Amnesty of any kind is always going to involve a trade-off between getting to the truth of the matter and letting people go, but what happens when the very people who step forward to whistle blow are the very people we need to protect our children from?
This was the thought that crossed my mind when I read this article about a Conservative party activist who says he willfully provided child prostitutes to Tory cabinet ministers during Thatcher’s term in government.
Anthony Gilberthorpe says that he was asked to find underage boys for some of the most senior cabinet ministers of the time, so that they could be ‘entertained’, at specially organised parties where these boys would be plied with alcohol and cocaine and then engaged in intercourse with the ministers present.
Lethargy to come forward and speak out, especially when you’re a new face in the work place is not uncommon when witnessing abuses of power. People are afraid to lose their jobs and to have their reputations tarnished should they speak out. No doubt over the course of the next few weeks, more professionals inside the family justice system will come forward and tell the government what they know about allegations of child abuse inside their various sectors. And whilst it’s easy to feel anger towards anyone who fails to speak out about something as serious as child abuse, it is unlikely that those people will be viewed as direct perpetrators of these crimes.
But Mr Gilberthorpe is different. He was not just an innocent bystander. He actively engaged in the procurement of young children for ministers’ sexual gratification.
And he is all too aware of that. Speaking out, just as the inquiry gets underway, Gilberthorpe is quick to mitigate his actions. He claims that he was groomed by politicians to pick up these young boys and offer them to ministers waiting in the wings.
Now, instead of being an active perpetrator of this despicable crime, he has tried to turn himself into one of its victims.
And I’m just not buying it.
This made me think about the ways in which dangerous members of society could potentially use the Whistleblower’s impunity to their advantage. By speaking out, they are effectively securing their freedom by abusing the amnesty process.
That’s palatable, just, as long as the whistle-blower is not directly involved with the crimes in question. But what happens if they are? We already know Mr Gilberthorpe says he provided ministers with children for sex. That is in itself a crime, if true, and we wonder how the government will deal with this new knowledge. But what if Mr Gilberthorpe was actively engaging in these parties? What if he was having sex with underage children? What if he is creating an elaborate story to hide what may be greater child sex abuse transgressions? These are questions we may only get the answers to if someone from those parties speaks out.
And yet, Mr Gilberthorpe knows that’s highly unlikely, as it would mean implicating themselves in this sordid mess.