of buying care from the private sector.

”They would probably need to be people with a public sector background but it seems to me that NHS managers, civil servants, or people from other parts of the local authority network could come in and take over this job,” Mr Townsend says.

Not everyone would agree with such a prescription, but the likelihood is that over the next few years we will see an immense variety of managerial approaches. Woe betide the first authority, however, where clients die, or suffer abuse or neglect, from a private care provider. The hapless director of social services had better have a pretty good excuse ready.


Press Association

October 11th, 1993

Linda Jackson, ‘COUNCIL DENIES DEBT TO CHILD SEX ABUSE VICTIMS’

BYLINE: Linda Jackson, Press Association Social Affairs Correspondent

Leicestershire County Council is denying responsibility for one of the victims of child sex abuser Frank Beck, it emerged today. The council has gone to court to test a legal ruling that places a time limit on paying compensation. Jenny Lesiakowski, who was raped and buggered by Beck while in care, was offered £50,000 compensataion by the council, plus £8,000 towards therapy. She turned down the money, believing she could get more if she sued the council for damages. However, since the offer was made, the House of Lords ruled that child victims of abuse must claim compensation by the age of 24 – a ruling which has pushed Jenny over the time limit. This means the council does not have to pay compensation. And they are now denying responsibility in a test of the ruling which could have implications for Beck’s other victims. As head of three Leicestershire children’s homes between 1973 and 1986, Beck sexually and physically assaulted up to 100 children in his care. In 1991, he received five life sentences for his reign of terror. Two were for rape and buggery against Jenny, who has agreed to be identified. In an interview for the BBC 1 Watchdog programme, to be screened tonight Jenny tells how she was offered the money and attacks the council’s handling of her case. “Social services offered me £50,000 with the condition that there was no more publicity, interviews, or anything,” she said. “I was taken out of their books as if I never existed. I was another problem off their hands.” In a statement to the Press Association, the council points out that its insurers – Municipal Mutual – will settle claims for which the council is liable. “It is therefore essential that the civil litigation action establishes whether the council has any legal liability to make such payments. “If that is established the insurers will pay any damages that may be awarded. If that is not established, the insurers will cease to have conduct of the matters and will pass the relevant papers back to the county council, which will then look at the circumstances of each claim and decide whether any payment can be made.” The council said it stood by previous statements that victims’ civil claims would be dealt with as “sympathetically as possible”.


The Guardian

October 11th, 1993

David Brindle, ‘BECK VICTIMS ACCUSE COUNCIL OF EVASION’

VICTIMS of child abuser Frank Beck will have compensation claims dealt with “as sympathetically as possible”, Leicestershire county council reaffirmed yesterday in the face of allegations that it is evading responsibility.

A BBC television programme tonight will claim the council is denying it had a duty of care for some of those who say they were abused under the Beck regime in its children’s homes.

Mr Beck is serving five life sentences for offences against youngsters in the homes he ran between 1973 and 1986. About 86 people who say they were abused by him or other staff are seeking compensation along the lines of money paid to victims of the “pin down” regime in Staffordshire.

One victim, Jenny Lesiakowski, who has agreed to be identified, says on tonight’s Watchdog programme that her claim is being denied by the council on grounds it had no duty of care for her.

She claims she was offered pounds 50,000 by the council on condition she sought no more publicity – terms she refused.

Ms Lesiakowski is now suing the council and says it is opposing her damages claim on the grounds that it had no duty of care, and therefore no responsibility, and because her action is out of time.

The House of Lords ruled last December that a woman could not bring an action for damages for alleged sexual abuse against her stepfather and adoptive brother because she was outside the time limits.

The 1980 Limitation Act requires damages claims for personal injury, rape, or indecent assault to be brought within six years of the incident or within six years of the victim reaching 18. It is thought that three-quarters of those claiming compensation in the Beck affair are over 24.

Leicestershire said in a statement yesterday that the claims were being handled by Municipal Mutual, its insurer. It had told the company it wanted them dealt with in a just and equitable manner and each was being considered on its merits.
Some claims were awaiting medical evidence, some needed verification of facts, and some “are awaiting the outcome of proceedings to clarify whether they are out of time”.

If the insurer determined the council had legal liability it would pay any damages. If it determined otherwise the papers would be passed back to the council which would then “look at all the circumstances of each claim and decide whether any payment can be made”.

The council stood by its earlier commitment to deal with all claims as sympathetically as possible, the statement went on, and it did not deny a duty of care. “This is not so. These words have been taken from the initial paperwork that precedes a trial and reflect no more than the normal exchanges between parties in a civil action.”


United Press International

June 1st, 1994

‘British child abuser dies in prison’

Frank Beck, the former social worker convicted of sexually abusing children in his care, died in prison at age 51, the British Prison Service said Wednesday.

Complaining of chest pains, Beck collapsed at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday night in the gym of Whitemoor high-security prison in Cambridgeshire, southeast England, where he was serving five life sentences.

A Prison Service spokesman said Beck briefly recovered, but then suffered another attack of chest pains at 8:40 p.m., after being placed under medical care in the prison’s hospital wing.

An ambulance was called, but Beck was pronounced dead at 9:30 p.m.

The coroner and Beck’s family had been informed, the spokesman said.

Beck was convicted in November 1991 on 17 charges of sexual assault on youngsters in three children’s homes which he ran near Leicester, central England.

During the 11-week trial at Leicester Crown Court, the jury was told Beck committed rape, indecent assault and sodomy on up to 200 young people during the 13 years he worked in child care.

Complaints forced Beck to resign in 1986, but the criminal case did not begin until three years later, when a conversation between a Leicestershire council official and a woman who had herself been in Beck’s care led to a lengthy investigation involving 25 police officers, who interviewed hundreds of youngsters in Britain and abroad.


Press Association

June 1st, 1994

Tim Miles, ‘BECK DEATH GIVES POLICE CHANCE TO GET OVER STRESS’

The death of child abuser Frank Beck will give the victims and officers who worked on the case a chance to get over their emotional stress, according to the man who led the police inquiry. Superintendent Tim Garner of Leicestershire police said: “For Beck’s victims and the officers deeply affected by this draining investigation, his death is an opportunity perhaps to put it all behind them.” One officer involved in the case said: “I’m afraid I can’t feel any sorrow over the man’s death. He was a ratbag.” Beck’s solicitor Oliver D’Sa said his client never ceased claiming he was innocent. “If one thing kept him going it was his determination to prove his innocence.” He said some of Beck’s colleagues and social work clients had told him of the good things he had done. “I have to respect the decision of the court and the jury. They found him guilty of horrendous and wicked crimes. But there were people who told me about the excellent help he had given them,” Mr D’Sa said.

Ms Vera Stamenkovich, a solicitor co-ordinating many of the claims against Leicestershire County Council on behalf of Beck’s victims, said many were deeply affected by what he did to them. “Many of them suffered, are still suffering and will continue to suffer from the effects of the abuse they were subjected to,” she said.


Press Association

June 1st, 1994

Linda Jackson, ‘DISTURBED CHILDHOOD OF THE MAN THEY CALLED ‘MRS BECK”

Frank Beck had a lonely and disturbed childhood – and grew up to become a sex monster. In his youth he was teased about being effeminate. Before he was 13 he was sexually assaulted by a man on a train. Friends at agricultural college dubbed him “Mrs Beck”. But he appeared to overcome childhood traumas, joining the Royal Marines and later going on to become a Liberal councillor and leading childcare worker. But from an early age, he had not had a normal life. The son of a train driver, he was the youngest of five children, with three sisters and a brother. He was jealous of the youngest of his sisters, who had his father’s looks. He was also the only one of the five who was unable to cry at his father’s funeral. Two days afterwards, he left home. Between the age of nine and 14 he went to three different schools. He left school at 15 without any qualifications and went to a farming school. He stood out from the other boys as he did not drink, swear, or know anything about girls. After training to become a pig-keeper, he joined the Marines, spending 18 months in Malta. He went on to serve in North Africa, Singapore and Borneo, where he fell in love with a Chinese girl and a “big Austrian woman”. He spent 12 months in Aden, where he decided he wanted to become a professional Marine and improve the quality of life for younger men. But in June 1969, he left the Marines, advertising himself for work in the Daily Telegraph. For a time he worked as an assitant warden in a probation hostel. Then he moved to Northampton where he wed a Czech girl in a marriage of convenience to enable her to remain in Britain. They divorced later. Beck went on to work with disturbed children in Northampton, where he came into contact with regression therapy. While doing his social work training at Stevenage College, he met his second wife Sandra, who was on the same course. But he also remembers being shocked by “wife swapping and political in-fighting” on the course. Soon after the course, Leicestershire appointed him as officer in charge of one of its children’s homes.


Press Association

June 1st, 1994

Rebecca Maer, ‘CHILD ABUSER CAUGHT BY CHANCE’

It was a chance remark by a mother that sparked Britain’s biggest investigation into child abuse that ended with former social worker Frank Beck receiving five life terms. The conversation between the woman, accused of ill-treating her son, and a Leicestershire council officer did not take place until 1989, three years after Beck resigned as head of three children’s homes. She confided in the official, blaming her own behaviour on the abuse she suffered herself while in Beck’s care at the Ratcliffe Road home in Leicester in the mid-1970s. She was advised to go to the police and detectives she spoke to noted the names of other children who also claimed they were abused. Senior police officers decided to interview every child who had been in care in homes run by Beck from when he started work at them in 1973. Up to 25 officers worked on the case, tracing and interviewing hundreds of people scattered across three continents who had been youngsters in Beck’s care. Dozens of witnesses, in their 20s and 30s by the time of the trial in 1991, eventually gave evidence in the 11-week hearing at Leicester Crown Court.

Many who were psychologically or sexually abused as children spoke from behind screens in the witness box, reliving the ordeals they were subjected to by Beck. The men and women detailed incidents from when they were as young as eight of being forced to perform oral sex with Beck or of being buggered or raped by him, often dozens of times. The prosecution called a total of 45 witnesses who stated that Beck had corrupted and disturbed the children in his care. But 12 social workers spoke up for Beck at the trial, saying he was caring and concerned when it came to the children. However, the jury convicted Beck of 17 charges of sexual and physical abuse of children including rape, buggery, indecent assault and assault. Many wept in the packed courtroom as Mr Justice Jowitt told Beck: “You are a man with considerable talents and very great evil. “You were entrusted with the care of some of the most disturbed children … many had been sexually abused already and could hardly have been more vulnerable.”

Two damning independent reports published in February of last year criticised police and social services in Leicestershire. One report, by West Mercia police for the Police Complaints Authority, accused officers of “incompetence, negligence and prejudice” in dealing with Beck. It said his activities should have been uncovered earlier and blamed police for tending to disbelieve children who complained because they regarded them as young criminals. All 18 recommendations made were implemented by the county’s police force and its procedures for dealing with child abuse cases were radically reviewed. The other report followed a Government-ordered inquiry into the management of the county’s social services department. It judged managers “inadequate, naive and out of their depth” and afraid to challenge Beck despite numerous complaints against him during his 13-year reign of terror. Social services said last year that drastic reforms had since been put in place. Beck, speaking from prison when the reports were published, wept as he talked to his solicitor in an interview broadcast by BBC Radio Leicester. He said he could not bring himself to read more than selected excerpts and complained that the reports would create further antagonism from other prisoners. “I am not a bloody monster, despite what they say,” he said.


Press Association

June 1st, 1994

Tim Miles and Rebecca Maer, ‘CHILD MOLESTER BECK DIES IN PRISON’

Former social worker Frank Beck, serving five life sentences for a horrific regime of physical and sexual abuse in children’s homes, has died in prison. Beck, 51, jailed three years ago after being convicted on 17 charges of abuse, including buggery and rape, had continued to protest his innocence. He had been frustrated by the slow progress of his appeal against both his conviction and sentence and there was speculation today that the stress surrounding the lengthy process had contributed to his death. Beck died on Tuesday night after being taken ill in the gym at Whitemoor maximum security jail at March, Cambs, the prison department said. A spokesman said Beck first complained of chest pains and was taken to the prison hospital, where he was kept for observation. He apparently recovered, but at 8.40pm suffered another attack. An ambulance was called but less than an hour later Beck was pronounced dead by the prison’s duty medical officer. The coroner has been informed. At his trial, the jury heard how the former head of three Leicestershire children’s homes assaulted up to 200 youngsters, conducting a 13-year reign of terror until he resigned in 1986, following complaints. At the time of his death, Beck was within sight of an opportunity to prove the innocence he had continued to protest. He had won leave to appeal against both his conviction and sentence, on the grounds of incomplete disclosure of evidence by the prosecution. Only today, his solicitor received a letter from him discussing the grounds for his appeal. Leicester solicitor Oliver D’Sa said: “There is no doubt he would have had his day in court. But the case dies with him.” Mr D’Sa added: “He certainly was under considerable stress because he felt things were not proceeding fast enough. “And as far as his family and I were aware, there was nothing physically wrong with him. His death came as a total shock. Totally out of the blue.” For the children – now adults – whom Beck abused, the prospect of an appeal threatened to re-awaken terrors they have tried to shut out from their conscious minds, and to cast doubt once again on the credibility of their claims of abuse. Mike Lindsay, formerly Children’s Rights Officer with Leicestershire County Council who received in confidence the first complaints against Beck from children in care, said: “Beck’s death has put an end to a terrible uncertainty for them, as to whether the world accepted that he was guilty and that they were telling the truth.” “Now they will be relieved that the cause of their anguish has been literally laid to rest.” More than 80 people who were abused while in the care of Leicestershire County Council, mostly by Beck, are suing the council for damages. Proceedings have been issued in 14 specimen cases. Mr Lindsay, who now works for Cleveland County Council, said that while Beck’s death had removed “a terrible charismatic figure, whose memory will continue to haunt many of these people”, it also meant an an opportunity had been lost. “Eventually, if he came to accept what he had done, there would have been an opportunity to learn a lot from Frank Beck,” he said. “We still have a lot to learn about how a paedophile like him came to infiltrate the care system and abuse children on such a massive scale, without the local authority being able to do anything about it.” Mr D’Sa said Beck had been badly abused in prison. “There was a considerable amount of physical and psychological abuse in jail,” he said. “If one thing kept him going, it was his determination to prove his innocence.” Mr D’Sa said some of Beck’s colleagues and social work clients had told him of the good things his client had done. “I have to respect the decision of the court and the jury. They found him guilty of horrendous and wicked crimes. But there were people who told me about the excellent help he had given them,” Mr D’Sa said. But one of the Leicestershire police officers involved in the Beck case – some of whom have suffered themselves since from the emotional trauma of the inmvestigation – was more blunt in his assessment. The officer, who asked not to be named, said: “I’m afraid I can’t feel any sorrow over the man’s death. He was a ratbag.”

Beck complained of feeling ill yesterday evening while in the gym at Whitemoor maximum security prison at March, Cambs, a spokesman said. “At 7.15pm he complained of chest pains and was taken to the prison hospital. At 8.40 he suffered another attack. The ambulance was called but he was pronounced dead at 9.30 by the duty medical officer at the prison,” he said.

Solicitors acting for Beck had won leave for him to appeal against both his conviction and sentence. Oliver D’Sa said today the appeal was proceeding on the grounds of incomplete disclosure of evidence by Leicestershire County Council, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. “There is no doubt he would have had his day in court. But the case dies with him,” Mr D’Sa said. Beck was pre-occupied by the progress of his appeal and emphatic that he was innocent of the charges against him, he said. “I received a letter from him only today in which he was talking about ideas for his appeal. “He was frustrated at the progress of the appeal, but of course it can only be speculation as to whether this played any part in his death. “He certainly was under considerable stress because he felt things were not proceeding fast enough. And as far as his family and I were aware, there was nothing physically wrong with him.” Legal action was also proceeding on behalf of more than 80 victims of Beck who were seeking to sue his former employer, Leicestershire council, over the abuse they suffered while they were in the council’s care. Proceedings have been issued in 14 specimen cases but no court date has been set for the hearing. Simon Stanion, solicitor for many of those seeking compensation, today issued a statement on their behalf. “We have heard of the news of the death of Mr Frank Beck. In as much as Mr Beck is not a party to the claims issued on behalf of our clients against Leicestershire County Council in respect of the alleged abuse they suffered while in care, we believe his death will not materially affect the claims in any way,” he said.


The Times

June 2nd, 1994

Richard Ford, ‘Child abuser Beck dies in prison after heart attack’

FRANK Beck, the former social worker serving five life sentences for systematic sexual and physical abuse of children in care, has died in prison.

Beck, 51, had been in the process of preparing an appeal against his conviction and sentence for abusing four children under 16 and raping a girl.

He complained of chest pains while playing badminton at Whitemoor top-security prison in March, Cambridgeshire, on Tuesday night. He was taken to the prison hospital shortly after 7.15pm and told staff on arrival that he felt better. He was placed in a hospital cell, where his condition was monitored, but he suffered a heart attack at 8.40pm.

Staff called for an ambulance but the former social worker and Liberal Democrat councillor was pronounced dead by the prison medical officer at 9.30pm. An inquest will be held. The prison service said there were no suspicious circumstances.

Beck, born in Salisbury, had been in Whitemoor jail since February last year, where he was held in a unit for sex offenders. He was given five life sentences at Leicester Crown Court in November 1991 at the end of Britain’s biggest child sex abuse trial.

The former head of three children’s homes in Leicestershire had conducted a reign of terror until he resigned in 1986 after complaints from two male care workers. At the end of the 11-week trial, Mr Justice Jowitt described him as a man of great evil and sentenced him to life on each of four counts of indecency against children under 16 and one of rape.

He was also jailed for a total of 24 years for other sexual and physical assaults after being found guilty of a total of 17 charges.

During the trial dozens of witnesses gave evidence. Many who had been psychologically or sexually abused as children spoke from behind screens in the witness box as they described their ordeals at the hands of Beck, who had himself been molested as a 13-year-old. The men and women told of incidents from when they were as young as eight, when they were raped or forced to perform indecent acts with Beck, often dozens of times.

Supt Tim Garner, of Leicestershire Police, who led the inquiry into Beck’s activities, said yesterday: ”For Beck’s victims and the officers deeply affected by this draining investigation, his death is an opportunity perhaps to put it all behind them.”

Jenny Lesiakowski, 35, one of Beck’s victims, said after being told of his death: ”I and the other victims suffer 24 hours a day every day because of what he did to us. The pain never goes away. I’m delighted, elated, overjoyed that he has died.”

Two convicted prisoners were charged yesterday with the murder of the paedophile Leslie ”Catweazle” Bailey, who was found dead in his cell at Whitemoor prison last October. Bailey, who was serving life for murdering three young boys, had been strangled.

Michael Cain, 25, from Leicester, and John Brookes, 30, appeared at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court accused of murder. They were remanded to Whitemoor until June 29.


The Independent

June 2nd, 1994

Rosie Waterhouse, ‘Notorious child sex offender dies in prison; The trial and conviction of Frank Beck followed Britain’s biggest investigation into child abuse. Rosie Waterhouse reports’

FRANK BECK, one of Britain’s most notorious sex offenders who was convicted of abusing children in his care at Leicestershire children’s homes, has died in jail.

Beck, 52, suffered a heart attack on Tuesday night after playing badminton at Whitemoor prison in Cambridgeshire, where he was kept segregated on a wing with other ”vulnerable” prisoners, mainly other sex offenders and child molesters. A prison spokesman said: ”We are treating it as cardiac arrest. There is no suggestion there was anyone else involved.”

He was convicted at Leicester Crown Court in November 1991 of 17 charges of sexual and physical abuse of boys and girls including rape, buggery, indecent assault and assault. Sentencing Beck to five life terms, the judge, Mr Justice Jowitt, told him: ”You are a man with considerable talents and very great evil. You were entrusted with the care of some of the most disturbed children . . . many had been sexually abused already and could hardly have been more
vulnerable.”

Beck had a lonely and disturbed childhood. He was teased for being effeminate and before he was 13 he was sexually assaulted by a man on a train. He went on to become a Liberal councillor and leading childcare worker.

It was a chance remark by a mother that sparked Britain’s biggest investigation into child abuse. The conversation between the woman, accused of ill-treating her son, and a Leicestershire council officer did not take place until 1989, three years after Beck resigned as head of three children’s homes, the Poplars in Market Harborough, the Ratcliffe Road home in Leicester, and the Beeches in Leicester Forest East.

She confided in the official, blaming her own behaviour on the abuse she suffered herself while in Beck’s care at the Ratcliffe Road home in the mid-1970s. She was advised to go to the police and detectives she spoke to noted the names of other children who also claimed they were abused. Senior police officers decided to interview every child who had been in care in homes run by Beck from when he started work at them in 1973.

Dozens of witnesses, in their twenties and thirties by the time of the trial in 1991, gave evidence during the 11-week hearing. Many of the adult victims spoke from behind screens, detailing incidents from when they were as young as eight, of being forced to perform oral sex with Beck or of being buggered or raped by him.

But 12 social workers spoke up for Beck at the trial, saying he was caring and concerned when it came to the children. Beck was appealing against his conviction and sentence. Leave to appeal and legal aid were granted in January 1993 and Anthony Scrivener QC, one of Britain’s most eminent lawyers and former chairman of the Bar, agreed at the end of last year to take the case.

Beck’s solicitor, Oliver D’Sa, said: ”He was very impatient for the appeal to go ahead. His death came out of the blue. Normally the case would lapse and die with him but his family and close friends are discussing the possibility of carrying on with the appeal. This would not be unprecedented.”

Mr D’Sa said Beck was convinced there was enough new evidence and material that was not put before the original court due to non-disclosure by the prosecution which would have made the original conviction unsafe and proved his innocence.

Two damning independent reports published in February 1993 criticised police and social services in Leicestershire. One report, by West Mercia Police for the Police Complaints Authority, accused officers of ”incompetence, negligence and prejudice” in dealing with Beck. It said his activities should have been uncovered earlier and blamed police for tending to disbelieve children who complained because they regarded them as young criminals.

The other report followed a government-ordered inquiry into the management of the county’s social services department. It judged managers ”inadequate, nave and out of their depth” and afraid to challenge Beck despite numerous complaints against him.

Legal action is also proceeding on behalf of more than 80 of Beck’s victims who were seeking to sue his former employer, Leicestershire County Council, over the abuse they suffered while they were in the council’s care.


The Guardian

June 2nd, 1994

John Mullin, ‘HEART ATTACK KILLS ‘EVIL’ CHILD ABUSER; Jailed head of children’s homes insisted he was innocent’

FRANK Beck, the former head of Leicestershire children’s homes, serving five life sentences plus 24 years for sexual and physical abuse, has died in prison, protesting his innocence to the last.

Mr Beck, aged 52, collapsed shortly after a game of badminton at Whitemoor prison in Cambridgeshire, and died of a heart attack. There were no suspicious circumstances, the Home Office said.

Mr Beck’s appeal against conviction and sentence, imposed at Leicester crown court in November 1991 following an 11-week trial, was due to be heard next year. Anthony Scrivener QC, who was to represent him, had already visited him in prison.

One of Mr Beck’s last acts before his death on Tuesday was to post a letter to his solicitor outlining possible avenues for the appeal. Oliver D’Sa, who was representing him, received it yesterday, just after he was told Mr Beck had died.

Mr D’Sa said the appeal would have focused on alleged non-disclosure of material evidence by Leicestershire county council, Leicestershire police and the Crown Prosecution Service. There were also new witnesses to contradict the Crown’s case, Mr D’Sa said.

“I spoke to him last on Saturday. There was nothing physically wrong with him, but he was clearly frustrated at the delays in the appeal hearing, and perhaps that contributed to stress. He was barely interested in the appeal against sentence, because he has always been adamant about his innocence.”

Mr Beck, a former marine who was sexually abused as a child, worked for 13 years at three children’s homes in Leicestershire. He left in 1986. A chance remark from a mother to a social worker three years later sparked the Leicestershire police investigation.

Detectives travelled to three continents to interview 800 youngsters who had been in his care. He was found guilty on 17 charges of sexual abuse and physical torture.

A West Mercia police report into the Leicestershire force’s handling of the affair said they should have uncovered Mr Beck’s activities earlier. Police were accused of “incompetence, negligence and prejudice”. Eighteen recommendations have since been implemented.

A separate pounds 1.25 million report, looking at the social services, criticised 10 senior officers. Andrew Kirkwood QC, said some managers were “inadequate, naive and out of their depth”.

They had been afraid to challenge Mr Beck over his regressional therapy techniques, the guise under which the abuse was said to have happened, despite several complaints against him. New procedures had been adopted, Leicestershire social services said.

Mr Justice Jowitt, sentencing Mr Beck, told him: “You are a man whose character combines considerable talent and very great evil. Sadly, you chose to use your talent in pursuit of your evil and lustful desires.

“Some of the most difficult and disturbed children in Leicestershire were entrusted to your care. Some had already been abused. They could hardly have been more vulnerable.”

Up to 80 victims are planning to sue Leicestershire county council. Proceedings have been issued in 14 specimen cases. No court date has yet been set.

Simon Stanton, solicitor for many of those seeking compensation, said: “In as much as Mr Beck is not a party to the claims, we believe his death will not materially affect the claims in any way.”

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6 Comments on “Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #5”

  1. […] Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #5 Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #3 […]

  2. […] Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #5 (10/7/14) […]

  3. […] Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 […]

  4. […] A full set of reports by Ian Pace on the Frank Beck trial can be found in five parts – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5. […]


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