Response of Islington Survivors Network to statement by Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council concerning an Independent investigation into non-recent abuse in Islington Children’s Homes
Read the council’s document here:
28th September 2017
Islington Survivors Network campaigns to achieve justice for survivors of crimes committed against children who were in Islington’s care in children’s homes, foster placements, boarding schools and secure units from the 50s onwards. We have listened to many survivors’ accounts of physical, psychological, sexual abuse and neglect which they experienced repeatedly as victims of abusers within the care system. We will never forget the numbers of victims who have died and their families. Their friends from children’s homes still cry when they speak about them.
ISN welcomes the Council’s decision to investigate concerns raised by the allegations about Sandy Marks and the obtaining of legal advice in order to move the investigation forward. We also welcome the Council’s determination to include ISN in this investigation process.
The Council apology
Whilst ISN appreciate the Council’s apology – it is not enough. There was a failure of corporate parenting on an industrial scale that we as survivors experienced from those who should have cared for us and kept us safe. There were systemic failings in the Council’s procedures and processes for child care and child protection which led to large-scale abuse and neglect of children in Islington’s children’s homes and placements. It is this failure at a corporate level – which touched on so many children’s lives – that the Council must acknowledge and for which it must provide redress. It included institutional brutality and neglect, inhumane punishments, dehumanising attitudes, separation of siblings, witnessing abuse of others, child on child sexual abuse and grooming – all of which we know happened in Islington. When child abuse was reported by children, their families, friends and some responsible staff, managers failed in their duty to protect – whether through incompetence, collusion with the abusers or involvement themselves in the abuse networks.
We demand more than an apology. We demand an acceptance of full liability from the Council for the abuse and the setting up of a redress scheme in full co-operation with ISN and our lawyers. In the best interests of survivors this cannot and must not be delayed.
Sandy Marks allegations
We welcome an investigation into the allegations against Sandy Marks. We urge those with political involvement in Islington Council from the 70s to the 90s to come forward if they are aware of any politicians who had pro-paedophile views. We also welcome former staff from Islington Council to come forward to ISN with evidence and insights.
The involvement of Sandy Marks must be examined not only in relation to the inquiries and children’s policies of the 90s but also in relation to her role as Chair of the London Boroughs Children’s Regional Planning Committee in the 90s where serious decisions were made about children’s placements and child protection/ child care policy. The archived files of the LBCRPC, at the London Metropolitan Archives, which are inaccessible to the public must be made available for scrutiny by the Council commissioned investigation in order to identify the possible impact of decisions made by Sandy Marks as Chair of this Committee in relation to the best interests of Islington children.
The White Inquiry report – A full copy of the report is available on the ISN website:
We are concerned if an investigation into the possible impact of Sandy Marks’ ‘not insignificant involvement with the Fallen Angels’ begins from an assumption that the White report was ‘hard hitting, comprehensive and impartial’. We disagree. We consider the White Report to have been a thorough whitewash. A critical, open minded approach to this report is essential in the search for the truth about Sandy Marks and her possible influence on the content, findings and recommendations.
The White Report was seriously flawed. It did not question the authenticity of the findings of prior 13 inquiries. We call for transparency – a complete breakdown of the roles and status of those who were interviewed. There was no requirement for Islington Council staff to give evidence to the Inquiry with the consequence that many key residential, fieldwork, basic grade and senior staff were never held accountable. It is not known if the Directors of Social Services, Assistant Directors or Child Protection Manager gave evidence. Children and their families were not interviewed. It is not known how many professional witnesses were interviewed but it would seem to be very few.
We question the list of 32 named staff who Ian White decided should not work with children. We are aware of two of those staff who have told us they were whistleblowers and were then forbidden from working with children. If true, this is an injustice that must be addressed.
The White Report, most importantly, stated that there was no evidence of organised abuse in Islington. This was a shameful conclusion which was dismissive of the evidence in the Evening Standard dossier, Liz Davies’s social work dossier and the police investigation as reported in the Sunday Times on 1st August 1993. The White report stated that Islington Police had informed the Inquiry that there was no evidence of networks of abuse and New Scotland Yard had reported no grounds for criminal prosecutions. It is important to ascertain who from the police provided this information in 1995 to the Inquiry and on the basis of what evidence these statements were made in such contradiction of other police statements and knowledge at the time. The White Report focussed on the neighbourhood structure, equal opportunities policies, the condition of the children’s homes and management issues but avoided interrogating the evidence about crimes against children and the context of abuse networks.
We ask the Council to investigate why so many files and the contents of files have gone missing. We have now seen many survivors’ files. For some survivors, records of a lifetime in children’s homes are just a handful of scraps of paper. It is difficult for ISN not to conclude that the removal of certain documents was a deliberate act to cover up evidence of child abuse. The selective absence of papers relating to time spent in specific homes indicates that this was not, as White concluded, the result of poor administrative systems. In fact, we would suggest that some good administrative systems were in place to remove so much key documentation so efficiently. We now ask that the Council investigate what happened to these documents and trace the lines of accountability in place at the time in order to hold former staff to account.