Monthly Archives: February 2013

Mail on Sunday, November 16 2008
By Eileen Fairweather

Baby P’s relative is linked to big paedophile network

A CLOSE male relative of Baby P was feared to have recruited youngsters in care for a notorious paedophile ring, according to a secret report seen by The Mail on Sunday.
Although he is not believed to have had any contact with Baby P, his involvement in a child abuse scandal in Islington, North London, in the early Nineties raises questions on the extent of checks into Baby P’s background.

‘The family should have been subjected to forensic examination,’ said a child protection expert. ‘Even cursory checks would have rung alarm bells. Social workers might then have removed the baby, as a paediatrician and police pleaded.’ The relative was named in reports as a victim and a feared recruiter of children for pimps. In the early Nineties he was put in a children’s home.

At the time, all 12 of Islington’s then homes, and at least one of the boarding schools it used, had been infiltrated by paedophiles. The relative, then a frightened 13-year-old, was under the control of three pimps – Alan, John and George – who persuaded him with money, drugs and threats to bring other children to them. He tried in vain to blow the whistle and protect himself and other children. He gave social workers the names of others ferried from the homes to, he said, Manor Park, Tottenham, Soho and Westminster to ‘be buggered by old men’.

But none of the men were placed under surveillance or questioned. Several social workers and managers fought hard to get help for the boy and other children targeted by the paedophiles.
Social worker Neville Mighty was deputy superintendent of Islington’s then unit at 18 Highbury Grove, where pimps slept overnight. His boss claimed such men were simply ‘boyfriends’ and said Mighty was a prude to repress the children’s sexuality.

Mighty, who had received death threats, had named the relative in a report pleading with Islington’s then director of children’s services, Lyn Cusack, for help.
Ms Cusack, married to a senior policeman, did nothing save threaten disciplinary action because Mighty was ‘rude’. Eventually, in June 1992, Mighty was sacked.

Liz Davies, the senior Islington social worker who encouraged Mighty to go public, said: ‘We got too close. There were too many powerful people involved. Child sex, pornography and sadism are extremely lucrative industries.’ In 1994, a damning independent report criticised the failure of police and social workers to help the relative and to help protect children in care in Islington.

Last month this man killed himself in Thailand after being accused of sexually abusing 300 boys. I have to ask the disturbing question: Would these boys have suffered if Margaret Hodge’s London council had not protected him?;
Many years later onevictim spoke out,only for Hodge to discredit him as ‘disturbed’. I can reveal the source of this evil slurwas none other than the paedophile who abused him

Mail on Sunday, 11th June 2006
By Eileen Fairweather

The text message from Mike Hames, the former Scotland Yard pornography squad chief, was blunt: ‘Rabet’s topped himself.
It’s made my day.’ It arrived three weeks ago, as I was sitting in a sunny garden with Liz Davies, a woman with whom I had forged a deep and unlikely bond. We hadn’t seen each other for nine months and were talking about our kids.

Then Liz’s mobile phone beeped, drawing us back to a far less pleasant past, when we both had to deal with the pain of working with abused children.
Liz and I had met in 1992. She was then a social worker who went on to help me and reporter Stewart Payne uncover a paedophile ring that had infiltrated children’s homes run by Islington Council.

We discovered that paedophiles had penetrated the network of homes so completely that they had begun using them to procure children. The council had wanted to encourage gay men into childcare in the interests of equal opportunities, but this well-intentioned aim was so naively implemented that paedophiles posed as gay men to take advantage of the policy.
The council exempted any man who said he was gay from needing professional qualifications or references, declared gay men less likely to abuse children than heterosexuals as a matter of policy and repeatedly assumed that any criticisms of men who claimed to be gay were motivated purely by homophobia. Even children who tearfully described abuse were considered prejudiced.

The leader of Islington Council, Margaret Hodge, now a Trade Minister, had refused to believe our investigation even though it was later vindicated by a series of damning independent reports. Her attacks on our investigation, and the fact the council mislaid or refused to believe vital evidence, led to crucial delays which allowed many of those responsible to escape prosecution or punishment. Among them was Nicholas John Rabet, who had fled to Thailand to continue his vile abuse of children. The 57-year-old bachelor was deputy superintendent of one of Islington’s children’s homes until 1989 and had been accused of abusing a boy there. He had strong links with other paedophiles involved in the scandal, some of whom also worked for Islington Council. Yet despite a lengthy police investigation, Rabet was never charged.

Last month, however, his cycle of abuse ended with his suicide in Thailand, days before he was to face trial there. Police found him dead, a plastic bag over his head, his ankles locked together in cuffs, in his rented home in the sordid seaside resort of Pattaya, which has long had a reputation for child-sex tourism. Beside him was a pitiful suicide note. He had killed himself, he wrote, as ‘it is the only way to escape the stress of my life.’ Rabet had been due to face trial for molesting 30 underage Thai boys, some as young as six, and police believed he had abused up to 300 others. When they raided his home, they found 11 computer game consoles which he used to lure children, making ‘commission’ payments to those who brought him new victims.

Now, with his death, I feel able to tell for the first time the full horrifying story of what happened in Islington more than a decade ago. The fact Rabet was allowed to escape and go on to abuse children in another country makes me wonder if there is any real justice for vulnerable children in the care of social services.
And it also raises a disturbing question: could the 300 children in Thailand have been saved if Rabet and his cohorts had been jailed so many years ago?
For the first time policemen and social workers have broken their silence to reveal how Islington Council hindered inquiries and, whether through naivety or incompetence, effectively allowed these paedophiles to go free.

At the same time, I can now expose how the council’s policy of actively recruiting gay carers and classing them beyond suspicion was exploited by paedophiles. Mrs Hodge’s social services committee even amended the council’s child protection policy in 1987 to declare abusers of vulnerable children more likely to be heterosexual than homosexual men. It was a disastrous policy of political correctness that effectively protected those who set out to abuse children and its dangers remain only too relevant today. An independent inquiry later confirmed that the council allowed 26 workers facing ‘extremely serious allegations’ to leave Islington without investigation. The council also thwarted attempts by Sussex police to gather evidence against Rabet in the early Nineties, when officers learned that he had supplied a national child sex and pornography ring. Brighton-based Superintendent Kevin Moore said: ‘If we’d had the usual cooperation you expect and deserve, it’s a very strong likelihood we would have got a conviction. Justice was denied.

‘We are all, in child abuse investigations, in a position of trusting each other to do what’s right but in this case that trust was abused. The most vulnerable children were affected by that and it was disgraceful, dreadful.’ Detective Superintendent John Sweeney took over Islington police’s child protection team after the scandal was exposed and painstakingly traced long-ignored victims. He said: ‘When I first learned about the homes, I thought it couldn’t possibly be that bad. But it was worse.
‘Does Islington share responsibility? Any opportunity to intervene that was lost is an absolute tragedy.’

I met Nick Rabet long before I investigated him, when I visited the children’s activity centre he opened in 1990 on the Sussex Downs. A social worker I knew held his son’s eighth birthday party there and invited my child. He said Rabet was a socialist philanthropist, who had been deputy head of an Islington children’s home but quit to open this lavishly equipped centre on his private manor estate. He invited scores of Islington’s deprived inner city kids to visit. Local social services sent him young offenders to rehabilitate and children’s charities frequently visited. The centre’s facilities were lavish: quad bikes and mini motorbikes, free pinball and football machines, snooker and a disco.
Yet Rabet charged just £4 per child. How, I asked him, could a London social worker afford a manor and so many staff? Rabet said he inherited the estate through his ex-wife, and he was running the centre as a ‘loss leader’ until established. I felt puzzled. The men helping out didn’t seem to really like children. They were impatient and unkind when one fell. What my instincts told me, even if I didn’t then understand, was that these men had created this honeypot for children for one reason only: so they could use them. But although I resolved never to take my child there again, I did nothing further.

Two years later, I learned that a social worker wanted a journalist to expose Islington social services. Liz Davies arrived for our meeting laden with files in bulging plastic bags.
She had resigned in despair, after being investigated by the council as ‘anti-equal opportunities’ for raising concerns about a supposedly gay worker trying to foster a boy, who later said he was abused. Before leaving Islington, she photocopied the confidential files of numerous children alleging abuse. ‘I had to,’ she said. ‘Islington is destroying evidence.’ She told an extraordinary tale, claiming pimps, paedophiles and pornographers controlled Islington’s 12 care homes. Frankly it seemed so far fetched I didn’t know whether to believe her.
She said that Lyn Cusack, Islington’s assistant director for children’s services, had failed to act, as had the area child protection committee.

Davies nervously showed me a letter Margaret Hodge, then council leader, wrote in 1990, rebuking Davies’ boss for requesting funds to investigate why vulnerable Islington children were visiting a man previously convicted of running a child brothel. Didn’t this prove that Hodge didn’t care? The union wouldn’t help. Unison also feared that the concerns were ‘homophobic’. Staff had nowhere to turn save the Press, and Davies offered secretly to co-ordinate whistleblowers and evidence. ‘I’ll probably never work again,’ she said. ‘But I can’t keep quiet.’ She told me of a major police child pornography inquiry into Rabet, previously deputy superintendent of Islington’s home at 114 Grosvenor Avenue. I remembered the odd man at the children’s party and his creepy friends. I felt sickened. They had touched my child.

I checked Davies’s claims with Superintendent Mike Hames, head of Scotland Yard’s Obscene Publications Squad, now the Paedophile Unit, and described my encounter with Rabet. He laughed at Rabet’s claim that he inherited his country pile through a wife. He was a confirmed bachelor, he said. Rabet really acquired it by befriending its elderly owner, an American widow with an oil fortune. She made out her will to him, and died shortly afterwards. That might just seem like good luck, except that one of Rabet’s wealthy paedophile pals, who ‘donated’ £13,000 to his centre, had an identical modus operandi. Neil Hocquart inherited large sums not once but twice, after elderly men died of heart attacks weeks after bequeathing everything to him. Identifying vulnerable old people to exploit was, police believed, as important to Rabet and his paedophile friends as singling out abuse victims.

At this point I knew I had stumbled across something truly awful. Police had raided the Cambridgeshire homes of two of Rabet’s friends in 1991. They found more than 100 child sex videos and 300 photographs of children at the Swaffham Prior home of Hocquart, a 40-year-old photographer. At nearby Ely they found his friend Walter Clack, 69, a former assistant to onetime Governor of the Bank of England, Robin Leigh-Pemberton, trying to dispose of a sick home video of a middle-aged man abusing a boy. They also discovered that both men regularly ‘volunteered’ at Rabet’s children’s centre.

Hocquart had bought the centre’s quad bikes, took a child he met there on holiday with other men and dis-tributed naked photos of him to the international paedophile network through contacts in Amsterdam. Before police could question Hocquart, he took a fatal overdose. Clack was fined £5,000 a derisory sum, but child pornography offences were not taken as seriously as today. Hocquart’s diaries suggested the men belonged to a huge ring of paedophiles in the arts, clergy and busi-ness world and that Rabet was a major supplier of victims.
Police then raided Rabet’s Sussex home. Unfortunately, he had time to clear out hard evidence. But paedo-philes are compulsive hoarders and they still found a ‘shrine’, with photos of hundreds of boys. Rabet kept children’s underwear as ‘trophies’. Name-tagged clothes helped lead British police to a boy I shall call Shane, who formerly lived in Rabet’s Islington children’s home. Police showed Shane a picture of himself lying on his bed at the home, chest bare, next to Rabet. Shane tearfully disclosed years of abuse.
What happened next was scandalous.

Islington lost incriminating files, denied there were concerns about other children Rabet took away, and sacked concerned staff. Rabet was never prosecuted. Superintendent Moore says now: ‘Tragically, none of us can say why Islington did what they did.’ But he does not discount its ‘drive to set a political agenda’. Because I had met Rabet, this felt personal. I was determined to prove the children of Islington were being abused. Children’s home worker Neville Mighty answered the phone when Sussex police rang looking for Shane. Management disliked Mighty, a Jamaican with traditional views: he later stormed Lyn Cusack’s office to protest about men he called pimps staying overnight with children in care.
Now he began comparing notes with colleagues about Rabet. Islington suddenly accused Mighty of impropriety. He had supposedly touched a girl’s knee and used innuendo. He was sacked and barred for life from working with children a ban he overturned in 1999.

I and colleague Stewart Payne spent three months in 1992 talking to frightened social workers, victims and parents, mostly in grim Islington estates. By the end, we had around 30 whistleblowers. We had to protect the identity of all of them. I sometimes came away from meetings near to tears but Stewart would make me laugh. He said he felt like pouring a bucket of disinfectant over himself. I had sleepless nights and midnight phone calls from people who were too terrified to talk face to face and feared something was going to happen to them.
We found Shane. He was now 20 and in turmoil. He came into care when he was 12, after his mother had a nervous breakdown following years of domestic violence. He felt rejected but Rabet, who wore a silver sher-iff’s badge and instructed the kids to call him The Sheriff, seemed fatherly and fun.

Shane’s mother only asked Islington for brief respite care while ill. But she said: ‘They stole my son, I couldn’t get him back.’ I had started out with the prejudice that anyone whose child ended up in care was feckless, or worse, but she was a decent, honest working class woman. Rabet swamped Shane with expensive gifts and Pounds 30a-week pocket money. ‘I couldn’t compete with that as a single mum,’ his mother said. ‘This man effectivelybribed him, then Shane became frightened to speak out.’ When I met him, Shane played with toys as he talked, repeatedly throwing them into the air. His distress was palpable. Rabet had told him his mother did not want him back, plied him with whiskey and cigarettes, then photographed him after he passed out.

He took Shane at weekends to his Sussex home. Shane hated the abuse but drunkenly bore it as the price of having a father figure. His mother said: ‘I knew it was all wrong and I begged Islington at meeting after meeting to let me take my son home. But they closed ranks and tried to make out I was paranoid. No one believed me.’ I knew five social work whistleblowers did believe her, but I had to protect their identities. Shane kidded himself that Rabet really cared for him. But the day hair grew on his chin, Rabet abruptly lost interest and developed new, younger ‘favourites’. Shane knew then that he had been conned. I felt his mother’s heartbreak. It was clear she had lost her son. But Shane was also heartbroken his emo-tions had been exploited as well as his body.

Police looked for files supporting Shane’s allegation. A worried source in Islington told me what was in the council records, ‘because they’re about to disappear’. The council, he claimed, routinely suppressed the fact that allegations of abuse had been made. The files included letters from Shane’s mother, his headteacher, psychiatrist and social worker to senior management, all protesting about Rabet’s ‘ inappropriate’ relationship with the boy. All clearly feared abuse.

Sure enough, Islington said no relevant files were found. There is no evidence Margaret Hodge had any knowledge of this at this time, or of collusion by managers, although two independent inquiries later con-firmed that files needed by police in three separate child sex ring inquiries did indeed go missing. Islington’s administrative chaos was blamed.
I told police of the files’ contents. Only then, belatedly, did Islington find and produce the documents.

But, shockingly, the council still gave no help to police in tracing and interviewing other likely victims and witnesses. An Islington Labour Party source confided that the investigation was considered ‘homophobic’. Liz Davies secretly met Sussex police officers. ‘I told them everything I knew. They were good officers but seemed overwhelmed by the scale of the investigation.’ I was beginning to feel really angry. I wanted to be wrong about what we thought was going on, but this extraordinary lack of coop-eration and urgency confirmed my worst suspicions.

Nobody was ever prosecuted as police believed they did not have enough evidence. The burden of proof under British law is high and, as Superintendent Moore says: ‘We cannot always use the uncorroborated ev-idence of young people.’ But there was disquiet about the scandal. The independent Ian White report or-dered by the Government confirmed in 1995 that Islington had refused to investigate ‘extremely serious allegations’. It was ‘a deplorable state of affairs’, within a social services department which had disintegrated ‘from top to bottom’. He described Islington as a ‘classic study’ in how paedophiles target children, hugely aided by the council’s naive interpretation of gay rights. ‘Equal opportunities … became a positive disincentive for challenge to bad practice … and a great danger’.

Mrs Hodge’s council was so obsessed with creating equal opportunities that it actively encouraged gay men into childcare and was less likely to view them with suspicion than heterosexual men. However people like Rabet were not gay men, but paedophiles masquerading as such so they could work their way into the system. Mrs Hodge remained in denial. She claimed managers lied to her, no councillors alerted her, and that ‘the issue of the council’s equal opportunities policy as a barrier to good childcare practice was never raised, however obliquely’. She also insisted the police found no evidence of a paedophile ring. The senior officers who investigated find this risible. ‘All the Islington abusers knew and protected each other,’ said Detective Superintendent Sweeney.

Some of the staff accused of abuse then left the country. The managers who had failed to investigate them were allowed to quietly resign from the council and take up new jobs. As their replacements came in there were attempts to look at long-ignored allegations. It was well-intentioned but underfunded and ran out of steam. Also the trail had gone cold.

But offenders were fleeing. Rabet sold his Sussex estate and joined another former Islington children’s home boss in Pattaya three eventually ended up there. Police had his luggage searched at Gatwick and found computer games: Rabet obviously intended to abuse Thai children. Warnings were passed on but the developing country was then illequipped to challenge the thousands of Western ‘child sex tourists’.

Rabet’s friend Bernie Bain, who had been another Islington children’s home boss, went on to join Rabet in Pattaya. Bernard Leo Bain had fled Britain in 1996, just before Detective Superintendent Sweeney could arrest him for raping seven young boys in care and was briefly imprisoned in Morocco for child pornography. But he, too, killed himself, in May 2000.
His suicide note expressed only self pity. He was, says Sweeney, ‘depressed about money’.

Incredibly, Bain had gone on from running a caravan business at Islington’s Elwood Street home, widely used by other paedophiles, to co-found a travel company worth millions. I had pursued these men relentlessly because I realised how very dangerous they were to children. It was so immensely frustrating to then learn they had been allowed to escape the net.
Many years later one Islington abuse survivor, Demetrious Panton, did speak out, incredulous at Margaret Hodge’s appointment as Children’s Minister in 2003. He could prove Islington councillors and senior managers knew about allegations he made throughout the Eighties that he had been severely abused as a ten-year-old, by Bernie Bain in 1978. Bain resigned from Islington in 1979 with impunity, despite concerns he had numerous other victims.

Yet Mrs Hodge notoriously discredited Panton in a letter to the BBC, painting him as ‘extremely disturbed’. But she never explained the source of her slur against Panton, who is now a highflying consultant. Although there is no evidence this is other than a disconcerting coincidence, I can reveal for the first time that the Islington ‘expert’ who branded Panton disturbed was none other than Bernie Bain.

In February 1978, weeks before Bain first raped Panton, he circulated a report labelling the child a liar and fantasist. It was a character assassination that was to stick: a paedophile’s attempt to save his own skin recycled, however unwittingly, by a Minister. The report is the most evil and premeditated discrediting of a ten-year-old boy. No senior managers were ever disciplined over this scandal. And none of the workers accused of abuse was ever prosecuted. The police, so late in the day, and with suspects fleeing, simply could not accumulate enough evidence.

Assistant director Lyn Cusack resigned for ‘personal reasons’ in 1993. Two councillors admitted Demetrious Panton had described his abuse and asked the council to investigate Bain. But both Mike Devenney, Mrs Hodge’s chair of social services and her acolyte, Stephen Twigg, later said they could not ‘recall’ ever mentioning abuse to Mrs Hodge. Devenney later became a Disability Commissioner when Mrs Hodge had the disabilities portfolio, and Stephen Twigg became her researcher at Westminster, then her junior at the Department for Education. I watched their progress with disbelief. So did whistleblower Liz Davies. My concerns are over accountability and justice for the children. No one was ever held responsible. All the children, their families and the social workers who tried to defend them at enormous personal cost feel betrayed.

Sussex police tried, unsuccessfully, to gather enough evidence so they reluctantly released Rabet from bail. Detective Superintendent Sweeney still laments the failure to prosecute.
He said: ‘I was deeply affected by how much pain and trauma these men inflicted on really young children. They were brutal.’ But he hopes that councils who are now actively recruiting gay foster carers will be more rigorous in their vetting processes than Islington was. He said: ‘I wouldn’t say gay couples can’t foster. But people must learn the lessons of Islington. These weren’t social workers or gay people; these were paedophiles posing as gay to escape detection.’ Hundreds of children suffered horribly, in Britain and Thailand, so that the idealistic incompetents who ran Islington Council could boast they had pioneered ‘equal opportunities’.

What a very high price defenceless Thai children paid, so that Margaret Hodge and her people could state that no Islington abuser was convicted. Liz Davies, now a senior lecturer in social work at London Metropolitan University, is at least teaching a new generation of social workers to be more vigilant.

Evening standard, 13th June 1996

By Eileen Fairweather

ANYONE who investigates child sex rings survives through grim jokes.

Yesterday a man appalled by newspaper reports of yet another children’s home scandal asked me how on earth so many paedophiles had infiltrated British childcare. ‘It was easy,’ I replied. ‘They just knocked on the door and said they liked little boys in shorts.’

John Major’s commission of a national inquiry on organised child abuse hasn’t come a moment too soon. The Cabinet is right to fear the public has totally lost confidence in Britain’s commitment to protecting its most vulnerable children.

He has also ordered a judicial inquiry into North Wales children’s homes, as demanded by the authors of the scandalously suppressed Clwyd report. This is brilliant news, but are inquiries alone enough? Repeated official inquiries have urged simple, sensible reforms to prevent paedophiles gaining access to children – and been ignored.

Who needs conspiracy theories, when the Cinderella status of childcare encourages and protects perverts?

Today Ministers will finally debate the possible horrific result – that children’s homes across Britain have been systematically infiltrated by child sex rings. Despairing police and social services experts have raised this for years.

Their frustration at official indifference made many ‘whistle-blow’ to the Press, including the Evening Stand-ard. In 1992, when we began investigating claims that children in Islington’s care were routinely raped and prostituted by staff, we suspected our sources were paranoid.
That seems an age of innocence ago. It was eventually proven that 32 Islington staff were allowed quietly to resign after serious allegations, including child porn, drugs, buggery, child abduction and dishonesty.

Most were given glowing references, allowing them to gain work with children elsewhere.
It took five government-ordered inquiries before the full truth emerged.

My loss of faith in the authorities stems from this time. The Standard became sick of Mickey Mouse inquiries which looked at everything except child sex abuse, and handed a 118-page dossier of evidence to Scotland Yard and the Social Services Inspectorate. We threatened to keep publishing until an adequate inquiry was held.

After 60 plus articles, the Ian White report last year finally confirmed what we first alleged three years be-fore.

Islington has reformed, its top people were sacked. Some former staff were tracked down and sacked, but only one has been jailed for child abuse – and that was in Morocco, this spring.
The police agree at least three of the men we highlighted belong to child sex rings. But they simply don’t have the resources to investigate.

Will the Prime Minister please today also face the abysmal undermanning of police child protection work? Only 16 specialists at Scotland Yard are meant to keep track of Britain’s child abusers and pornographers.

They are only meant to advise on cases outside the Met, and have long asked in vain for a national unit. If Mr Plod in the sticks doesn’t know or care how to investigate this sensitive area – and many don’t – they can’t muscle in.

National problems call for national solutions. The Government’s realisation of this partly stems from the latest children’s homes scandal.

Up to 300 Cheshire children were preyed upon by men seemingly linked to other, now disgraced, childcare workers in Clwyd and Liverpool.

Every major political party includes alleged paedophiles. Journalists routinely hoot when certain names are mentioned. The evidence, such as it is, invariably comes from rent-boys or screwed-up kids from care back-grounds. It’s legally unreliable and possible scurrilous. But does this explain why no party until now has really dared tackle child abuse?

Mr Major is a decent man and his courage in challenging the North Wales children’s homes cover-up is to be applauded. But does the existing independent inquiry report have to remain suppressed, even MPs have not been allowed copies.

I’ve read the whole damning 373 pages. Up to 200 children were abused and 12 have committed suicide, or died tragically. Just seven men were imprisoned. Many other perpetrators – including public figures – were named.

All along the inquiry team said a judicial inquiry was needed so certain people and organisations could be forced to give evidence, and the results published: an intended cover-up was clear from the start.

The media has explained the Clwyd report was pulped because council insurers feared victims’ compensa-tion claims. That’s only half the story. No one in authority emerges well from John Jillings’s painstaking in-quiry.

Senior executives, the Welsh Office and Welsh Social Services Inspectorate – which for years failed to in-spect a single one of Clwyd’s ‘Colditz’ style homes – must have winced reading it.
It is difficult not to suspect a mutually convenient cover-up.

Welsh Secretary William Hague will today give a report to Mr Major.
Confidence in the Prime Minister will soar if he orders Hague to publish.
Only if we face horrors can we learn from them – and, paradoxically, keep them in proportion. Many good people work in children’s homes: underpaid and undertrained but doing their best for often deeply disturbed, difficult children.

Only some of the repeated recommendations for reforms cost money – for example the 1986 suggestion, following the inquiry into Northern Ireland’s Kincora home, that only qualified staff be employed.

Others cost relatively little, for example the long-suggested social work ‘passport’, so job applicants can no longer easily hide their employment history.
One now imprisoned Clwyd worker was investigated internally six times – no one kept tally.
Common sense costs nothing, and the Government’s belated crackdown on poor teachers needs a social work equivalent. Liberal domination of the field has made managers terrified of sacking suspect staff.

The equal opportunities farce we exposed in Islington widely exists elsewhere. In Clwyd, too, men who preyed on boys deflected suspicion by crying ‘homophobe!’.
Social work trainers and recruiters are fond of insisting that heterosexual child abuse is more common. But ‘straight’ paedophiles can breed their own victims, through the family. Those who prefer boys need institu-tions: hence their targeting of children’s homes (and public schools).

In some Islington homes there was not a single heterosexual member of staff.
Even those measures which will cost have a long-term pay-off.
Currently, an estimated 23 per cent of Britain’s prison population grew up in care. How many bitter, unloved kids could be turned from crime, if care cured hurts rather than added to them? As long as childcare remains a low-status profession, and children’s homes dustbins few want to work in, perverts will obligingly queue up for jobs in them.



Evening Standard, 30th June 2003

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IMMEDIATELY after Tony Blair appointed Margaret Hodge as the new Minister for Children in his recent reshuffle, phones started ringing among former social workers who had once worked under her. “It’s like putting the fox in charge of the chickens,” one commented in disgust. “A sick joke,” remarked another.

These social workers couldn’t help recalling the inside story of an appalling child sex abuse scandal many of us have forgotten. In 1990, when Mrs Hodge – then Mr Blair’s neighbour in Richmond Crescent, Islington – was the leader of Islington council, these senior social workers had reported to her that a paedophile ring was operating in the borough and that children were being sexually abused in Islington care homes.
Mrs Hodge’s response was revealing: she chose not to back a thorough investigation. Instead, she dismissed their concerns and accused these social workers of being ” obsessional”.

When the story was exposed in the Evening Standard two-andahalf years later, in October 1992, her re-sponse was equally aggressive. She accused the newspaper of “a sensationalist piece of gutter journalism”. It would be a further two-and-a-half years and five independent reports later before she would half-heartedly admit that she was wrong. Yet she would have known as early as 1991 that paedophiles were preying on children in Islington’s care.

In 1991, Roy Caterer, a sports instructor at a boarding school used by Islington, was arrested and sent to prison for seven-anda-half years for abusing seven boys and two girls, some of them in Islington’s care. Caterer admitted to police that he had abused countless Islington children over many years.

In 1995, an independent report prepared by Ian White, Oxfordshire’s director of social services, utterly vindicated the Evening Standard. It lambasted the council and confirmed that the social workers and the Stand-ard, whose reporters went on to win prestigious press awards, were right. It said, in part: “The inquiry has charted an organisation in the late 1980s and early 1990s that was chaotic. Such a chaotic organisation breeds the conditions for dangerous and negligent professional practices in relation to child care.”

Mrs Hodge led Islington council from 1982 to 1992.
What the Standard uncovered – after taping hours of interviews with staff, parents, children and police over a three-month period – was a horrendous dereliction of duty by the council that routinely exposed the most vulnerable children in its care to paedophiles, pimps, prostitutes and pornographers.

What the Standard and the White report found inexcusable was the council’s refusal – led by Margaret Hodge – to listen and act when experienced staff and terrified children tried to articulate what was going on. Their testimonies lifted the lid on horrific events that were taking place in Islington: teenagers selling sex from their council homes, a girl knifed by a sexual abuser inside a children’s unit, a girl and a boy who shared a bed with a known paedophile, a 15-year-old boy fostered with a suspected paedophile – overriding the vociferous protests of social workers – who later sexually abused the boy as predicted. We could go on and on.
The tragedy was that from the moment these children came to live in the seemingly safe children’s homes under the care of Islington council, they became fair game.

Some of the very people who were supposed to protect them were involved in their sexual abuse. On top of all this, the social workers who tried to protect them were pilloried by Margaret Hodge and her social services directors. The damage done to such children is beyond comprehension.

But the story of the Islington child sex abuse scandal would never have seen the light of day had it not been for the brave actions of a single secret whistleblower. Until today, the identity of this whistleblower has remained a secret. Nobody outside a tiny coterie of key players knew who he – or she – was. And so it would have remained. But in the wake of Mrs Hodge’s appointment as Minister for Children, the whistleblower has decided to blow her cover. She doesn’t come to this decision lightly.

But so indignant is she at this ” cynical appointment” that she has decided to tell – for the first time – the full story of what really happened.

She wants us to know the truth about our new Minister for Children. For Mrs Hodge and her management team were never made properly accountable for what happened to the children whom they failed. Instead, the whistleblower and her supporters were marginalised, whereas Mrs Hodge is now a rising star in government.
The whistleblower’s identity, we can reveal, is Liz Davies, 55. She is now a successful senior lecturer in so-cial work at London Metropolitan University.

But back in 1990, Liz Davies was the senior social worker heading up a team of six in the Irene Watson Neighbourhood Office, one of 24 similarly decentralised council offices in Islington. In speaking out, she is joined by another insider who has also hitherto remained silent – her former ally and manager, David Cofie, 63. Other social workers from that time in Islington are prepared to support the position taken by Mrs Davies and Mr Cofie.

“Margaret Hodge definitely knew everything right from the start, and by ‘start’ I mean more than two years before it was exposed in your newspaper,” begins Mrs Davies, talking to the Standard in north London. “She knew as early as April 1990 that we had uncovered serious evidence of sexual abuse among children in our care and yet she chose not to pursue our investigation.”

Her story starts at the beginning of the Nineties. “I noticed that there was a sudden unexpected increase in vulnerable teenagers coming to our office to see social workers,” recalls Mrs Davies. “They’d be crying and depressed and they didn’t want to talk. I didn’t understand it. We spent a lot of time engaging with these children and began to closely investigate their lives.”

Soon Mrs Davies and Mr Cofie began to realise that sexual abuse was part of the picture.
“The children were displaying classic symptoms of sexual abuse and we started to hear disturbing stories of a paedophile ring. At this point, we had no idea as to the scale of the network, or that the children’s homes – under our control – were involved. We began working closely with the Islington Child Protection officers and following local and national child protection procedures to the letter.”

Mr Cofie and Mrs Davies collated the information in a series of reports that were presented to the directors of social services. They responsibly asked for additional funds for two youth workers to be seconded to their team to help with investigations, which were snowballing and threatening to overwhelm them. But their request drew an icy rebuke from their council leader. In a memo to the head of Isington’s social services, John Rea Price (a copy of which is in the possession of the Standard), dated April 1990 – written on “Islington council leader’s office” stationery and from “Margaret Hodge, Leader” – Mrs Hodge wrote the following: “Sexual Abuse in Irene Watson Area: David Cofie raised the issue of sexual abuse among eight- to 16-year-old children at the Neighbourhood Forum. He is clearly concerned about the matter. However, simply requesting more resources is not, in my view, responsible for a manager given the well known concern of members at the state of the Social Services budget. I expect more appropriate responses from people in management positions in Social Services. The obvious option for your management to consider in relation to this emerging problem in the area is to reduce the fieldwork staffing to release resources for a detached youth worker in the area. I await your response.”

“We couldn’t believe it,” recalls Mrs Davies. “We were grappling with this enormous problem and all she was concerned about was balancing her budget. It boggles the mind. It was as if we were talking about park benches, not children.”

Because this critical memo was not made available to Standard reporters at the time of the investiga-tion-only coming to light years later, in May 1995, Mrs Hodge was never made to explain how it was she knew about the allegations of abuse for over two years without fully pursuing them.

David Cofie, in a separate interview, says that the standard procedure would have been for the matter to be referred to the child protection committee for a full investigation, but that this did not happen. Mr Cofie says that Mrs Hodge resisted his requests that the matter be properly investigated on three separate occasions. “The first occasion was when I decided the only responsible thing was to alert the community to the fact that paedophiles were operating in the area,” he recalls. “I wrote a short, subtly-worded report that was to be dis-tributed to the Neighbourhood Forum, which is open to members of the public. Well, Margaret Hodge went apeshit. She started screaming and shouting at me and refused to discuss it. I later heard that she had rub-bished me to colleagues behind my back, saying that I was exaggerating the sexual abuse claims and trying to make a name for myself.

But my colleagues told her, ‘David would never do that. If anything, he’s one of the most overcautious managers we have.’ ” In May 1990, Mr Cofie and Mrs Davies were summoned to a meeting convened by Islington’s assistant director of social services, Lyn Cusack. “By now,” says Mrs Davies, “we knew that the picture was far worse than initially imagined. I had learned that children in our care were being taken to homes in the country on weekends. It was highly suspicious, and I would later discover that they were being used to make child pornography and that people who ran our homes were getting paid in hard cash. But we were criticised as ‘hysterical’ and told in no uncertain terms to stop interviewing children and to cease child protection conferences forthwith.”

Mrs Davies and Mr Cofie continued to investigate regardless. They wrote and submitted 15 detailed reports but maintain their superiors still did not believe them. When the paedophile Roy Caterer, whose name Mrs Davies passed to the police, went to prison, Mr Cofie said to Mrs Davies: “Now they’ve got to believe us.” But Mrs Hodge and Lyn Cusack and their acolytes – inexplicably – still weren’t interested. The crunch for Mrs Davies came when she was ordered to place a “looked-after” seven-year-old boy in a home that was run by someone she had raised concerns about and considered unsafe. Her position had become untenable.

At the same time, she had started having a recurring nightmare. In the dream, Mrs Davies would be drinking a lovely glass of cold white wine that would suddenly turn into jagged pieces of glass that cut her throat to bloody ribbons. A friend told her: “It’s obvious, Liz, it’s all too much for you to swallow.”

In February 1992, Mrs Davies resigned in despair and took her information to Mike Hames, then head of Scotland Yard’s Obscene Publications Unit. He commenced an investigation, subsequently exposed in the Standard by Eileen Fairweather and Stewart Payne. More than 50 reports were published in the paper – which Mrs Hodge scornfully condemned – leading eventually to five independent inquiries.

It was another two-and-a-half years before the damning White report would be published – singling out and naming 22 people who worked for Islington and whose names were never published. Mrs Hodge went on the record to say that she was led astray, that her only fault was in believing her senior officers like Lyn Cusack. Those on the inside – like Mrs Davies – have always believed this was a fudge.

The critical April 1990 memo, which we reprint above, shows that Mrs Hodge’s claim is, at the very least, an oversimplification. It shows that when Mrs Hodge was directly presented with details of the sexual abuse allegations uncovered by Mr Cofie and Mrs Davies, she was apparently more concerned with allocating re-sources than addressing the substance of the allegations.

By the time the White report was published, Mrs Hodge had moved on. She would take up a top job in the City, then become MP for Barking, and later Minister for Higher Education. And now she is Minister for Children. David Cofie, on the other hand, stayed on at Islington until he retired in 1998.

So did Mrs Hodge ever thank Mr Cofie for the role he played in bringing to light this appalling scandal?
” Hodge never thanked me,” Mr Cofie says. “Nor did she apologise. Even though she had wrecked my ca-reer, frozen me out, made me persona non grata.

She was never a big enough person to say to me, ‘I am sorry for how I treated you. I was wrong. Thank you for what you did to save those children.’ ” Mrs Davies is even more scathing.

“It beggars belief to think that Tony Blair has awarded Hodge the highest job in the land for protecting the welfare of our most vulnerable citizens.

Blair was her neighbour at the time. He must remember her appalling record.
What in heaven’s name was he thinking?”

How scandal unfolded
1982: Margaret Hodge becomes leader of Islington council
February 1990: Liz Davies and David Cofie, senior Islington social workers, uncover evidence of sexual abuse of children, and report it to a Neighbourhood Forum which council leader Margaret Hodge attends as ward councillor.

April 1990: Hodge memos Cofie’s boss, John Rea Price, the director of social services: “David Cofie raised the issue of sexual abuse among eight-to 16-year-old children. He is clearly concerned. However, simply requesting more resources is not responsible for a manager given the concern of members at the state of the social services budget. I expect more appropriate responses from people in management positions in social services”.

May 1990: At a key meeting chaired by Lyn Cusack, assistant director of social services, Cofie and Davies are told to cease interviewing children and to stop convening child protection conferences

1991: Roy Caterer, who worked at a school used by Islington council for its children in care, is arrested for sexually abusing seven boys and two girls, and is jailed for seven-and-a-half years. Cofie and Davies ask social services for resources to help the victims, but receive no reply

February 1992: Davies resigns and takes her information to Scotland Yard
6 October 1992: A Standard investigation reveals that a 15-year-old girl worked as a prostitute from a coun-cil home; a 16-year-old was made pregnant at a teenage unit by a man suspected of involvement in a child sex ring; a girl was knifed by a pimp at an Islington home; and a boy was abused for years by a volunteer instructor
14 October 1992: Hodge says of the Standard’s investigation: “The way they chose to report this was gutter journalism … The story misled the public on the quality of childcare services in the borough”
23 October 1992: Hodge steps down as council leader to take up a post as a senior consultant with ac-countancy firm Price Waterhouse
3 March 1993: The Press Complaints Commission rejects all Islington’s complaints against the Standard
11 February 1994: Hodge admits to the Standard: “You were right that there was abuse in the children’s homes,” and blames her initial response on “misleading” information from senior officers and colleagues
23 May 1995: Report by Ian White, Oxfordshire director of social services, backs the Standard and says care-home workers were able to corrupt children in part because Islington’s ideological policies prevented complaints being investigated. Hodge responds: “I have had no involvement with Islington council for three years. It would be inappropriate for me to comment”
26 May 1995: Hodge tells Radio 4: “Of course I accept responsibility. I was leader of the council at the time”
13 June 2003: Hodge becomes Minister for Children
27 June 2003: Hodge tells Women’s Hour on BBC Radio 4: “I don’t think that any of us recognised the danger of child abuse in children’s homes to the extent that we’re aware of it now. I’ve learned from my fail-ure to understand at that time”

At last they admit it: we were right;
Damning report on Islington’s former social services department vindicate the Evening Standard’s long campaign against the evil men who preyed on children in council care

By Eileen Fairweather & Stewart Payne

An era that allowed pimps and paedophiles to flourish unchallenged at the hear of child care in Islington, corrupting and seducing vulnerable children bestowed into their care, is finally over. It has taken three and a half years. At first the scandal uncovered by the Standard’s Children at Risk investigation was dismissed by the council leader as ‘gutter journalism’, but inquiry after inquiry – there were four in all, prompted by an alarmed Department of Health – vindicated the Standard’s articles. This fifth and final inquiry marks the change of heart by the council and a new era for the exploited children of Islington.

POLITICAL correctness and a slavish adherence to equal opportunities stifled proper investigation of suspected child abusers employed by Islington Council, a report states today. Paedophiles cynically exploited a policy designed to prevent discrimination against homosexuals to escape scrutiny and some are still working in child care today.

The report is a total vindication of the Evening Standard’s investigation into child welfare in the Labour-controlled borough. Our investigation highlighted the dangerously naive equal opportunities policy and a management system in chaos, leaving children exposed to considerable risk of abuse. The report states that, following our investigation, there has been significant improvement in the borough.

The independent inquiry by welfare expert Ian White, CBE, director of social services in Oxfordshire, and his assistant, Kate Hart, confirms that, until recently, Islington was in ‘a deplorable state of affairs’ and had disintegrated ‘from top to bottom’.

Most worryingly, it reiterates the Standard’s allegation that suspected paedophiles exploited the blinkered equal opportunities policy and, despite suspicions by other staff, escaped investigation.

While accepting the need for effective equality control, the inquiry says that the way it was implemented by Islington led to ‘over-protection’ and prevented an interventionist approach by managers.

‘In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the equal opportunities environment, driven from the personnel perspective, became a positive disincentive for challenge to bad practice,’ states the 60-page report, instigated by the Department of Health. ‘Positive discrimination in Islington has had serious unintended consequences in allowing some staff to exploit children.’

The report calls for a review of equal opportunities policy in the borough and warns: ‘We are not at all sure that the equal opportunities climate has sufficiently changed so as to avoid some of the problems of the past.’ The Evening Standard submitted a dossier to the White inquiry identifying 32 staff suspected by colleagues of abuse or neglect.

Mr White confirms that only four were investigated. Most were allowed to resign, often with glowing references.

YET all the allegations were ‘extremely serious and should have been investigated with vigour. Islington did not in most cases undertake the standard investigative processes that should have been triggered.
‘It is possible, therefore, that some staff now not in the employment of
Islington could be working elsewhere in the field of social services with a completely clean disciplinary record and yet have serious allegations still not investigated in their history.

‘Managers believed they would not be supported if they triggered disciplinary investigations involving staff from ethnic minorities or the gay community. It cannot be a coincidence that of the 32 staff a number fall within that group.’

Islington’s ‘positive bias towards certain groups’ became ‘unfair protection and a great danger’, according to the report. At the same time ‘there was no strong ethos of promoting children’s rights and protecting children at risk’.

In an unprecedented development, local authorities across Britain employing former Islington staff are advised to check their backgrounds with the Department of Health and Islington’s new management.
Mr White said the scope of the Standard investigation covered both ‘criminal behaviour as well as staff misconduct’. His report calls on other boroughs to learn from Islington’s mistakes. He describes Islington as a ‘classic study’ in how paedophiles target ‘the children’s world’.

Some may have entered its children’s homes through an agency, run by a friend of a worker subsequently tried for sexual abuse, that failed to carry out police checks. The Standard has informed the White inquiry of this organisation and details have been passed to the Department of Health.

The report expresses concern that anyone can set up a voluntary organisation, recruit volunteers and work with children.

All authorities should now demand higher standards of checks on agency staff and men obtaining contact with vulnerable children through the voluntary sector, states the report.

Controversially, the report calls for a Home Office initiative to pool police and social services information about suspects in children’s homes, education and the youth service. Currently, police are unable to pass on their intelligence about unconvicted men.

While acknowledging this is a’sensitive area’, Mr White points out that ‘a large number of men involved in paedophile rings have clean records’ despite ‘very serious’ information held by police.

A new regime of management in Islington has attempted to trace some of the children whose time in care exposed them to abuse and to offer them help. The White report states: ‘It is sadly the case that, for some of these young people, there were long periods when they were receiving inadequate care and protection and experiencing distress and damage. There are inevitably limits to the extent to which current interventions can address the effects of past wrongs.’

Today’s report examines how Islington allowed suspect staff to take early retirement or resign on medical grounds with enhanced benefits and a clean record.

‘This ‘back door’ could very well have allowed staff who were acting unprofessionally to exit Islington as questions began to be asked and again allowed them the possibility of employment elsewhere in the social services field.’ Many had been recruited with minimum checks, because Islington believed in positive discrimination for gays and ethnic minorities. ‘Officers could not insist on a reference from a previous employer (or) challenge the status of the referee. In other words, an applicant could provide references from two friends.’

The Standard passed details of its inquiry to the Health Department and Scotland Yard. Its allegations included Islington staff sexually abusing children, selling them drugs, showing and using them in pornography, and colluding with shop-lifting and child prostitution.

Vital files that went missing
THE Evening Standard investigation highlighted serious failings caused by Islington dividing its welfare services into 24 neighbourhood offices, sometimes headed by an officer with no social work experience.
The White report upholds the newspaper’s concern, stating: ‘There is no doubt in our mind that a neighbourhood structure is fundamentally unable to provide the expertise, consistency, checks and balances and professional standards required of a competent social services function.’ Islington has now overhauled the service.

The report is sympathetic with managers who repeatedly drew the deficiencies of the service to the attention of their bosses, only to be ignored. There was a ‘managerial vacuum’.

Even so ‘line managers should have visited children’s homes, should have taken necessary action, should have spoken to children, should have had proper supervisory systems, should have had proper appraisal arrangements, should have carried out spot checks and should have responded to allegations as serious as the ones made and now investigated’.

The report found no evidence of organised network abuse or of Islington failing to respond to such fears.
But it does uphold a Standard allegation that vital files required in a police investigation were not made available by Islington. The report finds no evidence of collusion ‘but considerable evidence of confusion and poor management of written records’.

It says that the Islington response to a request for files was ‘unhelpful and frustrating’ and it was easy to see how suspicions arose of their being deliberately withheld.

In fact, it is a recurring theme in the White report that files had been destroyed or misplaced and the inquiry calls on the borough to review its administrative service.

In one disturbing case, a boy in care – now 18 – who made 31 complaints against the borough, alleging severe physical and mental abuse, has been awarded £5,000 in compensation. He is currently in a psychiatric hospital after a recent suicide attempt.

The White report confirms that vital files in this boy’s case and in two other police child sex-ring inquiries went missing. ‘It appears that this happened at assistant director level’ where ‘many confidential files were destroyed by mistake’.

The loss of crucial personnel and client files makes it impossible fully to investigate many of the allegations made to the Standard.

The director, Lyn Cusack, has since resigned as have many other senior officers who presided over Islington’s child care service at the time of the Standard investigation. So, too, have the political leaders, including Margaret Hodge, now a Labour MP, and Sandy Marks, head of the social services committee.

The White report makes a list of recommendations that will have far-reaching consequences on child care beyond Islington.

Some lessons remain to be learned, and the report emphasises the need to continue reviewing equal opportunities policies and for improved training.

Thankfully, the era of Islington promoting the rights of male workers at the expense of the most vulnerable children in society is finally over.


Evening Standard, 7th August 1995
By Stewart Payne & Eileen Fairweather

NICHOLAS Rabet should never work with children. His name is on the Government’s Consultancy Register, a danger list of those thought to be unsafe to work with young people. But because he has been running a privately owned activity centre for teenagers, albeit used by local authorities, children’s charities, schools and families, that Government sanction is powerless. Rabet used to be deputy head of an Islington children’s home. The Evening Standard discovered, as part of its investigation into child welfare in the Labour-controlled borough, that Rabet ha been accused of sexually abusing a boy in his care and was linked to convicted paedophiles. The newspaper’s investigation, which highlighted how children were at risk while in Islington’s care, was supported by a series of independent reports. Two months ago, in the final and most damning report of all, Ian White, head of Oxfordshire Social Services, confirmed that many former Islington staff had been under suspicion of a range of misconduct, including abuse, but had not been properly investigated.

His shocking conclusions supported a central theme of the Evening Standard inquiry, namely that political correctness and a rigid adherence to equal opportunities policies had stifled proper investigation of those under suspicion. Most of these staff had now left to take up work elsewhere, some with children. He urged every local authority in the land employing former Islington staff to check back with the borough, where a new administration has promised to thoroughly investigate their backgrounds. Last week we revealed how two London social workers, formerly with Islington, were now under investigation by their current employers. We reported how four of those named in a confidential section of the White report are now on the Health Department’s Consultancy Register and at least 11 others are to follow. This register is used by local authorities as a means of preventing employing those thought unsuitable to work with children. But today we reveal how men like Rabet have nothing to fear from this list because it does not apply to the private sector.

NICHOLAS JOHN RABET, aged 46, has come a long way since he left Islington after 15 years as the deputy head of an inner-city children’s home. He now lives on a vast estate in rural East Sussex, left to him in the will of an elderly widow he befriended, and where he has been running an activity centre for children. Youngsters taken there as a treat by parents had a great time. Boys in particular enjoyed rides on junior motorbikes, across fields and through mud splshes, or pitting their skills on the high-tech computer games. Mothers and fathers who met the reassuring Nick Rabet were happy to entrust their children to his care. Local families allowed their sons to work at the centre at weekends.

RabetBut the Evening Standard has uncovered the sinister side of Rabet and The Stables Activity Centre at Cross in Hand, near Heathfield, where he and his paedophile friends have courted the company of young boy helpers, leading to serious allegations of sexual abuse. Rabet was already under suspicion while still at Islington, due to his intense involvement with a boy we will call Shane. Bachelor Rabet, who continued to be employed despite a drug conviction, regularly took him away at weekends, in defiance of an ineffective ban. The boy was vulnerable and disturbed, having been placed in care at the age of nine following his mother’s breakdown. He knew no better than to trust Rabet. The boy’s headmaster, his psychiatrist, his mother and Rabet’s own colleagues all expressed their fears to Islington senior managers, saying they mistrusted the relationship. It was only after Rabet had resigned his job at Islington without thorough investigation and begun running The Stables Centre that Shane spoke up about his ‘friendship’ with his carer.

Shane alleges he was repeatedly abused by Rabet. Both in his Islington children’s home and at The Stables Rabet had showered him with gifts of sweets, cigarettes and money and plied him with alcohol. In return the impressionable boy said he had been used for Rabet’s sexual gratification. Shane has alleged the abuse in both a statement to police and in an interview with the Evening Standard.

SHANE, of course, grew up and was no longer the target of Rabet’s attention. He was discarded. He is now in his early 20s and consumed with a volatile mixture of anger and guilt over what he says was done to him during his time in care at Islington. Predictably his life is in turmoil – he has been in and out of prison and his prospects are bleak. No such ill fortune has beset Nick Rabet. While still working at Islington he had met an elderly and very wealthy widow living alone on an estate at Cross in Hand. Rabet went to live in a cottage on her land and opened up The Stables Centre after leaving Islington in 1989. He later became the main beneficiary of her will.

And here, the Evening Standard has discovered, Rabet has continued to pursue his interest in young boys. The Stables was used by local authorities, children’s charities, schools and families, unaware of Rabet’s background. When the Evening Standard first investigated Rabet’s activities we discovered he was also the focus of a police inquiry.

In 1991 Cambridgeshire police had staged a raid on the homes of two paedophiles, 40-year-old Neil Hocquart and his friend Walter Clack, now 73. Pervert Hocquart, a photographer, had been abusing boys around the country for many years, including a boy he met at Rabet’s Stables Centre.

Before police had the chance to question him, he took a lethal overdose of tranquillisers and died hours later in hospital.

His friend Clack, a former assistant to one-time Bank of England governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton, was arrested as he tried to dispose of hundreds of photographs of children and a sick home-made video film of a child being abused by a middle-aged man. He was later fined £5,000 for possessing child pornography. Further police inquiries revealed that Hocquart was a friend of Rabet’s and a regular visitor to The Stables Centre in which he had invested £13,000 to help Rabet buy equipment.

THIS led officers to raid Rabet’s cottage adjoining the centre. Police found his untidy home full of photographs of young boys, many of them taken without their knowledge in playgrounds and on beaches getting changed into swimming costumes. Rabet also had scores of photographs taken of children who visited his centre. Gay porn magazines were scattered under his bed and inside one was a loose photograph of a boy with an erection. They also found clothing belonging to the Isington boy Shane and photographs of him semi-undressed, sitting on his social worker’s knee and drinking alcohol. Rabet was arrested and placed on police bail. It was discovered that Rabet had recruited many young boys to work as volunteers at his activity centre and one of them later admitted to police that Hocquart had abused him.

The boys were there with the full permission of their parents who, unaware of the risks, were happy for their children to spend free time under Rabet’s supervision.

Some had even been sent to the centre by a friend of Rabet’s, another former Islington social worker, then working for East Sussex social services.

HOCQUART had his own key to the centre and made regular visits, sometimes with his paedophile friend Clack, known to the boys as Wally. One of the boys is a lad we will call Dominic. His parents had no reason to mistrust the convincing and ever-charming Rabet and they were not worried when their son became friendly with Hocquart.

Rabet1At the time Dominic was just 11 years old and, together with friends, had answered an advert in a local paper placed by Rabet looking for helpers. Soon Hocquart was taking Dominic away for trips in his sports car and obtained permission from his parents to take him on holiday. Hocquart had carefully worked his way into a position of trust, befriending the parents as well as their son.

Paedophiles take their time with children they are attracted to, building up a relationship and winning their confidence and affection. Eventually Hocquart was able to persuade Dominic to pose naked for him, photographs which later were to be distributed to the international paedophile network through contacts in Amsterdam.

It didn’t end there. In time Dominic was taking part in sex acts with Hocquart. In return he was given money, gifts and even a motorbike to ride at The Stables. On holidays, Hocquart took videos. Carefully edited, he would send copies to Dominic’s parents showing their son having a great time. Unedited versions reveal a sickening performance between a middle-aged man and a child larking about in swimming costumes and with Hocquart and other male companions aiming water pistols at the boy’s genitals, accompanied by lewd jokes. In fact Hocquart was so taken with his young companion that he left him a third share in his will, money which Dominic has since inherited following Hocquart’s suicide after the police raid.

There is no evidence that Rabet ever took any steps to restrict Hocquart’s access to his centre or to Dominic. Indeed, through his friendship with Hocquart, Rabet is linked to a wider network of child abusers, many in the arts, even the church.

The old lady has now died, Rabet inheriting her extensive home, reported to have been since sold for £400,000. He still lives in the cottage. For the time being at least, he has closed down the activity centre, and has recently enjoyed holidays in Thailand.

Police never had the chance to convict Hocquart. His death from an overdose put paid to that. Rabet was considered for prosecution but no further action was taken.

The allegation by the Islington boy was uncorroborated and in such cases it is notoriously difficult to obtain a conviction. The identity of the boy with the erection in the photograph was not known and he could not be aged. In any event, Rabet claimed the picture belonged to a dead friend.

WHEN the Evening Standard first called at Rabet’s cottage he slammed the door in our faces. Later his solicitor claimed that, after leaving Islington, Rabet had set up The Stables as an activity centre to benefit problem children. His statement admitted a police investigation followed a ‘serious allegation’ by an Islington boy but added: ‘The allegation was untrue. Our client co-operated fully with the police inquiry which he believes has totally cleared him from the allegation.’

Evening Standard, 6th May 1993
By Stewart Payne & Eileen Fairweather

BRITAIN’S leading consultant on children’s homes is at the centre of a nationwide police and social work investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against boys.

Peter Righton, 67, quit his post at the National Children’s Bureau last year after he was arrested and later convicted of possessing child pornography. But the Evening Standard can reveal that he is now the central figure in a new investigation into the suspected abuse of scores of boys over four decades.

When this investigation began, Righton and his male lover fled to a country estate which is also an educational and recreational centre for children. Teachers, parents and welfare officials who send children to the estate are unaware of the two men and the police investigation into alleged paedophilia.

The pair live at the Suffolk ancestral home of the 8th Baron Henniker.
Following the discovery of child pornography addressed to Righton, a senior and respected childcare expert, he was fined £900 last September for importing and possessing indecent material. He has been under police investigation ever since.

Righton and his lover are familiar figures to staff working on the 2,500-acre estate at Thornham Magna which the philanthropic Lord Henniker and his family have turned into an educational and recreational centre for children.

The chance discovery by Customs officers at Dover of child pornography addressed to Righton led to police seizing letters and other documents in his home – a cottage near Evesham, Worcestershire. Scores of boys’ names were found in a diary, some underlined. These, investigators believe, were boys that had been sexually abused.

Many are now adults and have been traced by police and social workers. Some have alleged abuse dating back 30 years. But officers have also unearthed a recent allegation of abuse.

A former assistant bishop is among Righton’s long-standing friends. Correspondence between the two suggests a shared interest in children. His name was among those underlined in the diary.

As the extent of his alleged activities emerged, police discovered that Righton had moved to the Henniker estate. Suffolk social workers were alerted to establish the circumstances in which he was living.

Lord Henniker, 77, told the Standard he did not know Righton and was not responsible for him living on the estate. ‘The estate belongs to my son.’

His son’s wife, Mrs Lesley Henniker-Major, said: ‘Mr Righton is a tenant. He came to us through an estate agent with impeccable references.’

She said she was not aware of the current investigation but had been told of his previous conviction for possessing indecent material by police and social workers. ‘I was very upset. But I have discussed this with Mr Righton and he tells me this material was unsolicited. I am a mother of five and I am very careful. I am not at all worried. He is innocent until proven guilty.’

When the Standard visited the estate this week Righton and his companion were still living in the stable flat. Wellington boots with their names inscribed in the rims stood outside their door.

Righton was a leading consultant on children’s homes and a former director of both the National Children’s Bureau charity and the National Institute for Social Work, a think-tank for social work issues.

The Standard has established that the London Borough of Islington, whose children’s homes are the subject of an inquiry following our revelations that young people in council care were exposed to paedophiles, pimps and child pornographers, sends children to the Henniker estate under a scheme called The Islington Suffolk Project.
Hundreds of youngsters from Islington and other councils have holidayed at the Henniker estate, staying in log cabins, since the mid-1970s.

Investigators probing Righton’s background have been astonished by how he achieved such high office. He was known to Scotland Yard as a founder member of the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), which campaigned to legalise sex with children aged over four in the 1970s.

Righton has written widely on the subject of paedophilia and in 1981, in a publication called Perspectives on Paedophilia, he attacked the ‘moral panic’ over the issue and said that with ‘the child’s willing compliance . . . the sex is unlikely to do much harm’.

Righton went to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he obtained a BA second class honours in philosophy, politics and economics, becoming an MA in 1955. He had earlier served in the Royal Artillery as a lieutenant.

He first worked in the probation service but moved into educational welfare work. In 1964 he was investigated by police for sexually abusing a pupil at Red Hill boarding school for maladjusted boys. At the time Righton contemplated killing himself and wrote several suicide notes in which he admitted the harm he had caused the boy. The case was dropped but Righton kept the notes.

Righton went on to carve a successful career, making no secret of his homosexuality.
Police officers who raided his Evesham cottage found magazines with titles like Boy Love World and love notes in childish handwriting as well as explicit letters from adults who shared his sexual outlook. Among them was convicted child abuser and fellow PIE member, Charles Napier. Righton resigned his posts after the raid.

For months police have been working through the lists of names found in Righton’s diaries, dating back many years.

Righton was, by the time of his arrest, semi-retired, although as a freelance consultant he was still visiting children’s homes across the country.

Recent scandals in residential childcare have led experts to believe that paedophile staff may be ‘networking’ nationally to exchange children and pornography – even protection. But only now are moves afoot to address this problem with investigators planning to meet Mr Herbert Laming, chief inspector of the Social Services Inspectorate, to request a co-ordinated nationwide team.

In the meantime it was left for officers investigating Righton to contact their counterparts in Suffolk to establish why he had gone to live there.

The Henniker estate has been the family home since 1756, a rambling mansion house set in farmland and woods. Day-to-day running of the estate has passed to the Lord’s son and heir Mark, 45, and his wife.

Evening Standard, 19th February 1993

By Stewart Payne & Eileen Fairweather

THE documents that landed on the desk of senior Islington social services officials made grim reading. Their inspector, Mike Betts, was damning in his reports on the state of the council’s children’s homes and was demanding urgent action to protect the welfare of the youngsters who lived in them.

His reports could not have come at a worse time for Islington. Only weeks before, the Evening Standard had published the results of a three-month investigation into child care in the borough and had condemned the very same homes that Betts was now criticising.

Islington’s then leader Margaret Hodge had dismissed the Standard stories as ‘gutter journalism’, even though Health Secretary Virginia Bottomley said she was very concerned by the disclosures and her social services inspectorate ordered the council to investigate our allegations.

Officers were now faced with proof from one of their own experienced staff that the state of the homes was a matter of genuine concern.

The evidence amounted to a massive embarrassment for the council.

Betts was called in for high-level meetings and assured that urgent steps would be taken to put right all that was wrong with the three homes he had inspected so far. Money would be made available immediately. But a decision was made at this same senior level to delay showing his reports to councillors on the social services committee as promised. The committee’s September minutes record that Betts would submit a progress report in November. But these minutes are public documents and officials feared that Betts’s damning reports would be seized upon by a hostile Press.

In November, therefore, the committee was told that it would have to wait until January for Betts’s findings. The inquiry ordered by Bottomley into the Standard’s allegations was originally due to report by Christmas. It was hoped that by January Press concern about Islington’s children’s homes would have evaporated.

In fact, the inquiry received so much evidence that it has only just reported.
Sarah Ludford, a Liberal-Democrat councillor on the social services committee, confirms that Betts’s reports have still not been studied. The committee’s chairwoman, Sandy Marks, told her this week that none even existed.

The Standard knows this is not true. Last week we discovered the existence of these reports and, astonishingly, that Islington had withheld them from the inquiry into its homes ordered by the Health Secretary. When we alerted the inquiry Betts was called in to give evidence.

The decision to delay discussion on his reports by councillors was taken in October, shortly after the Standard disclosed the results on its investigation. Betts was told to continue his work. He had examined three homes and one – highlighted by the Standard as a place where pimps recruited teenage girls into prostitution – was causing him grave concern.

He had already completed his inspection of the physical condition of the home and was horrified by what he saw. The building was delapidated, dirty and insecure. Children slept on mattresses on the floor, scavenged for furniture from rubbish skips and had to share only two chairs when they sat down to eat. Sheets were used as curtains.

Betts started the second part of his report into the home, this time examining the emotional and physical welfare of the children. But last November he was called out to join the long-running strike by Islington social workers.

By this time the inquiry team set up by Islington council to investigate the Standard allegations had started its work. Jo Tunnard, a former director of a children’s charity and Brian McAndrew, a former local authority chief executive, were appointed by the borough and were promised all assistance.
In the course of their inquiry they asked for, and received, evidence from the two Evening Standard reporters who had carried out the investigation. They visited children’s homes and spoke to children, parents and social workers.

They produced an interim report at the beginning of this month and handed it to Islington chief executive Eric Dear.

For the last two weeks Islington had kept its contents secret while deciding what material was confidential and for the sake of protecting children should be removed before making it public yesterday.

It was during this period that the Standard discovered that Betts’s reports had not been shown to councillors or the Tunnard and McAndrew inquiry, even though Islington had pledged to provide it with all relevant documentation.

The Standard discovered the existence of the Betts reports from the network of sources who had assisted in our original investigation. We immediately contacted Tunnard and McAndrew to ask if they had seen them. They were not aware of their existence.

Tunnard and McAndrew expressed their concern that the reports were not volunteered to them and that when they did get to hear of them, it was from an external source.

In a pointed reference in their report yesterday, Tunnard and McAndrew stated: ‘Late in the review we discovered that reports had been written last autumn . . . we had neither seen them nor knew they existed. We are concerned that they did not form part of the briefing material we received.’

After the Standard intervention, they hastily arranged to see Betts, who provided them with copies of his reports together with additional information from his follow-up work which was critical of the emotional and physical state of the children.

It is understood he was also worried that many were expected to feed themselves on a paltry budget, leading to fears of undernourishment. He was concerned about insufficient staff, high staff turnover leading to the over-use of agency workers and a lack of effective security. He had already demanded that money be spent immediately on buying the children beds, curtains and a table and chairs for meals.

Betts returned to work after the strike ended this month but, without explanation, was given a different post. He is believed to have been under the impression that the inquiry team had received his reports and was shocked to discover they had not.

Islington council insisted that there were was ‘nothing sinister’ in its failure to hand the Betts reports over. It said: ‘The interim report was looking at the welfare of children in care and whether homes were out of control. It was not meant to be looking at the physical condition of the building and therefore the reports, which in any event were not complete, were not thought appropriate.’

Last week we were approached by a group of teenagers who live in the same Islington children’s home about which Betts was most critical. The Standard is withholding their names and that of the home to protect them.

The children said they were called in to give evidence to Tunnard and McAndrew but did not tell the full truth about life in their home because they feared it would close if they were critical.

Although they do not like where they live, it is the only home they have, and for many their companions are their only friends.

They say life in the home improved after the Standard published its investigation. We had highlighted security risks, and a broken lavatory window regularly used by intruders was replaced. New locks and grilles were fitted. The staff were more pleasant but they repeatedly warned the youngsters not to talk to reporters.

The children approached the newspaper last week when it was clear to them that any improvement had been only short term.

They urged us to see inside their home. It bore more relation to a Dickensian workhouse and its filth and delapidation could not be explained away by customary excuses of lack of government funding.
Four months after the inspector had demanded immediate improvements there were still mattresses on the floor, curtains missing from windows, and no seat on a lavatory. Plaster was crumbling, wallpaper peeling and carpets were stained and worn. What little furniture there was was broken and decrepit.
There was little evidence the money Betts that had been promised had been spent. Some repairs had been started but progress was dreadfully slow.

The children said that there was little or no discipline. As well as the poor security which had meant intruders were often found inside, visitors, many much older than the residents, would stay in defiance of regulations. One, they insist, introduced them to drugs, including ecstasy, crack and cocaine, which they take at the home.

The children have a meagre £20 a week food allowance and have to cook for themselves. Often they would live on toast because bread was the only food provided for them.

Money spent on drugs bought in the home is supplemented by muggings and shoplifting expeditions. Last month a 17-year-old girl at the home was jailed for mugging a woman at knifepoint in order to obtain money for drugs. Another teenager admitted stealing baby clothes and perfume and selling it to young mothers in Caledonian Road.

Rules, the children volunteered, were routinely broken and many would stay out all night at ‘raves’ or with boyfriends and girlfriends.

They spoke with hopeless resignation. One said: ‘We know we should get more discipline but most of the staff just don’t care. We can do what we like.’

Their story may contain exaggerations and distortions. But why should they lie? We had no reason to doubt their sincerity and much of what they told us we had already established in our earlier investigation.

So had they been interviewed by the inquiry team and given the two inspectors a truthful picture of the home? When they met Tunnard and McAndrew they said little of what they now reported because they were still worried about the threat of the home being closed. They say they believed they would end up in bed-and-breakfast accommodation.

The Standard again contacted McAndrew and Tunnard, who confirmed they had met the children but had not been given such frank and detailed accounts. They said they would like to talk to the children again in the light of what they had told us. This week we put them in touch.

This additional evidence is likely to form part of the final inquiry report. Tunnard and McAndrew say they still have more work to do in examining other matters raised in the Standard articles – providing Islington agrees.