REBECCA TELEVISION has withdrawn from the Macur Review of the 1996-1999 North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal.
In a letter to Home Secretary Theresa May, Editor Paddy French expressed concern at the delay in publishing a report.
It’s more than two years since the Review was set up.
French said: “the passage of time has seriously eroded my confidence in the process.”
Prime Minister David Cameron announced the review in November 2012.
WHEN THE Home Secretary made a statement in the Commons in November 2012 about the North Wales child abuse scandal, she was asked by Labour MP Paul Flynn to examine claims made by Rebecca Television. She told him the police “will, indeed, be looking at that historical evidence. That is part of the job they will be doing.”
It followed the BBC Newsnight report which identified Lord McAlpine as a paedophile involved in the North Wales child abuse scandal.
When the allegation was later shown to have been a mistake, the government decided to carry on with the Review.
In November 2012 Justice Secretary Chris Grayling appointed Lady Justice Macur to lead it.
Today, 26 months later, her report is unfinished and is unlikely to be complete before the election …
WHEN JUSTICE Minister Chris Grayling set up the Macur Review, he gave it two tasks.
The first was to look at the “scope” of the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal, chaired by retired High Court judge Sir Ronald Waterhouse.
The second was to see if “any specific allegations of child abuse falling within the terms of reference were not investigated …”
Lady Macur was to make recommendations if she felt any further action was needed.
Long before the Macur Review, Rebecca Television was arguing — in an investigation called The Case Of The Flawed Tribunal — that the inquiry had not been fit for purpose.
SIR RONALD WATERHOUSE
THE RETIRED High Court judge chaired the £14 million Tribunal which held more than 200 days of hearings and heard the testimony of 264 people. But one important witness was never heard …
One of the key cases that led to that conclusion was the way the Tribunal handled the case of convicted paedophile John Allen.
Allen and his family owned the Bryn Alyn complex of private children’s homes in the Wrexham area.
Between 1974 and 1991 local authorities all over England and Wales paid him more than £30 million to take care of some of their more difficult children.
In February 1995 — a year before the Tribunal was set up — Allen had been gaoled for six years after a jury convicted him of indecently assaulting six boys in his care.
But the Waterhouse Tribunal did not investigate Allen properly.
It prevented a key witness from giving evidence that he had reported serious allegations of sexual abuse against Allen more than a decade before he was brought to book.
Not only did the Tribunal suppress his evidence, it also censored television journalists from reporting what he had to say.
In 1997, while the Tribunal was sitting, officials learned that the broadcaster HTV was preparing a programme about Allen.
The channel’s current affairs programme, Wales This Week, had interviewed John Allen’s number two, Des Frost.
Frost told journalists that in the early 1980s he had gone to the police about allegations that Allen was abusing boys.
This was more than ten years before Allen was finally convicted.
He claimed to have contacted detectives in Cheshire because he was concerned that if he went to the North Wales Police John Allen might get to hear of it.
Frost feared he might lose his job.
THE FORMER social worker and lay preacher — joint second-in-command at Bryn Alyn — was never called to give evidence to the Tribunal. Frost claimed he reported allegations against Allen many years before the paedophile was brought to book. The failure to test his evidence means the Tribunal’s conclusion that “there was no significant omission by the North Wales Police in investigating the complaints of abuse to children in care” is suspect.
When the Tribunal heard that Frost had been interviewed by Wales This Week, officials warned the programme’s lawyer not to reveal any new allegations.
This would be considered contempt of court.
Journalists believed that this was because the Tribunal was planning to call Frost as a witness and hear his testimony.
One of those reporters was Rebecca Television editor Paddy French who was working for the programme as a freelance at the time.
The allegations were removed from the programme.
In the same week that broadcasters were muzzled, North Wales Police took a statement from Frost.
Frost believed they were acting on behalf of the Tribunal — but the Tribunal only employed ex-police officers from other other forces.
Frost was never called to give evidence to the Tribunal.
The Macur Review was asked to see if “any specific allegations of child abuse falling within the terms of reference were not investigated …” .
Clearly, Des Frost’s allegation that he reported child abuse by John Allen in the early 1980s was not investigated by the Tribunal.
The fact that the Tribunal also prevented HTV from broadcasting his allegations deepens suspicion.
THE OWNER of a profitable string of private children’s homes in the Wrexham area, Allen is one of the central characters in the North Wales child abuse scandal. He groomed young boys — abusing many — and extended his influence with some of them by providing an “after-care” service in London and Brighton.
Was there collusion by the Tribunal, or some of its officials, and North Wales Police to suppress Frost’s testimony to protect the reputation of the force?
AT THE same time the Macur Review was set up, Home Secretary Theresa May announced a parallel police inquiry.
This became Operation Pallial, carried out by the newly-created National Crime Agency.
Like Macur, Pallial was to carry out an initial assessment, followed by recommendations.
Palliall was asked to “assess any information recently received” about historic child abuse in care and “review the historic police investigations into such matters”.
In stark contrast to the Macur Review, Pallial completed its review in just six months.
In April 2013, it presented its initial report.
It found “no evidence of systemic or institutional misconduct by North Wales Police …”
NORTH WALES POLICE
OPERATION PALLIAL cleared the force of any historic misconduct in relation to its investigation of child abuse allegations. But did Operation Pallial examine the circumstances which led to Des Frost being interviewed by its officers in 1997 — the week broadcasters at HTV were being censored by the Tribunal? In 2009 Rebecca Television asked the current chief constable, Mark Polin, about why this interview took place and what happened to the officer’s report. He didn’t answer. We also wrote to the officer who took the statement from Frost. He didn’t reply. An official complaint against this officer found he had raised the issue with his superiors expecting that “ownership to respond … rest with someone higher in the organisation.” No response was ever received …
Photo: Rebecca Television
But it found “significant evidence of systemic and serious sexual and physical abuse …” and recommended a full-scale criminal investigation.
Since then, Pallial has charged 15 people with child abuse offences while a further 18 remain on bail while investigations continue.
One of those charged was John Allen who stood trial for the second time.
In December 2014 he was gaoled for life after a jury convicted him of abusing 18 boys and one girl, aged between seven and 15.
The offences were committed between in the 1970s and 1980s.
The allegations Des Frost claimed he brought to the attention of the police date from the 1970s …
THE MACUR Review was also asked to look at the “scope” of the Waterhouse Tribunal.
The Tribunal was established in 1996 by William Hague who was in the Cabinet as Welsh Secretary.
He persuaded John Major to allow him to set up the inquiry, the first ever Tribunal into child abuse.
But there were conditions.
Thatcher did not want the proceedings to spill over into England — she feared it would become an over-arching inquiry into child abuse throughout England and Wales.
(This is what is happening — nearly two decades later — with the current major inquiry headed by New Zealand Judge Lowell Goddard .)
As a result, the remit of the Waterhouse Tribunal was tightly drawn by the Thatcher government.
DURING THE Tribunal, John Allen admitted that he had spent £180,000 in presents for some of the boys at Bryn Alyn, both during and after their time in care. On one occasion, the Tribunal heard, English police found a letter addressed to him which had been found in the pocket of an ex-resident. The tone of the letter — which has disappeared — suggested blackmail but North Wales Police decided there was an innocent explanation …
It was “to enquire into the abuse of children in care in the former county council areas of Gwynedd and Clwyd since 1974″.
In other words, it was restricted to North Wales.
This prevented the Tribunal from examining another deeply disturbing aspect of the John Allen affair.
As previously noted, John Allen was paid more than £30 million to look after children in his care.
Much of this money did not go into conventional child care.
Some of it went on an expensive country mansion, a villa in the south of France and a half share in a Mediterranean yacht called Dualité.
Allen also used enormous sums of petty cash which were never properly accounted for.
But, significantly, a slice of this money also went into an informal “after-care” system for selected boys when they left Bryn Alyn.
This included the provision of accommodation in Brighton and London.
Some of the young men who lived in these properties became homosexual prostitutes.
During his first trial in February 1995, John Allen went “missing” for a week.
He turned up in Oxford claiming he’d suffered a nervous breakdown.
He claimed he could not remember anything about the previous seven days.
During the week he was missing, a former Bryn Alyn resident, Lee Johns, was found dead at his home in Brighton.
Johns had given evidence during the trial that he had been abused by Allen.
THE FORMER council chamber in North Wales used by the Tribunal during its public hearings. One issue the Tribunal could not investigate was the significance of John Allen’s informal “after-care” service for some ex-residents in London and Brighton. Events outside of North Wales were forbidden territory …
The jury later decided that Johns was one of the six boys Allen had indecently assaulted.
The inquest verdict on Lee Johns was suicide — but his family are convinced he did not take his own life.
Three years earlier, Lee Johns had been seriously injured in a catastrophic fire at a flat in Hove.
Five people died in the blaze which had been started deliberately.
Among those who died was Lee’s younger brother Adrian, another former resident of Bryn Alyn.
Both Lee and Adrian had previously lived in properties provided by John Allen.
The man who started the blaze killed himself a few days after the fire.
These events were not examined by the Tribunal because they took place outside North Wales.
Lady Macur was asked to assess if the “scope” of the Waterhouse Tribunal was adequate.
Again, the questions surrounding John Allen’s informal “after-care” service in London and Brighton system show it was not.
THERE IS another reason why Rebecca Television believes the Waterhouse Tribunal was suspect.
In 2000, shortly after his report was published, Paddy French had a confidential three hour meeting with Sir Ronald Waterhouse at his home near Ross-on-Wye.
French laid out much of the criticism which was later revealed in the Rebecca Television articles.
The meeting was off-the-record.
It was not until Waterhouse died in May 2011 that French was able to reveal what had taken place.
SIR RONALD WATERHOUSE exchanged letters with Paddy French after their meeting in 2000. But he insisted that the interview and the letters remain secret. It wasn’t until his death in May 2011 that French was free to reveal what had happened between them.
“I felt he was shocked by what I told him,” said French, “particularly the allegations concerning Des Frost.”
“But was he shocked because he and the Tribunal had been found out — or was it because he had been wrongly persuaded Frost had nothing to say?”
“He wouldn’t say.”
In 2006 Waterhouse attended a function and had a revealing conversation with Welsh Assembly member Mark Isherwood.
“He told me quite clearly,” Isherwood said, “that he now accepted that documentation had been withheld from the Tribunal which he chaired,”
But whatever Waterhouse knew or felt, he took to the grave.
REBECCA TELEVISION warned the Macur Review it was considering pulling out of the process.
On February 18 editor Paddy French wrote to say he was “considering withdrawing my statements” to the Review and writing to the Home Secretary to explain why such a “drastic step” was necessary.
“It’s clear to me that the Review will not be complete by the election and, by the time the new administration is in place and able to take a decision, we will be into the autumn”.
“This creates a surreal situation where a Review, designed to see if there ought to be a re-examination of the territory explored by Waterhouse, will have taken almost as long as the original Tribunal itself.”
BRIAN LEVESON managed to hold public hearings where more than 300 witnesses gave evidence and produce a 2,000 page, three volume report in just 17 months. The Macur Review is still not complete after 26 months.
To date, the Review has taken 26 months — the Tribunal was complete in 39 months.
Operation Pallial, as has already been pointed out, produced its initial review within six months.
Lord Leveson, who also had the problem of a parallel criminal investigation to contend with, held a long series of public hearings and still managed to produce a three volume report in less than a year and a half.
Lady Macur answered by saying she had seen and “noted” the contents of the February 18 email.
On February 20 Paddy French emailed to ask her “to formally remove my statements from the Review’s report.”
He also asked her to “include my reasons … in the Review’s report when it is finally complete.”
On February 24 a spokeswoman for Lady Macur emailed to say:
“The Judge has asked me to let you know that she has found no reason to refer to your submissions specifically in her report and therefore it will not be necessary to indicate why she has removed them.”
“The report will indicate that you have made contact with the review and that you attended an interview with Lady Justic Macur.”
On March 2 French wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May.
A JUDGE in the Family Division of the High Court when she was appointed, she is now one of the senior members of the judiciary. Nine months after the Review was set up, she was appointed one of the 42 Court of Appeal judges. The position brings with a seat on the Privy Council.
He noted that in a November 2012 press release Lady Macur had said:
“I am grateful to be assured that sufficient resources will be made available to me to conduct this Review which will be thorough and expeditious.”
“I feel the Review has left itself open to the charge that, whatever else it is, it is not ‘expeditious’.”
“I would now ask you to consider referring my concerns — and those of others — directly to Justice Lowell Goddard.”
Goddard is the chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse.
A copy of French’s letter was sent to Justice Minister Chris Grayling, who commissioned the Macur Review, to Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb and to Lady Macur herself.
No responses had been received by the time this article was posted.
WHAT IS deeply disturbing about the Macur Review comes down to one single point.
Lady Macur must have been in a position to know which way her report was going to go within a year.
If, at that point, she had concluded the Waterhouse Tribunal had failed to carry out its task properly, then she was in a position to produce a report calling for an inquiry to take the process further.
Her report did not have to be totally comprehensive — all it needed to do was to present the evidence gathered to support that conclusion.
The work of comprehensively sifting all the evidence could have been left to the new inquiry.
In other words, a report calling for a new inquiry could have been published within a year or eighteen months.
If, however, she had concluded that the Waterhouse Report could not be challenged, then a different scenario presents itself.
She would then want to produce a more detailed report demonstrating that the criticisms of the Tribunal — including those presented by Rebecca Television — were unfounded.
This would inevitably take longer.
There might, though, be compelling reasons for dragging the process out even longer.
The first is that, if the Macur Review published a report clearing Waterhouse, it is likely there would considerable criticism.
LOST IN CARE
THE MASSIVE 937 page report of the Waterhouse Tribunal — but was it fit for purpose? As well as the failure to hear the Des Frost allegations, Rebecca Television also pointed out shortcomings in the inquiry’s handling of freemasonry.
Such criticism might persuade Home Secretary Theresa May to refer the Waterhouse issue to the new Goddard Inquiry.
Theresa May has proved a tough Home Secretary.
She appears to want to avoid any suggestion that’s there’s been any kind of cover-up on her watch.
This leads to speculation that Lady Macur and the judicial establishment of England and Wales might not be happy presenting the Review report with her still in office.
In these circumstances, perhaps, it might be better for Lady Macur to take so long producing her report that by the time it was published a more docile Home Secretary might be in place.
The Waterhouse issue could then be quietly laid to rest …
Published: 11 March 2015
© Rebecca Television
Paddy French’s statement to the Review was dated 13 January 2013. He met Lady Macur at the Royal Courts of Justice on 5 March 2013.
For more details of the Rebecca Television criticism of the Waterhouse House — The Case Of The Flawed Tribunal — see the Investigations page here.
THE INVESTIGATION into the closed world of BBC Wales continues with a detailed analysis of the crisis that engulfed the Corporation between 2008 and 2011. The current regime, headed by Rhodri Talfan Davies, has taken the unprecedented step of announcing it will no longer answer questions from Rebecca Television …
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