Evening Standard, 1st July 2003
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.
Evening Standard, 24th May 1995
THE Evening Standard’s original investigation described the suffering of eight children in Islington’s care. They had been sexually abused by staff or violent pimps who slept with girls in the children’s homes and forced them to entertain customers there.
These young people are now out of care. Their unsettled family backgrounds and frequent moves mean we have been unable to retrace them all. But the experiences of these children illustrates how deep some of the scars go. MARY, 16, was knifed in the neck in her children’s home by her pimp.
She has now received criminal injuries compensation, lives with a loving boyfriend and has a baby. She is extremely happy.
But the outcome for others whos stories we highlighted has been tragic and sadly predictable.
SIMON is now 18. He came into Islington’s care at age six, after his mother died. He spent term times at a residential school and his holidays at an Islington children’s home. Both the school and home were run by gay men. Simon says he was abused by staff at both.
For legal reasons we cannot name the school: seven of its staff are now facing trial following one of the largest child sex ring inquiries ever conducted in Britain.
Simon told his Islington social worker in 1990 that he was being abused – but both the worker and his files disappeared. Nothing was done. The school was only investigated by police two years later. This was following the chance interception by customs of child porn posted from Holland to the headmaster’s gay lover. Last summer this bright boy had a breakdown. He attacked a carer, then tried to hang himself. He ended up sectioned in a psychiatric hospital, then spent nine months in prison for the attack.
‘Simon is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder,’ says a broken-hearted carer. ‘Is prison the best we have to offer kids so badly betrayed?’ Simon recently left prison and Islington has just paid him £5,000 compensation for his experiences in care.
STEVEN is now 19 and on remand charged with a violent attack on another young man he believed had stolen from him.
Steven’s former residential social worker, Tom Yeomans, was tried in March 1992 for sexually abusing Steven. Islington was on the point of allowing the openly gay man to foster the boy when Steven, then 14, broke down and described 18 months of sexual abuse.
Extraordinarily, Yeomans’s fostering bid was supported by many in Islington social services, despite long-standing concerns about him.
A year before, Yeomans, 45, had resigned after two children’s home managers became suspicious that he was ‘identifying too closely’ with Steven. He was ordered to end all contact with the boy.
But once Yeomans left Islington, he secretly began taking Steven away overnight. He told the child to lie about their meetings. All this emerged when the man applied to foster him.
Steven’s social worker was horrified, but she was vilified by Yeomans’s supporters in Islington social services as being ‘anti equal opportunities’. Finally the boy tearfully confirmed her fears.
Just before Yeomans’s trial, assistant director Lyn Cusack ordered Steven’s children’s home to bring his files to her office. The police had requested them as evidence. The files then disappeared.
The trial swiftly collapsed – Steven’s allegation was uncorroborated and he crumbled under aggressive questioning by Yeomans’s defence.
Judge Mitchell QC ordered the jury to find Yeomans not guilty, but said he was halting the trial ‘reluctantly’. He branded Yeomans a liar and his behaviour ‘irresponsible … it displayed at the very least poor judgment’.
Steven’s step-mother describes him today as a ‘time bomb. He is so angry. He still desperately needs psychiatric help’. It is being provided by Islington.
LOUISE, 15, came into care after a relative was imprisoned for sexually abusing her. She was then gang-raped by boys in an Islington children’s home and went missing for a time after a pimp, who made her sell sex at the home, threatened to take her to Amsterdam.
Islington is now funding Louise’s care through an independent care agency – ‘she will need intensive support for a long time’.
SHANE, then 19, alleged he was sexually abused by the former deputy superintendent of his children’s home. A police investigation found suggestive photos of Shane, but there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution. He is still in touch with Islington which provides him with a flat. KATE, 18, was involved with a convicted paedophile, and social workers feared she was recruiting other children in care into a sex ring. A man they believed was her pimp was allowed to sleep with her in the home. She became pregnant. She is now in a stable relationship and is living in a council-provided home.
DEAN, 23, was brutally abused by a volunteer at a residential school where Islington had placed him. His assailant, Roy Caterer, was imprisoned for seven years for the abuse of Dean and several other boys. Dean received no therapy or other help from Islington, despite his social worker’s pleas. When we found Dean, he was suicidal.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
YEOMANS was working for Westminster social services at the time of his trial. He resigned in November 1992, a month after we first wrote about him.
LYN CUSACK, Islington’s Assistant Director, was forced to resign in November 1993, following our revelations about the disappearance of the files on Steven and Simon.
MARTIN HIGGINS, Islington’s director in charge of neighbourhood services, which embraced the social services department, resigned in February 1994 – the week after the council received a damning report on the death of a baby in social services’ care.
SANDY MARKS, Chair of Islington social services committee, was deposed as chairman by other Labour members this month. She remains a councillor.
THE Yeomans case also illustrates the phenomenon highlighted in Ian White’s report of staff leaving Islington with excellent references despite grave concerns about them.
The Evening Standard has obtained the draft of Yeomans’s reference. It says he was ‘reliable, had a conscientious approach towards his work and showed good communication skills … he was able to carry out his duties within the Council’s Equal Opportunities Policy.
‘In particular, Mr Yeomans had an ability to deal effectively with the sometimes difficult and challenging behaviour of ‘troubled’ young people.’
Ironically, this was written by the children’s home head who banned Yeomans from contact with Steven.