The paedophile equivalent of 7/7

12 November 2012

3:45 PM

12 November 2012

3:45 PM

I was looking through an old contacts book the other day (something that sad ageing hacks find themselves doing) and found that a number of people I used to call are now in prison.

There was old Abu Qatada’s mobile number: I’d interviewed him in 1999 for The Observer when he was first named as a terror suspect. He outlined then what became the standard line for Islamist apologists:

‘Why do we hate America, why are we enemies of America? This is a question that should be addressed to America. Islam is the enemy, you say it, the West says it. And by America’s action it made us the enemy.’

Man of God or Man of Violence, we wondered and it seems the British justice system is having difficulty deciding too.

In the same book is a number for Abu Hamza, who has just lost his fight against deportation to the United States, the classic Bond-villain and a gift to any journalist. I’d first written about him in January 1999, when he was named as part of a plot to kidnap tourists in Yemen and bomb British targets. Omar Bakri Mohammed, the ‘Tottenham Ayatollah’ is in there too, but then everyone had his telephone number.


Looking at these names made me think how long it was before any of us took the problem of British-based Islamic extremism seriously. At the time, the intelligence services were famously briefing that Abu Hamza and Bakri Mohammed were ‘clowns’. But to be fair, those of us who heard the blood-curdling tales of jihadi training camps direct from the clowns themselves were pretty sceptical. How wrong we all were. In the end liberal Britain just didn’t know what to do with dissidents from the extreme right of the political spectrum.

In the same book is a number for Steven Messham, the man forced to apologise to Lord McAlpine for falsely naming him as his abuser. I’d talked to him about the North Wales child abuse inquiry and his concern that the full story had not been told. His anger was understandable then. How much deeper it must have taken root over the course of a decade. This terribly damaged man did the right thing to apologise. But the abuse that went on was real enough.

I also found contact details for Operation Nevada, the police investigation into abuse at Lancashire children’s homes, one of over 20 inquiries into institutionalised child abuse across the country.

Soon after I stopped using this contacts book, the first stories emerged about Wonderland, the American-based paedophile web network that uncovered abusers across the world, including hundreds in Britain. At first when police talked of tens of thousands of images being found on suspects’ computers it was hard to credit. When detectives from Operation Ore swooped the scale of the abuse was quite simply staggering.

Then last month I found myself at a school reunion with an old friend, who had spent time with his siblings in a Bristol children’s home. He was one of the care system’s success stories who’d gone on to win a place at Oxford to read French and German. He was still in shock from the Savile story because the BBC’s licensed paedophile was a regular visitor to his home. ‘I just thought he was raising money for us.’  We now know that the reality is that Savile toured the country praying on vulnerable children.

By revisiting my contacts book I am struck by the similarities between these two sets of stories. In both cases we didn’t want to believe the truth until it was too late because the reality was too horrible to countenance. I wondered how long it would take for people to wake up to the scale of child abuse in this country. Jimmy Savile has provided us with the paedophile equivalent of 7/7.

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Good thought.

  • Oh no don’t say that!

    The paeodphile equivalent of 7/7?

    What, 6/9?
    Or 9/6 maybe?
    Big 6, little 9? Or vice-versa?

  • Trofim

    I thought Abu Qatada didn’t speak English? Do you speak Arabic, then, Mr Bright?

  • Adam Nixon

    “praying on vulnerable children”
    Preying, not praying.

  • Frank Sutton

    ” Steven Messham, the man forced to apologise to Lord McAlpine for falsely naming him as his abuser.” I thought he had named his abuser just as McAlpine – the “Lord” and the “high ranking Tory” parts were assumptions constructed by others.

  • edlancey

    ” In the end liberal Britain just didn’t know what to do with dissidents from the extreme right of the political spectrum.”

    What an absolutely pathetic, weasel-like statement

  • Mike

    Martin, after 1968 much of the Labour Party became to be dominated by upper middle
    class cultural marxists rather than working class patriotic Methodists and Baptists embued with common sense. The traditional labour leaders realised people were fallible and that by learning self -discipline, living thrifty, chaste, and abstemious lives; through hard work and self improvement, people could lift themselves out of poverty. By the late 70s early 80s PIE was associated aited with the NCCL( see Private Eye) which was chaired by M Hodge’s husband and included Harman as an employee. The upper middle class cultural marxists of the late 60s preached a life style more in common with the aristocratic circles of Restoration and Georgian London than the Non- Conformists of working class Labour.

    Can any one imagine K Heirdie or G Lansbury of J Callaghan allowing themselves to be associated with PIE or any cultural marxism?

    If Labour looked at the example of K Hardie and E Bevin it would probably win votes.

  • Kennybhoy

    Maister Bight writes:

    “I wondered how long it would take for people to wake up to the scale of child abuse in this country.”

    Just which country are you living in then Maister B? This country has been , to varying degree, obsessed by this issue since the 1980s.

    Operation Ore? Quite possibly the greatest stain on British justice in history!

  • dodgy

    “…We now know that the reality is that Savile toured the country praying on vulnerable children….”

    Umm… actually, we don’t.

    We know that Mr Savile has been accused of a variety of illegal acts, but in the absence of charges, a trial, or even a formal inquiry, we do not have sufficient evidence to ‘know’ this. All we can say is that we ‘believe’ this to be the case.

    I used to live in a country where the usual process was:
    – incident
    – accusation
    – investigation
    – trial
    – conviction
    – punishment

    Or, if the accused was not alive or available for some reason,

    – incident
    – accusation
    – investigation
    – inquiry
    – finding

    This has now been superseded by ‘post-modern’ justice. I remember watching it in the case of Christopher Jefferies in Bristol during the Joanna Yeates murder. Post-modern justice goes:

    – incident
    – accusation
    – punishment
    – investigation
    – apology
    – recompense

    … but in all these variants there are sufficient stages to ensure that the legal profession takes home a bumper payment….

  • anyfool

    In the end liberal Britain just didn’t know what to do with dissidents from the extreme right of the political spectrum.

    Why do you say right wing, these terror spokesmen are extremely left wing and almost without exception vote for your Labour Party, as to the paedophiles they by and large also belong to the the Party of the caring class so as to gain access to children, you do damaged children a grave disservice by trying to deflect attention from your fellow socialist travelers.

    The jails and courts currently have thousands of Labour officials, union officials and care home workers in their orbit.

    That is the reason Watson spews his disgusting diatribes under parliamentary privilege, like you deflecting attention from where it should be, directly on the Party of the People.

  • Judy

    Sadly, thanks to the efforts of your political friend Tom Watson, there is now much more furore about imaginary “high placed Tory paedophile networks” than there is about the outrageous situation in Labour Rochdale”, where evidence was given before the House of Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs last week that the horrifying grooming and abuse of vulnerable young women is still taking place, and the Rochdale officials who should be ensuring they are protected are coming across before the Select Committee like clones of Entwistle.

    There is indeed child abuse on a massive scale in this country. But we have had recurrent scandals break out time after time. Almost every time, a massive enquiry follows, and the same very boring and routine facts emerge. Instead of the rings of highly placed paedophiles, there is always a long, long history of neglected management, of mundane rules for the protection of children not being followed, of records either not being kept or ignored, of certain individuals being allowed to be above supervision or suspicion, sometimes because they appear to get such good results, sometimes because they do have political connections (but they are much more likely to be local councillors than MPs or members of the House of Lords, or sometimes because they manage to create an area of fear and impunity around themselves. Somewhere, there are always managers not doing their job properly, and finding reasons not to bring perpretrators to book when they should have done.

    The other major factor as to why abuse is so widespread and persistent is the same reason sexual harassment and especially rape goes so often unpunished. It is because we have prosecution processes and court evidence rules which make it extremely difficult to obtain convictions. The most successful paedophiles are those who know how to choose their victims and their access to them accordingly. The police and the local authority managers are unsurprisingly risk averse to pursuing suspicions and allegations unless they have a degree of proof they are most unlikely to get.

    There is no clear system of collating and maintaining evidence of unproven allegations or evidence of offences where it was decided it would not lead to a successful conviction in Court. In the case of Ian Huntley, the Cambridge murderer of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, he had been arrested eight and/or tried eight times previously. and this evidence was never passed on to the school that employed him, and they didn’t bother to do the full check process they should have done anyway. There were also at least seven occasions when Savile came under consideration for prosecution, but it never went further.

    The whole edifice of systemic failed child abuse protection was very clearly described in a review of a study of the Leicestershire Beck child abuse scandal of the early 1990s. Very similar processes and failures allowed Savile to abuse children in a range of organizations,
    whether it was the BBC, NHS hospitals or care homes.

    We could change the situation by moving to unannounced rigorous inspection systems, where a relatively small inspection cohort visits such institutions as care homes unpredictably (as opposed to every X years), as well as following calls from parents and other parties with evidence. We could have a national intelligence system maintained by the Children’s Commissioner. We could ensure that individuals found to have failed in their management responsibilities around child care are not only dismissed, but lose their pension entitlements. We could place a statutory obligation on individuals to report suspicions of child abuse to the appropriate organizational protection officer We could ensure that organizations found to have failed in their obligations around child abuse would be liable in the Courts for unlimited civil damages.

    Otherwise, we can safely tell the frontline worker in Rochdale who testified before the House of Commons Select Committee about the continuing child abuse there that she’ll just have to accept that that’s how it is.

  • LB

    This terribly damaged man did the right thing to apologise. But the abuse that went on was real enough.


    Quite.And we have Boris saying what was done to McAlphine was far worse.

    The political class have lost it.

    Watson is trying to make points.

    The BBC is trying to create smoke screen for its cover up over Saville, by trying to blame Tories and Thatcher at the same time.

    The BBC is covering up that Clywd was a Labour controlled authority that pulped a report covering up what went on.

    Meanwhile the state pension debt, hidden off the books, has gone over 4.7 trillion

    • JMckechnie

      I have read the very good piece by Boris Johnson, and I don’t think he was saying that at all.