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Jimmy Savile

The Times, 28th February 2015

by Janice Turner

At Stoke Mandeville, the abuser was allowed to operate because of a toxic mix of his fundraising power and Tory policy

The Jimmy Savile hospital reports read like a grotesque trilogy. Leeds General is Savile Begins — the sly, young abuser honing his style and modus operandi: buy the porters a TV, flatter the top brass, brazen it out with nurses and the rest. Broadmoor is Savile Unbound — free to roam, keys jangling, inviting famous mates to gawp at women’s ward bath time, making playthings of the mad, the forgotten, the unloved.

But Stoke Mandeville is the most complex story. It is, of course, still about sexual abuse: the 60 reported victims, almost half of them children, the horror put in cool officialese that here his fondness for groping patients beneath bedclothes probably evaded detection “as paralysed individuals would not have felt anything below . . . their spinal lesion.” But this is also about how politics and money gave him absolute power. Savile, the King. And it was Margaret Thatcher who crowned him.

If “Name the NHS’s first public-private partnership” comes up in a pub quiz, here’s your answer. Although famously the birthplace of the Paralympic movement, Stoke Mandeville was a hospital village of wooden huts in rambling grounds when, in 1979, the roof of the acclaimed National Spinal Injuries Centre (NSIC) collapsed. Since the new Tory government was set on sweeping cuts, its future was grim.

Now Savile, already a prolific abuser in his guise of unpaid porter and resident celebrity, saw his chance. He offered to raise £10 million to rebuild the unit under his personal charitable trust. The Tories were excited by his financial model, saw this harnessing of private fund-raising as the NHS’s future. In a reckless act of political expediency they ceded this eccentric, with his sweaty nylon tracksuits and tendency to kiss right up women’s bare arms, total control. As Dr Androulla Johnstone’s report says, the same “it’s just Jimmy” exceptionalism that made people shrug off Savile’s bizarre acts also freed him from conventional restraints. Shackle this maverick with bureaucracy, civil servants feared, and he might “disengage”.

So Jimmy was free to choose the architect, select a more grandiose scheme, with a higher upkeep, than was required. But the government wasn’t concerned because Savile pledged also to fund the additional running costs. Millions were donated by a generous public. But how this was spent — ultimately whether Stoke Mandeville lived or died — was put solely in Jimmy Savile’s hands.

Since “his” charity had paid for it, he believed he owned the NSIC, could shape it to his whims. He insisted on thick lobby carpet though it was hell for wheelchair users, demanded pimp flourishes such as zebra-striped ward curtains, had hospital crews service his Rolls, the canteen named “Jimmy’s” and his own vast office have a gold letterbox and flip-down bed. “I’ll withdraw all the trust’s funds,” he threatened.

Once you understand that Savile was not merely a major donor or Mrs T’s well-connected New Year’s Eve party pal but a despot who could summon the hospital’s general manager to his office, making him wait while, feet on desk, he finished his call to the Duchess of York, his criminal impunity is not hard to fathom. Ministers did not know about Savile’s abuse — though were disgusted enough by his crudeness and promiscuity to withhold a knighthood, until Mrs Thatcher interceded — but placed him, as the report says, “outside the regulatory processes designed to prevent such abuses of power”.

But what does it mean to “know” anyway? Reading this report I am reminded of Gitta Sereny’s book about Hitler’s architect: “I think,” she quotes Albert Speer as saying, “that we saw only what we wanted to see and knew only what we wanted to know.” The Nazi wives who summered at the Obersalzberg with the Führer, whose husbands kissed them fresh from some Eastern Front atrocity or Final Solution conflab, did they “know”? Or did they merely not think too hard?

Certainly, on some level, the nurses knew: they detested Savile, fled when he passed by, told little girls to pretend to be asleep, sometimes physically kept him at bay. His bedroom was in the nurses’ quarters. A memo circulated warning new recruits to lock their doors. One occupational therapy tutor recalls tearful teenage students lingering in class on a Friday night because they couldn’t bear to face him. The tutor’s concerns to management were slapped down with a reprimand.

“Victim 21”, whose father made the only official complaint, was told by a Sister Cherry “that Savile would not do such a dreadful thing and that he raised a great deal of money for the hospital”. Spinal patients he abused kept silent for fear he’d kick them out of the NSIC, which was saving their lives.

And what of Savile’s secretary, Janet Cope? She is all over the Stoke Mandeville report: one victim claims she walked in on his abuse, another to have written her an unanswered letter. But after 32 years at his side, Mrs Cope says she saw, heard, knew nothing.

Savile’s abuse at Stoke Mandeville ended in 1992 around the time his absolute power was seized back by the newly created Buckinghamshire NHS hospital trust. Later, having raised money for the children’s ward, he demanded an access-all-areas swipe card as reward. It was denied. Next time the BBC or NHS are damned as dark enclaves of the Stalinist state, too huge and sclerotic to address his crimes, remember that at Stoke Mandeville Jimmy Savile was privatisation’s paedophile prince.

 

Unpublished letter to the editor of the Times, by Peter McKelvie:

Sir

Your superb coverage by Janice Turner in Opinion February 28th highlights an issue that should have been front page news on every newspaper, not hidden away on Page 23 in an Opinion column, as if it just the opinion of a guest journalist.

“Savile the King
And it was Margaret Thatcher who crowned him”
As someone who has known a great deal about the  cover ups by all 3 main political parties over the last 50 years regarding the behaviour of Establishment  Paedophiles, I find it very difficult to accept that we are allowing the deaths of key figures (like Thatcher, Thorpe, Brittan, Smith, Morrison,) , and the slide in to “medically unfit to stand trial” status of others (such as Janner and Ball) to just happen without a public outcry fuelled by completely honest but unbiased reporting by the media of what those individuals should have been made to account for while alive and in good states of health.
Peter McKelvie (source of information behind MP Tom Watson’s PMQ of 24th October 2012)

 

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Sunday People, 15th March 1981

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News of the World, 2nd January 1983

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See also:

Jimmy Savile’s close friendship with Margaret Thatcher (The Independent, 28th December 2012)

Jimmy Savile’s extraordinary access to Margaret Thatcher detailed in secret files (The Guardian, 28th December 2012)

Jim the fixer: Is Jimmy Savile just a fantasist…or is the truth even stranger than fiction? (Daily Mail, 9th May 2008)

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Islington Tribune, 11th April 2014

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.

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Margaret Hodge, the former leader of Islington Council

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.”

The articles below concerning Kenneth McCallum’s arrest and conviction sound very similar to the “kids on wheels” taxi services which Eileen Fairweather describes in her Telegraph article Jimmy Savile sex abuse: ‘Islington is still covering up’. His conviction was in 1990, the same year that Savile is known to have visited Islington at the request of Islington Council.

Kenneth McCallum was known to have visited the West End to prey on homeless boys. An Islington Council social worker, Abraham Jacob, was convicted in 1986 for his involvement in child prostitution rackets in the West End.

Islington Gazette, 1st June 1989

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Islington Gazette, 8th February 1990

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Islington Tribune – Letters, 4th April 2014

Jimmy Savile’s crimes against children are now being investigated far and wide across the country by many different police teams.

If ever there was a case for a national police investigation team it must be in this instance to coordinate all the inquiries. Yet, Michael Gove has asked Islington to conduct its own investigation and it is now firmly the responsibility of this authority (Children’s home linked to Savile investigation, March 28).

Historic child abuse cases are not simple to investigate and Islington has not got the best of reputations for retention of children’s and adults’ files and relevant documentation.

I would be pleased to provide the investigators with some assistance. Since 1990, as a former Islington social worker who exposed the child abuse scandal, I have gathered a great deal of knowledge about the infiltration of Islington children’s homes by child sex abusers.

I am a registered social worker, bound by professional codes of conduct and have worked with and trained child protection police and social workers for many years.

Few Islington care leavers and survivors have come forward since the 1990s and there has never been an Islington survivors’ group.

Some are now approaching me via social media websites. I listen to their accounts and try to help them as best I can. There needs to be a clear contact point within the Local Safeguarding Children Board for survivors, and those who are assisting them, to report historic abuse and to trigger police investigation.

This contact point has to be trusted. How this can be achieved I do not know but I am willing to help to find a way forward as the care leavers need to have a voice and to find justice wherever it can be found so long after the event.

Of course, some perpetrators, unlike Savile, are still alive, and survivors of historic abuse, by coming forward, have a crucial role in helping authorities to protect children currently at risk.

DR LIZ DAVIES
Reader in Child Protection
London Metropolitan University
Holloway Road, N7

Original article on Islington Tribune website