Islington Council takes step toward reopening kids’ abuse investigation...but survivors’ groups aren’t happy
- Credit: Archant
The town hall has taken a step towards reopening an investigation into the child abuse scandal that still blackens Islington’s name – thanks to evidence uncovered by the Gazette.
Islington Council has appointed a pair of top lawyers to examine evidence linking former mayor Sandy Marks to a pro-paedophile campaign group in the early 1980s, and whether a government inquiry into the rape and assault of children over at least three decades could have been skewed.
James Goudie QC and Holly Stout have been asked to advise the council whether or not this newspaper’s investigation “could reasonably be said to call in question the integrity of the White Report” – the Department of Health’s 1995 probe that found no evidence of organised child abuse, but heavily criticised the council’s response to the allegations.
Ms Marks was chair of Islington’s social services committee between 1983 and 1995.
Evidence published by the Gazette in May indicated links between Ms Marks and pro-paedophile group Fallen Angels, which operated in Archway in the late 1970s and early 1980s and campaigned on behalf of the Paedophile Information Exchange.
Children and young people were subjected to horrific physical and sexual abuse at Islington children’s homes in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. An Evening Standard investigation blew the lid on the scandal in 1992 with the help of whistleblower Dr Liz Davies.
Today, Dr Davies works with Islington Survivors Network, a group she set up to seek justice and provide support for those who endured abuse at the borough’s kids’ homes.
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But she greeted the lawyers’ appointment with caution, pointing out Mr Goudie QC – a deputy high court judge – is acting for Lambeth Council over its own kids’ abuse scandal. Lambeth admitted liability last year for the abuse that took place at the Shirley Oaks home, but survivors were dismayed this week to discover the council – under Mr Goudie QC’s direction – would administer the payout scheme itself instead of appointing an independent panel as is usual.
In addition, eligibility criteria for receiving payouts mean many survivors will miss out, according to a spokesperson for Lambeth survivors’ group Shirley Oaks Survivors’ Association.
Raymond Stevenson told the Gazette: “Islington Council isn’t being very sensible getting someone [involved] in the failure in Lambeth.
“When Liz told me it was happening, my heard bled for her.
“As survivors, SOSA is appalled that this man is being selected.”
Dr Davies said: “We were hoping for a QC with a criminal law background, or children’s law – [Mr Goudie’s] background is public administration, which made us think he’s been brought in to defend the council.”
She also questioned the terms of reference, saying: “We wouldn’t have phrased it like that.
“‘Call into question the integrity of the White Report’? We didn’t think it had much integrity. We’ve been criticising it [for years].
“I was the social worker who said 61 children were victims of a network of abuse and [yet] the White Report said there was no evidence of a network. That completely undermined all the work I was doing.”
Dr Davies said she would have preferred the lawyers to examine not just the White Report, and the 13 internal Islington Council probes that led up to it, but the period afterwards at the town hall.
And she said it was vital that the lawyers interviewed social workers and councillors from the time rather than simply carrying out a “paper exercise” – an area in which she believes the White Report failed.
Both Mr Goudie QC and Ms Stout are from the 11 King’s Bench Walk chambers in the City.
In a statement announcing their appointments, the council added: “We are talking to Islington Survivors Network to keep them updated on progress, and we are also discussing further improvements to housing and other support we provide to survivors.”