For those that need the warning, references to child abuse under the cut.
Boris Johnson sweeps all the concern about child abuse out of the way. The real tragedy, says the Mayor of London, is that for about a week, Alastair McAlpine was being mistakenly named on Twitter as the man who’d raped boys from the Welsh care home, when it wasn’t him, it was probably his cousin, Jimmie McAlpine, who died in 1991. (Oh, and David Mellor thinks a child abuse survivor is a weirdo and the Daily Mail thinks it appropriate to do one of their hatchet jobs on Steven Messham.)
Boris Johnson: Smearing an innocent man’s name is the real tragedy here:
To call someone a paedophile is to consign them to the lowest circle of hell – and while they are still alive. It follows that you should not call someone a paedophile unless you are pretty sure of your facts. It is utterly incredible that the BBC’s flagship news programme decided to level this poisonous allegation against Lord McAlpine when it had not the slightest evidence to support its case. It was sickening yesterday morning, at 7am, to hear the BBC radio newscaster claim – as if it were some kind of mitigation – that Newsnight did not “name” McAlpine. Is it really claiming that it protected his identity?
How many times will we need to say it?
Alistair McAlpine’s hurt feelings at being mistaken for his cousin, or however it happened that the police told Steven Messham that the man who’d abused him was Lord McAlpine so many years ago, are not a tragedy.
These, as Owen Jones reminds us are the tragedies:
They were little children, gang-raped and beaten till they bled by those charged with their care. “Buggery, rape, bestiality, violent assaults and torture,” is how Labour MP Ann Clwyd summed up the findings of a pulped report by Clwyd County Council into abuse at children’s homes in north Wales. Steven Messham was sent to Bryn Estyn – supposedly a care home, in reality a rape factory – at the age of 13. Those who, like him, had been hand-picked to satisfy the perverse needs of sexual monsters were sent to flats and hotel rooms in their pyjamas to be raped. By the time Messham escaped on the eve of his 18th birthday, more than 50 men had abused him.
The psychological effects of child abuse are profound. Shock, fear and disbelief come immediately, psychologists note; in the long term come anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Abused children often start wetting the bed again; as they become adults, they can be plagued with self-hatred, an inability to form meaningful relationships, and a tendency to “escape” through drugs or risky sex.
Some of the abused simply cannot cope with the brutal theft of their childhood. Nearly two decades ago, Mark Humphreys was found in his north Wales bedsit, hanging from a staircase. Simon Burley and Peter Wynne hanged themselves, too; Robert Chapman toppled to his death from a railway bridge; Brendon Randalls drank himself to death; Leo Homberg’s life ended in a drug overdose.
Since raising the issue with the PM, a number of other allegations have been made of which I have made the police aware.
My concern is that the institutions that are there to protect vulnerable children may have historically failed. I do not know why this is the case but seek to understand it. This will take time and I would welcome your ideas as to how child protection policy can be improved in years to come.
The former child protection specialist who raised his concerns with me did so because after the Murdoch scandal, he felt I was prepared to speak out on a perceived injustice and see it through to the end – no matter where the evidence leads and whoever it affects and regardless of political persuasion.