[Since first publishing this article online a number of further MPs have indicated their support for a national inquiry in line with the express wishes of the original seven. For details of this, and how to write to your MP to ask them to support, please see this post]
The pioneering news organisation Exaro have published two important articles today by David Hencke relating to a cross-party group of seven MPs who have written jointly to Home Secretary Theresa May called for a proper inquiry into child abuse, citing the Hillsborough inquiry as a model (see Hencke, ‘Police keep failing ‘to follow evidence’ in abuse cases, say MPs: Call for wide inquiry into ‘schools, churches, children’s homes, politicians and celebrities’, 3/6/14, and ‘MPs call on Theresa May to set inquiry into child sex abuse: Tim Loughton and Zac Goldsmith in cross-party group that highlights failures by police’, 3/6/14; see also Jason Beattie, ‘MPs demand inquiry into historic claims of child sex abuse by Cabinet Ministers’, Daily Mirror, 4/6/14).
The seven MPs in question (who Hencke has elsewhere called the ‘Magnificent Seven’) are:
Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, whose constituency contains Elm Guest House, Grafton Close Children’s Home, and Colet Court and St Paul’s Schools (Twitter @ZacGoldsmith ).
Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham and former Children’s Commissioner, who spoke powerfully in the House of Commons in September 2013 about many ongoing revelations of abuse (Website here; Twitter @timloughton ).
John Hemming, MP for Birmingham Yardley, who made representations on behalf of financial journalist Leah McGrath Goodman on the grounds of her being banned from the UK following investigation into child abuse at Haut de la Garenne, Jersey, but has also been critical of UK family courts when dealing with allegations of abuse against parents. (Website here; Twitter @johnhemmingmp )
Tessa Munt, MP for Wells, who as a member of the Education Select Committee has taken a special interest in child safeguarding, and whose constituency contains Wells Cathedral School, one of the five specialist music schools, all of which have been connected to abuse (Website here; Twitter @tessamunt )
Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, who has been indefatigable in his commitment to this issue ever since raising in Westminster in October 2012 the issues of a high-level paedophile ring (see Watson’s blog and articles here and many other places online; Twitter @tom_watson ).
Simon Danczuk, MP for Rochdale, co-author with Matthew Baker of Smile for the Camera: The Double Life of Cyril Smith (London: Biteback, 2014), who has written of how Smith was connected to Peter Righton and also a wider paedophile ring including prominent politicians (see this article by Watson in praise of Danczuk) (Website here, Twitter @simondanczuk )
These seven MPs are concerned about how important files, surveillance videos and other material have gone missing, lack of charges brought as a result of Operation Fernbridge, and in general an apparent reluctance on the part of the police and others to pursue cases of serious abuse. Watson has written to the Director of Public Prosecutions naming a former cabinet minister alleged to have raped a woman going by the name of ‘Jane’ (see also the detailed five-part account linked to at the bottom of this article and the video interview with ‘Jane’); this is the same senior cabinet minister who has been linked to the VIP paedophile ring related to Elm Guest House (as confirmed by Mark Watts on Twitter on 18/5/14). The Metropolitan Police have chosen not to pursue Jane’s allegations further, nor even interview the alleged perpetrator, raising serious questions about whether proper procedure has been followed; Exaro have also claimed that there was a shocking concerted police smear campaign aimed at discrediting ‘Jane’. Furthermore, there are serious questions about the whereabouts of a series of documents submitted to the Home Office by the late Geoffrey Dickens MP (see here, here and here), one of the few MPs who continued to pursue this issue in the 1980s. Loughton has spoken of his alarm at consistent ‘reluctance, or more worryingly, the seeming complicity of police and other agencies to investigate the allegations seriously, and pursue the perpetrators rigorously’, and how ‘Documents go missing and investigations are curtailed with a chilling frequency, and that now threatens a serious undermining of the public’s confidence in our current child-protection system despite all the progress that has undoubtedly been made in recent years’.
The range of areas of public life in which there have been major allegations of abuse is frighteningly large: these include children’s homes in Islington (see also here and this article by whistleblower Liz Davies), Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Haute de la Garenne in Jersey, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Suffolk, Staffordshire (the ‘Pindown’ scandal) Birmingham, Leicestershire, North Wales, South Wales, Cheshire, Leeds, Sunderland, Northumberland, Lothian, Renfrewshire, Isle of Lewis, the Kincora Boy’s Home in Belfast, Stockgrove Park School, Buckinghamshire, Stanbridge Earls School near Romsey, Hampshire, New Barns School, Gloucestershire, Castle Hill School, Shropshire, St George’s School, Suffolk, Knowl View School in Rochdale, in Cleveland, many of the leading public schools (see also the range of articles here), the Catholic Church, not least in Scottish abbeys, the Church of England, the entertainment industry (not least involving Jimmy Savile), grooming gangs in the North West and Oxford, music education, a ring around Piccadilly Circus, major networks trading images of child abuse, and more. Some of these cases have been investigated, with some prosecutions, but there is good reason to believe some of these investigations have been half-hearted, whilst other cases have simply been ignored. There are many individuals linked to multiple networks (not least the sinister figure of Peter Righton), continuing talk of the VIP paedophile ring connected to Elm Guest House and elsewhere, major information concerning late MPs Cyril Smith and Peter Morrison and serious allegations about others who are living (not least the severe claim that a Blair era cabinet minister was being investigated for abusing children in a home in Lambeth, leading to a detective being taken off the case, and even that a council official looking to expose a ring involving the minister was murdered). The activities of members of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), about whom I have blogged in detail, remain shady, and there are many suggestions that this organisation might be linked to a great number of cases of abuse. Furthermore, it is now clear that PIE had deep links to the Home Office, receiving large amounts of money from the organisation, with at least three members working on its premises (with a phone line there), its magazine printed there, and some civil servants receiving images of child abuse delivered to the building!
It is heartening to see such a diverse cross-party group of MPs coming together on this issue. Yet it is more than a little disappointing that there are not more, and that the most senior politicians in all the major parties do not appear to be taking seriously what can only be called an epidemic (if even less than half of the allegations were true). I would urge everyone reading this to write to their own MP and implore them to support the seven courageous figures above (any of whom I would gladly vote for). I have earlier blogged on the need for Ed Miliband, the leader of the party to which I belong (Labour), to put all of his weight behind calls for a proper inquiry, but also how there is near-silence from the upper echelons of Labour, perhaps related to the fact that senior Labour politicians are under investigation and also that the current Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman, has been linked to PIE during her time as Legal Officer at the NCCL, during which period NCCL took out an advert in PIE’s journal Magpie and also their policy on images of children reflects aspects of PIE thinking. But this should not be stopping Miliband, nor should worries about the former Thatcher era cabinet minister, and Peter Morrison and others, be stopping David Cameron (and in light of revelations about Cyril Smith, Nick Clegg should be firmly behind this).
Leading experts, researchers and campaigners on child abuse Peter McKelvie and Liz Davies met recently with Home Office minister Norman Baker. They were granted a mere ten minutes of time, despite having built up huge bodies of evidence about child abuse, but it was made clear that there was no intention to undertake either a national police investigation (absolutely necessary because so many complex cases are interlinked) nor a public inquiry. I would urge people to read the account above. Nonetheless, I have been informed that both individuals spoke very highly of Zac Goldsmith’s commitment to the issues in particular.
The media have reported much about the relatively small number of cases coming to court as a result of Operation Yewtree. But these are just a tiny fraction of the wider allegations of serious and sustained abuse (and non-sexual abuse should not be treated any less seriously). All credit to these seven MPs, but as for the others – if our MPs do not care about protecting children in the most vulnerable situations, what do they care about?
[EDIT: Since the publication of this post, Kevin Gosling, Director of Communications at the Britten-Pears Foundation, has responded. You can read his response here.]
[NEW EDIT: When I originally posted this, I omitted information about Peter Righton’s lover Richard Alston, as he was awaiting trial for offences against children. Since this has happened and Alston has been found guilty (see the reports from the trial here), I am now including more information about the references to Alston in Donald Mitchell’s book. There is more to be established about the precise nature of the relationship between Alston and Mitchell.]
I am publishing on here some information communicated to me by Tom Watson MP’s source on Peter Righton and networks of child abusers, which led to the infamous question from Watson to the Prime Minister on October 24th 2012 in which Watson identified a high-level paedophile ring linked to the aide of a former Prime Minister and thus to 10 Downing Street. Watson’s source is a former child protection officer who currently does not wish to be identified by name, but was involved in the investigations into leading paedophile and key Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) member Righton (on whom, see this documentary, this article in the Mirror, this Guardian article by Nick Davies, this article by Liz Davies, this article by Christian Wolmar, and the series of articles to be found on the Spotlight and Needle blogs). .
As detailed by Watson himself, after Righton’s 1992 conviction on child pornography, he moved to live in a cottage on the estate of the eighth Lord Henniker, in Thornham Magna, North Suffolk, and was allowed to use the estate for special holidays for vulnerable children from Islington (at the very time when there was an epidemic of child abuse in Islington care homes – see here and here for vital material from the journalist Eileen Fairweather and former social worker Liz Davies (now Reader at London Metropolitan University) who brought the scandal to public attention). The Chief Constable of Suffolk visited Henniker personally to warn him that Righton was a career paedophile, but he ignored this advice, and Righton was able to continue hosting children on the estate until his death in 2008. Just this week one man has spoken out about his experiences being trafficked around the country to be abused by strangers whilst in the Suffolk care system, and named Righton as part of the operation.
The important information is the following: in Righton’s diaries, he frequently referred to Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Michael Davidson as ‘fellow boy-lovers’, and also spoke of how important to him (Righton) were their get-togethers at Snape Maltings. Both Richard Alston and Peter Righton is also thanked in the preface to Donald Mitchell’s book Britten and Auden in the Thirties: The Year 1936: The T.S. Eliot Memorial Lectures delivered in the University of Kent at Canterbury in November 1979 (London: Faber, 1981):
I am much indebted to Richard Alston without whose dedicated editorial assistance I should have found it difficult to see this revised edition through the press. [….] and to Peter Righton for correcting proofs.
Righton is also listed as a translator of some text in Mitchell’s facsimile edition of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony (Amsterdam: Rosbeek Publishers, 1995), and of some of Donald Mitchell and Andrew Nicholson (eds), The Mahler Companion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). Mitchell was very close to Britten, edited the first major study of his work, Benjamin Britten : a commentary on his works from a group of specialists (London: Rockliff, 1952), and later became Britten’s principal publisher at Faber Music, becoming a senior trustee of the Britten-Pears Foundation after Britten’s death in 1976. He has also been general editor of the major collections of Britten’s letters and diaries published by Faber & Faber.
As I mentioned in my earlier article on Clifford Hindley, various biographers, including the late Humphrey Carpenter in his Benjamin Britten: A Biography (London: Faber & Faber, 1992), John Bridcut in Britten’s Children (London: Faber & Faber, 2006), and Paul Kildea in Benjamin Britten: A Life in the Twentieth Century (London: Allen Lane, 2013) have investigated at some length whether there was anything untoward in Britten’s relationships with the numerous boys with whom he worked for performances of his operas, works of children’s choirs, and so on. Only a small amount of evidence has been uncovered of any exploitation through enactment of these desires, including the testimony of Harry Morris, who did accuse Britten of abuse (see Bridcut, Britten’s Children, pp. 46-53), and also various accounts chronicled by Bridcut of naked swimming and sharing of beds with boys aged as young as 11.
There is no question about the proclivities or activities of journalist Michael Davidson (1897-1976). His 1962 autobiography The World, The Flesh and Myself (London: Arthur Barker, 1962) begins with the line ‘This is the life story of a lover of boys’, whilst his later memoir Some Boys (London: David Bruce & Watson, 1972) is nothing less than a stomach-churning account of international child sex tourism and assault, presented quite shamelessly. Below I reproduce scanned copies of the chapter of the book dealing with London. Davidson’s brother-in-law Christopher Southward taught violin at Gresham School, in the music department run by Walter Greatorex, who taught Britten at the school; Greatorex introduced the 26-year old Davidson to the then 16-year old W.H. Auden (Neil Powell, Benjamin Britten: A Life for Music (London: Hutchinson, 2013), pp. 29-31).
There is other information I am not in a position to print here for legal reasons; furthermore the information from Righton’s diaries of course constitutes claims rather than yet-proven allegations. The possibility that Britten and Pears were part of Righton’s circle (and thus perhaps also to other members of PIE) does not in itself prove anything, but undoubtedly this needs to be investigated, together with the meetings in Snape Maltings. But in order to help get to the bottom of the networks of abusers who have corrupted British society and childhood for decades, I would implore anyone with further information on the connections between and activities of Righton, Britten, Pears and Davidson to come forward if they feel ready to do so (I am happy to let anyone know by private e-mail – email@example.com – police or other contacts to whom they could speak).
I will add further information at a later date.