Monday, 27 October 2014

Should Woolf resign from the National Historic Abuse Inquiry?

Fiona Woolf
I was on LBC Radio the other day giving my opinion on whether Fiona Woolf should resign from the Historical Abuse Inquiry set up by the Home Secretary in response to the many scandals linking Central Government with a cover up of abuse allegations in days gone by. They asked me whether or not she should resign because of the recent revelations that she had had dinner with Leon Brittain  4 or 5 times and had supported one of Lady Brittain's charities. I said:-

  1. I was surprised that the government chose Fiona Woolf to lead this enquiry as she does not have a history of representing the rights of the poor and oppressed members of Society, quite the reverse in fact because she has quite a history as a company and commercial lawyer. That is the wrong background for the head of an enquiry which is forseen as attacking the establishment and upturning stones under which we expect to find scandals.
  2. I was expecting someone like Keir Starmer or Michael Meacher QC. For all I know they were both approached and refused. After the disaster which followed the appointment of Lady Butler Schloss, one would have thought that more care would be taken this time.
  3. The point is that, although Fiona Woolf may be very capable, she does not have the respect and trust of the survivor community, hence the enquiry is doomed from the start. Whilst there are some very good other panel members who have collectively come from the former abusees and survivors of abuse, Ms. Woolf will be in charge of tactics and direction. So it will be up to her to decide whether
    1. It should be turned into a public enquiry.
    2. What documents should be demanded from government - that is crucial to uncovering the truth.
  4. The survivors obviously think that someone weak and lack lustre has been appointed so that the inquiry will never get to the truth because it will not adopt an aggressive and "won't take No for an answer" type of approach.
  5. I find it hard to believe that Teresa May has made a hash of this for a second time. Wouldn't you have thought she and the department would have done their homework first, as it has obviously led to an embarrassing appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee.
  6. There should be a former judge, or at least someone who has chaired enquiries in charge.
  7. So what format should the enquiry take?
    1. It should be a Royal Commission along the lines of the Australian model which is a resounding success, which does have the respect of the survivor community. One can read about the enquiry here -
    2. They should look at the Irish Redress Board as a good model of an inquiry, which , despite some controversy, worked well for the victims. They had two arms - Commission of Inquiry, which heard allegations, some of which resulted in criminal prosecutions, and a Redress Board which heard applications for Compensation from Survivors. It was very victim focused and enabled the victim, who was at the centre of it all, to give live evidence, which was recorded. To read more, follow this link...
  8. Quite frankly I am glad I am not on the panel, because membership of the panel almost guarantees being pilloried by survivors whose vitriol and mistrust, which is quite understandable, will not assist it being a successful form of process.
  9. How long will Ms Woolf last - it looks as though she is here to stay with the full backing of government. She is also being supported by her fellow panel members, who have gone public to say that because there is such a broad spread of panel members with all the right characteristics, it doesn't really matter.
  10. I think that the Leon Brittain's allegations are really very secondary to the main issue which is the support and trust of the survivors, which, sadly is very lacking

Monday, 20 October 2014

Will the police ever keep up with the explosion in online paedophile viewing of abuse images?

Keith Bristow giving evidence to Home Affairs SC
I have just been asked to go on BBC News 24 to give my opinion on today's topline news story which headlines:-

"Some paedophiles with images of child abuse will escape prosecution, the head of the National Crime Agency says.

Keith Bristow said police would have to focus on pursuing those who posed most risk but that others would face a "range of interventions".

Some 660 arrests were made during a recent operation targeting people who had accessed child abuse images online.

However, the BBC understands that as many as 20,000-30,000 individuals were identified during that investigation.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) - part of the NCA - has estimated that 50,000 people in the UK are involved in downloading and sharing images of child abuse."

It is, on the one hand shocking and a disgrace that so many viewers of child abuse images will go undetected when the evidence is at hand. The survivor groups will be up in arms demanding better service from the police.

This story has arisen from the evidence given by Keith Bristow - the head of the National Crime Agency - to the Home Affairs Select Committee, who are looking into the workings of the Agency. They heard evidence on 14th October..

When one peels back the evidence beyond the shocking headlines, one finds that the police have suffered cut backs under this government such that they do not have the staff to cope with the huge volume of new complaints which have arisen from a Toronto Police investigation in July 2012. NCA appear to have sat on the information sent from Canada on 2000 men until it was distributed to local police force areas in November 2013.

When the information arrived it had to be processed and considered, which obviously takes time when one considers the lack of resources.

Because of the amount of viewing of child abuse images world wide, and the potential number of internet offences being committed, even if the police had limitless resources they would only be able to scratch the surface of the crimes being committed, so immense is the problem.

I remember back in 1995 when the Internet was being born, a friend of mine, who sadly is no longer with us, was complaining about how dangerous the internet was for children. Then the dangers were simply surrounding some fairly crude internet chat rooms. I was arguing with him saying that the benefit of the internet in terms of free information far outweighed the dangers. Had I known then, what I know now, I would probably have agreed with his view, rather than calling it old fashioned and dinosaurian. 

There is no price on child safety which is now being given a higher priority than it has enjoyed in the past thanks to pressure being exerted by the many survivor and pressure groups nationwide. The size of the task facing the police, however is immense, and one must have some sympathy with their good intentions.

There are questions about what can be done by the Social Network providers such as Facebook and Twitter to police their mediums. There is always an argument about freedome of information and the press. The problem is that many of the ISP's which host this information are located in parts of the globe which regulatory authorities cannot touch or police. The problem is like pouring water through a sieve with very large holes in it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and complaining because all the liquid is escaping.

Austerity and financial restraint by government bodies is laudable, and understandable, but sometimes, certain issues simply do not have a price, such is the importance of the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. Teresa May should give the problem the money and the backing it deserves.

We are due to see the head of the historical abuse inquiry examined by the HASC tomorrow - that should be interesting. Rumour has it that the panel is also about to be announced but is being held back by the forthcoming evidence to be given.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Is Witchcraft and Ritualistic Abuse something limited to African Immigrants?

The Metropolitan Police’s Project Violet team, which works to address ritual child abuse, has launched a training film to help professionals who work with and safeguard children.  This comes after the number of allegations of abuse linked to a belief in witchcraft and spirit possession have been rising steadily, with the Metropolitan Police receiving 27 allegations this year compared to just nine in 2011.

Satanic Abuse is described quite vividly in various works of literature as well as being mentioned in  in several novels. Hammer Horror Films did little to dispel the belief that witchcraft is the conception of someone afflicted by a mental health disorder. It has in the past been treated in a similar way to those who have been possessed by aliens. There is a support group dedicated to those who have suffered Satanic Abuse - it is called Survivorship. The subject has been thought of by some lawyers I know as the work of fantasists. It has unfortunately gained a cult status, but not in a good way.

Now we appear to have various examples of witchcraft cases being sent to the police. Whenever I come across it in the news, it usually involves African Cultures, not Satanic Abuse in this country carried out by white Caucasian males, with all the ceremony that usually surrounds it. 

Abuse cases which we deal with usually take place many years ago. It is very difficult to persuade a Court to try a case which is many years out of time. If at the same time one is dealing with a subject matter, which the majority of the population do not believe exists, the battle to persuade a Court to deal with the case is immense.

My own belief is that there are several hidden societies in England and Wales which practise ritualistic abuse to the present day, which includes the sacrifice of children described graphically in Dennis Wheatley novels. The Wicker Man film is obviously fictional, but not far away from the truth, I believe. A similar attitude would have been adopted to child abuse 70 years ago, I would imagine.

Although Witchcraft was commonplace in this country in medieval times, there are many who alleged they have been a victim of it today. The point is that not enough people are brave enough to believe that it is true.

Back to the news item..

An event aimed at professionals working with children at risk, co-hosted by the Metropolitan Police and the Church’s Child Protection Advisory Service, was held in London recently.  It was said that children display behaviour consistent with distress, adding that they may appear isolated, quite, withdrawn and sad.  Those that attended the event were told that there is no definitive list of religions which practise witchcraft and it is not confined to particular counties, cultures, religions or communities.

Terry Sharpe, from the Met’s sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command said: “Regardless of the beliefs of the abusers, child abuse is child abuse.  Our role is to safeguard children, not challenge beliefs.  This is a hidden crime and we can only prevent it by working in partnership with the community.”

Mor Dioum, director at the Victoria Climbie Foundations, sad that professionals need to “adopt a more holistic approach with children, young people and families when dealing with abuse that does not fit the norm.”


It will be interesting to look back at this blog in years to come, when maybe there have been a glut of satanic abuse prosecutions in this country, and we have uncovered secret societies operating right under our noses...the broadmindedness of the police appears to be limitless, which is this space

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Is the Paedophile Hunter aired on Channel 4 to be congratulated for catching sex offenders?

Stinson Hunter the Paedophile Hunter
If you didn't see the Channel 4 documentary last night about the Paedophile Hunter then you missed some very compelling viewing.

The question is whether this sort of entrapment is correct, legal, and valid, or whether such entrapment should be left to the Police, who do the same sort of thing.

The problem is that there are so many offenders seeking to commit offences via the Internet, that the police cannot deal with them all, so why should an individual who is committed to no violence not collect the evidence himself, and pass it to the Police. It was said that 5 individuals have already been prosecuted as a result of Stinson's work.  To read my thoughts click through to my blog on