Home Office Inquiry must be slow, thorough and uncompromising…

I wonder who thought it a good idea to put an 80 year old Baroness with close family ties to a former British Attorney General in charge of an inquiry into how the Home Office handled abuse claims dating from the 1980s, ie at the very time her late brother was the government’s chief legal officer?

According to the BBC… “Lady Butler-Sloss said she ‘did not sufficiently consider’ whether her family links would cause difficulties in the inquiry.” Fair enough, as far as it goes. But whoever appointed her wasn’t thinking too straight on the matter either.

Okay, so that’s yesterday’s news (it’s literally just been shunted off the front page of BBC News as I write), so as of now, the inquiry has no chair, and no terms of reference. Theresa May now has no choice but to look for a (junior?) member of the establishment, with a transparently clean pair of hands.

Clarity on both will be essential for any successful outcome. The problem facing the Inquiry (and its potential critics) was well put by John Lloyd in his 2004 essay What the Media are doing to our politics, when he noted that…

… much of what occurs, especially in times of crisis, does so behind closed doors. Getting information from the many tightly knotted strings of information, which uncoil themselves behind closed doors is a fraught business. The more vital any closed door process is, the more enjoined the insiders are to secrecy.

Pull the string too tightly, or too early, and you run the danger of it snapping, leaving the loose end buried deeply and irretrievably within the warp and weft of the loom.

All of which puts particular emphasis on getting this inquiry right. As the BBC notes

…a second controversial appointment might look like carelessness at the top of government. Already there are calls for a figure less linked to the establishment to be appointed – but if a legal background, along with the security clearance to read confidential government papers is required, then that could be easier said than done.

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  • Carlota Martinez

    So, someone with an eminent legal background who is not part of the British Establishment but has the experience and skill to assume the responsibility for such a delicate enquiry. Knowledge of family and child care law an absolute prerequisite?


    Ms. Justice Catherine McGuinness. Retired Judge of the Supreme Court of Ireland. Born in Belfast and even a member of the Anglican communion.

  • MalcolmRedfellow

    I wonder who thought it a good idea to put an 80 year old Baroness with close family ties to a former British Attorney General in charge of an inquiry into how the Home Office handled abuse claims dating from the 1980s, i.e. at the very time her late brother was the government’s chief legal officer?

    Oh, c’mon Mick! Give us a really tough one! Simple: Mrs May, with the active complicity of Mr Cameron. Both persons of proven unsound judgement and a dodgy sense of political history. The only oddity in sight is why Lady Butler-Sloss herself saw no difficulties, and leaped at the offer.

    And, by the by, I reckon Carlota Martinez has come up with a nice left-field suggestion. I’d bet against it: not because of the Irish connection, but because Catherine McGuinness comes with too much liberal open-mindedness. The tasks at hand are:

    1. Above all scrape the worms back into the can, at least until after next May’s General Election;

    2. To spread it out long enough for the Grim Reaper to allow as many as possible to make their undisgraced departure from the current scene (though that might be a mission too far in dealing with the Dolphin Square/Westminster Council coterie);

    3. Look wise, speak softly and proceed very, very slowly.

    And, on a topic not covered by Sluggerdom, another question (off-topic): can we compare the relative fortunes of David Jones (Welsh Secretary) and Theresa Villiers (NI Secretary)? Jones is apparently so egregious that he is the only Cabinet departure termed as “sacked”. Yet, the real turkey survives the cull, it seems.

  • Tacapall

    I like the little hints at honesty Mick/

    [Text removed for legal reasons – Mods]

    Why couldn’t you explain the reasons why Lady Butler-Sloss couldn’t possibly have ever been the right person to tell the British people and indeed the world the truth about how people of importance who’s decisions make an impact on our everyday lives not only engaged in the rape of children but when others in a similar positions of importance were confronted with evidence of these abuses they covered it up and turned a blind eye.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    An excellent suggestion, Carlota. Someone who is entirely outside of the London Inns of Court circuit but who is familiar with their culture! Her record as a long term activist on, amongst other things, women’s issues makes her an almost perfect choice.

    On the general theme of Mick’s posting, I am just so glad that something is actually being done at last, although I am just a bit still cynical about possible outcome, knowing just how many people in public life, in the media and in journalism knew of these things in great detail but stayed silent all through the past forty years. But as Mick quotes: “The more vital any closed door process is, the more enjoined the insiders are to secrecy.” Those in the know, and wanted to stay in the know over so many other things, were unwilling to offend the powerful, especially in what always looked like a completely lost cause.

    During my years in film I met many of the actual victims, quite a few of whom would be considered as actual members of the privileged elite themselves (this was not a simple class thing), who had been abused but who were shut up by the knowledge that their abusers could call favours in from friends with considerable clout, and could deploy expensive lawyers in crippling defamation actions. A whiff of this old style silencing comes from Stephen Fry’s call (reported in the “Independent”) to protect the “falsely accused” at a Labour party event the other night. This issue of the possible serious harm to the careers of the famous has been used constantly to discredit the nervous and vulnerable amongst those who have been abused. Perhaps they will be permitted a voice and some release at last.

  • mickfealty

    Just asking for people to exercise caution here please… You do no one any favours by lashing out with accusations you cannot prove…

  • Mister_Joe

    There have been many allegations of a cover up. It is a fact that the then Home Affairs Minister, the Baroness’ deceased brother, did place limits on the !981 inquiry preventing visitors to Kincora being questioned. Whoever appointed the Baroness might have been unaware of the facts or familial relationships but it’s known now. We’ll see what happens.

  • the rich get richer

    She was completely the wrong choice. How the Tories thought they would get away with appointing someone with so many questions to answer smacks of good old fashioned Tory and establishment arrogance.

    They will try to buy as much time as possible for reasons that other posters have already splendidly pointed out.

  • Morpheus

    It never ceases to amaze the depths ‘the establishment’ will go to to protect their own and the contempt they hold for the people who put them there in the first place. Coverup after coverup, whitewash after whitewash…it’s stomach turning

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Mick, I think that its important to say clearly that its a no no, naming actual names of people living or even dead (their family might still sue for the effect it may have on their own lives if they are in the public eye). Such “outing” would potentially leave the poster and the integrity of the threads open to possible defamation actions. This is a minefield.

    And I should make it clear that I entirely (and sincerely) believe that Stephen Fry’s stance on Operation Yewtree and possible false accusations comes from an entirely genuine belief on his part that people he may know are innocent and are being (or will be) falsely accused. But I strongly feel that his airing of these views at this moment has been injudicious.


    The point I am attempting to make is that this claim of possible false accusation has been used both very publically, and from what I’ve been told by victims has had extensive private use, to head off any previous abuse action by vulnerable individuals, especially where the proof has been dependant on the victim’s sole word. The entire issue of abuse as it has existed over the past forty years has in itself consistantly been stifled as relying on “accusations you cannot prove” usually, which is exactly why the police have customarily refused to carry complaints to through prosecution. Although current reports, and the pressing need for an enquiry, seem to suggest that that may not be the the only reason in some cases.

  • Probably a fairly universal trait, morpheus. Protect the institutions at all costs.

  • streetlegal

    British Intelligence consider the Kincora case closed and they have told Theresa May that she must not reopen it under her new inquiry no matter what flack comes her way. Their mission is now as it has always been – to protect and promote only the interests of the English establishment.

  • Morpheus

    Have any of your bombshells ever come to pass? 🙂

  • Michael Henry

    They knew the truth would come out about the inquiry leader and now have the perfect excuse for going slower than a snails pace-( sneaky Tory’s )-

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Bit of unpacking needed there Morpheus! Just who are the “establishment” in this case. The likes of Cyril Smith are hardly born with “privilege” and quite a few of those I would have known as “victims” of groomiing and gross sexual exploitation would be described as coming from “estabishment, privileged” backgrounds.

    I agree that “the establishment” as i I understand it, an loose alliance of some politicians, some of the wealthy and some of the media, protect their own, but the alliances formed to do this are often chance alliances across the classes formed by mutual interest, and often to do with the exchange of favours. I even found people who certainly thought of themselves as serious social activists, but seemed to be perfectly happy to simply “tut tut” at the abuse in the seventies, especially if it simply looked like an adolesant with a private education having a rather brutal introduction to sexuality by someone famous.

    Such people certainly had “one law for the rich and another for the poor”, but not quite in the way we usually understand this saying.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I agree that the Kincora case should be given a full and transparent examination by someone who will not be at all influenced by any section of society, if only to bring some balance to the rumours of involvement from those in high places.

    Lives have been dispoiled, human potential crippled for the trivial amusement of people who were certain that no matter who was “outed”, they would not be. If British intellegence, or anyone else, has connived at this, it should be exposed. But as I’ve said on Slugger before about Aine’s situation and Adams grandstanding recently about women and abuse, this is something that should be done entirely for those who have suffered, rather than to score cheap political points.

  • Jag

    Confused about Kincora scandal because press and other reporting always refers to “homosexual” behaviour rather than “paedophile” behaviour. Press sound like Putin, equating homosexuality to paedophilia. What happened at the “Boys” home (clue is in the title there) was paedophilia, surely?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Yes, Jag, they do! This is because, sadly, they ( and thats the “good ones”) are simplifying the issue or do not care about proper differentiation between the abusive grooming and exploitation of boys and the existence of caring relationships amongst adults who are making choices. The others (the “bad” ones) do not even appear to have considered that any difference may even exist.

    I see endless situations where this blurring of boundaries encourages an aggressive response against those entirely innocent. My comments on this thread to show that hallmarks of an ‘establishment” upbringing does not exclude anyone from having been groomed and abused by these people. Its a bit like the way its ok to make abusive jokes about white americans (which is “not racist”) but not about black Americans (which “is”). We really need to begin to understand that aggressive comment or behaviour towards anyone vulnerable in any way in our society may be the cause of serious harm.

  • Lyndon T Palmer

    A charity, for victims of abuse in childhood, has today been asked to consider resurrecting questions first asked in the Commons 1972. These include calls for care inquiries into the Sue Ryder HQ Care Home Cavendish and into child deaths, in Hackney Social Services care, at the Beeches care home Ixworth also in West Suffolk.

    in 1972 Sir Keith Joseph, DHSS Minister, denied care inquiries.

    In the last week two blasts, from this past, cropped up in media. Utopia weaving the assassination of Airey Neave 1979 into their conspiracy thriller plot. And press claims of a Mrs Thatcher cabinet cover up of paedophilia. Neave was the founding trustee of Sue Ryder care homes and Keith Joseph who denied care inquiry into Neave’s charity.

    In 1972 the law required West Suffolk Social Services to monitor care home activity.

    But oddly enough there were others keeping an eye on Neave’s Sue Ryder Homes. A womens’ stillbirth group and a flagged up asset of the OIRA.

    No one could possibly say whether or not, if Barbara Castle Shadow Minister had gained the care inquiry into Sue Ryder Homes that she sought, that Savile’s abuse at the Sue Ryder child hospice Leeds would have come to light in the 70s as it was occurring.

    Both cases were put to Stage 3 of the Harold Shipman Inquiry. The stage examining shortcomings in death registration practice. By the time of Dame Janet Smith’s Shipman Inquiry there had been a theft of all Newport Gwent Births Marriages Deaths records. What impact on inquiry might such a theft have on a resurrected inquiry into death registration malpractices in Gwent (Regional Crime Squad Inquiry 1972). And by the time of Dame Janet Smith’s Shipman Inquiry HM Coroner Bury St Edmunds had searched for Beeches child death records and realised that not all the death notifications went through the office of the area HM Coroner. IE Death was declared outside the area in some or many of the cases 1966 to 1972.

    This seemed an important pair of points for Shipman Inquiry to weigh. Vulnerability of HM Coroners being unable to gain an overview of care deaths in their area. Implication of records thefts on resurrected inquiries.

    Yet Dame Janet Smith’s Inquiry declared these matters beyond their terms of reference.

    Dame Janet is now conducting the Savile Inquiry for BBC.

    And no one knows to this day how many disabled children in Hackney care died between 1966 to 1972 resident at the Beeches though many were apparently elsewhere (not yet known) when death was declared.

    In short no one yet knows whether Suffolk had its own Haute de la Garenne.

    Butler Sloss had to go. The next judicial inquiry that will not enjoy the confidence of the public will be the Theresa May inquiry re Stephen Lawrence and Daniel Morgan murders. Previous inquiries taken with a pinch of salt include Bloody Sunday, Iraq, Rosemary Nelson, Dr David Kelly.