Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 10th November 2002

QUARRIERS, Scotland’s most prestigious children’s charity, is facing ruin after a Sunday Herald investigation revealed that the organisation is knowingly renting homes to paedophiles and suspected child molesters within a community housing profoundly disabled children. The revelations have led to calls that Quarriers’ chief executive, Phil Robinson, resign.

Parents of children at Quarriers Village have described Robinson’s conduct as a ”massive breach of trust”. They say the charity’s reputation is destroyed and it is impossible for Quarriers to continue. The Scottish Executive has also said it is seriously concerned.

The Quarriers Village in Bridge of Weir in Renfrewshire is a network of cottages providing residential care for disabled children.

Some cottages are no longer used as care facilities and have been sold or rented out. One was rented to John Porteous, who was jailed on Thursday for eight years for sexually abusing two boys. Robinson knew that Porteous was under investigation by the police but allowed him to remain in his rented flat.

Robinson also deliberately withheld information about Porteous from parents. Another man, who the Sunday Herald has not named for legal reasons, is also currently living in the village – unknown to parents but with Robinson’s knowledge – despite having appeared in court in June for 13 child sexual offences. Both Porteous and the other man are former employees at the village.

Robinson said: ”I don’t agree that parents should have been informed on the basis of suspicions alone we had a duty not to disregard the presumption that someone is innocent until proven guilty.”

Responding to claims that parents’ trust was betrayed, Quarriers spokesman Colin Adams said: ”What about betraying the trust of a man who had not been convicted?”

Nicola Sturgeon, SNP community care spokesman, said Robinson and the board of management should immediately resign. ”Their actions are an unforgivable and serious dereliction of duty,” she said.

A relative of a disabled child who attends Quarriers Village said: ”We are left with a gaping hole where our trust once was. We need to know if these men could have had any access to our child. It is all but impossible to think of ever sending our child back there again.”

The Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 10th November 2002

Scotland’s most renowned children’s charity is mired in a paedophile scandal that could well destroy it. Quarriers, which provides residential care for the most profoundly disabled children in the country, has admitted that it has knowingly allowed paedophiles and suspected child-molesters to live alongside children it is supposed to care for – and that one man accused of such offences is still there.

Phil Robinson, Quarriers chief executive, is facing calls from politicians to resign immediately for putting children at risk. Parents of disabled children who attend Quarriers, and the victims of paedophiles who worked there, say it is impossible for the charity to carry on.

Quarriers headquarters, near Bridge of Weir in Renfrewshire, is effectively a self-contained community, referred to by staff as Quarriers Village. It is a network of brick cottages used to provide residential care for disabled children. Around 70 children a year stay there. However, among this warren of buildings are a few cottages that were once used as part of the children’s home but have now been either leased or sold by Quarriers to members of the public.

One man who was let a home inside this ”village for children” was John Porteous. He was jailed for eight years last Thursday for the sexual abuse of two boys. Phil Robinson knew Porteous was under investigation but still allowed him to live in one of the Quarriers buildings – right beside disabled children. Robinson did not tell any of the parents whose children use the village that Porteous was under investigation.

Another man, who the Sunday Herald has not named for legal reasons, is also allowed to live inside Quarriers Village despite appearing in court in June accused of 13 sexual offences against children. Robinson has known since June that the man is under investigation, but has not told parents about the allegations or that the man remains in the village today. Both Porteous and the other man were former ”housefathers” at Quarriers in the 1960s and 1970s. In those days, the cottages now used for respite care for disabled children were run as individual homes where husband-and-wife teams, known as housefathers and housemothers, looked after abandoned or orphaned children. Sometimes cottages were home to up to 14 children.

Both Porteous and the other man were brought up in Quarriers themselves. Porteous’s wife, Helen, who also was a ”Quarriers child”, sat alongside her husband in the dock facing charges of cruelty against children. The charges were withdrawn and she was found not guilty.

Porteous – who is also closely related to another former member of Quarriers staff under investigation by police in relation to paedophile crimes – was an officer in the spired church that sits in the middle of Quarriers Village and a Boys’ Brigade leader. Police officers investigating the case dubbed him ”the beast of the belltower” as he abused children in the belltower of the church. Porteous was also a member of the region’s children’s panel, which deals with abused children and children who have committed crimes, until he was charged in March this year.

The children that Porteous abused were in his care when he was a housefather. The two boys he was convicted of abusing were eight and 12 when the sexual assaults started. He abused them between 1969 and 1977. The jury at Glasgow High Court found him not guilty of two other charges of abusing a third boy and a young girl.

The Sunday Herald began investigating the activities of paedophiles at Quarriers following the conviction in September 2001 of Samuel McBrearty on charges of raping and assaulting three children while working at Quarriers 30 years ago. The Sunday Herald has previously interviewed 63-year-old Elizabeth McWilliams, who told how a ”housemother” called Frances Bowman beat her, forced her into freezing baths and made her eat rotting food and pigswill. McWilliams also told of being raped by a man who worked at Quarriers. Following her revelations, Phil Robinson and other senior staff at Quarriers Village invited the Sunday Herald to attend a meeting at which they would be ”100% honest” over sexual abuse that had taken place at the home.

After the interview, a Sunday Herald reporter and photographer were allowed to walk around the village, and were taken on a tour of Quarriers church by a church officer – John Porteous. When asked what he thought of the sex abuse scandal engulfing Quarriers, Porteous said: ”I think it’s all down to bad children. They must have lied or enticed those men.”

Nothing was then known publicly about Porteous’s crimes. Robinson, however, was aware that Porteous was under investigation, but chose not to reveal to the Sunday Herald that Porteous was facing paedophile charges.

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP’s shadow health and community care minister, said Robinson and the rest of the Quarriers board should resign immediately. ”Their actions are an unforgivable and serious dereliction of duty and there should be an immediate and thorough investigation. Their first duty is supposed to be to care for children, but their conduct in covering up what has been happening is a disgrace.

”We need transparency when the safety of children is concerned. It is terribly disturbing to think of a paedophile so close to such vulnerable children. If such people were allowed to get to the heart of a community like this, Quarriers must have realised that it was a position open to abuse.” She added that allowing people to live without police checks in a community for vulnerable children was ”tailor-made to be exploited by paedophiles”.

”After years spent tightening rules over who can and can’t work with kids, we now have a new route for paedophiles to get close to children without coming under scrutiny. All the evidence suggests that Quarriers allowed this situation to happen. They haven’t learned the lessons of the past and the positions of those in charge are no longer tenable.”

After working as a housefather, Porteous became health and safety officer at Quarriers and stayed in the post until he retired four years ago.

Colin Adams, a spokesman for Quarriers, dismissed allegations that the care home had betrayed the trust of parents, saying: ”What about betraying the trust of a man who had, until Thursday, not been convicted?”

Detective Inspector Ross Mackay of Greenock police, who is leading the investigation into abuse at Quarriers, said the inquiry was still ongoing. He said a number of investigations were still open and had not yet led to charges. Other cases have been reported to the procurator fiscal and some men have been charged and are awaiting trial.

”These are very serious crimes,” he said. ”It’s been a horrendous case. I’d appeal to anyone with information to come forward and speak to me.”

Victims of Porteous and those who were abused by other men at Quarriers have also called for Robinson to resign, saying the charity’s reputation has been ruined. One former Quarriers resident, who was abused at the home as a child, said it had ”endangered children by harbouring and sheltering a paedophile”.

In a lengthy interview with the Sunday Herald, Phil Robinson said he had offered his resignation to board chairman Robin Wilson, saying he would quit his post if it turned out he had placed children at risk. Wilson said he was currently backing Robinson. Robinson added: ”I became aware of the allegations against Porteous in 1999. If he’d still been employed with us we would have suspended him immediately, but he was retired. We notified staff to ensure that he had no access to children and they satisfied us that he hadn’t. He was – and remains – a tenant of ours. His wife still lives in the house in the village.”

Robinson said: ”If we had evicted him we would have been acting illegally,” but admitted he had not taken legal advice. He also admitted that not informing parents that Porteous had been charged with child sex offences was ”controversial”, but added: ”I don’t agree that parents should have been informed on the basis of suspicions alone. We didn’t want to hamper police investigations and we also had a duty not to disregard the presumption that someone is innocent until proven guilty.”

Although Porteous lived in a flat above a cottage used as the corporate services department at Quarriers Village, Robinson insisted that there was no way he could have gained access to any children. He claimed it was ”unfair” to accuse him of putting children at risk or of breaching the trust of parents. ”To put all the good work that we do under threat because of unnecessary alarm about the risk to children would be a terrible tragedy for the children we strive to care for,” he said. ”We can’t control our tenants or police the village. There is no evidence to suggest that anyone has moved to this village because it is attractive for paedophiles.”

Quarriers has now hired a social worker to counsel former residents who were abused. All staff hired after 1995 have been checked by police. However, some 32 hired before then are still unchecked. Robinson said he was happy to meet with parents to discuss any fears.

Over calls for the board to resign, he said: ”I’m the chief executive and the buck stops with me. If it is felt that there has been any negligence then I will resign. I don’t believe there has been negligence and my chairman supports me.”

CONTEXT: Quarriers was established in 1871 by William Quarrier, a Glasgow philanthropist who had suffered a deprived childhood. It has cared for more than 30,000 children since the first orphan home was set up at Bridge of Weir – where the Quarriers Village now has 1000 members of staff and a turnover of £19 million.Quarriers is Scotland’s leading charity for children, disadvantaged young people and adults with disabilities


By their hand-wringing they all protected the vicar: the Church of England, the Humberside police, even the politicians.

When a Childwatch trustee, Geoffrey Dickens MP, tried to name him in Parliament, his question was returned “disallowed by Mr Speaker – unnecessary invidious use of a name.”

When complaints were made up to bishop level, the excuse was that there had not been a conviction.

When the police were questioned, they said they could not get a conviction because of the problem of corroborating the testimony of the boys.

And all the while, the Reverend Jan Borge Knos was able to carry on touring the council estate, picking up boys and abusing them; renting his soft porn videos from the shop, and flouting every moral law in the good book.

Crime paid, he owned a yacht. And while a trusting community was systematically raped by the vicar of St. Michael and All Angels Church, in Hull, the authorities did nothing.

Were we wrong to kick up a fuss? The Church of England thought so. But there were too many unexplained features to the case of Jan Knos, not least of which was the curious inactivity of the police.

They said they had investigated the complaints, and that a file had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, which was then returned to them marked “No Action.”

This surprised us, because we were under the impression that Humberside Constabulary had failed to take any such action.

A piece of that part of the jigsaw had slipped into place, because Patrick Mayhew, the Attorney General, wrote to Geoffrey Dickens in July 1991:

…the police had carried out a full investigation but questions had been raised about a decision taken locally not to prosecute. It was open to the Director to call for the papers and he did so with the result that Mr Knos was charged with criminal offences.

Now we know that the police had decided not to prosecute, and that decision was taken in Hull – not in London. That decision was not good enough for the parents and teachers; they had no shortage of evidence about what was going on. They had to cope with the behavioural problems that were human testaments to the traumas which the Man of God was inflicting on his victims – with impunity.

Faced with the guns of the Big Battalions, the amateurs do start to get tarred with various brushes. We become “busy-bodies” or “do-gooders” who ought to leave the professionals to get on with their job. Jan Knos was their job, and they failed to bring his dirty deeds to a halt at the earliest possible time.

Robert Webster (who was to become a trustee of Childwatch) was deputy headmaster of Danepark Junior High School on Orchard Park Estate at the time. He was first alerted by a telephone call from a mother who said that her son, while absent from school, had been sexually assaulted by a “prominent person”. The rumours circulated, and eventually the name of the vicar came to the surface. His activities were common knowledge on the estate.

Robert Webster and the headmistress, Miss M.M. Whincup, wrote to the Chief Constable to express their “increasing concern at a situation known to the police but about which there appears to be no action of late”, and the reply from the Chief Constable’s deputy explained:

When young children are victims, the law demands that we must corroborate what they have to say before their evidence will be accepted by a Court, This has presented us with difficulties in the enquiries we have made up to the present time.

Again – children as out-laws, denied the full rights that are accorded to adults.

But that was not the full story. Corroborative evidence from adults either was obtained, or could have been obtained. Robert Webster was outraged at the inactivity of the police. He was to write in a memo:

I learnt from my school children that Jan Knos was going blatantly around the Estate with some young people chasing children and taking them away in his small estate van. I was given the time of night when this was happening along with the location in which it was happening and yet to the best of my knowledge, having passed that information to the police, no action was taken to catch him at it. I feel that the police might at least have provided plain clothes disguised men to keep surveillance on these happenings.

The police were too heavily engaged in wringing their hands over the credibility of children as eye-witnesses; that left no time to send detectives into the field to do the job for which they were paid. And so I mounted a media campaign to alert the general public, following which the Director of Public Prosecutions decided to intervene and overrule the locally-taken decision. The vicar was arrested. He died of a heart attack in Hull Prison before coming to trial.

Jan Knos had led a charmed life. No-one interrupted his extra-clerical activities. Why, they even tried to protect him while he was in his grave. The mother of one victim was told by the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev. & Rt. Hon. John Habgood: “I find the publicity which has followed Jan Knos’s death very distasteful because it seems to imply that a man can be judged after his death by the media, even though in life he had had no chance to defend himself.”

Jan Knos did not wish to have to defend himself, in this or any other world. And from the level of the street pavements – the ones from which he kidnapped and molested little boys – it looked as though there were people in authority who were conniving to grant him his wish.

Voluntary agencies like Childwatch, which are not armed with legal rights or taxpayers’ money, are obliged to use every means in the book to achieve justice. Their task is uniquely difficult when trying to protect children, because the law enforcement agencies still treat boys and girls as unbelievable.

– Extract from Chasing Satan by Dianne Core, founder of Childwatch.

More on Reverend Jan Knos:

Geoffrey Dickens, the doctor, and the vicar

Havers rebuffs Tory MP in child sex row (18.3.86)
Speaker prevents bid to name vicar – Geoffrey Dickens MP in clash on privilege (18.3.86)
MP says vicar to face prosecution (19.3.86)
Vicar quits after child sex claims (22.3.86)
Vicar facing 28 charges (10.4.86)
Sex-charge vicar dies (27.10.86)
Sex-charge vicar: Mum may claim (27.10.86)
Vicar in child sex case found dead in his cell (28.10.86)