Graeme Gordon, aged 36, was a senior children’s nurse working for 9 years, at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton in the Emergency Department. He lived in Brighton but his home town was Reading. He worked with the most vulnerable children, some of whom would have been seriously ill and even unconscious. In October he was convicted of three offences relating to sexual activity with a child under 16, grooming of a child for the purposes of sexual activity and possession of indecent images relating to children. He was sentenced at Reading Crown Court to 38 months imprisonment and 6 months for possession of abusive images of children.
He was sacked by the Hospital Trust and the professional body (NMC) struck him off their register so that he is very unlikely to be able to work with children or vulnerable adults again.
The police found absolutely no evidence that his offending behaviour included his place of work or that the safety of children in the care of the Brighton hospital had been placed at risk.
I have not been able to locate the police investigation report. I am sure that all relevant agencies would have contributed to a Section 47 enquiry (Children Act 1989) which requiresenquiries to be made when there is reasonable cause to suspect actual or likely significant harm to a child or childrenin the locality. The outcome of this investigation would then be considered at the Local Safeguarding Children Board because of possible risk to numbers of children who had been nursed by Gordon in a 9 year period. This review, or a publically available version in an executive summary, would usually be available on the Local Safeguarding Children Board website but I could not find reference to it. It is good practice for such a process to be conducted independently and local agencies commonly select an independent chair and panel to conduct such a review in order to ensure a rigorous and transparent process.
Of course, it is not acceptable for the statutory authorities to go trawling for evidence where it is not thought to exist and no-one would want to cause any unnecessary distress to the parents and families of the children who were patients of the hospital during that time. However, the crimes Gordon committed in Reading were serious and Gordon’s access to particularly vulnerable children in Brighton had been substantial over 9 years. It is possible for a sensitive multi-agency investigation process to inform parents and also hospital staff of the known facts, to provide a helpline number and to have a multi-agency team to respond to concerns and to any suspicion or knowledge of criminal activity or breach of professional codes of practice.
I would be interested to know more about how the authorities and relevant agencies in Brighton responded to this case.
The same issue of the Sunday People carried this editorial:
The ‘Old Harrovian’ and ‘ex-City stockbroker’ who ran the paedophile mailing list which included many prominent people is almost certainly John Risely-Prichard (Old Harrovian and former Lloyds underwriter), who was ‘on the run from Scotland Yard for ten years’ and was exposed in 1994 by Roger Insall, one of the three journalists who wrote the 1981 article.
The full 1994 article on John Risely-Prichard can be foundhere
On 22nd March 1981, the same day as the Sunday People reported that public figures had escaped prosecution, the News of the World revealed that the Scotland Yard investigation into the Paedophile Information Exchange did not take the trouble to examine the post office boxes of PIE members.
Paedophiles hadn’t always been protected from investigation and prosecution. A 1977-78 investigation which centred on a magazine calledMailbox Boysresulted in dozens of successful prosecutions. This was a mainly London-based network which operated out of a South-East London bookshop. If the Paedophile Information Exchange had been investigated in the same way then the number of prosecutions could have been huge. For more on theMailbox Boyscase, seeNews of the World 09.10.77andNews of the World 02.04.78
In 1984, paedophiles receiving child abuse images in the post were offered another layer of protection by the Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, who wrote:
“I do not think Customs should supply to police names and addresses of everyone receiving obscene or indecent articles, regardless of whether an offence has been established”(Source: The Mirror 12.11.14)
I’ve been made aware of several errors and omissions in the Wanless/Whittam report. Many of them are related to the search terms that were used. The search terms listCharles Napier aka Roger Nash, but Roger Nash was actually the alias of Peter Bremner, who was another member of the Paedophile Information Exchange’s executive committee. See evidence of Bremner using the alias Roger Nash from the Guardian articles reproduced below.
Extract from Peter Wanless/Richard Whittam Review, Annex DThe Guardian, 14th November 1984The Guardian, 19th November 1984Sticking with the search terms, there are a number of other serious errors and omissions:
– Warren Middleton was also known as John Parratt, so any documents that made references to Parratt will not have been found by Wanless/Whittam.(Source: Guardian 15.07.11)
– Peter Bremner’s real name was David Peter Bremner
– George Thomas was also known as Viscount Tonypandy or Lord Tonypandy.
– There were a number of other members of the Paedophile Information Exchange’s executive committee, including Barry Cutler, Leo Adamson, and Lee Edwards (aka Edward Brand) who were not included in the list of search terms.
There is a further list of institutions that were included in the search terms. Bizarrely, this only includes four institutions:It’s impossible to know why just these four were selected, but if Elm Guest House is included, then Grafton Close children’s home should also be included.(Source: Exaro News 17.01.13)
Similarly, why is Knowl View School included but not Underley Hall School, where Cyril Smith is also alleged to have abused boys?(Source: Daily Mail, 12.08.14)
There is a further error in Annex E (page 29) which refers toa Times article from 24 November 1983that said: ‘Whitehall mandarins are accused of concealing a civil servant’s links with the child sex group PIE’. Although a newspaper article does exist, both the newspaper and the date were wrong. It was actually the Daily Express, 25th November 1983The Wanless/Whittam report also cites wikipedia on several occasions, which is notoriously unreliable as it can be edited by a number of unrelated people and is not recommended as a source for any serious academic work.
Strange Days (published with many thanks to the author who wishes to remain anonymous) As we await publication of the Wanless/Whittam review, here are some brief sentences on the strange atmosphere that allowed groups calling for the decriminalization of paedophilia to lobby and infiltrate the Home Office.
It was an era of turbulence and change. Things now illegal had yet to be so defined; and things then illegal had not yet been repealed. Laws and ideas relating to sex were bitterly fought over. Many paedophiles felt emboldened in such an atmosphere and thought their moment had come.
Their lobby, presented as part of broader liberation movements, was said to stand for modernity and common sense. This actually convinced some people. One editor of Gay News claimed that: “We were fighting against a lot of outmoded laws, and perhaps the ones against paedophilia were as outmoded as those against homosexuality or cannabis.”
The Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), which existed from 1974-84, was the most notorious member of the lobby. It existed and operated openly. Most of its members maintained their anonymity, but others chose not to. In some circles members were very open indeed.
PIE members gained and held positions at legitimate, mainstream pressure groups like the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE). But PIE operated much more widely. Members associated, formally and informally, with a whole range of influential people from a bewildering array of pressure groups and community organisations, both large and small. Some maintained relationships with MPs and Civil Servants.
The Home Office seemingly lacked the will to combat these trends and, consequently, necessary legislative change was resisted. The mess in relation to child protection was summed up by The Times in February 1978: ‘At present police have difficulty in gaining a conviction under the Sexual Offences Act 1956, because there must be evidence of assault on a child. The Indecency with Children Act, 1960, is concerned only with those under the age of 14 and its wording is not clear. The Obscene Publications Act, 1959, has been described as the most useless legislation on the statute book.’
This confusion allowed for an open trade in ‘kiddyporn’. One shopkeeper, who argued that giving paedophiles access to such material prevented them from “going out after the real thing”, nevertheless had ‘no idea whether the magazines he sells will be judged indecent by police, who he says are as bewildered by the present law as he is.’
Cyril Townsend, a backbench Conservative MP, asked the Home Office to act. In response, he claimed, it said: “that the problem did not exist, then that it had all been exaggerated, and finally that it was impossible to do anything about it.”
Townsend sought to tackle child pornography by sponsoring a Private Members’ Bill that eventually became the Protection of Children Act 1978. He became a PIE hate figure in the process. He lamented the need for private action and said this was only necessary because the Home Office itself was unwilling to propose its own legislation: “MPs of all parties have expressed their support, and I do not think that I will have difficulty getting the required number of MPs in the House… The only people who are not giving me their support are the Home Office and their lawyers. I find their attitude extraordinary.”
A Times leader column, in discussing the Bill, demonstrated the liberal confusion of the day: ‘It is right that severe penalties should be readily available against those who exploit children in a detestable trade. It is more questionable whether they should fall on the addicts as well as the pushers – on the furtive swapping of pictures as well as their commercial promotion. At an earlier stage in the drafting of the Bill it was even intended to make even possession [sic] an offence, on the grounds that even that might make the owner dangerous to children. That would have been wrong, and might have resulted in blackmail.’
Another example comes from the Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship (otherwise known as the Williams Committee), which reported in November 1979 and took a relaxed, relativist line on pornography: ‘Given the amount of explicit sexual material in circulation and the allegations often made about its effects, it is striking that one can find case after case of sex crimes and murder without any hint at all that pornography was present in the background.’
The paedophile lobby was a lobby of ideas. It sought to change minds. The law, it believed, would then follow. The minds it sought above all were those within the Home Office.
A Home Office paper from 1979 (‘Sexual Offences, Consent and Sentencing’) suggested a lowering of the age of consent to 14 and that punishments be reduced for ‘consensual’ sex with girls of even younger ages. It said: “Paradoxical though it might seem to argue that [the point at which tougher sentences are applied] should be lower than the average age of puberty it is not unreasonable. The average age is 13, but it is not unusual for a girl to reach puberty before her 10th birthday or after her 16th. Thus a large number of 12-year-old girls have already attained puberty and may not only be willing to take part in sexual activity but may actually initiate it.”
Tom O’Carroll, former PIE Chairman, has written of this Home Office paper: ‘It took the recognition of “under-age” consent seriously, using the term “partners” rather than “victims”. He added that: ‘Also – and this will raise eyebrows but I said it way back in 1980 in my book Paedophilia the Radical Case – we had it on reliable authority that [Roy] Jenkins [Home Secretary] personally read PIE’s evidence to the Home Office Criminal Law Revision Committee on the age of consent and that our proposals for law reform caught his imagination.’
Other groups shared key parts of PIE’s agenda, but also had broader concerns and were thus less obviously objectionable. The Sexual Law Reform Society (SLRS), for example, grew out of the genuine need to reform laws relating to homosexuality and had several establishment figures on its executive committee, including parliamentarians, intellectuals, and a clergyman.
Nevertheless, Dr John Robinson, Chair of the SLRS and Dean of Trinity College, Cambridge, openly lectured on the ‘effect of sexual experience on children’. He quoted and described as “wise” the words of an anonymous former probation officer: “Harm results much more from the tension between an individual’s experience and that of his reference group than from the experience in itself. Some research on childhood ‘victim’ of sexual offences would appear to bear this out in that it is the subsequent parental horror, police investigation, etc., which are significantly more disturbing than the offence.”
Robinson later said: “On the age of consent it’s quite clear the law is largely an ass. There is a vast amount of illegal sexual activity going on where ultimately no one is being exploited or damaged or abused… Theoretically it would be much better not to have any age of consent at all, but to settle the matter according to any particular case – according to whether a person really is being abused or exploited.”
Groups with establishment credentials like the NCCL and SLRS were able to feed ideas in this area directly to the Criminal Law Revision Committee (CLRC) at the Home Office. But other groups, PIE included, did so too, both to the CLRC and elsewhere. One official submission, by the Gay Activists Alliance, actually signed off by declaring: ‘Gay love and paedophile kisses, or paedophile love and gay kisses to the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, from the London Gay Activists Alliance.’
The Home Office knew of all these groups and their overlapping personnel and agendas. Indeed, an official PIE submission to the CLRC had been made as early as 1975. When powerful figures were involved, as they were, the Home Office would have surely desired knowledge of their activities and intentions, just as PIE and its allies desired knowledge of Home Office activities and intentions. We can say that PIE and others sought to control and influence the Home Office. Might the reverse have also been true?
i ‘Home Truths’ by Christian Wolmar, Independent on Sunday, 8 October 2000 ii ‘Fears over children lured into pornography’ by Penny Symon, The Times, 9 February 1978 iii ‘Profiting in kiddyporn’ by George Brock, The Observer, 12 February 1978 iv ‘Fears over children lured into pornography’ by Penny Symon, The Times, 9 February 1978 v ‘Home Office criticized on child pornography’ by Penny Symon, The Times, 4 February 1978 vi ‘The Need to Protect Children’, The Times, 10 February 1978 vii Obituary: Professor Sir Bernard Williams, The Daily Telegraph, 14 June 2003 viii ‘Whitehall study wanted age of consent lowered to 14’, by Robert Booth, The Guardian, 8 July 2014 ix Tom O’Carroll blog post (26 February 2014: accessed 10 November 2014) x ‘Sex and the law’ by the Rt. Rev. John Robinson, The Guardian, 6 July 1972 xi ‘Rights and wrongs’ by Michael De-la-Noy, The Guardian, 5 September 1974 xii Gay Activists Alliance submission to the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, April 1979
Fiona Woolf is following in the footsteps of Elizabeth Butler-Sloss with a similar cogent reason. This is an emerging pattern which should surely be taken by Teresa May as a warning. The Inquiry is seen by those most likely to benefit from it, victims of abuse and professionals trying to help them, as a cover-up of cover-ups. It has been set up because the establishment is no longer trusted by those most vulnerable to the abuse of power. No wonder there is now a power struggle being waged over its composition, remit and structure.
At the heart of the choices made about who is to chair the Inquiry and who is to sit on the panel are some fundamental questions. Who is to decide the process? Who is to control it? Who can be relied on to speak truth to power? The main group of stakeholders are surely those survivors who have been abused then betrayed again via inaction and the concealment of evidence and are now not assured of a process in which they can take part. They have been patronised as a ‘victim community’ by Woolf and as yet have no structured way of giving evidence.
Professionals and survivors witnessing and working in the field of child protection for decades have collective experience that should be helpful and is being overlooked. We wish to know why. Is it part of the continuing need for containment and denial that acknowledged experts in the field who have thought and learned most about the problems are not being consulted? Some are labelled as beyond the pale in terms of the establishment; some have had their careers constrained and blighted by the need of society not to know the truth about these things. Yet this group has hung on in there hoping one day that society will begin to acknowledge the enormous iceberg of systemic abuse in our midst and will want to know what they can tell them about its deliberate containment and use of scapegoating to deflect public concern.
This is a big ask of course. But the questions for today might be, how can the evidence of survivors be heard and acted on? What alternatives are there to an inquiry which inspires no confidence? For example, why is the whole issue not being given the status and resources of a Royal Commission? This of course would be extremely costly, it would not be a quick fix, but would perhaps be a fitting acknowledgement by government and society of the extent of the institutional cover-ups from the 1980s and even earlier decades. It might go some way to restoring the faith of those who most need the truth to emerge.
Sue Richardson, Psychotherapist Heather Bacon, Consultant Clinical Psychologist (retired)