The gay care worker who tried to foster a boy he was banned from seeing (07.10.92)

Evening Standard, 7th October 1992


The gay care worker who tried to foster the boy he was banned from seeing Steven’s father and stepmother are now considering suing Islington over the it cared for him. * He was banned from seeing the ‘vulnerable’ boy, who later alleged sex abus * He ignored the ban and lied to keep meetings secret * His fostering application horrified other care workers * But Islington officials allowed it to proceed. Tom Yeomans, an openly gay Islington social worker, almost succeeded in fostering 15-year-old Steven, a boy once in his care.

Social workers who opposed him were pilloried as ‘homophobic’, but eventually the boy appeared to confirm their fears by alleging that Yeomans had sexually abused him.

In March, Yeomans stood trial at the Old Bailey on charges of buggery, gross indecency and indecent assault. The judge instructed the jury to find Yeomans, 43, not guilty. He said he was stopping the trial ‘reluctantly’, criticised Yeomans’s behaviour and branded him a liar. But, after hearing Steven’s uncorroborated evidence, ruled: ‘It is dangerous to convict on the alleged victim’s evidence if that evidence stands alone.’

Steven, a disturbed, illiterate boy, had crumbled and contradicted himself under cross-examination. The judge said: ‘There is no evidence to support his allegation . . . no evidence capable of corroborating the allegation.’
Despite Yeomans’s innocence, Islington’s involvement in the fostering bid remains open to question. And Steven’s father and stepmother are now considering suing Islington over the way it cared for him.

An examination of the facts raises serious concerns over the way senior officers supported the fostering application against the advice of social workers.

The Evening Standard has discovered that a year before Yeomans and his male lover applied to foster Steven, two children’s home bosses banned him from contact with the boy.

This was noted on file. But Islington’s assistant director of social services, Lyn Cusack, still told social workers to process the fostering application. It was only halted when the boy made an emotional allegation of abuse.
A report earlier this year into the Yeomans affair, by independent social worker Peter Smith, is said to be critical of Islington. But it has been suppressed and seen by only a handful of staff. It wasn’t shown to Steven’s family. Islington insists ‘relevant’ staff had ‘access’ to the report.

Councillor Sandy Marks, chair of Islington’s social services committee, refused to show the report to the Standard, but confirmed it was critical.

Yeomans first met Steven, aged 13, at Highbury New Park children’s home in 1989, where he was appointed the boy’s ‘key worker’. Within weeks Yeomans’s supervisor, Ian Dunsire, became worried that he was ‘identifying too closely’ with the ‘vulnerable’ boy and notified his superiors of his fears.

Steven was moved to another home where supervisor Kevin McQuarry told the trial he recorded similar worries when Yeomans visited. He, Dunsire and Yeomans met and Yeomans agreed to cease contact with the boy. This was noted on file. Yeomans resigned shortly afterwards.

As far as staff were concerned, contact between the boy and worker had ended. But Yeomans continued to see him in secret. Steven’s stepmother and father allowed this because Yeomans promised to help the volatile boy, whom they cared for at weekends after his divorced mother abruptly put him into care. ‘He told us he was a psychotherapist.’
Yeomans is repeatedly referred to in case notes as a ‘qualified psychotherapist’. The former bus driver’s qualification is a diploma in therapeutic hypnosis, gained over a course of 12 weekends.

A spokeswoman for the respected British Association of Psychotherapists said: ‘That doesn’t mean anything to us. Anybody can set up as a psychotherapist.’
Yeomans started ‘treating’ Steven without authorisation.
He took him to his home, where his bed swings on chains, to a gym and for a weekend at a hotel. He asked Steven’s family not to tell Islington. He even asked them to lie after a social worker saw him with Steven at a local swimming pool. ‘I agreed to say I was there,’ says the stepmother.

Steven’s behaviour was increasingly disturbed and gradually they became suspicious. But, after a year, Yeomans was sufficiently confident to present himself to Islington as a suitable foster parent.

Steven was now at the Sheringham Road children’s home, run by two people who were sympathetic to Yeomans’s fostering application: superintendent Cynthia Morris and her deputy, Joe Williams, a single man. Williams himself had already fostered a young boy in care and was on Islington’s fostering panel, which assesses applicants.

Steven’s social worker, her senior and their manager were horrified by Yeomans’s application.
Yeomans claimed to one that he was the first gay man in Britain to gain custody of his former wife’s children by another man. They discovered that he had been briefly married to the mother of two boys with learning difficulties.

The marriage was dissolved after two years. His former wife has told us that it ended because of non-consummation. ‘I knew he was gay,’ she said. She confirms the surprising custody arrangement. She agreed to Yeomans having her 11- and 14-year-old sons, now adults. ‘He could be trusted with any child.’

The social workers pointed out at increasingly bitter meetings that Yeomans was earlier banned from con-tact with Steven and had lied to meet the child secretly. They were attacked as being ‘anti equal opportunities’.
By now the children’s home allowed Yeomans to have Steven at his flat. Cynthia Morris trusted Yeomans as ‘a personal friend’.

A social worker subsequently wrote to Lyn Cusack: ‘I want to make Steven a ward of court as soon as possible. I have reason to believe he is at very serious risk of emotional abuse.’

Cusack refused. Islington Council said it needed the permission of Steven’s mother, who still had legal custody.
In desperation, social workers arranged for Steven to stay at a secret address outside London while his future was decided.

And it was there that he broke down and tearfully alleged he had been abused over an 18-month period. Police taped 11 hours of interviews during which Steven described the amyl-nitrate muscle relaxant drugs subsequently found at Yeomans’s flat. Yeomans was charged with buggery, gross indecency and indecent assault.

The prosecution case relied almost solely on Steven’s uncorroborated evidence. After hearing it, Judge Mitchell QC halted the trial and ordered the jury to return not guilty verdicts.

The judge was critical of Yeomans’s behaviour and told the jury: ‘During the course of the relationship (between Yeomans and Steven) the defendant lied about it and lied more than once. I dare say he lied pretty convincingly, too.
‘The defendant lied to Mr Dunsire about the true circumstances of his presence at the swimming pool with Steven. To the knowledge of the (parents), he, the defendant, continued his association with the boy, having been instructed by his superiors that it should cease . . .’

He condemned Yeomans’s conduct as ‘irresponsible . . . it displayed at the very least poor judgment’.
But he reached the conclusion that no jury could ‘properly convict’ Yeomans on the evidence that had been called against him.

Steven is now in a ‘place of safety’. The critical report that vindicates the hounded social workers remains suppressed. No staff have been disciplined.

Islington’s sole response came just a few weeks ago. It circulated a memo to managers, which the Evening Standard has obtained. This referred to unspecified ‘recent court cases’, and indicated that in future disputes over children, the views of field social workers must take precedence over those of residential staff.
Tom Yeomans is now working for another London borough’s social services.

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