A Jimmy Savile or a Stuart Hall

I’ll have to start following this inquiry into child abuse in the UK. Yesterday’s news was that the judge who was appointed to chair it had stepped down because of conflicts of interest.

May had made clear that as far as she was concerned the inquiry was not being set up to replicate a police investigation into claims of a child sex ring at Westminster. Instead she said its job was to consider whether public bodies such as the NHS, the BBC and non-state institutions such as the churches “had taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse”.

It was widely expected that Butler-Sloss, 80, would convene a panel of legal and child protection experts, and come up with recommendations on child policy to ensure that a Jimmy Savile or a Stuart Hall could not get away with what they did for so long ever again.

A brave new world in which adults don’t get to treat pools of children as their personal sex toys. What a concept.

The idea was that Butler-Sloss would review the documentary evidence from the myriad recent official inquiries into child abuse across the country rather than interview witnesses who might themselves still be subject to criminal investigations.

But May also opened the door to a different kind of inquiry, saying that if Butler-Sloss deemed it necessary the government was prepared to convert it into a full public inquiry in line with the Public Inquiries Act 2005.

This immediately raised expectations among victims’ groups and media organisations that not only would the voices of victims who continue to suffer from sexual abuse inflicted on them 20 or 30 years ago be heard, but their allegations would be taken seriously.

So that wasn’t the expectation before? The expectation had been that their allegations would not be taken seriously? That seems unfortunate.

The emergence of the fact that Butler-Sloss’s brother was Lord Havers, who as attorney general in the 1980s had been responsible for some of the decisions not to prosecute, undermined her credibility but should not have proved fatal if she was only looking at the current institutional response to child abuse.

However, the subsequent disclosure that she herself had had the name of a bishop allegedly involved in child abuse withdrawn from her 2011 report into abuse in the Church of England was to prove fatal.

Uh, yeah – that’s fatal.


  1. Trebuchet says

    But she’s a “Lady”. And she defended a bishop! Why do you hate Christians? (/snark)

  2. Blanche Quizno says

    Yeah. So her own *brother* being implicated in Really Bad Things – well, that’s nothing. I mean, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Alito’s own *WIFE* is a “pro-life” “sidewalk counselor” and has served on the boards of at least TWO such anti-abortion concerns – why should we think THAT would have anything to do with Alito’s vote to remove the 35-foot barrier restricting such meddling busybodies from interfering with a female stranger’s right to approach and enter a Planned Parenthood or other pregnancy-related facility?

    I really don’t see what the difference is.

  3. says

    Blanche, there isn’t a difference. Excepting perhaps with how egregious and/or ongoing the particular activity of the relative is.

    recommendations on child policy

    The suggestions of a moron in a hurry:
    Let’s see – promote an environment where reports are taken seriously and investigated, and offenders prosecuted. A procedure for some restitution being paid by the guilty automatically without having to resort to civil suits. Appropriate support organizations and coverage under the NHS for the needs of victims.

    OK, get some asshat legislators and lawyers turn that into a 37 meter thick stack of document to be set as policy with removing or limiting any of those suggestions.

    But I’m sure someone slightly better versed in such matters, and less of a moron in a hurry than myself, could produce some blindingly obvious additions. Like, I don’t know, listen to the damn agencies which do effectively serve the people in the first place, rather than wait for things to explode publicly, hoping they’ll go away, and then using some dumbass procedure to “figure out what to do”.

  4. phill says

    The UK home secretary was prepared to bluster over the problems with Butler-Sloss’s brother, but her actions concerning the bishop were the final straw. As The Guardian reported

    The retired high court judge is reported to have told a victim of alleged abuse that she did not want to include some of his allegations in a review of how the Church of England dealt with two paedophile priests because she “cared about the Church” and “the press would love a bishop”.

    Cared about the church. Didn’t care about the victims.

  5. Maureen Brian says

    Two coming fights about this “Inquiry” – so described because thus far it exists only in theory – are already visible on the horizon.

    1. Persuading the very establishment which is being investigated that perhaps an eminent English Judge, retired, is not the only person or the best person to chair this event.

    2. The struggle to ensure that survivors of sexual abuse plus support charities plus child care professionals and police officers suddenly taken off cases they were investigating can give evidence in person or make formal written statements to be treated as evidence. And that those whose decisions are questioned in some cases be asked to account for their actions.

    There are those in the back rooms of Whitehall who wish / hope / intend that the whole thing should be done as a paper exercise. They seem reluctant to learn from the great success of the then Bishop of Liverpool’s inquiry into Hillsborough which consisted of experts who used a variety of techniques and finally got somewhere near the truth.

  6. Dunc says

    There are those in the back rooms of Whitehall who wish / hope / intend that the whole thing should be done as a paper exercise. They seem reluctant to learn from the great success of the then Bishop of Liverpool’s inquiry into Hillsborough which consisted of experts who used a variety of techniques and finally got somewhere near the truth.

    Given the seriousness of the allegations, and the fact that they go right to the very heart of the Establishment, I would suggest that they’re very keen to stay as far away from the truth as humanly possible.

    We’re not just talking about “a Jimmy Savile or a Stuart Hall” here. We’re talking about an organised paedophile ring at the highest levels of government. We’re talking about senior members of the Conservative Party hunting down “underage rent boys” for government ministers. We’re talking about the most serious sorts of illegality being known about and actively covered-up by the most senior members of the Civil Service and the judiciary. If even a fraction of the allegations are true, it’s the scandal to end all scandals.

  7. says

    Well the first most obvious difference is, you can choose your wife, but you can’t choose your brother. Generally speaking, if a person is still your wife you have an intimate relationship with her, you’re likely to be emotionally invested in what she’s doing if only to support her, even if you yourself don’t necessarily agree with her. A brother, on the other hand can be completely estranged. Or you might strongly object to something he’s done or is doing, but still meet up at Christmas for the sake of family harmony.

  8. Bernard Bumner says

    Although this would be a judge-led inquiry, it would not have had the power to compel witnesses to attend or to give evidence under oath. There are good reasons to have inquiries headed by judges, if they also have the legal teeth to dig further than a mere civil report possibly can.

    Butler-Sloss was at least very qualified for the role, but the conflicts of interest should have been identified by those making the appointment. But in any case, the remit of this inquiry is further-reaching than the powers available to it would really support.

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