A judge yesterday imposed a three-year community order with supervision on Beechwood Children’s Home whistleblower and abuse survivor, Melanie Shaw, from Sherwood in Nottingham, England.
The sentence, for starting a shed fire and throwing paint on a neighbour’s home, came as a welcome surprise to supporters lining the gallery at Nottingham Crown Court. Some, having observed irregularities in the October trial, had been convinced of a secret agenda to silence the witness to a high rankingpaedophile ring.
Agree to mental diagnosis or go to jail:
For Melanie Shaw, who is still fighting to clear her name through the High Court, it was the best result she could have hoped for, except for one unpalatable condition.
She had to agree to a mental health diagnosis that she’s never had before.
Speaking exclusively to Neon Nettle, she said: “I was told by my legal team to admit you’re delusional and paranoid schizophrenic, otherwise you’re going to jail. And when I got in the dock, that’s what Judge Pert said: ‘If you hadn’t been mentally ill, I’d be jailing you’. Now this is the same judge that stated Operation Daybreak is a conspiracy theory.”
“I’ve been diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from all the rapes as a child. But I’ve not ever been described as being delusional paranoid schizophrenic, ever.”
“I’ve done time in prison on remand and on tag – and now I’ve got a three year probation order. There has been a miscarriage of justice.”
Supporters react to sentencing:
Wilhem Kaiser, who travelled from Peterborough to observe the sentencing, said: “I think it’s a kind of veiled threat. If she goes out of line again, she’ll get sent down to prison. Basically, the judge is making out that because she’s got this mental health issue, she’s not fully compos mentis. Her perception isn’t one hundred percent.”
“There were rumours going around that they’d lock her up over Christmas. I think it’s a reasonable result really.”
Internet TV broadcaster from the UK Column, Brian Gerrish, which spearheaded the campaign to free Melanie from prison, said: “Just looking at it in its crudest sense, we’ve got this child abuse victim who has not been diagnosed by the person who has been looking after her as a psychiatrist for twenty years, who says she’s not delusional, but by a person who visited her in prison for an hour. But to be positive, she hasn’t gone to prison.”
Susan, who travelled up to Nottingham from Watford, commented: “I was very fearful that Melanie would be made an example of, and I’m very, very pleased that she didn’t get put away. Although there are all those conditions, I felt that they were looking for an excuse to be lenient. Because if we’re all sitting there eye-balling them, they can’t say: we agree with you all.”
Patricia from Nottinghamshire added: “I was at the trial and for them to turn around and say she’s paranoid schizophrenic I think is well out of order. I’m very pleased that she’s got her own friends around her and her own bed to sleep in now.”
“I just wish her all the best. We’ll do anything we can to help her, get herself back together. It’s been terribly traumatic for her.”
Grounds for appealing the conviction:
The firm of solicitors acting for Melanie Shaw claimed there were no grounds to appeal the arson conviction, but the legally trained advocate who has been at Melanie’s side throughout her ordeal says she identified several.
“The prosecution barrister maintained that the fire service took two hours to get the blaze under control but no one came [to the trial] from the fire service to substantiate that,” she said.
A Freedom of Information request for 999 and 101 calls to the police on February 1st, the alleged date of the fire, revealed there weren’t any.
“It doesn’t seem that there was any call from the Fire Brigade to the police,” she adds.
“Melanie’s barrister did not call a single defence witness. There was nobody there for Melanie. And yet there are lots of people in the area where she lives, in particular a lady who came to the court saying she wanted to go into the witness box because she has got evidence of a serial arsonist in the area that’s still been committing arson offences while Melanie’s been in prison.”
The judge was seen asleep on a number of occasions during the trial – potential grounds for the discharge of a case in normal circumstances.
“It was all predetermined,” continues the advocate. “He didn’t need to be awake, because he knew exactly what was going to happen. The prosecution barrister, on the last day of the trial spent most of his time playing on his iPad. The complacency there was quite shocking. If you know what’s going to happen, why do you need to pay attention?”
“These are all things that I’ve brought into the grounds of appeal, the fact that there’s an awful lot of information and evidence that wasn’t brought into court.”
“We tried to get a court transcript of the case which the solicitors are legally aided to obtain, but they refused to do that. It was going to cost in excess of £3.5K, which I can’t fund and certainly Melanie can’t fund. So we’ve been unable to get that far.”
“There are many more grounds I feel that an appeal could have been made on, but I just haven’t been party to the information to enable me to do it.”
Back to work and Operation Daybreak
After a harrowing three months on remand in HMP Peterborough and six weeks on bail, Melanie Shaw is upbeat, pursuing her dream of setting up a charity to help victims and survivors of sexual abuse.
“I’m working now,” she says. “I’m organising the setting up of the Brux Trust and working with senior politicians and other professionals from Nottingham Council including my MP.”
She still holds faith in the Nottinghamshire children’s homes police investigation, Operation Daybreak.
“Only a small minority of people are bad, you can’t tarnish them all with the same brush. I’m engaging with the good guys to get justice for the victims of abuse in the care system to ensure Operation Daybreak is transparent because the public of Nottingham want to be told.”
The investigation has faced harsh criticism from survivors and public alike, with some, like Mickey Summers, launching high profile stunts and protests to get their voices heard in their bid for justice.
A spokesperson from Nottinghamshire Police confirmed that Operation Daybreak is a live investigation focused on nine children’s homes. She said: “We have a dedicated team of fully trained investigators with experience in dealing with these types of complex cases working on Operation Daybreak.”
However, no one has yet been charged with any offences in relation to the investigation since it launched in 2011.
“There are a lot of victims who haven’t come forward or claimed damages, or died of overdoses,” says Melanie. “I’ve had to gain access and make the effort to senior officials in my department. I’ve done the footwork.”
Mysteriously she adds: “I know what the truth is, you’ve got to wait and see. I’ve got faith that they wouldn’t want to cover up.”
“The main offender who attempted to murder me is dead, and the one that ran the [Beechwood] building for 20 years is deceased. There’s no reason for Nottingham to lie.”