Complicity followed by incompetence in the Savile case landed the BBC in deep waters, to the delight of those who wish to undermine public broadcasting and to the chagrin of the taxpayer who foots the bill.
But let’s not take our eye off the ball and forget all those others who are culpable. Eileen Fairweather is right to be sceptical of Home Secretary Theresa May’s inquiry into North Wales care homes; and Tom Watson MP has already dismissed it as “the next stage of a cover-up”. As Keith Gregory, one of the survivors, pointed out: “It’s police investigating police and a judge investigating a judge. Will it be any different or do they all stick together?”
From Bloody Sunday to Steven Lawrence to Hillsborough, it is not inquiries but the determination of families and survivors which finally won the truth out, and some convictions.
Years of ignoring the crimes of Jimmy Savile – and related allegations of child abuse (i.e. rape, sexual assault and other violence against children) from Jersey to North Wales – prove that the priority was not to prevent or even stop the rapes, but to shield the criminal and his connections in high places so as not to disturb the status quo.
It is now clear that Savile’s criminality was well known. Former West Yorkshire Police detective John Stainthorpe said that Savile was one of the suspects put forward by the public in the Yorkshire Ripper case, and that the person who gave police the anonymous tip-off was ”aiming in the right direction . . . Child perverts soon become child killers.”
Former Radio 1 DJ Paul Gambaccini whose BBC studio was next door to Savile’s, said that he targeted not only children but children who were “institutionalised, hospitalised”. From Leeds General Infirmary, Stoke Mandeville Hospital and the high-security psychiatric Broadmoor Hospital, there seem to have been nurses and others who witnessed Savile assault patients who were brain-damaged or recovering from an operation; some were told to pretend to be asleep when Savile visited so he wouldn’t interfere with them.
But only a few in positions of authority spoke out and are speaking out today. Alison Taylor, head of a home in Gwynedd, demanded action against the violence children from Nefyn Dodd and other homes were reporting to her. It took dedication and persistence: “The pattern seemed to be that if I made a complaint then something would happen to me – it was like having a sniper behind the wall.” She was suspended in January 1987. In 2000 the Waterhouse Inquiry into the North Wales sex crimes finally admitted that without Taylor there would not have been an inquiry and that “in general terms, she has been vindicated”. John Allen, head of the Bryn Alyn home, and deputy head Peter Howarth, were jailed.
But those who came in the “posh chauffeur driven cars” are still at large. In 1994 Clwyd County Council commissioned a report which stated that “At least 12 young people are dead [most of them having committed suicide] …” Will those who drove them to suicide finally be convicted? The report was never published; although copies were said to have been pulped, some have been found in the Council’s archives. Will it now see the light of day? Or will fear of lawsuits, such as those initiated by Lord MacAlpine after being wrongly accused of child abuse, be used as an excuse to censor the truth once more?
That many institutions gave Savile (and how many others connected and not connected to him?) free rein to assault the children in their care is shocking but not new. Many similar allegations have been made before. All should be reopened: not only Wales but Jersey. Police chief Graham Power claimed that politicians had interfered with the police investigation into the rape and even the deaths of children at Haut de la Garenne, and “closed ranks” with civil servants. He was suspended in what one politician called “a coup d’état”. The investigation was closed, the authorities eventually accepted they had failed some children “in a serious way”, and paid compensation to about 90 victims. But only eight out of 151 named abusers were prosecuted.
It augurs badly for the present inquiries that some charities seem to be turning the Savile scandal into a bid for funding rather than for justice and change. Yet charities, schools and hospitals did not defend victims from Savile – he was raising money for them! A former Children in Need chairman said they barred Savile from their charity. But unlike Alison Taylor they didn’t take as their brief to stop him.
Charities have written to the government offering to counsel Savile’s victims, but we don’t hear them pressing for justice or compensation. Counselling does not stop rape; it may help victims but it also puts the onus on them to “get over it”. Can you “move on” knowing your attackers are free to attack others? Rape victims go through the trauma of reporting to get recognition and to protect others – their fight for justice is a public service. And we know from experience that winning justice is the best healer.
Why is that so much to ask? The problem is not just that rape victims aren’t believed, some are. But believed or not, they are dismissed. Karin Ward, one of Savile’s BBC victims and a former resident at Duncroft school for girls, where Savile was allowed to roam, said that she sensed “That’s what we were for.” (Panorama 22 October 2012) Duncroft’s retired head Margaret Jones dismissed the claims of her former pupils as “wild allegations by well-known delinquents.” They were, after all, only plebs.
The same happened more recently in Rochdale, where girls from working class backgrounds were raped for years despite repeatedly reporting to police and social services. One desperate mother put her daughter in care for protection after the police refused to act – the violence only increased. While some of the rapists have been convicted, what about those police, social workers and others in positions of authority who allowed it to go on? Are they not just as culpable? Police claimed they didn’t arrest the men, who happen to be men of colour, because they were worried they would be accused of racism. Yet they have no qualms carrying out thousands of stop and search on men of colour who haven’t been accused of anything. And why was the head of social services able to resign without facing charges?
Something akin happens to asylum seekers at our Women’s Centre. Having fled rape and murder many are refused protection and reduced to destitution, again easy prey to rapists. Raped again in Britain they cannot afford to report for fear of deportation. One woman who reported after winning the right to stay was initially dismissed – police assumed they didn’t need to bother as she wouldn’t be in Britain for long.
If the welfare cap and cuts limiting child benefits to the first two children go through, many more women and children will face similar destitution, unable to feed our children (one in five mothers is already skipping meals to feed hers) or to leave violent relationships; more children will be taken into care or foster homes. We now know what happens to the unprotected – children with least social power are considered to be sexually available and disposable. Does the government care that their cuts undermine women’s and children’s ability to escape rape, or is that part of the policy’s attraction?
Getting justice for victims and stopping cuts that would add to vulnerability, could begin to stop this rape cancer at the heart of the establishment. It would encourage those police and social workers who want to act against rape rather than those who back it. We want to know: Who knew? What did they know? When did they know it? Whom did they tell? How many individuals and institutions were involved in covering up what crimes? We want “lessons to be learnt” – by rapists and their associates being arrested, prosecuted and convicted. Without justice the only lesson ever learnt is how to get away with it.
Ryan Coleman-Farrow faked police reports, failed to pass on evidence and falsely claimed to have interviewed suspects
Sandra Laville, crime correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 12 September 2012 14.51 BST
An investigator from the Metropolitan police specialist sex crimes unit has admitted failing to investigate the alleged rapes and sexual assaults of 12 women by faking police reports, failing to pass on forensic evidence and not interviewing suspects.
The activities of detective constable Ryan Coleman-Farrow – who pleaded guilty to 13 counts of misconduct in public office on Wednesday – focus attention once more on Scotland Yard’s sapphire unit, which is supposed to be the gold standard for rape investigations across the country. Coleman-Farrow’s omissions in 13 rape and sexual assault investigations over three years have left 11 men suspected of rape and sexual assault at large, and his misconduct means the cases are “incapable of full and proper investigation” and will always remain unsolved.
His case was one of four major investigations into the unit by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which is due to publish a report on Sapphire in the autumn.
It emerged in court that over the time he was involved in investigating rape cases Coleman-Farrow was ill and, according to the judge, the recorder of Westminster Alistair McCreath, he was not looked after properly.
However, the IPCC, which carried out an independent inquiry into Coleman-Farrow after concerns were raised in 2010 about his performance, said their investigations had not found any supervisory failings within the Met police. They will publish their full report on 11 October when Coleman-Farrow is sentenced.
Coleman-Farrow, 30, who was dismissed from the Met police in April last year, stood in the dock at Southwark crown court to answer his name, and pleaded guilty to 13 charges of misconduct in public office by wilfully engaging in conduct amounting to an abuse of public trust between January 2007 and September 2010 when he was working at the Sapphire unit in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey. The cases he failed to investigate, the court heard, involved 10 rape cases and three sexual assaults and included inquiries he carried out after Scotland Yard’s radical overhaul of Sapphire following a series of scandals involving serial rapists who were not investigated.
Mark Heywood QC, prosecuting, said: “The case involves investigations by this defendant, a serving police officer, into allegations of sexual offending.
“The indictment alleges against him 13 offences of misconduct in relation to each of the 13 investigations carried out.
“Behind the evidence stand 12 complainants and 11 suspects in total.
“In almost all cases no proceedings resulted and certainly no conclusion adverse to anyone was ever reached.”
The court heard that Coleman-Farrow repeatedly made false entries on the police computer to report that the Crown Prosecution Service had advised no further action in cases. He also failed to view CCTV footage on a number of occasions, failed to submit forensic evidence for analysis, lied about taking a statement from a victim, falsely claimed one victim had withdrawn support for a prosecution, falsely claimed to have interviewed suspects when he had not, falsified a witness statement and failed to interview key witnesses.
Heywood said a thick line had now been drawn by the Met police under all 13 investigations as a result of the failures by the officer. He said: “There is now no prospect of these matters being progressed in any further respect.”
Coleman-Farrow’s activities first emerged in 2010 when the CPS became concerned that information and evidence from cases he was involved in were not being passed to them. In September of that year two sex workers – Jaime Perlman, 37, and Riley Lison-Taylor, 33 – gassed themselves to death in a suicide pact at a flat in Putney, south London and left notes which accused the Metropolitan police of not properly investigating their complaints against clients who had stalked them.
During the internal inquiry following their deaths Coleman-Farrow’s name came up again as an officer who was involved in investigating Perlman’s stalking allegations in 2009. Coleman-Farrow was cleared of the allegations made by Perlman, but after an independent inquiry by the IPCC he was charged with the 13 misconduct counts relating to other cases.
It is understood the officer was interviewed four times during the IPCC investigation and said that he had been suffering from cancer during the period they were investigating.
The court heard on Wednesday that his ill health would be key to the court assessing his culpability. Heywood said that issue was likely to be common ground between the prosecution and defence. He said a significant part of the offending took place between September 2009 and September 2010 and the relationship between his conduct then and his health at that time was an important factor.
The judge gave the former officer bail before sentencing on 11 October.
A spokeswoman for Women Against Rape said: “This is a very serious case, because at least 12 victims have been denied justice and at least 11 rapists have received impunity as a direct result of this man’s actions.
“Every single case this specialist officer has been involved in should be reviewed.”
The IPCC said Coleman-Farrow appeared to be a “rogue” officer and they did not identify supervisory failing. However, another officer from Sapphire is currently under investigation by the IPCC for similar offences of falsifying records to suggest cases were closed when they were not.
The deputy chair of the IPCC, Deborah Glass, said: “Ryan Coleman-Farrow was entrusted to investigate serious sexual offences and support some of the most vulnerable people in the criminal justice system. He let them down by his calculated abuse of their trust. His actions are beyond belief.
“The MPS [Metropolitan police service] have told us they reviewed all cases where Mr Coleman-Farrow was officer in charge and I understand that, where cases required further or re-investigation, this has been done.
“Our investigation did not reveal systemic or serious supervisory failings … While dealing with rogue individuals must always be a concern in any system, supervisory systems will not necessarily pick up on an officer who has concocted evidence to cover their tracks.”
For decades we have campaigned to get rapists caught, charged and convicted. But the pursuit of Assange is political
Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 23 August 2012 09.00 BST
When Julian Assange was first arrested, we were struck by the unusual zeal with which he was being pursued for rape allegations.
It seems even clearer now, that the allegations against him are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction.
Justice for an accused rapist does not deny justice for his accusers. But in this case justice is being denied both to accusers and accused.
The judicial process has been corrupted. On the one hand, the names of the women have been circulated on the internet; they have been trashed, accused of setting a “honey trap”, and seen their allegations dismissed as “not real rape”. On the other hand, Assange is dealt with by much of the media as if he were guilty, though he has not even been charged. It is not for us to decide whether or not the allegations are true and whether what happened amounts to rape or sexual violence – we don’t have all the facts and what has been said so far has not been tested. But we do know that rape victims’ right to anonymity and defendants’ right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty are both crucial to a just judicial process.
Swedish and British courts are responsible for how the women’s allegations have been handled. As with every rape case, the women are not in charge of the case, the state is.
Whether or not Assange is guilty of sexual violence, we do not believe that is why he is being pursued. Once again women’s fury and frustration at the prevalence of rape and other violence, is being used by politicians to advance their own purposes. The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will, usually to increase their powers, this time to facilitate Assange’s extradition or even rendition to the US. That the US has not presented a demand for his extradition at this stage is no guarantee that they won’t do so once he is in Sweden, and that he will not be tortured as Bradley Manning and many others, women and men, have. Women Against Rape cannot ignore this threat.
In over 30 years working with thousands of rape victims who are seeking asylum from rape and other forms of torture, we have met nothing but obstruction from British governments. Time after time, they have accused women of lying and deported them with no concern for their safety. We are currently working with three women who were raped again after having been deported – one of them is now destitute, struggling to survive with the child she conceived from the rape; the other managed to return to Britain and won the right to stay, and one of them won compensation.
Assange has made it clear for months that he is available for questioning by the Swedish authorities, in Britain or via Skype. Why are they refusing this essential step to their investigation? What are they afraid of?
In 1998 Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London following an extradition request from Spain. His responsibility for the murder and disappearance of at least 3,000 people, and the torture of 30,000 people, including the rape and sexual abuse of more than 3,000 women often with the use of dogs, was never in doubt. Despite a lengthy legal action and a daily picket outside parliament called by Chilean refugees, including women who had been tortured under Pinochet, the British government reneged on its obligation to Spain’s criminal justice system and Pinochet was allowed to return to Chile. Assange has not even been charged; yet the determination to have him extradited is much greater than ever it was with Pinochet. (Baltasar Garzón, whose request for extradition of Pinochet was denied, is representing Assange.) And there is a history of Sweden (and Britain) rendering asylum seekers at risk of torture at the behest of the US.
Like women in Sweden and everywhere, we want rapists caught, charged and convicted. We have campaigned for that for more than 35 years, with limited success. We are even having to campaign to prevent rape victims being accused of making false allegations and imprisoned for it. Two women who reported visibly violent attacks by strangers were given two and three year prison sentences.
But does anyone really believe that extraditing Julian Assange will strengthen women against rape? And do those supporting his extradition to Sweden care if he is then extradited to the US and tortured for telling the public what we need to know about those who govern us?
Former Territorial Army Parachute Regiment captain is told he must serve a minimum of eight years
guardian.co.uk, Friday 25 May 2012 14.53 BST
Brian Witty, who attacked two women he met on a dating website and two more he met in bars. Photograph: Metropolitan police/PA
A former soldier who carried out a string of sex attacks has been jailed indefinitely.
Judge Nicholas Price QC described Brian Witty, 41, as a “predatory rapist” as he told the former Territorial Army Parachute Regiment captain he would serve at least eight years before he could be considered for release.
Witty – who told one victim who rejected him: “I don’t believe this, I’m a good-looking bloke” – was convicted last month of three rapes and one sexual assault on four women between 1995 and 2011.
Price, sentencing Witty at Kingston crown court on Friday, told him he was a “bullying, self-obsessed, arrogant sexual predator who was determined to indulge in fulfilling your desires, irrespective and dismissive of their pleas”.
Witty, of Teddington, south-west London, met two of his victims through a dating website and preyed on the others after chance encounters in bars.
But after he was arrested he claimed the sexual encounters were consensual.
Price jailed him for six years for a rape in 1995, to run concurrently with three separate indeterminate sentences for two other rapes and a sexual assault.
Witty was told he would serve a minimum of eight years behind bars.
Handing down his sentence, Price said: “There is no doubt in my mind that you present a very real danger to women, and the only appropriate sentence in your case is one of imprisonment for public protection.
“It is clear to me you set out to prey on vulnerable women. You hid your base intentions behind a veneer of charm and lulled your victims into a false sense of security.
“Each of them was beguiled into believing that with your military background and apparent social attributes that you were a gentleman and would behave as one.
“Each of your victims described in chilling evidence how you went from being plausible and caring into a bullying, self-obsessed, arrogant sexual predator who was determined to indulge in fulfilling your desires, irrespective and dismissive of their pleas that you should desist.”
Despite being arrested and interviewed after the rape at his home address in 1995, again after a sexual assault in 2006 and after another rape in 2008, charges were never brought by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Price told Witty: “The consequences meant you considered yourself to be untouchable by the authorities.
“With the benefit of hindsight it is perhaps too easy to say that, had you been successfully prosecuted in 1995, you may well not have been free to commit these other later serious offences.”
It was only after Witty was arrested following a fourth attack in August last year – during which Price said he changed from being “charming and good company” to a “demanding, frightening and determined rapist” – that charges were brought.
Price praised the women for coming forward again after so many years, saying if it had not been for the determination of Witty’s last victim, he may never have been brought to justice.
The attacks had “a clear and obvious and serious effect for each of his victims”, the prosecutor Edmund Gritt said.
A statement from his first victim read: “When I heard the verdict I was happy. I thought I would be happier, but I wasn’t.
“The fact is, what happened to me 17 years ago has shaped who I am today, emotionally and physically. Memories I thought I had escaped are still there.
“My challenge is to move on from this, but the problem with moving on is that I will never forget. It is something I will have to live with for the rest of my life.”
A statement from Witty’s final victim read: “There have been times when I struggled to ever see a way forward through all this, yet I know I have to.
“The guilty verdict doesn’t change the past. I still have to find a way to live with myself now, a changed and different person from that I was before.”
Price said: “If anyone ever doubted the devastating long-term consequences of rape and sexual assault, these statements provide eloquent testimony against such doubt.”
Witty was placed on the sex offenders register for life, and if released will be on licence for life.
“I have been granted leave to remain in the UK. I can not express my appreciation to Women Against Rape who played a vital role to make this day come true.
They called me almost every week while I was in Yarl’s Wood IRC and gave me moral support and encouraged me to be strong. I remember how we spoke on the phone while I was being driven to the airport to be deported to my country. They said, a barrister had been sent to court to stop my removal. I was nonplussed to know that people were out there fighting for me. They struggled to get me one of the best existing solicitors. Victory became mine since she started to represent me. WAR also wrote a letter concerning the rape I suffered and why some women can not report rape early.
I owe my victory today to Women Against Rape. The self-help guide* they sent to the detention centre in Bedford was a vital tool to channel me to this stage. Once more , I say thank you all.”
* For Asylum Seekers and their Supporters: A Self-Help Guide against detention & deportation by Legal Action for Women, 2005
Landmark damages for rape survivor detained unlawfully including interview with BBC Radio 4
£38,000 for asylum seeker illegally detained in UK the Guardian 10 March 2008