Greville Janner and Margaret Moran – trial of facts more likely for expenses fiddling than child abuse?Posted: June 27, 2015
In 2012, the former Labour MP for Luton South Margaret Moran faced 21 charges of false accounting and forgery of parliamentary expenses involving sums of over £60 000. However, following a psychiatrist’s report, Moran was found to be suffering from a depressive illness, with extreme anxiety and agitation, and as such was unfit to stand trial. Nonetheless, a trial went ahead in her absence (a so-called ‘trial of the facts’) and it was found that she did indeed falsely claim more than £53 000. Moran received a two-year order placing her under the supervision of a council mental health social worker, as well as being treated for the improvement of her medical condition. At the time, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was Keir Starmer, now the Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras after being elected in May 2015.
Fast-forward to two-and-a-half years after the trial of the facts for Moran, and as is now well-known, the new DPP, Alison Saunders made the decision not to charge Labour peer Lord Janner, formerly Greville Janner, MP for Leicester West from 1970 to 1997, with 22 offences involving the sexual abuse of children, between 1969 and 1988, on the grounds of his suffering from dementia. Even the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, argued that Janner should face a ‘trial of the facts’, but Saunders dismissed this on the grounds that Janner was no longer an ongoing risk to the public (not something which Janner himself would have viewed as an obstacle to prosecuting Nazi war criminals with dementia, as witnessed by his statements here and here). Starmer defended his successor Saunders’ decision, saying that ‘we should inhibit our comments on the case’.
There have been major questions asked about the reliability of the diagnosis of dementia against Janner, in light of clear evidence of much significant activity at the House of Lords and elsewhere following the initial diagnosis (see for example this report – as Gojam has pointed out on The Needle Blog, there is a great irony in Janner being deemed too ill to face justice but well enough to legislate). But even if one accepts that Janner is not fit to appear in court, do the seriousness of the charges (not to mention the suggestion that Janner may have been part of a wider network, together with the former Speaker of the House of Commons George Thomas aka Lord Tonypandy) not make the case for a trial of the facts imperative? Janner may not be an ongoing risk to the public, but neither was Moran, who was no longer an MP at the time she faced charges.
I do not want to make light of the issue of MPs fiddling parliamentary expenses, though do think that as financial scandals go, this was quite small in terms of the sums involved, especially relative to government spending. Furthermore, I do not share public cynicism about the very profession of being a Member of Parliament, and think our MPs should be paid more, commensurate with the salaries they might receive in the private sector, and hopefully then few would want to fiddle expenses.
The spectacle of a clearly distraught and destroyed (and visibly aged) Moran, following the court ruling, was something I found upsetting at the time. This has nothing to do with her gender; the vilification and imprisonment of Denis McShane was no less pretty, nor was the SNP-driven hate campaign against the vulnerable Charles Kennedy, likely playing a part in his early death.
But I believe there are current and former MPs against whom far more serious charges exist. The fact that parliamentary expenses has been viewed as a more serious matter than the abuse of vulnerable children says a good deal about the distorted moral compass that exists in the circles of power.
Reports today in the Guardian, Independent, Times and Mail all suggest that Saunders decision could be overturned, as she herself intimated in an interview earlier this week. This is following a review by an independent QC, though @ExaroNews have tweeted today ‘Crisis at CPS: tonight CPS denies story in Daily Mail that DPP decision on Janner is to be reversed. Mail prob right then.’
The case for a trial of the facts against Janner is unanswerable. Anything less will smack of a high-level establishment cover-up. It is vital that in this case the truth is established whilst the alleged perpetrator is still alive. This is far more serious than any expenses scandals.
[Trigger warning: this post contains some detail of a highly disturbing case of sexual abuse]
Bertrand Blier’s 1978 film Préparez vos mouchoirs centres around a couple, Raoul (played by Gerard Depardieu) and Solange (played by Carol Laure), and their friend Stéphane (Patrick Dewaere). Solange is a depressed woman, which is thought to relate to her not being a mother, and Raoul introduces Stéphane into her life in the hope he might succeed in impregnating her. Solange tires of both Raoul and Stéphane (who Depardieu and Dewaere play similarly to the characters they play in Blier’s earlier 1974 film Les valseuses) and fixates upon a 13-year old boy from a camp where she works, Christian. Christian, a maths prodigy, is being bullied for this reason by the other children (as in one memorable scene in which they all throw and coat him with Petits Suisses); Solange is shown as offering him care, love and recognition such as he lacks from the other children. After she lets Christian sleep in her bed, eventually Solange allows him to have sex with her, and ultimately he impregnates her.
This is all portrayed in a manner very favourably to Solange, when actually her behaviour in some respects resembles that of disgraced former head teacher and chief executive of Durham Federation Anne Lakey, who was sentenced to eight years imprisonment today for sexually abusing two boys, one aged 13-14 at the time, the other 15; police have suggested there could also be further victims.
The case was utterly horrible in other ways: Lakey enjoyed humiliating one of the boys by making him sit on her knee in front of other boys and speak with a squeaking voice to imitate Orville the duck. She invited the 13/14-year old boy to fondle her breasts (‘daring’ him to do so). After inviting him to see her in the bath, she removed a towel and lay completely naked beside him (he was wearing his school uniform), calling to him with a clear signal to have sex with her. She called him her ‘baby’ whilst he was to call her ‘Mommy’. The boy was made to hide in the wardrobe when her husband returned home, whilst she would phone his school pretending to be his mother to explain why he was absent, during sexual sessions with her. Lakey’s then-husband, who was besotted with her, provided a statement which was read out in court. He nearly caught her with the boy and likely suspected what was happening, and was heartbroken as he found she no longer wished to have sex with him and then told him that their marriage was at an end. No contraception was used when Lakey abused the boy, and when he asked to end sexual relations, she turned hostile, in particular imploring him not to tell anyone. Lakey first abused the other boy on a school camping trip, setting up a separate tent from her husband, who she banned from her own, and inviting the boy in to have sexual intercourse with her; they later had another ‘relationship’ when he was 18. He broke this off when he saw her with someone else and felt himself to be redundant.
I never want to gloat or celebrate when someone is imprisoned for a long period – this is an unfortunate necessity, not a cause for celebration. Nor do I wish to join in some of the choruses of hateful vitriol directed at Lakey (though would not judge those who themselves suffered for thinking and expressing themselves in this way), some of it specific to her gender – and I feel the same way about male abusers and hatred towards men resulting from this.
This case appears to have been treated properly by the police and the justice service, and I hope the victims are able to feel some closure, though police have suggested there may be others. What has bothered me, however, are some of the ways in which it has been reported, not to mention many comments to be found underneath articles online.
The description of Lakey ‘seducing’ the boys appears to have been used in court, but is no more appropriate as a result. Seduction is a beautiful term and concept, denoting subtle and artful sexual persuasion of someone fully in a position to make choices, not coercion in any sense. This is completely inapplicable when that latter person is a child, and as such not of an age or emotional maturity to be deemed capable of granting consent – and this is just as true of a boy as of a girl. But this term was used by the Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Mail, Express, Mirror, New York Daily News, and many other papers. Furthermore, sub-editors at the Mail and Express were happy to lead with Lakey’s crime being to ‘take the virginity’ of these boys (a description I have never once encountered in reporting of the abuse of a girl).
All of this fits a depressingly familiar set of stereotypes which are applied in cases of an adult female sexually abusing a teenage boy. Teenage boys are often thought to be sex-crazed monsters driven by nothing but hormones, mostly to be viewed as a threat to girls and society as a whole, rather than vulnerable children going through an intensely difficult and sensitive time in life. The teachers are seen as Solange- or Mrs Robinson-like figures who make the boys’ dreams come true, giving them the early sexual opportunities they crave, for which they should count themselves lucky. Clinical psychologist Jacquie Hetherton, quoted in this sensitive article in the Telegraph, speaks of how society tends not to view this sort of abuse as harmful, especially not when the teacher is relatively young (as many female teacher abusers are) and attractive, with many others confirming the abuser’s view of this as an ‘affair’, a mutually beneficial romance, when in reality it is anything but that.
One of Lakey’s victims has spoken further since her conviction and sentencing of how colleagues with whom he wished to confide would just mock him, calling him ‘lucky’, and felt a good deal of shame himself at supposedly allowing this to happen (a common response amongst abuse victims, though in no sense was what happened their responsibility), which at the time he thought was ‘great’. To go through this trial, knowing the ridicule he would feel and see written afterwards (despite being anonymous) would have been a major trial of strength. In 2012, he received a phone call out of the blue from Lakey, having not heard from her for over 20 years, which he described as like ‘Psychology 101’, using manipulative emotional blackmail by telling him about ‘My poor father, lost my mother’, ‘my career, my daughter, my husband’, and how ‘I’ve definitely not had sex with any other children since’, trying to persuade him to lie to the police.
I remember as a teenager fantasising about sexual scenarios with some female teachers; I would imagine many other boys did the same. If those fantasies had become a reality, I might at the time have felt lucky and very special – just as at the time some teenage girls who are victims of abusers and groomers are made to feel they are the special ones (like the crème de la crème of Miss Jean Brodie, a parallel suggested well by Alison Moncrieff-Kelly in this excellent article). One of the victims of Lakey . I know of another case of a boy who ‘got off with’ (i.e. was sexually exploited by) a woman in a position of care over him in a school environment, was thought to be the coolest of boys for this, but also know that the consequences upon the rest of his life and relationships have been utterly devastating.
Yet those who suffered in this way rarely get much sympathy, nor even do female victims of female abusers – I have written elsewhere about the case of trumpet teacher Helen Goddard, who abused a girl aged 13-15 at the City of London School for Girls (scroll down towards the end of this long post for this section). Rachel Porter of the Mail was more concerned about Goddard being heartbroken through separation from the girl, while Victoria Coren in the Observer treated it like a harmless romp, making Goddard into the real victim. Germaine Greer wrote a sickening apologia for this (and has written other comparable apologias elsewhere); elsewhere the Guardian had little problem with relating tales of other same-sex sexual encounters between teachers and underage girls as if they were a natural stage of sexual development. Other feminists as well as Greer have offered support for forms of paedophilia, and more widely there is plenty reason to think that the plight of young boys is of little concern to many, including some Labour politicians.
I do not think the fact that Lakey’s three husbands have all been younger than her to be of any consequence, as they were all over the age of consent at the time, and she does not appear to have been in a position of care over them at the beginning of their sexual relationships (though there are inevitable questions to be asked about how she met her current husband, who was 18 at the time, when she was 34). Age differences, choices of types of partners, sexual practices or type of relationship (perhaps ‘open’) are no-one’s business except the individuals involved other than when any party is underage, any activity is non-consensual, or there is an abuse of a position of trust in a school environment such as is now criminalised under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act.
Anne Lakey did not ‘seduce’ or ‘take the virginity’ of a 13-year old boy – to describe her actions in these terms is as offensive and demeaning as it would be if they were used for an adult male teacher who abused a 13-year old girl. Female teachers who sexually exploit male pupils are not seductive temptresses helping to initiate boys into a wondrous world of sexual freedom. Those self-serving fictions may serve to make the likes of Lakey (or the fictional Solange) think that what they are doing is harmless, even perhaps positive for the boys concerned, but that is a callous, narcissistic and dangerous view. Teenage boys should never be prey for teachers, but should be able to feel safe, respected and cared about.
Below is an interview with Michelle Elliott, who has done important research into female abusers, and received a good deal of hostility as a result. The sexual abuse and exploitation of children should be treated in a gender-neutral fashion; female abusers are no better or worse than male ones simply on account of their gender, each case needs to be viewed separately (the same applies in terms of ethnicity, nationality or sexuality). There appear to be a good deal more female abusers than is often realised; all statistics suggest the number to be smaller than male abusers, but very significant nonetheless. Male abusers are a small minority of men, female abusers a smaller minority of women, but neither statistic is likely to offer any comfort to their victims. I do believe the vast majority of men to be utterly appalled by other men exploiting children; I only ask that we do not assume that it is any less bad when women do the same.
An article I wrote calling for conservatoires to take the lead in ensuring a new safe environment for students, in the wake of the Philip Pickett trial, was published in the April issue of Music Teacher magazine, accompanied by my proposed guidelines for students and teachers at tertiary level. With permission from the magazine, I reproduce the article here.
Evening News (Edinburgh)
May 29, 2001, Tuesday
Tom Curtis, ‘Nazi War Suspect to be Extradited’
Konrad Kalejs, 87, is wanted in Latvia for alleged atrocities committed during the Second World War.
The news of Kalejs’ case came as the head of Britain’s all-party war crimes group criticised the delay in extraditing Gecas – wanted in Lithuania – and called for him to be tried “without delay”.
Kalejs arrived in a wheelchair to hear Melbourne magistrate Lisa Hannan’s decision, delivered after weeks of hearings.
Defence lawyers immediately said they would appeal against the ruling, describing it as “inhumane and unjust”.
Kalejs left Britain for Australia last January after Nazi hunters tracked him down to a retirement home in Lutterworth, Leicestershire.
Home Secretary Jack Straw previously insisted there was nothing Britain could have done to bring him to trial.
Kalejs had already been ordered to leave the United States and Canada because of allegedly lying about his wartime record.
Latvia indicted him for allegedly taking part in atrocities during the 1941 -44 occupation when 80,000 Jews were killed.
He is accused of being a guard at the Salaspils concentration camp near Riga, where Jews and Russian prisoners of war were executed, tortured or died of malnutrition.
Jewish and human rights groups claim he was an officer in the Arajs Kommando, a Nazi-sponsored death squad responsible for the murder of 30,000 Latvian Jews. He denies all the charges.
He was arrested in Australia last December after Latvia requested his extradition. He is staying on bail at a home for the elderly.
Today, two months after Lithuanian prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Gecas, followed by an extradition request, Lord Janner urged the British authorities to act “as swiftly as possible.” His comments increased pressure on Justice Minister Jim Wallace, in charge of deciding the merits of the case.
Gecas, 85, who lives with his wife, Astrid, and their two children in Moston Terrace, is alleged to have been a member of a Lithuanian police battalion which collaborated with the Nazis during the Second World War.
His unit is said to have been responsible for the deaths of up to 30,000 civilians.
He was publicly named as a war criminal nine years ago and then lost a libel case, during which the judge said he was satisfied Gecas was responsible for war crimes. But the Crown Office decided there was not enough evidence for a criminal prosecution.
Failure to see him brought to trial contributed to Britain’s recent poor showing in a league table by the Jewish Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
Mr Wallace told the Scottish Parliament two weeks ago he had asked for further details on Gecas from the Lithuanian authorities.
Lord Janner, Britain’s leading Holocaust campaigner and secretary of the cross-party parliamentary war crimes working group at Westminster, said: “The authorities should move as swiftly as possible to deal with this horrendous case. He should be extradited and tried without delay. I’m concerned at any delay in this matter.”
SNP MSP Lloyd Quinan said: “The lack of urgency over this whole situation is appalling.
“For the Scottish Executive to drag its heels like this puts Scotland in a very bad light.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said officials could not be contacted to update the position.
Gecas, who was admitted to hospital earlier this month after suffering a suspected stroke, denies the allegations. His lawyer has said he may be too ill to stand trial.
The Guardian (London)
August 13, 1997
Duncan Campbell, ‘Alleged Nazi War Criminal dies at 86’
THE first man to be brought to court under modern war crimes legislation has died in hospital.
Szymon Serafinowicz died in hospital last Thursday, aged 86, his solicitor, Ted Dancey, said yesterday. He had been ill since April.
In January, an Old Bailey jury decided that Serafinowicz was unfit to stand trial on three counts of murders said to have taken place in Belorussia – now Belarus – when it was under Nazi occupation in 1941 and 1942.
Mr Dancey said yesterday that his client’s condition had deteriorated after the death in April of his younger son.
Serafinowicz moved to Britain after the war, settled in Surrey with his Polish -born wife, who died in 1993, and worked as a carpenter. He was arrested in 1993 under the 1991 War Crimes Act.
He was charged originally with four murders in the villages of Kryniczne and Dolmatowszczyzna and the town of Mir between November 1941 and March 1942 when he had been first police chief and then police district commander working with the Nazis. One case was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service before trial.
Witnesses against him were due to fly from South Africa, Israel, the United States and Siberia. Serafinowicz denied the offences.
His lawyers argued at the Old Bailey that he was suffering from senile dementia, which made it impossible for him to understand fully the trial process. The jury heard from defence and prosecution psychiatrists about his ability to follow the case.
Serafinowicz, who appeared to be frail, was allowed to move out of the dock and sit with his lawyers. The jury decided unanimously he was not fit to plead and the case was dropped.
His prosecution raised the issue of whether similar cases should be brought after such a length of time. Four more cases are pending after investigations identified 369 people – 112 of them deceased – as being suspected war criminals who moved to Britain after the war.
David Cesarani, of the all-party parliamentary war crimes group, said yesterday: “Justice has caught up with him very late in the day. The fact that there was no verdict in this case leaves open the question of whether he was guilty or innocent. If this case had been pursued with energy and efficiency at an early stage he may have been acquitted and lived without a shadow over him or been convicted and spent a time in prison.”
Former Labour MP Lord Greville Janner, vice-president of the World Jewish Congress and chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said he was disappointed that Serafinowicz had not been brought to trial sooner.
A 1940s war crimes investigator himself, Lord Janner said: “There was an abundance of evidence alleging individual and mass murders against him. I am sorry that he was not tried while he was fit enough to stand. War criminals have managed to evade prosecution under our system of justice for decades. There were absolutely no reasons why he should have escaped charges for ever.
“The CPS had a huge file of powerful evidence against him. He was accused of individual involvement in more than 3,000 murders.
“His defence was that he saved a few lives. But all Nazi killers saved families. It was like an insurance policy.
“Serafinowicz was typical. There were thousands of killers involved in carrying out the Holocaust – and not just Germans. The allegations accuse him of being a typical Nazi killer on a massive scale. I’m very sorry that more have not come to court.”
One of the principal witnesses against Serafinowicz, Oswald Rufeisen, a Jew who posed as a Pole to save his own his life and secure interpreting work with Serafinowicz, said he felt no bitterness towards him. “About the dead, say nothing but good. About his judgment, he has his own judge, I cannot judge him.”
I am a firm believer that violence, abuse and assault (sexual or non-sexual) are never made better or worse on account of the gender, sexuality, ethnicity or any other factor of the perpetrator or victim, and for this reason refuse to lend support to White Ribbon Day, only to gender-neutral campaigns against domestic or other violence. I am very concerned to think there are parents who think it is somehow less serious if someone gives black eyes to, knocks out teeth from or breaks a rib of a son than of a daughter – or for that matter indulges in violence which does not do serious physical harm, but is intended to control and demean them, with no easy way out. I do not believe there is a difference, nor with other forms of psychological or emotional abuse.
It is not surprising when sectarian women’s organisations try to dismiss the importance of domestic violence against men, massage figures to minimise it, and so on , and in general what they say on such matters should be ignored. When it comes to men who are indifferent to or contemptuous about violence against other men (whether committed by men or women), I wonder whether one is witnessing just another rendition of macho competitiveness, happy to beat up or see beat up others in the belief this will impress the ladies; naturally I am sceptical about the motives of many such men.
But today I wanted to copy, anonymously but with permission, something posted last week by a friend on a Facebook thread, which I found moving and also very humane (quite exceptionally so) in the refusal simply to indulge in hate against his abuser. Remember that it is people like this whose experiences are being sneered at with contempt and dismissed by so many.
I was a victim of violence when you taught me. My (then) wife was half my size and I am a certified martial arts instructor, so her violent attacks were of very minor physical threat, but I believe that I have experienced for many years the psychological devastation of being severely abused by someone. The intent and attempt to do something to someone is enough to cause severe depression, lower your ability to function and lead you very close to suicide. Near the end of the relationship, I would cry for no reason for 45 minutes. I realise that I did not feel the health impact that a woman would feel physically when she’s up against a man, but I think that psychologically the only difference was that it took more time for me to reach that low point that women would reach much faster because of the physical effects they suffer. I had to protect my child in many ways from her and of course stayed on for as long as I could for the sake of my child.
[…] [Gaps represent other people’s contributions in the thread]
Thanks for the support. I haven’t been faced with this [people saying ‘it’s not the same’ or ‘surely they can defend themselves’] however, as whenever I have spoken about this matter, I have always explained that the difference between a male victim and a female victim is time. The results are the same psychologically. Also, lets face it, I am not someone you can injure even if you try. However, attacking a man who is not fit, could result in injury even if the assailant is female and furthermore, a man’s psychology is even more fragile then, because of the matters of masculinity shame that can occur as well as the matter of the law being on the side of the woman if the man fights back. It is complicated, very, but I believe that there is much awareness around the subject. And I can confirm that it is soul destroying in other ways than the inverted experience. Lets make it clear… violence, oppression and abuse have no gender… What changes with gender is the time and the means by which it occurs.
I’ve always felt females at more adept at psychological abuse than men. Many would even admit that the bullying among their own gender can be more nasty than male equivalent. Maybe knowledge of their own physical limitations is part of it, but also I feel by nature they’re simply more astute socially, better communication skills that can serve bad and twisted motivations if they have them. In circumstances of bullying a male, this amounts to knowing very well where his balls are (metaphorically speaking). I can only speak for the circles I’ve moved in, but it seems there’s a good percentage who loathe to be remotely like that, fortunately.
Dear Ian, feel free to use anything I write publicly. For me the struggle was to realise that I was being abused. Men, as you point out in your “boys suppress it” post, put up with it and they “take it like a man”. After I realised what was going on, speaking about it was the only thing I could do to get some relief. I did try to plead with her to consider the consequences of her actions, but there was no changing her. I don’t feel any shame about it, I have moved on. I wish to only state one thing that I think is important: When a man abuses a woman its nearly always physical rather than mental. This is detrimental to body and mind, for the mind suffers as a result of the physical pain and violation as well as the feeling of worthlessness caused by the actions of the assailant. When a woman abuses a man its nearly always mental rather than physical. Persistence is key in this behaviour, a sense of extortion on issues of control, psychological extortion, making the other person feel totally useless and unworthy. The effects are detrimental to the mind and the body, because the mind starts to develop reflexes that destroy proper function in society and can lead to eating disorder, bad habits and simply a state of physical withering created by the lack of motivation. If it leads someone to severe depression, the edge of murder or suicide (you never know which will come first if not both), it is an extreme case. I think it happens more often than we think, but we “take it like a man”.
I feel that all this abuse that occurs from both genders is a result of many things lost in society today… our true sense of identity and the true source of our self worth. The assailant in reality is the one who is weaker and wishes to gain strength from the victim by imposing their shortcomings to those who do not share the trait. I feel strongly that it is the assailant who needs the truest of help, not so much the victim. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the victim needs psychological relief and healing from the attack, but the victim can in most cases return to some sort of normality. The person bringing the real problems, in need of the real psychological turn around is the assailant who doesn’t feel enough self esteem to try and earn what they want via an acceptable route and therefore they look for someone to weaken to their level and “feed” off. But, society does not tolerate them. This puts them in a vicious circle of being the ones that need the real help, but not the ones to receive it. And that’s where the victim gets trapped in the vicious circle. The victim, surely after sharing some kind of positive experience with the assailant and therefore feeling love and compassion, sees that the assailant is in pain and in fact is crying out for help and therefore tries to help them “get through it”. I believe that this is why women who are severely hurt by male assailants return. Its because we all know that there is zero tolerance or assistance for a rapist wife beater. And I know that this is a reason I stayed on with my ex wife as long as I did. Because, I believed that she just needed help. But, there was no one but me willing to help her and I was not someone who knew how to help her. And turning her in was no help. It wasn’t an issue of witnesses, I had several witnesses who had seen how she behaved. It was an issue of her being treated like a leper once the stigma would fall on her. In the long run, it is more difficult being the the abuser than being the abused. The abused, at least in our society, has options. the abuser does not.
You give me too much credit. I don’t have as much sympathy for my ex abuser as comes through perhaps in my last comment. For she took her revenge when I stopped it all, I assure you. I am simply stating something which I think is an oversight by everyone. Having been the victim, I know the answer to the questions: Why did you stay on so long? Why did you go back twice after you left? The answer is simple: The “victim” is usually the healthier individual and it is healthy to wish to stand by someone you love or have common interests with (such as a child). Its always the bully who is in pain and wishes others to share it with, not the victim. If the bully is relieved, there is no victim. I believe that bullying, abuse, rape, etc is something that can be foreseen in an individual. I, for one, have a keen eye these days for such traits in people. So, I pose a question: What if rather than demonising the abuser, certain mechanisms could be put into place to relieve the abuser from what is haunting them and leading them to the abuse? I’m not talking about precrime like in “Minority Report”, I’m talking about a movement that will give abusers a way out. Scaring the shit out of them with propaganda that demonises them only makes them more abusive: “I’m scared out of my mind so I’ll scare you out of yours to bring you to my level, so you can keep me company.” In effect, that is what abusers are thinking. And on sexual predators: “You hurt me by not wanting me, so I’ll hurt you by forcing you.” In child abuse: “I was scared as a child, so you should be too… its the way of things.” I believe that any form of abuse is the result of years of development and decay and it could be stopped at any moment, if people stop demonising “the dark side”. We quite often become what others expect us to. Someone can easily become the abuser. My ex wife was a victim of much domestic abuse while she lived with her parents. She expected me to become like that, but I grew up in an environment where violence was unthinkable, so I couldn’t. How easy though, would I become the abuser if I had grown up in an even mildly violent environment, because she expected me to be. And when I didn’t, she took on the role of violent abuser. How many times in her life could that haunting have been alleviated? But, were there options? Truly? All you hear is: “Abusers, beware. We will find you.”
There just isn’t enough understanding of how all this works…not because the data doesn’t exist, but because the victim’s rights take priority over the abuser’s. And that makes it worse for the victim as well, for the abuser is demonised for a small percentage of who they are, which makes the victim feel guilt… its such a mess…
Many different stories involving alleged organised or institutionalised abuse of children have been prominent in the press during since February: about the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), and their links to the National Council of Civil Liberties, about abuse in a range of top private schools (especially Colet Court and St Paul’s), about the hideous range of abuse carried out by late Liberal MP Cyril Smith and then further in special schools in Rochdale, trials (with both convictions and acquittals) of celebrities as a result of Operation Yewtree, further information concerning the shocking abuse cases in children’s homes run by Islington Council, and new stories relating to abuse in Lambeth, with suggestions that a detective was taken off the case after a cabinet minister from the Blair era became a suspect (see also here, here, here and here, whilst the inquiry into historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland (the largest inquiry of its type in the UK) opened at the beginning of the year. Other investigations continue, most notably Operations Fairbank, Fernbridge and Cayacos, resulting from the questions put to the House of Commons by Tom Watson MP in October 2012, and dealing in particular with suggestions of a VIP paedophile ring, involving senior politicians from various parties, and centered upon the terrible abuse scandal at the Elm Guest House in Barnes (see also the various links here), and the possibility that children may have even been trafficked to this place from a children’s home in Grafton Close in nearby Richmond to service VIP guests. Cyril Smith and the late Sir Anthony Blunt, former Master of the Queen’s Pictures and Soviet spy, have been named as visitors to Elm Guest House.
The courage of a few good politicians
The Labour MP for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk, co-author with Matthew Baker of the excellent Smile for the Camera: The Double Life of Cyril Smith (London: Biteback Publishing, 2014) has reiterated the claims that Smith was not working alone, and was part of a wider VIP ring; indeed Danczuk has gone so far as to argue that if charges had been brought against Smith, he would have named others and the resulting scandal could have toppled a government. Certainly the same possibility would have applied for the Blair government if a serving minister there had been charged with the abuse of children.
Danczuk has indicated that he is considering using Parliamentary Privilege to name one especially prominent former cabinet minister who was part of a ring with Smith and involved at Elm Guest House. This is almost certainly a figure from the Thatcher era whose identity is well-known on the internet, but has not been otherwise made public in the mainstream media in this context, though he was named when such allegations were dismissed thirty years ago. Various reports from Exaro News and The People newspaper (see links above) have indicated that a former cabinet minister was involved, with stories of videos and the possibility of some survivors being able to identify this figure . I hope that if Danczuk is secure in his conviction here that he will indeed name this figure, as unfortunately there is reason (on the basis of precedent) to have doubts as to the possibility of full investigations being able to proceed without external interference. This name, if made public, may cause shockwaves both in the UK and wider afield, and in such a context it would be very hard to resist the call for a proper public inquiry (and, perhaps more importantly, it would be harder for darker forces to try and prevent the police investigating this figure properly).
Danczuk and Watson are heroic politicians for our time, both risking huge amounts of approbrium and antipathy from colleagues and others (as Watson has detailed in his tribute to Danczuk). As a campaigner and independent researcher into abuse in musical education and also into PIE (about which numerous earlier blog posts give primary source information) I have had the pleasure to meet with Watson. No words can praise highly enough his complete dedication to these issues, as demostrated earlier with the allegations about the media and phone hacking. A few other MPs have shown courage and determination with these issues: Lucy Powell, Labour MP for Manchester Central, has continued to pursue the issue of abuse in music education and safeguarding (with Chetham’s and the Royal Northern College of Music both lying within her constituency), whilst Conservative MP Tim Loughton, former Children’s Minister, also speaking out about the scale of organised abuse as can be read in a speech he made to Parliament last September detailed here in Hansard.
But these politicians (and a few others) are relatively few and far between. Others have tried to fudge or ignore the issues, perhaps knowing of the fact that a full inquiry could uncover information deeply unsettling for all the three major British political parties (and maybe several others as well). As the late Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens found, pursuing the issue of organised child abuse involving prominent individuals is a lonely cause. When Dickens claimed that children were being abused on a council estate in Islington, the Labour MP for Islington North (my own MP), Jeremy Corbyn, claimed that Dickens was ‘getting cheap publicity at the expense of innocent children’ (see here for more on this story). When Dickens tried in 1984 to introduce a bill proscribing organisations like PIE, Labour MP Clare Short claimed the reason for the bill was ‘publicity for the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens)’ and spoke of ‘cheap publicity stunts’.
The left, paedophile organisations, and organised abuse
During this period, as has been amply chronicled recently, there were sections of the left, even the far left. Investigation of pro-paedophile literature (which I have done extensively, finding an alarming amount of this in mainstream publications, including scholarly literature, which I will document at a later date) shows no shortage of individuals (even including several prominent feminists) who sought to link the issue of paedophilia to supposedly progressive attitudes towards gender and sexuality. NCCL were affiliated to PIE for an extended period, and took out advertisements in PIE publications Understanding Paedophilia and Magpie, whilst their 1976 evidence to the Criminal Law Revision Committee (some of which reads almost exactly in the manner of a good deal of pro-paedophile literature) included the astonishing claim that ‘Childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in, with an adult result in no identifiable damage’. It is clear that for a period NCCL (and also various gay rights organisations) were influenced, possibly even infiltrated, by paedophile campaigners, a process Christian Wolmar has traced (drawing in part upon first-hand experience of encountering paedophile groups) over a range of leftist organisations in the 1970s (this is also documented in Lucy Robinson’s book Gay Men and the Left in Post-War Britain: How the Personal got Political (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011)).
Current Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman MP was Legal Officer for the NCCL from 1978 to 1982; she joined the organisation two years after the Criminal Law Revision Committee submission, but no evidence has yet been provided of her – or her husband, Jack Dromey (who was on the committee of NCCL from 1970 to 1979, and has claimed to have opposed PIE but given no evidence for this) opposing the influence of PIE at the organisation.
How has Harman responded to the latest flurry of press attention? After the story was re-hashed in the Daily Mail in mid-February (having appeared sporadically for several years previously); it had become clearer how deeply PIE were involved with a wide range of abuse scandals, an involvement which has become even clearer in the subsequent months. In particular, the sinister figure of the late Peter Righton (files relating to whom provided the impetus for the police investigations which opened in 2012 – see also this 1994 documentary), who weaned his way to influential positions in the social work profession, was a high-up member of PIE, and has been linked to a network of abusers in public schools and to a range of cases of abuse in children’s homes; one victim has linked Righton to Cyril Smith (Smith may have met Righton when he was Liberal spokesperson on social services from 1976 to 1977). The journalist Eileen Fairweather, who broke the story of widespread abuse in Islington children’s homes for the Evening Standard, wrote of how one woman recalled being told openly by Righton at a social function in the 1970s how he enjoyed having sex with boys in children’s homes; Righton apparently assumed that as a lesbian she ‘wouldn’t break ranks’, and the woman went along with what she called ‘a typical gay man’s excuse – that he didn’t use force’ (she later gave a statement to the investigators) (cited in Christian Wolmar, Forgotten Children: The Secret Abuse Scandal in Children’s Homes (London: Vision Paperbacks, 2000)). Righton also wrote an endorsement which was used on the cover of Tom O’Carroll’s book Paedophilia: The Radical Case (ibid). Elsewhere, Fairweather has written of the deep links between Islington Council and PIE.
Harman’s first response was completely defensive: in a statement which was printed in the Mail on February 24th, she referred to the allegations as a ‘smear campaign’, and denied any connection with NCCL policy on lowering the age of consent to ten, or opposing the law on incest, as in the 1976 submission, pointing out that she did not work for NCCL until two years later, and denying that her involvement with NCCL implied any further support for PIE. However, as the paper pointed out, the 1976 submissions remained policy in 1978, when Harman joined, and she does not appear to have raised any objections then; furthermore, the affiliation continued throughout her time as Legal Officer. In a statement published together with Harman’s, Dromey argued that he was ‘at the forefront of repeated public condemnations of PIE and their despicable views’
As the media response grew louder, Harman appears to have realised that this would not be enough, and gave an interview with Laura Kuenssberg for Newsnight, again denying this amounted to anything more than a smear. She pointed out that PIE were one of a thousand organisations affiliated to NCCL, and that any organisation could affiliate. Ed Miliband (in what appears to have been his only statement on the whole controversy) backed Harman absolutely on the same day, reiterating her claim that the story amounted purely to a smear (Sam Coates, ‘Miliband backs Harman over ‘paedophile smears’, The Times, February 25th, 2014). It was later revealed that Harman and Dromey may not have been so confident about what journalists might find, and they trawled the NCCL archives in Hull themselves (their names can be found in the ledgers) on February 24th, five days after the story broke, and on the same day as the Newsnight interview. The Mail responded by pointing out that in the year when Harman joined the organisation, PIE was listed in the book The NCCL Guide to Your Rights as one of eighteen organisations which ‘may be helpful’ to readers, alongside the likes of the Family Planning Association and Rape Crisis Centre, and also that by 1982, the constitution of an affiliated institution had to be ‘approved by the Committee’ (PIE continued to be affiliated for a further year). The Telegraph also viewed other internal documents that cast serious doubts upon Harman’s claims that PIE had been ‘pushed to the margins’ back in 1976, before she went to NCCL, revealing that NCCL gay-rights spokesperson Nettie Pollard (probably the key link between NCCL and PIE, who has elsewhere herself been named as a member (#70) of PIE) had sat on a fourteen-strong NCCL gay rights committee with PIE chairman Tom O’Carroll (O’Carroll later thanked Pollard for her help in the foreword to his 1980 book Paedophilia: The Radical Case), and printed a letter from Harman forwarding a query from Pollard as to how to table amendments to the Protection of Children Bill in the Lords in 1978; this story was also pursued briefly in The Guardian. At this stage a spokesman for Harman had to concede that Pollard had promoted paedophilia and exploited the gay rights committee. Most damningly, the Mail printed a copy of the NCCL advert taken out in PIE journal Magpie in 1979 (which I had earlier revealed, though omitted at this stage to mention the earlier 1977 advert in Understanding Paedophilia).
Various of these articles drew attention in particular to how Harman herself urged changes to the 1978 Protection of Children Bill by saying that ‘images of children should only be considered pornographic if it could be proven the subject suffered’; this is perhaps the most crucial piece of information, and which comes dangerously close to PIE-style thinking, by positing that something only becomes pornographic if the child considers it as such (rather than in a statutory fashion). Though Harman protested that this was to stop parents being criminalised for taking beach or bathing pictures of their children (which would in itself be fair), these proposed amendments went further than that, as a lawyer would surely know.
As the furore continued, Patricia Hewitt made a reasonably decent and measured statement (after a period when she was uncontactable), claiming that NCCL was ‘naive and wrong to accept PIE’s claim to be a ‘campaigning and counselling organisation’ that ‘does not promote unlawful acts’, accepting responsibility and apologising, saying she ‘should have urged the executive committee to take stronger measures to protect NCCL’s integrity from the activities of PIE members and sympathisers’, though disclaiming any part in the ‘proposal to reduce the age of consent’, and saying nothing about the 1976 Criminal Law Revision Committee submission. Hewitt’s retirement from her position as a non-executive director of BT was also announced a few weeks later, though it is not clear whether this was related.
But there was no such humility from Harman, whose public school haughtiness deserves consideration just as does that of David Cameron or George Osborne; in an interview for The Times in early March, she adopted a contemptuous tone, continuing to refuse to apologise, talked about intending to be Deputy Prime Minister, and even talking about how she was ‘spending a lot of money on my hair, which is the same colour as when I was 33 [….] I’m not quite sufficiently politically correct to be able to stop it’, giving the impression that this mattered more than the ongoing stories about abuse (Sam Coates, ‘I want to be deputy PM, says Harman as she stands firm over paedophiles’, The Times, March 8th, 2014).
Former Head of the Obscene Publications Squad Michael Hames (author of The Dirty Squad (The Inside Story of the Obscene Publications Squad)) argued that ‘the NCCL legitimised the Paedophile Information Exchange’, and that Harman, Dromey and Hewitt ‘made a huge mistake. At the very least they should acknowledge, publicly, that they got it wrong’. But this would not be forthcoming from either Harman or Dromey. The current director of Liberty (the renamed NCCL), said that past paedophile infiltration of the organisation was a matter of ‘continuing disgust and horror’, statement endorsed by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.
A civil liberties organisation should defend the civil liberties of all people, including those whose views they might otherwise despise and reject. The American Civil Liberties Union has defended the right to free speech of the Klu Klux Klan; in my view, they are absolutely right to do so, for using fascistic techniques of censorship is no way to combat fascist ideology and organisations. Paedophiles have rights and civil liberties as well (and I have no interest in debating with those people who would deny that they do); were the NCCL simply to be defending these, or indeed fighting against the rather archaic law of ‘Conspiracy to Corrupt Public Morals’, then their actions should be applauded. Furthermore, it would be rash to censor even a debate on the precise age of consent, which varies slightly between different Western countries.
But NCCL’s support for PIE went further than this. I do not believe Harman, Dromey or Hewitt to have been active supporters of the abuse of children themselves; however, at a time when PIE was at its height, they were all intimately involved with an organisation which not only allowed PIE to affiliate (would Harman have been so happy with a group which advocated that a man can beat his wife if she is disobedient, or a fundamentalist Christian anti-gay organisation?), but also advertised in its own deeply unpleasant publications (see the ample amount of material I have published on this blog here, here and here) and appear to have been influenced by aspects of PIE thinking in their policy, as well as having PIE members on their own committees. No clear evidence has been provided for any of these three figures having opposed this, unlike with Peter Hain, say. PIE’s strategy was to infiltrate and influence mainstream gay rights and civil liberties organisations towards their own ends; Harman, Dromey and Hewitt stand as appearing culpable in allowing this to happen, and in the process adding a degree of respectability to that very paedophile movement which looks to have been involved in the worst cases of organised abuse.
As further investigations into the latter continue, it would be a miracle if the involvement of leading PIE members is not evoked on many future occasions, and many more questions asked about just how this organisation and the ideologies it espoused came to win a degree of acceptance especially on the liberal left (two very thoughtful articles on this question have recently been published by Eileen Fairweather and Christian Wolmar). However, all figures associated with the Labour leadership appear to have treated this as an issue primarily of the reputations of Harman and Dromey (Hewitt is less active in politics today and no longer in Parliament). Harman’s own self-centered attitudes and absolute refusal to concede that this might be about more than her, has precluded the leadership from really commenting at all on the many other stories which have been further illuminated, an intolerable state of affairs. I would personally have difficulty campaigning for Labour if this situation continues.
The need for a decisive lead from Labour and Ed Miliband
The potential situation for Labour is grave: senior figures such as Harman, Dromey or Margaret Hodge (in charge of Islington Council during the period when paedophiles manage to infiltrate their children’s homes, and who tried to dismiss newspaper reports claiming this – but amazingly went on to become Children’s Minister under Tony Blair) stand likely to be found to have been at least complacent if not complicit in a situation which enabled PIE, and as a result widespread abuse, to flourish. If coupled with revelations about a Blairite cabinet minister, this could cast an unremovable shadow over the whole Blair era. Danczuk has written of how ‘it seemed that a fair few on the Left, including some who have subsequently become key figures in the Labour Party were fooled into giving this hideous group [PIE] shelter’, part of the situation which enabled Cyril Smith to act with relative impunity – he does not name the figures in question, but there is little question that he is referring to Hewitt, Harman and Dromey. The dismissive statements of Corbyn and Short, at a time when Dickens was fighting practically a one-man campaign against PIE, look like a form of petty tribalism which in this context could be dangerous; more ominously, some other Labour names have been mooted in terms of visitors to the Elm Guest House. Eileen Fairweather has described the type of Stalinist thinking to be encountered on the left when there are abuse allegations involving gay men, whilst some researchers into abuse committed by women, such as Michelle Elliott or Jackie Turton, have encountered similar resistance to any investigation of the subject. It would seem as if for some on the left, child abuse only matters when it can be exploited to serve a particular type of gender/sexuality politics; when the perpetrators are women or gay men, some might prefer that the abuse go unchecked*.
All of this remains at the level of allegations, for sure, but it seems unlikely that an investigation would not do damage to the Labour Party. But this is equally true for the Liberal Democrats because of Cyril Smith, and very much so for the Conservative Party, with a serious of prominent figures also having been mooted as Elm Guest House visitors (one of them still in the House of Commons today), not to mention the as yet far-from-clarified situation involving the late Peter Morrison, about whom I have blogged at length, involving allegations (based upon accounts by Conservative politicians) of cover-up and even bribery, and that Morrison was linked to the North Wales abuse scandals.
I am a member of the Labour Party; I was unable to stay supporting them following the Iraq War, but rejoined after Tony Blair left the leadership and have had high hopes of Ed Miliband, who I voted for as leader. I look to the Labour Party to protect the interests of ordinary citizens against powerful forms of exploitation, and can hardly imagine an issue Labour should be opposing and attacking more strongly than the existence of networks of VIPs using their position to exploit and abuse children sexually, protected through friends in high places. Miliband showed great resolve over the issue of Murdoch and hacking; now he needs to do the same of the issue of organised and institutional abuse. His silence (and that of most other senior Labour politicians) to date on the issue, save to defend Harman as mentioned earlier, is no response befitting of a Prime-Minister- and government-in-waiting; as with other party leaders, the impression given is of one more concerned about protecting the reputation of a few of his colleagues than in investigating extremely serious allegations of abuse (just as has been seen in numerous other institutions facing abuse or cover-up allegations relating to some of their members).
This should not be a partisan issue, and attempts by all sides to exploit it for party political advantage are crass in the extreme. Ed Miliband has the opportunity to change this and call for an all-purpose public inquiry with which he and his party will fully co-operate, which would put real pressure on the other parties to do the same, as he should also demand. This would require a similar level of commitment from his senior colleagues; if some are not prepared to give this commitment, then Miliband must make clear that he is no longer in a position to lend them support.
[*As for example in the case of the American feminist Kate Millett, who when asked in an interview (originally published in Loving Boys (New York: Semiotext(e), 1980), pp. 80-83) ‘Do you think that a tender loving erotic relationship can exist between a boy and a man?’ she replied ‘Of course, or between a female child and an older woman’ and also said that ‘ part of a free society would be that you could choose whomever you fancied, and children should be able to freely choose as well’. Millett’s book Sexual Politics (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1969) remains a standard feminist text, but I believe on the basis of this interview anything she says about sexual politics should be considered suspect. ]
It is nearly ten months since the conviction of Michael and Kay Brewer on charges of sexual assault whilst Michael Brewer was Director of Music at Chetham’s School of Music, during a tragic trial in the course of which the victim, Frances Andrade, took her own life. Since this conviction, there have been a flood of allegations relating to widespread sexual, physical and emotional abuse at all of the five specialist music schools in the UK (as for example with the cases of Marcel Gazelle and Robert Waddington), and all the major music colleges as well, as well as further allegations pointing to a widespread culture of collusion, complicity and cover-up of these practices within these institutions. Police investigations have proceeded, and to date there have been a number of arrests of individuals connected to Chetham’s, the Royal Northern College of Music, the Royal Academy of Music, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, some of which may result in criminal charges. However, police have made it clear that it is not possible for them to investigate cases where the perpetrator is now dead, where the victim was over 16 and the events in question took place before the 2003 Sexual Offences Act, or in other cases (especially concerning serious psychological and emotional abuse) where there is no direct criminality involved. Furthermore, it is beyond the scope of a police investigation to look deeper into questions of institutional responsibility for this phenomenon, or the wider culture and values of musical education which may have played a part in allowing these alleged events to happen. Beyond this, in the close-knit world of classical music, where it is practically impossible for victims to remain anonymous even if not named in the press, there has grown since February an atmosphere of fear, intimidation and ostracisation from some quarters (including other musicians and some alumni communities), by individuals disdaining anything which might blacken the names of various ‘great musicians’ or taint the name of institutions, such as can act as a deterrent towards those who might have thought of coming forward. Such a deterrent also has to be set alongside knowledge of the terrible plight of Andrade, which remains in many people’s minds. Some of the institutions are clearly treating this primarily as an issue of their own reputations, with Chetham’s having been revealed to be employing a crisis management firm; some correspondence from former pupils, parents or other interested parties has been brushed off in a breezy manner. Furthermore, resistance to genuinely addressing the problem is growing as part of a wider backlash, as can be found in some comments posted under the regular updates on the subject on the blog of Norman Lebrecht (Slipped Disc), and also in recent debates conducted in the Times Educational Supplement (see my separate post here and also some comments on the ensuing debate here)
Only a full public inquiry into sexual and other abuse in musical education is likely to get to the bottom of this alleged widespread corrosive abuse and ensure both that those who have suffered are heard in safety, and proper recommendations are made to ensure this could never happen again. In February such a petition was set up and garnered over 1000 signatories over just a week, including a huge number of former students at UK specialist music schools and colleges. This was re-opened in May and further signatures added. It has been sent to head teachers, directors of music and college principals, and also to government ministers responsible for education and their shadow counterparts. Whilst to date no indication of an inquiry has yet been received, together with another person I have been having meetings at Parliament, and know that there is a planned meeting of sympathetic MPs from all parties in mid-December, with a view towards lobbying further. Various people have already written to their MPs urging them to support this, and a small caucus of such MPs is being formed. I would strongly urge all people sympathetic to this cause (whether or not they are musicians or have personal experiences) to write to their own MP as soon as possible. A copy of the petition as a PDF is given at the top of this message, and below I reproduce in edited form some text from an earlier blog post indicating how to set about this task. All support is needed now as soon as possible. Please do let others know about this as well.
If you receive a sympathetic reply from your MP, I would be most grateful if you could let me know, then I can forward their name to other interested MPs.
I would like to urge everyone who has signed the petition (and anyone else) to write to their local MP, and preferably as soon as possible. The more MPs are made aware of it by constituents, the stronger the political pressure for an inquiry will be in Parliament. If you are not aware of who is your local MP, go to http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/ and enter your postcode – you should be provided with full contact details for him/her. A basic template for the type of letter you might use which is printed below – naturally feel free to modify it or replace it with something else of your own. I would recommend including a short bit about yourself, in particular stressing any connection you might have to Chetham’s or any other musical institution. I have included a clause for those who might be prepared to meet with their local MP – several people have already made appointments for this. If anyone plans to do this and wants some further briefing, please do contact me. It is also naturally paramount to attach a copy of the petition, which is attached at the top of this post.
Thank you to everyone who has supported this campaign, and above all to those victims who have been brave enough to come forward. The following links feature some important broadcast features from earlier in the year:
The following article from today, by the pioneering Guardian journalist Helen Pidd, is especially important – http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/mar/26/chethams-music-school-sexual-abuse-inquiry
The full remarks of the judge prior to sentencing can be found here – warning, these are extremely graphic and could act as a trigger to some – http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/r-brewer-sentencing-remarks.pdf
I am particularly relieved that he chose to draw attention to the ways in which so many prominent people were prepared to back Brewer, in full knowledge of his crimes, because of some misguided ideas that his artistry mitigated against this.
Dear (Member of Parliament),
I am writing as a concerned constituent to ask you to support a petition calling for an independent inquiry into sexual and other abuse in specialist music education.
This petition has been signed by over 1000 people, the majority of them musicians, and includes over 300 former pupils from Chetham’s School of Music, one of the country’s leading specialist music schools.
The petition is attached as a PDF, and it can also be viewed online, with signatories and comments, at https://ianpace.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/re-opened-until-may-31st-2013-petition-for-an-inquiry-into-sexual-and-other-abuse-at-specialist-music-schools/ .
The call for this petition has come in the wake of the recent conviction of Michael Brewer and his wife, Hilary Kay Brewer, on charges of sexual assault against Frances Andrade whilst she was a student at the school. Michael Brewer was Director of Music at Chetham’s when the offences took place. Frances tragically took her life during the course of the trial, and a wide range of further allegations have, as a result of the court case, surfaced since the verdict.
One of the initiators of the petition, Ian Pace (firstname.lastname@example.org ), who has hosted it on his blog, has been contacted by a great many people with many other allegations to suggest that abuse was a widespread phenomenon, at least in former times, and that such abuse spread well beyond Chetham’s to other specialist music institutions throughout the country – many former victims are now finally feeling empowered, sometimes decades after the events in question, to go forward to the police.
On this basis, the signatories are calling for an inquiry into the many aspects of musical education and the workings of these institutions. It is hoped that an inquiry would set out to comprehend why and how such abusive behaviour could apparently so easily occur, and would seek to make certain that current and future procedures are robust enough to ensure that this may be prevented in the future, whilst safeguarding the best aspects of such education and protecting teachers as well.
The safeguarding of all children in education must be a priority to all, but the specialist nature of music education demands a vigorous approach to their safeguarding. The bonds between a music student and their teacher are, by their very nature, intense; the level of study is demanding and the commitment to the subject by both parties means that the relationship between student and teacher is a unique one.
I very much hope that you will see fit to give your own support to such an inquiry, which would, I believe, serve to strengthen the musical education in our country, for both current and future generations.
If you would like further information, [I would be more than happy to meet with you, or] you can contact the petition organiser, Ian Pace, at email@example.com
I received a message last week from another survivor of abuse in UK musical education, which has since been posted on the blog of Norman Lebrecht here. With permission, I am also reproducing it here. The author has told me of his wish for others to come forward about this and other cases. Even where the perpetrator is now dead, it is still important for there to be acknowledgment of what really went on; I would add that there still needs to be much wider and difficult questions asked about the nature of institutions and the culture of musical education which appears to have facilitated widespread abuse (and not just in the UK). At a recent debate organised by the Institute of Ideas at the Barbican Centre, which I attended, the sociologist Frank Furedi (author of the much-criticised Moral Crusades in an Age of Mistrust: The Jimmy Savile Scandal) argued that recent talk of abuse in musical education stemmed from a fear of ‘intimacy’, and expressed his concern above all that musical teachers were able to ‘touch the soul’, whilst the educationalist Heather Piper made out that the issue was one of self-aggrandisement on the part of the NSPCC and other institutions on the basis of what was argued to be just a few isolated historic cases. I find these attitudes contemptuous, though in milder form they were echoed by all but one of the other panellists and quite a number of audience members. More and more information is emerging all the time, further arrests are being made (including recently of a former teacher in a London college on multiple charges – see here); certainly everyone so accused must be granted the presumption of innocence, but if even a fraction of the allegations were true, this would evidence of something epidemic. I echo my correspondent’s sentiments below, and once again would urge further all those who care about this issue to contact their MPs ( to ask them to give their support to a public inquiry (for details of how to do so, see my earlier blog posts here). There will be an important meeting of all sympathetic MPs in December; the more there are, the greater the pressure will be.
If you would like to contact the author of the below, please feel free to e-mail me (at firstname.lastname@example.org) with your details, and I will forward them to him.
The tragic story of Frances Andrade and the revelations over the past year of sexual abuse at some of our most prestigious schools of music have stirred up painful memories for me dating from forty years ago.
In the 1970s, I studied piano at the Watford School of Music and was sexually abused over a four-year period by one of the teachers there. The abuse ended when my parents received a letter in the middle of term, stating that the man was no longer able to teach at Watford School of Music and I was then taught by someone else.
However, my abuser continued to teach at the Royal College of Music until 1995 when, I have since learned, he was convicted of a sexual offence. He died in 2004 and his obituary appeared in several daily newspapers.
The experience affected me deeply and stunted my emotional and sexual development. I became withdrawn, anxious and angry. For many years I was unable to form healthy, intimate relationships and bouts of deep depression have been a regular feature of my life.
As a result of intensive psychotherapy, I have been able to appreciate for the first time the seriousness of the damage I suffered but also to realise that I was not, as I used to think, to blame for what happened to me all those years ago. I know I am not my abuser’s only victim and if one of you is reading this, or if any of what I have written resonates with your own experience or knowledge of sexual abuse at either the Watford School of Music or the Royal College of Music in the period before 1995 it would be good to hear from you.
I tell my story here so not merely as an attempt to reach some closure on this painful episode, but hopefully to encourage other victims to tell their stories too.
Addendum: Another victim has chosen to share their story of abuse at a music school, which can be read on Slipped Disc here.
New article in Times Educational Supplement on abuse in musical education – and public debate on October 19th, Barbican CentrePosted: October 3, 2013
In May of this year (2013), the Times Educational Supplement printed an article by me on how the danger of abuse is especially acute within musical education – (Ian Pace, ‘The culture of music education lends itself to abuse’, TES, May 8, 2013, which can be read online here. In September, a response was printed by Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas (Claire Fox, ‘The line between good teaching and abuse’, TES, September 6, 2013, which can be read here). I believed this article to minimise and make light of the issue, and in particular Fox to be unwilling to consider what might be particular to music education that appears to have facilitated a very large amount of alleged abuse. My response has now been printed on their website – Ian Pace, ‘No music or art form is more important than the right of children to life safe from abuse’, TES, October 3, 2013, and can be read here.
As part of the Battle of Ideas event at the Barbican Centre, hosted by the Institute of Ideas, there will be a debate on Saturday October 19th, 1:30 pm – 3 pm, entitled ‘One to one tuition in the dock? The crisis in music schools’. Further details can be found here. Amongst the panellists are Frank Furedi (whose website is here), whose controversial writings have been very critical of responses to the Jimmy Savile affair and the subsequent Operation Yewtree. I feel that the panel chosen to discuss this issue looks rather one-sided, and so would strongly urge all those who care about the many types of abuse which can occur in music education and the wider music world to attend and ensure all types of opinions and experiences are heard.
Addendum: One point not addressed in my reply is where Fox says that ‘one result of the sexual abuse allegations has been calls to further regulate hands-on one-to-one tuition’. But the extent to which this mode of teaching is under threat is easily overstated – and the claims to that effect derive from a rather over-hasty headline by a sub-editor of a Guardian interview with the Principal of the Royal Northern College of Music, Linda Merrick (Helen Pidd, ‘One-to-one music tuition ‘may be abolished”, The Guardian, March 1, 2013, which can be read here). Merrick never says anything so forceful as that in the interview – the relevant quote is:
“As a sector, we will be looking at whether the one-to-one teaching model, which has been the model in the music world for years and years, can continue,” she said, stressing that such personal tuition has long been “a very important part of being a musician”.
I think all such models will benefit from continuous re-examination (my own views on the subject can be found in an interview with Classical Music magazine here). In general, as the cellist Michal Kaznowski, has suggested, a culture with more (figuratively) ‘open doors’, with students encouraged to co-operate, listen to each other’s lessons, and so on, might go a long way, beyond the guarded secrecy of the private one-to-one lesson. But I have seen no evidence of any likelihood that one-to-one teaching would be abolished in the foreseeable future – that is just scaremongering.
Since the TES article went online, I was copied into a important letter to Claire Fox, which I am reproducing here (anonymously) with permission:
I am pleased that you are debating the issue of abuse in music schools following the recent death of Frances Andrade and the subsequent outpouring of allegations of similar abuse. However, as someone who was also abused I am very concerned that the real issue is being clouded over by a total misunderstanding of what really goes on and I urge you to rethink the debate. Your debate could help prevent further abuse rather than further divide people on something that is irrelevant.
The issue is not one on one tuition: it is not a grope or inappropriate touch by a teacher in a music lesson that is the issue. It is the systematic, psychological grooming that goes on subtly until the “victim” is sufficiently weakened in order to “allow” sexual abuse to happen. This grooming can happen anywhere, and very easily, over a period of time: a simple flattering comment in the corridor after a lesson, a subtle complement then the withdrawal of praise. It is easy to do this in the highly competitive environment of specialist education where everyone is striving to be the best.
Until this is properly understood, there is no way that we as a society can prevent further abuse from taking place. None of the teachers at my boarding school – who were in loco parentis – did anything despite very obvious external signs that something was very wrong. Either they didn’t care or didn’t realise anything was wrong: both unacceptable. Many of those teachers are still there over 20 years later and the man who abused me continued to abuse girls there until one girl went to the police in 2002. However, he denied everything and is still teaching in other institutions as the girl and others who came forward could not face going to trial.
What needs to be done is simple:
Educate parents and teachers about grooming and spotting the signs of a child who is being abused
Educate children about grooming and what is appropriate behaviour (including touching) of teachers.
Please have the right debate.