A response to Matthew Scott on the Goddard Inquiry

Jimmy Savile presenting "Top of The Pops&...

Jimmy Savile presenting “Top of The Pops” in 1964. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Matthew Scott, hereafter Mr Scott, has written a blog on Justice Lowell Goddard’s resignation as the Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). [1]He explains in his opening paragraphs that the resignation is unsurprising. The Inquiry has been beset with problems, crisis, and setbacks.

What is curious, in a blog about a resignation, is that he spends several paragraphs parsing the terms of address. Should Justice Goddard be referred to as a QC as a sign that the resignation was drafted by a civil servant? He then explores the correct etiquette for the correct form of address. Although it appears curious, the logic returns, perhaps unintentionally, later in the piece. However, before we can discuss that logic, we have to consider the text.

Mr Scott continues his blog to tell us why Justice Goddard was right to resign since she appears, at least to what is presented, to be incompetent for the task. By way of faint praise, he does suggest that the Inquiry’s terms of reference may make it difficult for anyone to manage it. He suggests that the inquiry is open ended and impossible to complete for the sheer breadth of the problem.

Is the England institutionally incapable of investigating the child sexual abuse?

What he does not explore is how or why a country cannot manage such an inquiry or inquiries. It would appear the problem is so endemic, so entrenched, and so intrinsic to the political system and society as to be beyond reform. When the problem is intrinsic to a regime, how can it be addressed? As the NSPCC evidence suggests, 1 in 14 adults are victims of child abuse.[2] The number will have been higher for adults who were children in care. As we know from the evidence that has emerged already many predator paedophiles used children’s homes as hunting grounds. We know the same approach used by the Rotherham sex gangs,  to target children homes, was used by Jimmy Savile.  We know from the Lambeth case that paedophiles ran care homes and maintained a ring of homes as they covered for each other.

So if the Inquiry cannot address the problem, what can? What will? Perhaps it is a series of separate, yet linked, inquiries that will take years. The question is whether the public and the regime have the stomach for the effort required. What we may have to consider if the inquiry’s overly broad scope and scale is intended to fail. The danger is that the Inquiry becomes unmanageable so that it cannot be accomplished and collapses into recriminations never to be resurrected. We have seen this cycle with the Home Office where there have been countless investigations into police corruption that simply collapse into recriminations after a few resignations and trials have satisfied the public appetite that initiated the inquiry. Such a question is one for Theresa May.

The problem was mainly about including Lord Janner. Why?

Mr Scott moves to the challenge of finding another chair. He explains that it is now a poisoned chalice that no one would take willingly. He touches on the problem that no one can be found who is not tainted by the topic, or at least lacks a suitable distance from it. However, there is a procedural problem with continuing the Inquiry since the new Chair will have to deal with the Janner problem. Lord Janner was included in the Inquiry. He is not an institution so he cannot be guilty by default in the way that all the institutions are. His guilt or innocence is, as he says, “hotly contested.” Former police officers claim there was a case to be answered. Lord Janner’s supporters, in particular his son Daniel Janner QC, argue that there is no case to answer. As Mr Scott argues that to include an individual, even a contested one, is to suggest a “recipe for muddle and unfairness”.

What is not clear is how that is the case. Most of the figures that will emerge in the review are long dead. One imagines that Cyril Smith, the deceased MP, will emerge at some point in the Inquiry, if it continues, under one of the institutions that were mentioned. Yet, his guilt is not proven in a court of law just as Lord Janner’s is not proven in a court of law. Perhaps what Mr Scott refers to as unfairness will be to the living, the accused’s survivors. They would be the ones who are unfairly associated with the allegations. There is precedence for this as defendants have defended the reputation of deceased relatives.

Why claim the Inquiry started with false allegations?

Mr Scott continues by bringing us back to how the inquiry began. He wants us to understand something from this return. What is curious is that he wants to link the Inquiry, which ranges across nearly all UK institutions, to Leon Brittan. Why?  He wants his readers to infer that what happened to Leon Brittan instigated the IICSA

It is worth remembering how the inquiry came about in the first place. It was announced the day after Leon Brittan was interviewed by the police on suspicion of rape (the fact of the police interview was publicised).[3]

Except this is not why the inquiry was needed or why it commenced. It is well established that institutional abuse had been rife across the UK for decades. Moreover, we know that Scotland, through its devolved powers, had initiated as one of its very first acts was to launch “An independent review of the systems in place to protect children and keep them safe in residential care between 1950-1995”. (2009) The Shaw Report was damning in its finding and far reaching in its effect.[4] In particular it has transformed records management in Scotland so that such abuse cannot be concealed by poor or non-existent records management. Moreover, Northern Ireland[5] initiated its own review (2012) as did Australia(2013).[6] The only one who had stoutly and determinedly resisted was England. Parliament stood firm and intransigent in accepting let alone reviewing the horrific scale, scope, and severity of the abuse looked after children, and others, suffered in institutional care or in any institution. Despite articles and evidence over the years, no review had been launched by Parliament.[7]

Why avoid the context unless it serves an intent.

Why Mr Scott would elide such a history is a question he alone can answer. It serves a purpose to make the IISCA appear to have been created after the charges about Leon Brittan. If he chooses, he can explain that purpose. He makes it clear he has a target with his history.

That allegation went nowhere, although the police decided not to tell Lord Brittan that before he died. Allegations were also swirling around about other MPs, some of which may have been true but many of which have since been shown to be false or at least highly dubious. Even Tom Watson, one of Brittan’s main tormentors, has apologised to his widow for describing him, disgracefully, as “as close to evil as any human being could get.”

Except that Tom Watson did not describe Lord Brittan that way. Mr Watson, as the historical record shows, was quoting someone else; the woman who brought the original complaint to which the Police investigated.[8] Why Mr Scott seeks to make this false inference is something only he can answer. It is often the case that an audience mistakes the views of a character for the speaker. However, he has a point to make.

It turned out he wasn’t actually very close to evil at all; and nor for that matter was Harvey Proctor, or Ted Heath or Lord Bramall, although all three have had either their lives or their reputations blighted, whilst their accusers have turned out to be deranged, deluded or deceitful.

We can all agree that false allegations are a horrible experience to suffer. What he omits is that various investigations remain open for Ted Heath.[9] As for Mr Proctor and Lord Bramall, we are aware that the claims were sufficient to warrant attention. Does this mean that they were or are guilty? No. As the charges have been dropped, we know the cases raise questions about how the police manage such allegations, how the CPS pursues them, and how the press reports them. However, that does not mean that all allegations against powerful people are false. We know that there was strong evidence to indicate Clement Freud, another MP, abused children.[10] Moreover, it overlooks a salient point about UK political culture.

The UK has a political culture that thrives on political blackmail.

What we know is that such information and allegations are the currency of politics. We know from Tim Fortescue that Whips would use such information for their political purposes.[11] We know that the government refused to investigate claims around child abuse, 30 years ago, for the potential damage to the government’s reputation. We know that such information is used when honours are being considered. Jimmy Savile was euphemistically described by the civil servants dealing with honours as “strange and complex”.[12] It would appear that the IICSA is allowing the public to see what has been done privately by politicians, QCs, police, civil servants, and royal retainers. All have trafficked in this information, allegations, and innuendo. Moreover, no one within any of these groups spoke up about it or sought to change it. They simply played the game as they found it.

Was it really a misguided belief in a VIP paedophile ring that started the IICSA?

Mr Scott wants us to believe that the only reason the IICSA was set up was some misguided belief in a VIP paedophile ring.

Now that the allegations against Brittan, Heath, Proctor and Bramall have been exhaustively investigated and found wanting, an inquiry that was set up largely on the basis that there had been some sort of “VIP paedophile ring”

Why Mr Scott makes this allegation, when the historical record indicates other causes will be a question he alone can answer. However, he wants his readers to be clear that the IICSA must acknowledge an important truth as he sees it.

needs at least to acknowledge the possibility that politicians and others in public life are not – as conspiracists were telling us – part of an “elite” protected by a code of omerta, but are in fact just as vulnerable to false accusations as anyone else, and in some ways more so.

What is strange about this claim is the view that no one believes in false claims. Indeed, people are sensitive to this issue. Yet, victims spent decades with no one willing to listen to them, no one to believe their claims, and few powerful people to champion their claims.  Instead, for the past 60 years, the great and the good, the ones who must be addressed by the correct title or form of address, were above reproach for they never would commit these crimes. They, like judges and QCs, were beyond reproach. They gave their word that the child is a fantasist. Or, as one judge complained, the 13 year old girl was a sexual predator.[13]

The great and good were beyond reproach as a culture of deference demanded it.

What the record has shown though is any claim to be beyond reproach is simply a way to quiet victims and claims. When England finally reaches a point where victims have an institutional voice, we are told that any such claims must be taken with a grain of salt for they are surely fantasists, conspiracists. In particular, if they dare to make a claim about a powerful person, if they have the temerity to make such a claim, they must be considered to be unreliable or at least potentially unreliable. Why?

As for the code of Omerta, Mr Scott makes an emotive point that exaggerates what he already knows to be true.[14] He knows as a barrister that non-disclosure agreements are common technique used by insurance companies to silence victims. and hinder investigations.[15] They either sign or there is no settlement. The NDA keeps victims from talking to each other or from others to connect the dots about historical patterns of behaviour. Institutions agreed to these, and in some case demanded them, so that they could limit their reputational damage. The institutions would put their reputation before any victims or stopping a predator.

Omerta or the way Arcana Imperii and Tacenda work within an imperial society?

The term Omerta also evokes the Mafia. The idea that there is some criminal enterprise behind all of this behaviour. As such it is a useful device to diminish what we know about the UK society. We know that information is hidden from the public and that information is covered up by the state organs.[16] If a fish rots from the head down, we need to start with the Royal Household and the guilds. These institutions keep their records secret. Their disciplinary procedures are secret. They maintain a silence about such matters. For some, this is considered good manners. For others, it is a way to keep outsiders in the dark. Even though those within the accepted group will discuss these matters quite openly and frankly. In Ancient Rome such information was called tacenda, that which would not be discussed publicly. However, it was discussed privately as Norman Tebbit explained.[17] He heard rumours as well as Edwina Currie’s claim that Peter Morrison was a well-known as a paedophile.[18] His status was known throughout Westminster but not publicly.

The public were not aware that Whips used private information against politicians

We know from the Whips that they know of the scandals, indiscretions, and deviant behaviour which they help to cover up and protect. In exchange, they have a claim on that politician’s loyalties forever. Such behaviour is to use information to manipulate the politicians, whom the public think act in their interests, to do the whips’ bidding. Such information is never known. There is a code of silence within the whips office and amongst politicians. To deny this is to deny the reality of tacenda and arcana imperii.[19] The powerful are protected for they serve a purpose. Perhaps Mr Scott can explain why he does not believe that this happens despite the published evidence.

Why assert the IICSA is set up on false pretenses or appears to set up that way?

Mr Scott now gets to the heart of his post just before the end. He makes the claim that the inquiry was set up *partly* on false innuendos. He is a good lawyer. He plants the seed of doubt. He wants people to believe that there is something wrong with the inquiry, something rotten in its core that will only grow with each year.

It would be strange if an inquiry set up partly on the basis of false innuendoes were to continue merrily on its way under a new Chair without any real recognition of the fact that some of those claiming to be the victims of VIP abuse were in fact nothing of the sort.

Here is the question for Mr Scott. Is the Inquiry only valid and free of taint if it does not include powerful individuals? We know from Scotland that the scale of institutional abuse over decades. None of this was in doubt. The same occurred in England[20] yet this is now in doubt simply because Greville Janner has been included. What is it about Greville Janner that makes it imperative for Mr Scott to suggest that the whole inquiry, its basis, its scope, scale, and severity are worthless?

Would the IICSA be ok if Lord Janner had not been included?

Does Mr Scott believe that England is immune to the institutional behaviour demonstrated in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Australia? If he does, is it simply because some powerful people suffered from allegations that have not been substantiated? Allegations that they faced in private from whips, political enemies, and journalists only become problematic when the public know. Why?


[1] http://barristerblogger.com/2016/08/05/goddard-right-resign-child-sex-inquiry-now-needs-complete-reboot/

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36979673

[3] The claim seeks to link two events that happened near to each other. Yet, how could they be linked unless there was a belief that they were linked. We do know at that time the failure to deal with Jimmy Savile were being debated. We know that there were many investigations that had emerged from Tom Watson’s October 2012 claim of a paedophile ring in Westminster. The overriding issue was Jimmy Savile and less Leon Brittan as various findings were emerging from the investigations launched in October 2012.  On 26 June 2014 Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust publishes their independent inquiry into scale and scope of Jimmy Savile’s abuse. http://www.leedsth.nhs.uk/about-us/news-and-media/2014/06/26/response-to-the-independent-report-of-the-investigation-into-matters-relating-to-savile-at-ltht . Moreover, Cyril Smith was also in the news with specific and credible claims that his crimes were known and covered up with the police failing to investigate properly. (See timeline here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyril_Smith#Sexual_and_physical_abuse_allegations Simon Danczuk published his Cyril Smith book in April 2014 alleging another paedophile ring and Westminster protection. Moreover, the Wanless-Whittam QC report was published in November 2014 that looked at the poor records management of allegations around child abuse. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-peter-wanless-and-richard-whittam-qc-review  However, Mr Scott ignores this context to make the issue solely about Leon Britttan allegations. Why?

[4] http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2007/11/20104729/0 This was in 2009.  Mr Scott does not mention this context.

[5] http://www.hiainquiry.org/index/background-and_legislation.htm this was in 2012. Mr Scott does not mention this context.

[6] https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/about-us/terms-of-reference

[7] See http://www.nickdavies.net/1998/04/01/the-sheer-scale-of-child-sexual-abuse-in-britain/ See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elm_Guest_House_child_abuse_scandal and https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/mar/24/children-lambeth-councils-care-abused-industrial-scale-goddard-inquiry

[8] “Last week Watson declined to apologise to Brittan’s widow in parliament, but in his appearance before the select committee on Wednesday he expressed regret for repeating a claim by an alleged sex abuse survivor who described Brittan as “as close to evil as any human being could get””. [emphasis added] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/oct/21/tom-watson-apologises-leon-brittan-widow

[9] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/11/investigations-in-to-edward-heath-sex-abuse-claims-to-continue

[10] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/14/sir-clement-freud-exposed-as-a-paedophile-as-police-urged-to-pro/

[11] https://vimeo.com/100640992 See also the Wanless-Whittam QC report https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/372915/Wanless-Whittam_Review_Report.pdf

[12] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23355531 Such warnings were over ruled as Thatcher ensured was knighted.

[13] http://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/crime-court/schoolgirl_13_branded_sexual_predator_by_judge_who_spared_romford_paedophile_jail_1_2321573

[14] The case of Lord Armstrong is indicative. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3172796/Mandarin-t-help-economical-truth-Lord-Armstrong-centre-accusations-child-abuse-cover-up.html Even the Wanless-Whittam QC report indicated the problems with the historical record especially the material around the Dickens dossier. https://lawrenceserewicz.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/when-the-whitewash-of-a-cover-up-unravels-why-archives-matter/

[15] See this story from 1996 about the practice. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/insurer-tried-to-halt-child-abuse-inquiry-1303268.html See also this story from 2015 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/insurer-tried-to-halt-child-abuse-inquiry-1303268.html See also this blog post. https://researchingreform.net/2016/01/30/uk-insurance-companies-covering-up-child-abuse-since-1996/ Mr Scott avoids this context. Why?

[16] See for example the case of the former editor Don Hale who was told by Special Branch to hand over the dossier on paedophiles compiled by Barbara Castle. https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2014/jul/15/daily-star-sunday-cyril-smith We know that police officers were threatened with the Official Secrets Act https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/17/met-police-cyril-smith-child-sex-abuse-official-secrets-act As the article pointed out the libel laws were much stricter then in the 1970s, 1980s, when these allegations might have surfaced, than they were now. Moreover, there is now a greater awareness of the crimes as well as more institutions to protect children and pursue perpetrators.

[17] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/norman-tebbit-admits-heard-rumours-3826206

[18] “Mr Richard’s intervention follows claims last week by former Tory Minister Edwina Currie that Morrison had sex with 16-year-old boys when the age of consent was 21 and that he had been protected by a ‘culture of sniggering’. In her diaries, she called him ‘a noted pederast’, with a liking for young boys.” [emphasis added]  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2224167/Former-Minister-says-Thatcher-aide-paedophile-preyed-boys-home–Hague-known.html#ixzz4H3fitEje

[19] https://lawrenceserewicz.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/official-secrets-act-and-child-sexual-abuse-inquiry-arcana-imperii-and-the-secrets-of-state/

[20] See this Nick Davies story from 1998 on the sheer scale of the abuse. http://www.nickdavies.net/1998/04/01/the-sheer-scale-of-child-sexual-abuse-in-britain/

About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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2 Responses to A response to Matthew Scott on the Goddard Inquiry

  1. John G says:

    “They, like judges and QCs, were beyond reproach” – Ironically, this applies to the [now former] chair of the inquiry Lowell Goddard: http://www.fairhearing.info/judges/lowell-goddard/

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