I have not written at length about Sexual Abuse, save for a strong plea for proper process, no hysteria and above all, acting on the evidence. Recently, I have came across several well written pieces which made me think about the nature of the enquiry that is needed. Let us forget the issue of a Chair for the moment.
There seems to be a body of evidence emerging of very serious historic sexual abuse, particularly of young adolescent boys, by an unknown number of members of Parliament and members of the House of Lords. I refuse to speculate on any past or current names. It must be tempting to call it an organized VIP paedophile ring and it may have been. Hard facts are scarce at present, but let us infer much more than one offender ringing another from time to time to inform of a planned event. We are in the territory of vulnerable children transported to specific locations to bugger and abuse.
That degree of hidden organized or semi-organized abuse MUST be exposed as soon as possible in the mainstream press. Why? Because it is such a terrible abuse of power, whatever the precise parliamentary status of the offender. It is very, very serious alleged abuse. If proved, age will not prevent long prison sentences,
Sticking to the strict principle of acting on real complaints, I would hope that an enquiry would have the courage to name all well-known dead abusers where there is cogent evidence. Where there is not, then the press must be responsible. I am not in favour of trashing the reputations of former politicians on little more than hearsay.
Schools and Educational units
This suggestion will be painful for many responsible, respected, upright contemporary Headmasters and Principals. But I think, on the same basis as above, that old dead abusers should be named, school by school, where there is a sufficient body of reliable evidence.
The right way to forward that issue is for each school to seek legal advice from experienced advocates. Again if the evidence is tittle-tattle which would not support a prosecution, let them rest. But dead school abusers should be named. Even where their reputations have been high and they have done real service to their schools. Abuse should be exposed. Sleeping dogs in this loathsome area should not be allowed to lie. Some victims will receive some degree of resolution from such a process. Further it may deter would-be abusers. Good parents would support a brave Head who followed such a policy.
Here I take some comfort from the very recent behaviour of Anglican and Catholic authorities. They are prepared now to face up to naming past abusers and in the process, may earn grudging respect across the board. What is most important is the existence of procedures to prevent abusers of the future. Church authorities will want to take appropriate legal and other advice and act immediately on reports of abuse. I should add that they should also support very robustly clergy and priests who have been wrongly accused.
I have only named three areas where abuse is known to have occurred. There are many others. That brings inevitably the real question of the scope and length of any enquiry. Is the subject simply too big for one enquiry? Can it hope to report in anything other than very general terms?
Here we simply have to trust the men and women of good will already appointed and determined to make it work. It would help if they put into the public arena their working plan, once a Chair has been appointed.
One final point for our politicians. You make this a political issue at your peril. But you must be prepared to support responsible public exposure. This clamour is not going to go away.
Nigel Pascoe QC