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Islington abuse scandal: Inquiry into pro-paedophile past of ex-mayor Sandy Marks is officially opened following Gazette investigation

PUBLISHED: 13:23 02 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:49 02 February 2018

The inquiry will investigate alleged historic links between former mayor of Islington Sandy Marks (pictured) and pro-paedophile groups. Picture: Ken Mears

The inquiry will investigate alleged historic links between former mayor of Islington Sandy Marks (pictured) and pro-paedophile groups. Picture: Ken Mears

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A landmark inquiry into alleged historic links between a former mayor of Islington and pro-paedophile groups has been opened by a top barrister – thanks to a Gazette investigation.

Sarah Morgan QC, a leading specialist in family law, has been appointed by Islington Council to oversee the investigation and announced its terms of reference as the review was formally opened this week.

It will explore explosive evidence published by the Gazette in May linking former mayor, councillor and social services committee chairwoman Sandy Marks to a clandestine paedophile rights group called Fallen Angels in early 1980.

Fallen Angels campaigned to abolish age of consent laws and legalise sex with children.

The inquiry will look at what impact, if any, that involvement had on the way Ms Marks’ chaired the council’s social services committee from 1991 to 1995 when a child abuse scandal was revealed in Islington.

It will explore whether Ms Marks was aware of the widespread child abuse which took place in council-run children’s homes before October 1992, when the Evening Standard broke the story.

Ms Marks has previously denied the allegations against her as “untrue and unfounded”.

Sarah Morgan QC will lead the inquiry. Picture: Julian Cornish-TreSarah Morgan QC will lead the inquiry. Picture: Julian Cornish-Tre

Ms Morgan said: “I am pleased to have been appointed by Islington Council to conduct an independent review to consider and investigate information provided to the council by the Islington Gazette.”

But campaigners who fought to give a voice to survivors of abuse at Islington’s care homes have said the probe is too narrow – and have demanded a full investigation into the scandal that still blights the borough’s history.

The terms of reference for the inquiry include investigating evidence as to the extent and nature of Ms Marks’ involvement with Fallen Angels or any other pro-paedophile groups.

It will also consider to what extent, if any, this affected the way she carried out her later role as a member of Islington Council’s social services committee from 1983 to 1991, or as chair from 1991 to 1995.

And Ms Morgan will investigate whether Ms Marks had any knowledge of allegations of child abuse in Islington Council’s care homes prior to the shocking scandal being exposed by an Evening Standard investigation in 1992.

Islington commissioned 14 inquiries following the revelations, culminating in the White Report in 1995.

Fomer councillor Sandy Marks chaired Islington's social services committee at a time when a major abuse scandal in children's homes was exposed in the 1990s. Picture: Ken MearsFomer councillor Sandy Marks chaired Islington's social services committee at a time when a major abuse scandal in children's homes was exposed in the 1990s. Picture: Ken Mears

The new review will consider whether Ms Marks became aware of anything relevant to allegations of “organised abuse” in Islington’s care homes through dealings with Fallen Angels, or possibly “other paedophile groups”, and what difference, if any, this may have made to the White Report.

Ms Morgan will work alongside barrister and children’s law specialist Lucy Sprinz on the review.

The QC said: “There is a great deal of documentary and archive material that has been made available to us and I know efforts to provide us with documents, written material and digital media that are relevant to the terms of reference are continuing.

“I expect to identify, from that material, individuals who may have information relating to the remit of the review. I intend to contact those individuals in due course.

“I would also be very keen to hear from anyone who has information relating to the remit of the review and will make a further statement in the near future with details of how anyone who believes that they have such information may contribute to the review.

“I will not reach any conclusions until I have considered all of the evidence available to me. At the conclusion of the review I will submit my report to Islington Council for publication.”

The Gazette front page in May exposing explosive evidence about Sandy Marks' pastThe Gazette front page in May exposing explosive evidence about Sandy Marks' past

But Islington Survivors Network (ISN), a group for survivors of sexual and physical abuse in Islington’s children’s homes, described the review as “limited in its terms of reference”.

Social worker Dr Liz Davies, ISN founder and original whistleblower on the Islington care home abuse scandal, said: “Sandy Marks was only one councillor in post during the period when the reporting of abuse by children, families and some professionals went unheard.

“The exposure of organised abuse, including alleged murders and abductions of children, was met with total denial by the White Report.

“The authors of the 14 inquiries must certainly be invited for interview. So must senior professionals and politicians who closed down or hindered investigations or had responsibility for so many missing documents and files. They must be held to account.”

ISN has been calling for a multi-agency statutory investigation to be set up to establish whether children may be at current risk from abusers who were named during the exposure of the care home scandal in the 1990s.

“Survivors now coming forward to ISN are very worried that the people who abused them might still have access to children,” said Dr Davies. “The statutory team should collate evidence and make decisions about which former staff and their associates still present a risk to children and commence civil and/or criminal proceedings against them.”

Social worker Dr Liz Davies, founder of Islington Survivors Network and whistleblower on the Islington children's home abuse scandal. Picture: Ken MearsSocial worker Dr Liz Davies, founder of Islington Survivors Network and whistleblower on the Islington children's home abuse scandal. Picture: Ken Mears

She continued: “The abusers and those who colluded with them were protected. The day the Evening Standard first reported the scandal in October 1992, a number of staff vanished abroad. Some were later arrested in countries such as Thailand and Morocco.”

Graduate research student Charlotte Russell, who worked with the Gazette to uncover documentary evidence linking Ms Marks’ to the Fallen Angels, also called for the inquiry to consider Ms Marks’ appointments to other public committees in the 1980s and 1990s and the extent of her influence.

She said: “Ms Marks is but one of a number of people either employed by, or serving, Islington Council who warrant investigation.

“While I look forward to meeting with Sarah Morgan QC to provide evidence, ultimately we know that previous Islington inquiries haven’t resulted in criminal prosecutions of those who perpetrated abuse of children in Islington’s care homes.

“Understanding Ms Marks’ involvement with pro-paedophile groups will be a step forward but won’t provide the entire picture of how this tiny London borough became a magnet for paedophiles to relocate to from the 1970s onwards.”

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