Charlie Beckett writes: George Entwistle is gone but how to rebuild confidence in the BBC? and disturbingly proposes:
The NHS and schools have seen structural revolutions – why not the BBC? It is time for this tired old fortress to be opened up.
Is this crisis going to be the Tory excuse to destroy the BBC as they destroyed the NHS in England?
Steven Messham apologised: Newsnight apologised: George Entwhistle resigned. But who actually set the story going?
According to the Guardian, it was Iain Overton:
As the wine flowed at the Oxford Union, the stage was set for what would soon become a broadcasting disaster. The motion before the undergraduates had been “British politics is in the pocket of the media”, and, in the exhilarated post-debate atmosphere, one dinner-jacketed journalistic insider who had come from London to speak could no longer contain his piece of political gossip.
Iain Overton, head of the small non-profit Bureau of Investigative Journalism, said the next evening’s Newsnight was going to expose a top Tory as an abuser of teenage boys at a north Wales care home. According to one of those present, Michael Crick, former Newsnight journalist and now the Channel 4 News political editor, asked: “Do you mean McAlpine?” “Well, you said it,” Overton replied.
Has Iain Overton apologised? Not to my knowledge. He says on Twitter “I am going to be making a statement after I meet with my Trust.”
[Update, Monday 12th November: Apparently Iain Overton has
formally tendered his resignation as editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Overton and the trustees are expected to release separate statements later on Monday confirming his resignation.
Overton met with the BIJ trust on Sunday after flying back to Britain from his travels.
I had/have a lot of respect for Iain Overton, but I have to say: this resignation is well-deserved. Overton caused a lot of trouble by talking too much over Oxford wine.]
Steve stated that one of his abusers was a high ranking Tory, saying “he told me who he was” Like people attending a public hanging Twitter immediately went into overdrive with cries to name the perpetrator. However neither Steve Messham nor Newsnight named this person. Yet one name started appearing over and over again on the internet, no need to name names because it’s public knowledge now and a statement of denial has been issued with threats to sue (how can you sue a program that didn’t name names?)
Dr Liz Davies, a reader in child protection at London Metropolitan University, writes in the Guardian on Friday that Child protection guidance is under threat:
The agenda to minimise statutory child protection intervention progressed swiftly after 2003, and the Every Child Matters green paper, with a renewed emphasis on prevention. However, this was pursued at the expense of proactive protection. Children identified as at high risk of harm often went unnoticed as professionals were overwhelmed with data entry and bureaucracy aimed at addressing every child in need of help or where there were broadly defined concerns. Children at risk of significant harm became significantly lost from professional oversight evidenced by numerous serious case reviews published in individual cases where children have died or been seriously harmed. As we witness the most extensive and complex exposés of crimes against children, the statutory means of protecting them is further threatened.
In May this year, Tim Loughton MP spoke of ‘ripping up’ the guidance and the government has published a consultation document proposing to drastically cut the highly valued, tried and tested, Working Together to Safeguard Children which steers all multi-agency work to protect children. The consultation suggests a reduction of the 400-page document to just 60 pages and completely removes chapters on training, working with children in specific circumstances (such as forced marriage, sexual exploitation and trafficking), working with particularly vulnerable children (such as disabled children, unaccompanied minors or in custody) and work with perpetrators. The revised version has removed all reference to the investigation of organised or institutional abuse.
In the absence of comprehensive national guidance, each local safeguarding children board will have to invent their own which will lead to chaotic work across authority boundaries. This proposal basically takes some of us back to the 70s before the first Working Together was published and when we remember the difficulties investigating networks of abuse across areas with different protocols.
Steven Messham stole photographs of boys being raped and gave them to the police. Messham says that he could see men’s faces clearly, but the police said they could not identify them from the pictures.
What happened to the photographs?
Sian Griffiths, who worked for Clwyd Council in the inquiry office, says they were destroyed:
“We were supplied with copies of court documents…there was an order made for the book of photos to be destroyed.
“So Messham’s photos of alleged abuse…were destroyed?
“They were. Well that’s what’s in court papers – official documents.”
That could have been vital evidence?
“It could. Yes.”
She added there were people mentioned in the Waterhouse Inquiry in 2000 who probably got away with the abuse.
She said: “I think probably there were. On the basis that the allegations were historical and there was nobody to corroborate what the complainants were saying or files or registers to back up what they were saying.
“I imagine yes there are people who weren’t convicted for their offences.”
The blog Justice Denied asks:
The next day after this admission. Police called Steven in and we are told showed him a photograph. On seeing this photograph Steven retracted his claim against Lord McAlpine being one of his abusers. It is now agreed that the abuser was in fact Lord McAlpines, convieniently deceased, cousin Jimmy McAlpine who lived in North Wales where his family had raped the countryside through Quarrying.
If we could be shown the photograph perhaps we could understand why the photograph proved Lord McAlpine was not the abuser of Steven Messham but his cousin Jimmy McALpine was. And if Jimmy McAlpine was known to the Police as a child rapist why was he not arrested and questioned?
Jimmie McAlpine died in 1991.
Rupert Murdoch, evidently viciously enjoying what he perceives merely as a tale of BBC humiliation, tweeted yesterday
Editor- in- chief apologises and pleads total ignorance.Press having field day! What are editors for?
— Rupert Murdoch(@rupertmurdoch) November 10, 2012
Because if Rupert Murdoch had been running the BBC like News International, he would just have closed down Newsnight, and sacked everyone involved apart from Peter Rippon.
I don’t think Iain Overton owes an apology to Lord McAlpine, who has had all the apologies that are good for him when he got a man whom his cousin Jimmie McAlpine may have abused to say he was sorry for repeating to anyone what the police had told him forty years ago.
If Overton hadn’t talked at the Oxford Union, if he had resisted the temptation to tweet, Twitter would doubtless still have filled with speculation about who the “top Tory” was, but without the focus that let Lord McAlpine make his move to silence Steven Messham, and Newsnight – and maybe, also, Iain Overton.
Child witnesses would never be prosecuted for getting a name wrong either in the Civil or Criminal Courts. But an Adult risks prosecution in the Criminal Courts for perverting the course of justice. And risks loosing a libel action because to win a libel action Steven Messham would have to prove Lord McAlpine abused him to win, because the burden of proof is reversed in libel law. Steven would also need about £800,000 to even think of defending such an action against someone as rich as Lord McAlpine.
Which means that unless the Police take action poor people cannott win against rich people and clearly the Police had no intention of arresting or questioning Lord McALpine or his Cousin Jimmy over the serious allegations of child rape, allegations first made over 20 years ago.
What matters is not the feelings of George Entwhistle (though unlike Rupert and James Murdoch, he did actually step and take responsibility), nor Lord McAlpine, nor David Cameron. The BBC’s status as an independent news service funded by licence fee: and the overriding fact that children were raped, and the police made no effort to pursue the men responsible, and so long as politicians and the media are far more concerned about the hurt feelings of powerful and wealthy men than the protection of raped children, the police have no particular motivation to do so.
You can’t libel the dead, so once Savile died, his victims – and the media – were free to speak without threat of being sued.
Jimmy Savile was guilty: Lord McAlpine is innocent. But the stushie we’re seeing over McAlpine, fuelled by libel lawyers and the money to pay for them, is exactly what we’d have seen if Newsnight had run a programme hinting that Jimmy Savile raped children, any time before 29th October 2011.
MP Rob Wilson has written sternly to Tom Watson with his concerns for the hurt feelings of wealthy and powerful men who may feel implicated by Tom Watson’s determination to ensure the police turn no more blind eyes.
By 3rd November, Tom Watson had received over 50 emails from people who had been trying to get their evidence taken seriously by the police, by anyone who would listen. Tom Watson writes:
Yet with a properly resourced investigation, with the voice of victims being heard in public and with the political will we can get to the facts.
I wish I could fight the case of everybody who has been abused by a paedophile who has so far got away with it, but I can’t. That is a job for the police. Up and down the country private grief is being stirred by these stories. I cannot help in each individual case, but the police and support services can, must and will. If you were abused a long time ago and want justice now, go to the police. It is not too late.
What I am going to do personally is to speak out on this extreme case of organised abuse in the highest places. At the core of all child abuse is the abuse of power. The fundamental power of the adult over the child. Wherever this occurs it is an abomination. But these extreme cases are abuse of power by some of the most powerful people. Abuse of trust by some of the most trusted. It is a sickening story, but one which – like the truth about Jimmy Savile – is now going to be told.
Thirty-six people have contacted the office of the children’s commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, since the north Wales residential homes abuse scandal broke last weekend.
Of these, 22 have spoken of abuse they say they suffered at Bryn Estyn in Wrexham and the network of homes connected to it. Another 14 have told of historic abuse in other settings.
On top of those who have gone to the children’s commissioner it is known that a number of others – perhaps dozens more – have contacted politicians and solicitors to report abuse and ask for help.