It has become quite clear for an extended period how the monolithic categorisation of vast groups of people provided by some varieties of identity politics beloved of the liberal left is not only fatally dangerous but has demonstrably facilitated some forms of abuse of children, with liberal leftists preferring to allow children to continue to be abused when the alternative would be to indict some member of a group who they believe can never do any wrong. 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)). Fairweather has written bravely elsewhere (see here, here and here) on how paedophiles exploited wilful blind spots from many on the left in order to get away with things, and about how Islington Council continues to resist the full disclosure of how sustained abuse could go on under a left-wing council administration.
In a similar vein, the journalist Hugo Rifkind, in a dismissive and negating piece about current revelations of widespread abuse, asks whether, because ‘our modern, online paedo-panic lists are so heavily populated by Jews’ (to the best of my knowledge, only two or three Jewish names appear with any regularity, perfectly statistically possible), this is not ‘age-old blood libel, cast anew?’, concluding ‘Definitely, there’s a taste of that’ (Hugo Rifkind, ‘The powerful are different. Must be perverts; The notion of a huge paedophile conspiracy is dreamt up by irrational people convinced that ‘they’ are out to get ‘us”, The Sunday Times, July 15th, 2014).
I would be surprised if many abusers who are otherwise gay, lesbian, Jewish, Asian, female, or whatever, would not try and use these facts if they thought it would help them escape justice, and . Michele Elliot, who has researched female abusers, has detailed the vicious hostility she has encountered from some feminists for even addressing the issue – presumably those very same feminists would prefer for the children to continue to go on being abused than to have to question the simple binaries upon which their particular ideological variety depends.
In The Guardian, in September 1993, an article was reprinted from Shebang magazine, which I reproduce here. It details underage teenage girls’ crushes on female teachers, in several cases which led to sexual abuse, here portrayed in a wholly innocuous manner, very much in the manner of other paedophile literature, including magazines such as Magpie.
Fiona Sandler, ‘TO MISS WITH LOVE; Why would a schoolgirl be celebrating the end of the summer holidays? Because she is in love with her teacher. Here, four lesbians recall their own teenage crushes’
The Guardian, September 21st, 1993
WHEN I first saw Sandy, I was completely overwhelmed by her. I was 14 and she walked into the classroom smoking a cigarette and wrote “Fuck” on the blackboard. She was American and that didn’t happen at our school. It was an ex-private boys’ school and we were only the second intake of girls. They had to ship in female teachers – and it was considered churlish not to have at least five boyfriends.
My crush started off slowly and got bigger and bigger. I would write her poems in my essays. One time I’d written a poem all about where she lived – I’d found out and looked in the window. She read out the whole poem to the class. At the end I’d written: “I worship you so much, I have you on a pedestal.” She said: “The only reason you’ve got me on a pedestal is to look up my skirt” and threw it at me. I was mortified.
She suffered it for a long time, about two years. After one school disco I rang her up, said I had a problem and that she had to come and pick me up. She did; it was about 2am and she took me to Safeway’s car park. I told her I was in love with her and that I didn’t care, I just wanted to kiss her – and I made her snog me in the back of her maroon mini. I told her that I knew I was always going to feel like this about her, I didn’t fancy anyone else and I couldn’t get her off my mind. She said: “Look, nothing’s permanent”, drove me back to my mum and dad’s, gave me two Polo mints, said, “You’d better suck these” and that was that.
We used to hang out a bit together but it was all in my head. She knew about it but kept me at arm’s length.
In the meantime, I had become friendly with my French teacher and her husband, who also taught at the school. She was 25 and had just made the transition from student to teacher. I really fancied her and we became closer. For about a month her husband turned a blind eye – but then he went back to Paris.
One day I was at my house with my French teacher when my mum unexpectedly came home and opened the door. Her hair literally stood on end. I was naked, changing a record, with my French teacher lying on the bed – the last time they’d seen each other was at a parent and teacher night. I thought it was hilarious – 15 and my whole world was shattered. My mum ran next door to get our neighbours, who were police, to arrest us. She wouldn’t let us leave the house until my dad got home. When he arrived, he threw her out and told me that either I changed or left; he didn’t want my little brother turning into a poof. I knew I couldn’t change, so I went and lived with my teacher.
At the time, I was adamant that I wasn’t gay. I didn’t think I was gay until I was about 19, even though I had slept with loads of women. I thought I was bisexual.
IN MY second year, when I was 12 or 13, a new teacher came along, Miss Rogers. She was just gorgeous and when she asked me to play for the hockey team, I immediately said yes. It meant playing three or four times a week after school and getting up really early on a Saturday. I hated the game but she was the coach, so I knew she would be there. I’ll never forget the one time when our school won, I’d scored both goals, and at the end she came up and gave me a big hug. She was so happy and I was on cloud nine for days and days.
All this constant hockey playing kept on until my fourth year, when she asked me if I would try out for the Edinburgh Young Ladies’ hockey team. The situation was totally out of hand. I was playing hockey all the time to impress her, but I never enjoyed the game. It was just to be where she would be. I said yes, of course, because she was going to coach me personally. The try-outs were between three and four months away, and it meant a lot of time with her.
I was constantly attempting to get her attention. I dyed my fringe red so she would notice me. The hockey uniform was long green socks and I would wear one long green sock and one long white sock just because I thought there might be the remotest possibility that she would one day come up and ask me why my socks didn’t match.
She was always so nice to me. She was a big Gerry Rafferty fan, so I went out and bought all his albums. I remember constantly listening to Baker Street and it still always reminds me of coming home from hockey practice.
A week before the try-outs, I went for a coffee with her after practice. I asked her if she was with anyone and she said yes, and that she and her boyfriend were building a house together. I couldn’t believe it. She had to repeat it all again and then she told me they were engaged and planning to get married. That moment was the end of my hockey career. I never tried out – I gave it up completely.
I was 15 and heartbroken but I’m pleased I went through it. It was my first serious thing for a woman and it did make me know I was a dyke – I went out with my first girlfriend a couple of months later.
I WENT TO a big comprehensive school in the north of England and stood out in some ways for being popular and quite bright. Getting towards 16, I had the usual traumas of being different – I knew what lesbians were, but I certainly wasn’t into the idea of being one.
I assumed that none of my peers knew what was going on but one teacher did and she kept me behind one day. I was nervous, thinking I had done something wrong. She said she had noticed I’d changed – I wasn’t laughing as much – and that she was concerned. Was anything wrong? I said no, she accused me of lying and I flounced off. This was reported and I was told to apologise for being rude. I went along and she confronted me: “Maybe I should put it to you like this – you’re not like the other girls, are you?”
This hit the nail on the head for me. I just sat there and went to pieces in front of her, I couldn’t string a sentence together. She thought I needed to talk to someone about it, so she set up us meeting under the guise of extra exam tuition. I went to her house after school once a week and she would literally talk at me for an hour. My parents thought it was brilliant that she was taking an interest.
After the third time, she said to me: “Maybe I ought to tell you that I find you very attractive.” I had mixed feelings about it – I felt very honoured but I didn’t have the emotional capacity to deal with it. I did have a crush on her, which is probably what brought me to her attention, and if it had been left to run its course, that’s all it would have been.
As it happened, we did have a relationship but I was a nervous wreck at school. Her O level was the only one I failed. We saw each other for about 10 months and not a soul knew, which was very stressful. I had to lie to my parents and my friends, and everyone wanted know who the mystery man was.
The relationship ended when she said that I had to choose – either live with her or go. She didn’t want anyone to know, she just wanted me to come and live in her house. At 16, I was too young to cope with it; she was 12 years older. I thought: “I just can’t live like that.” Basically I was scared. If I asked her what would happen if we were found out, she’d say: “Nobody will find out if you keep your mouth shut.” The power she had was amazing.
Looking back now, I view the relationship as a good thing. It made me realise there were other people out there like me. It enabled me to know that I could make the choice but it also confused me in some ways. It was too much too soon. I was so young and inexperienced. I had moments, though, when I thought: “This is love.”
THE TEACHER I fell in love with seemed really young – she was 26 – had huge tits and was there when, at 14, I was feeling very vulnerable, just after my father had died.
I collected things she threw at me to shut me up, like bits of chalk; she threw a keychain once. I kept them in a little box in the attic. I had about 50 notes she’d written. I kept asking to go to the toilet to get them. I would trace her handwriting and smell the paper. I raked in her drawers at breaktime and memorised pieces of information about her. I knew all her registration numbers and the names and addresses of all the places where she had taught.
I would watch her play hockey – she was an international player. I was the only person standing and cheering in the rain. Once her clogs were stolen on a school outing and I lent her my trainers. I lied and said I only lived around the corner, and walked home in my socks just so she would have her feet in my training shoes for three whole hours.
When I told her I was in love with her, she said: “I’m very flattered but I’m not a homosexual. There’s nothing wrong with being one, though. When you leave school, you’ll meet more people like that but right now there aren’t any.”
I wrote massive passionate letters to her which I used to get her to read out loud to me at breaktime. She never got a break; I would always go up to the staff room to give her another letter: “I love you, I want you, I really fancy you. If I don’t spend my life with you, I will die. I need to have sex with you.” She’d then keep the letter, saying she was afraid of it falling into the wrong hands.
Summer holidays were the worst, I didn’t get to see her for six weeks, but I’d phone her four times a day. I would cycle to school to stare into the biology lab where she taught during termtime. I used to try to smell her in class and if I smelt her up close – she smelt of Rive Gauche perfume and tobacco – I’d want to faint, I was so in love with her.
I failed all my examinations because I loved her. Whenever she left the exam hall after supervising a test, I would leave as well, even if it was only 10 minutes into the exam, and follow her along the hall just to have three minutes alone with her.
We still meet up sometimes. She says it was the notes she couldn’t handle because she thought they would ruin her teaching career. She could cope when I was 13 or 14 but when I got to 16 and more mature, she couldn’t. We both went through such a lot together that we share a special place in each other’s hearts.
Being in love with her made me feel that being gay meant never being able to get who I wanted, any woman at all. It would always mean unrequited love, me in the background staring at some woman who was untouchable. I thought my whole life would be like that.
Interviews by Fiona Sandler.
This article first appeared in the June issue of Shebang.
Did the then-editor of the paper, Peter Preston (or that of Shebang), contact the authorities about these teachers, who might still be abusing other girls? Why was it all right to present these accounts in such an unmediated form?
I am not trying to deny the fact that those under the age of consent have sexual feelings – in my own case I can certainly recall such a thing from around age 8-9 – nor saying that when some explore such things with those of around their same age, it should always be viewed as wrong and criminalised. But the justification of adult sexual exploitation of children, on the grounds that the child wanted, enjoyed or consented to it, is odious in the extreme, and I see no difference between, say, the case of Michael Brewer towards the late Frances Andrade at my old school, or some of the cases detailed above, or that of Helen Goddard, trumpet teacher at City of London School for Girls, who groomed and exploited a girl at the school from age 13. One notorious apologist for this and child sex abuse was feminist Germaine Greer, who has also written a whole book on the subject (The Boy (London: Thames & Hudson, 2003)), and one proudly told the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘A woman of taste is a pederast – boys rather than men’ (see Greer in interview with Andrew Denton, September 15th, 2003). Of course, Greer’s pederasty is of little consequence to her various acolytes and cheerleaders; if it amounts simply to her masturbating in old age over the types of stills from Death in Venice which adorn her book, this may not be so worrying, but she helps to legitimise the sexual abuse of girls and boys; it is at least a relief that she never had children herself. One of Greer’s acolytes, Beatrice Faust, contributed an important chapter to the paedophile volume Betrayal of Youth (London: CL Publications, 1986). Another contributor to this volume, Tuppy Owens, happily printed text from a publication entitled Girl Love, which featured pseudo-pornographic drawings of young children, in her Sex Maniac’s Diary, and would also make a point of listing PIE at every address it occupied (see Tim Tate, Child Pornography: An Investigation (London: Methuen, 1990), pp. 130, 161-162). Beatrix Campbell, in a wholly misguided defence of Harriet Harman from February, claims that only men advocated paedophilia, as if women were completely immune to this. Campbell is demonstrably wrong, in exactly the same manner as others involved in covering up for ‘their own’; to find women and some feminists who advocated or apologised for paedophilia, she need only look as far not only as Greer, Faust and Owens, but also Kate Millett, Gayle Rubin, Nettie Pollard, Pat Califia, Lindy Burton, Gisela Bleibtreu-Ehrenberg and others, many of these figures greatly loved and acclaimed in writings by PIE members, whilst articles like that I posted earlier this week by Mary Manning goes well beyond simple humane concern for paedophiles.
At the time when PIE was at its height (c. 1977-78) I was aged 9-10. I was fortunate not to have fallen victim to paedophiles – though various people close to me of both sexes were (I was at a school where abuse went on on a huge scale, for girls during their teens, and for some boys when younger). But I could have been, very easily, and I remain to be convinced that the likes of Patricia Hewitt, Harriet Harman, Jack Dromey, Margaret Hodge, and others would have necessarily cared about my welfare if this involved people who were part of their own ‘chumocracies’ (which in the case of the NCCL people includes members of PIE). When I see the haughty, arrogant, me-me-me attitude of Harman on this, trying cynically to bring up the ‘Why oh why couldn’t I be Deputy Prime Minister’ at the very height of media attention on abuse, and receiving sycophantic tributes from her chums in the media, I am filled with poisonous loathing. Harman appears to care more about having her hair done, her bloated ego, and becoming Deputy Prime Minister than whether boys (such as myself) might have been anally raped by PIE members (as happened in the case of musician Alan Doggett, for example), and for that reason she is utterly unfit for any public life. I find it hard to believe Harman would have cared about the risk to me or some friends because we were not girls. She should resign not only from the Deputy Leadership but also announce that she will be standing down from Parliament next year. Even from a purely partisan point of view, her profile is a gift to the Tories.
I have also seen how in some male gay circles in the music world it is seen as provocative and ‘subversive’ to taunt others with a liking for young boys (something which, to be absolutely clear, bothers some other gay men as much as it does straight men like myself). And of course, as with Righton, to ever challenge this would be seen as homophobic. Just as to even look at the issue of female abusers of all types is to evoke either studied indifference or hostility from others. People who take these attitudes are not merely tactful or politically correct, they are amongst those who help abuse to continue.
Sexual or other abuse (or domestic violence, or any other type of violence) is not mitigated by the gender, sexuality, ethnicity, etc of the perpetrator or victim; no-one who thinks so is fit to be any type of politician, or for that matter a parent or partner. We are talking here about acts, not means to indict whole groups of people by sexuality, gender, ethnicity, or whatever. Many on the liberal left – not least those who gave comfort to the Paedophile Information Exchange – have never looked more bankrupt than now. For too long paedophilia has been accepted by some purely on the grounds that it seems to have some ‘anti-establishment’ credentials.
As well as the various articles by Andrew Norfolk on abuse at Colet Court and St Paul’s Schools and my article on Alan Doggett, Benjamin Ross has also provided a distressing account of life at Colet Court School (the original Mail article is here), which is reproduced below. This belongs together with Alex Renton’s powerful article on the abusive, bullying, inhumane culture of British boarding schools and ultimately with George Orwell’s 1952 essay ‘Such, such were the joys’. Above all, it is important to note how deep-rooted was the concept of omertà[ – a binding loyalty to the ‘family’ represented by the school, married to a complete prohibition on any type of ‘betrayal’ such as might be evidenced by informing external people or authorities about what goes on within.
Benjamin Ross, ‘My Sadist Teachers at St Paul’s Prep School Betrayed a Generation’ (1.6.14)
Daily Mail, June 1st 2014
By Benjamin Ross
I’M ONE of a class of 15 eight-year-olds, shivering as I stand by the edge of a state-of- the-art swimming pool. The master walks along the line, pulling open the front of each of our standard-issue red trunks so that he can stare inside and inspect our name tag’.
This happens every week, to every class. Why it’s so important that each pair of trunks be so rigorously identified with its owner is something we are never told.
And it isn’t just the eccentric action of one strange man but an institutional practice. The school has specifically insisted that each boy’s name be sewn into the front of his trunks.
I recall my mother proudly doing as instructed while we considered the strangeness of this protocol – one of those mysterious rites of public school culture that one didn’t question if one wanted the privilege of sending one’s son to a place of grand tradition. Could the reason, which seemed so obscure then, really be so blindingly, pathetically obvious now?
Our teacher, one year, is a charismatic man. He is also a sadist of whom we are in perpetual terror. I return to his classroom from a music lesson one day to discover him in a frenzy of rage, provoked by some unspecified act of insolence from a boy in our class – our hero, the best at sports and the best-looking. Our teacher drags him bodily across the desk, ripping the buttons from his shirt, beating him – with a fierce backhand – so badly across the face that he draws blood.
Then he places our sobbing classmate across his lap and, in a bizarre display of sympathy, begins to stroke his head and back while offering a detached third-person narrative – This is where the boy weeps, this is where the master feels regret’ – which, looking back on it, I can only describe as pornographic, post-coital even.
These are a few examples of what is now being called historical’ abuse: not in Dickensian England, as the phrase might suggest, but the 1970s. Although my experiences were unpleasant, it turns out that I got off lightly. I was one of the luckier ones.
Colet Court and its parent school, St Paul’s – which is often described as one of the top three independent schools in the country – together alma maters of Chancellor George Osborne, Attorney General Dominic Grieve, the billionaire Lloyd Dorfman (the founder of Travelex) et al, find themselves at the centre of a storm of media scrutiny.
The schools are now, as a result, the subject of a massive police investigation into practices of sexual abuse and concealment dating from as far back as 50 years. Many of the incidents and practices I have already described will be familiar to anyone who has attended or read about public schools over the past five decades.
What is different in the case of St Paul’s is the scale. There are currently 18 masters being investigated, alive and dead, and 180 victims, witnesses, and potential witnesses have come forward. And the numbers are growing. So far, the media have focused on a handful of names: Anthony Fuggle, classics master at Colet Court, who left the school in September of last year after being arrested and released on bail for possession of indecent material discovered on a school computer.
Keith Perry, history master at St Paul’s for 38 years, was convicted earlier this year for possession of indecent material involving the most serious level of child pornography. Paul Topham (deceased) was investigated but never convicted of sexual abuse.
Alan Doggett, music and boarding-house master at Colet Court until 1968, was a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange who killed himself ten years after leaving the school when he was being charged with child abuse. Patrick Marshall, geography and rowing master, is currently on bail after allegations of abuse, which he denies.
I clearly recall another occasion during my schooldays involving the same charismatic master who assaulted our class hero. He issues instructions over the school’s public address system that we are to assemble in the hall during lunch break – an unusual occurrence which presages high drama.
We are not disappointed. Hands literally shaking, he announces that excrement has been smeared over one of the upstairs lavatories, and that he has made his class get down on their hands and knees to clean it up, describing them as s***-house wallahs’. A number of them are sick. The combination of appalled indignation, disgust and excitement is, again, highly memorable – but perhaps hard to picture if you’ve never met such a man.
One Monday morning I arrive at school to hushed talk among the other 11-year-olds. A boy I know has been forced into oral sex by a boarding-house monitor several years his senior. He is not the only one. And where was the boarding-house master, known to preside over his empire with a slipper, while this was going on?
We are expected to express no weakness, vulnerability or sympathy. The cruelty which our masters show to us we then visit upon one another singly or in groups, and soon we are doing their job for them. Bullying is commonplace and takes many forms, not just physical. The lingua franca of the school is a kind of sneering insolence, in imitation of our elders and seemingly with their approval.
We learn to hate and humiliate one another. The most sympathetically advanced among us come to hate themselves, too. Friendships are more like strategic alliances. Violence and humiliation are perpetual and endemic: random fights, organised fights, boys dragged from changing rooms by their peers and thrown naked into the corridor, to howls of laughter.
A conker fight for us doesn’t just mean the time-honoured schoolboy ritual but the use of conkers as missiles. After-school film shows on Friday nights are followed by riots that would seem more fitting at Belmarsh or in an H Block.
Like prison, the atmosphere is highly charged with sex, though not in any way you would associate with affection. We attack each other’s genitals as a matter of sport. But even though we are sometimes caught in these acts by our teachers, no comment or intervention is made.
Inattentiveness, late homework or mischief in class or at games, however, are another matter. On the sports field, discipline is maintained with the unorthodox use of a cricket bat, preferably on naked buttocks in the changing rooms. In the classroom, the preferred media are chalk and those old-fashioned wooden blackboard rubbers, which hurtle through the air towards our unsuspecting heads.
One especially good shot with a piece of chalk from a maths teacher prompts cheers from our class, excepting only the poor object of his target practice, from whom it elicits tears of pain and humiliation. But no fear, our own turn will come soon.
Mine comes at the hands of Mr White (RIP), an Army veteran with a perpetual grin that you mistake for good nature at your peril. For daring to communicate with the boy next to me in class he takes our heads and bangs them together six times (I can still count them) – with such force that I go home and vomit, and am unable to walk all weekend.
When my mother asks why, I say I have a bug. The shame of what’s been done to me is so great I find myself unable to say it. My inability to tell what has happened does even more damage than the act of physical violence.
We graduate to the senior school and life becomes moderately less savage. The violence recedes, but the cold atmosphere of unrestrained power and contempt remains. Where dog eats dog, the favoured attention of our masters provides some kind of solace and protection. My own protector is a seedy teacher who likes to tell me of his lust for young girls.
Then one day a boy climbs out of a third-floor window during class and drops 40ft to the atrium below, miraculously surviving, after which he is quietly removed from the school.
An announcement is made over the public address system that we are not to discuss what has happened, neither among ourselves nor at home, and certainly not with the Press, on pain of expulsion.
No efforts are made to engage with or understand what has happened and why. No counselling or explanation is offered. Omerta.
In response to the current crisis, the school has issued a series of letters over the past few weeks to try to reassure current pupils, parents and governors that these crimes are historical in nature and the school is complying with police procedure.
They mostly say that the school is an institution with nothing to hide or be ashamed of, modern in its standards of child welfare and transparency. Anyone tarnished by the emerging scandal, whether as an abuser or a concealer, is said to belong to history’.
This confident separation of past and present, though comforting perhaps to the school and current pupils and parents, needs closer scrutiny.
In a letter to parents dated May 1 of this year, Tim Meunier, headmaster of Colet Court, advises boys not to gossip or chatter, either face-to-face or online, about matters that have been reported in the newspapers’.
In a memo sent to all tutors on March 25 (the date of the first articles about the scandal) and forwarded privately by a concerned parent, High Master Mark Bailey advises tutors to tell their boys: Do not indulge in careless talk on social networks […] It is neither appropriate nor sensible and saying anything defamatory could land you in serious trouble.’
The dangers of chatting online one can understand. But face-to-face? What does that say about current attitudes there and how much they claim to have changed? Surely an institution like this should be less confident of its position, more questioning, open, humble, curious, self-doubting and analytical?
In response to questioning, St Paul’s said the boys have been told to talk about it if they wish, to speak to independent counsellors who have been provided, and to contact police or social services in the event of any concerns.
The letters remind me of another incident that happened to me at Colet Court when I was eight. My father had, unbeknown to me, written the headmaster a letter. I had been in a fight with a boy who insulted me racially and my father, an East End Jew and Blitz survivor who was bursting with pride that he had come far enough in life to send his son to this prestigious place, wrote to the then headmaster Henry Collis (now deceased), in indignation.
Collis invited me to recount my side of the story, but when I began to say the boy’s name, he shut me up with a threatening wave of the finger and the admonition that gentlemen don’t tell tales’.
I was being told, in no uncertain terms, that I and my father didn’t understand the first rule of gentlemanly behaviour, which was not to talk out of school.
I decided, out of pride for myself and my father, that I would henceforth make every effort to defy this man’s definition of a gentleman. I am delighted to be able to do so again here, on behalf of myself and of my late father.
The point of this is not to whinge about my treatment, but to question a mind set which, in my day, opened the gates to other kinds of immorality. The school has a history of not listening. Will it finally change?
lYou can contact detectives investigating masters from the school on 020 7161 0500, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Since the initial appearance of my first article from 7/3/14 on Alan Doggett (the updated version can be found here), there has been a steady stream of articles, mostly from Andrew Norfolk at The Times, revealing a wider range of revelations from both Colet Court and St Paul’s Schools, leading to the initiation of Operation Winthorpe, headed by Detective Inspector David Gray, who had formerly run Operation Yewtree, into celebrities in the entertainment industry. As Norfolk’s articles are not generally available for all to view online, I am reproducing all the relevant pieces here. See also Benjamin Ross’s account of life at Colet Court.
130 private schools in child abuse scandal (20.01.14)
The Times, 20th January 2014
by Andrew Norfolk
Teachers at 130 independent schools have been implicated in sex crimes against hundreds of children, an analysis by The Times reveals today. Experts warn of a looming scandal over the abuse of boys in boarding schools during the past half century.
The list features dozens of Britain’s leading public schools well as 20 elite prep schools that regularly send children to Eton College. Included are 64 mainstream private-sector establishments, most of them boarding schools, where at least one male teacher has been convicted of sexually abusing boys, and a further 30 at which a member of staff was sentenced for possessing child abuse mages.
Analysis of past crimes, scandals and police investigations at 130 schools reveals a significant surge in criminal prosecutions since 2012, often for offences that happened many years ago. Should the pattern continue, it is likely to damage schools’ reputations and finances. With annual boarding fees averaging £27,000, many are increasingly reliant on income from the 25,400 foreign pupils who occupy more than a third of boarding school beds.
Across the UK, about 6.5 per cent of schoolchildren are educated in the independent sector. Fifty of the 253 independent schools that make up the Headmasters and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), Britain’s private-sector elite, have been connected with child abuse.
One specialist linked the significant growth in complaints to an increasing national awareness of the lasting damage caused by such crimes. Britain’s middle classes had belatedly decided that it is “socially respectable” to discuss childhood abuse, it was claimed while the head of a victims’ campaign group suggested that traditional male “stiff upper lip” attempts to shrug aside sexual trauma were increasingly viewed as outdated.
In the past 20 years, one or more men who taught at 62 independent schools, including Haberdashers’ Aske’s, Ampleforth, Wellington College, King Edward’s School Birmingham and The Oratory School, Reading, have been convicted of sex crimes – from indecent assault to gross indecency and buggery – against 277 male pupils.
Prosecutions involving 18 of those 62 schools came to court in the past two years. Former teachers from a further four independent schools have been charged and are awaiting trial.
Eton, Marlborough, Millfield, Oundle and Tonbridge are among 30 other schools where a male teacher has been convicted of possessing child abuse images. Downside School, Somerset, features in both categories.
Another 36 private-sector schools have been linked to child abuse. They include as yet unresolved prosecutions, civil actions for damages following an alleged abuser’s death, teachers convicted of abusing boys unconnected to their school, and police investigations that led to arrests but no charges.
In this category are Harrow, Sedbergh and Durham schools, all raided in the late 1990s during a nationwide investigation into an alleged paedophile network of teachers at six leading public schools. A teacher at each school was questioned and material including photographs, videos, letters and computer equipment was seized. No one was prosecuted due to lack of evidence.
In several cases that led to convictions, it later emerged that independent schools sought to protect their reputation by covering up potential scandals, allowing teachers to move to other schools where their crimes continued.
In a few cases, schools where teachers abused boys cannot be named, even years later, because court orders prohibit their identification. They include two leading London public schools.
Keir Starmer, QC, until last year the Director of Public Prosecutions, said that the list would strengthen the case for a mandatory requirement that schools to report all suspected abuse. The move is being resisted by the Government.
Mr Starmer said: “During the past 18 months we spread the message that those who report such crimes will be listened to by police and prosecutors. I sense that people today feel they will be taken more seriously.”
Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), said the organisation has received “many dozens” of calls from former public schoolboys “who have finally acknowledged what happened to them and want to do something about it”.
“There’s a particular vulnerability in boys’ boarding schools. Boys find it more difficult than girls to talk about their feelings. They’re brainwashed into believing that boys don’t cry. A barrier goes up but finally, in some cases 10 or 20 years after they left school, it seems to be coming down.”
Richard Scorer, a partner at Pannone Solicitors, which specialises in child abuse cases and currently represents former pupils of “at least 20″ independent schools, said the Jimmy Savile scandal “has made talking about childhood abuse more socially respectable. That’s particularly true for the middle classes.”
The Independent Schools Council (ISC), whose 1,223 schools, including HMC schools, educate 80 per cent of Britain’s private-sector pupils, said the “abuse of trust by a small number of predatory individuals” in its schools was “a matter of the very deepest regret”. A spokesman said: “While these cases are largely historic, this does not in any way lessen the anguish felt by the innocent victims.”
Parents tell of tragedies after private school child abuse; Scandal may be ‘Just tip of the iceberg’ (21.1.14) (also printed as Teacher’s letter that told abuse victim he had ‘worn out’ video of the attack)
The Times, 21st January 2014
By Andrew Norfolk and Rosemary Bennett
The teachers at 130 independent schools named by The Times as having links to child abuse represent merely “the tip of a very large iceberg”, it was claimed last night.
Dozens of readers contacted the newspaper yesterday to speak from personal experience of sex crimes committed against boys in boarding schools as long ago as the 1950s.
Their accounts, some harrowing, included details of abuse said to have taken place in 23 schools, including 17 that did not feature in yesterday’s list. Some expressed astonishment that no teacher at their former school had yet been convicted. In two separate cases, the parents of boys who each committed suicide in their 20s said that their sons had been damaged beyond repair by events that took place at a Home Counties prep school and a leading English public school.
One of those children was abused during the 1980s by his prep school cricket coach, who was later jailed for sex offences against children at another school. His crimes included making indecent videos of his victims.
The boy’s mother said that her son had never felt able to discuss what happened to him when he was at school. After his death, she found three private letters written to the child by his abuser, one of which made reference to “that video”, which the coach described as having worn out through being watched so many times.
“During the period when he was being abused, my son’s behaviour changed dramatically from that of a happy, outgoing child to that of a depressed, fearful individual,” his mother wrote. “Thank goodness our attitude is changing and more is understood about how devastating this sort of abuse can be. Maybe if we knew then what we know now, my son would still be alive.”
The list published by The Times this week identified 64 mainstream British private sector schools at which teachers have been convicted of sexual offences against boys, with prosecutions involving 18 of the schools being brought to court in the past two years.
At an additional 30 schools, including Eton, Marlborough, Millfield, Oundle and Tonbridge, teachers were found guilty of possessing child-abuse images. A further 36 schools had links to child abuse, including those where teachers are awaiting trial or have been convicted of crimes against boys who were not pupils at the school.
One school unintentionally omitted from the list was St Martin’s prep school in Northwood, London, a former teacher of which was jailed for five years in 2010. Michael Cole, who taught at the boys’ school from 1988 to 1991, was convicted of five charges of indecent assault on pupils during “health checks” when children were ordered to strip then abused. He separately admitted possessing indecent images of children.
One Times reader, a pupil at a public school in southwest England during the late 1950s and early 1960s, provided a detailed account of serial abuse committed against boys by their housemaster and the school’s chaplain. He said that the schools named yesterday, which did not include his former school, were merely “the tip of a huge iceberg, some of which will remain hidden forever”.
The man said that as a child he complained of the sexual abuse to his father and was told not to be “silly”.
In several cases that resulted in prosecutions many years later, scandals were covered up to protect a school’s reputation. Teachers were quietly required to resign and went on to abuse boys at other schools. Such examples, say child-protection campaigners, strengthen the case for the introduction of a mandatory reporting requirement that would force schools to report any suspected case of child abuse.
The scandal of child abuse at elite schools; Letters to the Editor (22.1.14)
The Times, 22nd January 2014
Sir, This disclosure of abuse in schools is welcome, for boarding schools are very “closed worlds” and children as young as 7 are still being sent into the care of strangers solely because it is “the done thing”. Abusers can find it easy to groom children who are very lonely and vulnerable as they move into the strange life of an institution.
Paedophiles often blame the children. Of course they can be condemned whatever their age, as all abusers have always known the damage they cause. This is why they work in a dark world of secrecy, lies or threats to silence their victims.
Andrew Norfolk (report, Jan 20) is absolutely right in saying that no one can be confident that abuse does not exist today. Two things would help reduce the risk.
Firstly, schools need to be truly open and honest about the nature of abuse instead of repeating that it is a thing of the past and all boarding is now safe. It is not, and some in authority collude in the abuse as they silently let known paedophile teachers move to other schools without telling the police.
Secondly, the government has to take this issue seriously. There is no such thing as “mild paedophilia”. Urgent action is needed to change the law, making it mandatory to report all abuse.
Margaret Laughton, Boarding Concern
Sir, Your report on child abuse raises important issues, and no one involved in education would wish to ignore, still less condone past incidents. However, it does seem spiteful to put on an interactive map schools where teachers were acquitted, or where no case was found to answer. A zealous attitude of “no smoke without fire” risks undermining trust in such reports. Not all those accused of a crime are guilty.
Chris Ramsey, Headmaster, The King’s School Chester
Sir, You imply that schools are to blame if the abuse does not lead to prosecution for many years. I’ve twice taught in schools where such a case occurred. In both the school acted promptly when the abuse came to light. In neither was there enough evidence for prosecution though both tried to have the perpetrator included on the sex offenders list. One attempt failed for want of evidence, though the headmaster took the risk, when later he learnt that the man was applying to another school, of warning its head. Schools are natural targets for paedophiles, boarding schools offer more opportunities and victims often can’t speak about the abuse for years. For most of your 130 you list only one offender. In how many of those cases do the victims blame the school?
Tom Mcintyre, Frome, Somerset
Sir, All criminal acts within schools are deplorable. Modern communications do indeed render children less vulnerable to such abuse (letter, Jan 21). Far more significantly, however, extensive legal, regulatory and educational safeguards are now required, including rigorous inspection.
The events of the past cannot, alas, be undone, but the concerns and actions of the present will continue to ensure ever safer and more rewarding educational experiences in the UK schools of the future.
Dr Tim Hands, Chairman, Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference
Teachers ‘abused boys at Osborne’s old school’ (25.03.14)
The Times, 25th March 2014
by Andrew Norfolk
At least six teachers at one of Britain’s most famous and successful public schools are suspected of sexually abusing boys as young as 10 over two decades.
The schoolmasters, all of whom taught at St Paul’s School or its junior division, Colet Court, are implicated in numerous alleged sexual assaults against pupils between the 1960s and the 1980s, an investigation by The Times has established.
One, a close friend of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, became a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), the pro-paedophilia pressure group that has been linked to senior Labour Party figures.
Alan Doggett, director of music at Colet Court, was allowed to resign after suspected serial abuse of a young pupil was exposed. He went on to teach at another leading institution, the City of London School, and became director of an acclaimed boys’ choir. He later committed suicide after being charged with indecently assaulting another boy.
An ex-pupil yesterday accused St Paul’s of exposing hundreds of boys to the risk of abuse by “hushing up” the offending that led to the teacher’s departure.
Dominic Grieve, QC, the Attorney General, was a Colet Court pupil when Doggett was asked to leave.
George Osborne, the Chancellor, also attended the prep school, which shares a 45-acre campus with St Paul’s in Barnes, southwest London. He attended the senior school in the 1980s. There is no suggestion that either was abused as a schoolboy.
On at least two more occasions in the 1960s and 1970s, St Paul’s is understood to have failed to contact police when concerns about masters’ inappropriate sexual conduct towards boys were raised by parents or members of staff. Former teachers at St Paul’s have been the subject of at least four child abuse investigations since the late 1970s. None was initiated by the school.
The most recent criminal case began last month into sexual offences allegedly committed by Patrick Marshall, 65, who taught geography and coached rowing at St Paul’s. He was arrested four weeks ago over the suspected abuse of a boy, aged 15, in the late 1970s. Police hope to speak to more ex-pupils as the inquiry continues.
Mr Marshall, who denies wrongdoing, has been released on bail. Police have previously investigated an unnamed St Paul’s teacher alleged to have abused a pupil in the 1980s. The suspect was arrested in 2000 and a file sent to the Crown Prosecution Service, which ruled there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.
Another inquiry was held in 2000 into a Colet Court teacher, Paul Topham, said to have committed offences against a boy in the late 1960s. He also was not prosecuted, and died in 2012 aged 80.
A former housemaster at the prep school, known as “Alex” Alexander, is today accused by a former pupil of serial indecent assaults during the same decade.
A sixth, unidentified teacher agreed to leave St Paul’s after a school cleaner found sado-masochistic pornography in his room, alongside a personal register of pupils subjected to private spanking sessions. Parents were told that he left for “family reasons”.
A seventh teacher, 70-year-old Keith Perry, St Paul’s “inspirational” former head of history, received a two-year suspended prison sentence last month after collecting hundreds of extreme images of naked boys.
The school at which he taught for 38 years was not named at Southwark Crown Court, where he admitted 17 offences of making and distributing child abuse images “over a substantial period of time”. In internet chat rooms, he wrote of being “obsessed” with boys as young as 8. It is not suggested that any of Perry’s crimes involved pupils at St Paul’s.
In a statement, St Paul’s stressed that none of the alleged abuse concerned staff or pupils currently at the school. It added that three of the alleged offenders were dead but called for living suspects to be “investigated and subjected to the proper processes of justice”.
“Any sexual abuse of children by an adult, and particularly by a teacher, is abhorrent, a serious violation of trust and an affront to the value of any caring community. The school deals quickly, sensitively and resolutely with any concerns or allegations of abuse. This commitment applies equally to allegations of historic abuse. Pupil welfare and safeguarding are our highest priority.”
Professor Mark Bailey, the school’s High Master, said he was “grateful to The Times for bringing these allegations to our attention”. He promised that St paul’s would co-operate fully with any investigation.
‘The teacher sat us on his lap until his face went very red’ (25.03.14)
The Times, 25th March 2014
by Andrew Norfolk
Alan Doggett, Colet Court’s director of music, was forced to resign from the school. There is no suggestion that any of the boys in the picture were abused
By the age of 12, Luke Redmond had been sexually assaulted by three men. All were teachers at a prestigious school paid handsomely by his parents to give their son the best possible start in life.
One was a “gifted colleague” of the West End giants Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber; another became an Anglican clergyman. The third sat boys on his lap until he went “very red in the face”. Such were the hazards of 1960s life in an English preparatory school.
Last year The Times revealed that five teachers at another prep school, Caldicott, in Buckinghamshire, abused more than 30 boys over two decades. Caldicott was among 130 British independent schools, later identified by this newspaper, where staff had been linked to sex crimes involving boys. Teachers at 64 of them were convicted of sexual offences against male pupils.
Luke was outraged that his school was not on the list. He was not the only former pupil of St Paul’s and its prep school, Colet Court, to contact The Times to set the record straight.
Now 59, married and with adult children, he had set out to build a life that wasn’t defined by what happened to him at school. For years he blocked out all recollection of childhood abuse, but psychological wounds festered and 14 years ago the dam burst. Memories erupted and with them came a desire for justice. Luke contacted the police.
By 2000 only one of his three abusers was still alive. Paul Topham was by now an Anglican priest. In a police interview, Luke described lying in his dormitory bed on evenings when Topham was duty master. As dorm monitor, Luke’s bed was closest to the door and the light switch. Topham invariably entered the room, switched off the lights and then sat on Luke’s bed. In the dark, his hand reached under the boy’s bedclothes.
The child lay frozen with shame and confusion. He told no one, nor was there any discussion among the boys of Topham’s far more public assaults when Colet Court boarders were sent at weekends to use the senior school swimming pool. Swimming naked was compulsory. “If Topham was supervising, he’d be in the water in his turquoise shorts. If you rested against the side of the pool, he’d swim up from behind and rub himself against you.”
His abuser set out to befriend Luke’s parents. During school holidays he would often “pop by for a sherry”. Luke said: “He tainted the only safe place I had.”
The officer investigating his complaint of abuse told Luke that Topham was questioned under caution in 2000. He denied every allegation. No charges were brought. He died in 2012.
It was already too late to hold a second abuser to account: Luke’s former housemaster, known as “Alex” Alexander, was dead. Naughty boys were summoned to his study for a beating, then asked to select the weapon — a slipper, hairbrush or plimsoll. Boys pulled down their pyjamas, then bent over a chair. Afterwards, the housemaster would sit the miscreant on his lap, give him toffees as a treat, then shower the child with physical affection. “At the time, I didn’t realise what was happening. I just remember being cuddled and feeling puzzled because he’d always end up going very red in the face.”
Luke’s abuse by Alan Doggett, Colet Court’s director of music, was a once-only indecent assault during the boy’s compulsory audition for the choir.
A far worse fate awaited another boy in his dormitory, a year younger than Luke, who was angelic in both voice and looks. He was Doggett’s chosen one, summoned far too often from their dormitory to spend long hours at night in the choirmaster’s bedroom.
A year later, another boy cried foul and Doggett was forced to resign, though his crimes are understood to have gone unreported by St Paul’s. As a result, it was a decade before he finally appeared in court, charged with offences against a ten-year-old choirboy, born in the year the teacher left Colet Court.
Twice, in 2000 and earlier this year, Luke contacted St Paul’s to ask if it had support mechanisms for victims of historical abuse at the school. Each time, he says, he was told there was no such provision, though St Paul’s last week suggested a meeting to discuss how he might be helped to achieve “closure”.
The former pupil’s name has been changed to protect his identity.
Friends to stars had easy access to boys (25.03.14)
The Times, 25th March 2014
by Andrew Norfolk
Colet Court building in West London
Many hundreds would be a modest estimate of the number of young boys with whom Alan Doggett was allowed close contact after his suspected abuse of a pupil came to the attention of St Paul’s School.
Quietly removed from his post at Colet Court, the future member of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) went on to teach boys at a second independent school before working as a choirmaster with boys from more than 30 London schools.
A decade after his departure from Colet Court, the 41-year-old threw himself in front of a train a few hours after appearing in court, accused of twice indecently assaulting a child aged 10. Doggett’s bail conditions barred any further contact with his choirboys.
In the 17 years preceding his 1978 suicide, he worked almost daily with pre-adolescent boys. He was a gifted but weak man, surrounded by temptation.
Doggett was a former pupil of Colet Court and St Paul’s who returned to the prep school as director of music from 1963 to 1968, having previously taught the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber at Westminster Under School, the junior division of Westminster School.
A regular guest at the Lloyd Webber household, he became friendly with Julian’s elder brother, Andrew, and in the summer of 1967 invited the fledgeling Tim Rice-Lloyd Webber songwriting partnership to pen a pop cantata for an end-of-term school concert.
Rice was then 22, Lloyd Webber 19, and from that invitation Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was born. Its first performance was in March 1968 at Colet Court. Four months later, Doggett conducted the first recording of Joseph, at EMI’s Abbey Road, again featuring boys in the prep school choir.
Allegations of sexual misconduct with a pupil led to his dismissal in the same year but by 1969 he was again teaching music to boys, this time at the City of London School.
Doggett’s association with Rice and Lloyd Webber continued until 1976. He was principal conductor on the original recording of Jesus Christ Superstar and directed the London Boy Singers — a choir whose first president was Benjamin Britten — in his role as “musical co-ordinator” for the first Evita album. As the choir’s reputation grew, he took his boys on European tours. They performed for the Pope, appeared on radio and television, recorded albums and performed in films. Doggett’s death came 15 days before he was due to conduct a massed choir of 1,000 schoolboys — all personally selected and coached — at the Royal Albert Hall. Police had been planning to interview every boy.
A farewell letter explained that in life he had chosen “the way of the Greek”, which “though hard is best”. Days later, Rice and Lloyd Webber issued a joint statement: “Alan was a music and singing teacher of extraordinary talent. We have lost a gifted colleague and a dear friend.”
Rice spoke at the funeral. In his 1999 autobiography, he wrote: “I cannot believe that Alan was truly a danger, or even a minor menace, to the many boys he worked with over the years. It has been known for young boys . . . to manufacture or exaggerate incidents when they know and disapprove of a teacher’s inclinations.”
Lloyd Webber was said by a biographer to remain convinced that “Doggett would never have been guilty of taking advantage of any young person in his charge”.
After his death, an edition of Magpie, the newsletter for the PIE pressure group that campaigned on behalf of paedophiles, revealed that a requiem Mass was said for Doggett by a Catholic priest, Michael Ingram, at a church in Leicester. Twenty-four years later, in 2002, Ingram was convicted of multiple sex offences between 1970 and 1978 against six boys aged from 9 to 12.
PIE’s treasurer, Paul Andrews, wrote that Doggett killed himself after being “accused of indecency with a 10-year-old boy”, adding that he could “well imagine the innocence with which this act of love and affection had taken place”.
Ian Pace, a professional pianist, City University lecturer and campaigner against abuse in musical education, last night demanded a “proper investigation” of Doggett’s continued access to boys after his offending was first exposed at the prep school. “It is rare for such abusers to have merely a few isolated victims,” he said. “The potential implications of this are alarming.”
Boys punished for telling of abuse by teacher (28.3.14)
The Times, 28th March 2014
By Andrew Norfolk
The headmaster of an elite preparatory school punished two pupils for their “wickedness” in reporting serial sexual abuse by a paedophile schoolmaster.
Both were given detention after complaining of indecent assaults regularly committed against boarders at Colet Court, the junior division of St Paul’s School, by its director of music, Alan Doggett.
Doggett, a close friend of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, later became a member of Paedophile Information Exchange, which campaigned in the 1970s to lower the age of consent to 4. Doggett committed suicide when he was charged with sex crimes against another boy, ten years after leaving the prep school.
Many former pupils of Colet Court and St Paul’s, which share a campus in Barnes, southwest London, contacted The Times this week after it was revealed that at least six former teachers, including Doggett, were implicated in numerous sex crimes from the 1960s to the 1980s.
One suspect, Patrick Marshall, 65, who taught at St Paul’s in the late 1970s, was arrested last month and has been bailed pending further police inquiries. He denies any wrongdoing.
Several ex-pupils described Doggett’s routine “fondling” of boys in their beds. Three said they were abused by the choirmaster, who was conductor on the first recordings of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. Doggett resigned after his abuse was exposed in 1968, but it is understood that St Paul’s did not report the allegations to police or to education officials, which was required by law.
He went on to teach at City of London School and became director of an acclaimed choir before killing himself in 1978.
Stephen (his surname is withheld), the pupil who ended Doggett’s Colet Court career, said that he and a friend decided to speak to the school’s headmaster, Henry Collis, after Doggett indecently assaulted both 11-year-olds as they sat on each side of him during a televised football match in May 1968.
“It was the Manchester United v Benfica European Cup Final. We were sitting on the floor and Doggett’s hands were groping inside our pyjama bottoms.
“He wouldn’t leave us alone. He’d already had a go at me in the dormitory on quite a few occasions,” Stephen said. After the match, the two pupils decided that “he’s got to be stopped”. They informed Mr Collis, who was headmaster of Colet Court from 1957 to 1973 and served as chairman of the Independent Preparatory Schools Association.
Stephen said: “When I next went home on exeat that weekend, the school had telephoned my father to complain that I’d made up terrible stories about Doggett. Dad asked me what had been going on. When I told him, he said he believed me and I’d done the right thing in speaking out, but when I got back to the school the two of us were summoned to Mr Collis’s study.
“I can still see us standing in front of his desk on the Monday morning.He was furious. He said we were wicked for making up such awful lies. Mr Doggett was so appalled and embarrassed by the disgraceful things we’d said that he’d decided to leave the school. We should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves. He gave us detention.”
Stephen said that another boy in their year suffered far worse crimes at Doggett’s hands: “He had one particular favourite who received regular visits in the dormitory at night. He’d abuse the poor boy without seeming to care that we could all see and watch what was happening.”
Other ex-pupils spoke this week of open gossip among the boys that “half a crown” was the “going rate for a session with Doggett”. One said that his year group even coined a new verb: to be “Doggoed” was to be groped and fondled.
Doggett’s resignation was one of several occasions when St Paul’s allegedly failed to inform police after concerns were raised about sexual misconduct by teachers. Three ex-pupils named Stephen Hale, who taught at Bedford School before joining St Paul’s in the mid-1980s, as the unidentified teacher who was forced to resign after sado-masochistic pornography and a spanking register were found in his room by a school cleaner. The incident was reported in this newspaper on Tuesday.
Inquiries have established that Mr Hale, a maths teacher and boardinghouse tutor, left the school in June 1987, a day after the discovery. St Paul’s merely told the Department for Education that Mr Hale agreed to resign after breaking its rules on corporal punishment. No suggestion was made of any sexual impropriety. As a result, he was not placed on the national list of teachers barred from working with children. His whereabouts are unknown In a statement earlier this week, St Paul’s described all child abuse as abhorrent and stressed that its current arrangements for pupil safeguarding and welfare are rated as excellent by the Independent Schools Inspectorate.
The school has pledged full co-operation with any investigation into past crimes allegedly committed by teachers who are still alive.
Police look into ‘decades of abuse’ at top school; Teacher arrested as police look into ‘decades of abuse’ at school (9.4.14)
The Times, April 9th 2014
By Andrew Norfolk
Police have begun a criminal inquiry into decades of alleged sexual abuse at a top boys’ public school, as it emerged that a current teacher was arrested just six months ago for possessing indecent images of children.
The inquiry into St Paul’s School in London, and its prep school, Colet Court, come after revelations in The Times last month that prompted former pupils to contact police.
So many complaints have been made during the past fortnight that officers are investigating more than six “persons of interest” who taught at the school, whose alumni include George Osborne, the Chancellor.
The officer leading the inquiry said that it had spiralled rapidly into “a complex investigation with further victims, witnesses and suspects being identified on an almost daily basis”.
Detective Inspector Jon Rhodes also appealed for more witnesses to “come forward if they have information”.
The Metropolitan Police said in a statement: “We can confirm that the child abuse investigation team is investigating historic allegations of sexual abuse alleged to have taken place between the 1960s and 1980s. We are aware of a number of potential victims and witnesses we wish to speak to over the course of the investigation.”
It can be revealed that Colet Court’s director of administration, a classics teacher at the preparatory school for more than 20 years, resigned during the current academic year after his arrest on suspicion of possessing child abuse images.
Anthony Fuggle, 57, has been questioned and released on bail. Police were alerted in September after photographs of boys and “inappropriate written material” were found on a school computer during routine IT checks.
A file on the case is with the Crown Prosecution Service. Mr Fuggle was unavailable for comment.
A meeting was held on Friday between police and the school’s current leadership team, at which St Paul’s pledged its full co-operation to the inquiry and its belief that any former employee guilty of child-sex offences should face justice. Letters and e-mails Continued on page 8, col 3 Continued from page 1 were sent last week to parents of boys at St Paul’s and Colet Court and also to former pupils who are members of the Old Pauline Club.
Two weeks ago, this newspaper revealed that six former teachers at St Paul’s and its prep school, which share a campus in Barnes, southwest London, were suspected of sexually assaulting boys from the mid 1960s to the late 1980s.
Students in that era included Mr Osborne, who was at Colet Court and St Paul’s in the 1980s, and Dominic Grieve, QC, the Attorney-General, a pupil at the prep school in the 1960s. There is no suggestion that either was abused as a schoolboy.
Former pupils subsequently contacted this newspaper to accuse more ex-members of staff of sexual misconduct. In total, abuse allegations have been made to The Times against 13 schoolmasters, five of whom taught at St Paul’s and eight at Colet Court. Six of the men are known or thought to be dead.
Offences are said to have been committed against pupils aged 9 to 17, ranging from indecent assaults, voyeurism and sexually motivated beatings to boys being groomed by a teacher who later paid them for penetrative sex.
In two of the 13 cases, at least five ex-pupils have separately made allegations against the same teacher. Former pupils initially came forward in January after St Paul’s was not named in a news article listing 130 British independent schools linked to the abuse of hundreds of boys.
A month later, police began a criminal inquiry into a complaint made by an ex-pupil against a former teacher, Patrick Marshall, alleging sexual offences in the late 1970s.
Mr Marshall, 65, who taught geography and coached rowing at St Paul’s, was arrested and released on bail pending further inquiries. He denies wrongdoing.
Liz Dux, a lawyer specialising in abuse cases, said that no independent school of St Paul’s status and academic reputation had faced such wide-ranging allegations.
Her firm, Slater & Gordon, whose clients include more than 140 alleged victims of Jimmy Savile, represents an ex-pupil who claims to have been sexually abused at St Paul’s in the 1970s.
Ms Dux said that it was “already clear that some of these complaints were known about by other members of staff at the time”. She voiced concern about the adequacy of the school’s response when allegations were brought to its attention during the years that are under police investigation.
The school said yesterday that it was working with the police to ensure that any former teachers who failed in their “heavy duty of responsibility for the well-being of pupils” were held accountable, whether for offences “50 years ago or more recently”.
A spokesman said: “We have direct access to the investigative team, and all allegations of historic abuse which are brought to our attention are forwarded immediately to them.”
Abuse claims against 18 teachers by ex-pupils at top public school; St Paul’s co-operates with police inquiry led by head of Savile investigation (1.5.14)
The Times, May 1st 2014
By Andrew Norfolk
A team of specialist Scotland Yard detectives led by the officer who headed the Jimmy Savile inquiry is to investigate claims that up to 18 paedophile teachers may have abused dozens of boys for several decades at one of Britain’s most famous public schools.
The move comes after a series of complaints from former pupils who say that they fell victim to sex crimes by staff at St Paul’s School, in London, or its preparatory school, Colet Court.
Triggered by revelations in The Times, multiple allegations have been made to police in recent weeks against numerous former schoolmasters, ten of whom taught at Colet Court and eight at St Paul’s. Some are no longer alive.
Detectives have compiled a list of more than 100 victims, suspects and potential witnesses.
Alleged sex offences at the two schools span five decades, from the mid-1960s to last year. A source close to the inquiry, Operation Winthorpe, described its scope as huge.
The new investigation will be under the command of Detective Superintendent David Gray, who led the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Yewtree investigation into the alleged sex crimes of Savile and other celebrities, including Max Clifford.
Mr Gray, head of Scotland Yard’s paedophile unit, said that police intended to carry out “a thorough and transparent review of non-recent offending at the two schools”, which share a campus in Barnes, southwest London.
“The investigation will be conducted by a dedicated team of specially trained officers who have experience of historic child abuse investigations and are sensitive to the needs of victims.” A telephone hotline and email address have been set up, to enable former pupils to contact the inquiry team.
Pat Marshall, 65, a former St Paul’s master, was arrested in February on suspicion of indecently assaulting a pupil in the 1970s. He denies any wrongdoing. His ex-colleague, Keith Perry, 70, received a suspended prison sentence in the same month for possessing hundreds of extreme child abuse images.
A Colet Court teacher, Anthony Fuggle, 57, was arrested last September on suspicion of possessing indecent images of boys, said to have been found on a school computer. He is on bail.
It can be revealed today that a second teacher at the prep school was also arrested last year, on suspicion of sexually grooming a child. Tim Harbord, 61, was not charged with any offence and denies any misconduct. He and Mr Fuggle both resigned during the current academic year.
Crimes, ranging from indecent assaults to penetrative sex, are said to have been committed by 18 teachers against boys aged from 9 to 17, in dormitories, classrooms, a swimming pool, inside a car and at teachers’ private homes. Much of the offending is alleged to have happened between the 1960s and 1990.
Pupils at one or both schools during the era under investigation included the chancellor, George Osborne, the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, QC, and the actor, Eddie Redmayne. There is no suggestion that they were abused as schoolboys.
Detective Sergeant James Townly, who has day-to-day control of Operation Winthorpe, said that former pupils who were the victims of sexual abuse were being placed “at the centre of our work”. Anyone who comes forward will “receive assistance and appropriate support”.
“We’ve already spoken to a number of complainants and there are many other people we need to contact to build a full picture of the alleged offending over several decades. It will obviously take some time for the police to work through all those names.”
St Paul’s, founded in 1509, says that the safeguarding and welfare of pupils is its highest priority.
The school has pledged full co-operation with the investigation and called for all living suspects to be “subjected to the proper processes of justice”, whether for offences 50 years ago or more recently.
Accused teacher kept on working for 24 years
The Times, May 1st 2014
By Andrew Norfolk
A teacher kept his job at a leading school for 24 years after he was accused of fondling a young boy in a classroom, it has been alleged.
Tim Harbord, who taught at Colet Court, the junior division of St Paul’s School, London, finally left at Christmas after a criminal investigation was triggered by a complaint from the parents of a current pupil. They contacted the preparatory school’s headmaster last year to return a jacket sent by the teacher to their son as a present.
Mr Harbord, 61, was arrested and questioned by police in June on suspicion of the sexual grooming of a child. He was not charged with any offence but resigned after receiving a final written warning from the school.
The Times has been told that more than two decades earlier, in 1990, a former Colet Court headmaster failed to take action against the teacher when a mother disclosed her ten-year-old son’s alleged ordeal at his hands. The former pupil, now 34, recently contacted police to add his complaint to a list of allegations against former teachers at St Paul’s or Colet Court.
Mr Harbord, who denies any sexual misconduct, is the second Colet Court master to leave abruptly during the current academic year. Anthony Fuggle, 57, a classics teacher for more than 20 years, resigned in September after being arrested on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children. Photographs of boys were said to have been found on a school computer.
Mr Fuggle remains on bail, pending further police inquiries. Mr Harbord, who coached sport and taught English and history during 28 years at the school, resigned before the start of its spring term in January.
In each case, the current leadership at St Paul’s contacted police and social services when concerns were raised last year. The school allegedly failed to inform child-protection authorities on at least three occasions in the 1960s and 1970s when sexual abuse claims were made against teachers.
The former pupil has told police that on a summer afternoon in 1990, aged ten, he returned to a classroom after lessons to collect a tennis ball and found himself alone with Mr Harbord.
He alleges that the teacher cuddled him before asking him to sit on his lap. He said Mr Harbord began stroking his hair and then his thigh, at which point the child panicked and fled the room.
The ex-pupil said he was so troubled by the incident that he later confided in his sister, swearing her to secrecy. She told their mother, who contacted Billy Howard, the headmaster at the time.
His mother said she gave Mr Howard details of the “totally improper” incident and demanded an assurance “that Mr Harbord was never again going to do anything like that to my son or to anybody else”.
She remembers his response: “He told me that it was very difficult to get male staff in London prep schools who weren’t homosexual. Even at the time, it seemed an extraordinary thing to say. He didn’t propose any action and that seemed to be the end of it as far as he was concerned.” The woman’s son said that until the classroom incident he was very fond of Mr Harbord. “I looked up to him. We all did. He was a ‘cool’ teacher. At the time, people were incredibly naive. What he did to me was brazen but it was completely brushed under the carpet. I’ve never forgotten it.”
Mr Howard’s wife, Heather, told The Times that her husband, 81, “has absolutely no recollection whatsoever” of receiving a complaint of sexual misconduct against Mr Harbord, who was adamant that no such offence took place. Mr Harbord said: “This is so untrue. Nothing happened like this. I’d never sit a boy on my lap in the classroom, stroke his hair. That’s a terrible thing to say.”
He insisted that at no stage of his Colet Court career was he told of any complaint of sexual misconduct against him, but accepted that he had recently been guilty “of naivety” in developing a close relationship with the boy’s family. “I got to know this family well. We did things together, as a family. I shouldn’t have got so close, but nothing sexual went on.”
He said the boy’s mother once sent a card thanking him “for all the affection you’ve shown”, but thought she might have subsequently felt that he was “getting a little bit too close”.
He added: “I was interviewed by the police. They went through all sorts of questions. It was the most despairing time of my life, but then I got a call to say the matter wasn’t going any further.
“There was a formal disciplinary meeting with the headmaster and I had to accept the school policy about gifts and seeing children outside school, and that I mustn’t contact the family. It was very sad because we were very close.”
Mr Harbord said he had no sexual interest in boys. “I’ve always wanted to be married with a family, but I was married to the school.”
In a statement, the school said that Mr Howard, headmaster of Colet Court from 1973 to 1992, “categorically denies any knowledge of the allegations relating to Mr Harbord. He further denies making any remarks about the recruitment of homosexuals to teach in London prep schools.”
Teacher kept job for 16 years after pupils found sex tapes (20.05.14)
The Times, 20th May 2014
By Andrew Norfolk
A paedophile teacher kept his job at a top public school for 16 years after pupils found his collection of indecent videos. Keith Perry taught for 38 years at St Paul’s School, in west London, where a police inquiry began last month into sex crimes allegedly committed against boys by 18 teachers since the 1960s.
Perry was convicted this year after police raided his home last summer and found almost 600 films and photographs showing the abuse of children. In online chat rooms, the “inspirational” former head of history spoke of being sexually obsessed with boys as young as eight.
Perry, 71, who retired in 2003, escaped a jail sentence after it was claimed in court that his addiction to the “utterly repellent” images was a recent lapse by a man of “exemplary character”.
It can be revealed today, however, that Perry’s viewing tastes were discovered in 1986, when boys in a St Paul’s boarding house found a collection of videos hidden behind a row of books in his study, where he often entertained pupils. It was always kept unlocked.
A former pupil told The Times that in Perry’s absence he and a small group of boarders watched an excerpt from one of the films. He said it showed a weeping boy, aged about 13, sitting naked on a chair. The child was instructed to perform a sex act.
Inquiries by The Times confirm the boy’s recollection of having been so disturbed by the video that he reported it to a teacher, who told the school’s senior management of the alleged discovery of “homosexual pornographic videos” in the assistant housemaster’s study.
The teacher said the pupil did not give him a detailed description of the video’s content and the school remained unaware of the allegation that some footage included the abuse of children. No investigation was conducted and no formal disciplinary action was taken against Perry.
It is understood that discussions led to Perry being “quietly advised” to move out of the boarding house, which housed 60 pupils aged from 13 to 18. He taught at St Paul’s for a further 16 years.
Operation Winthorpe, a criminal inquiry led by specialist detectives from the Metropolitan police’s paedophile unit, began work last month after former pupils of St Paul’s and its preparatory school, Colet Court, contacted The Times to allege past sexual abuse by a host of teachers.
Crimes under investigation are said to have taken place between the mid-1960s and last year. It is alleged that on several occasions the school failed to report sexual misconduct by staff. Teachers who were asked to leave found jobs at other boys’ schools.
A former St Paul’s teacher told The Times that the school’s child protection failings in past decades reflected “the rather depressing culture of the day” in many British independent schools. Another said: “In those days, protecting the institution from scandal was all-important.”
Perry admitted last week that he kept pornographic films in his study but denied that any featured children. He also denied being asked to leave the boarding house.
St Paul’s said that it was “co-operating fully with the police investigation”.
The possession of indecent images of children did not become a criminal offence in England and Wales until 1988. The police hotline for Operation Winthorpe is 020-7161 0500.
Colet Court and St Paul’s: a culture of child abuse; Andrew Norfolk on how the closed world of Colet Court and St Paul’s schools made possible decades of abuse against boys (20.5.14)
The Times, May 20th 2014
By Andrew Norfolk
LENGTH: 1740 words
At the height of the 1960s, when London’s pulse was a planet’s heartbeat, sex had just been invented and blessed were the young for they had inherited the world and all the LSD it contained, a nightly ritual was performed within the walls of a large Victorian building on Hammersmith Road whose values belonged to an older, more monotone land, one in which Britain still ruled an Empire, everyone knew their place and good boys did as they were told.
Here, after lights-out, a middle-aged bachelor schoolmaster descended from his room to deliver a cup of tea to his 14-year-old beloved, a child angelic of looks and voice. The teacher would scan the boys’ dormitory before selecting at random another pupil upon whom fell the task of returning the empty cup and saucer to the master’s room once Ganymede’s thirst was quenched.
This was School House, one of two boarding houses at St Paul’s School, an institution that since 1509 had steadily forged an unchallenged reputation for its ability to mould, from the bright offspring of the capital’s aspirational middle classes, young gentlemen fit for Oxbridge and a glittering future.
Across the road from School House stood Colet Court, the junior division of St Paul’s, where director of music Alan Doggett was also fond of nocturnal dorm visits. Here was no faux romance. The same 11-year-old boy lay back passively each evening as the teacher lifted his bedsheets and set busily to work. Fellow pupils sat quietly in the dark, watching. Everyone knew; no one said a word.
A few miles and a million light years away, Carnaby Street may have been swinging as old roads aged rapidly, yet some pillars of the British establishment held firm. None was more a bastion of tradition than the English public school. It inspired fierce loyalty, worshipped the team ethic and demanded high standards of children from whose parents submissive gratitude was expected at their son’s good fortune in winning admission to the hallowed privilege for which they were paying so handsomely.
Delight was taken in arcane terminology and age-old customs, their purpose long since lost to the mists of time. In classroom, playing field and dormitory, a master’s word was law, sneaking was for plebs and outsiders were viewed with polite but barely concealed contempt. Girls were a foreign country and secrets, even the darkest, were made for keeping. A man could do mischief here; some did.
Attitudes towards child sexual abuse in Britain are a long road slowly travelled. There was a time when no one looked behind a family’s front door; when a Catholic priest’s moral conduct was deemed irreproachable; when children in care were invisible; when what some celebrities did to underage girls was par for the course; when a pro-paedophile group won affiliation to a civil rights organisation while seeking to lower the age of consent to four; when men in the back streets of towns such as Rochdale groomed and sold children for sex while police and social services stood by and shrugged their shoulders.
Conspiracies of silence and complacency were eventually broken, lids lifted, victims given a voice. Eventually, sometimes decades after they plundered childhoods, guilty men were held to account. As each abuse model was exposed, it was asked how such crimes could have run unchecked for so long. In part the answer was chillingly simple: child abuse will flourish when there is an imbalance of power, a setting free from external scrutiny and a culture that plays by its own code. Small surprise, perhaps, that a famous independent school has joined those institutions stung by a long-overdue reckoning for alleged past sins.
There have been public-school scandals in the past, of course, notably those involving England’s three best-known Catholic boarding schools, Ampleforth, Stonyhurst and Downside, and in recent years there has been a steady rise in criminal investigations. In January The Times listed 64 fee-paying boys’ schools at which a male teacher has been convicted of sexually abusing a pupil. The offences dated back to the 1950s, but 62 of the 64 cases were brought to court in the past 20 years, 18 of them since 2012.
The article triggered long-buried memories. Men aged from their thirties to their seventies wrote and phoned in large numbers, seemingly compelled to share their own story. Some spoke of their abuse for the first time; a few broke down. Here were decades of unresolved shame, anger and confusion. Allegations were made against staff at 41 independent schools, of which 26 were not on our original list of 64. There was usually one alleged offender but the case of St Paul’s – two former pupils separately named four teachers – seemed on a different scale.
In March The Times implicated six former teachers at Colet Court or St Paul’s in alleged sex crimes against boys. By then a low-key police investigation was already in progress into a complaint by an ex-pupil against one teacher. The article prompted a surge of calls to the newspaper, the school and the police. Last month, a specialist team of detectives was set up to lead Operation Winthorpe. They have already recorded complaints against 18 former members of staff at the two schools, some no longer alive. The number of victims, suspects – spanning 50 years, from the mid-1960s to last year – and potential witnesses has passed 200.
Handed a list of England’s oldest and most famous public schools, few would have tipped St Paul’s to be the one to face such extensive allegations. A boarding establishment in a remote rural setting more easily fits the profile than a big London school with a rapier-sharp academic reputation and very few boarders.
Yet it was here, along Hammersmith Road until 1968 and since then at the school’s current location in Barnes, southwest London, that a culture is said to have arisen in which some masters, no matter how effective in sculpting young minds for examination success, treated children shamefully. Tales abound until the 1980s of sadistic violence, cruel bullying and of sexual attacks ranging from minor indecent assaults to extended, intimate relationships.
Teachers are accused of offences in dormitories, classrooms, the swimming pool, their own homes, even in cars. There was a period in the late Sixties and early Seventies when, if several former pupils are to be believed, to emerge after five years as a Colet Court boarder without once becoming the means of a teacher’s sexual gratification was to be distinctly fortunate. Some parents were warned that one endured the prep school because the prize was worth it: a place at St Paul’s.
At the senior school, police are examining whether tolerance of adult homosexuality may sometimes have edged dangerously close to turning a blind eye to pederasty. One boy remembers being assured by an avuncular master that homosexuality was a youth cult. In a 1978 suicide note after he was charged with abusing a choirboy, Doggett wrote that he had chosen “the way of the Greek”.
Doggett is one of six Colet Court or St Paul’s teachers who quietly resigned between 1967 and 1987 after suspected sexual misconduct came to light. Not once, it is alleged, did the school call in the police. The late Warwick Hele, high master of the senior school from 1973 to 1986, is remembered by a colleague as “a very good man but not one to stir up trouble unless he had to”. Another described an era when “protecting the institution from scandal was all-important”. For any fee-paying school, gaining a bad reputation could be extremely costly.
That remains the case today, but many outsiders would feel a degree of sympathy for Mark Bailey, St Paul’s highly regarded high master since 2011. His school is suddenly under fire, hit by a blizzard of alleged past misconduct, yet on the two occasions that concerns about teachers are known to have been raised since Bailey has been in post, the school responded swiftly and contacted external child-safeguarding authorities.
Investigations subsequently led to the arrest in 2013 of two long-serving Colet Court teachers, Anthony Fuggle and Tim Harbord, on suspicion of possessing indecent images and of sexual grooming respectively. Each resigned. Harbord has strongly denied any wrongdoing. Neither man has been charged with any criminal offence.
Had such decisive action been taken in response to pre-2011 complaints against teachers, St Paul’s would not be as vulnerable to the damning charge that it formerly seemed less concerned with the protection of children than with the protection of its own good name. The school, which says it is co-operating fully with the police, has described all child abuse as abhorrent and called for anyone guilty of past offences to be held to account. Its current standards of pupil safeguarding and welfare have been rated by inspectors as excellent.
Public reaction to the police inquiry has been instructively varied. Adults whose school years were not spent in similar institutions seem baffled that a world so seemingly careless of child welfare could have existed so recently. Many who were shaped by similar schooling in the same era know only too well that it did; most are nonetheless taken aback by the sheer scale of what is alleged at St Paul’s.
From some ex-public schoolboys, though, comes irritation that such a fuss is being made by chaps who really ought to “man up” and stop making such a hue and cry about a little mild spanking at schools that delivered a first-class education and bred resilience, independence and loyalty into boys who went on to become life’s winners. Some of them now run the country.
Such critics should rewind to the 1970s and a flat near St Paul’s owned by the late Rev Dr Edward Ryan, the school’s under-chaplain and a man who took a close pastoral interest in the vulnerable among his young flock. Boys invited to his home for a chat are said to have been plied with alcohol, then offered cash for penetrative sex. Those who tried to escape sometimes found their way barred.
One of “Doc” Ryan’s junior colleagues, who knew of his regular invitations to pupils but not of any sexual allegations, said he bore all the hallmarks of a predatory paedophile: “I would not have trusted Edward Ryan in the company of a young boy any farther than I could throw him.”
Should Ryan’s victims, some haunted to this day, be expected easily to forgive the school that for so many years gave him such unrestricted access to adolescent boys?
Former Colet Court teacher charged over abuse images (4.6.14)
The Times, June 4th 2014
By Andrew Norfolk
A former teacher at one of England’s most prestigious prep schools is to appear in court accused of possessing child-abuse images.
Anthony Fuggle was a senior classics master at Colet Court, the junior division of St Paul’s School, until he resigned after his arrest last September. Mr Fuggle, 57, who was also the prep school’s director of administration, was charged last night with 11 offences of making indecent images of children and six of possessing indecent images of children. He becomes the first former teacher at St Paul’s or its prep school to be charged under Operation Winthorpe, a criminal inquiry led by a specialist team of Scotland Yard detectives that was launched in April to investigate alleged sexual misconduct involving more than 20 members of staff.
Eighteen ex-teachers, not including Mr Fuggle, have been accused by former pupils of sexually abusing boys at the school over a 50-year period since the mid-1960s. Some are no longer alive. St Paul’s and its junior school share a campus in Barnes, southwest London.
Mr Fuggle was one of two Colet Court teachers to resign during the current academic year. Tim Harbord, 61, left at Christmas after he was arrested on suspicion of sexually grooming a boy. He was released without charge and has strongly denied any wrongdoing.
A former master at St Paul’s, Patrick Marshall, 65, who taught geography and coached rowing, was arrested in February over the suspected abuse of a pupil in the 1970s. He remains on bail.
Mr Fuggle was arrested last autumn after child-protection authorities were contacted by the school. Photographs of young boys were said to have been found during a routine IT check on Colet Court’s computers. He remains on bail and is due to appear before Wimbledon magistrates on June 20.
When I was at school, education could go hang. As long as a boy could hit a six, sing the school song very loud and take hot crumpet from behind without blubbing. (Lieutenant George in Blackadder Goes Forth)
Today’s Observer contains an incredibly powerful article by Alex Renton on the culture of abuse and brutality in Britain’s boarding schools, focusing on his own experiences at Ashdown House. I have blogged at length on the case of Alan Doggett at Colet Court school, as well as of course of abuse in specialist music schools; I would most strongly recommend for anyone interested in the subject looking through the range of articles collected on the Spotlight blog, and especially the reports by Andrew Norfolk at The Times alleging that teachers at a whole 130 of Britain’s independent schools have been implicated in sex crimes; at Colet Court and St Paul’s Schools alone eighteen teachers are being investigated (including some from recent times).
But beyond the obviously wrong phenomenon of sexual abuse of pupils by teachers, these schools facilitate and nurture a culture of abuse, vicious bullying, violence, and ruthless determination to get to the top and trample on whoever might get in one’s ways, with little place for empathy, compassion, collectivity and much else. Whilst it may be harder today for schools to cover up sexual abuse, I have seen little reason to believe all the other types of abuse and cruelty, whether from teachers towards pupils, or pupils towards other pupils, are necessarily much diminished. Alex Renton captures some of this culture; I plan to blog more on this subject, and the insidious effect upon British society of the public school system and the apartheid-like model of education it entails when time permits.
For now, though I want to offer one thought for consideration: the majority of those who study or have studied at these schools, two options are available, those of perpetrator or victim. Either (a) one can assume upon oneself the values of those schools and their associated cultures, and become a type of neo-fascist oneself, or (b) hold out personally against them, and end up becoming a victim and fucked-up for life. There will be a few who manage to eschew either option, but for many, the choice is stark. The advantages of (a) enable the brutalising culture of the public schools to be passed down from generation to generation, and to inform the workings of many of the higher echelons of society, most of them dominated by public school pupils. Some people who have served in the military might naturally have absorbed some ruthless and dehumanising values as well, but often linked to a sense of camaraderie and understanding of the importance of collective purpose. In my experience, those latter qualities are mostly absent from those who have absorbed the lessons of public schools. This very educational system serves to enshrine and perpetuate the callousness and brutalism of the British ruling classes; I can see it in written in the faces of more than a few leading politicians.
Abuse in Britain’s boarding schools: why I decided to confront my demons
For generations of boys, sexual abuse was part of the everyday cruelty of boarding school. In this painfully honest report, writer Alex Renton confronts the demons of his past at Ashdown House, where some of Britain’s most powerful men were also educated – and reveals the scale of the outrage about to engulf the private education system
The Observer, Sunday 4 May 2014
If Ashdown House’s pretty Georgian facade reminds you of Washington’s Capitol and the White House that’s because the architect, Benjamin Latrobe, had a hand in those, too. It is an excellent look for the entrance to a temple of education: it speaks of classical wisdom and the rule of reason. We boys weren’t allowed to go in that way, of course.
Today, 40 years since I last saw the school, we step in through Latrobe’s columned porch as though entitled. Nothing can touch us: we’re parents. Ruth, my wife, grips my hand. A friend who works in post-traumatic stress disorder warned us, quite gravely, of the risks when people visit scenes of past troubles; of hyper-arousal – sweats, nausea, high heart-rate. Or the opposite, hypo-arousal: a state of lethargy, a feeling of unreality. But I’m fine. Pulse steady. People hurt you, not places.
There were no ghosts, no shocks as we toured the corridors and classrooms. I have not been looking forward to the smell. I could summon the brew: disinfectant, boy sweat, meat stew, chalk dust. An incense of misery. But it is gone. There is no chalk these days.
It is the details from other senses that clamour. The give of a floorboard in a corridor, the sunlight through a window, the shape of a wooden refectory bench, an echo of children’s voices. We enter a cosy girls’ dormitory where the low black beams were, suddenly, shockingly familiar. And the brick fireplace. This used to be headmaster “Billy” Williamson’s study. I’d scrutinised those bricks, the way they sat upon each other, many times over those five years. Waiting for his flap-jowled face to stop shouting and get to business: detail the punishment or the beating.
Just down the corridor, two worn wooden steps led to the tiny dormitory where I slept in my first term at the school. I and the other eight-year-olds would turn our faces into our mattresses, pull pillows over our heads. If you wept out loud, the 10-year-old dormitory captain and his deputy threatened to whip you with a belt. That was their prerogative, they told us on the first night, a few hours after our mothers had extracted promises from them to look after their little ones.
The last seems such a cliché of boarding school life – surely the tearful mummy pleading with the bullies is in Tom Brown’s School Days? Or a Michael Palin sketch? – I wonder if I’ve made it up. The memories are blurred. I’m shocked how few of them there are. And telling and retelling the few stories that stand out in bright light carries risks – they gather accretions. Now when I meet men who were at the school I tend to check detail obsessively – He was called what? That happened when? – as if without reaffirmation what was real might slip into the darkness. Old Ashdownians sometimes tell me things that make my jaw drop.
But I do know that after the half-term break that first autumn we came back to a terrifying dressing-down, delivered under those low beams in the headmaster’s study. One of us new boys – I still don’t know who – had complained about the regime in Dormitory V to his parents. This was the cardinal sin. What happened in school stayed in school. Billy punished us all. We didn’t tell tales again.
Some of the key locations have shrunk absurdly small: the brick chapel where Billy gripped the Bible and harangued us with the backing of his three trustiest prefects: Jesus, the Holy Ghost and God. Just as tiny now is the assembly room where, daily, 120 boys aged seven to 13 were ranked on wooden benches. Here the diatribes, the mass punishments and public humiliations happened. This was where he would detail who had cried under the cane the previous night: “Jones and Smith took it like gentlemen. But Renton blubbed like a baby.”
That was then. Now the site is the “play-room”, with a cushioned chill-out area adjoining. The larky 12-year-olds playing pool round a table seem to take up half the space. In the corridor I find a familiar picture, a print of the Pietro Annigoni portrait of the Queen, done after her coronation. She is young, beautiful and brave. I remember I used to watch her during assembly. I would wonder what she would do if she knew how unjustly we, her young subjects, were being treated. I’d will her to descend, glorious like the first Queen Elizabeth, and order Billy and his staff to the Tower. Or, like Boudica, ride down on the teachers and the prefects, slashing them to bits with the spinning swords on her chariot wheels.
The school has prospered since, as has the whole industry: now there are 22 full-time teaching staff. In my time there were only 10 or 12, some of them just graduated, and I wonder how many of them had any qualification at all. There’s a new teaching block, a purpose-built canteen, a swimming pool and a kindergarten.
Lost in this warren is the classroom where, one afternoon when I was nine or 10, a hated and violent young teacher I will call Mr X slipped his hand into my corduroy shorts and tugged at my penis. This was a known hazard – in return Mr X gave you a Rowntree’s fruit gum. Mine was a green one, nobody’s favourite. Is this a memory I can trust? No doubt. I can feel my face against the rough tweed of his jacket, scratchy.
As the visit goes on, corridor after corridor, a sadness grows in my chest. Afterwards, utter exhaustion. I’m very glad, though, to see these rooms now full of light and character.
Especially that. Where our walls were bare and the only softness the identical candlewick bedspreads, now there are teddy bears and family photos; posters of ponies and Chelsea footballers. Peering into classrooms, the children are lively – unnaturally polite, compared with the ones at my daughter’s state primary – but no one looks unhappy. As if they would. I realised I’d sort of expected that. Little rooms full of children with faces like The Scream.
After the tour, there are coffee and biscuits – we’ve come posing as prospective parents – with the headmaster and his wife, a couple in their 40s. They seem kind and practical. We chat about how boarding schools have changed and who from my days stays in touch. Who sends their own children to Ashdown. This stiff conversation is interrupted by a dazed little child who has brought a letter to be sent to his parents.
The headmaster calls him “my dear boy”: when the child stammers what he wants and leaves, the headmaster explains a little, adding that winter is a bad time of year in a new school. We make sympathetic faces. I say that if my daughter comes to the school, she would like not to board immediately. The headmaster nods. That’s fine. Weekly boarding is good, though an initial period of no contact with parents is for the best. One of the boarders, he tells us, is just six years old. That’s been fine, too. His wife nods. At Ashdown now there is, the brochure reassures you, a “warm, kind and trusting home-from-home environment”. No hugs, though.
The little boy’s letter to Mummy, the scrawled envelope barely legible, lies between us on the coffee table among the porcelain like something raw. I remember how the teachers would inspect our letters home, and how we were punished if found to have complained to our parents. In a school of endless rules, offences against omerta were perhaps the most seriously policed of all. Of the platitudes from the current headmaster, only one impresses me: the school likes to encourage “independent thought”. That is a change. This is a very different place altogether.
The last time I set foot in the school was the day I left, aged 13. In the 40 years since, Ashdown has loomed large – it was, as they say, “the making of me”, for better and for worse. But I had not thought of revisiting. Except once, aged 15. Then a group of boys at Eton and I had discussed whether we might charter a mini-bus and visit the grave of the newly deceased Billy Williamson, to dance on it. It never happened. But the thought was good.
With the headmaster’s death, Ashdown House and its demons began to fade. A young teacher, one of the decent ones, became headmaster, introduced girls and abolished the cane. The stories of baroque cruelty and insane adult behaviour became jokes, used to bond with people who’d been through the system at other schools. There was a time when the stories were fun to use to horrify girls, and another when they could serve to excuse your own emotional screw-ups. They were war stories: they made us feel special.
Sympathy in the wider world was limited. It still is. We were toffs whose parents had paid for the luxury of having their children abused – we were hardly the survivors of the care homes of north Wales or Catholic church vestries. We were not noisy: we kept calm and carried on, as trained. Some of us would later untangle the memories in therapy.
There has clearly been some demand for that. By the 1990s this odd corner of the British ruling class’s mechanisms had become a subject of academic study and the grounds of psychiatric careers. Now Boarding School Syndrome has a symptomology, “survivors’ groups” and it’s a thriving area for counsellors and psychotherapists. Private, of course. Money buys you entry: a friend who works in psychological trauma in the NHS says she’s never come across this particular field.
The story of the British boarding school and its experiences have been widely written, as one might expect. Reading the raw accounts in the recent press and on abuse survivors’ web fora I find myself flinching a little at how nicely turned some of the accounts are: like the lesser poets of the First World War, the emotional effects are just a touch self-conscious, the result, probably, of too much Wordsworth and Keats in the Fourth Form. Strange, to educate people to go out and be cannon fodder, but also to describe the experience like a Romantic.
Most of the professional memoirists seem to have ended up accommodating their boarding school experience: “Hell, but it made me the man/woman I am.” Some who loathed their school days end up endorsing the system. Among these are Winston Churchill and Richard Dawkins. In his new autobiography, the scientist reckons the “mild paedophilia” he encountered was of its time and thus acceptable. ‘I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours,” he has said.
Far from condemning, others acknowledge they owe their careers to the emotional catastrophe of their education. Generations of male, middle-class British comedians’ currency is the dry, dark humour that comes straight from the coping mechanisms of upper-class suffering. The other day, Eddie Izzard spoke of how he was sent to board at seven, shortly after his mother’ death. He “cried relentlessly for a year… My housemaster would help me along with beatings when he could fit them in.”
That brand of wry fatalism is characteristic. My wife Ruth did not go to boarding school. She says she cannot stand it when people who did talk through their experiences in “endless infantile grim jokes”. But modern British culture has swallowed the boarding school story and digested it, caring not very much. It was an anachronism, a hangover of the imperial age, and in the 1990s, it looked as though the boarding schools were dying out. Numbers of boarders were collapsing.
Then new money and changing fashion brought about a curious revival. Another generation of the rich started sending their children away again. Once again, the little ones demanded it, they said, because of the books they had been reading. Only this time, the propaganda wasn’t Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers or Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings but JK Rowling (who did not go to boarding school and doesn’t send her own children to one). Perhaps Harry Potter revived the English boarding school: numbers of boarding children have stayed stable since 2000 and through the recession. There’s about 70,000 of them. As far as I can work out, around 4,000 of those are 10 or younger.
Now, of course, the country has had four years of its own experience of the effects of boarding school. The majority of the 2010 coalition cabinet were privately educated, most of them as boarders. Boris Johnson went to my schools – Ashdown and then Eton, and Andrew Mitchell, the former chief whip, went to Ashdown before going to Rugby. Of course, there’s never been a government, even a Labour one, in which privately educated people were not among the major players. But, as critics like to point out, this clutch of male ruling politicians embodies the grand Victorian public school virtues – or failings – more than most: suppression of emotion, devotion to the team, distrust of women and minimal empathy for the weak and ordinary.
And so it is interesting that so many senior politicians in government went to boarding schools, places that, by definition, practise on young children the techniques of “attachment fracture” – a psychiatrist’s phrase – that are key to removing early emotional ties and building esprit de corps. Of those politicians quite a few – including the chancellor, the prime minister and deputy prime minister, the Mayor of London and the Attorney General – were at private schools where teachers from their era have been accused or convicted of sexual abuse. The coalition is quite an advert for the old way.
For two decades there has been talk of an enormous abuse scandal brewing behind the facade of the 20th-century British private education system. Last December the story sprang to life. A long-running case against Peter Wright, the 83-year-old former headmaster of a school in Buckinghamshire called Caldicott, came to an end. Wright was found guilty of 12 counts of sexual abuse: one of the piquant details was that Nick Clegg had been joint head-boy at the school; his colleague, the other head boy, was one of the principal witnesses against Wright.
He had first been charged 10 years’ earlier. A judge threw out the case because the offences were “historical”. When the trial that finally went ahead in 2013, some of the 1960s allegations were not admitted. (Wright has now been jailed for eight years, having been found guilty of 10 indecent assaults and two counts of gross indecency, between 1959 and 1970). At least 30 pupils were involved, according to one newspaper. Five other teachers were implicated, one of whom threw himself under a tube train before the trial. One Caldicott teacher, sacked in 1972, went on to teach and abuse at the Harrodian School: the law did not catch up with him until 2003. Another abused children at Caldicott and a school in Shropshire in the 1970s and 1980s and was finally jailed this February. There is, not for the first time, talk of a “ring” of paedophile teachers operating in the 1970s in prep schools and public schools.
With the Wright case done, the principle that ancient allegations could be successfully prosecuted was established. It was certain more would follow. In mid-January the Times’s hard-working reporter of child abuse scandals, Andrew Norfolk, wrote of a “surge in criminal prosecutions” and named 130 private schools who have been or are now subject to similar allegations. That was 5% of all in the UK. It included 50 in the independent schools’ premier league, the Headmaster’s Conference. Twenty of them were feeders to Eton. In the same story, Norfolk pointed out that teachers from 62 different private schools had been convicted of sex crimes against children in the past 20 years – 18 convictions since 2012. Norfolk called it “stealing their childhoods”.
This all passed me by, until, last December, a story appeared in the Times naming Ashdown House under the headline “Prep school faces claims of physical and sexual abuse.” The Daily Mail was gripped, because Ashdown in the 70s had not just been the school of Boris Johnson but also the actor Damian Lewis and the Queen’s nephew David Linley. Linley was my contemporary – in the Mail he was quoted reminiscing without any affection about the “Dickensian” school. He remembered Billy Williamson caning his whole class for one child’s “fairly petty” offence.
The old man did like a big gesture. I remember him – huge, red-faced, ranting – threatening to cane the entire school unless a boy owned up to some particularly infuriating crime. I think it was a broken window. An older Ashdownian told me Billy had actually once attempted that feat – giving 120 boys “six of the best” in one afternoon. Despite being a keen golfer with a good swing, which he practised on the Royal Ashdown course most weekends, Williamson ran out of steam. He gave up having got through hardly half of them.
But the new allegations were about more than caning, which was a legal practice in independent schools in England and Wales until 1999. (About the same time, the independent schools for the first time became subject to full state inspection.) The Mail story talked of “horrific attacks” by two teachers in the early and mid-70s. The paper had been leaked details of a campaign for compensation started by former pupils, in part because they were infuriated that a complaint about abuse made in 2003 had been brushed aside. This group had been taken on as no-win-no-fee clients by the solicitors representing some victims of Jimmy Savile.
Through friends who had also been at Ashdown, I got more detail. The complaints, from a group a few years younger than me, were indeed horrific: sexual acts much more intrusive than Mr X’s pathetic bribe and fumblings. There was talk of blackmail and predatory older pupils encouraged by abusive teachers. That chimed with my adult perception of the bizarre sexualisation of life at Ashdown, especially the system of reward and discipline. At least two children I knew who had been given authority over younger kids used it to force sexual contact – Williamson seemed to have turned a blind eye. There was talk of connections with house masters at Eton, to which Ashdown fed pupils. There had been at least one suicide. There were more teachers in the complaint.
The Mail’s story quoted from an email that the former Ashdown pupils were passing around: “The abuse that occurred continues to have a dramatic effect on a number of lives, with regards to ongoing relationships, career and treatment for dealing with the psychological damage it has caused. Therefore we are seeking compensation with regards to a civil case against the school.”
I was very shocked when I read this – more than I could easily understand. Ashdown had had a dramatic effect on my life, too, but I had thought it was done. I didn’t feel any need for revenge or compensation for what had happened 40 years ago. I didn’t think I needed catharsis, either – I had long ago let light onto what I experienced at Ashdown. I was open about it with lovers, friends and family. I was, as much as I could hope to be, at peace.
But I realised I owed support to others who might need revenge, relief from the history – or money. There was another pressing need. The abusers had all been young men, if my memory could be trusted. They could still be teaching. Why hadn’t I acted on Mr X years ago? I could not explain that.
The first thing I did, though, was to email the Daily Mail story to my parents. This was not revenge. That my career at Ashdown was a mistake that they deeply regretted was something we had established a long time ago. If there was anything to forgive, I had forgiven it. I know they loved me. They were victims of a terrible fraud.
Besides, the sexual abuses were, in my version of the story, just detail: the real narrative was of five years of deliberate crushing of our individuality, the suppression of emotional freedom. Sexual bullying seemed just a part of the violence and cruelty that was the basic currency of the school and hundreds like it; the tools with which it squashed our little forms into the mould. Out of it would come upper-class Englishmen and women – ready to go and run an Empire or, at least, take charge of lesser mortals with normal feelings.
So went my thinking. Nothing unfamiliar: it has been said by British liberals from George Orwell onwards. Psychiatrists I have spoken to agree that, yes, while sexual and physical abuse is the headline grabber (and what makes criminal cases), real damage is done to children and adults by long-term psychological abuse. A child may recover from a blow, but not from the withdrawal of love and the denial of safety – the “complex trauma” child psychologists talk of. Comfy with my understanding, I was someone who had dealt with his schooldays.
But then I got an email back from my mother. What she wrote stripped away my reading and intellectualising, like so many useless bandages. She said I had told her about Mr X.
Then I cried. Because that summoned a picture: a small boy, nervous, excited in his new clothes and tie, ready to drive to Ashdown House on a September morning in 1969. My little brother and sisters gathered round to wave me off. A few weeks before I’d sat up late to watch the astronauts land on the moon on the TV. I wanted to be an adventurer, too. This journey seemed like the beginning. I was as brave and trusting as only the innocent can be. I never really trusted an adult again, not until I was one myself.
My mother’s email upended my 52-year-old’s view of my Ashdown self. I’d thought that September day was the last of my bravery. That I had been crushed, totally. In a privately published book of appreciation given to Billy Williamson for some anniversary shortly before his death in 1976, there is a selection of some pupils’ prize-winning work. It includes a story I wrote when I was 12.
It’s a plain account of a self-centred little boy who is given a rabbit for his birthday. The novelty wears off, the boy, careless and cruel, fails to clean the hutch or feed the rabbit. His mother warns him to look after it better; he punishes the rabbit by throwing mud and stones at it. When eventually it dies, he weeps as he buries it. But then a few days later, when a fox digs up the rabbit’s corpse, he doesn’t notice. “Nor were the flowers on its grave ever renewed,” is the last phrase.
That story of the selfish little boy and the all-knowing adults has long seemed to me as good a totem as any to show that the school had done the job it was paid for. Ashdown had broken me, as you do when you train an animal, and then drilled me until I was a suitable citizen. But my mother’s revelation showed I had kicked back. In fact, I had broken the most important of all of Billy’s rules. I had told tales out of school. l specifically said a teacher was touching me in a way I didn’t like and that I “hated” him. And she had gone straight to the school to raise hell with the headmaster’s wife.
That may explain Mr X’s disappearance shortly after (to teach at another school, according to the Ashdown School Bulletin of that year). It may explain the way the headmaster targeted me in the following years, singling me out in front of the school as a fraud, a failure and a perpetrator of “filthy behaviour”. But it gave me a new vision of the brave little boy who wouldn’t be cowed by Billy Williamson: the boy who spoke out.
And so I thought of those others, today and in the past, at Ashdown and all the other schools who wanted to speak up. I thought of the children in council care homes, in borstals and mental institutions, who over the years were left in thrall to adults without protection. I thought of the ruined marriages, the let-down kids, the suicides, the stunted and miserable lives – the great swathe of collateral damage that psychological trauma leaves. I thought of all the kids taken from their homes too early and thus denied, as the writer David Thomas once put it, the chance to love.
I thought particularly of the 45,000 under-10s in the UK who are in local authority care today. Of the 2,000 or so kids nine or younger – too young, according to any child psychologist – whose parents are now sending them to boarding school. For convenience, or notions of status, or just because they did not love them enough, to taking a mad gamble with their children’s emotional health, with their lives. And I thought of all the head-teachers who have protested that schools risk being closed by the legal actions, that that was then and this is now, that the abuses of the old boarding schools could not possibly happen today. I decided to go and see Ashdown. And I decided to talk to the police.
If you have a story you would like to share anonymously, email Alex Renton (email@example.com) in total confidence. If you have been affected by the issues in this story, call the National Association for People Abused in Childhood free on 0800 085 3330 from landlines, 3, EE, Vodafone and Virgin mobile phones, or 0808 801 0331 from O2, EE and Vodafone mobile phones.
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. ]