Just how many children were abused in the Islington children’s home abuse scandal, and why did hundreds of children’s files mysteriously disappear in Islington ?
And yet more than three decades on we still do not know the truth …..
The main paedophile at the centre of the Islington child abuse scandal went on to abuse children across three continents.
Had allegations against Bernie Bain, the former head of the children’s home, been properly investigated and believed by Margaret Hodge in the 1980s countless children would have been spared
But was he the only paedophile to abuse those children? We think not, and furthermore we believe a paedophile ring made up of influential people from backgrounds such as the police and politics were instrumental in the systematic abuse
Margaret Hodge was the leader of Islington Council at the time, and went onto become Minister of State for Children. When she was alerted to the investigation she complained to the Chairman of the BBC. In the letter she attacks a victim of abuse as an ‘extremely disturbed person’.
All right-thinking people like to imagine, when hearing stories of the maltreatment and or sexual abuse of children in care, that they themselves would guarantee sanctuary. But often they simply don’t. A senior social worker, Liz Davies, and her manager, David Cofie, first told Margaret Hodge, then leader of Islington council, in 1990 of their suspicions that there was widespread sexual abuse of children in Islington care homes. Hodge did NOTHING to help those kids and instead turned her back ! More on that further down ……
Margaret Hodge MBE MP (née Oppenheimer; born 8 September 1944), formally styled The Rt Hon Lady Hodge MBE MP by virtue of her appointment to the Privy Council and her late husband’s knighthood, is a British Labour politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Barking since 1994. She was the first Minister for Children in 2003 and was Minister of Statefor Culture and Tourism at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. On 9 June 2010 she was elected Chair of the Public Accounts Committee
Second husband and his affiliation to the paedophile information exchange
Hodge divorced in 1978 and in that same year she married Henry Hodge (later Sir Henry), going on to have two daughters. Sir Henry Hodge was a fellow Labour Borough Councillor and in 1974 became Chairman of the National Council for Civil Liberties who went on to become a High Court judge.
Sir Henry Egar Garfield Hodge, OBE – Second husband
By 1978, PIE, the Paedophile Information Exchange and National Council for Civil Liberties had already been affiliated for three years. (just one year after Hodge became chairman) Another group, Paedophile Action for Liberation, a Gay Liberation Front offshoot, had also been affiliated to NCCL until it was absorbed by PIE. PIE, which campaigned for adults to have sex legally with children, only broke off its relationship with NCCL when it went undercover in 1982. Sir Henry Hodge died in 2009
More on P.I.E (Paedophile Information Exchange) here including Patricia Hewitt – Former Secretary of State for Health and MP Harriet Harman’s involvement
Islington Council and Child abuse controversy
Hodge was elected as a councillor for the London Borough of Islington in 1973. Hodge was appointed MBE in 1978. However, the end of her period at Islington, before taking up her parliamentary career, was marred by criticism of her response (in 1985) to serious child abuse allegations.
In 1985, Demetrious Panton complained about abuse that he had suffered while in the council’s care in the 1970s and 1980s. He did not receive an official reply until 1989, in which the council denied responsibility.
Channel 4 News on Islington Children’s Homes (Demetrious Panton interview)
In 1990, Liz Davies, a senior social worker employed by the borough and her manager, David Cofie, raised concerns about sexual abuse of children in Islington Council care. Correspondence between Hodge and the director of social work indicates that she declined a request for extra resources to investigate. In early 1992, Davies (not to be confused with the barrister and former Islington councillor) resigned from her post and requested that Scotland Yard investigate the allegations.
The Evening Standard then began reporting on the allegations of abuse in Islington’s children’s homes, shortly after which Hodge resigned to pursue a career with Price Waterhouse. In 1995, the “White Report” into sexual abuse in Islington Care Homes reported that the council had failed adequately to investigate the allegations.
In 2003, following Hodge’s appointment as Minister for Children, Demetrious Panton went public with his allegation that he was abused in Islington Council care and had repeatedly raised this issue with no effect. He accused Hodge of being ultimately responsible for the abuse that he suffered. Davies also went public with the issues that she had raised concerns about while working for the council.
Following a media campaign conducted by several national newspapers calling for her to resign from her new post, she responded to Panton by letter, in which she referred to him as ‘extremely disturbed’. Panton then passed the letter to the press which planned to publish it, only to be judicially restrained from doing so at the instruction of Hodge. The letter was eventually published, mainly on the grounds that the blocking of the letter was seen as disproportionate. Hodge was forced to publicly apologise and offered to contribute to a charity of Panton’s choosing as recompense
A backbencher added. “She’s ruthlessly ambitious and seen as insincere. It’s ludicruous to claim she wasn’t aware of child abuse in the early 90s, and I just question why she wasn’t listening to the children. That apology was motivated by political expediency and people don’t see how she can survive.”
Sexual abuse of children
Demetrious Panton was abused in care. In 1978 he fell victim to a man called Bernie Bain, the head of a children’s home in the London Borough of Islington.
“He forced me into his bedroom, took off his dressing gown, um, I … I remember saying to him I don’t want this, I don’t want it, and I was 11, He was a brute, he was uncontrollable and there was just no escape, and that’s the best way to describe it, there was no escape and you just managed the situation as best as you could. You managed him and the situation and you protected yourself.”
But it was 17 years before a police investigation uncovered the true extent of the abuse. Detective Superintendent John Sweeney led the inquiry.
“I was deeply affected by taking some of the statements,” Det Supt Sweeney said. “It’s quite clear that he was a habitual sexual abuser. The abuse was extremely violent and we are talking about children, seven, eight year old boys, and for those individuals there’d be no-one more sadistic. So I formed the opinion that he was gonna be someone that was probably doing it now – at that time in 1995 elsewhere – so I had to try and find him.”
1995: Bain had been at large for at least 17 years. Demetrious Panton first made allegations against him in 1979, but no other children would talk and the case was dropped. Islington Council was off the hook. As for Bernie Bain it was a close call and although he left social services he was still free to pursue an abusive career which was to span three decades and cross three continents.
The tragedy is that it should never have happened. In 1985 Demetrious – just turned 18 – wrote to Islington Social Services. He wanted to go to the police again. He wanted the council to back him.
After four and a half years social services finally wrote to Demetrious. The two page letter, which has been described as little more than a brush off, urges him to “move on from those unhappy times”.
Nicholas John Rabet, former deputy superintendent of the council’s home in Grosvenor Avenue had links with the paedophile ring on Jersey. He escaped prosecution because of the then council’s gross mismanagement of the scandal and fled to Thailand.
14-year-old Jason Swift, killed in 1985 by a paedophile gang, is believed to have lived in Islington council’s Conewood Street home.
Paedophile rings that may or may not been involved with the sexual abuse of children in Islington
I am writing to you directly about an investigation … into a matter concerned with Islington Council … I now understand from a number of sources that Angus Stickler of the Today programme has been investigating the case of Demetrious Panton. Mr Panton is an extremely disturbed person who suffered from child abuse in Islington homes in his youth in the 1960s, 20 years before I became leader of the Council.”
On a point of accuracy, Demetrious Panton was abused in the late 70s, not the 1960s. The letter is addressed to the BBC’s Chairman, Gavyn Davis and copied to the Director General, Greg Dyke, the Director of News, Richard Sambrook, the Today programme Editor, Kevin Marsh and a firm of solicitors. It accuses the Today programme of having “scant balance” in previous broadcasts. And on the basis of conversations with her former colleagues, criticises my current investigation.
THE LETTER CONTINUED:
“His sole interest in the matter appears to be connecting me with the circumstances of Mr Panton’s case … if the position is that a news item is being developed with the intention of connecting a Government Minister to the story for the sake of sensationalism then I think it is deplorable.”
Mrs Hodge asks Gavyn Davis to investigate personally. Her letter also refers to High Court Proceedings issued back in 1996 against Channel 4 News for an item about child abuse in Islington. Channel 4 apologised.
In 1992, 13 years after his original complaint, Demetrious went to talk to Margaret Hodge in person. He attended her surgery, but she wasn’t there. The newly elected councillor Stephen Twigg was standing in on her behalf. He too now of course is also a Government Minister.
This was a high-profile case. Social services chiefs, the council’s legal department, even it’s insurers had been alerted. In the absence of any documents naming Margaret Hodge I asked the council’s former Chief Executive and Chair of Social Services if they told her. They simply cannot remember.
In 1995 Demetrious finally decided to go to the police himself. Detective Superintendent John Sweeney launched a full and thorough investigation.
“When we approached individuals they made allegations themselves,” Det Supt Sweeney said. “It was just ‘were you in care at the time?’, and they would come forward and say ‘You’re on about Mr Bain aren’t you?’ And then our inquiries which looked into Mr Bain after he’d left Islington revealed another two witnesses who made statements, so there were a total of seven people that were willing to go to court and give evidence against Mr Bain.”
And that is just in this country. In 1995 police found out that Bain was living abroad. He was still abusing children.
“We made inquiries with the Moroccan authorities because he was in Morocco at that time, he used to visit there quite often,” Sweeney told me. “Subsequently I was told he’d been arrested. The police had found photographs of children and him in the same photographs which they considered indecent and he was in prison over there.”
After serving his sentence, Bain was deported to Holland. The police along with the CPS prepared extradition papers, but it failed because of a technical loophole. They’d missed their chance. Despite an international warrant for his arrest Bain disappeared until the 27th of May 2000. He committed suicide in Thailand. The police believe he was still abusing children up until his death.
“I have no doubt in my mind that Mr Bain was a threat to children wherever he was,” states Det Supt Sweeney. “And so I would be very concerned for those children.”
Children were needlessly abused up until three years ago, more than 20 years after Demetrious Panton’s first complaint.
“It’s not so much the abuse that hurts, it’s the fact that he was never forced to say sorry,” insists Demetrious. “It’s the fact that he was never bought to justice. I mean the whole thing about our society is that we know that sometimes bad thing happens, but we passionately believe in our justice systems, and we passionately believe in our democratic systems, and we hope that the two work together hand in hand. Unfortunately I never had justice because of the democratic system in Islington and that will rankle with me until the day that I die.”
STATEMENT FROM MARGARET HODGE:
“Everybody would agree that Mr Panton’s experiences in the 1970’s were dreadful and it is a tribute to him that he continued to pursue his case until the mid 1990’s when the police finally agreed to look into the details.
I was the political leader of the council between 1982 and 1992 and whilst I did not have day to day contact with social services, I have on many occasions, including on the Today Programme, expressed deep regret for those children who were abused in Islington homes over many decades.
Since becoming children’s Minister in June, Angus Stickler and the Today Programme have been constantly telephoning friends and colleagues to dig up details of events which happened between 10 and 20 years ago. The Today programme have failed to interview any of these people who give a contemporary account of events, they have tried and failed to substantiate my involvement in this case when I was leader.
I felt this was becoming a concerted campaign against me, which is why I wrote a letter, I did not publish, to the BBC in September. I am taken aback that the Today programme has chosen to make a letter which was not for publication, public.
I have decided not to appear on the Today Programme today as there is nothing new to say and nothing more that I can add. I am getting on with the important job I have been given, to create a better future for all our children and I have been encouraged by the support and commitment of the professionals with whom I work.”
A social worker who abused two boys at an Islington Council children’s home in the 1970s was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment earlier this week.
Michael Taylor pleaded guilty at London’s Snaresbrook crown court to seven counts of indecent assault at Gisburne House.
When he left Gisburne House he became deputy superintendent of Bersham Hall children’s home in North Wales where he repeatedly assaulted two 11-year-old boys in his care.
Taylor was arrested after the people he abused, now adults, went to the police. He was previously convicted of two indecent assaults in 1980
Roy Caterer jailed
1991: Roy Caterer, who worked at a school used by Islington council for its children in care, is arrested for sexually abusing seven boys and two girls, and is jailed for seven-and-a-half years.
Haut de la Garenne children’s home, pictured in 1905, in Jersey was formerly a centre for children in care or with behaviour problems