This report (Report #14) is the fourteenth of a series of ISN themed responses to the Sarah Morgan review. In these reports Islington Survivors Network present a challenge to the findings of Sarah Morgan QC
During her second elected term, elected as a Councillor to Tollington Ward, Marks was Chair of the Social Services Committee when a number of issues arose concerning child abusers gaining access to children through working with local authorities. Cllr Bob Crossman joined Marks on the Social Services Committee from May 1988.
- Islington residential worker Abraham Jacob was convicted, raising concerns over how the Council could check previous convictions for sexual offences against children, as well as learn of pending or current convictions which a worker did not inform the Council about.
- Allegations of fraud at children’s homes continued and Marks resisted a vehicle mileage audit
- A Home Office Circular was issued requiring Local Authorities to receive police checks for certain convictions for prospective employees working with children. This quickly created a backlog in recruitment for residential children’s workers which by April 1988, John Rea Price admits successful candidates were taking up posts prior to conviction checks being cleared due to the delays.
- After reports of a huge increase of child sexual abuse cases, in 1987 Islington was the first local authority to produce Child Sexual Abuse Policy and Practice Guidelines and appoint a Principal Assistant Child Abuse
- Islington’s Principal Assistant for Children and Families flagged to the Council that residential workers and foster carers received no training in child sexual abuse work and in residential care ‘at worst there is a risk of further abuse to the child’
- Murders of three local children, Jason Swift, age 14 in 1985, Tony McGrane age 13 in 1986 and Vivian Loki age 17 in 1987 were covered in the press
- The London Borough Regional Children’s Planning Committee initiated a working party to pull together an expert team of social workers and police available to investigate child sexual abuse rings
16 April 1986: A joint investigation between Met and Essex police forces is launched ‘Operation Stranger’ investigating links between the murder of Barry Lewis (8) in Brighton, August 1983, and Jason Swift (14) of Stoke Newington, both whose bodies were found miles apart in Essex. Homosexual clue to boys’ deaths (17.4.86), The Times
8 May 1986: Local Council elections
Marks moves wards, standing for Tollington, a ward adjacent to Sussex where Margaret Hodge is a councillor and the Irene Watson Neighbourhood office was located.
Sandy Marks took over as Chair of the Social Services Committee from 8th May 1986 with newly elected councillor Mike Devenney as her Vice-Chair.
Marks gave an overview to Morgan QC of her initial actions on becoming Chair, demonstrating a hands on approach visiting children’s homes amongst other sites. Does “any issues were relayed to the Director of Social Services” mean Marks raised them with John Rea Price directly?
May 1986 – Abraham Jacob: Former Mildmay children’s home worker convicted of child ‘prostitution’ and organising abuse
Within one week of Sandy Marks taking over as Chair of the Social Services Committee, news reaches the national newspapers of the conviction of an Islington Council employee and Elthorne Estate resident Abraham Jacob as ‘prostituting’ young teenage boys to customers such as Dennis Nilson, (The People (1986) Vice boys king touted for mass killer. 18th May). From August 1970 – September 1972 Jacob, a senior social worker, had been employed as assistant houseparent at Mildmay children’s home (Islington Gazette (1986) ‘Rent boy sex racket boss worked in children’s home. 23rd May.)
Although Marks stated to Morgan QC “I was aware of some problems in Social Services before 1992” interestingly, on the matter of Jacob, Marks was silent to the press. Instead Social Services spokesperson in this instance was newly elected councillor and Social Services Committee Vice-Chair Mike Devenney.
See further Report #6 Organised Abuse – the Islington evidence.
Mike Devenney, Vice-Chair to Marks on the Social Services Committee, wrote to the Gazette to defend the current Labour Council and accuse the Conservative Council of 1970-74 of having employed Abraham Jacob on their watch. Devenney was reacting to a comment made by Gerry Southgate (an SDP councillor and member of the Social Services Committee, formerly a Labour councillor),
“That there were a number of worrying aspects about this case that need to be looked at by the Social Services Department,”Islington Gazette: Gerry Southgate, SDP Councillor, Social Services Committee. May 1986
To which Devenney replied,
“The current administration will not be held responsible for the maladministration of previous Conservative and Social Democrat Councils.”Vice-Chair Social Services Committee, Mike Devenney, Islington Gazette, Letter to Editor, 1986
- Did the conviction of Abraham Jacob trigger any action by the Social Services Department or reach the Social Services Committee agenda for discussion or the Case Review Sub Committee?
- Did members of the Social Services Committee back Southgate in his call for a further review of Jacob’s case?
Devenney pointed out Southgate had been the minority party Labour leader of the Council during 1972 when Jacob had transferred to working in an elderly person’s home.
What Devenney failed to understand was that the current administration was doomed to repeat the ‘maladministration’ of the previous councils unless they addressed what had gone wrong before.
Why Devenney took Southgate’s comment as anything other than a recommendation for the wisdom of 20:20 hindsight to understand how issues like those arising from Jacob’s – such as relying on the honesty of the employee to declare convictions gained while in employment – is perhaps a reflection of the Council’s animosity towards the Islington Gazette and also the bitter Council split with the the formation of the Social Democrats in 1981.
The issue of how to avoid employing people with convictions for sexual offences against children to work with children was forced to the top of local authority agendas nationally with the murder of Marie Payne.
The conviction of Colin Evans in December 1984 for the murder of 4 year old Marie Payne abducted from Barking, had initiated government activity concerning how to check for previous convictions for sexual offences against children. Evans had volunteered with a charity Toc H, as a volunteer baby-sitter recommended by his probation officer, despite a career as a persistent abuser of very young girls.
By July 1986, Leon Brittan’s Home Office, with David Mellor as a Minister, issued a circular to Local Authorities requiring the local police to check their records for Candidates applying for roles as teachers, social workers, foster parents, child minders, youth leaders or leisure centre workers who had to give consent for access to their police records. The process was ill-thought out in terms of timing for teachers to change schools, only the Metropolitan police had a central computer for serious crimes, local police forces had to be approached for other crimes and the net was cast too wide in terms of offences.
One area of conflict that Islington Council had to tackle was the effect of the Home Office Circular requirements on their Equal Opportunities recruitment Policy.
In order to achieve partial parity the Council had decreed that criminal offences acquired for homosexuality should not be a bar to employment in any positions, including working with children. However, the difficulty arose due to criminal convictions under s.8 of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 making no differentiation between offences against boys aged 14 and 15 (not covered by the Indecency with Children Act 1960 offences) or males aged 16 and over. In order to not discriminate against men with convictions for offences which would not have been offences with an equal age of consent, sexual predators of 14 and 15 year old boys could also shelter under the shield of discrimination and gain employment despite their convictions.
“Convictions for some types of sex offences could cut across policies some Labour authorities are pursuing for employing gays and lesbians.”The Guardian (1986) Police hit snags over job checks. 8th December p4
The case of Abraham Jacob in May had already highlighted two issues for Islington:
- whether the police records of current LBI employed residential staff (police checks were only in place for new incoming staff) would be checked; and
- how freshly acquired convictions would be notified to employers – Jacob’s case history demonstrate how naive and unsafe it was to continue to rely upon the abuser’s honesty.
In July 1986 Sandy Marks voted against dishwashers for nursery schools.
July 1986 – Marks rejects need for audits of Children’s Homes’ Vehicle Log Sheets
During July 1986, as Chair of the Social Services Committee, Marks is reported as rejecting the recommendation from investigators for vehicle log sheet returns from children’s homes to be checked. Instead she stated it was unnecessary since children’s homes were already subject to financial audits capable of highlighting any fraudulently excessive mileage on children’s homes minibus. (Islington Gazette (1986) 608 miles in kids home minibus trip!18 July, p4).
It has to be asked whether this decision has significance in relation to the many trips within the UK and abroad that children in care were taken on and where ISN have reports of abuse taking place?
The trips were often funded by the children’s home which avoided the normally required oversight by the fieldwork staff. Survivors tell of having to raise money for the trips themselves through sponsored walks and other activities. Nicholas Rabet, deputy manager of 114 Grosvenor Avenue children home, for instance, regularly took the children to his manor house in Sussex which he had set up as a play centre.
Excessive mileage could well have been related to the trips where children were abandoned at night in forests. These were terrifying experiences, sometimes called the ‘Germans game’ where they had to find their own way back in the dark, meanwhile some strangers in cars picked up some of the children. One survivor told of how he could just hear children screaming in the forest. Another ISN survivor described a boy who finally returned to ‘ base’ slumped over a car and his hair ‘ literally standing on end – I just don’t know what happened to that boy’.
ISN have so many accounts of holidays where children were abused and not only children from the children homes but children chosen to go with them – hand picked from a school by a children’s home manager to go on what was to be an enjoyable trip abroad but which turned into an abusive nightmare. But Sarah Morgan says there was no evidence of ‘organised abuse’. How then did the manager have the power to go into an Islington school and regularly recruit children for his holidays?
Other children report trips in a minibus to Blackpool where they never saw the sea or the lights and ISN have many more examples. By 1993, a solicitor at Bindmans & Co was reported in the local media as asking children in Islington taken on council holidays to get in contact. ISN will present a report on ‘Holidays’ at a later date.
In October 1986, 13 year old Islington child Tony McGrane who had attended Conewood Street Assessment Centre’s School Unit was murdered. The police investigation at the time inquired whether there were links between Tony McGrane’s murder and that of Jason Swift and other boys (Operation Stranger)
26 November 1986: Marks’ fellow Islington Councillor Derek Sawyer appeared at Chichester Crown Court as a defence character witness for a friend, sadistic child abuser, Derek Slade. (West Sussex Gazette (1986) Headmaster jailed for beating pupils 27th November p9).
Slade was convicted of brutal physical assaults on boys aged 8 and 11, causing serious bodily harm. His victims were pupils at Dalesdowne School at Dial Post, Horsham, West Sussex, a private school he was the Headmaster of. Slade was jailed for 3 months. The sentence was reduced to a conditional discharge on appeal.
At his trial Slade’s defence barrister called on Sawyer to testify to Slade’s character.
8 December 1986: Local Authorities were complaining that 6 months into the implementation of the Home Office Circular requiring pre-employment police checks introduced by David Mellor, junior Home Office minister
“Convictions for some types of sex offences could also cut across policies some Labour authorities are pursuing for employing gays and lesbians.”Police hit snags over job checks, Guardian, 8.12.86
How were the issues concerning delayed police checks or the capability of police checks differentiating in detail between convictions for consensual indecent assault against over 16 year olds and non-consensual indecent assault on under 16 year old boys addressed at Case Review Sub-Committee meetings during 1986 which Marks attended?
Islington launches a Child Sexual Abuse Policy and Practice Guidelines
April 1987: In 1987, Child Sexual Abuse: Towards a Feminist Practice aconference was held at The Child Abuse Studies Unit at North London Polytechnic. The planning group included a number of Islington social work staff. Margaret Boushel (Islington’s Principal Assistant Children and Families) and Sara Noakes (Islington’s Principal Assistant Child Abuse) presented their paper entitled Developing a Policy (p27-30). Boushel had, with Sara Noakes, written Islington Social Services Child Sexual Abuse Policy and Practice Guidelines (pp.65-74).
In 1987 Islington’s Principal Assistant for Children and Families also pointed out that residential workers and foster carers have no training in child sexual abuse work and ‘at worst there is a risk of further abuse to the child’. See further Report #5.
During 1987/88 Marks was also Chair of the London Boroughs Children’s Regional Planning Committee. Morgan QC review misses this. Was Marks still Chair of the Case Review Sub-Committee? Who else was serving on the Case Review Sub-Committee?
December 1987: 17 year old Vivian Loki went missing. She worked as a painter and decorator for Islington Council. Her body was eventually found in March 1988 in a black plastic bag in a locked meter cupboard. On 9.5.89 a local man was convicted of manslaughter and received 5 years imprisonment.
Marks’ welcomes new child sexual abuse guidelines following huge increase in cases in Islington
Marks, as Chair of the Social Services Committee remarked on the “It’s so important that [we] all work together [to] protect the child and [stop/prevent?] abuse.”
The new guidelines on child sexual abuse were introduced in September 1987, “after the council revealed a huge increase in sex abuse cases in Islington.”
Despite standing as Chair (again) for the London Boroughs Children’s Regional Planning Committee, Marks narrowly lost out and also stood as Vice-Chair but lost too. Why was it so important to Marks to retain a Chair or Vice-Chair role on the LBCRPC?
Islington-Suffolk Project has council grant cut
‘Suspect backgrounds’ & the ‘green light’ effect
Islington Social Services Director puts on public record that new residential staff are being allowed into children’s homes before police clearance
Despite the announcement of the success of the new child sexual abuse guidelines in place for six months, towards the end of Sandy Marks’ second year as Chair of the Social Services Committee, Islington’s Social Services Director wrote to The Times to announce the fact that successful applicants for residential care workers position within Islington’s children’s residential homes had been allowed to take up their positions in advance of police clearance being received. Rea Price points out the lack of a co-ordinated system for ensuring clearance:
“It was therefore with the greatest of reluctance that Islington Council, like others, has had to decide to allow new [residential care] staff to take up their post in advance of police clearance being received, a move that surely defeats the object of the whole exercise.”Islington Director of Social Services, John Rea Price, Letter to Editor of The Times, 11 April 1988
As John Rea Price pointed out to the Editor of the Times, Islington’s decision to allow residential staff into children’s homes before checks for criminal convictions,
“provides a very obvious avenue for those with suspect backgrounds to find work with children.”‘Need to screen social workers’ Islington Director of Social Services, John Rea Price, Letter to Editor of The Times, 11.4.88
- What alarm bells does this confession by the Social Services Department Director ring for the Social Services Committee?
- Why did the Director of Social Services feel the need to make this issue public?
- Does Rea Price’s letter become a point of discussion on the agenda of the committee for the next SS Committee meeting (Chair: Sandy Marks)?
- How does the Case Review Sub-Committee (Chair: Sandy Marks) respond to this news?
Morgan QC’s chat with Kate Hart leads her to conclude that had White and Hart known at the time Marks had been a member of the Fallen Angels only 20 months prior to becoming a councillor and joining the Social Services Committee, the Case Review Sub-Committee and the Youth Committee shortly after being elected, all would have impacted on the direction of their enquiries. Hart speculated that the White Inquiry would have expanded to look at how robust the Council’s policies were to guard against a ‘greenlight’ effect from Islington for those who had a sexual interest in children.
“It might have given rise to a need for some extra terms of reference or an extra time frame or perhaps even a separate freestanding investigation but the knowledge would have made a difference.”
It is clear that during 1986-1988, from the combined effect of Abraham Jacob’s case, John Rea Price’s letter to the Times, and the Guardian report noting the difficulties for Equal Opportunities Employment policies attempting to mitigate criminal offences gained for consensual homosexual activity amongst over 16s, that the Council’s practices or policy were nowhere near robust enough to withstand efforts by even convicted child sex offenders from gaining employment with the council.
As Morgan QC listed, Marks was Vice-Chair of the main Social Services and Health Committee (Chair: Mike Devenney) while also Chair of the Social Services and Health (Health) Sub-Committee.
As a member of the London Boroughs Children’s Regional Planning Committee Marks was scheduled to visit various Secure Detention Units during 1988/89.
Morgan QC report is missing Marks as Health Committee and Voluntary Sector Committee representative for the Association of London Authorities.
In her role on the London Boroughs Children’s Regional Planning Committee, Sandy Marks served on the Orchard Lodge panel during the late 1980s – early 1990s during which time a wide ranging investigation was conducted about Daniel Swales who worked for Orchard Lodge as a child care officer from 1985-7 and was said to have abused boys between ages 6 and 13 in the context of a football club, holidays and even his home in Penge. Swales went missing.
Melanie Klein House
“Islington didn’t give a toss. They left me for 22 months to be abused constantly in this place.”ISN Survivor, Melanie Klein resident 1984-86, interviewed by Sarah Morgan QC
“Feeling fucked over again by todays report, but you know what – we know the truth, we won’t be silenced no more, very bothered to hear so much about the other hell hole I was sent to Melanie Klein.”
“It is also right to record that I saw no evidence that [Sandy Marks] was arranging or giving approval for young people for whom Islington were responsible being sent to live in Melanie Klein House, although I was looking for documents that gave any indication of that.”Morgan QC Report 7.11.18: 16.3
ISN are aware of at least 3 (possibly 5 children) from Islington who were sent to Melanie Klein House (MKH) during the 1980s. One ISN survivor, who had been sent to MKH under a secure accommodation order approved by a Case Review Sub-Committee Sandy Marks was a member of, was interviewed by Sarah Morgan QC. It was the responsibility of the Case Review Sub Committee to approve applications for secure accommodation prior to application to court.
ISN wish to understand whether Morgan QC is stating Sandy Marks recused herself from decisions involving Islington children and secure accommodation at MKH, or that by coincidence Sandy Marks was not at the specific Case Review Sub-Committee meetings where decisions were made concerning any of the 5 survivors’ that ISN are aware of who were sent to MKH.
Of course Melanie Klein was not the only secure accommodation Islington children were sent to. From the evidence of survivors, ISN are quite sure that many Islington children were sent to secure accommodation across the country and that there were connections between Islington abusers and staff within the secure units.
It was very common for children who spoke out about being abused to be threatened “with secure” and ISN have heard of visits arranged as a frightening, silencing tactic.
One survivor’s case record informs ISN that a report was sent to Case Review Sub-Committee at a time when Sandy Marks was Chair, prior to her receiving the letter from Greenwich Councillor, Chris Fay. However, ISN understand that Islington politicians had been alerted to abuse taking place in the home as early as 1986. In 1993/94 Jo Moad, former Assistant Principal at Melanie Klein House during the mid-1980s, was asked by Islington Council to undertake some of the individual inquiries into specific children’s case histories.
Sandy Marks certainly was aware of the allegations of widespread physical and sexual abuse of children in Melanie Klein House, Greenwich. The institution had a secure unit where one Islington survivor tells of being locked up for weeks in solitary confinement and subjected to violent restraint methods.
Greenwich Counsellor writes to Sandy Marks 22.3.89
Here is the first part of the letter – the rest contains confidential information relating to alleged abusers and lists many other matters of serious concern:
Liz Davies provided to Sarah Morgan QC a letter from Greenwich Labour Councillor Chris Fay to Sandy Marks (then vice chair of the Social Services Committee – but also concurrently Chair of the LBCRPC with responsibility for Secure Units). Morgan said this letter was the first time in her reading that she had come across something which evidenced directly Sandy Marks being personally told of risk to children.
“I was also troubled by the fact that it raised a serious issue in relation to sexual risk at a home outside the London Borough of Islington. It raised for me the prospect that from this there could be evidence to follow of children being sent from one borough to be abused in another.”Morgan QC Review 7.11.18:16.10
The letter was provided to demonstrate quite simply that Sandy Marks had been contacted about a matter of organised institutional abuse of children, including Islington children, in 1989.
However, Morgan, on reading the minutes of the London Boroughs Children’s Regional Planning Committee, saw nothing of ‘Sandy Marks knowledge of and involvement in investigating the allegations in relation to Melanie Klein House was inappropriate’ (Morgan 2018:16.13). Morgan was concerned that having herself felt alarmed when she read the letter in isolation she realised that ‘without the detail others who might see the letter might similarly understand it to be indicative of something that it is not’ (16.12). Something it certainly was – a councillor alerting Islington to very serious crimes committed against children in MKH. Although the LBCRPC investigated MKH and the home was closed the committee ‘found little evidence to support the individual allegations.’
Three years later, a former employee of MKH would be asked to conduct an independent investigation into a specific child’s case review. How well, if at all, did Marks come to know of Jo Moad’s time at MKH during the investigation into the allegations?
“We found little evidence to support the vast majority of the specific allegations. Allegations against individual staff had substance only in a very few cases, and generally had been dealt with already.”Summary of Conclusions, Appendix A, Extract from Melanie Klein House Panel Report, Planning Committee 05.07.1990, London Boroughs Childrens Regional Planning Committee 11.3
The response is astonishingly similar to the response of Islington Council in their first statement to the press which Sandy Marks speaks of giving orally to the rest of the Social Services Committee before submitting as a response to the Evening Standard allegations, printed on Wednesday 7 October 1992.
Summary of Marks’ responses:
1. Allegations are largely unsubstantiated and already dealt with
2. Not all staff are bad, and children who come into care were no angels before
3. Strongly condemn the press as irresponsible
“We must express our strong condemnation about the irresponsibility of publishing serious allegations against named individuals when there is no sound evidence to support the allegations or they relate to matters that have been dealt with already.”Summary of Conclusions, Appendix A, Extract from Melanie Klein House Panel Report, Planning Committee 05.07.1990, London Boroughs Childrens Regional Planning Committee 11.5
Fact. Islington Council knew about the abuse of children in MKH prior to Sandy Marks receiving a letter from a Greenwich counsellor.
Fact. Islington children were placed in MKH by the Case Review Sub-Committee whose statutory duty it was to approve applications for secure placements prior to court hearings.
Despite Sandy Mark’s statement in the LBCRPC minutes listed above that ‘there was little evidence to support the vast majority of the specific allegations and that allegations against individual staff had substance only in a very few cases,’ Morgan declares nothing to be inappropriate about Sandy Marks knowledge of and involvement in investigating the allegations relating to MKH (Morgan 2018:16.13). It seems to ISN that swathes of children’s and witness evidence relating to MKH , and that Islington children were sent to what an ISN survivor describes as a ‘hell hole’ at a time when Sandy Marks was a member of the relevant social services committee that made decisions about secure accommodation, mattered little to Morgan.
Instead of recognising MKH placements as a case of organised institutional abuse Morgan decried the whistleblowing councillor as writing a letter ‘indicative of something it is not’. This section of Morgan’s Review is a disgraceful insult to the children who were and still are victims of the violent and sexual crimes committed against them in MKH.
Well she’s [Sandy Marks] hoping to rebuild her life? What about our lives? I’m still suffering 33 years after leaving the care system…’Islington Survivor who was in MKH : 2018
September 1989 / Collusion with abusive practice: Director of Social Services leaves children unprotected as no clear policy regarding children in care visiting staff at their own homes.
ISN have numerous accounts from survivors who, as children, visited field and residential staff in their own homes, including staff council flats on nearby estates in Islington. Some of the visits were welcomed and survivors talk of learning to cook and discussing politics until late at night. However, many of these visits were organised for abuse and for introducing children to other abusers in the network.
For John Rea Price to recommend only that staff be ‘discouraged’ from taking children to their home, demonstrates how management routinely placed children at risk of harm by their collusion with this unprofessional practice.
“Staff should also be ‘discouraged’ from taking children in care to their homes, [John Rea Price] added.”Islington Gazette (1989) 28th September
Core central team of social workers and police proposed for use by London boroughs investigating ‘paedophile rings’
Between October 1989-March 1990 the LBCRPC’s Principal Adviser (John Ogden) began a dialogue with Directors of Social Services of ‘constituent councils’ which included Islington, represented by the LBCRPC Chair Sandy Marks. The Principal Adviser was speaking to Directors such as Islington’s John Rea Price,
“…with a view to setting up a core team of social workers and police to assist London boroughs when faced with the work to be done in the advent of a paedophile ring being investigated;”LBCRPC Minutes October 1989, Resolution Agenda Item 10
The month after the Principal Adviser was due to produce the final report with proposals, social workers at the Irene Watson Neighbourhood informed the forum and Cllr Margaret Hodge that children were at risk and suspected ‘child sex rings’ needed further investigation. See further Report #5.