by Andrew Johnson
VICTIMS of child abuse in Islington are unlikely to cooperate with any new inquiry by the Town Hall into allegations that Jimmy Savile was involved in the abuse scandal which rocked the borough 20 years ago.
Last month, Education Secretary Michael Gove ordered Islington to investigate information uncovered in the historic police inquiry which links Savile to children’s homes in the borough in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
But former abuse victims say they have no trust in the Town Hall, which has “lost” all the records, and would only speak to an independent inquiry.
It is understood that at least one former victim is “in litigation” with the Town Hall.
Despite recognition that a huge paedophile ring preyed on Islington children’s homes in the 1970s and 1980s no one has ever been prosecuted and all the records of the homes and the names of the children who went to them have been “lost”.
The saga has infamously dogged the former leader of Islington Council, Margaret Hodge, who went on to be children’s minister in Tony Blair’s government. She was criticised for not taking the allegations seriously enough when they first surfaced in the 1990s.
At the weekend she issued an apology, telling the Sunday Telegraph: “I have apologised a number of times over the last 10 years for our failure to understand about child abuse and take children’s voices seriously in the 80s.
“I am sorry. Our naivety was shameful and I’m really glad we’ve learned since then the importance of listening to the voices of children who have been abused.”
The scandal is now haunting her son-in-law, Councillor Joe Caluori, who is in charge of children and families at the council. But Town Hall chiefs insist he will play no role in the new inquiry and that an independent person would oversee any investigation.
Mr Gove failed to state which children’s home Savile is alleged to have been involved with in Islington, and there is some frustration at the Town Hall that they have been given scant information to work on.
One home, Conewood Street children’s home, became notorious when the scandal was first exposed.
Jason Swift, 14, who was abducted in King’s Cross in 1985 and gang raped, is believed to have lived there. He died during his ordeal and a number of men, predominantly based in Hackney, were subsequently jailed for his death, including Sidney Cooke who was given 19 years for manslaughter in 1989.
He is still in prison following further convictions in 1999. It has recently been alleged that Cooke may have provided victims for Savile.
The 14 inquiries already held into the abuse claims in Islington have established that paedophiles operated in all of Islington’s then 24 homes.
But no one has ever been prosecuted. Campaigners point out that former staff members who left the Town Hall during the inquiry have never been questioned. Some are still involved in children’s services in other parts of the country.
Dr Liz Davies, a whistleblower in the 1990s who is now a reader in child protection at London Metropolitan University, in Holloway, told the Tribune: “Although there were 14 previous inquiries, attendance was voluntary and no one was called to provide evidence. Some staff left their posts and went abroad and did not return until the inquiries were finished.
“Numbers of staff who have never been accountable went on to gain senior posts in social services and other agencies. They have never provided any account of their role within Islington children’s services at the time when the abuse network was identified.”
Former abuse victim Demetrious Panton, who is now a lawyer, told the Tribune that he would not speak to any Islington-led inquiry.
“The individuals who could have shed light on what happened are either in litigation with Islington over the issue, or far too scared and traumatised,” he said.
He added that he had been told by other abuse victims of Savile’s connection to Islington. But added: “I’d be willing to talk to an independent body but I’m not going to engage with the borough of Islington.
“There are a lot of individuals I know, abuse survivors, who have not yet contacted Islington or the police about what they know. There is a real lack of trust.”
A Town Hall spokeswoman said: “Eleanor Schooling, the council’s director of children’s services, has been asked by the Department for Education to oversee the investigation.
She will appoint an experienced, independent professional from outside the council to lead it.
“Our investigation will follow the clear and detailed guidance provided to us, and we will then submit a draft report to Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, who has been appointed by the DfE to provide the Secretary of State for Education with assurance that all of the investigations are robust and thorough.
“Elected members are never involved in any individual child protection investigations, and this is no different.
“The DfE was not able to provide the name of the children’s home in Islington where the complainant lived – this will be part of the inquiries to be made by the independent investigator.”
‘This will not go away’
DR Liz Davies said in a statement this week:
“The investigation into this home must be independent of Islington. Since last week I have received a number of calls from care leavers/survivors and I do not know which authorities to refer them to as no one is currently investigating the historic crimes that took place in Islington children’s homes.
“These survivors need to be able to speak to sympathetic and knowledgeable professionals from the police and children’s services who can investigate all allegations thoroughly.
“An independent, specialist team needs to be established in order to seek justice for these adults who were children in the care of this authority.
“This matter will not go away. It is too vast. Too many children were harmed and now as adults they live with the horrific memories of their experiences in the care system. Their cases have largely remained unresolved and unheard.
“One day something remarkable will happen. I will be invited to speak with an independent investigative team and will be able to represent the interests of those children I worked with in the 90s as well as those care leavers who have contacted me in subsequent years. I don’t think this is too much to ask.”