Book review: Lifting the lid on child abuse

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By Brian Pelan, VIEW editor

The case of the BBC entertainer Jimmy Saville, who was revealed to be a serial child sex abuse predator, lifted the lid on a scandal of epic proportions.

In Ireland, we now know about the abuse perpetrated against children at Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast and women at the Magdalene Laundries in the Republic, amongst other cases.

Abuse of Trust by journalists Paul Gosling and Mark D’Arcy, which was first published in 1998, looked at the case of the long dead Frank Beck, a social worker in Leicestershire who got away with abusing children for two decades before finally being caught and convicted.

Greville Janner

Greville Janner

The book has been now republished with a new chapter which examines the role of the late Lord Greville Janner, formerly a Labour MP in Leicester, in the scandal.

Janner was charged with 22 sexual offences dating back to the 1960s, but died in December 2015 at the age of 87 before a trial of the facts could take place in a criminal courtroom.

In July 2014, Theresa May, the then home secretary, announced a public inquiry into child abuse in England and Wales which was prompted by allegations of a cover-up of the crimes of prominent offenders such as Jimmy Savile and Liberal MP Cyril Smith.

The inquiry so far has had three chairs step down since being appointed. It is now headed by Professor Alexis Jay.

Paul Gosling in the new chapter in Abuse of Trust, titled Epilogue, writes: “Part of the inquiry’s focus will be on the institutional failures – and how those were influenced by the status of some of the abusers.” He asks:

• “Why did Leicestershire County Council not properly protect children in its care?

• Why did the police not fully investigate allegations against a prominent politician?

• Why did Parliament, the Labour Party and other politicians not intervene?

• What, if anything, did the security services know of the alleged abuse?

As we learn more about historic child abuse cases, the fact that powerful people were protected by others in authority emerges again and again.

Paul Gosling and Mark D’Arcy are to be congratulated in their painstaking work to uncover the facts behind child abuse at children’s homes in the United Kingdom. Their book deserves to be read and shared widely. The voices of the victims of systematic abuse deserve to be heard.

• Abuse of Trust: Frank Beck and the Leicestershire Children’s Homes Scandal: published by Canbury Press. – Buy direct from the publisher at £17.99 – www.canburypress.com

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