The Meeting with the Abuse Inquiry Secretariat at Millbank Tower, Friday October 31st, 2014

[Updated Saturday 8th November 2014 with transcript of responses from one panel member]

Yesterday (Friday, October 31st, 2014) I attended the roundtable for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse at Millbank Tower, together with 20 others. Whilst it would not be appropriate to provide a full list of attendees, various have otherwise identified themselves or been identified: Peter Wanless from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC); Peter Saunders from the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC)Liz Davies, social worker and whistleblower at Islington Council, now Reader in Child Protection at London Metropolitan University; Peter McKelvie, former child protection manager involved in the 1992 investigation into Peter Righton; Jonathan West, St Benedict’s School parent and campaigner into abuse at Ealing Abbey and associated schools, also part of MandateNow, but on this occasion there in a personal capacity; Alison Millar from Leigh Day Solicitors, Lucy Duckworth from Ministry & Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors  (MACSAS); and Fay Maxted from The Survivors Trust. In some cases other representatives of these organisations were also present; other organisations represented were the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation (PACE), The Children’s Society, Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) Project, and Victim Support. I was at the meeting because of my involvement as a campaigner on abuse in musical education and contact with survivors there, and also because of wider research into organised abuse.

Jonathan West has already written a blog post on the meeting, and has covered some things I might have done and so will do so briefly; here I just want to add my own impressions and some further thoughts coming out of the further developments yesterday. It would not be appropriate to report exactly who said what, except where they have made this known elsewhere, so I will not do so, but I can give a broader picture of the nature of the meeting. From when people began to arrive there was a barrage of media outside Millbank Tower which had only increased by the end of the meeting; they were keen to interview attendees from when they arrived.

The meeting, which took place on the 12th floor and ran from 10:30 until slightly after 13:30, was also attended by two members of the inquiry panel, Barbara Hearn and Sharon Evans, as well as counsel to the inquiry, Ben Emmerson QC. It was chaired by Usha Choli, Engagement Manager to the inquiry, and several other administrative staff were present. All were sat around a large table with the panel members and counsel at one end, whilst Choli remained standing through the three-hour meeting. The administrative staff were taking notes throughout whilst Choli made some larger notes on a flipchart.

It is clear that this meeting was organised at very short notice, with most representatives having only been informed about it earlier in the week. It would appear to have been a response to widespread reporting about unhappiness following Fiona Woolf’s appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday October 21st, 2014, and many subsequent reports suggesting there was more to her connections with various relevant individuals than had been made clear during this appearance and in the letter confirming Woolf’s connections which was previously posted on the inquiry website. The details of these are now well-known and need little extra rehearsing; suffice to say that I think if she had stayed in position, some of the seemingly less important connections (in particular concerning her steward Colin Tucker) would have been raked over more extensively in the media.

However, I want to stress that I felt this was a very positive and constructive meeting, notwithstanding the naturally heated atmosphere as a result of overwhelming dissatisfaction with then then-chair of the inquiry, Fiona Woolf. Throughout I got a sense of a real will to listen to the representatives present and try to answer the numerous questions posed and also aim for transparency of process; of course the real test will be whether the Secretariat of the Inquiry and the Home Office follow through on these promises. There will be a further meeting next Friday morning (November 7th, 2014), possibly starting later. It was made clear at this meeting that the secretariat will be happy to accommodate a larger group if necessary (and book a larger room for the purpose), and I would urge anyone who feels they should be present as a survivors’ representative or because of other relevant expertise to contact them as soon as possible.

At the outset, all those present were invited to introduce themselves, detail the organisation they represented where appropriate, and list one thing they felt to be most important for the inquiry to consider. Many different responses were given to the latter, such as considering non-sexual abuse, looking at how various institutions turned a blind eye, to (my own point) considering the culture of institutions in which abuse is able to flourish unchecked.

From these points, almost immediately a discussion flared up about whether one should assume that the chair and panel as currently constituted would remain, and also about what real powers the inquiry would have. In response to concerns about the latter, the point was made early on that the possibility of the inquiry having statutory powers (so that they would be able to demand evidence) had not been ruled out by any means, leading Choli to take a poll of those present as to whether this would be their preferred option. There was unanimous support for this, with various individuals expressing their belief that otherwise many institutions would provide no more information to the inquiry than absolutely necessary (I personally know of institutions who would act this way as a matter of policy because of fear of any other information being used against them in civil lawsuits). Choli made clear that this verdict would be communicated to the appropriate people.

Following this came a call for everyone to express their views on the suitability of Fiona Woolf as chair of the inquiry. Of those present, the majority were unequivocal in their view that she should definitely resign; three individuals were a little less emphatic, mostly because of concern about the delay to the inquiry that would be caused by the resignation of the chair, and two others were very mildly less emphatic than others whilst still essentially sharing the belief that Woolf’s resignation was necessary. Later in the meeting, various people made clear that were Woolf to remain chair, they and the survivors they represent had no intention of having anything to do with the inquiry. As Jonathan West has pointed out, there were a variety of reasons for this view, not simply Woolf’s relationship to Leon Brittan and others; various people also commented upon her lack of experience in this field and the amount of time which it would take for her to become fully acquainted with it within an otherwise busy schedule.

There were some questions placed to the members of the panel present about their own connections and the means by which they were selected for this task; an undertaking was provided that this latter process would be made clear on the inquiry website. One individual present wished in particular to question Barbara Hearn, former social worker and Deputy Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, who has also worked as an unpaid researcher for Tom Watson MP for the last two years. I have been sent a verbatim (allowing for the possibility of human error) transcript of what Hearn had to say in response to queries about how she was selected and possible conflicts of interest on her part:

Barbara Hearn: My process was that in July Tom Watson, who I have been working with amongst other MPs, asked me if an inquiry was put together would I be prepared to be on a panel. Then he asked me in middle of August for copy of my CV and statement to go to the Home Office. He said submission was made by him with support of Tim Loughton and Zac Goldsmith [Conservative MPs]. I then had a phone call on the Fourth of September from John O’Brien [Director of Safeguarding at the Home Office] asking me to be on panel and I said yes.

Questioner 1: Tom emailed me saying he had no role in your appointment.

Usha Choli: Let’s put on website how appointed.

[agreement from Ben Emmerson and others from secretariat that this will be done[

Questioner 2: I was referred and I didn’t hear anything from anyone. Would be nice to know why I was not suggested.

BH: My personal relationship with Tom Watson: I know him through family contacts, as I worked with his stepmother. After his announcement in 2012, as he knew me and trusted me, he asked me to come in that afternoon as I think he wanted to speak with someone who had experience of child protection. [Questioner 1] and [Questioner 2] were also at that meeting, and Tom described me in that discussion as a very close personal friend of the family.

Their concern is about my involvement with John Rea Price [Director of Social Services for Islington Council, 1972-92, from 1992 Director of the National Children’s Bureau] , and one of my staff members had been in Islington and refused to give evidence to the Islington inquiry, so I understand their concerns.

My view is that I’d use my contacts and knowledge to dig deep, but I accept the fact that there are issues for any of us who have worked together.

Jonathan West: it is a common characteristic that survivors are extremely distrustful of authority to the extent that those with no experience of abuse might find irrational. The Panel must bend over backwards to try to establish that trust and recognise the state of mind of many of the survivors.

Otherwise, the schedule presented (in which there would be discussions about how the panel would engage with representatives, how such representatives would engage with each other, which issues the panel should be considering, and how the panel could draw upon representatives’ networks) was not really followed, though various of the issues listed were covered through the course of the ensuing discussion. Those present were invited to suggest skill sets or other areas of expertise they felt were not represented on the panel at present, and invited to suggest names for further individuals who could contribute in this respect. Expertise in abuse in education, not least in elite public schools, does not seem to be well-represented on the panel at present, and I hope some good suggestions will be made on this; I have proposals of my own to make for those knowledgeable about abuse in music and the arts worlds to suggest.

The Terms of Reference of the inquiry have received some criticism, for reasons of perceived vagueness, the omission of some types of institutions from the scope, and in particular the restriction of the inquiry to cover England and Wales. It was made clear that this latter point was due to devolution legislation which made devolved authorities responsible for child protection issues; thus Scotland and Northern Ireland would not be included. The message communicated, if not wholly clearly, suggested that the authorities in Scotland had not shown any inclination to launch a parallel inquiry of their own, despite widespread allegations of abuse in Scotland (much of it involving institutions and individuals operative elsewhere in the UK). This issue needs to be pursued further, and the Scottish Government held to account; various of those present at the meeting rightly asked the question of what they were meant to take back to Scottish survivors of abuse from this meeting. One person suggested that the model of a Royal Commission, such as was used in Australia to overcome separate jurisdiction in different states, might get round this problem. I requested that the appropriate devolution legislation and other clarification be placed on the inquiry website concerning all of these matters. Further questions affect the Channel Islands, under separate jurisdiction; knowledge of links between Jersey and Islington were raised.

In terms of the shape of the inquiry, it was presented as being in three stages: (i) consultation of all published and unpublished documentary evidence (referred to as ‘the reports’); (ii) taking of testimony from individuals; (iii) writing of the final report. The counsel also made clear in response to questions, some from myself, that those giving evidence to the inquiry would not be subject to criminal liability if their information was sub judice (thus otherwise liable for contempt of court proceedings) or libel, unless it could be shown to have been given maliciously. Even more importantly, it was also affirmed that those who give evidence will not be liable to prosecution under the Official Secrets Act; this is very important for current or former civil servants who may have been privy to important information. The panel will receive ‘developed vetting’ powers, enabling them to view security and intelligence files. They will also be able to access currently ‘closed’ files – I raised the example of the Barbara Castle archives in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, access to most of which has been forbidden to three people who have tried, and which might oossibly contain a copy of Castle’s own dossier of paedophiles in politics. In other archives, others have found access has been forbidden to key files on sensitive matters involving prominent individuals.

Liz Davies has emphatically made the point both inside and outside the meeting about the need for the inquiry to be limited to organised abuse (so not familial abuse with no institutional involvement) and also should consider some non-sexual forms of abuse such as torture. Others spoke of knowing survivors of abuse by some of the most prominent politicians in the country, and of massively widespread abuse in the care system, churches, schools, and elsewhere. One individual made the important point that the principal reason for Lady Butler-Sloss’s resignation from the inquiry chair was not so much the fact that her late brother was Attorney-General as that a report had suggested she had dismissed evidence against a bishop in order to protect the church.

If anyone has reason to question whether this is a fair account of the meeting, I welcome comments below, and am happy to make changes if necessary.

As mentioned before, towards the end of the meeting, people returned to the issue of complete lack of survivor confidence in Fiona Woolf. Of course, within less than four hours of the meeting breaking up (and widespread media coverage of statements by various of those who were present), Fiona Woolf’s resignation was announced. Now the inquiry is at least partially in a state of limbo.

Tom Watson has repeatedly tweeted and otherwise expressed his opinion that this should not be turned into an opportunity to score political points against Home Secretary Theresa May, who he believes genuinely wishes to get to the truth, unlike various politicians and non-politicians around her. Knowing of Watson’s tireless efforts on behalf of this issue (from his crucial question to the Prime Minister in October 2012, alleging the existence of a high-level paedophile ring with connections to a former Prime Minister, onwards) and his resolute will to stand up to corrupt power (as amply demonstrated through the phone-hacking affair), I am sure he would not make such an observation about a politician from an opposing party lightly, and think everyone should take this seriously. In the immediate aftermath of Woolf’s resignation, both Labour leader Ed Miliband and Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper have wasted no time in making this into an issue of incompetence on the part of the Home Secretary and accumulate political capital in the process.

I hope this will die down quickly. No political party has reason to be complacent on this issue, and for it to descend into partisan point-scoring (just as UKIP unsuccessfully attempted to do in elections for the new South Yorkshire Police Commissioner) is both to trivialise the grave importance of the issue and what is at stake, and may be insulting to some survivors. Finding an appropriate chair for this inquiry with no conflicts of interest is no easy task, and whilst it is clear that the process has not be managed well, it would be rash to assume that if Labour or another political party were faced by the same demands as is the current government, they would have managed it much better. Furthermore, Labour and the left in general have their own types of ‘establishments’ as well, including politicians and others who are also likely to be the subject of scrutiny; some candidates being touted from the left might be equally problematic for this reason.

I believe very passionately that all politicians should do all they can to take the issue of child abuse out from short-term party politics (and equally avoid exploiting it to bolster black-and-white ideologies concerning race, class, gender, sexuality and so on), and co-operate, in consultation with survivors and their representatives, and other expert parties, to try and find a chair who will command maximum support. It is in my opinion really vital that the inquiry is able to start its business before the General Election (to stop it being used as a political football then), and that it commands support and inspires confidence in its integrity. No such inquiry will ever satisfy everyone, and some alleged cases of organisational abuse may be found to have been other than portrayed by those making the allegations (though of course also some hitherto unknown cases may also come to light). But to have an inquiry which has the widest range of powers realistically available, and which is staffed by those with a genuine commitment to the truth, will be a major step forward, little imaginable even just a year ago.

An account of the second meeting, on Friday November 7th, 2014, can be read here. I would like to copy the following section from this, which includes some important contact details:

You must email suggestions and ideas to: john.obrien@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk . Please be assured your emails will be read and considered but you may not get a personal response due to the volume of correspondence.

You can email Inspire You Me Us CIC anonymously, marking your email CSAinquiry and we will pass your suggestions, concerns & stories on for you if that is helpful – inspire4survivors@gmail.com

Future information will be emailed out to representatives for circulation; please be patient and watch social media for information and updates. As many voices as possible will be heard in this mammoth task and this will take time if we want the process to be carried out properly and positively.

The Children’s Commissioner is carrying out an inquiry into Abuse in the Family Environment (intrafamilial):http://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/info/child_sexual_abuse_within_the_family_environment

Are Children Better Protected from Sexual Abuse by Mandatory Reporting:

http://www.bpc.org.uk/event/are-children-better-protected-sexual-abuse-mandatory-reporti

CSA Inquiry website: https://childsexualabuseinquiry.independent.gov.uk/

[Addendum: An article in the Mail on Sunday has reported various participants expressing serious unhappiness about the fact that the resignation of Woolf had already been decided before this meeting took place, yet no-one at the meeting was informed of this. Whilst other aspects of the meeting remain valuable, I would like to add my voice to those who feel a lot of time was taken up pointlessly as a result, and this does suggest stage management on the part of the Home Office. In this context, I will also register here that at the meeting I raised the question of whether, in case there were to be a voluntary resignation of the chair (which at this stage appeared more than a little likely following the release of the seven drafts of Woolf’s letter to the Home Office, providing clear evidence of manipulation of truth), other candidates had been considered? This was not least in order to obtain some clarification of the process for vetting potential chairs. No doubt because of instructions emanating from the Home Office, the reply was that it would be inappropriate to discuss this issue at that point in time..]

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Fiona Woolf – the untruth in her letter to the Home Secretary

Today the letter to the Home Secretary from Fiona Woolf, Lord Mayor of London and chair of the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was published on the new website for the inquiry. Woolf’s letter, apparently declaring any conflicts of interest, contains the following passage concerning her relationship Lady Brittan, wife of Lord Brittan (formerly Leon Brittan), over and above the mention of dinner parties attended and so on:

For completeness, I also set out the contacts I have had over the years with Lady Brittan. I have met Lady Brittan on a small number of occasions for coffee from memory (as these dates are not always recorded in my diary). The last occasion was on 23 April 2013 at Lady Brittan’s residence. We met because Lady Brittan was interested in knowing about my preparation to be Lord Mayor. We also served as lay magistrates on a bench of some 140 magistrates in total. I do not recall serving in the same court at the same time but it is possible that this did happen on a rare occasion. We were both judges for the Dragon Awards in July 2014, a Corporation initiative which celebrates Community Engagement programmes. It recognises businesses and public offices that go above and beyond their core work to make a significant and positive impact on the regeneration of their local communities. The 2014 awards took place on 1 October 2014. Lady Brittan was one of the panel, which I chaired, for judging the awards; the panel met once on 14th July 2014. Lady Brittan did not attend the awards ceremony. As with the TheCityUK council, I shall no longer be part of the judging panel when I step down as Lord Mayor. It is my understanding that Lady Brittan has been a member for approximately eight years, which is before I joined the Corporation as an Alderman. I received an email from Lady Brittan about a charity event in which she was involved {Diana’s DIFC Super Hero Run 2013) and I made a donation {£50 in that case) on 19 May 2013, as I would to any charitable cause that I deemed worthy.

Apart from the charitable donation on 19th May, I have had no further social contact with Lord and Lady Brittan since 23rd April 2013 and have not spoken to either of them in person or by telephone since, other than disclosed in this letter.

But have a look at the following picture, taken from the Dragon Awards’ website for 2013:

MoS2 Template Master

As pointed out in an article from September in the Mail on Sunday (Martin Beckford and Simon Murphy, ‘Pressure growing on abuse inquiry chief Fiona Woolf over new links to Leon Brittan’, Mail on Sunday, September 14th, 2014), this picture shows Woolf together with journalist Martyn Lewis and Lady Brittan. This event took place on October 2nd, 2013.

So, despite Fiona Woolf’s claims about not having spoken to Lady Brittan since April 23rd, 2013, she was photographed speaking to her almost six months later.

Either Woolf is mistaken or is lying. Neither option inspires confidence in her future chairing of the inquiry.

Here is the video of her evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee today (October 21st, 2014), which I attended. See also the post on this on The Needle Blog, this post on Cathy Fox’s blog, and my earlier blog post on Woolf, Brittan and William Hague.


Be very sceptical about online communications laws which protect the powerful – social media and the right to offend

Today the UK Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, clarified that what he called ‘a baying cyber-mob’ could face up to two years in jail under new laws. This refers to proposed amendments to the 1988 Malicious Communications Act, to quadruple the maximum sentence. Already, as modified in 2001 (modifications indicated), the law defines the following offence:

1. Offence of sending letters etc. with intent to cause distress or anxiety

Any person who sends to another person—

(a)a [F1 letter, electronic communication or article of any description] which conveys—

(i)a message which is indecent or grossly offensive;

(ii)a threat; or

(iii)information which is false and known or believed to be false by the sender; or

(b)any [F2 article or electronic communication] which is, in whole or part, of an indecent or grossly offensive nature,

is guilty of an offence if his purpose, or one of his purposes, in sending it is that it should, so far as falling within paragraph (a) or (b) above, cause distress or anxiety to the recipient or to any other person to whom he intends that it or its contents or nature should be communicated.
(2)A person is not guilty of an offence by virtue of subsection (1)(a)(ii) above if he shows—

(a)that the threat was used to reinforce a demand [F3 made by him on reasonable grounds]; and

(b)that he believed [F4, and had reasonable grounds for believing,] that the use of the threat was a proper means of reinforcing the demand.

[F5 (2A)In this section “electronic communication” includes—

(a)any oral or other communication by means of a telecommunication system (within the meaning of the Telecommunications Act 1984 (c. 12)); and

(b)any communication (however sent) that is in electronic form.]

(3)In this section references to sending include references to delivering [F6 or transmitting] and to causing to be sent [F7, delivered or transmitted] and “sender” shall be construed accordingly.

(4)A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to [F8 imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both].

Under the new amendments, the maximum sentence would be two years.

Direct physical or other threats are indeed a worrying phenomenon of social media, as are any threats to politicians or others in public life, and I have no problem with these being criminalised. But it is clear that this law goes much further than that. In particular, the terms ‘indecent’ and ‘grossly offensive’ are very nebulous, and could be used in highly censorious ways, as I will attempt to demonstrate presently.

Amongst those cited in support of Grayling’s laws are former Conservative MP Edwina Currie and Labour MP Stella Creasy. A 33-year old man, Peter Nunn, received an 18-month sentence for abusive Twitter messages against Creasy. Yet Creasy’s rank hypocrisy was amply demonstrated when challenged by myself and various others some weeks ago to condemn a case where violence was not merely threatened but actually carried out, in a frenzied attack against Respect MP George Galloway by Neil Masterson, who appears to be a neo-fascist supporter of the Israeli government. The 60-year old Galloway was leaped on in a frenzied manner by the attacker, and suffered a broken jaw, suspected broken rib and severe bruising to the head and face through the attack. There were a shocking number of people posting online in many places to say Galloway deserved it.

Just a few prominent commentators made an issue of this. Peter Oborne, writing in the Telegraph, drew attention to the fact that no political party leader, nor the Speaker of the House of Commons, had condemned this attack on Galloway, which Oborne called ‘beyond doubt an attack on British democracy itself’. He added:

Had an MP been attacked by some pro-Palestinian fanatic for his support of Israel, I guess there would have been a national outcry and rightly so. Why then the silence from the mainstream establishment following this latest outrageous assault on a British politician?

Times journalist Hugo Rifkind, no political supporter of Galloway, tweeted on 31/8 ‘What happened to @georgegalloway shouldn’t happen to any politician in this country. Horrifying. Hope he’s okay.’

Amongst the responses were one by @77annfield, who said ‘any physical attack is wrong but it was his personality that brought it on’ (i.e. he basically deserved it), a few days later by an @ElectroPig who said ‘It shouldn’t happen to an HONEST politician who actually gives a damn. The rest of the bastards? #FineByMe’.

No UK party leader nor prominent politician condemned this attack on a fellow MP. Can we presume that Creasy thinks physical assault is OK, or at least not much of an issue, when it is against a political opponent or someone she doesn’t like? I am quite sure that if Creasy had suffered such an attack, and had her jaw and ribs broken, Galloway would have wholeheartedly condemned it.

Edwina Currie is currently the subject of various scrutiny for her role in appointing Jimmy Savile to a taskforce to run Broadmoor prison,, where he was involved in widespread sexual abuse, and also for the fact that she knew about the paedophile activities of late Conservative MP Peter Morrison, but appeared to do nothing about it until she could use it in diaries she had to sell. She said on the subject of Grayling’s proposals:

Most people know the difference between saying something nice and saying something nasty, saying something to support, which is wonderful when you get that on Twitter, and saying something to wound which is very cruel and very offensive.

it should not be surprising if Currie only wants ‘nice’ things said about her, considering her record. But the freedom to say things which are cruel, very offensive, and may be designed to wound, is fundamental in a democracy, I would say, however much Currie may not wish it to be. I worry about the implications of this law more widely to be possibilities of political dissent and satire in an age in which electronic communications and social media play a more prominent role than ever.

With this in mind, I would strongly recommend watching the two part 1994 BBC series written and presented by Kenneth Baker (now Lord Baker), From Walpole’s Bottom to Major’s Underpants, tracing the history of the political cartoon.

The image below, produced anonymously in 1740, refers to Robert Walpole, Prime Minister from 1721 to 1742.

Walpole's bottom

This dates from 1797, and is by Richard Newton, showing Pope Pius VI kissing the bare bottom of Napoléon Bonaparte.

Newton on Pope Pius VI and Napoleon

More recently, this image from 1967, drawn by Gerald Scarfe for Private Eye, shows Harold Wilson pulling down the back of Lindon Baines Johnson’s trousers and pants, as a comment on the Vietnam War; the original image actually had Wilson’s tongue up Johnson’s bottom, but then-editor Richard Ingrams thought this was too much.

Wilson and Johnson

This 1988 image, Mirth and Girth by then School or Art Institute of Chicago student David K. Nelson Jr, is of former Chicago major Harold Washington. This picture was confiscated by Chicago police, though Nelson later won a federal lawsuit against the city on the grounds of the confiscation and damage to his picture.

Mirth and Girth

This from 2006, by cartoonist Latuff, shows fundamentalist pro-Israel zealot Alan Dershowitz masturbating over the sight of carnage in Lebanon brought about through Israeli military action.

Dershowitz masturbating

This cartoon from Martin Rowson from 2007 at the time of Tony Blair’s resignation as Prime Minister, hardly hides its ‘fuck off and die’ message.

Rowson on Blair

And here, from 2012, is a Steve Bell cartoon portraying Angela Merkel as a dominatrix of Europe.

Merkel dominatrix

Other example would include a bare-breasted Margaret Thatcher on Spitting Image (which I have been unable to find to post here), and countless other images from that programme (look at the treatment of Cecil Parkinson, David Mellor or Sarah Ferguson, for example, after all were embroiled in sex scandals).

All of these could be more than plausibly described as ‘indecent’ (except perhaps the Rowson cartoon) and ‘grossly offensive’. They all appeared in mainstream publications, but what would happen if a cartoonist posted them online, and tweeted them, perhaps with the hashtag of their subjects included? If they would be liable for prosecution and possibly a two-year prison sentence, this would be an extremely worrying development indeed.

I have seen and experienced intimidation online by other pro-Israeli neo-fascists, who spread messages of sometimes violent hatred. Some students have been revealed to have been paid by the Israeli government to act as propagandists, and I would imagine some of the people I have encountered are amongst these. I cannot imagine these laws being used against them (and certainly have not heard of such a case), though in the future I could certainly imagined them being used to intimidate pro-Palestinian campaigners, by branding various views they might express (such as, for example, that the foundation of the state of Israel involved the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and cannot be accepted as legitimate) as ‘anti-semitic’, and as such constituting quasi-hate crimes against those to whom they are addressed. In neither of these cases is criminalisation appropriate.

In the UK, there is no written constitution as such, and thus no equivalent of the First Amendment to protect free speech. Many on both the left and the right would like to restrict the range of opinions capable of being expressed, at least through media they do not control (such as parts of the internet, as opposed to broadcast media over which the state has a monopoly or a press with whose owners successive Prime Ministers have an unhealthy relationship). But I believe very fundamentally in the right to the widest type of free speech when there is not a direct threat or incitement to something which is already a criminal act. And this would include views or statements which some will interpret as sexist, racist, anti-semitic, etc., or even a belief that terrible things should happen to someone, so long as this is not a direct incitement.

I generally block anyone on Twitter who says that anyone deserves to be hanged, to be raped in prison, or otherwise to be beaten up or mutilated – as often wished upon in the case of child abusers – or those who express approval for vigilantes or gangs thereof (including, for example, the female vigilante gangs in India). To my mind, those who do or wish such things are become little better than the abusers themselves. But I still do not believe at all that they should be criminalised for what they say.

In June, together with a group of others, I was involved in a Twitter campaign to get various MPs to add their names to those calling for a public inquiry into organised child abuse. As I discussed in a post I published on the eve of Simon Danczuk’s appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee (which moved the campaign into another gear), I did not feel the persistent hectoring approach taken by some (and encouraged in that respect by Exaro News) was necessarily very productive. However, the campaign as a whole did undoubtedly result in many more MPs adding their names than would have otherwise been the case, and this played a fundamental part in Home Secretary Theresa May’s agreeing to the inquiry. A few people, including Labour MP Eric Joyce, and for a while former Conservative MP Mark Reckless, complained that this amounted to ‘online bullying’ (a refrain also taken up by some journalistic opponents of an inquiry, and doubtless privately by many other politicians). I would be very worried that in the future such politicians could threaten Twitter activists with this law to dissuade them from running such a campaign. The same would apply to Edwina Currie and her condescending and arrogant approach to questions which are put to her concerning abuse, or to numerous other politicians. Examples of these might be Harriet Harman MP, who is naturally not going to be happy with numerous tweeters reminding her of her earlier activities which served to help the Paedophile Information Exchange and their ideologies, or Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf, proposed chair of the inquiry, who has recently deleted her Twitter account after a period which has seen many tweets asking her questions about the nature of her personal and professional connections to various people themselves likely to come under scrutiny as part of the inquiry.

Be very distrustful of any laws, or any expansion of sentences linked to a law, which receive support first and foremost from politicians or others in power looking to criminalise ordinary people who attack them (when not in a manner actually constituting obviously criminal attack, as with Galloway). With more and more revelations coming to light about politicians, abuse and the corruption of power, there will be many angry people, some of whose statements to politicians on social media may unsurprisingly be intemperate. Do not let those politicians get away with criminalising their critics. So long as there are no direct threats involved, members of the public in a democracy should be free to be as harsh and offensive to politicians as they choose.

But I would ask whether the following hypothetical tweets would lead to two-year jail sentences against those who sent them?

@JimmySavile You are a vile abuser of children and necrophiliac protected at high levels of government

@PeterRighton Your proposed childcare reforms will make it easier for you to rape boys in homes

@PatriciaHewitt You submitted document to government saying child abuse does no harm, paedo defender

@PeterMorrison Did you miss the division bell because you were too busy seeking out adolescents in public toilets?

@CyrilSmith You are a hideous, obese and arrogant ass whose jokey exterior masks boy-raping scum


Index of major original articles on abuse

I am in the process of preparing longer bibliographies of both published and online articles relating to issues of institutionalised abuse, specifically the areas on which I have concentrated – abuse in music schools and private schools, the Paedophile Information Exchange, and abuse involving politicians. Having recently reblogged a large number of articles from the Spotlight blog, I realise my site may not be so easy to navigate, so I am providing here a list with links of all my significant original articles.


General

New Cross-Party Group of MPs calling for Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (3/6/14)

Please contact your MP to ask for their support for a national inquiry into child abuse (5/6/14)

The stock government reply to queries about a national inquiry into organised child abuse (15/6/14, also regularly updated)

British Association of Social Workers contacts its 14K members calling for them to support organised abuse inquiry (20/6/14)

House of Commons debate 26/6/14 following publication of Savile reports (26/6/14)

On the Eve of Possible Major Revelations – and a Reply to Eric Joyce (1/7/14)


Abuse in Musical Education and the Music World

Reported Cases of Abuse in Musical Education, 1990-2012, and Issues for a Public Inquiry (30/12/13) (this post is in need of some updating to mention other cases during the period in question)

The Trial of Michael and Kay Brewer and the Death of Frances Andrade, and the Aftermath, 2013 (12/8/14)

Proposed Guidelines to protect both Music Teachers and Students – a starting point for discussion (21/2/15)

New stories and convictions of abuse in musical education, and the film of the Institute of Ideas debate (11/1/14) (also in need of updating)

Petition for an inquiry into sexual and psychological abuse at Chetham’s School of Music and other specialist institutions (original version – each version has a different long list of comments) (16/2/13)

Petition for an Inquiry into Sexual and other Abuse at Specialist Music Schools – The List of Signatories (19/2/13)

Re-opened until May 31st, 2013 – Petition for an Inquiry into Abuse in Specialist Music Education (9/5/13) (the final version)

A further call to write to MPs to support an inquiry into abuse in musical education (26/11/13)

In the Aftermath of the Brewer Sentencing – A Few Short Thoughts and Pieces of Information (27/3/13)

Michael Brewer – a powerful Director of Music, not just a provincial choirmaster or music teacher (28/3/13)

Reports from the Malcolm Layfield Trial (2/6/15)

Chris Ling’s Views on Sexing Up Classical Music (11/2/13)

Robert Waddington, Former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, and Chetham’s School of Music (12/5/13)

The 1980 Department of Education and Science Report into Chetham’s School of Music, National Archives ED 172/598/2 (20/9/15)

Contact details for Greater Manchester Police relating to Chetham’s (11/4/13)

Publication of Reports into Chetham’s by ISI and MCC – Senior Management and Governors should consider their position (3/4/13)

New Surrey Safeguarding Report on suicide of Frances Andrade draws attention to dangers of music education (10/4/14)

Alun Jones to be new Head of Chetham’s – and a list of SMS Heads and Music Directors (13/12/15)

Marcel Gazelle and the Culture of the Early Yehudi Menuhin School (7/5/13)

Craig Edward Johnson, the Yehudi Menuhin School, Adrian Stark, and wider networks? (8/4/14)

Contact Details for Surrey Police, in relation to the Yehudi Menuhin School (11/5/13)

Philip Pickett arrested on 15 charges, and interview with Clare Moreland in The Times (14/2/14)

The case of Ian Lake, and reflections on the year (30/12/13)

Clifford Hindley: Pederasty and Scholarship (3/3/14)

Abuse minimisation as an example of the writing of history as kitsch (14/7/13)

New article in Times Educational Supplement on abuse in musical education – and public debate on October 19th, Barbican Centre (3/10/13)

A message from another victim of abuse at a UK music school, calling for others to come forward (25/11/13)

Call to speak out on bullying and psychological/emotional abuse in music (9/1/14)

Alan Doggett, first conductor of Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar, and the Paedophile Information Exchange (28/3/14) (an updated version of original post from 7/3/14)

New revelations on Alan Doggett, and Colin Ward’s 1981 article on Doggett and Tom O’Carroll (25/3/14)

Further on Alan Doggett – child prostitution and blaming victims at Colet Court School (28/3/14)

Peter Righton’s Diaries: Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Michael Davidson (11/5/14)

Benjamin Britten and Peter Righton – A Response from the Britten-Pears Foundation (12/9/14)

Geoff Baker on El Sistema: sexual and other abuse in an authoritarian, hierarchical, archaic music culture (15/11/14)


The Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) and associated areas

NCCL and PIE – documentary evidence 1 (25/2/14)

NCCL Documentary Evidence 2 – Sexual Offences – Evidence to the Criminal Law Revision Committee 1976 (7/4/14)

PIE – documentary evidence 2 – from Magpie 1-8 (trigger warning – contains disturbing material) (26/2/14)

PIE – documentary evidence 3 – from Magpie 9-17 (trigger warning – contains disturbing material) (26/2/14)

PIE – documentary evidence 4 – UP, ‘Childhood Rights’, and Paedophilia – some questions and answers (27/2/14)

PIE – Documentary Evidence 5 – Contact Ads (9/3/14)

PIE – Documentary Evidence 6 – Chairperson’s Report 1975/76 (16/3/14)

PIE – Documentary Evidence 7 – Steven Adrian Smith’s History of the Movement (31/3/14)

PIE – Documentary Evidence 8 – Mary Manning in Community Care and Auberon Waugh in The Spectator, 1977 (16/7/14)

The PIE Manifesto (6/3/14) (link to Spotlight blog from 18/4/13)

PIE and the Home Office: Three+ members/supporters on inside, funded, magazine printed and phone line (15/3/14)

PIE and the Gay Left in Britain – The Account by Lucy Robinson – plus various articles newly online (29/6/14)

Antony Grey and the Sexual Law Reform Society 1 (26/8/14)

Antony Grey and the Sexual Law Reform Society 2 (29/9/14)

Tim Tate – Chapter on Paedophiles from book ‘Child Pornography: An Investigation’ (4/8/14)

The File on Peter Hayman in the National Archives (30/1/15)

Two Obituaries of Peter Hayman, Senior Diplomat, MI6 Officer and PIE Member (6/3/14)

Clifford Hindley: Pederasty and Scholarship (3/3/14)

Peter Righton – His Activities up until the early 1980s (21/8/14)

Letter to Guardian from 1963 from a Peter Righton on Books dealing with Sex for 14-year olds (20/8/14)

Peter Righton – Counselling Homosexuals (1973) (2/9/15)

Peter Righton’s Articles for Social Work Today (5/6/14)

Peter Righton and Morris Fraser’s Chapters in ‘Perspectives on Paedophilia’ (5/6/14)

Peter Righton’s writing on child abuse in Child Care: Concerns and Conflicts – his cynical exploitation of a post-Cleveland situation (28/8/15)

Peter Righton, Antony Grey and Kevin O’Dowd in conversation on therapy (26/8/14)

Peter Righton was questioned about child sex offences in May 1993 and November 1994 (21/8/14)

The Larchgrove Assessment Centre for Boys in Glasgow that even Peter Righton found to be cruel (20/8/14)

Brian Taylor and Ken Plummer’s Chapters, and Bibliography, from ‘Perspectives on Paedophilia’ (29/6/14)

Peter Righton’s Diaries: Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Michael Davidson (11/5/14)

Benjamin Britten and Peter Righton – A Response from the Britten-Pears Foundation (12/9/14)

Peter Righton – Further Material (12/6/14)

Peter Righton obituary in Ardingly College magazine (16/7/14)

Reports from the Richard Alston Trial (20/8/15)

From the memoirs of John Henniker-Major, 8th Baron Henniker (1916-2004) (3/3/15)

Dr Morris Fraser, Belfast, Long Island New York, Islington (17/10/14) (This is a link to a post on Charlotte Russell’s blog, but so important I wanted to include it here)

The Love and Attraction Conference (1977) and Book (1979) (7/7/14)

Betrayal of Youth (1986) – including the contributions of Middleton, Owens, Faust, Tatchell (5/7/14)

Academia and Paedophilia 1: The Case of Jeffrey Weeks and Indifference to Boy-Rape (29/9/14)

The Uranians #1 – the nineteenth/early twentieth century PIE? (24/5/14)


Public Schools

Alan Doggett, first conductor of Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar, and the Paedophile Information Exchange (28/3/14) (an updated version of original post from 7/3/14)

New revelations on Alan Doggett, and Colin Ward’s 1981 article on Doggett and Tom O’Carroll (25/3/14)

Further on Alan Doggett – child prostitution and blaming victims at Colet Court School (28/3/14)

Craig Edward Johnson, the Yehudi Menuhin School, Adrian Stark, and wider networks? (8/4/14)

Extraordinarily powerful article by Alex Renton on the abusive world of British boarding schools (4/5/14)

Colet Court School and St Paul’s: A Collection of Articles from The Times (8/5/14)

Benjamin Ross’s account of Colet Court School (8/5/14)

Criminal abuse in the classroom as portrayed by D.H. Lawrence (4/5/14)


Politicians, Government and Abuse

General

Call for All Political Leaders and Leadership Candidates to Pledge Full Co-operation with Abuse Inquiry (9/7/15)

What leading UK politicians should pledge about organised child abuse (17/10/14)

The Meeting with the Abuse Inquiry Secretariat at Millbank Tower, Friday October 31st, 2014 (1/11/14)

Labour’s nominees for inquiry chair, and a left ‘establishment’ (6/11/14)

Please contact your MP to ask for their support for a national inquiry into organised child abuse (5/6/14, regularly updated).

The stock government reply to queries about a national inquiry into organised child abuse (15/6/14, also regularly updated)

British Association of Social Workers contacts its 14K members calling for them to support organised abuse inquiry (20/6/14)

House of Commons debate 26/6/14 following publication of Savile reports (26/6/14)

On the Eve of Possible Major Revelations – and a Reply to Eric Joyce (1/7/14)

A few good politicians – Becky Milligan at the office of Simon Danczuk, with Matt Baker, and the personal impact of abuse campaigning (18/7/14)

Ed Miliband should be leading the calls for a wide-ranging abuse inquiry (3/5/14)

Article from Telegraph – Simon Danczuk on child sex allegations involving senior Westminster figures (15/5/14)

PIE and the Home Office: Three+ members/supporters on inside, funded, magazine printed and phone line (15/3/14)

Sir Maurice Oldfield, Sir Michael Havers, and Kincora – guest blog post from Brian Merritt (10/7/14)

William Malcolm, the murdered paedophile who may have been about to expose a VIP ring (21/7/14)

 

Peter Morrison

Peter Morrison – the child abuser protected by MI5, the Cabinet Secretary, and Margaret Thatcher – updated July 2015 (26/7/15)

Peter Morrison and the cover-up in the Tory Party – fully updated (6/10/14)

Yes, Labour politicians need to answer questions about PIE and NCCL, but so do the Tories about Morrison, and the Lib Dems about Smith (25/2/14)

Tim Tate’s Questions to Lord Armstrong, and Armstrong’s Answer (26/7/15)


Fiona Woolf

Fiona Woolf, Leon Brittan and William Hague – conflicts of interest (11/9/14)

Fiona Woolf – the untruth in her letter to the Home Secretary (21/10/14)

 

Greville Janner and Frank Beck

Judge in 1991 Leicestershire sex abuse case on ‘people in high places’ (24/5/14)

Decision not to arrest Greville Janner in 1991 – then Attorney General and DPP need to answer questions (8/8/14)

The documents in the Andrew Faulds archives on Greville Janner (4/10/14)

Greville Janner’s view on a 1997 case of Nazi War Criminal with dementia (16/4/15)

And another case with Janner calling in 2001 for extradition of war criminal with dementia (16/4/15)

Greville Janner and Margaret Moran – trial of facts more likely for expenses fiddling than child abuse? (27/6/15)


Other

Anne Lakey didn’t ‘seduce’ or ‘take the virginity’ of a 13-year old boy – she sexually abused them (24/6/15)

Gore Vidal – paedophile, literary lover of child rape (11/8/14)

Germaine Greer’s Apologia for Child Abuse (27/6/14)

More pro-child sexual abuse propaganda from Germaine Greer (12/11/14).

Academia and Paedophilia 1: The Case of Jeffrey Weeks and Indifference to Boy-Rape (29/9/14)

The Uranians #1 – the nineteenth/early twentieth century PIE? (24/5/14)

Simon Callow on the paedophile exploits of André Gide, Oscar Wilde, Lord Alfred Douglas and others (31/7/14)

Liz Davies’ Open Letter to Margaret Hodge (3/8/14)

Paul Foot on Kincora Boys’ Home, and Recent Kincora Articles (1/8/14)

Paul Foot on Kincora – Appendix with Colin Wallace documents, and mention of Morris Fraser (9/8/14)

Claire Prentice in 1998 on Jimmy Savile, Cyril Smith, and Mummy’s Boys (30/6/14)

Mary Whitehouse’s Favourite TV Programme – Jim’ll Fix It (7/7/14)

Decision not to arrest Greville Janner in 1991 – then Attorney General and DPP need to answer questions (8/8/14)

Be very sceptical about online communications laws which protect the powerful – social media and the right to offend (20/10/14)