Peter Righton – His Activities up until the early 1980s

[Updated: I am immensely grateful to Peter McKelvie, Liz Davies, Martin Walkerdine and @Snowfaked (on Twitter) for providing extra information which has helped to fill in gaps in my earlier account]

I do intend at some point to publish a comprehensive account of all that can be ascertained about the life and activities of the sinister figure of Peter Righton, perhaps the most important of all figures in terms of the abuse scandals soon to be investigated by the national inquiry, and believed to have been a serial abuser himself with a great many victims. Both demands of time and also legal constraints do not permit this at present, but for now I wanted to publish some information and sources on Righton’s activities up until the early 1980s. 

Righton was born in June 1926 as Paul Pelham Righton, in Kensington . He grew up in Kent , and attended Ardingly College, West Sussex from 1940 to 1944, where he was a ‘favourite’ for history master and A dormitory housemaster, Denis Henry d’Abedhil Williams. From 1944 to 1948, Righton served in the Royal Artillery, based initially for his six week’s primary training at barracks in Lincoln from April 1944 (Righton, ‘Working with the ‘misfits”, Social Work Today, May 6th, 1985); no further details are known at present other than that his rank upon demobilisation was Lieutenant. By 1948, aged 22, Righton was living in 19 Garway Road, in the Paddington area of London (my thanks to Martin Walkerdine for this information). That year, Righton went to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics, graduating in 1951 (with a second class degree), and receiving his MA in 1955 .

Following graduation, Righton undertook training in the probation service from 1951 to 1952, and served as a Probation Officer in Gray’s, Essex from 1952 to 1955, where he also ran a project to develop reading skills for children with learning difficulties. In January 1956 he began teaching at Gaveston Hall, near Horsham in West Sussex, but was only in this position until July of that year. In Righton’s diaries, he lists boys he abused whilst at Gaveston Hall. The circumstances of his departure are unclear; after leaving he retreated for six months to the Society of Saint Francis, a closed order (all information courtesy of Peter McKelvie).

Righton re-emerged in January 1957 to teach at Cuddesdon College near Oxford. Soon afterwards (in the same year), however he moved to teach English at Redhill, a school for disturbed boys in Maidstone, Kent. Righton had taken a range of vulnerable pupils under his wing, and Mark Thewliss claims he was abused by Righton there from the age of 12. Righton’s diaries list boys he abused at both Cuddesdon and Redhill (source Peter McKelvie; see the Inside Story documentary below for more accounts of Righton’s activities at Redhill). He left Redhill discreetly on April 8th, 1963, resigning his position (source Peter McKelvie) (not 1964 as mistakenly mentioned before). In July 1963, a police investigation began into complaints against Righton of abuse; around time he wrote several potential suicide notes admitting having done harm to boys. However, Righton was able to get the investigation dropped after having lunch with a police inspector (Source McKelvie).

After leaving Redhill Righton worked for two years (1963-65) as a tutor and organiser for the Workers’ Educational Association in Wiltshire; his address was given as North Flat, Marden Grange, Marden, Devizes, Wiltshire.

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From 1965 onwards, Righton established his influence within the world of social work and child care. He became a tutor in charge of a two-year course for child care officers at Keele University from 1965-68 (see Inside Story below); how and when exactly he had become qualified in this field, are who were his referees, are questions the answer to which remains unclear.
then as. From 1968 to 1971 he was a Senior Lecturer at the National Institute of Social Work, a government-funded educational and research centre. On October 11th 1968, as Paul Pelham Righton, he gave a talk at Shotton Hall, Peterlee, entitled ‘A New Deal for Children: Thoughts on the White Paper ‘Children in Trouble” (Paul Pelham Righton, A new deal for children Reflections on the White Paper ‘Children in trouble’ a paper given at Shotton Hall on 11th October 1968 (Shrewsbury: Shotton Hall Publications, 1968); he also published an article entitled ‘The Need for Training’, F.G. Lennhoff and J.C. Lampen (eds), Learning to Live: A Sketchbook of Residential Work with Children (Shrewsbury: Shotton Hall, 1968), pp. 13-16, which is reproduced on the Online Journal of the International Child and Youth Care Network, Issue 95 (December 2006). In 1969, Righton published an article entitled ‘Social work and scientific concepts’ in Social Work, Vol. 26, p. 3. . He also at some point in the late 1960s started working at North London Polytechnic (now London Metropolitan University), based at Ladbroke House, Highbury Grove, leaving the institution in 1970 (source Liz Davies).

The report by Tom Bateman for the BBC Radio 4 Today earlier this week made clear that as early as 1970, Righton was already credited as giving ‘considerable assistance’ to a Home Office report (Advisory Council on Child Care: Research and Development Committee; Community Homes Project, Second Report (London: Home Office Children’s Department, April 1970). The relevant chapter is printed below.

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Between 1971 and 1974, Righton was a development officer at National Children’s Bureau and head of two-person Children’s Centre (‘The National Children’s Bureau’, Evening Standard, May 12th, 1993)

In October 1971, here listed as a ‘lecturer in residential care’ for the National Institute for Social Work, and ‘director-designate of the centre to be established by the National Children’s Bureau later this year’, Righton addressed a social services conference organized by the County Councils Association and the Association of Municipal Corporations, arguing for integration of social workers with residential home staff, and against too-frequent placing of those with social, physical and mental handicaps in residential homes. He also thought children ‘could be greatly helped in a residential unit’.

Times 291071 - Homes for handicapped become scapegoat for guilt of society (Righton)

In 1972, Righton published ‘Parental and other roles in residential care’, in The Parental Role: Conference Papers (London: National Children’s Bureau, 1972), pp. 13-17 (Peter Righton – Parental and Other Roles in Residential Care). Here he wrote about the  shift during last 25 years away from ‘total substitute care’ towards ‘planned alternative provision’, with child placed in open community with frequent access to their own parents. Righton argued that many still believed that substitute parenting is central role of residential worker, and that the family is good model for a residential unit. He questioned this – saying that it is impossible to provide ‘a relationship of the desirable uniqueness, continuity and intensity in a residential setting’, mentioning that the majority of children in care still have their own parents and maintain some sort of relationship with them. Righton argued that it would cause conflict by having ‘two competing sets of adults’ trying to outdo each other. He preferred to see residential care as ‘alternative caring ‘sui generis’ rather than as substitute family care’. It has been suggested to me by some experts in child care that the substitute parent model helped children feel safe from abuse and mistreatment in care; Righton’s concern to move away from this model may well have been another strategy to facilitate the ability of himself and others to sexually exploit children in residential care.

This same year, Righton also had a letter published in The Listener (June 29th, 1972), in which he expressed his fierce objection to Lord Hailsham’s views on homosexuality (my profound thanks to Daniel de Simone for locating this); Righton would use claims of homophobia more widely to silence critics of his relatively overt exploitation of young boys.

Righton on Lord Hailsham, The Listener 1972

Also in 1972, Righton took part in a published debate with Antony Grey (of the Sexual Law Reform Society and Albany Trust, who would later fund PIE – see articles here and here), and Kevin O’Dowd over the role of therapy. At another time during this year, Righton shared a platform (New Society, Vol. 21 (1972), p. 60) with Keith Joseph, then Secretary of State for Social Services, and who has himself been named as an abuser according to at least one source (Matthew Drake, ‘Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet bigwigs named in Leon Brittan paedo files’, Sunday Mirror, July 24th, 2014)

In January 1973, together with Ronald Bennett, QC, Righton was called to conduct an independent inquiry into allegations of violence by staff against boys in Larchgrove Assessment Centre on the outskirts of Glasgow; the report found that 13 out of 30 allegations were proved and was highly critical of the corporation for allowing conditions inducive to violence to occur; later reports found that John Porteus, a houseparent, had sexually abused boys at Larchgrove in the late 1960s, and others testified to sexual abuse during this time. Righton and Bennett’s report did not deal with sexual abuse, and it was possible for a convicted abuser, Robert William Henderson, to gain a position towards the end of 1973, where he formed ‘an indecent association with a 13-year-old boy’. Glasgow City Council are currently looking for any documentation connected with the case, whilst the council and Scottish government have called upon anyone who suffered abuse there to contact the police; it has been revealed that there are claims that staff of both genders were involved in the abuse of boys at the home (see ‘Notorious paedophile headed Scottish care home inquiry’, Sunday Herald, August 24th, 2014).

Also in 1973, Righton gave the Barnardo’s Annual Lecture (Edward Pilkington, ‘Shadow of the Attic’, The Guardian, June 1st, 1994); the title was ‘A Continuum of Care’, which was published the following year (Peter Righton, A Continuum of Care: The Link between Field and Residential Work (London: Barnardo’s, 1974)). This year, he also published Counselling Homosexuals: A Study (London: Bedford Square Press, 1973).

On March 8th, 1973, Righton gave a talk on ‘Co-operation in child care’, for the British Association of Social Workers Conference at St. Williams’ College, York (Residential Social Work, Vol. 13 (1973), p. 63). In September 1973, he argued that children’s homes were like ‘ghettos’ which ‘stigmatize’, because they are deprived of being part of a normal family. As a remedy of this, Righton believed such homes ‘should be made as open as possible to people in the immediate neighbourhood, and to the families and friends of the children living there’; and ‘Staff and children should be encouraged to go out to meet people and residential schools should take both children needing special substitute care and those needing boarding education’, all of which (not, of course, said by Righton) would ease the access of paedophile predators to them.

 

Times 180973 - Children's homes 'ghettos that stigmatize'

From 1974 to 1982, Righton was Director of Education for the National Council of Social Work (‘In Residence’, Social Work Today, February 4th, 1985)

In 1974, Righton visited Algeria in April, and published ‘Child Care in Algeria’, International Social Work, Vol. 17, No. 4 (October 1974), pp. 51-53. (Peter Righton – Child Care in Algeria). He also gave the David Willis Lecture for the Planned Environment Therapy Trust, at New Barns School, Toddington, Gloucestershire (where he would later become a governor, and which was closed down following a police raid in 1992), published as ‘Planned environment therapy: a reappraisal’, in Association of Workers with Maladjusted Children Journal (1975) (see James S. Atherton, Review of Perspectives on Training for Residential WorkBritish Journal of Social Work, Vol. 8, No. 2 (1988), pp. 227-229). From 1974 to 1982, his address was listed as 48 Barbican Road, Greenford (near Ealing, West London) (source Ealing Local History through Martin Walkerdine). This also became in 1975 the address of the organisation London Friend, which had been founded in 1971 (one of the co-founders was Mike Launder, a social worker activist; another was the well-known writer Jack Babuscio (1937-90), though it is not clear whether Babuscio did not resign before Righton’s involvement) as the counselling wing of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (Rosemary Auchmuty, ‘London’, in George E. Haggerty, John Beynon and Douglas Eisner (eds), Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 1 (New York: Garland Publishing, 2000) , p. 477), but split from CHE that year 1975 (London Friend, ‘LGB&T milestones – a timeline’)

In October of that year, the Paedophile Information Exchange was founded in Edinburgh by Ian Campbell Dunn and Michael Hanson (Marcello Mega, ‘Paedophile list set up by gay rights leader’, Sunday Times, July 6th, 1997); the group would soon afterwards relocate from Edinburgh to London, and Keith Hose would take over as chair. Righton was part of the group (member number 51, and a member of the Executive Committee, by mid-1976 at the latest (‘It’s the Magnificent Six’, Understanding Paedophilia, Vol. 1, No. 2 (June-July 1976), p. 7), serving as ‘Organiser of prison-hospital visits/general correspondence/PIE befriending’; in May 1977, he stepped down from the committee (at the same time as Hose stepped down), by which time his position was listed as ‘Community Liaison Officer’ (‘Stop Press – Stop Press’, Understanding Paedophilia, Vol. 1, No. 4 (1977), p. 12).

In October 1975, Righton became chair of a working group for the mental health association MIND, with the assistance of the King’s Fund Centre; this led to the publication of Assessment of Children and Their Families: A Report Produced by a MIND Working Party Under the Chairmanship of P. Righton (London; MIND, 1975). MIND also organised for Keith Hose to speak at an event called Mind Out in 1975 (Annette Rawstrone, ‘Paul Farmer of Mind apologises after report that pro-paedophile leader spoke at 1975 event’, Third Sector, July 23rd, 2014). In 1977, London Friend’s sister organisation Cardiff Friend, and the MIND Office in Wales, organised a day seminar entitled ‘New approaches to homosexuality’; speakers were Righton, Michael Launder, and Rachel Beck, co-founder of the then recently established service Lesbian Line (‘Seminar on homosexuality’, Social Work Today, Vol. 9, No. 11 (November 1st, 1977)).

From 1976 to 1985, and especially from 1976 to 1979, Righton published regular articles in Social Work Today, which are all collected here. Of particular note is his article ‘Sex and the residential social worker’, Social Work Today, February 15th, 1977, thus written during Righton’s period on the PIE Executive Committee. Citing a 1975 article by then Lecturer in Social Work at Brunel University Leonard F. Davis seeking to legitimise sexualised touching of children in care (Leonard F. Davis – Touch, Sexuality and Power in Residential SettingsBritish Journal of Social Work, Vol. 5, No. 4 (1975), pp. 397-411 – Davis himself acknowledged Righton’s advice in the preparation of the paper; he is listed as having ‘recently completed the Course in Educational Studies at the National Institute for Social Work’, so may have been one of Righton’s students), Righton argued ‘‘Provided there is no question of exploitation, sexual relationships freely entered into by residents – including adolescents – should not be a matter for automatic inquiry’. Amazingly, several responses to this were essentially sympathetic to Righton’s position (see letters from March 15th and 22nd, 1977; another by an A. Whitaker, published on April 12th, 1977, was sharply critical, but the editor added a note at the end disputing whether this letter accurately represented Righton’s views). 

In the mid-1970s, fellow social worker Ann Goldie was present at a dinner party with Righton, who confided to her that he had engaged in sexual relations with eight or nine boys in residential care homes. Knowing that Goldie was a lesbian, Righton (rightly) trusted a group loyalty when giving this information. Daphne Statham had first encountered Righton in 1966 and frequently thereafter, and admitted that she had had suspicions (especially when Righton mentioned about a ‘motorbike club’), but didn’t enquire further, something she later came to bitterly regret (Pilkington, ‘Shadow of the Attic‘). A similar story was related by Stewart Payne and Eileen Fairweather, of Righton’s being able to be quite blatant about his activities in the knowledge that some other fellow lesbians or gays, or feminists, would not break ranks (Payne and Fairweather, ‘Silence that cloaked child sex conspiracy’, Evening Standard, May 27th, 1994).

As well as the Social Work Today pieces, Righton would in 1976 co-edit a volume with Sonia Morgan, Child Care; Concerns and Conflicts (London: Hodder Education, 1976), and publish an article ‘Sexual minorities and social work’, Health and Social Services Journal, February 28th, 1976, pp. 392-393. At some point prior to 1977, Righton also sat on the Central Council for Education in Training and Social Work (Peter Righton, ‘Positive and Negative Aspects in Residential Care’, Social Work Today Vol. 8, No. 37 (June 28th, 1977), cited in Lucy Robinson, Gay Men and the Left in Post-War Britain: How the Personal got Political (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011)); he also spoke at a conference in Doncaster in June 1977 jointly organised by Doncaster metropolitan borough and Yorkshire region of the Residential Care Association, called ‘Residential care – resource or last resort?’, where anotehr speaker was Janie Thomas (‘Residental care – resource or last resort?’, Social Work Today, Vol. 8, No. 37 (June 28th, 1977), p. 8). On October 16th, 1978, Righton gave a talk to the Camden and Islington branch of the British Association of Social Workers on ‘Links, conflict and relationships between residential and fieldwork’, in the Royal Free Hospital in London (Social Work Today, October 10th, 1978); on 20th March, 1979, he spoke to the Croydon and East Surrey branch of BASW on whether ‘The farmer and the cowboy can be friends?’ at Rees House, Croydon (Social Work Today, March 20th, 1979)

In 1979, he would further co-edit a volume with Margaret Richards entitled Social Work Education in Conflict (London: National Institute for Social Work, 1979), in which he published articles ‘Knowledge About Teaching and Learning in Social Work Education’, pp. 1-18 (Peter Righton – Knowledge about Teaching and Learning in Social Work Education), and ‘Four Approaches to Curriculum Design’, pp. 62-80 (Peter Righton – Four Approaches to Curriculum Design), and edited a further book on Studies in Environment Therapy (London: Planned Environment Therapy Trust, 1979). 

In 1977, Righton also participated in the London Medical Group’s annual conference, on this occasion the subject being ‘Human Sexuality’, speaking alongside agony aunt Claire Rayner amongst others (M. Papouchado, ‘Annual Conference of the LMG: Human Sexuality’, Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 3 (1977), pp. 153-154).

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In 1979, Righton sat on a steering committee to establish a course for training staff to work with disturbed young people, together with John Rea Price, director of Islington Social Services, 1972-92, subsequently the Director of the National Children’s Bureau. Other’s on the committee included G Godfrey Isaacs, chairman of Peper Harow, Mary Joynsons, director of child care for Barnardos, Janet Mattinson, Tavistock Centre, and Nick Stacey (see Social Work Today, April 3rd, 1979 (see links above), and the advert below, from The Guardian, March 28th, 1979).

Guardian 280379

 

The ‘Barclay Report’ of 1980, Social Workers : Their Role & Tasks : the report of a working party set up in October 1980 at the request of the Secretary of State for Social Services by the National Institute for Social Work ; under the chairmanship of Peter M. Barclay (London : National Institute by Bedford Square Press, 1981/1982 [printing]), included the following text: ‘We pay tribute to the work of our Secretary, Mr Bob King, of Mr Peter Righton, formerly Director of Education at the National Institute, who has shouldered a considerable drafting burden and of Miss Carol Whitwill, their personal secretary and helper’.

 

Peter Righton Social Work 2 Peter Righton Social Work

 

And then in 1981, Righton published his most blatant article to date, ‘The adult’, in Brian Taylor (ed), Perspectives on Paedophilia (London: Batsford, 1981), pp. 24-40. Drawing upon an unholy canon of paedophile writers, Righton made the case for sex with children being unharmful, in his characteristically elegant manner. No-one who read this could have been in any doubt about Righton’s inclinations (or the nature of the volume in general). 

One might have thought that one so flagrantly brandishing their sexual interest in children, speaking about it shamelessly to various others, publishing two articles making this clear, and also having been publicly identified as on the Executive Committee of the Paedophile Information Exchange, would have had difficulty being accepted as an expert on child care and child sexuality. But not at all; in 1984, he was one of the major speakers at a conference on Child Sexual Abuse (alongside fellow PIE member and academic Ken Plummer). Righton’s career continued to flourish through the 1980s, and in 1991 he was invited to give evidence to the Pindown inquiry into sexual and physical abuse in Staffordshire (‘Britain’s top kiddies home expert is evil child-sex perv’, The Sun, September 17th, 1992). He helped with translation and editing of some writings on music produced by Donald Mitchell, a major figure involved with the estate of Benjamin Britten and the Britten-Pears Foundation (having been Britten’s publisher); later he would be a co-translator of the volume Truus de Leur and Henriette Straub (ed) Keep these Letters, Please! A Written portrait of the Concertgebouw Orchestra 1904-1921, translated Ian Borthwick, Nicholas Pretzel and Peter Righton (Amsterdam: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, c. 1998).

At the time of his arrest  for importation of child abuse images in 1992, Righton was also a senior tutor with the Open University (previously the employer of PIE chair Tom O’Carroll, and who had published Righton’s volume Working with Children and Young People in 1990), working on a project to do with residential children (Peter Burden and Peter Rose, .’Porn Squad quiz Child Care Expert’, Daily Mail, May 28th, 1992); James Golden, ‘Hoard of filth in childcare expert’s home’, Daily Mail, September 17th, 1992). Chris Andrews, of BASW, described Righton at the time of his arrest as follows: He [Righton] is a highly respected figure within the residential field, particularly working with highly disturbed children. He is very much concerned with therapeutic work in child care’ (cited in Burden and Rose, ‘Porn Squad quiz Child Care Expert’).

The Department of Health and then-Health-Secretary Virginia Bottomley were told in 1993 about an influential network involving Righton. but appear to have done nothing. Nor does there appear to have been much action following the disturbing Inside Story documentary on Righton broadcast the following year, with various testimonies of Righton’s victims . After Righton was convicted, receiving a £900 fine, in September 1992, he was able to relocate on the estate of Lord Henniker in 1993, and continue to have contact with children in care, many of who (not least from Islington) were regularly brought to the estate (Stewart Payne and Eileen Fairweather, ‘Country house hideaway of disgraced care chief’, Evening Standard, May 6th, 1993).

From 1996 to 2002, he had an address of 1 Wheatfields, Rickinghall, Diss IP22 1EN, but also in 1998, he appears to have lived at an 8 Badsey Road, together with another person called Wendy C. Hall-Barnes (source Martin Walkerdine). He would move to Hamworthy, Poole, Dorset, in 2003, where he would die on October 12th, 2007.

Politicians, social workers, civil servants and many others have huge questions to answer about how a figure like Righton could manage to operate with apparent impunity for such a long period of time when his real nature was far from hidden, preying upon the most disturbed and vulnerable boys, and manipulating child care policy towards his own exploitative ends. Righton has been linked to major scandals in Islington, Calderdale, Suffolk, Rochdale (also said by one survivor to have been friendly with Cyril Smith – Keir Mudie, ‘New victim links notorious paedophile Peter Righton to VIP child abuse network’, Sunday People, April 6th, 2013), North Wales (where MP Peter Morrison, Margaret Thatcher’s PPS, has alleged to have abused boys), Haute de la Garenne (Jersey), a series of public schools, networks in Sweden, Malta, Denmark and Holland, and more, and may be one of the worst offenders ever known in the UK, certainly one of the most influential in facilitating others. The existence of diaries kept by Righton on his ‘conquests’, as seen by Peter McKelvie at the time of his earlier investigation, was the impetus for Tom Watson’s October 2012 intervention in Parliament, which more than anything else set in motion the process which has led to the inquiry which has now been announced.

Police collected a whole seven boxes of evidence during the raid on Righton’s home. It is imperative that the full extent of his activities (and also those of the equally sinister and highly-connected Morris Fraser), and the many lessons to be learned, are central to the inquiry.

 

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The Larchgrove Assessment Centre for Boys in Glasgow that even Peter Righton found to be cruel

As a result of the excellent reporting of Tom Bateman for the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, which was followed up by reports in the Independent, Telegraph, Mail and Metro, more and more people are becoming aware of the activities of the sinister figure of Peter Righton, whose name appears in many contexts from children’s homes to public schools, and may have been a serial abuser on the scale of Jimmy Savile, as well as linked to multiple networks of other abusers. An investigation into Righton’s activities, and how he was able to move effortlessly in top circles of social workers and child protection experts, whilst hardly making a secret of his proclivities and activities, needs to be a central part of the forthcoming inquiry.

The BBC report has now linked Righton to a Home Office report which he advised in 1970 (Righton would later advise the Barclay Report in 1980 and give evidence to the Pindown Inquiry in 1991), as well as to abuse in children’s homes in Rochdale and North Wales. Righton has already been linked to many other scandals, and also appears to have played a part in influencing child care policy in such a manner as to facilitate the activities of himself and other abusers, making children in homes more vulnerable to abuse.

Below are reports from The Guardian and The Times from March 8th, 1973, concerning the Larchgrove Assessment Centre in Glasgow, from which staff were then suspended following allegations of cruelty. What is most striking here is the fact that Righton himself, together with Ronald Bennett QC, actually conducted the independent inquiry.

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Times 080373 - Violence against boys in delinquents' centre

 

A series of articles on Larchgrove were earlier posted by Gojam on the Needle blog, which I reproduce here.


Glasgow Herald
, March 22nd, 1973
‘Charges against boys’ home staff dropped’, 

No criminal proceedings are to be taken after an investigation of complaints about the conduct of staff at Larchgrove Assessment Centre for delinquent boys, Glasgow.

A statement issued yesterday by Mr Stanley Bowen, Crown agent, with the authority of Mr Norman Wylie, QC, Lord Advocate, said the the required standard of evidence was not available to justify criminal proceddings.

After an inquiry by Mr Ronald A. Bennett, QC, Sheriff of Berwickshire, and Mr Peter Righton, a child care specialist, a report was issued to Glasgow Corporation social work and health committee stating that certain allegations of violence and neglect had been found proved.

The Crown Office statement indicated, however, that this proof was reached “on a balance of probabilities,” which is the standard of proof applicable in a civil court.

Further inquiry was made by the police and the procurator-fiscal, on the instructions of the Lord Advocate, as to whether the evidence reached the standard required in criminal cases – proof “beyond reasonable doubt.”

This inquiry did not disclose that the required standard of evidence was available, and accordingly the evidence did not justify criminal proceedings.

Of the 30 allegations of ill-treatment of boys at Larchgrove investigated by the independent inquiry, 13 were held to have been proved according to standards applicable in a civil court.

Mr Bennett and Mr Righton, a senior official of the National Children’s Bureau, held proved nine incidents of violence shown by staff towards boys of varying severity and involving seven members of staff; two incidents involving neglect; and two instances of unsympathetic handling.

They said that 17 of the allegations had failed, largely for lack of corroboration.

After publication of the report submitted to the social work committee Mr Robert Murdoch, superintendent at Larchgrove, and Mr John McMahon, deputy superintendent, were suspended from duty on full pay by the social work committee.

Mr Francis Carrigan, a supervisor at the centre who made public the allegations and was praised by the inquiry for his courage in doing so, has been excused duty on full pay since he made the allegations in January.

Cleared air
Mr Robert Bryson, town clerk depute, said yesterday that the decision by the Crown Office had cleared the air. The special sub-committee appointed by the social work committee to deal with the inquiry report could now consider whether there should be any disciplinary action. They will meet soon, probably next week.

After the report was published seven members of the Larchgrove staff were charged with assaulting boys.

A copy of the report went to Mr Henry Herron, procurator-fiscal at Glasgow, who said Crown counsel had instructed him to tell the town clerk that newspapers should be advised to give no publicity to the section dealing with specific allegations of ill-treatment until the question of criminal proceedings had been disposed of.

Dealing with general allegations, Mr Bennett and Mr Righton said in their report: “There is ample evidence to support a clear conclusion that shouting, pushing, cuffing, and shaking frequently occurred, particularly at line-ups and when minor offences were committed. We find also that there was sporatic punching and kicking.

“Mr Murdoch was aware of pushing and of complaints of kicking and puching. He has told the staff they were a ‘bit rough’ and told them to use the minimum force in subduing unruly boys and breaking up fights. Many of the staff plainly ignored this instruction.”


Glasgow Evening Times
, March 7th, 1973
‘Changes Needed at Boys’ Home’

Wide-ranging administrative changes are suggested for Larchgrove assessment centre, Glasgow, in a report published today.

The recommendations are the result of a special inquiry into allegations of cruelty at the centre in Springboig. Newspapers have been advised by the procurator-fiscal not to publish a section of the report giving details of the allegations as the Crown Office have not completed their findings on whether or not prosecution or prosecutions might arise from the report.

The inquiry, which took 18 days and 53 interviews to complete, also had a brief to examine the general day-to-day operation of the centre.

Today the report was considered at a special meeting of Glasgow Corporation’s Social Work and Health Committee.

It was the committee who appointed Mr Ronald Bennett, Q.C., and Mr Peter Righton to carry out the inquiry to January.

The two-man team, as well as offering 14 separate suggestions for improvements at Larchgrove, come down heavily on the corporation.

They say a major part of what they found unsatisfactory stems from an “inadequate appreciation of an assessment service, and a consequent failure to provide appropriate services and support.”

The main task of Larchgrove is to prepare and submit assessments on boys committed to it by Children’s Panels and Sheriff Courts. This, says the report, is the objective agreed by the director of social work and the centre superintendent.

But from their observations, the inquiry team found that the main tasks in reality were custodial control of the boys’ behavior within the unit, and prevention of the boys absconding.

During their study of the centre they watched the daily routine of the boys. The total effect – in practice if not intention – is “drab, repressive, and undermining of individual dignity.”

They speak of “impersonal and distant” staff-boy relationships. But the report is at pains to stress that problems like this are the fault of the system rather than of any particular individuals, staff or boys.

Among the recommendations made by the inquiry members were that the plans to change Larchgrove from a block organisation to a three-unit system should be implemented with the utmost possible speed.

When there is a unit to contain violent and disturbed boys, the rest of Larchgrove should become an open establishment.

There should be an increase in the number of staff, and the staff-boy ratio should be increased to not less than 1-2.

At least four qualified teachers should be appointed as soon as possible to take over classroom and other educational activities.

The daily routine should be reorganised, and in the longer term a higher proportion of women should be appointed to the professional staff than is now envisaged.


Glasgow Herald
, March 8th, 1973
‘Former Glasgow ‘borstal’ at the centre of the latest child abuse scandal’

How the Sunday Herald brought abuse to light.

David Whelan, Scotland’s leading campaigner for victims of child sexual abuse in care, said the government’s review of historical abuse would never have happened if the Sunday Herald had not campaigned on the issue and run a serious of investigations into the institutional abuse of children.

Out of dozens of sex abuse investigations carried out by this paper, two key stories led to the unravelling of the true extent and human toll of the abuse of children in care. In July 2000, we reported how a widespread campaign to protect paedophile priests was orchestrated by the former leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, the late Cardinal Gordon Joseph Gray. He was among senior clergy who refused to act against paedophiles in the Church after being informed by his own that sexual abuse had taken place under his jurisdiction.

And in November 2002 the Sunday Herald reported how Scotland’s most renowned children’s charity Quarriers, which cares for the most profoundly disabled children in the country, had knowingly allowed a paedophile to live alongside the children it was supposed to care for.

Whelan said the claims of abuse at Larchgrove made it all the more essential for a serious of public inquiries to be held into the sexual assaults of children in care in previous decades.

Whelan now a successful businessman, was placed in care in Quarriers in the late 1960s. He was sexually abused by John Porteous, a house parent. In 2002, Porteous was jailed for eight years. His sentence was later cut to five years, and he was recently released after three years.

ON THE eve of a watershed government report explaining why children in Scottish care homes from the 1950s until the 1990s were allowed to be sexually abused, the Sunday Herald has uncovered yet another disturbing scandal.

It centres on the sexual assault of children that lasted for decades in government-run Scottish remand homes and assessment centres – the country’s equivalent of borstals. Although children were abused at a number of borstal-type institutions in Scotland, the worst site appears to be a former Glasgow borstal called Larchgrove.

The details are coming to light just as the Scottish Executive is preparing to publish the Historical Abuse Review, which is meant to draw a line under a series of shocking revelations about sex abuse in care homes run by independent organisations such as the Catholic Church and charities such as Quarriers.

Des – not his real name – was put in Larchgrove 27 years ago as a boy. He was detained for playing truant from school to avoid bullying.

“I was in there between 1978 and 1979,” he told the Sunday Herald. “The sexual and physical abuse was terrible. This was perpetrated both by staff – although not all of them – and also by people who didn’t work there.

“I complained at the time, ran away and was dragged back screaming. Nothing was ever done. I still wake up screaming, sweat running off me, because of the abuse I suffered.”

Des said he ended up a heroin addict through using drugs to “block out all the pain and abuse I suffered there”. He’s now been clean for six years and is happily married. He was the first of many people spoken to by the Sunday Herald who confirmed the routine abuse of children at Larchgrove.

Reg McKay, a former director of social work who is now a best-selling crime writer, said he was aware of the abuse of children at Larchgrove from the very beginning of his career.

As a trainee social worker in the mid-1970s, McKay came face-to-face with boys who provided evidence of sexual abuse at the infamous borstal.

McKay was the social worker for three teenage boys who were locked up in Larchgrove. In 1976 they told him that they had witnessed other children suffering sexual abuse at the hands of both male and female staff. “These kids weren’t bad boys,” said McKay. “They were deeply disturbed – from dysfunctional homes. They had some very serious personal problems and were at risk of turning to offending or falling into drug misuse.” One boy told McKay that the most dangerous time in Larchgrove was just after lights-out when the boys were put to bed. The boys were housed in small dorms holding six to eight beds. Staff would sometimes call boys from their beds. Often this was for valid reasons, such as administering medicine, but at other times it was simply to abuse them.

McKay says that on some occasions female staff took the children from their beds to be abused. The women provided the children with a false sense of security, ensuring that they didn’t panic or scream on their way to be abused. The women were “either standing by or taking part” in acts of abuse, McKay added.

“I knew this was happening back then as I heard the allegations personally,” said McKay. “The kids trusted me and had no reason to lie. When I reported the allegations to management I expected a full investigation to take place for the sake of the boys who were being abused.

“It was our duty to protect these kids and we clearly failed them. I went on to report what I was being told up the chain of command. I raised the allegations with senior members of social work staff. As far as I know there were at least three internal investigations, but nothing happened. There were no sackings, no charges – nothing.

“To be blunt, many of the homes where children were being kept in those days were worse than something out of Oliver Twist. I can even remember staff taking money from children. These were kids who had nothing in the first place.”

McKay says that he recalls the same allegations resurfacing about Larchgrove in the 1980s. “Allegations of child sex abuse were being made against many similar institutions at the time. As far as I know, nothing was done about these claims either.”

McKay says that some managers “hated” him for reporting allegations of abuse and demanding investigations. “Many social workers found themselves in the same position: raising concerns and allegations with management then having no power to ensure the right action was taken,” he added. “It was bloody frustrating – especially when you or a colleague went back to the same institution a year or two later and heard similar allegations.”

Later, as McKay’s career as a social worker progressed, he led two investigations into allegations of sexual abuse at Kerelaw – another institution for detaining children who’d broken the law. Glasgow City Council also ran this facility for vulnerable children. Kerelaw closed last year amid allegations of abuse.

Glasgow City Council admitted that 40 of its employees had been alleged to have been involved in the sexual or physical abuse of children at the home. The council also said that some of those suspected of abusing children at Kerelaw were still working with children in care.

At the end of his investigations into abuse allegations at Kerelaw in the 1980s, McKay recommended that the claims be passed to the police immediately and that those accused of assaulting children be suspended with no pay. “Once again, nothing happened,” he said. “And once again, I have no idea why.”

Frank Doherty, founder of the Scottish organisation In Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), was sent to Larchgrove for 28 days in the late 1950s. He’d previously been in care in the notorious Smyllum orphanage in Lanarkshire where many children were abused. He used two words to sum up his memories of Larchgrove: “Getting battered.”

Doherty was sent to Larchgrove for “petty criminality”, he said. The physical abuse he suffered at Smyllum had left him a mental wreck so he was in no state to withstand the violence at Larchgrove. “Going into Larchgrove after being in Smyllum set me back years as I’d already been battered and tortured. Larchgrove was just another Smyllum. I saw regular physical violence in Larchgrove and I was often on the receiving end of it.”

Tommy “TC” Campbell was another child inmate at Larchgrove. He knew boys who were abused and spoke of warders trying – but failing – to sexually abuse him. Campbell was wrongly jailed for life for the deaths of six members of one family in a firebug attack during Glasgow’s infamous “ice cream wars”. He was jailed in 1984 and his conviction was not quashed until 20 years later.

Campbell has always admitted that he was a tearaway as a teenager. He ended up in Larchgrove borstal in the mid-1960s aged 14 for truanting, trespassing and stealing eight pence. “Everything was brutal. The staff were just like screws,” he said. “They thought nothing about giving you a wallop. There were also a few child molesters among them.” It was common for boys who misbehaved to have their trousers pulled down before being beaten with a cane on their backsides.

Campbell says he knew of a number of boys who were sexually abused. He also named one warder who preyed on the weakest boys in the borstal. The warder would single out bed-wetters and other vulnerable children, believing they were less likely to inform or resist.

“They’d target the weak ones,” he said. “They wouldn’t go for the boys who were rebels or who were tougher lads as they wouldn’t stand for it. They’d go for the ones with no mum and dad – the ones who were in there for care and protection. It was the worst place the state could have sent them.

“Everyone knew what was happening. You’d see boys being taking out of showers or their dorm and then the boys would tell you what happened to them. It was a terrifying place. You’d see boys in total terror – crying and withdrawn.”

Campbell said that at the beginning of his time in Larchgrove there were attempts made to sexually abuse him. “Three different warders tried it with me,” he said, “but they realised very rapidly that I was not one to try it with.” Campbell later butted a warden for physically assaulting him.

“The whole place was mentally and psychologically oppressive. We were starving all the time – there were fights over a slice of bread.” Campbell says that the children were even fed tins of pet food. “It was like Colditz. Boys were always plotting ways of escaping, although you’d be badly beaten for trying.” Many boys were deliberately disruptive because they hoped they would be transferred to an adult jail and get away from the abuse at Larchgrove.

Tom Shaw, who is heading up the independent review of historic abuse for the Scottish government, said his report – due out shortly – investigated the flaws in the care system that allowed paedophiles to abuse children. He said that the revelations about Larchgrove underscored the need for the review. “It shows the point of our work,” he said.

The review will highlight failures in the system which can be used by victims of abuse to sue the state for failing to protect them while young. However, no individual homes or perpetrators will be named in order not to prejudice future criminal trials.

Referring to the claims of abuse at Larchgrove, Shaw added: “What we don’t know is how many more people may still want to come forward to tell their story.”


Glasgow Herald
, July 2nd, 2007.
Neil Mackay, ‘Suspended Boys – Home Bosses: Shock After Report’

Mr. Robert Murdoch, superintendent of Larchgrove Assessment Centre, Glasgow, and his deputy, Mr John McMahon, have been suspended on full pay.

Glasgow Corporation’s social work and health committee took this step today after considering a report of an inquiry into the Springboig centre.

The committee have also appointed a special subcommittee to consider the report of the inquiry carried out by Mr Ronald Bennett, Q.C., and Mr Peter Righton, who were appointed in January.

This sub-committee will hear what members of the staff at Larchgrove have to say on their behalf, or through their solicitors or other representatives, and will make its recommendations to a future meeting of the social work and health committee.

This was announced at a press conference in the City Chambers today by Councillor Mrs Nan Patrick, Glasgow’s social work and health convener, after the committee debated the report for almost two hours.

The investigation was prompted by allegations by Mr Francis Carrigan, a supervisor at the centre.

Newspapers have been advised by the procurator-fiscal not to publish a section of the report giving details of allegations of cruelty.

In a lengthy statement today, Mrs Patrick said the committee recognised the general validity of the criticisms made, and were resolved that as far as possible these matters should be put right.

“It is our firm intention to set our house in order, both as regards Larchgrove, and as regards headquarters support and, in consultation with the establishments committee and others concerned, we will see that this is done,” she said.

Mr Murdoch’s temporary replacement at the school is an official of Loaningdale School, Mr William Jardine.

“Mr Jardine has been at Loaningdale for only two years, but he is a very experienced man and is very highly thought of in many circles,” said Councillor Patrick.

The position of Mr Carrigan has yet to be decided by the committee.

Mr James Johnston, director of social work, said today – “Quite obviously he has been justified in some measure by the results of the investigation, there can be no question about that.

“It is also a fact, however, that the ways which Mr Carrigan could have used to bring his allegations to the notice of the committee were not used, and the implications here are something which we have to consider.”

Councillor Mrs Patrick said there was no question of Mr Carrigan being victimized, and Mr Johnston denied that Mr Carrigan had tried for a year to make his allegations through normal channels.

At the press conference Mr Robert Bryson, depute town clerk, pointed out that the suspension of Mr Murdoch and Mr McMahon was not necessarily connected with the allegations in the first part of the report.

They have responsibilities fpr the supervision of the home, and it is in that respect that the committee feel it necessary that they should be suspended on full pay.

“There is not any punitive atmosphere attached to it at this stage,” he said.

It was pointed out by Mr Johnston that there was a national shortage of trained social work staff at all times, and this, of course, contributed to the corporation’s ability to staff Larchgrove.

Neil Mackay, ‘It was our duty to protect these children in remand homes. Instead they were sexually abused by staff for years’, Sunday Herald, September 1st, 2007.

Former Glasgow ‘borstal’ at the centre of the latest child abuse scandal

ON THE eve of a watershed government report explaining why children in Scottish care homes from the 1950s until the 1990s were allowed to be sexually abused, the Sunday Herald has uncovered yet another disturbing scandal.

It centres on the sexual assault of children that lasted for decades in government-run Scottish remand homes and assessment centres – the country’s equivalent of borstals. Although children were abused at a number of borstal-type institutions in Scotland, the worst site appears to be a former Glasgow borstal called Larchgrove.

The details are coming to light just as the Scottish Executive is preparing to publish the Historical Abuse Review, which is meant to draw a line under a series of shocking revelations about sex abuse in care homes run by independent organisations such as the Catholic Church and charities such as Quarriers.

Des – not his real name – was put in Larchgrove 27 years ago as a boy. He was detained for playing truant from school to avoid bullying.

“I was in there between 1978 and 1979,” he told the Sunday Herald. “The sexual and physical abuse was terrible. This was perpetrated both by staff – although not all of them – and also by people who didn’t work there.

“I complained at the time, ran away and was dragged back screaming. Nothing was ever done. I still wake up screaming, sweat running off me, because of the abuse I suffered.”

Des said he ended up a heroin addict through using drugs to “block out all the pain and abuse I suffered there”. He’s now been clean for six years and is happily married. He was the first of many people spoken to by the Sunday Herald who confirmed the routine abuse of children at Larchgrove.

Reg McKay, a former director of social work who is now a best-selling crime writer, said he was aware of the abuse of children at Larchgrove from the very beginning of his career.

As a trainee social worker in the mid-1970s, McKay came face-to-face with boys who provided evidence of sexual abuse at the infamous borstal.

McKay was the social worker for three teenage boys who were locked up in Larchgrove. In 1976 they told him that they had witnessed other children suffering sexual abuse at the hands of both male and female staff. “These kids weren’t bad boys,” said McKay. “They were deeply disturbed – from dysfunctional homes. They had some very serious personal problems and were at risk of turning to offending or falling into drug misuse.” One boy told McKay that the most dangerous time in Larchgrove was just after lights-out when the boys were put to bed. The boys were housed in small dorms holding six to eight beds. Staff would sometimes call boys from their beds. Often this was for valid reasons, such as administering medicine, but at other times it was simply to abuse them.

McKay says that on some occasions female staff took the children from their beds to be abused. The women provided the children with a false sense of security, ensuring that they didn’t panic or scream on their way to be abused. The women were “either standing by or taking part” in acts of abuse, McKay added.

“I knew this was happening back then as I heard the allegations personally,” said McKay. “The kids trusted me and had no reason to lie. When I reported the allegations to management I expected a full investigation to take place for the sake of the boys who were being abused.

“It was our duty to protect these kids and we clearly failed them. I went on to report what I was being told up the chain of command. I raised the allegations with senior members of social work staff. As far as I know there were at least three internal investigations, but nothing happened. There were no sackings, no charges – nothing.

“To be blunt, many of the homes where children were being kept in those days were worse than something out of Oliver Twist. I can even remember staff taking money from children. These were kids who had nothing in the first place.”

McKay says that he recalls the same allegations resurfacing about Larchgrove in the 1980s. “Allegations of child sex abuse were being made against many similar institutions at the time. As far as I know, nothing was done about these claims either.”

McKay says that some managers “hated” him for reporting allegations of abuse and demanding investigations. “Many social workers found themselves in the same position: raising concerns and allegations with management then having no power to ensure the right action was taken,” he added. “It was bloody frustrating – especially when you or a colleague went back to the same institution a year or two later and heard similar allegations.”

Later, as McKay’s career as a social worker progressed, he led two investigations into allegations of sexual abuse at Kerelaw – another institution for detaining children who’d broken the law. Glasgow City Council also ran this facility for vulnerable children. Kerelaw closed last year amid allegations of abuse.

Glasgow City Council admitted that 40 of its employees had been alleged to have been involved in the sexual or physical abuse of children at the home. The council also said that some of those suspected of abusing children at Kerelaw were still working with children in care.

At the end of his investigations into abuse allegations at Kerelaw in the 1980s, McKay recommended that the claims be passed to the police immediately and that those accused of assaulting children be suspended with no pay. “Once again, nothing happened,” he said. “And once again, I have no idea why.”

Frank Doherty, founder of the Scottish organisation In Care Abuse Survivors (Incas), was sent to Larchgrove for 28 days in the late 1950s. He’d previously been in care in the notorious Smyllum orphanage in Lanarkshire where many children were abused. He used two words to sum up his memories of Larchgrove: “Getting battered.”

Doherty was sent to Larchgrove for “petty criminality”, he said. The physical abuse he suffered at Smyllum had left him a mental wreck so he was in no state to withstand the violence at Larchgrove. “Going into Larchgrove after being in Smyllum set me back years as I’d already been battered and tortured. Larchgrove was just another Smyllum. I saw regular physical violence in Larchgrove and I was often on the receiving end of it.”

Tommy “TC” Campbell was another child inmate at Larchgrove. He knew boys who were abused and spoke of warders trying – but failing – to sexually abuse him. Campbell was wrongly jailed for life for the deaths of six members of one family in a firebug attack during Glasgow’s infamous “ice cream wars”. He was jailed in 1984 and his conviction was not quashed until 20 years later.

Campbell has always admitted that he was a tearaway as a teenager. He ended up in Larchgrove borstal in the mid-1960s aged 14 for truanting, trespassing and stealing eight pence. “Everything was brutal. The staff were just like screws,” he said. “They thought nothing about giving you a wallop. There were also a few child molesters among them.” It was common for boys who misbehaved to have their trousers pulled down before being beaten with a cane on their backsides.

Campbell says he knew of a number of boys who were sexually abused. He also named one warder who preyed on the weakest boys in the borstal. The warder would single out bed-wetters and other vulnerable children, believing they were less likely to inform or resist.

“They’d target the weak ones,” he said. “They wouldn’t go for the boys who were rebels or who were tougher lads as they wouldn’t stand for it. They’d go for the ones with no mum and dad – the ones who were in there for care and protection. It was the worst place the state could have sent them.

“Everyone knew what was happening. You’d see boys being taking out of showers or their dorm and then the boys would tell you what happened to them. It was a terrifying place. You’d see boys in total terror – crying and withdrawn.”

Campbell said that at the beginning of his time in Larchgrove there were attempts made to sexually abuse him. “Three different warders tried it with me,” he said, “but they realised very rapidly that I was not one to try it with.” Campbell later butted a warden for physically assaulting him.

“The whole place was mentally and psychologically oppressive. We were starving all the time – there were fights over a slice of bread.” Campbell says that the children were even fed tins of pet food. “It was like Colditz. Boys were always plotting ways of escaping, although you’d be badly beaten for trying.” Many boys were deliberately disruptive because they hoped they would be transferred to an adult jail and get away from the abuse at Larchgrove.

Tom Shaw, who is heading up the independent review of historic abuse for the Scottish government, said his report – due out shortly – investigated the flaws in the care system that allowed paedophiles to abuse children. He said that the revelations about Larchgrove underscored the need for the review. “It shows the point of our work,” he said.

The review will highlight failures in the system which can be used by victims of abuse to sue the state for failing to protect them while young. However, no individual homes or perpetrators will be named in order not to prejudice future criminal trials.

Referring to the claims of abuse at Larchgrove, Shaw added: “What we don’t know is how many more people may still want to come forward to tell their story.”