Sunday People, 22nd March 1981
Graeme Gordon, aged 36, was a senior children’s nurse working for 9 years, at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton in the Emergency Department. He lived in Brighton but his home town was Reading. He worked with the most vulnerable children, some of whom would have been seriously ill and even unconscious. In October he was convicted of three offences relating to sexual activity with a child under 16, grooming of a child for the purposes of sexual activity and possession of indecent images relating to children. He was sentenced at Reading Crown Court to 38 months imprisonment and 6 months for possession of abusive images of children.
He was sacked by the Hospital Trust and the professional body (NMC) struck him off their register so that he is very unlikely to be able to work with children or vulnerable adults again.
The police found absolutely no evidence that his offending behaviour included his place of work or that the safety of children in the care of the Brighton hospital had been placed at risk.
I have not been able to locate the police investigation report. I am sure that all relevant agencies would have contributed to a Section 47 enquiry (Children Act 1989) which requires enquiries to be made when there is reasonable cause to suspect actual or likely significant harm to a child or children in the locality. The outcome of this investigation would then be considered at the Local Safeguarding Children Board because of possible risk to numbers of children who had been nursed by Gordon in a 9 year period. This review, or a publically available version in an executive summary, would usually be available on the Local Safeguarding Children Board website but I could not find reference to it. It is good practice for such a process to be conducted independently and local agencies commonly select an independent chair and panel to conduct such a review in order to ensure a rigorous and transparent process.
Of course, it is not acceptable for the statutory authorities to go trawling for evidence where it is not thought to exist and no-one would want to cause any unnecessary distress to the parents and families of the children who were patients of the hospital during that time. However, the crimes Gordon committed in Reading were serious and Gordon’s access to particularly vulnerable children in Brighton had been substantial over 9 years. It is possible for a sensitive multi-agency investigation process to inform parents and also hospital staff of the known facts, to provide a helpline number and to have a multi-agency team to respond to concerns and to any suspicion or knowledge of criminal activity or breach of professional codes of practice.
I would be interested to know more about how the authorities and relevant agencies in Brighton responded to this case.
Dr Liz Davies
Reader in Child Protection
London Metropolitan University