Evening Standard, 22nd May 2009
by Eileen Fairweather
Every time I have seen Lord Laming, the Government’s favourite child protection “expert”, wheeled out since Baby Peter’s death I have gritted my teeth.
Never once has he admitted he knew the truth about this poor child’s family.
Fifteen years ago, I warned Lord Laming in writing that a young relative of Baby Peter was central to a vicious London paedophile ring.
This followed one of the most disturbing and revealing inquiries ever mounted by the Evening Standard. But Lord Laming, then chief inspector of social services, did nothing effective to rescue this terrified boy.
Since then, Lord Laming has presided over the destruction of tried and tested child protection systems, so more children than ever are at risk. He has also helped create today’s surveillance society, which allows government apparatchiks and paedophiles alike to spy on innocent families.
In the early Nineties, Baby Peter’s mother and a relative were under Islington council’s care. Shockingly, all of its 12 children’s homes then contained pimps, paedophiles and pornographers, who openly abused children. Decent staff who protested were threatened or sacked. In desperation, some bravely contacted this newspaper.
Baby Peter’s relative, we were repeatedly told, was under particular pressure to introduce children to outside pimps. But the authorities thought it more important to protect politicians.
The then-council leader Margaret Hodge labelled the newspaper’s meticulously-sourced investigation as “sensationalist gutter journalism”.
Laming, who later worked for Hodge, responded by letting Islington investigate itself. Inevitably, its inquiries were a whitewash.
So I and a Standard colleague met Lord Laming and revealed that management had “lost” incriminating files requested by police investigating three separate child sex rings. Islington’s assistant director resigned a few days later “for personal reasons”.
But still no real inquiry ensued. Hence the Standard’s decision to compile a 112-page dossier of further evidence. I submitted it with real if naïve hope and Laming, to his credit, ordered a secret inquiry into Baby Peter’s relative. It confirmed in August 1994 that Islington knew for two years that he was at the heart of grave concerns about pimps preying on children’s homes. The council and local police had done nothing save call meetings about meetings.
A broader independent inquiry in 1995 demanded that 26 former Islington staff, given glowing references following serious allegations of rape, kidnap and pimping, be barred from social work. Still no paedophiles were raided or charged, and no children interviewed or rescued.
Social services is the lead agency in child protection inquiries, so Laming had the power to call for police action.
None followed. Thus Hodge was able to boast that no one was convicted as a result of the scandal, and no evidence was found of a ring. The ring dispersed but continued hurting children.
Three protected Islington children’s home heads moved to Thailand’s notorious Pattaya child sex resort. Thai police charged Nick Rabet there in 2006 with abusing 30 local children, as young as six.
The Islington cover-up had, Thai police estimated, allowed him to hurt hundreds more children. Everyone who failed the children of London rose spectacularly higher.
Sue Akers, the Detective Inspector then in charge of Islington’s Child Protection Team, is now a Deputy Assistant Commissioner.
Hodge, infamously, became Britain’s first Children’s Minister.
Herbert Laming was awarded ermine and undertook the inquiry into Victoria Climbie’s murder, whose 2003 recommendations allowed Hodge to treat all parents as potential abusers. Her subsequent Every Child Mat-ters (ECM) “reform” of social services abolished the Child Protection Register, and replaced it with the controversial ContactPoint database on all Britain’s 11 million children. The few children at grave risk are now almost invisible, while social workers drown under a tidal wave of paperwork about ordinary families. ECM also effectively removed police from investigating child abuse. Laming suggested in his Climbie report that the police only investigate actual crime, not a child’s feared risk of harm.
The police responded by closing most child protection teams.
Baby Peter’s mother was once a victim too, and became an abuser in turn, through the well-documented “cycle of abuse”.
So why did no one in power ever do anything effective to stop the evil ring which ultimately destroyed her and Baby Peter?
I asked Lord Laming recently but he would not comment.