Archive

Hackney

In 1983, several boys were drugged and sexually assaulted by an unknown attacker on the Frampton Park Estate in Hackney. This was the same estate where Robert Oliver and Leslie Bailey lived as of 1989 (source). They were convicted for their part in drugging, sexually assaulting, and killing boys at a flat on the nearby Kingsmead Estate, with Sidney Cooke, Lennie Smith, Stephen Barrell, and a number of unknown men.

Hackney Gazette, 29th July 1983

HG290783Hackney Gazette, 2nd August 1983

HG020883A HG020883BHackney Gazette, 13th September 1983

HG130983Hackney Gazette, 7th October 1983

HG071083

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Evening Standard, 8th January 1998

It is understood that after the next local elections in May, group leader John McCafferty will be quietly replaced by a figure untainted by any of the borough’s chaotic past.

 The news comes as Health Minister Paul Boateng called an urgent meeting with all Hackney group leaders to discuss the whole affair tomorrow.

 Mr McCafferty and his senior allies were not named directly in yesterday’s report into the borough’s paedophile scandal by

 troubleshooter John Barratt. However, Mr Barratt made clear that Hackney’s “vicious, poisonous and personality-based” politics were at the heart of the failure to suspend and properly investigate the HIV-positive social worker Mark Trotter.

 There was no evidence of a political cover-up, but Mr Barratt’s inquiry found that a “climate of fear” at the town hall contributed to social services officers’ reluctance to discipline Trotter, a Labour Party activist who died in 1995 of Aids.

 Despite Mr Barratt’s scathing criticisms of the culture that had existed for years within Hackney, Mr McCafferty has refused to resign and is expected to lead the party into May’s elections.

 As Mr McCafferty was deputy council leader until 1990 and leader from 1990 to 1995, and again from 1996 to now, senior Labour sources have made clear that behind-the-scenes moves are being prepared to install a new broom after May.

 Much of the current calibre of Hackney Labour councillors is seen as too weak and tainted by controversy to take over the task and the national party is pinning its hopes on the new intake selected for the forthcoming elections. Among new fig-

 elections. Among new figures being groomed for leadership are the Greater London Labour Party vice-chair Loraine Monk and local party officer David Mannion. Other prospective new councillors include young professionals whom the party hopes will take on positions of power as Hackney is transformed in the next five years.

 “We desperately need new blood in Hackney and the new councillors should allow us to make a clean start,” a source said. “We’ve got to make the most of the good people already in place, but people like McCafferty just have too much history.”

 

Evening Standard, 4th February 1998

by Stewart Payne & Eileen Fairweather

One of the most intriguing aspects of the appalling Mark Trotter scandal – the Hackney social worker who abused children in his care – is the story of the MP who didn’t speak.

Hackney Labour MP Brian Sedgemore made a formal complaint against the town hall employee whose leaked memo helped the Evening Standard expose the scandal of paedophile social worker Mark Trotter.

 Instead of joining in the public condemnation of the way Hackney council mismanaged the affair, Mr Sedgemore accused “whistleblower” Demitrious Panton of “careless and, maybe, malicious actions”.

 Trotter, who died of an Aids-related illness, was an activist in Mr Sedgemore’s constituency party.

 Mr Panton was policy adviser to the chairman of social services and wrote in August 1996 to Hackney chief executive Tony Elliston giving a highly critical account of the way the council had mishandled its investigation of Trotter.

 He wrote: “If at any stage it is proven that Mr Trotter continued to sexually abuse children in the care of this authority … then we have failed terribly in protecting vulnerable children from abuse.”

 His words were prophetic. An NSPCC inquiry subsequently discovered that Trotter had abused at least six Hackney children.

 The Standard obtained a copy of the Panton memo as part of its investigation. When the Standard approached Mr Sedgemore to comment on the affair he put his solicitor on to us.

 The Standard has now discovered that Mr Sedgemore wrote to Mr Elliston, requesting his letter be treated as a “formal complaint against Mr Panton and against the council for allowing a libellous document to be leaked to the Press”.

 Mr Sedgemore was rebuffed by Mr Elliston who wrote back: “All staff who work for the council have a responsibility to report matters of concern and it was perfectly proper for Demitrious Panton to write to me.” Mr Sedgemore was anxious to ensure that the “untrue rumour” that Trotter had worked in his constituency office was not repeated.

 But his letter does not give a complete picture. Trotter was actively involved in Mr Sedgemore’s Hackney South and Shoreditch Constituency Labour Party.

 He was, at various times, its education officer, a member of its Wick Ward executive and general management committee, its agent, and organiser for the MP’s postal vote in the 1992 general election.

 Our picture shows the pair sharing the same platform during a protest against food surpluses in 1987.

 Last month the Standard asked why Mr Sedgemore had consistently refused to comment on a serious matter which not only affected his constituents but involved an officer and activist in his own constituency party.

 Again his response was to put his lawyers on to us.

 Last month the independent inquiry led by John Barratt, set up to examine the newspaper allegations, confirmed that widespread incompetence and managerial weakness had allowed Trotter to escape detection for almost 12 years. He should have been suspended on at least two occasions but continued to work with vulnerable children.

 In his report Mr Barratt was scathing of Hackney’s politics, describing them as “vicious, poisonous and personality-based”, adding there was a tradition of “scurrilous and abusive references to the motives and practices of opponents”.

 The Standard has been shown copies of letters Mr Sedgemore has sent to political opponents. He recently wrote that Hackney Liberal Democrats “have the propensity to become the most dishonest and deplorable political party in western Europe”, and accused leader Kevin Daws of “stupidity”. In a letter to leading local Tory councillor Joe Lobenstein he accused him of entering “into the sewers” over the Trotter affair adding: “I suggest you pick yourself up out of the slime”.

 In his regular column in the Hackney Gazette he has made repeated attacks on Mr Elliston and has used the parliamentary privilege of Early Day Motions to criticise him and rebel Labour councillors who quit over the Trotter affair.

 After initially threatening to sue the Evening Standard over questions put to him by fax, Mr Sedgemore instructed his solicitors to respond.

 Pointing out that he had twice given written evidence to the Barratt inquiry, he confirmed that he had made a complaint against Mr Panton for suggesting that Trotter had worked in his office.

 He also stated that the Barratt inquiry had found no evidence of cover-up by the Labour Party in the Trotter affair.

 Mr Sedgemore was, at all times, in favour of an independent inquiry and in his evidence he had raised the issue of the culture of Hackney politics.

Evening Standard, 21st January 1998

by Stewart Payne & Eileen Fairweather

A senior Hackney council officer was so concerned about social worker Mark Trotter that she warned a friend not to use him as a babysitter. However, her department failed to stop Trotter from working with vulnerable children in the deprived borough.

 Dinah Morley, assistant social services director, was able to warn her friend and fellow Labour activist as long ago as 1988 about her fears, yet Trotter continued his job until 1993, when his Aids-related illness forced him to give up. He died two years later as police were on the verge of arresting him over serious allegations of child sex abuse.

 Alarmingly, Hackney’s politically correct, trade union-dominated employment practices made Ms Morley and other officers impotent to protect the community at large.

 The independent Barratt report into the Trotter scandal found: “Everything was in favour of the employee.”

 The Barratt report confirmed that Trotter should have been suspended on at least two occasions in the Eighties after complaints by Hackney children of sexual abuse, but officers decided he could not be removed from childcare work because of “prevailing personnel policies and practices of the council”.

 Following the report’s publication two weeks ago, rumours have circulated about the unnamed “friend” who received the warning.

 At an emergency meeting of the council to discuss the report, Liberal Democrat leader Kevin Daws, said: “If the friend … is a Labour councillor or ex-councillor then they should identify themselves and explain to the council why they did not insist on Mark Trotter being removed from working with children.

 “What justification can there be for them to protect their own children while, by implication, putting Hackney’s children at risk? It is a disgrace.”

 Today the Evening Standard can reveal that the friend was Denise Robson, who was a Hackney Labour councillor from 1981 to 1986, and again from 1991 to 1994. Last year she tried, unsuccessfully, to gain election as Labour MP for Maidenhead at the general election.

 She is married to Labour councillor Simon Matthews, who did not respond to Mr Daws’s question at the emergency meeting.

 The woman who warned her, Dinah Morley, was not only assistant social services director at Hackney but had formerly been a Hackney Labour councillor and, on

 three occasions, had stood for selection as parliamentary candidate for Hackney South. She has since left Hackney Council.

 Mr Barratt said that if Trotter had been suspended or redeployed, “as should have happened”, the “covert” warning would not have been needed.

 Hackney people might well be wondering why they were not told of the risks Trotter posed – until they read of them in the Evening Standard – or why steps to remove Trotter were not taken. After all, both Ms Robson and Ms Morley were experienced in council matters.

 The Evening Standard asked the question on their behalf. Answers were not forthcoming.

 We spoke to Ms Robson outside her home. She said: “I gather this matter has been raised at the emergency meeting but until I know what was said I have nothing to say”. That was four days ago and she has offered no further comment.9

 Ms Morley lives with Hackney Labour activist Mike Davis. As he explained that Ms Morley was not at home she arrived at her door and pushed past the Evening Standard reporter without comment. She has offered no comment since.

 SILENCE OF THE MP

 Speak to my lawyer, says Labour’s Sedgemore

 WHY has Hackney South Labour MP Brian Sedge-more remained silent over the Trotter affair? When the Evening Standard tried to contact him for his views on the paedophile social worker in Mr Sedgemore’s constituency party, he failed to return calls and finally put his solicitor onto us, demanding to know why we wanted to speak to his client.

 It should have been obvious. The Trotter scandal, exposed by the Standard in 1996, was centred in his constituency.

 Mark Trotter, a leading figure in the local Labour Party, was agent for Wick Ward, within Mr Sedgemore’s constituency, and was education officer for his constituency party – an important post with influence over the selection of school governors.

 Trotter was active in constituency and trade union affairs and his name had been put forward as a prospective Hackney councillor.

 During this time, as an NSPCC investigation has since confirmed, Trotter was abusing Hackney children, just as he had Liverpool child renduring a previous employment. Yet, as the Standard discovered, Trotter had come under suspicion several times during his 12 years at Hackney, but had continued to work with children.

 Finally Hackney Council launched a woefully inadequate and worthless search for his potential victims, managing to trace only a handful.

 All of this would surely be of concern to Mr Sedgemore’s constituents.

 Reason enough for the local MP to have something to say and certainly justification for the Evening Standard to ask for his opinions.

 However, Mr Sedgemore did not talk to us in 1996 and has not done so since, despite renewed efforts to talk to him following publication of the Barratt report. The Standard visited his mews home in Hackney and left a message. Still no comment. His attitude is in marked contrast to Hackney’s other Labour MP, Diane Abbott, who responded swiftly to Evening Standard inquiries and gave its reporters an interview in her home.

 And as Standard articles revealed the extent of the Trotter scandal, she wrote to her national party urging it to step in and insist on Hackney holding an independent inquiry into the Trotter affair, which she described as “potentially the most serious scandal of all”.

 The Barratt report, despite criticising Hackney over its politics and mismanagement, did not find any evidence of cover-up. But it confirmed that Trotter was an active member of Mr Sedgemore’s constituency party.

 Only after the Standard was contacted by Mr Sedgemore’s lawyer were we assured that he, too, had backed calls for an inquiry.

 Ms Abbott gave evidence to the inquiry but, according to the inquiry secretary, Mr Sedgemore did not appear to have done so.

 Although Mr Sedgemore has refused to talk to the Standard, he has written to Hackney Liberal Democrat leader Kevin Daws to say: “Thank you for your letter in which you combine factual inaccuracies with stupidity.”

 Mr Sedgemore then goes on to misspell Barratt, the name of the man who conducted the 14-month inquiry. He states that most of the councillors who inspired “false allegations” had now joined the

 Lib-Dems.

 He also wrote an article in the Labour Leftwing publication Tribune last month, before the Barratt report confirmed much of what the Standard had revealed over the Trotter affair and commented on the “dominant” role of the newspaper and the “careful research” and accuracy of its articles.

 He wrote: “Lazy and ignorant journalists may continue to criticise the 24 official and loyal Labour councillors, but in doing so they debase and demean themselves as well as their trade.”

 SILENCE OF THE COUNCILLORS

 Officials make no apologies for ‘so- called’ scandal

 THE Barratt inquiry report into the Trotter affair stated: “The way Hackney organised its politics during the period under review has been a major cause of organisational incompetence.” But none of the key councillors in control at the time has even said sorry, let alone resigned. No councillors are named in the report but these are the key figures:

 JOHN McCAFFERTY was leader or deputy leader of Hackney Council for almost all of the past 10 years. The inquiry found impropriety, incompetence and mismanagement and the NSPCC confirmed Trotter had abused at least six Hackney children with the suspicion that there may have been more.

 Mr McCafferty, a school teacher, told the Evening Standard he saw no reason to resign.

 He said he took “no responsibility” for the “vicious, poisonous and personality-based” Hackney regime highlighted in the report which, he added, was a “complete vindication not only of the Labour group but of every individual Labour member”.

 At an emergency meeting of the council to discuss the Barratt report he could only describe the scandal as “the so-called Trotter affair”. The best he could manage at the meeting was a very conditional quote: “If there was anything which we could have done and didn’t do, or did do and shouldn’t have done, individually

 or collectively, then we do unreservedly take responsibility and apologise.”

 Since then, like many of his fellow Labour councillors, he has relied upon Julie Grimble, councillor and press officer for their group, to answer awkward questions.

 “Mr Barratt does not call for any resignations and we do not see this as a resigning issue,” she said.

 This is Labour’s stock defence.

 The 150-page Barratt report did not find evidence of corruption, nor does it recommend that anyone stand down. This much is true, although Mr Barratt did state that those responsible for the “overshadowing politics ought not be able to walk away” from its consequences.

 It is, nevertheless, a damning indictment of Hackney’s former ruling Labour regime and the officers it employed. It highlights poor service, mismanagement and the “immense political influence” of the trade unions, as well as the vindictive nature of its politics.

 SHARON PATRICK was Labour deputy to Mr McCafferty as well as chair of social services for the first five years of this decade. She refused to talk to the Standard but referred us to Ms Grimble who said: “The allegations in the Eighties were before her time and before the time of many current Labour councillors. We must take responsibility for what was done then but there is no reason for Sharon or anyone else to resign.”

 JEREMY KILLINGRAY became acting head of social services at the time the scandal emerged. He did not return calls made by the Evening Standard.

 But from earlier conversations with the Standard, as well as from the Barratt report, it is clear that he feared the allegations against Trotter could have been inspired by homophobia.

 NICK TALLENTIRE was, briefly, Labour leader at the time of the scandal.

 When originally contacted then by the Standard he challenged us to prove that Trotter had died of an Aids-related illness – a fact not in any doubt, said Barratt – and told councillors that the articles were “sensational”. Both he and Mr Killingray initially rejected holding an emergency meeting, although Mr Barratt stated that councillors were not being properly briefed by officers.

 And they were reluctant to call for an independent inquiry.

 Mr Barratt said: “There was clearly a matter of public interest raised by the Evening Standard, yet the relevant administration councillors (and notably the leader and acting chair) were still, at the time undecided about whether there should be an inquiry.”

Evening Standard, 7th January 1998

by Stewart Payne & Eileen Fairweather

The independent investigation into scandalous events in Hackney that allowed an HIV-infected social worker and child abuser – to work virtually unchallenged for 12 years, despite several warnings about his dangerous character, is published today. The inquiry, set up after a series of disturbing revelations in the Evening Standard, finds the council’s pathetic response was bedevilled by political infighting and all-round incompetence.

 THE poisonous, spiteful and vindictive nature of personality-driven politics in Hackney Town Hall is at the heart of its failure to properly safeguard children in its care, an independent report is expected to say today. The report is a devastating indictment of the majority Labour group on the London borough, and a major embarrassment to Tony Blair. Although Mr Blair has been keen to rid his party of the “Loony Left” tag, Labour councillors in Hackney were backed by the party at national level in a bitter internal battle which led to 17 rebels quitting to form a rival group.

 Those councillors supported by Labour’s hierarchy will be shamed by today’s report, which is expected to be highly-critical of the party’s stewardship of Hackney during two decades. It is likely to be turned into a resignation issue for long-serving Labour group leader John McCafferty and his senior political colleagues. No one in Hackney Town Hall is expected to come off lightly – officers and councillors of all parties alike – but special criticism is likely to be levelled at the political leadership for creating and nurturing a climate of suspicion, conspiracy and fear.

 As a consequence, widespread incompetence and management weakness gripped the town hall, with the appointment of people to jobs they were not fit to undertake, and a reluctance to discipline or dismiss those who failed due, in part, to the dominance of trade unions.

 The independent report, to be published later today, is the result of a 14-month inquiry which examined Evening Standard allegations of council bungling over the handling of HIV-positive social worker Mark Trotter, who was suspected of child abuse. It is believed the Poisonous regime that report reinforces the Standard’s findings that Trotter should have been suspended long before he died of an Aids-related illness, just as police were about to arrest him.

 And the report, by John Barratt – a lawyer and former chief executive of Cambridgeshire County Council appointed to head the inquiry in the wake of the Trotter scandal, is expected to lambast Hackney council for its own woefully inadequate attempts to discover whether Trotter had abused children in Hackney’s care. Their own internal investigation, given to an officer who was working out his notice, was produced months late and failed to find evidence of abuse.

 Yet a subsequent inquiry by the NSPCC, set up after the Standard articles revealed that Trotter was to be charged with serious child sex abuse in Liverpool where he had previously worked, confirmed the newspaper’s worst suspicions. Trotter had indeed abused children in Hackney.

 He had worked with vulnerable young people throughout much of his 12 years in the deprived London borough, despite warnings about his behaviour on up to six separate occasions.

 HE DIED in July 1995, aged 34, just as police from Merseyside, investigating sex abuse in the North-East going back many years, were on the verge of arresting him. They had overwhelming evidence that Trotter had abused five boys in care in 1980 and 1981.

 The report is expected to confirm that senior officers in Hackney agreed with Liverpool police that the likelihood was that Trotter, who became a Labour Party and trade union activist, would have continued abusing children on arrival in London.

 With Trotter dead and no longer a risk, the task was to discover who might have been abused and to offer help and counselling. There was the added danger that he could have infected others with the HIV virus.

 This was urgent and important work, yet it was given to a retiring area manager Len Redley, about whose managerial competence there were widespread misgivings.

 The Barratt inquiry is expected to confirm the Standard’s disclosures: namely that Redley did very little work, his report was submitted months behind schedule and, at one point, the council even lost contact with him.

 When the report finally dropped on his director’s desk, it was worthless. It is also expected to criticise the officials who supervised his inquiry, the Director of Social Services Joyce Moseley and her assistant Dinah Morley.

 This scandalously inept handling of a major case of suspected child abuse led to opposition councillors claiming that Hackney was covering up the Trotter affair because of his links with the local Labour party.

 Today’s report is expected to find no evidence of cover-up or corruption but will state that the suspicion of both was understandable, given the nature of Hackney’s politics. Confrontational styles and the pursuit of personal agendas and vendettas – accompanied by insults, rumour-mongering and petty-politiking – inevitably led to a climate where conspiracy theories flourished.

 Examples expected to be covered in the report include a malicious and anonymous leaflet linking gay councillors through sexual promiscuity with each other and Trotter, and an attempt to blackmail a leading Labour councillor over an alleged affair with the social worker.

 With the then ruling Labour group tearing itself apart, Liberal Democrat councillors led calls for an inquiry, supported by the rebel Labour councillors who have since joined the Lib-Dem ranks, making Hackney a hung council. They are not spared criticism in the report.

 The Labour group announced the inquiry in October 1996. Its report is expected to conclude that much of the party politics at this time was ill-informed, inevitably so given the incompetent way in which the Trotter affair was being handled.

 The report, which will make a series of recommendations, is expected to state that there was impropriety both by individuals and by the council as a whole.