Scottish Daily Mail
A BLIND EYE TO CHILD ABUSE
Whistleblowers repeatedly warned Labour leadership favourite Jeremy Corbyn of paedophiles preying on boys on his doorstep — but claim he did NOTHING. Was he trying to protect fellow Left wingers implicated in the scandal?
At his constituency office in North London, the Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn sits down to a pre-arranged meeting with five very anxious social workers. his visitors on that day in 19922 include four current or recent employees of islington Council, the London borough where Corbyn’s constituency is situated. their jobs are to safe-guard some of its poorest and most vulnerable children.
to that end, they want to share some deeply troubling news with the e local MP. For some time, the social workers tell Corbyn, a near-constant stream of drugged, hungry, distressed and often tearful young people e have been turning up at their offices each day and exhibiting tell-tale e signs of sexual abuse.
Many are residents of islington Council’s children’s homes, where theyy seem to have been raped and assaulted by staff and visitors. some spendd time at a flat nearby called ‘the hot house’, which appears to be operating as a child brothel. A few also exhibit signs of being trafficked around London, the home Counties and even abroad by organised paedophile networks.
the social workers tell Corbyn that they have recently come to the conclusion that organised child abuse is occurring across islington on an alarming scale.
‘We had been seeing so, so many 12 to 15-year-olds who were being sexually exploited that we could hardly believe it,’ Liz Davies, one of the five social workers, recalled this week.
‘these children would be queuing up outside our offices at 9am for help. Most of them had obviously been out all night. We discovered that they were being driven around the country in vans.
‘i’d personally identified at least 61 potential abuse victims in our small patch of islington.’
the s cale of the problem suggested to Davies and her colleagues that paedophile gangs were targeting young people, on a nightly basis, across the borough.
things were at their worst in children’s homes, she informed Corbyn, where even known sex-- abusers, and convicted child pornographers seemed able to commit crimes with impunity, sometimes staying overnight, with the apparent consent of council employees.
‘For a time, i had been putting vulnerable children into islington’s homes to be safe,’ she says. ‘it took me a while to realise that was the worst possible place, because they were being abused there, too.’
so bad was the apparent problem that, earlier that year, Davies and a fellow social worker called David Cofie had attempted to blow the whistle to Margaret hodge, the then leader of islington Council who went on t o become a prominent Labour MP. to their dismay, however, hodge ignored the duo’s concerns.
Davies and several colleagues — including Neville Mighty, a children’s home manager, and a social worker called Celia stubbs — had therefore scheduled a meeting with Corbyn in an attempt to persuade him to take the issue seriously.
On that day in 1992, they duly ‘told him everything’, says Davies.
‘We were in his office for more than an hour. We shared all of our concerns, including our fears that local children had been murdered by abusers.’
Corbyn l i stened politely. ‘ he responded that he’d heard similar things from other constituents, and promised to do somethingng about it, starting by talking to Virginia Bottomley, the health th secretary,’ says Davies.
‘We were very pleased to hear him say that. i’d say that we all left thehe room feeling heartened.’ But not for long. Days before Davies had arranged ed that meeting with Corbyn, the he London Evening standard newspaper had published sensational allegations regarding the he widespread abuse of vulnerable children in the weeks, months, and years ars that followed, those allegations would snowball into a major or public scandal.
It emerged, during that time, thathat paedophiles had been able to systematically rape and sexually lly abuse scores of vulnerable boysys and girls in the borough throughout the seventies and Eighties, infiltrating all 12 of its children’s homes in the process.
The Labour-run council had, meanwhile, both facilitated the abuse by employing known paedophiles and brazenly attempted to cover it up, shredding crucial documents and dismissing subsequent media reports about the scandal as ‘gutter journalism’.
staff who raised concerns were accused of racism and homophobia, and often hounded out of their jobs. some, including Liz Davies and Neville Mighty, received death threats.
Almost 30 council employees accused of child sex crimes were allowed to take early retirement (on generous pensions) instead of being subjected to formal investigations or eferred to the police.
As this revolting saga unfolded, Davies and her colleagues expected Corbyn to begin demanding that something be done about it.
he was, after all, an outspoken Left-wing ‘firebrand’. And, thanks to their briefing, he had detailed knowledge of the scale of the scandal.
surely, they thought, Corbyn would therefore stop at nothing to protect islington’s vulnerable children, and to bring rapists, pornographers and possible murderers to justice
Or so they hoped. But, in the event, Davies and her fellow social wor ke r s woul d be sorely disappointed.
Corbyn never wrote to Davies, or telephoned, to acknowledge their meeting, or thank her for seeking to blow the whistle.
‘After that meeting, we never heard another thing,’ Davies recalls. ‘there was no letter. No phone call. i never, ever saw him speak about it.
‘in fact, whenever i saw Jeremy afterwards, sometimes years later at stop the War marches and events like that, i’d always go up to him and say: “this scandal is still going on, Jeremy.” he’d be very polite, but he never seemed to do anything.’
indeed, 23 years later, Liz Davies has yet to see Corbyn express what she regards as sufficient anger, or regret, over the islington abuse scandal, or to publicly criticise the many local politicians, council workers and political al l i es who allowed it to happen in the first place.
this seems highly pertinent given that Corbyn is now standing for the Labour leadership, at a time when historic abuse allegations are to be the subject of a major public inquiry.
indeed, the question of what Jeremy Corbyn did, or didn’t do, when the now notorious child sex scandal hit his islington North constituency all those years ago, became a talking point i n the current leadership election.
Fellow Labour MP John Mann published an open letter accusing him of ‘doing nothing’ to prevent the abuse. ‘ Your inaction in the 1980s and 1990s says a lot — not about your personal character, which i admire, but about your politics, which i do not,’ Mann wrote, adding that the Leftwinger’s track record on the issue made it ‘inappropriate’ for him to now become party leader.
Mann further pointed out that, in a separate 1986 incident, Corbyn had gone so far as to attack the Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens for drawing public attention to the alleged existence of a child brothel on islington’s Elthorne housing estate.
After Dickens — who was convinced there was a conspiracy to cover up widespread paedophilic
‘We told him we feared children had been killed’
‘He was polite, but never seemed to do anything’
‘His inaction says a lot about his politics’ ‘He never said a thing about it in public’
abuse in political circles and the security services — had raised fears of a child prostitution racket operating there, Corbyn used a local newspaper to accuse the Tory backbencher of ‘getting cheap publicity at the expense of innocent children’.
Then he formally complained to the Commons Speaker about Dickens visiting the constituency without first informing him, calling those actions ‘irresponsible’.
With these incidents in mind, Mann argued that Corbyn had ‘inadvertently helped the rubbishing and cover-up’ of abuse, and was therefore unsuitable to ‘attempt to lead the Labour Party’. That’s quite a claim. So it was perhaps little wonder that, in response to the letter, Corbyn’s camp should issue an angry statement saying Mann’s comments marked a ‘new low’ in the ill-tempered leadership campaign.
The statement, issued in the past ten days, formally denied, among other things, that he turned a blind eye to the Islington scandal.
‘Jeremy Corbyn has a long record of standing up for his constituents,’ it read. ‘He called for an independent inquiry into child abuse in Islington at the time, and has taken this strong l i ne ever since.’ That response drew the sting out of Mann’s charges, and in the days that f ollowed, Corbyn f ound himself propelled to front-runner status in the leadership race, after receiving important endorsements from major trade unions.
But Mann stands by his allegations. And with the issue unresolved as the Labour leadership campaign enters its final weeks, much of Corbyn’s credibility would appear to now rest on two important questions.
First: did Corbyn really ‘call for an inquiry’ into the Islington scandal in the early Nineties, as he now claims? And, second, did he indeed, as he again claims, take a ‘strong line’ over allegations of child abuse in his borough?
On the first issue, things would appear, at best, unclear.
Liz Davies certainly can’t remember him saying anything of that nature. And the Mail has been unable to find newspaper cuttings, recorded public statements, or extracts from Hansard, in which he makes such a call.
All that can be found is a single, short quote he gave to the Evening Standard a couple of days after the scandal broke, commenting: ‘These allegations are extremely serious and must be properly investigated.’
Does that constitute ‘calling for an inquiry’? Up to a point, perhaps. But it hardly provides evidence that he campaigned relentlessly on the issue, as Davies and fellow whistle-blowers hoped he would.
That seems odd. After all, Corbyn is never usually afraid to make a stand on issues he deems important, or to demand public inquiries into matters deemed scandalous in Left-wing circles. Such interventions rarely pass without gaining some form of public attention.
Over t he years, he’s been mentioned in print calling for inquiries into dozens of incidents, from Bloody Sunday, to the Afghan and Iraq wars, to the mysterious death i n 1984 of anti- nuclear protester Hilda Murrell, to the tendering process for bus routes through Islington.
However, of his alleged call for an i nquiry i nto the all- i mportant Islington abuse scandal, there appears to be no trace.
A spokesman for Corbyn was unable to identify, when asked this week, where or when he might have made such a call, or where a record of it might now be. However, his campaign insists their recent statement is accurate and we must, of course, take them at their word.
Then there is the question of whether Corbyn did, as he now so vigorously claims, take a ‘ strong line’ when presented with details of the Islington abuse scandal in 1992.
Liz Davies believes otherwise. And so do at least two other people who attempted to bring important aspects of it to Corbyn’s attention at t he t i me. One i s Eileen Fairweather, the journalist who first broke news of the Islington scandal in the Evening Standard in October that year.
She, like Davies before her, also held a meeting with Corbyn at the time, informing him of the seriousness of the child abuse and shared detailed evidence about how the borough’s children were suffering.
Again, like Davies, she says that the MP listened politely, but never wrote, or called, after the meeting, to thank her, and responded to her claims with ‘inaction’.
The other is Demetrious Panton, a survivor of abuse who told Corbyn in August 1992 that ‘very bad things had happened’ to him when he’d been living at an Islington care home several years earlier.
Though he never detailed what t hese ‘ bad t hings’ were, or disclosed to Corbyn that he’d been sexually abused, Panton was dismayed over the ensuing years by what he regards as Corbyn’s silence on the scandal.
Both of their claims will be considered in more detail later. First, however, some context.
The Islington abuse scandal has its roots in the extraordinary belief, popular in progressive circles during the Sixties and Seventies, that paedophiles were merely an oppressed minority, who ‘loved’ children and wanted to liberate them sexually.
Advancing this morally bankrupt argument was the Paedophile Information Exchange [PIE], a lobby group which campaigned for the ‘rights’ of predatory sex offenders and the abolition of the age of consent, and which was controversially granted ‘ affiliate’ status within the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), a pressure group which became Liberty.
At the time, the NCCL was being run by Patricia Hewitt, the future Blairite minister, along with Harriet Harman, the Labour Party’s current acting leader, and her husband Jack Dromey, also now a Labour MP.
A member of the ruling NCCL executive was a lawyer called Henry Hodge. His wife was Margaret, the Labour leader of Islington when the scandal first unfolded. Ms Hewitt has since apologised for her dealings with PIE, though Harman and Dromey insist they have nothing to say sorry for.
By the Eighties, PIE propaganda, along with the dogma of political correctness, had become so entrenched in the modus operandi of Left-wing councils that, in some of them, sex offenders were able to operate with virtual impunity.
So it was in Labour-run Islington, where the political elite regarded anyone who attempted to blow the whistle on child sex crimes as being motivated by homophobia, and where paedophiles posing as gay adult men were routinely allowed to stay overnight in the rooms of vulnerable residents of children’s homes.
Complaints of abuse were systematically brushed under the carpet by officials who appeared to give more weight to the so-called human rights of paedophiles than those of children.
PIE’s founder, Peter Righton — a prominent social worker later prosecuted for importing child pornography from Holland — was put in charge of training courses on which council staff learned how to care for vulnerable children.
Righton, who had a flat in the borough (as did PIE’s one-time key member, his friend Morris Fraser) once boasted: ‘ Every Islington care home manager knows I like boys from 12.’
Under Islington Council’s then trendy equal opportunities rules, employees who declared themselves gay, or who came from an ethnic minority, were hired ahead of rivals, and also exempted from intrusive background checks that were supposed to prevent paedophiles working with children.
That explains how Michael Taylor, an Islington care home manager exposed in a later court case as a PIE member, was put in charge of several homes in which abuse occurred. He was later jailed f or f our years f or abusing vulnerable children.
It also explains how social workers such as Liz Davies were told, by their superiors, to place vulnerable children with foster parents whom they knew to be sex offenders, a fact which eventually prompted Davies to resign from her job.
But we digress. For when the scandal broke, in October 1992, Islington Council responded with a cl assic di s pl ay of denial and obfuscation.
Margaret Hodge accused Eileen Fairweather of ‘gutter journalism’, said t he abuse claims were untrue, and claimed, wrongly, that alleged victims had been paid for interviews.
It would be more than a decade before Hodge apologised for the slur, claiming she had issued it after being lied to by unnamed members of staff.
In the meantime, the scandal left local MP Jeremy Corbyn in a very tricky position indeed.
A self- confessed Marxist, who before entering Parliament had been a full-time ‘organiser’ for the National Union of Public Employees, which represented town hall staff, he would not just upset such political allies as Hodge, Hewitt, Dromey and Harman by speaking out. He might also offend and compromise comrades i n the trades union movement.
Many of Corbyn’s close political associates were also implicated in the controversy, including Derek Sawyer, his agent, who became council leader at Islington after Hodge moved on in 1992.
With this in mind, perhaps the
‘Corbyn didn’t want to rock the boat’
easiest option for Corbyn would have been to remain largely silent. Is that the path he chose?
Demetrious Panton certainly thinks so. Now a successful barrister, he has spent much of the past 20 years campaigning for justice for fellow child abuse victims, many of whom were Corbyn’s constituents, and says he has no recollection of the MP ‘making any public comments’ about it.
‘This was despite the fact that a major child abuse scandal had taken place in his constituency,’ Panton comments.
‘I am aware that Mr Corbyn is an active campaigner for the protection of human rights of a range of people, including those who have never been his constituents.
‘I am not aware that he ever deployed his obvious zeal and effort to ensure that the human rights of his constituents who were abused while in the care of the London b or ough of Islington, were protected.’
It was early 1993 by the time Corbyn met Eileen Fairweather, agreeing to see her in the Palace of Westminster to discuss the scandal.
A veteran Left-winger, who had previously worked for the feminist magazine Spare Rib, she was anxious to reassure him that the Islington abuse claims were not, as Margaret Hodge had suggested, part of a Right-wing smear.
‘He took me to a cafeteria, and we sat in a quiet corner with our backs to a wall,’ she recalls. ‘I took him through the whole story and laid out the evidence, piece by piece.
‘He was perfectly nice. Very cordial. I really thought I was getting somewhere. He gave me the impression that he took the whole thing seriously and said he would go away and make inquiries.’
Like Davies, Panton and so many others before them, she would also end up sorely disappointed.
‘That was the last I heard from him,’ she says. ‘He never wrote, never called and never said a thing about it in public. I rang him some time later and got short shrift.
‘My best guess is, frankly, and I feel sad to say this, is that he lacked strength and discernment. That he was too trusting, or fell for lies, or didn’t want to rock the boat and put people’s backs up. What I think he did, sadly, was to just hide.’
There is, Fairweather now reflects, an old saying that applies to the Islington debacle — ‘that all it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing’.
As Jeremy Corbyn mounts an audacious attempt to seize control of both his party and the country, at least one of the questions he must now surely answer is this: when whistle-blowers told him of the systematic abuse of vulnerable children in his constituency, what, in all honesty, did he actually do?