ANOTHER RE-BAIL FOR GORDON ANGLESEA

September 11, 2014

rebecca_logo_04

BAIL FOR the former North Wales Police superintendent Gordon Anglesea has been extended again.

Anglesea was the 18th person to be arrested as part of Operation Pallial  — the re-investigation of historical child abuse allegations in North Wales — in December last year.

When he answered bail today at an undisclosed police station he was re-bailed until January next year.

A spokesman for the National Crime Agency, which runs Operation Pallial, told Rebecca Television:

“enquiries are ongoing.”

GORDON ANGLESEA The former North Wales Police superintendent has had his bailed extended until September.  Picture: © Daily Mirror

GORDON ANGLESEA
THE RETIRED North Wales Police superintendent has had his bail extended until January.
Picture: © Daily Mirror

♦♦♦

COMING UP

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 

♦♦♦

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.


IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER?

June 18, 2014

rebecca_logo_04

WHEN RHODRI Talfan Davies takes his leave as Director of BBC Wales in the years ahead, will he once again follow in his father’s footsteps?

It’s become the practice of departing Directors to take up one of the best paid part-time jobs in Wales — a directorship in Glas Cymru.

Glas Cymru owns Welsh Water and claims to be a “not-for-profit” business with customers as its “sole” concern.

But a forthcoming Rebecca Television investigation will claim consumers have been cheated of £100 million.

It’s the board of directors who really benefit.

When Geraint Talfan Davies left BBC Wales in 1999, he helped set up Glas Cymru — and soaked up more than £450,000 in fees in his decade with the company.

He was still there when his friend Menna Richards, who succeeded him as BBC Wales Director, was appointed to the Glas Cymru board in November 2010.

She currently gets £57,000 a year for her part-time role.

Talfan Davies and Richards are part of the tight-knit group which controls Welsh broadcasting.

Rebecca Television continues its investigation of this media clique — and asks if the axing of a controversial series in the late 1990s was part of a strategy to secure the succession at BBC Wales …

♦♦♦

WHEN GERAINT Talfan Davies left the BBC at the end of 1999 he was only 56 years old.

“I have always been clear that I wanted to retire from the BBC while I still have the energy and the appetite to pursue new avenues,” he said at the time.

Within months he’d been recruited to become the Welsh face of a dramatic take-over of the Welsh water industry.

At the time, Welsh Water had swallowed South Wales Electricity and become Hyder plc.

GERAINT TALFAN DAVIES  A MEMBER of the powerful Talfan Davies clan, the former BBC Wales Controller became one of the highest paid non-executives in Welsh corporate history when he joined the board of Glas Cymru, the company that owns Welsh Water. He was later joined by Menna Richards, the friend who succeeded him at BBC Wales. It was his son, Rhodri, who took over BBC Wales after Menna Richards departed — a saga explored in the Rebecca Television article The Son Of The Man From Uncle.                                                                 Photo: Seren Books

THE MAN FROM UNCLE
A MEMBER of the powerful Talfan Davies clan, the former head of BBC Wales became one of the highest paid non-executives in Welsh corporate history when he joined the board of Glas Cymru, the company that owns Welsh Water. He was later joined by Menna Richards, the friend who succeeded him at BBC Wales. It was his son, Rhodri, who took over BBC Wales after Menna Richards departed — a saga explored in the Rebecca Television article The Son Of The Man From Uncle.     Photo: Seren Books

But the two privatised utilities made huge profits and in 1997 the new Labour government hit Hyder with a massive combined £282 million “windfall tax” on its excess electricity and water profits.

The water regulator Ofwat, stung by accusations that it had been too lenient on the sector, also waded in with what looked like draconian new price caps.

This “double whammy” left Hyder sinking under a wave of debt.

Its share price sank and predators closed in.

It came down to a battle between the Japanese investment bank Nomura and the US power conglomerate Western Power Distribution.

The Americans won.

But they only wanted the electricity business — and quickly agreed to sell Welsh Water to a new company called Glas Cymru.

Glas Cymru, a company limited by guarantee, agreed to take over Welsh Water’s massive debt burden.

It did so by borrowing the money from the bond market.

The idea was the brainchild of two senior executives who worked for Welsh Water — former merchant banker Nigel Annett and ex-Treasury official Chris Jones.

They brought in former Treasury Permanent Secretary Terry Burns to chair the outfit.

And Geraint Talfan Davies was recruited to become the Welsh face of the enterprise.

Glas Cymru has always presented itself as a people’s company — with no shareholders, it claims, “our only purpose is to deliver the best outcomes for our customers.”

It points to £150 million worth of “customer dividends” — £139 for every customer — paid out since 2001.

(However, a forthcoming Rebecca Television investigation will reveal that consumers should have done far better.

An article entitled The Great Welsh Water Robbery argues that consumers have been cheated of £100 million in the last four years alone.

The final tally could run into hundreds of millions of pounds.

See the note at the end of this article.)

While Welsh Water’s more than one million domestic customers have been short-changed, the directors have done exceedingly well.

By the time he resigned as a part-time non-executive director in March 2011, Geraint Talfan Davies was earning £54,000 a year.

In the ten years he was on the board, his total haul from the company was £452,500.

Unlike Geraint Talfan Davies, Menna Richards was appointed a non-executive director at Glas Cymru while she was still Director of BBC Wales.

She took up the Glas Cymru role in November 2010 — two weeks after she announced her intention to leave BBC Wales.

She didn’t leave the Corporation until February 2011.

Her appointment is understood to have caused concern at the BBC.

MISS PRINCIPALITY  Menna Richards has taken the two-step routine (BBC Wales to Glas Cymru) pioneered by her friend and mentor Geraint Talfan Davies and given it another twist. She's turned it into a conga by also becoming a non-executive director of the Principality Building Society — following in the footsteps of current Glas Cymru chief executive Chris Jones. The post adds another £45,000 a year to her annual bank balance and increases her clout as one the "great and the good" of Welsh public life.  Photo: PA

MISS PRINCIPALITY
MENNA RICHARDS has taken the two-step — BBC Wales to Glas Cymru — routine pioneered by her friend and mentor Geraint Talfan Davies and given it another twist. She’s turned it into a conga by also becoming a non-executive director of the Principality Building Society — following in the footsteps of Glas Cymru chief executive Chris Jones. The post adds another £45,000 a year to her annual bank balance and increases her clout as one of the “great and the good” of Welsh public life.
Photo: PA

In its accounts, Glas Cymru states that Menna Richards did not receive any fees until 1 March 2011.

This was after she had finally left BBC Wales.

She’s already one of the most trusted non-executive directors on the Glas Cymru board — for six months in 2013 she was the acting senior non-executive director at an annual rate of £67,500.

By March 2014 she had received total fees of £177,750.

♦♦♦

WE ASKED Glas Cymru to explain the high levels of fees it awards non-executive directors.

Compared to a company like Cardiff-based Admiral Insurance, a successful business operating in one of the most competitive markets in British capitalism, Glas Cymru’s fees appear excessive.

With a turnover of £2.2 billion, Admiral has to fight for every customer‚ unlike Welsh Water whose £717 million income in 2013 came almost entirely from captive customers paying fixed prices.

Back in 2001, a Glas Cymru press release was clear — Welsh Water “… a monopoly providing an essential public service, is a very low risk business.”

Admiral made a pre-tax profit of nearly £350 million in 2012 — but still managed to pay two of its non-executive directors less than Menna Richards.

It took three rounds of questions before Glas Cymru finally came up with a justification for the pay of non-executive directors:

“Regardless of our ‘not-for-profit’ model, we must attract the highest calibre of directors to ensure that the company continues to perform to the highest levels,” a spokesman said.

“Our business provides essential public services and so is heavily regulated by numerous independent bodies, which means we need a high quality board which can provide a credible commitment to good governance for our regulators and bond investors.”

It said that non-executive fees are “reviewed annually” with independent advice from outside consultants.

And it added that the “members” of Glas Cymru — the 59 people appointed to act as the owners of the company — “vote annually on directors’ remuneration.”

The need to attract the “highest calibre” people to run the board doesn’t seem to apply to the “members” who actually control the company.

They’re paid nothing.

♦♦♦

THERE’S ANOTHER UK business which is directly comparable to Glas Cymru — Scottish Water, owned by the Scottish Government.

Water was never privatised in Scotland.

Scottish Water, the result of the merger of three local authorities in 2002, is much bigger than Welsh Water.

Its revenue of £1.1 billion outstrips Glas Cymru’s £717 million.

So you might expect its non-executive directors to be paid more.

Not a bit of it.

Scottish Water’s non-executive salaries are decided by First Minister Alex Salmond and his cabinet.

The average basic fee for a non-executive director in 2013 was £22,000.

That’s less than half of the £57,000 Menna Richards currently receives at Glas Cymru.

And Scottish Water doesn’t seem to have any trouble finding “high calibre” people to take these jobs.

After Menna Richards took up the Glas Cymru post, the Western Mail newspaper published a letter from a Glynneath reader called Jack Kearns:

“She follows Geraint Talfan Davies who preceded her as controller of BBC Wales,” he wrote, “so could it be whoever replaces Menna Richards will be assured of a long and high-salary future with BBC Wales and then Welsh Water?”

RHODRI TALFAN DAVIES There is speculation that the current BBC Wales Director Rhodri Talfan Davies will follow in the footsteps of both his father and Menna Richards and join the board of Glas Cymru in the years to come. We asked him if this was on the cards — he did not reply. Photo: BBC Wales

THE SON OF THE MAM FROM UNCLE
THERE’S ALREADY speculation that the current BBC Wales Director, Rhodri Talfan Davies, will follow in the footsteps of both his father and Menna Richards and join the board of Glas Cymru in the years to come. We asked him if this was on the cards — he did not reply.
Photo: BBC Wales

Kearns’ letter was published before it was announced that Rhodri Talfan Davies would replace Menna Richards as BBC Wales Director.

We asked Rhodri Talfan Davies if he had any plans to follow his father onto the Glas Cymru board.

This was one of a raft of questions we put to the BBC Wales press office on June 2.

No answers were forthcoming.

We emailed Geraint Talfan Davies for a response.

We also asked Menna Richards to comment.

Neither replied by the time this article was posted.

♦♦♦

THE TALFAN Davies clan aren’t the only family to have prospered at the BBC.

Relatives of Menna Richards have also done well.

In the period she was Director of BBC Wales, her sister Ceri Wyn Richards won more than a million pounds worth of commissions from the broadcaster.

Ceri Wyn Richards is a former BBC Wales staffer who once held the post of Editor, Radio Cymru.

In the early 2000s she and her husband, producer Mark Jones, set up an independent company called Torpedo Limited.

For eight years the company waxed prosperous on the back of commissions from BBC Wales.

As a small company, Torpedo did not have to declare the salaries of its two directors in its annual accounts.

But its balance sheet was healthy — and the company, which was paid in advance by BBC Wales, always reported “cash in hand and at the bank” of between £100,000 and £260,000 throughout the decade.

For the first four years of her time as Director, the BBC did not declare Menna Richards’ interest in Torpedo or the amount of work the Corporation was awarding her sister’s company.

In 2005-06, however, the BBC’s annual report and accounts began listing the amount of work the company was being awarded.

The figures were surprisingly high:

— in 2005-06, Torpedo received £324,000 worth of work

— in 2006-07, the figure rose to £360,000

— in 2007-08, contracts dipped to £321,000

— in 2008-09, the amount declined to £147,000.

The reason the figure fell in that year was that there was a crisis at Torpedo at the end of 2008.

The marriage between Ceri Wyn Richards and Mark Jones hit the rocks — and the partnership that created Torpedo foundered.

In the four-year period 2005-9, the company earned £1,153,000 — making it one of the most successful Welsh broadcasting independents.

We asked BBC Wales for the figures for the period 2001 to 2004.

There was no response.

In December 2008 a new company, Parrog Limited, was registered at an address in Whitchurch, Cardiff.

This was the home of Menna Richards and her husband Patrick Hannan.

A widely respected BBC journalist, Hannan signed the documents which set up the company.

For the first six months of 2009, he was the sole director and holder of the company’s only share.

In June 2009, Ceri Wyn Richards also became a director of the company.

The following month, Patrick Hannan resigned.

(Diagnosed with cancer, he was to die in October 2009 at the age of 68).

In the summer of 2009, an anonymous letter was sent to national newspapers in London drawing attention to the links between Menna Richards and her sister’s companies.

BBC_flag

ON THE surface, the Parrog affair caused hardly any ripples at the BBC. Behind the scenes, however, there were reports of considerable unease in London about the Director’s close ties with the company. Some observers believe the issue may have played a part in Menna Richards’ ultimate decision to leave the Corporation in 2010…

It also pointed out that Menna Richards’ husband was a director  of Parrog and that the company’s registered office was their home.

In August 2009 Jenny Rathbone, a Labour Parliamentary candidate for one of the Cardiff constituencies, learnt of the allegations.

Rathbone, a former producer of the BBC 2 Money Programme and a Labour councillor in the London borough of Islington, wrote to BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons.

Four days later, he wrote back to say the matter was an “operational” issue — he’d passed her letter on to deputy Director-General Mark Byford.

The next day Rathbone received a reply from the BBC’s Chief Operating Officer, Caroline Thomson.

She wrote:

“I can reassure you that Menna Richards has declared all business relationships between the BBC and members of her family in line with … stringent conflict of interest policies.”

“I am satisfied that she has had no involvement in the management of either Torpedo Ltd or Parrog Ltd, and has no role in the commissioning of any independent production companies.

Thomson added that the “BBC will be responding to your letter more fully in due course.”

Rathbone — currently a Labour member of the National Assembly in Cardiff — doesn’t remember receiving a second letter.

The BBC’s accounts for the year 2009-2010 carried no declaration from Menna Richards — who served throughout the year — about the value of any commissions obtained by Parrog.

In November 2010 Menna Richards announced that she was stepping down as Director and eventually left in February 2011.

Again, the BBC accounts for 2010-2011 did not include a declaration of her connection with Parrog.

Parrog’s own accounts indicate that, in the four years between 2009 and 2013, the amount of work does not seem to have reached the levels Torpedo achieved.

The company’s cash balances ranged from £67,000 to £100,000.

We asked BBC Wales for details of commissions the company received from the Corporation.

Once again, the press office failed to provide a response.

♦♦♦

THE PROFESSIONAL relationship between Menna Richards and Geraint Talfan Davies began at HTV Wales in the 1980s.

After eight years at BBC Wales, Menna Richards moved to HTV Wales in 1983 to become a journalist and presenter on the Welsh language current affairs programme Y Byd Ar Bedwar.

At the time Geraint Talfan Davies was HTV Wales’ Assistant Controller of Programmes.

His uncle Sir Alun Talfan Davies was coming to the end of his term as chairman of HTV’s Welsh board.

Menna Richards’ managerial career did not begin until Geraint Talfan Davies had left HTV.

In 1987 Talfan Davies moved to Newcastle to take up the post of Director of Programmes at Tyne Tees TV.

By 1990, he was back in Cardiff 1990 as Director — at the time the title was Controller —  of BBC Wales.

A year later Menna Richards began to climb the managerial ladder at HTV Wales.

First she was appointed Controller of Factual and General programmes, then in 1993 she became Director of Programmes.

By the mid 1990s she was emerging as a powerful figure in Welsh broadcasting — and a potential successor to Geraint Talfan Davies as head of BBC Wales.

In 1996 there was a revealing internal argument at HTV Wales which suggests she may have begun positioning herself as a candidate for the top job at BBC Wales.

Bruce Kennedy, a former editor of the channel’s Wales This Week current affairs series, was in charge of commissioning programmes from the independent sector.

He decided to make a series about the scandal-torn Welsh Development Agency (WDA) to coincide with its 21st anniversary in 1997.

From 1988 to 1993, the Agency’s chairman had been the charismatic but controversial self-made businessman, Dr Gwyn Jones.

In the late 1980s Jones outflanked the traditional Welsh establishment by persuading Welsh Secretary Peter Walker to appoint him to head the Agency.

Within months, he increased the number of days he was working from two and a half to four days a week.

He became a favourite of Margaret Thatcher — when she made one of her few visits to Wales in 1989, she extolled Jones’ virtues:

“I just want to say what a marvellous chap they’ve got at the Welsh Development Agency.”

DR GWYN JONES WHEN THE self-proclaimed millionaire was appointed chairman of the Welsh Development Agency in 1989, he was in need of some hard cash. He persuaded the Agency to buy his Jaguar for £26,000 and later lied to Parliament about the reasons why it was a good deal for the quango. In the 2000s his career declined — he is now Director of Essex University Business School. Photo: Essex University

DR GWYN JONES
WHEN THE self-proclaimed millionaire was appointed chairman of the Welsh Development Agency in 1988, he was in need of some hard cash. He persuaded the Agency to buy his Jaguar for £26,000 and later lied to Parliament about the reasons why it was a good deal for the quango. In the 2000s his career declined — he’s now Director of Essex University’s Business School.
Photo: Essex University

By 1992, he had been appointed the BBC’s National Governor for Wales.

He also used the patronage of senior Tories as a springboard to more powerful posts.

One of his contacts was the merchant banker and freemason Sir Michael Richardson, a personal friend of Margaret Thatcher.

Vice-chairman of the powerful N M Rothschild merchant bank, Richardson secured Jones a series of profitable directorships.

In 1992 Jones also became a director of Tesco — and stayed until 1998.

But as he was beginning his rise through the ranks of corporate Britain, turmoil erupted at the WDA.

Jones’ abrasive style provoked conflict with senior staff — one was paid off with a controversial payoff.

He also made jaw-dropping appointments — one of them a conman who Jones hired as the agency’s marketing director without checking his CV.

The crook was later gaoled.

There were also scandals about unauthorised perks and Jones was accused of obtaining an Agency grant for one scheme and then using it for another.

In December 1992 the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) called in Jones and other officials.

Days before the hearing, Jones announced he would leave the Agency in 1993.

The PAC report was damning of the Agency and its political masters at the Welsh Office — it was:

“.. unacceptable that the Welsh Office took no action against anyone in the top echelons of the Agency who presided over a catalogue of serious and inexcusable breaches of expected standards …”

It was this back story which persuaded Bruce Kennedy that a series about the history of the Agency would be a worthwhile project.

He asked Paddy French, then an independent TV producer and currently the editor of Rebecca Television, to carry out the research.

At the time, French did not realise the series would itself become a pawn in a political intrigue …

♦♦♦

THE RESEARCH for the series began at the end of 1995.

French spent several weeks going through the history of the WDA.

Concerned that the series would be stale and academic, he felt it needed a dramatic revelation to bring it alive.

He decided that the most promising line of attack lay in the curious affair of Dr Jones’ Jaguar.

The WDA had authorised a dealer to buy the Jaguar off Jones in March 1989 for £26,000 — the market rate.

The Agency then signed a new lease with the dealer for the Jaguar to become the chairman’s car.

All costs were paid by the Agency.

Jones insisted the deal was a good one for the WDA.

When the Public Affairs Committee grilled him about it, in 1996, he made a remarkable claim.

He insisted that it was cheaper for the Agency to buy the car than to continue paying him mileage.

He told the Committee:

” … when it became clear how many days and how much travel I was doing — and that was working out something like 60,000 miles a year, which I have maintained for the period of my chairmanship — in a discussion it was put to me that it would be financially beneficial to the Agency if I went on to a different car scheme.”

Committee member Alan Williams, MP for Swansea West, was not persuaded:

“Really, it was an act of generosity on your part to the WDA rather than the other way around. Is that it?”

ALAN WILLIAMS THE MP didn't believe  Dr Gwyn Jones was telling the truth when the WDA chairman appeared before the Publis Accounts Committee in 1992. Photo: PA

ALAN WILLIAMS
THE LABOUR MP for Swansea West didn’t believe Dr Gwyn Jones was telling the truth when the WDA chairman appeared before the Public Accounts Committee in 1992.  Photo: PA

Jones replied:

“The arithmetic was such that it would be a lesser cost to the Agency than paying me for 60,000 miles per year at 34.4 pence a mile.”

French was also sceptical.

“Actually, Jones’ arithmetic completely undermined his own argument,” he said.

“He was claiming he travelled 60,000 miles a year on Agency business.”

“Given the quality of the road system in Wales, the average speed can’t have been more than 50 miles an hour.”

“Divide 60,000 by 50 miles an hour and you get 1,200 hours behind the wheel.”

“Assume a 7 hour day and Jones would have been on the road  for 171 days a year — at a time when he was only paid for two and a half days a week.”

“It was a commonly held view in Wales at the time,” noted French, “that this level of mileage was physically impossible.”

“I felt that Jones’ claim was a serious hostage to fortune.”

“If the Jaguar could be located, its records were likely to show that he had lied to Parliament — a very serious offence.”

♦♦♦

IT TOOK several months to track down the Jaguar.

It had been bought by a relative of BBC presenter Vincent Kane.

The service log showed that in June 1989 — three months after Jones sold it — the Jaguar had only 14,267 miles on the clock.

“The evidence was overwhelming — Jones had lied to Parliament,” said French.

“This was the dramatic revelation the HTV series needed to bring it bang up to date.”

In July 1996 filming started — until a dramatic call from Cardiff intervened.

“The film crew, Bruce Kennedy and I were having lunch in a pub in London when Menna Richards rang,” French remembers.

“Menna asked Bruce Kennedy what was going on and he told her that shooting had started on the series.”

“She told him that filming was to stop — he was to return to Cardiff immediately.”

Shortly afterwards, the new chairman of the WDA, David Rowe-Beddoe, asked to meet the team responsible for the series.

It took place in Rowe-Beddoe’s office at the WDA’s HQ in Cardiff and was attended by Kennedy, French and HTV’s head of news and current affairs, Elis Owen.

DAVID ROWE-BEDDOE ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN who supported the Tories, David Rowe-Bedoe — seen here at the official opening of the Wales Millennium Centre in 19xx — was opposed to HTV Wales broadcasting a series about the Welsh Development Agency

DAVID ROWE-BEDDOE
ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN who supported the Tories, David Rowe-Beddoe — seen here at the official opening of the Wales Millennium Centre — took over from Dr Gwyn Jones as WDA chairman. He was opposed to HTV Wales broadcasting a series about the troubled history of the Agency.                                                                                                         Photo: PA

Rowe-Beddoe tried to persuade them the series should not be made.

The three journalists insisted the programmes were in the public interest.

The next day Bruce Kennedy met with Menna Richards.

Richards said she wasn’t persuaded the series was editorially sound.

There was, she said, nothing new in it, it was boring and she even had her doubts about the Jaguar story.

In a memo written a week later, Kennedy said he was “surprised” and “unprepared” at her tone.

He added:

“I am concerned at the growing suggestion that in some way we (notably me) are trying to keep you ignorant of the true nature of the WDA programme.”

“There seems to be a suggestion that the research is not up to the standard required to substantiate some of the points we are making.”

“All I can say is that the research I’ve seen Paddy French conduct is second to none.”

“I think the research Elis and I have conducted must stand for you to judge.”

Five days after this memo was sent, Menna Richards axed the series.

No attempt was made to use the new material about the Jaguar in any other programme.

Bruce Kennedy has never believed that censorship was the reason for Menna Richards’ decision.

For him, it was simply a difference of editorial opinions.

He left HTV Wales shortly afterwards.

French, though, was not convinced that it was just a matter of editorial judgement.

“There are two reasons why I felt outside factors may have played a part,” he said.

“The first is that I believe that Menna Richards was building up a formidable CV as a candidate to take over as Controller of BBC Wales from Geraint Talfan Davies.”

“The only glaring gap in her CV was that senior BBC executives are expected to have had wider experience than just broadcasting.”

“Up to that point, Menna Richards’ career was entirely in broadcasting.”

“She needed a stint as a director of another, unrelated public body.”

“And to land such an appointment, she needed the support of the business establishment, including people like David Rowe-Beddoe.”

“A programme critical of the WDA was likely to antagonise that community.”

(The gap in her CV was later plugged when she was appointed a director of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, serving until the quango was wound up in 2000.)

“The second reason was that Gwyn Jones was still the BBC’s National Governor for Wales.”

“It would have been obvious to Menna Richards that the Corporation would prefer to avoid the embarrassment of a programme that exposed its National Governor for Wales as a man who had lied to Parliament.”

We asked Menna Richards to comment.

She didn’t reply.

But that was far from the end of the story.

Within months of the decision to axe the WDA series, Menna Richards abruptly reversed her decision — and cleared the decks for an HTV broadside against Dr Jones.

♦♦♦

IN THE autumn of 1996 it was widely assumed Dr Gwyn Jones would not seek another term as National Governor for Wales. 

His reputation had been damaged by the Public Accounts Committee and it was assumed he would move on to pastures new when his term ended in December.

However, Jones began to indicate that he thought differently.

The position of National Governor for Wales gave him a seat on the BBC’s UK Board of Governors and was an immensely influential platform.

Word began to circulate in Cardiff that he was canvassing for a second term.

“This really put the cat among the pigeons,” recalls French.

“A second term for Jones would have been a serious blow to Menna Richards’ chances of becoming BBC Wales Controller.”

“HTV had made several highly critical programmes about his chairmanship of the WDA and there was a danger he would not support Menna Richards.”

Inside BBC Wales Jones was not popular among many senior executives and journalists.

In one Broadcasting Council for Wales meeting he had openly attacked the Corporation’s own Week In Week Out series over a programme critical of a WDA land deal.

Many felt this was an attempt to intimidate programme-makers.

Behind the scenes, a secret campaign began to de-rail his campaign.

Part of this campaign was the resurrection of the Jaguar story.

“Out of the blue, HTV Wales suddenly decided that it was time to prepare a profile of the man now seeking a second term at BBC Wales,” said Paddy French.

“It was decided the channel’s current affairs strand, Wales This Week, would rush out a programme — the core of which was the allegation that Jones lied to Parliament over the Jaguar affair.”

“An issue which Menna Richards decided wasn’t newsworthy back in July, was now a matter of vital public interest,” added French.

MENNA RICHARDS WITHIN MONTHS of deciding that a series about the WDA should be axed, Menna Richards authorised an emergency Wales This Week programme about the controversial career of Dr Gwyn Jones' time at the Agency. At its heart, his lies to Parliament about the Jaguar ...  Photo: PA

MENNA RICHARDS, OBE
WITHIN MONTHS of deciding that a series about the WDA should be axed, Menna Richards authorised an emergency Wales This Week programme about the controversial career of Dr Gwyn Jones’ time at the Agency. At its heart, his lies to Parliament about the controversial sale of his Jaguar …
Photo: PA

Menna Richards kept a close eye on the programme — she asked to see a rough version several days before screening.

Jones heard about the programme and wrote to HTV Group chairman, Louis Sherwood, in early December.

Jones pointed out that the last time Wales This Week examined his stewardship of the Agency, he’d had to instruct the libel lawyer Peter Carter Ruck.

The programme went ahead.

The schedule was so tight that the commentary wasn’t laid down until minutes before transmission.

“It was a fraught session,” recalls French, who’d been brought in to help with the production.

“Elis Owen, head of news and current affairs, was in charge — and HTV had a libel barrister on hand to make sure the script was safe.”

The programme was broadcast two weeks before Christmas 1996.

“By then the Welsh establishment had made sure the corridors of power in London were informed about what was coming,” said Paddy French.

“Dr Gwyn Jones — who could also see which way the wind was blowing — decided not to seek a second term as Governor.”

♦♦♦

THE REST is history.

Geraint Talfan Davies left BBC Wales at the end of 1999.

With a Labour government in power, and the Tory grip on the Welsh establishment broken, Menna Richards slipped effortlessly into his shoes…

♦♦♦

NOTE

1 The Rebecca Television investigation into Glas Cymru, the company that owns Welsh Water, was published as  The Great Welsh Water Robbery. It argues customers have seen few benefits while some of the executives who actually control the business have become millionaires …

♦♦♦

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.


GORDON ANGLESEA RE-BAILED

April 29, 2014

rebecca_logo_04

POLICE BAIL for former North Wales Police superintendent Gordon Anglesea has been extended.

Anglesea was the 18th person to be arrested as part of Operation Pallial  — the re-investigation of historical child abuse allegations in North Wales — in December last year.

At that time he was bailed to appear at a police station this month.

A spokesman for the National Crime Agency, which runs Operation Pallial, told Rebecca Television yesterday that Anglesea answered bail on April 17.

He was then re-bailed until early September.

GORDON ANGLESEA The former North Wales Police superintendent has had his bailed extended until September.  Picture: © Daily Mirror

GORDON ANGLESEA
The former North Wales Police superintendent has had his bail extended until September.
Picture: © Daily Mirror

COMING UP

IT’S ONE of the greatest gravy trains in Welsh history. Glas Cymru — the not-for-profit company which owns Welsh Water — claims its sole concern is the welfare of its customers. But it also takes good care of its directors — paying them mouth-watering sums of money …

♦♦♦

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.


THE HOUSE OF PICKERING

April 23, 2014


rebecca_logo_04

DAVID PICKERING is one of the most powerful men in Welsh rugby.

As chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union, the former international plays a key role in the running of an enterprise with an annual turnover of £61 million pounds.

But the performance of many of the other businesses he’s been involved with has been disastrous.

A raft of companies have gone bust — costing the public purse more than £4 million in unpaid taxes.

He also has personal county court judgments against him for unpaid debts.

One creditor has even taken a charge against his Cardiff home.

But Pickering has a new game plan.

He’s embarked on a career as a developer in West Wales with a reported half-share in a major industrial estate.

But a Rebecca investigation reveals that all is not what it seems…

♦♦♦

ONE OF David Pickering’s oldest companies is about to go under.

Stradey Safety Limited — which supplied workwear and protective equipment to industry for nearly 30 years — appears to have stopped trading.

Pickering owns all the shares in the company and he and his wife Justine are the only directors.

Stradey has failed to file accounts with Companies House and dissolution proceedings have begun.

The last set of accounts — for 2011 — showed the business made a profit that year.

But this simply shaved a small amount off the company’s long-term losses.

The balance sheet showed the firm was worthless — its accumulated debts amounted to £142,000.

DAVID PICKERING The WRU chairman instructed solicitors to take action against Rebecca television.as chairman of the WRU

DAVID PICKERING
One of the men responsible for running the WRU, Pickering has been the subject of many county court judgments ordering him to settle unpaid debts. Photo: PA

The business has often had difficulty paying its way.

A survey carried out by ITV Wales in 2006 showed seven unpaid county court judgments against the company — then known as Pickering Safety Products — totaling nearly £15,000.

When Rebecca did a similar survey last month, we found two further judgments.

In May last year, Stradey Safety was ordered by Northampton County Court to pay a debt of £4,800.

The sum was paid two months later.

But by then the same court had told the firm to pay an even larger bill — nearly £28,000.

This wasn’t satisfied until January of this year.

The end of Stradey Safety is the latest chapter in the collapse of a business empire in which David Pickering and his wider family were shareholders.

♦♦♦ 

THE CORE of the business was a string of engineering companies mainly serving the Welsh steel industry. 

These began to fail in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The first to go was a family-owned smelting company called Weldwell Ltd.

This had been a substantial business — in 1994 it had a £1 million turnover.

But profits were small and the company was worth just £14,000.

In the years that followed the position worsened.

In February 1997 HM Customs & Excise obtained a High Court order to wind up the company because of unpaid VAT bills.

David Pickering was a director at the time and held a small personal shareholding.

The amount owed to the HM Customs & Excise was never declared.

After this there was a period of stability in the remaining companies.

And Pickering’s rugby career was flourishing.

In 1998 had been appointed manager of the Wales team under Graham Henry.

He stepped down in 2002 but, in 2003, succeeded Glanmor Griffiths as WRU chairman — a post he holds to this day.

But then in June 2004 disaster struck — two more of the family’s companies went bust.

David Pickering had resigned as a director the previous year and was not involved in their management.

R & R Developments Ltd, a general engineering firm, failed with debts of £2.1 million.

The public purse took a £690,000 hit in unpaid taxes — VAT and employee PAYE and national insurance.

Another company, R & R Industrial Ltd, which supplied labour and engineering services, went down owing £700,000 in unpaid taxes.

Thirteen months later, in July 2005, another five companies collapsed.

Again, Pickering had resigned as a director in the two years before the crash.

And he wasn’t involved in day-to-day management.

PF (Wales) Ltd, a company which supplied labour to the steel industry, crashed with debts of £1.2 million.

Most of this — £800,000 — was taken up with unpaid PAYE and national insurance payments for the 100 employees.

PORT TALBOT The decline of steelmaking in Wales was  a major factor in the collapse of the Pickering family businesses. Picture: PA

PORT TALBOT
The decline of steelmaking in south Wales was a major factor in the collapse of the Pickering family engineering businesses.
Picture: PA

There was a further £200,000 owed in VAT.

R & R Wales Ltd sank with a deficiency of £1.8 million.

The Inland Revenue lost £1.1 million in PAYE and national insurance contributions.

Another £400,000 was owed in VAT.

A further three companies — R & R Roll Developments Ltd , Pontardawe Foundry & Engineering Ltd and BHL Rolls Manufacturing Ltd — also collapsed with combined debts of £1.8 million.

Once again, the public purse was a major loser — £365,000 was owed in PAYE, national insurance and VAT.

By the time the dust settled, the cost to the taxpayer of the crashes of 2004 and 2005 was £4.2 million.

Little of these events ever appeared in the Welsh media.

It wasn’t until the following year that journalists began to examine the business record of these companies …

♦♦♦

IT started with a tip-off in April 2006

ITV Wales News chief reporter Andy Collinson was told David Pickering had county court judgments against him for unpaid bills.

It was a sensitive time for the WRU chairman — a motion of no confidence had been tabled against the committee which controlled the union.

Collinson went to see Paddy French, then a reporter with the Wales This Week current affairs programme and now editor of Rebecca.

The story has already been told in the article A Licence To Censor.

This is the relevant extract:

French told him that if the debts were personal, judgments would be kept by the Registry of County Court Judgments in London.

For a small fee, it was possible to search for decisions against any person in England and Wales.

French also suggested that, while he was doing these searches, he should include the companies in which Pickering had an interest.

At the same time, Wales This Week would carry out a financial analysis of Pickering’s companies.

Most of these were engineering companies involved in the Welsh steel industry.

By early May, the results of both searches were in.

Pickering had two judgments against him personally. 

PICKERING TICKET

At Northampton County Court he had been ordered to pay a debt of £1,992 in September 2004. 

In March 2006 Southampton County Court ordered him to repay credit card debts of £17,699 — to Lloyds Bank.

French’s analysis of the clutch of engineering businesses in which Pickering was involved found they were also in trouble.

A proposed Wales This Week programme on Pickering’s business affairs was scrapped on the orders of ITV Wales managing director Elis Owen.

♦♦♦ 

DAVID PICKERING survived the motion of no confidence in 2006.

But the two remaining engineering businesses he was involved in were lame ducks.

He was no longer a director and was not involved in management.

Both soon went out of business.

In October 2006 R & R Group Ltd was dissolved.

The last set of accounts, in July 2003, showed accumulated losses of more than £400,000.

It was worthless.

The same was true of R & R Refractories Ltd, a company which supplied fire bricks for blast furnaces.

The last accounts, in December 2002, revealed accumulated losses of £122,000.

It was dissolved in April 2007.

There was no cost to the public purse in the demise of these companies.

Within two years, however, David Pickering had reinvented himself with a dramatic, if mysterious, new venture …

♦♦♦

IN MAY 2009 the Western Mail revealed that David Pickering had launched a new career — as a property developer.

Earlier that year Carmarthenshire County Council had bought the redundant former Ministry of Defence site at Llangennech, near Llanelli for £750,000.

The council immediately sold the 37 acre estate to an unnamed buyer for £845,000.

It wasn’t until the Western Mail article that the identity of the purchaser was revealed.

The paper reported that David Pickering “has come forward to reveal that he and partner Robert Lovering” are behind a business called R & A Properties.

(Lovering owns a telecoms company called European Telecom Solutions, based at Briton Ferry.)

Anyone reading the Western Mail article could be forgiven for believing that R & A Properties owned the site.

R & A Properties is not registered with Companies House.

Pickering told Western Mail chief reporter Martin Shipton:

“I know some people will find it strange that R & A is not a limited company but we’ve been advised to do it this way by our professional advisers.”

STRADEY PARK  The former Royal Navy depot at Llangennech, Llanelli — a newspaper article in 2009 gave the impression that Pickering was one of the owners of the site. But Rebecca Television has discovered his name does not appear on the Land Registry deeds. Photo: Rebecca Television

STRADEY PARK
The former Royal Navy depot at Llangennech, Llanelli now renamed the Stradey Park Business Centre. A newspaper article in 2009 gave the impression that Pickering was one of the owners of the site. But Rebecca  has discovered his name does not appear on the Land Registry deeds.
Photo: Rebecca

But R & A Properties are not the owners of the site.

Land Registry records show that it is Robert Lovering who owns the entire 37 acres.

David Pickering’s stake is zero.

Carmarthenshire County Council told Rebecca that the site was sold to Lovering in two parcels — one for £281,452, the other for £562,905.

Originally, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was planning to put the site up for sale once a valid planning issues were sorted.

Rebecca understands that another developer had contacted agents acting for the MoD and was talking about an offer of more than £2 million for the site.

Our investigation into this deal continues.

♦♦♦

IT’S NOT just in his family’s engineering firms that David Pickering has had financial problems.

He’s got others closer to home.

Stradey Safety Ltd isn’t the only company he owned and controlled that’s been in trouble.

He and his wife, television presenter Justine, were directors of Positive Publicity Ltd, which was dissolved in August 2006.

The last accounts for the company, in May 2003, show that it was worthless — with accumulated losses of more than £40,000.

The previous year the company was taken to Swansea County Court and ordered to pay a £1,700 bill.

Pickering also has a long history of county court judgments against him personally.

As we have already reported, he had two in the period 2004-2006.

At Northampton County Court he had been ordered to pay a debt of £1,992 in September 2004. 

In March 2006 Southampton County Court ordered him to repay credit card debts of £17,699 — to Lloyds Bank.

The Lloyds debt was paid a few months later.

In May 2011 another judgment was registered — for a debt of just £664 — at Staines county court.

This was repaid four months later.

By then he had another judgment against him — a debt of £703 — at Milton Keynes county court.

This debt has also been satisfied.

But a substantial debt remains unpaid.

In July 2009 Lloyds TSB obtained judgment against him for an unpaid bill of £10,232.

The bank has taken him to court — and secured the debt against his Cardiff home.

♦♦♦

PICKERING LIVES in a neo-Georgian house in the exclusive Queen Anne Square development on the edge of Cathays Park in central Cardiff. 

He bought the property in February 2003 for £325,000 — selling his former home in the Gower, Llanmadoc House in Llanmadoc, for £270,000 later the same year.

The Queen Anne Square property is leasehold only.

QUEEN ANNE SQUARE The exclusive Queen Anne Square development in the centre of Cardiff where David Pickering, his wife Justine and their four girls live.  In June 2007 the Western Mail reported that the property — "the ultimate in rugby memorabilia" — was up for sale. The paper reported that "the house has six bedrooms and two bathrooms — room for all the children, the family's Australian au pair and visitors". The asking price was £875,000 but the detached house was never sold.  Picture: Rebecca Television

QUEEN ANNE SQUARE
The exclusive Queen Anne Square development in the centre of Cardiff where David Pickering, his wife Justine and their four daughters live. In June 2007 the Western Mail reported that the property — “the ultimate in rugby memorabilia” — was up for sale. The paper reported that “the house has six bedrooms and two bathrooms — room for all the children, the family’s Australian au pair and visitors”. The asking price was £875,000 but the detached property was never sold.
Photo: Rebecca

Pickering has a 76 year lease in 1960 granted by Western Ground Rents.

This means that in just 23 years Western Ground Rents will have the right to take possession of the house — for nothing.

Experts have told Rebecca Television that it will cost a small fortune to purchase the freehold.

Pickering has a mortgage on the property with the Swansea Building Society.

The amount isn’t specified

And now there’s another burden attached to the building — the £10,232 debt to Lloyds TSB.

After obtaining its judgment against Pickering in July 2009, Lloyds TSB went to Norwich county court and obtained an “interim charging order” on the property.

♦♦♦

DAVID PICKERING is facing a challenge as chairman from former WRU chief executive David Moffett.

Moffett has criticised Pickering and chief executive Roger Lewis over their management of the WRU.

DAVID MOFFETT The former WRU chief executive believes he has the backing of enough clubs to call an EGM. He plans to oust David Pickering as chairman.   Photo: PA

DAVID MOFFETT
The former WRU chief executive believes he has the backing of enough clubs to call an EGM. He plans to oust David Pickering as chairman.
Photo: PA

We emailed to David Pickering’s legal advisers last week.

His lawyer — WRU secretary Gareth Williams — asked for a draft of this article.

We told him this was not Rebecca Television policy.

Williams said:

“Mr Pickering is a high net worth individual whose lifestyle is entirely appropriate to the income he receives.”

He added: “… there is no public interest in the publication of details of my client’s private financial affairs”.

♦♦♦

COMING UP

IT’S ONE of the greatest gravy trains in Welsh history. Glas Cymru — the not-for-profit company which owns Welsh Water — claims its sole concern is the welfare of its customers. But it also takes good care of its directors — paying them mouth-watering sums of money …

♦♦♦

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

 


MIRROR CONFIRMS GORDON ANGLESEA ARREST

January 24, 2014

rebecca_logo_04WEDNESDAY’S DAILY MIRROR carried an article confirming the arrest of former North Wales Police superintendent Gordon Anglesea.

A reporter from the paper spoke to the retired police officer outside his home on Monday (Jan 20).

He said “I have no comment to make”.

The Daily Mirror story was marked “Exclusive” but was in fact largely based on the Rebecca Television (RTV) article published last week.

The Daily Post in North Wales, which belongs to the same group, made the story its lead on Wednesday (Jan 22).

The RTV story was not acknowledged by either title.

The Daily Mirror later accepted that much of the article was lifted from the Rebecca Television piece — and has agreed to make a donation to the website.

♦♦♦

Keep up to date with developments on Rebecca Television investigations by clicking on the “follow blog by email” button on the right hand side of the home page.

Your email address will only be used to alert you to newly published articles…

MIRROR "EXCLUSIVE" The Mirror article published on Wednesday. The paper later accepted that much of the article was lifted from the Rebecca Television piece — and has agreed to make a donation to the website.

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.


GORDON ANGLESEA ARRESTED

January 16, 2014

rebecca_logo_04

RETIRED NORTH Wales Police superintendent Gordon Anglesea has been arrested on suspicion of historic physical and sexual assaults against children.

Anglesea was detained at his Colwyn Bay home in December by officers of the National Crime Agency.

He was the 18th person to be arrested as part of Operation Pallial, based at North Wales Police headquarters.

 Operation Pallial was set up by Prime Minister David Cameron in November 2012.

 His decision followed the BBC Newsnight programme which falsely implied that Tory peer Lord McAlpine had abused children in North Wales care homes.

GORDON ANGLESEA The retired police superintendent arrested on suspicion of historic sexual and physical abuse of children in North Wales. Picture: © Daily Mirror

GORDON ANGLESEA
The retired police superintendent arrested on suspicion of historic sexual and physical abuse of children in North Wales.
Picture: © Daily Mirror

ON 12 DECEMBER officers from the National Crime Agency knocked on the door of a house in a quiet suburban street in Old Colwyn on the North Wales coast.

Inside the property they arrested a 76-year-old man and later took him to a police station in Cheshire.

The detectives were part of the Agency’s Operation Pallial team.

They questioned the arrested man about allegations of child abuse dating back to the 1970s and 1980s.

Seven men have alleged that they were sexually or physically abused by the retired police officer in the period 1975 to 1983 when they were between 8 and 16 years of age.

The following day the National Crime Agency, which is in charge of Operation Pallial, said the pensioner had been released on police bail until mid-April.

The Agency would not reveal his identity.

Rebecca Television understands it is Gordon Anglesea.

Between 1975 to 1983 he was a North Wales Police Inspector based in Wrexham.

He served as a policeman for more than 34 years and reached the rank of Superintendent by the time he retired in 1991.

Anglesea is a Rotarian and a Freemason.

Shortly after his arrest last December, he informed his local Rhos on Sea Rotary Club that he had been detained.

Six days after the arrest, on December 20, Rebecca Television rang John Roberts, secretary of the Rhos club.

We told him we were planning to name Anglesea.

Roberts replied that Anglesea had not resigned.

Roberts said the retired police officer had applied for leave of absence and that the request would be considered at the club’s January meeting.

At that meeting, which took place on January 7, Anglesea was given leave of absence until April.

He is a long-standing Rotarian, one of 51,000 members in Britain and Ireland.

He has been President of the Rhos on Sea club on three occasions — 1989-90, 1990-91 and 2007-8.

In 2010 he was the club official in charge of “Youth Service”.

A spokeswoman for Rotary International told Rebecca Television that “while there was a legal process under way, the organisation could not comment.”

nwpolicehq_001

NORTH WALES POLICE
Operation Pallial operated out of the North Wales Police headquarters in Colwyn Bay until it moved to undisclosed National Crime Agency premises.
Picture: Rebecca Television

Anglesea is also a Freemason of more than 30 years standing.

There are 250,000 masons in England and Wales — outnumbering Rotarians 5 to 1.

In 1976 Anglesea joined a masonic lodge in Colwyn Bay.

In 1982 he became a member of Wrexham’s Berwyn lodge.

He left in 1984 to join a new Wrexham lodge called Pegasus becoming its Master in 1990.

The secretary of the North Wales Province of Freemasonry, Peter Sorahan, said:

“In view of the fact that Operation Pallial is an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment.”

“However”, he added, “I can assure you that if requested by the Police to do so, the Province of North Wales will provide full assistance with their inquiries.”

Masonic HQ, the United Grand Lodge of England based in London, also confirmed it would assist the police if asked.

On January 8 Rebecca Television wrote to Gordon Anglesea informing him that the website intended to reveal that he was the man arrested on December 12.

We asked for a comment.

Royal Mail confirmed delivery of the letter.

There was no reply.

Operation Pallial can be contacted on 0800 118 1199 or by email at operationpallial@nca.x.gsi.gov.uk.


© 
Rebecca Television 2014

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

 


THE MESSHAM INTERVENTION

November 13, 2013

rebecca_logo_04THE JOURNALISTIC nightmare which engulfed the BBC over the handling of child abuse allegations in North Wales has catapulted the Rebecca Television series The Case of the Flawed Tribunal into the limelight.

In November 2012 the Newsnight programme allowed Stephen Messham to falsely accuse Lord McAlpine of abusing children in North Wales.

There was plenty of evidence that Stephen Messham is a damaged character whose testimony required careful evaluation.  

But the BBC’s mistake has made it possible for the Rebecca Television investigation to be taken seriously.

David Cameron’s decision to launch an  inquiry means the allegations outlined in The Case of the Flawed Tribunal will be considered by a High Court judge.

(This article was originally published last December.)

STEPHEN MESSHAM

STEPHEN MESSHAM
Photographed in 2000 holding a copy of the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal report, Messham was described in its pages as “severely damaged psychologically”.
Photo: Phil Noble / PA

HOW WAS it that Stephen Messham — a man “severely damaged psychologically” —  was allowed to accuse a senior Tory politician of child abuse on a  national current affairs programme when those same allegations had been dismissed as unreliable twenty years earlier?

Messham, the 49-year-old former resident of the Bryn Estyn children’s home near Wrexham, was the key witness in the BBC’s now notorious early November edition of Newsnight about child abuse in North Wales.

Messham claimed he’d been sexually abused by a senior Tory politician while he was in care.

Newsnight did not identify the man but a frenzy of speculation on the internet meant that Lord McAlpine was quickly — and falsely — “outed” as the alleged abuser.

A week later Messham saw a photograph of Lord McAlpine and declared he was not the man who had abused him.

The media firestorm that followed this disastrous broadcast forced the BBC’s newly-appointed Director General, former Newsnight editor George Entwistle, to resign.

It also cost the editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Iain Overton, his job.

It was the Bureau’s lead reporter Angus Stickler, a former BBC journalist, who came up with the idea for Newsnight and he presented the item.

On the morning of the broadcast, Overton tweeted:

“If all goes well we’ve got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile”.

The night before Overton had attended an Oxford University Union debate where Channel 4 News reporter Michael Crick, himself a former Newsnight journalist, asked him if the unidentified politician was McAlpine.

The Observer quotes Overton as saying: “Well, you said it.”

On the day of the broadcast, Michael Crick spoke to Lord McAlpine who denied that he was involved in child abuse — and said he would sue if he was named.

Newsnight did not contact the politician because it decided not to name him.

So why did Stickler, an experienced reporter who won the Sony Radio Academy Award for the best news journalist in 2006, make such an elementary mistake?

LORD McALPINE The Tory peer was faslely accused of child abuse by Stephen Messham on Newsnight. He

LORD McALPINE
The Tory peer falsely accused of child abuse by Stephen Messham on BBC Newsnight. He wasn’t named in the item but quickly identified on the internet. He brought successful actions against many media outlets.  Photo: PA

After all, there has to be a good reason why such a serious allegation had never been reported by a mainstream newspaper or broadcaster in more than two decades.

That reason was simple — journalists could find no evidence that justified publication.

The only title that did accuse Lord McAlpine was the magazine Scallywag — and Scallywag was never taken seriously.

In addition, there is plenty of easily accessible material about Stephen Messham’s tragic life.

Take Lost In Care, the report of the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal chaired by Sir Ronald Waterhouse.

In its pages, Stephen Messham is identified as “witness B”.

This is what the report said about “witness B”:

“We are satisfied that B has suffered a long history of sexual abuse before, during and after his period in care and, to a significant extent until he left care, of physical abuse.”

“As a result he has been, and remains, severely damaged psychologically: he has been greatly affected also by the sudden death of his young wife in very sad circumstances …”

“A major problem is that the damage is reflected in B’s personality in such a way that he presents himself as an unreliable witness by the standards that an ordinary member of a jury is likely to apply.”

“Thus, he is highly sensitive to any criticism and explosive in his reactions …”

“He has been described also as manipulative and there are many matters on which he is particularly vulnerable in cross-examination.”

Lord McAlpine is not the only figure Stephen Messham has falsely accused of serious sexual offences.

He was one of three witnesses who appeared in the 1994 libel action brought by former North Wales Police superintendent Gordon Anglesea against Private Eye, The Observer, the Independent on Sunday and the broadcaster HTV.

See the article The Trials of Gordon Anglesea for the full details of the case.

Stephen Messham is not named in this report but he is the witness who collapsed in the dock.

He was cross-examined about inconsistencies in his evidence.

A jury found by a majority 10-2 verdict that Gordon Anglesea had been wrongly accused.

Damages of £375,000 were agreed.

Another publication where Stephen Messham’s approach to evidence is highlighted is Richard Webster’s 2005 book The Secret of Bryn Estyn.

Here Messham is given the alias “Lee Steward”.

Webster tells the story of how Messham was approached several times about Gordon Anglesea by the freelance journalist Dean Nelson.

Messham complained to the police that Nelson was harassing him.

In a statement he said “ … I would like to say that at no time did Gordon Anglesea ever sexually abuse me.”

It was only later that Messham made statements claiming he’d been abused by Anglesea.

There was, then, plenty of evidence that Stephen Messham’s testimony should be treated with caution.

♦♦♦

WHEN STEPHEN Messham finally admitted he’d made a mistake about Lord McAlpine, there was a danger the government would call off the two inquiries into the North Wales scandal.

But in the highly charged political atmosphere that existed in the wake of the Jimmy Savile affair, David Cameron and the Cabinet decided that they must go ahead.

THERESA MAY The Home Secretary told Paul Flynn MP in the House of Commons that the Rebecca Television allegations would be investigated. Photo: PA

THERESA MAY
The Home Secretary told Paul Flynn MP in the House of Commons last November that the Rebecca Television allegations would be investigated.  Photo: PA

They are a review of the Waterhouse Tribunal by High Court judge Mrs Justice Macur and an investigation of new allegations of child abuse in the 1970s and 1980s by the director of the National Crime Agency, Keith Bristow.

Rebecca Television (RTV) is already a participant in these inquiries and has made several statements to both.

In addition, editor Paddy French met with Mrs Justice Macur at the Royal Courts of Justice earlier this year.

Before Messham’s intervention, the series of articles published as The Case of the Flawed Tribunal by RTV were totally ignored by the media.

Now the allegations are likely to be tested.

The most important of the failures of the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal highlighted by the series is the treatment of Des Frost, the number two at the privately-owned Bryn Alyn complex of children’s homes near Wrexham.

Frost’s boss John Allen was gaoled for six years in 1995 for abusing boys in his care.

Briefly, Frost claimed he had reported allegations of abuse against Allen in 1980 — more than ten years before Allen was arrested.

He said that he asked detectives from Cheshire Constabulary to pass on his concerns to police in Wrexham.

(The full story can be found in the article Silent Witness.)

During the period when the Tribunal was taking evidence, in 1997, the HTV programme Wales This Week interviewed Frost about these allegations.

The Tribunal found out and threatened programme-makers with contempt if details of the allegations were broadcast.

They were removed.

But Frost was not called as a witness and his evidence  was never investigated.

Rebecca Television believes this was a major flaw in the Tribunal’s deliberations.

As a result, the Tribunal conclusion — “there was no significant omission by the North Wales Police in investigating the complaints of abuse to children in care” — is suspect.

Police visited Frost shortly after he was interviewed by HTV and took a statement from him.

In 2011 we wrote to the North Wales Police officer who carried out this interview — Detective Chief Inspector Neil McAdam — to ask what happened to this statement.

McAdam discussed this letter with his superiors who, after discussions with police HQ in Colwyn Bay, told him not to answer.

Rebecca Television complained about the lack of a reply.

The investigation that followed cleared McAdam because he’d been instructed not to reply — “ownership to respond” rested with “someone higher within the organisation”.

We had already written to Chief Constable Mark Polin about the matter.

He did not reply.

In October 2011 we also wrote to then Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan asking her to intervene.

QUESTION TIME The  former Welsh Secretary did not answer a letter from Rebecca Television asking her to appoint a barrister to examine allegations that the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal had not done its job properly.
Photo: PA.

QUESTION TIME
The former Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan (on the right) did not answer a letter from Rebecca Television asking her to appoint a barrister to examine allegations that the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal had not done its job properly.
The Tribunal had been launched in 1996 by William Hague (on the left) when he was Welsh Secretary. Last autumn  David Cameron launched an inquiry into the work of the Tribunal — not by a barrister but by a High Court judge.   Photo: PA.

The letter asked her to “appoint a suitably independent barrister to examine the Rebecca Television allegations.”

Gillan never answered the letter.

She passed it on to the Home Office where a press officer replied:

“Any concerns you have should be addressed to the chief officer (i.e. the chief constable) and not the Home Office. The Home Office has no power to intervene or act on your behalf.”

A year after Rebecca Television wrote to the Welsh Secretary, the North Wales child abuse scandal is not being investigated by a barrister as we requested — but by a High Court judge and the head of the National Crime Agency.

 ♦♦♦

NOTES

1
This article was first published on the old RTV website in December last year.

2
The timeline of last autumn’s events is as follows:

Wednesday, October 3
ITV’s Exposure programme “The Other Side of Jimmy” demolishes Sir Jimmy Savile’s reputation.
It emerges that the BBC Newsnight programme shelved a similar programme the previous December — allegations are made that the decision was influenced by the BBC’s planned Xmas tributes to Savile, who died in October 2011.
The row engulfs the upper echelons of the BBC including George Entwistle, a former Newsnight editor, who had just been appointed Director-General.

Friday, November 2
Iain Overton, editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, tweets:
“If all goes well we’ve got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile”.
The Newsnight report, fronted by Angus Stickler of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, interviews Stephen Messham who claims he was sexually abused by an unnamed senior Conservative politician.

The former politician is later widely identified on the internet by public figures — including Sally Bercow, wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons, and Guardian columnist George Monbiot — as Lord McAlpine, former Tory party treasurer and a key supporter of Margaret Thatcher.

Monday, November 5 
David Cameron, on an official visit to the Middle East, announces two inquiries into the child abuse scandal in North Wales.
One would be into the way North Wales Police handled child abuse allegations in the 1970s and 1980s.

The second would be into the conduct of the 1996-2000 Waterhouse Inquiry by High Court judge, Lady Macur.

Tuesday, November 6 
Stephen Messham meets Welsh Secretary David Jones.
Home Secretary Theresa May makes a statement in the House of Commons on the North Wales child abuse scandal.
In the debate that follows, Newport West Labour MP Paul Flynn makes the following point:
“I ask the right hon. Lady to look not only at the fresh evidence but at the evidence that was available at the time and that was almost certainly suppressed by powerful people.”
“Will she look at the evidence produced by Paddy French and the Rebecca Television website on an edition of the Wales This Week that was never broadcast?”
This was Theresa May’s reply:
“The police investigations will look at the evidence that was available at the time in these historical abuse allegations, and at whether the evidence was properly investigated and whether avenues of inquiry were not pursued that should have been followed up and that could have led to prosecutions.”
“I can therefore say to the hon. Gentleman that the police will, indeed, be looking at that historical evidence. That is part of the job they will be doing.”

Wednesday, November 7 
Messham’s story begins to unravel:  Guardian reporter David Leigh uncovers “inconsistencies” in his story.

Thursday, November 8 
Philip Schofield, presenter of ITV’s This Morning programme, hands a briefly visible list of alleged abusers to David Cameron during a live interview.
ITV later disciplines 3 members of staff but does not say who they are or what their punishment is.
The company ends up paying Lord McAlpine compensation of £125,000.

Friday, November 9 
Guardian suggests the identification of Lord McAlpine is a case of “mistaken identity” because Messham told the Waterhouse Tribunal that the McAlpine who allegedly abused him was dead.
Guardian says it had asked Messham to comment on the Wednesday and Thursday but he had declined.
Later the same day Messham issues a statement saying the man in the Newsnight programme is not Lord McAlpine.
“After seeing a picture of the individual concerned in the past hour, this (is) not the person I identified by a photograph presented to me by the police in the early 1990s, who told me the man in the photograph was Lord McAlpine”.
BBC issues “unreserved” apology for broadcasting the item.
All investigations at Newsnight suspended and Corporation stops co-productions “across the BBC” with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
BBC Director Scotland Ken MacQuarrie drafted in to prepare a report.
McAlpine issues statement saying he will issue libel writs.
Subsequently, the BBC pays him £185,000 in damages.

Saturday, November 10 
BBC Director General George Entwistle resigns with a £450,000 pay-off.

Tuesday, November 12
Bureau of Investigative Journalism editor Iain Overton resigns.
Angus Stickler, the Bureau’s lead reporter, “steps aside” while an urgent investigation takes place — he later resigns from the organisation.

♦♦♦

© Rebecca Television 2012 & 2013

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.


A MASON-FREE ZONE?

November 8, 2013

rebecca_logo_04

THE NORTH Wales Child Abuse Tribunal cleared freemasonry of any involvement in covering up child abuse.

But why did some fascinating information about the brotherhood never come to light?

 Why did the Tribunal’s own leading counsel not declare that he was a mason?

 And why was there no mention of a police lodge during the public hearings?

Rebecca Television investigates the claim that the North Wales Police was “a mason-free zone”.

THE NORTH WALES CHILD ABUSE TRIBUNAL There were three members of the Tribunal — Margaret Clough, chairman Sir Ronald Waterhouse and Morris le Fleming. The evidence suggests they did not come to grips with the role of freemasonry in the North Wales Police?  Photo: PA

THE NORTH WALES CHILD ABUSE TRIBUNAL
There were three members of the Tribunal — Margaret Clough, chairman Sir Ronald Waterhouse and Morris le Fleming. The evidence suggests they did not come to grips with the role of freemasonry in the North Wales Police.     Photo: PA

THE WATERHOUSE Tribunal set the tone for its approach to freemasonry right from day one.

In the very first session the barrister for one of the groups of former residents of care homes made an application about masonry.

The barrister, Nick Booth, asked that “the Tribunal should keep a register of the masonic membership amongst its staff, the members, its representatives and witnesses who appear before it”.

He explained:

“The duty of loyalty to a brother mason and his duty of impartiality if he is involved in the administration of justice is not a new one and it’s one that’s very much in the public eye, particularly at the moment.”

“The Tribunal will be aware of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee which is investigating the issue,” he added.

“Sir, I stress, if I have not stressed it before, that I am not making any suggestion of disreputable conduct, merely to put the matter beyond the reach of any possible public comment which might undermine the public confidence in the Inquiry.”

The chairman of the Tribunal, Sir Ronald Waterhouse, and the two other members of the Tribunal, retired for a brief adjournment.

“It will not surprise you that the application is refused,” said Sir Ronald on their return.

“As far as the staff are concerned,” Sir Ronald said, “in so far as the application carries any reflection upon the integrity of the staff of the Tribunal it’s repudiated, wholly unwarranted; there is no evidence whatsoever to support any suggestion that they have not acted with complete integrity…”

“The members of the Tribunal are in this position: the Tribunal was set up by Parliament and the members of it were appointed by the Secretary of State for Wales and the [criticism of the composition] should be addressed through the proper channels.”

GERARD ELIAS QC The leading counsel to the Tribunal kept silent throughout the discussion about a register of freemasons. He himself is a freemason …

GERARD ELIAS QC
The leading counsel to the Tribunal was silent throughout a discussion about a register of freemasons. He himself is a freemason and a past master of one of the most powerful lodges in Wales …

He said that the Tribunal’s own Counsel, Gerard Elias QC, was appointed by the Attorney General.

“Any criticism … should be addressed through the usual Parliamentary channels,” he suggested.

Gerard Elias said nothing during Booth’s application and he remained silent after Sir Ronald had made the Tribunal’s ruling.

Yet both Sir Ronald and Gerard Elias knew something that journalists reporting the Tribunal would have wanted to know.

Gerard Elias is a mason.

He’s a member of perhaps the most powerful masonic lodge in Wales, Dinas Llandaf.

The lodge, which meets in Cardiff, is made up mainly of legal professionals and members of the Conservative party, although there are members from other political groups.

Another member of the lodge, Gwilym Jones, was the Tory MP for Cardiff North between 1983 and 1997.

He was minister of state at the Welsh Office when the Tribunal was set up.

Rebecca Television has a source who was close to the heart of the Tribunal.

This source says Sir Ronald was aware of Elias’ masonic membership.

Yet he too kept silent about the fact that the Tribunal’s own Counsel was a mason.

(What happened at the Tribunal was in contrast to proceedings at the beginning of Gordon Anglesea’s libel case in London less than three years earlier.

Gordon Anglesea was a retired North Wales Police superintendent who was falsely accused by journalists of abusing young boys at a children’s home in North Wales.

He won a libel action and accepted £375,000 in damages.

The judge was Sir Maurice Drake.

Drake told the court that he was a member of an organisation to which Gordon Anglesea also belonged.

He did not mention freemasonry but the legal teams on both sides knew which organisation he was referring to.

There were no objections and no one ever questioned the way he handled the case.)

Dinas Llandaf is one of the 174 lodges in the South Wales Province.

South Wales is one of the more open of the 47 provinces in England and Wales.

Every year it gives copies of its annual yearbook to libraries and to any journalist who asks for one.

The yearbooks list the officers of each lodge and the current issue — 2009-2010 — gives considerable detail about Dinas Llandaf.

For example, it shows all the officers of the lodge and those members who have reached the highest position – master of the lodge.

Gerard Elias is shown as having been master in 1994.

(See the article Brothers In Silk for more on the influence of Dinas Llandaf.)

♦♦♦

THE NORTH WALES Province of freemasonry is a completely closed book.

It refuses to give out copies of its yearbook and these come into the public domain only occasionally.

In 1995 a copy came into the hands of journalist Mark Brittain who was Editor of the North Wales Weekly News at the time.

He quickly spotted a lodge called Custodes Pacis which was formed in 1983.

MARK BRITTAIN The editor of a local newspaper when a copy of the North Wales provincial yearbook came into his possession. He quickly spotted a police lodge ...

MARK BRITTAIN
The editor of a local newspaper when a copy of the North Wales provincial yearbook came into his possession. He identified a police lodge but found the chief constable unwilling to admit it existed.  Photo: Rebecca Television

He was told many members of Custodes Pacis — it’s Latin for Keepers of the Peace — were serving or retired police officers.

Police lodges are not uncommon.

Perhaps the best known is London’s Manor of St James which at one point contained many senior officers of the Metropolitan Police.

In 1995 Brittain wrote to the recently appointed Chief Constable of North Wales, Michael Argent, and asked him for an interview.

In his letter, he also asked if the new chief was aware of the lodge.

Argent wrote back to agree to an interview but told the journalist he could find no evidence of a police lodge.

When Brittain met Argent he told him he had evidence of the lodge’s existence and, after the meeting, sent him the lodge entry from the 1995-96 yearbook.

Argent wrote back in April.

He now admitted that the lodge list “did indeed contain names known to me and my colleagues although in each case they were retired from the force — in some instances for quite a considerable period.”

Brittain wrote back to ask if he was sure that there were no serving officers.

In May 1995 Argent replied and said that further enquiries had been undertaken.

“I am reliably informed,” he wrote, “that whilst, as I have suggested to you in my earlier letter, it consists mainly of retired police officers — certainly up to superintendent level — there are only four currently serving officers.”

“Three are identified as constables and the fourth is either a constable or at most a sergeant.”

Brittain says Michael Argent’s story changed three times during this correspondence.

The man who was chief constable when Custodes Pacis was set up in 1983 was David Owen.

When he gave evidence to the Tribunal, he did not mention the existence of the lodge…

We wrote to David Owen to ask him why he didn’t tell the Tribunal about the lodge.

He rang back to say he didn’t want to answer questions.

In September 1997, during the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal hearings, Brittain wrote to the North Wales police authority, which is responsible for the non-policing aspects of the force.

The then clerk to the authority, Leon Gibson, wrote back to say that the information about the membership of Custodes Pacis had come from an unnamed lodge member.

Gibson added that if the Chief Constable “remembers correctly, there were five, one sergeant and four constables.”

Gibson was also the chief executive of Anglesey County Council at this time.

He declined to answer our email asking if he was a mason.

♦♦♦

THE BARRISTER who represented North Wales Police at the Tribunal was Andrew Moran, QC.

In his opening address, he made it clear that the force felt masonry was an irrelevance.

He listed many of the senior policemen who had played a role in the child abuse investigations and said, “I am instructed to add, irrelevant though it should be, that none … is a Freemason.”

He added: “Where then, please, we ask is the masonic influence? Freemason[s] at the top of the North Wales Police? There are none … Mason-free zone, we would say.”

MORAN QC Declared North Wales Police "a mason-free zone" but didn't answer a Rebecca Television letter asking if he was a mason himself ...

ANDREW MORAN, QC
Declared North Wales Police “a mason-free zone” but didn’t answer a letter asking if he was a mason himself …

In this opening address, he did an unusual thing.

He said none of these people “is” a freemason and did not add the usual rider “or has been” when dealing with masonic membership.

He therefore left open the question of whether any of these senior officers had ever been masons.

The Report of the Tribunal reported this statement with slightly different but highly significant wording:

“At the outset of the Inquiry Counsel for the North Wales Police stated, on the instructions of the Chief Constable, that none of the current or former senior officers from Assistant Chief Constable upwards during the period under review had been a freemason and that the same was true of the relevant Detective Chief Superintendents and Detective Superintendent Ackerley.”

(Ackerley was the Superintendent who headed the major child abuse police inquiry between 1991 and 1993.)

We wrote to Sir Ronald Waterhouse about how the word “is” had changed into “had been.”

He never answered the question.

During the public hearings of the Tribunal freemasonry was little discussed, as its report makes clear:

“Although this question was quite widely discussed in the press before the Tribunal’s hearings began very few questions were asked about it during our inquiry and most of them were put by the Chairman of the Tribunal to give appropriate witnesses an opportunity to affirm or deny any connection with freemasonry.”

Rebecca Television sent a list of all the male barristers who appeared before the Tribunal to the United Grand Lodge of England and asked how many of them were freemasons.

We also asked if the police assessor to the Tribunal, Sir Ronald Hadfield, and the retired police officers who made up the Tribunal’s witness interviewing team were masons.

A spokesman replied: “I’m afraid I am unable to give you the information you require.”

“We would only do so if you were an official body making that request.”

When the Tribunal reported in 2000, its verdict was clear:

“Freemasonry had no impact on any of the police investigations and was not relevant to any other issue arising from our terms of reference.”

♦♦♦

THE MOST important known mason who appeared before the Tribunal was retired North Wales Police Superintendent Gordon Anglesea.

Anglesea had won a libel action against journalists who wrongly accused him of abusing children.

“Anglesea was questioned also about his connection with Freemasonry,” said the Tribunal Report, “because of an underlying suggestion that there had been a ‘cover-up’ in his case.”

“He disclosed that he had become a full member of Berwyn Lodge in Wrexham, in 1982, after being a probationer in a lodge at Colwyn Bay from about 1976.”

“He had then transferred to a new Wrexham lodge, Pegasus Lodge, in 1984 after a gap from April to September, because it offered an opportunity for swifter advance in freemasonry.”

The Tribunal Report then says he remained a member of the Pegasus Lodge despite a directive from the Chief Constable of the North Wales Police, David Owen, in September 1984.

This directive stated:

“We must be seen to be even-handed in the discharge of our office and my policy will be to say that if you have considered joining the Masons, think carefully about how that application might interfere with your primary duty.”

“To those who are Masons I would say that you should consider carefully how right it is to continue such membership.”

“In the open society in which we live that openness must be seen by all and must not be an openness partially [clouded] by a secrecy where people could question true motivation.”

During cross-examination of Anglesea at the Tribunal, Tim King QC, representing former residents of children’s homes, asked him if Owen’s directive had upset or concerned him.

“Not whatsoever, sir,” replied Anglesea, “I read that order two or three times and it did not — I felt it did not affect my particular position.”

GORDON ANGLESEA The North Wales police officer decided to ignore his chief constable's directive warning about freemasonry... Photo: Rebecca Television

GORDON ANGLESEA
The North Wales police officer decided to ignore his chief constable’s directive warning about freemasonry…
Photo: Rebecca Television

1984 was a watershed year for the public scrutiny of freemasonry.

That year saw the publication of Stephen Knight’s book The Brotherhood which followed other press investigations such the 1981 Rebecca magazine article Darkness Visible.

The same year Metropolitan Commissioner Sir Kenneth Newman and Albert Laugharne, an assistant commissioner, published The Principles of Policing which made it clear that membership of freemasonry left officers open to suspicion.

“Thus an officer must pay the most careful regard to the impression which others are likely to gain of his membership, as well as to what he actually does, however inhibiting he may find this when arranging his own private life.”

David Owen’s response to these developments was to call a conference of superintendents which decided to issue the directive.

Within a month of Owen circulating it, the Grand Master of North Wales Province of Freemasonry, Lord Kenyon, asked to meet with him.

The two men knew each other well: Kenyon was also a member of the police authority.

The meeting took place at Wrexham police station.

Lord Kenyon was accompanied by the secretary of the province, Leonard Ellis.

Solicitors acting for the masons wrote to the Tribunal in an attempt to get this narrative removed on the grounds that it was irrelevant to the Tribunal’s work.

The Tribunal rejected the attempt and its report described what happened when the Provincial Grand Master came face to face with the Chief Constable.

David Owen told the Grand Master that he had no intention of withdrawing his directive about freemasonry…

“At this meeting Lord Kenyon argued that the directive was totally misguided and asked that it should be withdrawn and he mentioned that a police officer (unidentified but not Anglesea) had been about to take the chair in a North Wales lodge but had declined to do so because of this directive.”

LORD KENYON  Tried to persuade the chief constable to withdraw his anti-masonic directive — and invited him to join the brotherhood.

LORD KENYON
The Provincial Grand Master tried to persuade the chief constable to withdraw his anti-masonic directive — and invited him to join the brotherhood.

“Owen’s evidence was that he told Lord Kenyon that he had no intention of withdrawing the directive.”

“In response, Lord Kenyon argued that the Chief Constable knew nothing at all about freemasonry and suggested it would be appropriate for him to join a lodge, such as the one at Denbigh, outside any area of his usual working activity, but this invitation was declined.”

♦♦♦

DAVID OWEN wasn’t the first chief constable Lord Kenyon had dealt with.

Four years earlier the grand master welcomed Sir Walter Stansfield back to North Wales after he retired as Derbyshire’s chief constable and brought his police career to a close.

Sir Walter had been chief constable of the Denbigh force before the reorganisation which led to the creation of the North Wales Police.

He was deputy chief constable of North Wales in 1967 when he was appointed Derbyshire’s chief constable.

When he left North Wales to take up the Derbyshire post, he didn’t sever his links with North Wales.

He joined a new masonic lodge, Dyfrdwy, which met at Ruabon, becoming its master a year later, in 1968.

In 1981 Rebecca magazine asked Sir Walter Stansfield why he had chosen to join a North Wales lodge after he left North Wales Police.

Had he been a member of a lodge in another part of the country?

Sir Walter didn’t take kindly to being questioned on the subject.

He said:

“Who do you think you’re talking to?”

He then denied being Sir Walter Stansfield even though the telephone number he was speaking on was listed in his name.

SIR MAURICE STANSFIELD  A war hero, Sir Maurice was chief constable of the  Derbyshire force. He was also a freemason in North Wales. . He wouldn't answer questions about

SIR WALTER STANSFIELD
A war hero, Sir Walter was chief constable of the Derbyshire force. He was also a freemason in North Wales. He wouldn’t answer questions about his freemasonry …

Sir Walter also makes a cameo appearance in Martin Short’s book about freemasonry, Inside The Brotherhood.

After Sir Walter left Derbyshire, the English force was rocked by the Alf Parrish scandal.

Parrish was appointed chief constable in 1981 but soon squandered police funds for his own comfort.

He was driven out of office by which time it was discovered that he was a mason — as were many of the police authority members who appointed him.

The key masons belonged to the oldest lodge in Derbyshire, Tryian.

A provincial yearbook obtained by Labour councillors in the mid-1980s revealed that another member of the lodge was Sir Walter Stansfield…

Back in 1981, North Wales Provincial Grand Master Lord Kenyon responded to increasing media attention, including Rebecca magazine coverage, by making a statement to masons in the province.

“… we have nothing to hide and certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but we object to having our affairs investigated by outsiders.”

“We would be able to answer many of the questions likely to be asked, if not all of them, but we have found that silence is the best policy: comment or correction only breeds further inquiry and leads to the publicity we try to avoid.”

♦♦♦

THE NORTH WALES Child Abuse Tribunal report dismissed any suggestion that Lord Kenyon had tried to promote the career of Gordon Anglesea.

The Report concluded that “there is no evidence that Lord Kenyon intervened at any time in any way on behalf of Anglesea.”

The Tribunal did consider a comment made by Councillor Malcolm King, who was also a former chairman of the North Wales Police Authority, that “there was speculation (he believed) that Lord Kenyon had asked for promotion for Gordon Anglesea.”

“This was said by Councillor King to have been based on a conversation overheard at a police function; and that the speculation was that Lord Kenyon had advocated Anglesea’s promotion ‘for the purpose of covering up the fact that his son had been involved in child abuse activities’.”

This was alleged to have related to an incident in August 1979 when Lord Kenyon’s son, Tom, reported the theft of articles by a former Bryn Estyn resident while the two men were staying at a flat in Wrexham.

The young man he accused of theft was arrested and later given three months detention.

However, during the course of the investigation police discovered a series of indecent photographs in the flat which was owned by a man called Gary Cooke.

Cooke was later gaoled for five years on two counts of buggery, one of indecent assault and one of taking an indecent photograph.

Cooke claimed that, after he was arrested and charged, Tom Kenyon came over and apologised to him for what had happened and handed him a letter.

He added that if Cooke agreed “not to say anything” he would have a word with his father to improve Cooke’s chances in court.

Cooke says he gave this letter to the police.

The officers who dealt with the case say they received no such letter.

Cooke believed that Tom Kenyon’s intervention shortened his sentence.

However, when Superintendent Ackerley was carrying out his investigation into this case in the early 1990s, he discovered that the prosecution file could not be found.

The Tribunal’s investigators discovered that there was no evidence Cooke had been shown any favour: he served a full third of his sentence.

In any case, the Report added, Lord Kenyon had no influence with the parole board.

The Tribunal’s Report conclusion was damning:

“We have received no evidence whatsoever in support of this allegation and it appears to have been merely a malicious rumour.”

LOST IN CARE The massive 937 page report cleared the North Wales Police of any failures

LOST IN CARE
The massive 937 page report of the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal described an anecdote about the Provincial Grand Master trying to get a promotion for Gordon Anglesea as a “malicious rumour”. Yet the Tribunal’s own staff had been to see the policeman who told them he was sitting next to the Grand Master when he made the comment.

Councillor King was actually combining two separate rumours here: the first that Lord Kenyon had spoken up for Anglesea at a police function, the second that it was somehow related to favours Anglesea was alleged to have done for his son.

The Tribunal should have known that the first rumour, that Lord Kenyon had spoken up for Anglesea, had substance.

The source of the anecdote was Harry Templeton, a former constable and once the secretary of the Police Federation branch in North Wales Police.

The reason the Tribunal should have known about it was that two members of its own Witness Interviewing Team, made up of retired police officers who were not from North Wales, went to talk to Templeton.

Templeton told them he had been to a function at the senior officers’ dining room at Police Headquarters in Colwyn Bay and was sitting opposite Lord Kenyon who was present as a magistrate member of the Police Authority.

Templeton told the Tribunal team that Lord Kenyon had said that he was surprised Gordon Anglesea, then a chief inspector, had not been promoted to Superintendent and that he would see to it that he was promoted before he retired.

Templeton told them he’d made a signed affidavit about the incident for a national newspaper.

Templeton also told the Tribunal team there was another witness to the remark, Peter Williams, the then chairman of the Police Federation branch.

Templeton never said anything about Lord Kenyon’s advocating a promotion for Gordon Anglesea having anything to do with Tom Kenyon’s case.

This suggestion, he says, must have come from somewhere else.

When Rebecca Television sent Templeton details of the Tribunal’s findings in relation to this anecdote, he was shocked.

He says that the two retired Tribunal detectives had not taken a signed statement from him and he now feels there is a question mark about what they did with the information he gave them.

We also spoke to Peter Williams.

He  said that the Tribunal never came to see him.

He confirmed that he was at the function with Harry Templeton in their official roles as Police Federation representatives.

He recalls that Lord Kenyon expressed his surprise that Gordon Anglesea had not been promoted.

He does not remember him saying that he would see that it took place before he retired.

♦♦♦ 

NOTES
1  This article was published on 21 April 2010 on the old Rebecca Television subscription site.

2  It’s part of the series of articles called The Case of the Flawed Tribunal.

♦♦♦ 

© Rebecca Television 2013

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.


THE SON OF THE MAN FROM UNCLE

October 14, 2013

rebecca_logo_04

THE SON is the £160,000 a year BBC Wales Director Rhodri Talfan Davies.

The man is Geraint Talfan Davies who held the same post for ten years.

The uncle is the late Sir Alun Talfan Davies — barrister, politician, businessman and a leading member of the Welsh establishment.

The Talfan Davies clan have been important players in Wales for half a century.

All are able people.

But eyebrows were raised when Rhodri Talfan Davies was given the job in 2011.

He was just 40 years of age.

He had never made a television programme in Wales.

He lived in England.

His appointment is shrouded in mystery.

No convincing reason has ever been given for his initial rejection — and subsequent appointment four months later.

He  declined to answer questions that nepotism and patronage may have played a part in his career development.

The BBC in London said these suggestions were absurd and did not “stand up to any form of sensible scrutiny”.

(Rebecca has made a declaration of interest in relation to this investigation — see the notes at the end of the article.)

♦♦♦

IN FEBRUARY 2011 three senior BBC executives from London convened to consider who should be the next Director of BBC Wales.

The trio — led by the Corporation’s deputy Director General Mark Byford — had interviewed seven shortlisted candidates to take over from Menna Richards, OBE.

One of them was Rhodri Talfan Davies.

He was already a member of the BBC Wales board, as Head of Strategy & Communications.

REMOTE CONTROLLER BBC Cymru Wales Director Rhodri Talfan Davies is the first-ever Director of the bi-lingual broadcaster to live in   another country. He has owned homes in Bristol for more than a decade and his children go to schools in the city. The issue of where he lived was to become an issue in the events leading up to his appointment.  Photo: BBC (supplied "in good faith, on the understanding that it will be used to illustrate a fair and balanced article" as BBC spokeswoman Kate Stokes helpfully pointed out)

REMOTE CONTROLLER
BBC CYMRU WALES Director Rhodri Talfan Davies is the first-ever head of the bi-lingual broadcaster to live in another country. He has owned homes in Bristol for more than a decade and his children go to schools in the city. The question of where he lived was to become an issue in the events leading up to his appointment.
Photo: BBC Wales (supplied “in good faith, on the understanding that it will be used to illustrate a fair and balanced article” as BBC spokeswoman Kate Stokes helpfully put it).

He had been appointed to the post four and half years earlier by a panel headed by then BBC Wales boss Menna Richards, a close friend of the Talfan Davies family.

Many insiders felt his board position combined with his membership of the Talfan Davies dynasty made him clear favourite for the job.

But Byford and the two other panel members — Journalism Group chief operating officer Dominic Coles and its human resources director Rachel Currie — stunned the Corporation’s 1,200 Welsh staff by deciding not to appoint.

On February 18, a spokeswoman announced that the search for a new Director “has been extended”.

An interim Director — the head of Welsh language programmes Keith Jones — was appointed.

His appointment was expected to last for “months”.

These events turned BBC Wales HQ in Cardiff’s Llandaff area into a ferment of gossip and speculation.

A week later a second press release was issued.

It said:

“The search for a new director of BBC Wales has been extended, after the first round of interviews failed to deliver a successful candidate.”

That search, said the BBC, “would continue until ‘the right person’ was found.”

“In light of the importance of this high-profile appointment it is clearly essential that the right person is appointed.”

“A number of strong candidates applied for the post and as we were unable to make an appointment we have extended the selection process.”

“The requirements for the role remain unchanged and we are currently finalising the approach we will take as part of this process.”

After his application failed, Talfan Davies was given the job of carrying out a strategic review of the BBC’s digital services.

The Corporation said this was a “pan BBC review which required travel between bases.”

“His main bases during this period were Cardiff and London.”

After the dramatic events of February, March passed without any new developments.

April came and went without a progress report.

May went the way of April.

Senior managers on the third floor of Broadcasting House in Llandaff were tight-lipped throughout June — and most of July.

The silence was finally broken on July 26 with the announcement that the new Director was … Rhodri Talfan Davies.

BBC Director General Mark Thompson gave him a glowing endorsement:

“His deep understanding of Wales — and the BBC’s crucial role in the nation’s life — will equip him brilliantly for the challenge of leading such a successful and ambitious part of the organisation.”

MARK THOMPSON The BBC's Director General when Rhodri Talfan Davies was appointed.  Photo: PA

MARK THOMPSON
THE BBC’s Director General when Rhodri Talfan Davies was appointed, Thompson praised the new BBC Wales Director’s “deep understanding of Wales”. Thompson left the BBC in September 2012 and is now chief executive officer of the New York Times group.
Photo: PA

Talfan Davies was “thrilled” and “sincerely honoured” to have been chosen.

“BBC Cymru Wales is of enormous importance to the creative and cultural life of the nation and is performing brilliantly on the UK networks.”

“There’s a great wealth of talent in the creative industries in Wales and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to lead the fantastic team at BBC Wales.”

Rebecca asked Kate Stokes, Head of Communications & External Affairs at BBC Wales, if there had been another round of interviews for the position in the run-up to the July announcement.

We also asked for details of the formal search for other candidates announced after the February interviews failed to come up with a successful candidate.

She said:

“As a matter of policy, the BBC does not disclose this level of detail around the recruitment of staff.”

The only hint of any problem in the selection process came in an article in the Western Mail newspaper.

“It is understood Mr Davies’ appointment was delayed because of concerns that he lives in Bristol,” chief reporter Martin Shipton noted.

“On taking up his appointment, it has been agreed that he will live in Cardiff during the week, returning to his family home at the weekends.”

Kate Stokes told us:

“It is a matter of public record that Rhodri’s family home — at the time of his appointment — was in Bristol.”

“In September 2011, in a Western Mail article, Rhodri confirmed his appointment as Director had been delayed because of concerns that his family home was in Bristol rather than Wales.”

Rebecca asked Kate Stokes to clarify this issue.

Was the “delay” a factor in the weeks leading up to the July appointment?

Or had it been the stumbling block back in February?

Was Talfan Davies rejected because deputy Director General Mark Byford wouldn’t tolerate a BBC Wales Director living in England?

In reponse, she said that “the reasons for the delay between Rhodri’s interview and appointment … is a matter of public record …”

She again cited the Western Mail interview where the Director “confirmed that his appointment … had been delayed because of concerns that his family home was in Bristol rather than Wales.”

We also asked her to confirm that the paper’s comment about him staying in Cardiff during the working week was accurate.

She told us:

“To be clear, Rhodri gave an assurance on taking up the role that he would spend his working week at the BBC Wales HQ in Cardiff (except where he was required to travel to London or other BBC centres as part of his role).”

♦♦♦

WHEN BBC Wales announced the appointment of Rhodri Talfan Davies in July 2011, there were two pieces of information that were conspicuous by their absence.

The first was his age.

He was just 40 — the youngest ever Director of BBC Wales.

The second was his journalistic experience of Wales.

It was virtually zero.

There is no doubt, however, that the new Director is an intelligent man — like his father, he attended Jesus College, Oxford.

He was born in Cardiff in 1973.

At the time his father was approaching the peak of his career as a print journalist.

Geraint Talfan Davies had started in 1966 as a graduate trainee at the Western Mail in Cardiff.

In 1971 he joined the Newcastle daily, The Journal.

By 1973, the year of his second son Rhodri’s birth, he was working for The Times in London.

The following year he returned to the Western Mail as assistant editor.

He moved into broadcasting in 1978 as head of news and current affairs at what was then HTV Wales.

At the time, his uncle Sir Alun Talfan Davies was the chairman of the Welsh board of the company which held the ITV franchise for Wales and the West Country.

THE MAN FROM UNCLE Geraint Talfan Davies acquired the nickname in 1978 when he was appointed head of news and current affairs at HTV Wales. His uncle, Sir Alun Talfan Davies, was chairman of the Welsh board. There was little criticism when he was appointed Controller of BBC Wales in 1990 — he had served a long apprenticeship in Welsh newspapers and television. He stood down in 2000 but remains active in public life — he's currently chairman of the Welsh National Opera.

THE MAN FROM UNCLE
GERAINT TALFAN DAVIES, who published his autobiography in 2008, acquired the nickname in 1978 when he was appointed head of news and current affairs at HTV Wales. His uncle, Sir Alun Talfan Davies, was chairman of the Welsh board. There was no criticism when he was appointed Controller of BBC Wales in 1990 — he had served a long apprenticeship in newspapers and television. He stood down in 2000 but remains active in public life: he’s currently chairman of the Welsh National Opera.

This is where his nickname — “The Man From Uncle” — comes from.

His son went to the Welsh-medium secondary school, Ysgol Gyfun Gymaeg Glantaf, in Llandaff — not far from the HQ of BBC Wales.

In 1987, however, the family moved to Newcastle upon Tyne when Geraint Talfan Davies was appointed Director of Programmes for Tyne Tees Television.

Rhodri Talfan Davies went to Newcastle’s Royal Grammar School before going to Oxford in 1989.

In 1992 he spent a year on the post-graduate course at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism.

Then it was time to start forging a career.

♦♦♦

IT BEGAN — as it had done for his father — on the Western Mail.

 in 1993 Rhodri Talfan Davies spent a short period on the newspaper as a sub-editor in Cardiff.

These few months are his only journalistic employment in Wales.

Later the same year, he was accepted as a news trainee at the BBC.

His father was, by this time, running BBC Wales.

His son went to work in the English regions.

For six years, between 1993 and 1999, he worked for various regional news and documentary strands in the North of England and the South East.

He started as a journalist and was promoted to producer.

Then, in 1999. he landed a major post — head of BBC West in Bristol.

His title was Head of Regional & Local Programmes.

The appointment came as a surprise to many at the BBC West headquarters in Bristol’s Whiteladies Road.

He was just 28.

He had never worked in the BBC West region.

He had no formal managerial experience.

(When his father was 28, he was still only a reporter on The Journal in Newcastle.

At 28, Menna Richards, was just a radio and television journalist at BBC Wales.)

Rhodri Talfan Davies and his wife Estelle moved to Bristol.

But in 2002  he moved on.

He went to work for the cable operator Telewest as Director of Television.

He stayed for four years and was part of the team which won a UK Bafta award in 2004 for its pioneering interactive and “catch-up” facilities.

In July 2006 he applied for the job of Head of Marketing, Communications & Audiences at BBC Wales in Cardiff.

The four-strong interviewing panel was headed by Menna Richards.

He was appointed — and joined the board — despite never having worked for BBC Wales.

Aside from a year as a student in Cardiff, he had not lived in Wales for nearly twenty years.

The son of the man from uncle was now 35.

(When Menna Richards was 35, she was still a journalist at HTV Wales.

Geraint Talfan Davies, at 35, had just been appointed to his first job in broadcasting — head of news and current affairs at HTV Wales — after twelve years as a print journalist.)

The man Talfan Davies replaced as Head of Marketing, Communications & Audiences was Huw Roberts.

Appointed in 2002, Roberts had a formidable CV.

He’d been ITN’s chief press officer for five years.

He’d spent a year as a senior special advisor to the Welsh Office in 1997-1998, working for Ron Davies

He’d spent two years as the Welsh Development Agency’s Head of Marketing.

He also had a decade of press and information experience at various government departments including the Welsh Office.

BBC communications chief Kate Stokes told Rebecca that Talfan Davies “accepted a lower salary than his predecessor had received”.

In 2009 another important string was added to his bow — only this time he didn’t have to apply for it.

Menna Richards decided to change his job description.

MENNA RICHARDS, OBE Awarded the honour in 2010, she stood down from the post of Director in February 2011. There was little criticism of her appointment back in 2000 even though she was a close friend of Geraint Talfan Davies. She had served a long apprenticeship  — all of it in Wales. Photo: PA

MENNA RICHARDS, OBE
AWARDED THE honour in 2010, she stood down from the post of Director in February 2011. There was little criticism of her appointment back in 2000 even though she was a close friend of Geraint Talfan Davies. She had served a long apprenticeship — all of it in Wales.                                                                  Photo: PA

Instead of Head of Marketing, Communications & Audiences, she dropped marketing and audiences from his portfolio — and added strategy.

The post was now Head of Strategy & Communications.

Although a head of strategy had previously existed, it was not a board level position.

Strategy is an important position because it allows the holder to be a part of the Corporation’s forward planning.

It gave Rhodri Talfan Davies an inside track on what any new Director of BBC Wales might face.

The decision to add Strategy to his portfolio was Menna Richards’ sole decision.

It was, BBC Wales’ spokeswoman Kate Stokes told us, a decision “unique to Wales.”

“The new job … incorporated a wider set of responsibilities at Board level, but the salary did not change,” she said.

But, later, she changed her position.

“By way of correction to the previous response we gave you,” she said, “the additional responsibilities were recognised via a small increase but we do not disclose individual salary levels below Director level.”

 ♦♦♦

WHEN HE was took up the post of Head of Marketing, Communications & Audiences  in July 2006, Rhodri Talfan Davies decided he wouldn’t move his family to Wales.

At that point, he had two children — the first-born between 4 and 5, the second just a toddler.

This would have been a perfect time to start educating his children in Welsh-medium schools — as he had been.

But in 2002 he had bought a house in Westbury Park, Bristol for £329,000 and he and his wife Estelle decided to stay put.

By the time he applied for the post of Director, in the early months of 2011, he had also made up his mind that his family would not move to Wales.

In fact, in the months that followed he and his wife were negotiating to buy a more expensive property in the same area of Bristol.

In June 2011 the original house was sold for £477,500 — and a new one bought for £545,000.

The following month he was appointed Director of BBC Wales.

When he took up the post in September 2011, Talfan Davies admitted the issue of where he lived had delayed his appointment.

“Clearly it wasn’t ideal that my family home was in Bristol,” he told the Western Mail in September 2011, “but certainly I’ve given assurances that I would be based in Cardiff throughout the week.”

He added that “my wife and I moved 11 times during the first eight years of my career [1993-2001] and we took a view five or six years ago that while our children — aged 10, seven and one — are school age that we would offer them as much stability as possible, wherever my career led.”

He said Director General Mark Thompson had been concerned that he lived in England.

“Mark, I suspect, thought long and hard about that.”

“He came to the view in the end that that situation wouldn’t impact on my ability to do the job and I’m very grateful for the support he’s shown.”

The new Director was 40 years old.

(When his father, Geraint, was 40 he had risen to the heights of Assistant Controller of Programmes at HTV Wales.

It was to be another six years before he took the top job at BBC Wales.

The woman Rhodri Talfan Davies replaced as Director, Menna Richards OBE, was Director of Programmes at HTV Wales on her 40th birthday.

She had to wait until she was 47 before she took the top job at BBC Wales.)

On his first day as Director at Broadcasting House, Talfan Davies also discussed what he called “sniffy” comments about a family dynasty.

“I don’t worry about it too much.”

“Inevitably people may scratch their heads and say how is it that he can be appointed.”

“The truth is you see this in a whole range of fields.”

“There are plenty of friends I have who are teachers whose parents were teachers.”

“There are Welsh rugby internationals whose parents are rugby internationals.”

“I was brought up in an environment where there was a real passion for media and broadcasting and I guess that rubbed off.”

“I think the people I work with judge me on what I do rather than what previous relatives have done.”

He took a lower salary than Menna Richards — £140,000 against her £185,000.

But his confidential contract also carried with it a commitment to increase his salary by £20,000 after 18 months if certain targets were met.

BBC Wales has never disclosed what these targets were.

He got his £20,000 increase…

♦♦♦

SO WHAT is the truth about Rhodri Talfan Davies’ appointment?

Was he simply a brilliant and precocious administrator, streets ahead of the competition?

Or was he fortunate to come from a powerful media dynasty and well-placed to join the Corporation at a time when a close friend of the family was in charge of BBC Wales?

Rebecca wrote to the Director and asked him if the influence of his father and Menna Richards played any part in the four key “booster rockets” that catapulted him to the top of BBC Wales.

Booster Rocket 1

This was his appointment to Head of Regional & Local Programmes at BBC West at the tender age of 28.

We asked him how a producer with just six years in news and no formal managerial experience could possibly have beaten candidates with a more developed CV?

Was the fact that his father was the head of BBC Wales at the time and an influential figure in the Corporation a factor?

He didn’t reply — although the BBC’s Kate Stokes claimed that he had “significant management experience in a busy news environment.”

We asked the son to put this question to his father.

Geraint Talfan Davies didn’t answer.

Booster Rocket 2

This was Rhodri Talfan Davies’ promotion to Head of Marketing, Communications & Audiences at BBC Wales in 2006.

There is no doubt that he had marketing credentials, having worked for Telewest for several years in a senior role.

But he had no work experience in Wales beyond a short stint as a sub-editor on the Western Mail back in 1993.

He had not lived in Wales for most of the previous two decades.

We asked him why Menna Richards had not declared an interest in his application on the grounds that she was a close friend of his father — and withdrawn from the interviewing panel.

He didn’t answer.

We also asked him to put this question to Menna Richards.

She didn’t respond.

Booster Rocket 3

In 2009 the key role of Strategy was added to his job title by Menna Richards.

The new role wasn’t advertised.

She also gave him an unspecified pay rise.

We asked him if the purpose of this change was to give him an inside track on the Corporation’s thinking about the way forward, both nationally and in Wales.

This was another question he wouldn’t answer.

Menna Richards was also silent on the subject.

Booster Rocket 4

Even though he was ruled out as a potential Director in the February 2011 interviews carried out by Mark Byford, he still managed to stay in the running and land the top job in July.

We asked him if deputy Director General Mark Byford, who chaired the February interview board, had decided either that he did not have enough experience or that his decision to stay in Bristol ruled him out.

We asked if the fact that Mark Byford had accepted redundancy the previous October had played a part.

MARK BYFORD Deputy Director General of the BBC when the panel he chaired rejected Rhodri Talfan Davies for the post of BBC Wales Director. He left the Corporation the month before Rhodri Talfan Davies was appointed — and later was at the centre of a storm over his £1 million redundancy package and a £163,000 a year pension. Photo: PA

NO WAY
MARK BYFORD was deputy Director General of the BBC when the panel he chaired rejected Rhodri Talfan Davies for the post of BBC Wales Director. Byford left the Corporation the month before Talfan Davies was appointed. He was later at the centre of a storm over a £1 million redundancy package and his £163,000 a year pension.  Photo: PA

Byford left in June 2011 and the appointment was sanctioned — apparently without any further interviews — by the then Director General Mark Thompson a month later.

Had Thompson been in favour all along — and told Talfan Davies to bide his time until Byford was out of the picture?

Again, Talfan Davies didn’t answer these questions.

We also wrote to Mark Byford at his Winchester home.

He didn’t reply.

We asked Mark Thompson, now in charge of the New York Times, for a comment.

He didn’t come back to us.

♦♦♦

IN THE letter to Rhodri Talfan Davies, Rebecca also tackled the issue of him living in Bristol.

We pointed out that “many observers will find it hard to accept that, on your 2006 appointment to the Head of Marketing, Communications & Audiences, you did not move your family to Wales.”
 
“Your eldest child was just four or five and at an ideal age to start primary education in a Welsh-medium school.”
 
“Your decision to stay in Bristol leaves you open to the charge that, in relation to English language programmes, you are an ‘absentee landlord’.”

“In relation to Welsh-language output, you are — by virtue of the fact that your family is growing up mainly outside the cultural life of Welsh-speaking Wales — a ‘remote controller’.”

He didn’t reply.

We also made several further attempts to clear up the central mystery in his appointment — what happened in the four months between his rejection in February 2011 and his appointment in July 2011?

We asked BBC Wales what the short-listed candidates were told in February.

We asked what Talfan Davies was told.

We asked for more information about the widening of the search for other candidates.

That search, BBC Wales said at the time, “would continue until ‘the right person’ was found.”

We asked if there was another round of interviews before Talfan Davies was appointed.

Kate Stokes, Head of Communications & External Affairs, told us “the BBC does not disclose the sort of details you have requested on staff recruitment …”

She did comment on the apparent contradiction between the rejection of  Talfan Davies in February (“after the first round of interviews failed to deliver a successful candidate”) and his appointment in July.

She insisted the “delay does not contradict the BBC statement in February 2011 that ‘the first round of interviews failed to deliver a successful candidate’.”

“The only reason Rhodri was not a successful candidate — i.e. appointed — at that time was because of concerns over his Bristol family home.”

We also asked why Talfan Davies living in Bristol was a problem in February — but no longer an issue when he was appointed in July.

There was no reply by the time this article was published.

When we sent our letter to Talfan Davies we asked for a response by close of play last Thursday.

By Friday morning it was clear that there would be no reply.

Rebecca then sent copies of the letter to Director General Lord Hall and BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten.

A spokesperson for the Trust said “this is a matter for Rhodri Talfan Davies”.

On Friday afternoon the BBC Press Office in London gave us a statement.

“The suggestion that Rhodri Talfan Davies was appointed Director for any reason other than being the best candidate for the job is absurd and doesn’t stand up to any form of sensible scrutiny.”

♦♦♦

 NOTES

1  The refusal of BBC Wales to answer questions about sensitive issues is not surprising. Across Welsh broadcasting there’s a history of censorship — for ITV Wales see A Man of Conviction? about the suppression of material damaging to Welsh Ofcom chair Rhodri Williams. A Licence To Censor tells the story of how a critical documentary on Welsh Rugby Union chairman David Pickering’s financial problems came to be shelved. Back at BBC Wales, In The Name Of The Father? examines the career of Menna Richards, a close family friend of the Talfan Davies clan. 

2  Rebecca is in dispute with BBC Wales over the Corporation’s failure to cover some of the material the website has published. In particular, we have complained about the decision to ignore major investigations into freemasonry, censorship in Welsh broadcasting and child abuse in North Wales. This led to an unsuccessful complaint to BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten. There will be more  on this in forthcoming articles.

♦♦♦ 

© Rebecca 2013

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

 


BROTHERS IN THE SHADOWS

September 9, 2013

rebecca_logo_04

THIS PROGRAMME examines the role of freemasons and police in child abuse cases in North Wales.

It tells how the existence of a masonic lodge for police officers was kept from the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal in the 1990s.

A local newspaper editor stumbled on the story some time before the Tribunal began work.

At first North Wales Police denied it existed — a stance it was forced to abandon when the reporter produced a photocopy of the lodge entry in the provincial yearbook.

Then it claimed no serving officers were members — but that position also turned out to be wrong.

The journalist was amazed when the Tribunal was not told about the lodge.

But the core of the video is the extraordinary story of a paedophile ring which operated on the North Wales coast in 2005-6.

Orchestrated by a murderer, the ring included a retired police officer and several freemasons.

One of these masons is still at large.

Rebecca Television asks if police have done enough to bring this masonic child abuser to book.

The story has uncanny echoes of the 1980s and 1990s when North Wales was awash with rumours of a paedophile ring — allegedly involving police officers and masons — exploiting children in care.

Those rumours led to the establishment of the Tribunal.

When Brothers in the Shadows was first published, in 2010, the general view was that the issue has been laid to rest by the Tribunal in its massive report, called Lost in Care, published in 2000.

The Tribunal found no evidence of a paedophile ring and cleared North Wales Police of charges that it had failed to investigate child abuse allegations properly.

Rebecca Television was virtually alone in raising questions about the work of the Tribunal.

These doubts were dramatically vindicated last November when David Cameron announced a new police investigation and a review of the work of the Tribunal.

Also published today is an article which examines the 2005-6 paedophile ring in more detail — The Missing Masonic Child Abuser.

(Please note that the programme is a high quality video and may take some time to begin playing.)


♦♦♦ 

© Rebecca Television 2010 & 2013

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this programme — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this programme and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards


ITV BID TO GAG REBECCA TELEVISION

September 1, 2013

rebecca_logo_04

A  MAJOR battle is taking place between the broadcasting giant ITV and Rebecca Television.

Lawyers acting for ITV have given Rebecca Television until today to remove from the website a controversial interview which the company suppressed ten years ago.

The interview was given by Ron Jones, chairman of the independent television production company Tinopolis.

Jones revealed the extraordinary background to the abrupt sacking of the company’s co-founder Rhodri Williams back in 2001.

Jones accused his former partner — now Wales Director of the broadcasting regulator Ofcom — of acting dishonestly.

The interview was first made public in our programme Hidden Agenda and the article A Man Of Conviction? published last year.

Lawyers are also insisting that even the information contained in the interview belongs to ITV and that none of it can be used.

This is censorship — and Rebecca Television will not accept it.

HIDDEN ONCE, HIDDEN TWICE, HIDDEN THREE TIMES The dramatic story behind Rhodri Williams' sudden departure from  the company he helped to found was suppressed in 2001, again in 2003 and now ITV want to hide it again.  Photo: Ofcom

HIDDEN ONCE, HIDDEN TWICE, HIDDEN THREE TIMES
The dramatic story behind Rhodri Williams’ sudden departure from the company he helped to found was kept secret in 2001, suppressed in 2003 and now ITV wants to bury it all over again…   Photo: Ofcom


ON JUNE 17 this year ITV wrote to Rebecca Television (RTV) giving the website seven days to remove all trace of a celebrated interview.

The company want the interview — with the independent producer Ron Jones — removed from the programme Hidden Agenda.

The interview took place in 2003.

It dramatically revealed how Rhodri Wiliams, the current Wales Director of the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom, came to be sacked from the production company Tinopolis in 2001.

Williams was dismissed for dishonesty after allegedly diverting business from Tinopolis — then called Agenda — to a competitor.

Williams denied acting dishonestly — he said at the time the allegation was “defamatory and libellous”.

The interview with Ron Jones was carried out by the ITV Wales current affairs programme Wales This Week in 2003.

At the time Rebecca Television editor Paddy French worked for ITV Wales and was the producer in charge of the proposed programme.

It was never broadcast.

Later in 2003 Rhodri Williams was appointed Wales Director of the broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

(The story of the suppression of the interview in 2003 is told in the article A Licence To Censor.)

In April 2012 Rebecca Television finally used the Ron Jones interview in the preparation of the programme Hidden Agenda and the article A Man Of Conviction?

More than a year later ITV lawyer John Berry said that ITV’s “attention had been drawn” to the use of the material.

“The video Hidden Agenda in particular includes and relies heavily upon previously unbroadcast footage filmed for Wales This Week and owned by ITV.”

“As you are no doubt aware, the making of a copy of a copyright work and the communication of such a work to the public without the permission of the copyright owner is contrary to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act of 1988.”

Berry demanded that ITV’s material be removed within seven days and noted “we reserve all rights, in particular our right to bring legal proceedings against you including but not limited to those relating to breach of confidence and infringement of copyright.”

The deadline was eventually extended to September 1.

On June 24 RTV editor Paddy French emailed a reply.

He pointed out that ITV Wales had never shown any interest in the Ron Jones interview.

(The tapes sat on his desk until he left the company in 2008 and took them with him.)

RON JONES ITV are goig to extraordinary efforts to remove Gave  an extraordinary interview to ITV Wales  in 2003

RON JONES
One of the founders of Tinopolis, the Llanelli-based television production company. He gave the interview in 2003 but it was nearly a decade before it entered the public domain.  Photo: Tinopolis

He stated: “there is as powerful a public interest in this material seeing the light of day today as there was when it was filmed.”

“There is an argument that this material was censored back in 2003 and that … this present attempt to remove this material leaves the company vulnerable to the accusation that it is acting as censor.”

♦♦♦ 

ITV did not respond to this email. 

On July 2 French emailed ITV again.

This time he pointed out that, although ITV was concentrating on removing the material relating to Rhodri Williams, there was other ITV copyright material on the Rebecca Television website.

This included part of another interview which had never seen the light of day until RTV included it in the programme A Touch of Frost.

This video, which was first published  in April 2011, includes part of an ITV interview with a man called Des Frost.

“A key part of his testimony was not included in a 1997 Wales This Week programme because the Waterhouse child abuse Tribunal threatened contempt proceedings if it was broadcast.”

But the Tribunal did not call Frost as a witness and never heard his claims that he reported child abuse to the police ten years before they began investigating.

Paddy French had worked on this 1997 programme as a freelance investigator.

“There was no objection to the use of this footage by ITV Wales … in 2011.”

A Touch of Frost took on a dramatic significance last November when the BBC programme Newsnight allowed Stephen Messham to falsely imply that Lord McAlpine was a paedophile.

This led to the government ordering a new police investigation and a review, headed by Mrs Justice Macur, into the way the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal chaired by Sir Ronald Waterhouse had carried out its task.

French added: “I immediately alerted ITV Wales to the fact that the company held what was now highly significant archive material. This resulted in a new Wales This Week programme which went out last November.”

“As part of this process I was able to reveal that I had met Sir Ronald Waterhouse back in 2000 to discuss the Frost material. This gave ITV Wales several exclusive stories.”

“I say all this,” French went on, “to emphasise the mutuality of the relationship between ITV and RTV.”

“Without my knowledge, ITV Wales would have missed the fact that they held valuable archive while my long-term interest in the issue proved invaluable to the station.”

“In conclusion, I would say that this is a highly unusual position.”

“For ten years I was a conscientious employee of ITV Wales and since I have left my expertise has come in useful on several occasions …”

“I believe that an agreement whereby I am allowed to use the ITV Wales material for a nominal £1 payment would satisfy the company’s interests.”

♦♦♦ 

Again, ITV did not reply.

Instead, the company instructed the London solicitors Olswang to take up the issue.

On July 30 the firm wrote to RTV, dismissing the suggestion that ITV allow the use of the material for a nominal £1.

“ITV has not and will not in the future provide you with permission to use the ITV property …”

Olswang also dismissed the public interest argument: “there is clearly no public interest in broadcasting material which you have obtained without consent from our client and which raises no current issue of public importance.”

“In fact, it is apparent from an article featuring on the website entitled A Licence To Censor, which states that you and Rhodri Williams fell out in the 1980s, that rather than you being motivated by public interest concerns, you in fact have personal motivations for wanting the ITV property relating to Rhodri Williams to be published.”

(French denies this — see the discussion of the issue in the article A Licence To Censor.)

MYSTERY Rhodri Williams started his public career in 1996 when he was appointed a member of the Welsh Language Board. In the period 1996-2004 he would take home a total of more than £180,000 in fees and pension contributions. Photo: Rebecca

Mr REGULATOR
Rhodri Williams leads the Welsh arm of the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom. He’s a well-connected man: his wife Siân’s best friend is former Labour AM Delyth Evans who is the partner of Ofcom boss Ed Richards. Both Evans and Richards once worked for Gordon Brown.  Photo: Rebecca Television

Olwang added: “Your claims that ITV is acting as a censor are also without foundation, as ITV is simply trying to protect its rights in the unbroadcast ITV property.”

The firm has now demanded that all other ITV material be removed from the RTV site.

♦♦♦ 

THE UPSHOT of this legal wrangling is that Rebecca Television has no choice but to remove the physical ITV material from the website.

“There is, and never was, any doubt that ITV owned the copyright to the material,” says Paddy French.

“I had hoped the company would turn a blind eye because it was embarrassed that it had never broadcast some of the material.”

“For several years, this is what seems to have happened.”

“Now, for reasons that are unclear, it has decided to act.”

“It is interesting that ITV’s main interest is in the Ron Jones interview that damages the reputation of the Ofcom Wales Director Rhodri Williams.”

This means that the programmes Hidden Agenda and A Touch Of Frost have been temporarily withdrawn for re-editing.

Other material has also been removed, including the well-known doorstep where former Anglesey County Councillor John Arthur Jones called Paddy French a paedophile.

Originally, this appeared in the article The Gospel According to “Jesus” Arthur Jones.

♦♦♦ 

But that’s not the end of the matter.

Olswang also insist that “ITV is also the owner of the confidential information in the unbroadcast ITV property…”

The use of this information “is clearly a breach of confidence.”

“The article entitled A Man Of Conviction? which is based on and quotes from the Ron Jones interview should therefore also be removed from the website.”

“This is unacceptable to Rebecca Television,” said French.

“It’s a clear attempt to censor information already in the public domain — and which belongs in the public domain.”

Rebecca Television will not be complying with this condition.”

“The fact that the company is making such a determined effort to remove all trace of the Ron Jones interview suggests that other, deeper forces may be at work here,” added French.

This is not the first time RTV has faced legal demands for the withdrawal of articles.

In July three senior Welsh Rugby Union figures — chairman David Pickering, chief executive Roger Lewis and communications chief John Williams — instructed solicitors to threaten legal action if the article A Licence To Censor was not taken down.

The article told the story of the censorship of a damaging business profile of Pickering back in 2006 by ITV Wales director of programmes Elis Owen.

In the article WRU Big Guns v Rebecca Television, RTV refused to axe the article.

So far, we have heard nothing from Pickering, Lewis, Williams or their solicitors.

♦♦♦ 

© Rebecca Television 2013

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

COMING UP

With two television programmes temporarily withdrawn for re-editing, Rebecca Television will shortly publish the next video — Brothers in the Shadows. It’s a dark tale of a vicious murderer in North Wales who groomed a vulnerable young girl and formed a paedophile ring to sexually exploit her. One ring member was a retired police detective who claims he was persuaded to join the gang by a fellow freemason…  


A TOUCH OF FROST

June 24, 2013

NOTE
THIS PROGRAMME has been temporarily withdrawn for re-editing.
The broadcaster ITV has objected to the use of its copyright material and it is being removed.
The trailer does not infringe ITV’s copyright and can be seen below.
See the article ITV Bid To Gag Rebecca Television for more on this story.

rebecca_6aTHE NORTH Wales Child Abuse Tribunal is the only full-scale public inquiry ever to be held in Britain into sexual and physical abuse in care homes.

It cost £14 million and produced a substantial 937 page report in 2000.

Rebecca Television has long argued that the Tribunal, chaired by the retired High Court judge Sir Ronald Waterhouse, was “flawed”.

The key piece of evidence concerns a man called Des Frost.

Frost was a senior executive in the privately run Bryn Alyn Community in Wrexham whose boss John Allen was gaoled for child abuse in the 1990s.

Des Frost was potentially a key witness for the Tribunal because he claimed he told police about Allen’s activities a full decade before he was brought to book.

But Frost was never called to give evidence — and the Tribunal prevented the Welsh television company HTV from broadcasting his testimony.

The upshot was that the Waterhouse Tribunal never heard Frost’s evidence.

As a result, the North Wales Police was cleared of any failure to bring the abuse on its patch to an end ten years before it actually did so.

The video, which has been temporarily withdrawn, presents the interview that was censored.

The trailer gives some idea of the tone of the programme.


The ITV Wales current affairs programme Wales This Week also showed part of the censored interview in November 2012.

It can still be seen on the ITV Wales website: Still Lost In Care.

The issue is also explored in the article Silent Witness.

♦♦♦ 

© Rebecca Television 2013

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this programme — we’ll correct as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this programme and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add a note including your comments.

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards


SILENT WITNESS

June 24, 2013

rebecca_6a

IN 1997 journalists working for the HTV current affairs programme Wales This Week were given a stark warning by the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal.

If they broadcast newly discovered allegations of child abuse dating back nearly twenty years they risked being held in contempt of the Tribunal.

The broadcasters removed the allegations. But having gagged the media, the Tribunal didn’t go on to investigate the allegations.

The story of how the Tribunal suppressed an important piece of evidence has never been told.

THE NORTH WALES CHILD ABUSE TRIBUNAL Britain's only child abuse tribunal failed to hear the evidence of a key witness.

THE NORTH WALES CHILD ABUSE TRIBUNAL
Britain’s only child abuse tribunal failed to hear the evidence of a key witness.

IT WAS a Monday morning in October 1997 at the studios of HTV on the outskirts of Cardiff.

The team at the channel’s current affairs programme Wales This Week were preparing the Thursday evening edition.

For Editor Clare Hudson and Director David Williams this was no ordinary programme.

It was the latest in a series of investigations into child abuse in North Wales.

A Tribunal was already hearing evidence about the extent of physical and sexual abuse in children’s homes in the area.

Wales This Week had played a substantial role in the events which led up to the setting up of the Inquiry.

Six years earlier a report on allegations of physical abuse at a home in Gwynedd, the north-west corner of Wales, had led to the county being included in the child abuse investigation which had already started in the north-eastern corner, the county of Clwyd.

A year later, in September 1992, Wales This Week broadcast the most explosive programme in its history.

It featured two witnesses who claimed that a policeman, retired Superintendent Gordon Anglesea, had sexually abused them while they were residents of the Bryn Estyn children’s home just outside Wrexham.

Anglesea was an inspector in Wrexham at the time the alleged offences were committed. He was also a member of a masonic lodge in the town.

The allegations, in varying degrees, were repeated by Private Eye, The Observer and the Independent on Sunday.

Anglesea sued all four companies for libel and a jury found for him in December 1994.

He accepted a total of £375,000 in damages and the case cost HTV nearly a million pounds when the legal costs of the 15 day trial were added.

GORDON ANGLESEA The retired police superintendent won a major libel case.

GORDON ANGLESEA
The retired police superintendent won a major libel case at the High Court in London in 1994.

Anglesea’s victory and vindication did little to stem the tide of rumour sweeping North Wales.

It was said that councils had covered up the extent of the abuse in their homes while police had failed to investigate allegations of child abuse properly.

The fact that two of the most important figures in children’s homes – Peter Howarth of Bryn Estyn and John Allen of the private Bryn Alyn complex – were already facing child abuse charges did nothing to stem the tide.

Even some members of the North Wales Police Authority, the civilian body that controlled the non-operational aspects of the force, were calling for an outside force to be brought in to handle the investigation.

There was also speculation that a child abuse ring was operating in the area and that it included Tory members of the British political establishment who were also freemasons.

According to conspiracy theorists, this ring was being protected by policemen who were also masons.

♦♦♦

IT WAS against this feverish background that William Hague, the Secretary of State for Wales, decided in June 1996 to set up a tribunal to find out the truth.

He chose former High Court judge Sir Ronald Waterhouse to chair the Tribunal.

On the third day of the Tribunal’s opening session the barrister representing the North Wales Police, Andrew Moran QC, delivered his opening address.

He revealed that the major police inquiry carried out by Superintendent Peter Ackerley between 1991 and 1993 had investigated Gordon Anglesea.

He then delivered a bombshell.

“We can now demonstrate that Mr Anglesea, apparently at sometime a Freemason, was shown not an ounce of favour nor was any other officer or former officer. The proof of that is incontestable in the recommendation made by Supt Ackerley that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute.”

He added it was the Crown Prosecution Service, the body that decides if a case is strong enough to go to trial, which decided that the police officer should not be charged.

Moran added: “Despite the verdict in the libel trial in which the authors and publishers could not even discharge the burden of proving on a balance of probabilities that Anglesea was guilty, the recommendation was justified at the time and nails the lie of Masonic influence and favour.”

As part of the libel settlement with Anglesea, HTV and the other defendants had agreed they would never repeat the libels against him.

So it was difficult, if not impossible, for Wales This Week to return to the issue.

Instead, the team turned to a privately run children’s home called the Bryn Alyn Community which was close to the council-run Bryn Estyn home.

Most of the rumours concerned Bryn Estyn and Bryn Alyn stayed firmly in the background.

Bryn Alyn was owned by John Allen – a man with no social work training – and his family.

In February 1995 he was convicted of six offences of indecent assault against young male residents at the Community. He was gaoled for six years.

There were two disturbing aspects of his case.

JOHN ALLEN The owner of the Bryn Alyn complex of private homes went missing during his trial.

JOHN ALLEN
The owner of the Bryn Alyn complex of private homes went missing during his trial.

The first was he went “missing” for a week during his trial. He turned up in Oxford claiming to have had a breakdown and couldn’t remember anything about the seven days.

The second disturbing aspect is that during the period when he was missing, one of the former Bryn Alyn residents was found dead in his Brighton flat.

Lee Johns had given evidence against Allen at the trial and was one of the six former residents the jury were to decide had been abused by Allen.

The inquest verdict on Lee Johns was suicide. His family are convinced he did not take his own life.

Three years before he died, Lee had been badly injured at a catastrophic fire at a flat near Brighton in which five people died. One of those who died in the blaze was Lee’s younger bother Adrian who had also been in care at Bryn Alyn.

Both Lee and Adrian, after leaving Bryn Alyn, had stayed at properties which John Allen had helped to buy.

Wales This Week quickly discovered that, while the Bryn Alyn Community was a children’s home entirely funded by local authorities in England and Wales, it was actually a goldmine for John Allen.

Between 1974 and 1991 Bryn Alyn received more than thirty million pounds from councils for looking after problem children. A substantial slice of this money never went directly into looking after the children in the Community’s care.

More than half a million pounds went into a state of the art video studio in Wrexham and a large number of properties were bought including a villa in the south of France.

Allen bought a substantial country mansion for himself and paid £18,000 for a half-share in a yacht based in the Mediterranean called Dualité.

Allen was also using huge amounts of petty cash for his own purposes which were never properly recorded in the accounts.

He told the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal in 1997 that he estimated he’d spent £180,000 in presents for residents and former residents.

He said that Bryn Alyn ran an after-care system that included accommodation in Wrexham, London and Brighton as well as financial assistance for former residents.

♦♦♦

AS PART of the investigation into the financial affairs of the Bryn Alyn Community Wales This Week also talked to Des Frost, the former social worker who became joint number two at Bryn Alyn and looked after the finances.

But Frost didn’t just know about the finances, he’d also heard stories about John Allen’s behaviour.

When he was interviewed on camera, Frost said that on one occasion John Allen came in one morning with a black eye.

He said it had happened the previous night when he was trying to get into the caravan where a boy was sleeping. Allen did not offer any explanation for his behaviour.

Frost did nothing. But, on another occasion, he said

“I was approached by a member of staff who told me briefly of some rumours that were going around the organisation. And I explained it would be better not to talk about it at Bryn Alyn.”

“So I went up to his house at a later stage. And he told me some pretty hairy stories about allegations of child abuse by John.”

“I can’t remember honestly what they were except one which I remember was a member of staff caught in, shall we say, a compromising position and John had a perfectly legitimate answer for that one – but that was a rumour amongst others that were going round.”

DES FROST When a member of staff told him that boys at Bryn Alyn were complaining that Alenn abusing them, Frost decided to go to the police.

DES FROST
When a member of staff told him that boys at Bryn Alyn were complaining that John Allen was abusing them, Frost decided to go to the police.

Frost says he was aware the boys in Bryn Alyn were “not necessarily pure and innocent” – they were “streetwise”. He did not personally believe that John Allen was abusing the children at Bryn Alyn.

“Nevertheless, I was concerned about these rumours but the question is – what do you do about it? Because – do you go to your boss and say ‘excuse me, are you assaulting these children?’ If he wasn’t – or, rather, if he was, he would have said ‘mind your own business”. And if he wasn’t, I would have been down the road without a job.”

Frost says he went to see a local magistrate who had connections with Bryn Alyn.

“I was somewhat anxious that he should be such a friend of John’s that it would get back to him. But fortunately he wasn’t that involved – and he already had his own suspicions about the stories that I told him.”

The two men agreed there was nothing to do but to stay in touch. But Frost remained concerned.

“I then decided to go to the police on behalf of myself and the rest of the staff because, it was a difficult situation, but I didn’t want it ever said that – why didn’t you do anything about it?”

He said he felt he couldn’t go to the police station in Wrexham because Bryn Alyn residents were often in trouble with the police.

He was afraid John Allen would find out he’d been there and that he wouldn’t have a credible explanation for the visit.

“So I phoned the CID in Chester where I lived and asked them to come to my house which they did. Two detectives arrived. I can’t give you their names because I can’t remember.”

He says he told them of the rumours that had been passed on to him.

“What I hoped was that they – in fact I think I asked them to – was to communicate what I’d said to Wrexham police because I explained, as I just said, that it would not have been circumspect for me to walk into Wrexham police station.”

After the interview Wales This Week asked Cheshire police if they had any records relating to this interview. Cheshire said all records would have been destroyed long before but, if the interview had taken place, the procedure was straightforward – Chester police would have produced a report and passed it to the North Wales Police.

Frost says he never heard anything back from the Chester detectives. But shortly afterwards the local policeman – PC Jim Jones based in the village of Llay – asked to see him.

“He came to my office when normally he wouldn’t have done that because I wasn’t on the care side.”

“And he had a letter from a boy, an ex-Bryn Alyn boy, from Newcastle who’d been arrested. They’d found a letter on this boy addressed to John asking for money. The policeman wanted to know if this was blackmail.”

Frost explained that he didn’t think it was blackmail because of the aftercare system John Allen provided boys when they left the home. This involved him sending some former residents money.

“So I said, no, I didn’t think it’s blackmail. When he got up to go he said a very strange thing, he said, ‘well, I suppose everything is alright because you and mister so and so work here’. And the other person he referred to was also a member of the senior management.”

He and Frost were lay preachers.

“I just wonder whether he was on a trawling expedition having been alerted by Chester police to come and see me and see if I had anything else to say.”

But Frost did not tell PC Jones about the allegations he said he’d gone to Chester detectives about. The visit of PC Jones gave him the opportunity to repeat those allegations in a legitimate meeting arranged by the policeman.

Frost, who didn’t want to be interviewed for this article, now says that he was concerned that the PC would tell his superiors and that John Allen would find out.

At the time of the Wales This Week interview, Frost told the programme-makers that the Tribunal – already more than half way through its public hearings – had not interviewed him and he had not been put on notice that he might be a witness.

♦♦♦

So, on Monday 21 October 1997, the Wales This Week team began assembling the programme including the Frost allegations dating back to the early 1980s.

The journalists believed they had uncovered important new allegations that the Tribunal had missed.

That day, the Tribunal moved against the programme.

WALES THIS WEEK The current affairs programme had been at the heart of coverage of the North Wales abuse scandal.

WALES THIS WEEK
The current affairs programme had been at the heart of coverage of the North Wales abuse scandal.

Press officer David Norbury rang to say the Tribunal was concerned that a number of people, including Frost, had been interviewed by Wales This Week.

The next day he rang again. Again he was concerned about the interview with Frost. Editor Clare Hudson made a note of the conversation: “I asked is Frost a witness, has he given a statement? DN [David Norbury] didn’t know.”

She then asked “what exactly is the nature of the concern? He said “in a nutshell, contempt of court.”

Norbury said Brian McHenry, the lawyer seconded from the Treasury in London to act as the tribunal’s solicitor, wanted to talk to the programme’s lawyer.

After the lawyers talked, it became clear that if the programme contained any new allegations the Tribunal would consider referring Wales This Week to the Attorney General for contempt of the Tribunal.

If the programme makers were found guilty then, theoretically, they could be sent to gaol.

The programme’s legal advice was clear – remove the allegations – and Clare Hudson felt she had no option but to do so.

But the team decided to make it clear that Wales This Week had the details of these allegations.

When the programme about John Allen went out on the evening of Thursday, October 24th the script was clear.

After stating that Des Frost was concerned about the rumours he was hearing, the commentary added:

“Finally, Des Frost, an evangelical preacher, became so concerned about John Allen’s behaviour that he went to the police.”

“The North Wales Tribunal investigating child abuse is concerned that there should be no public discussion of these events at the present time.”

Two and a half years later, the Tribunal issued its report known as the Waterhouse Report after the former High Court judge, Sir Ronald Waterhouse, who chaired it.

It effectively cleared North Wales Police of the charge that it had failed to investigate child abuse properly.

True, it criticised a 1986-88 inquiry carried out by the then head of the CID at North Wales Police, Gwynne Owen, as being “defective in many respects” and “sluggish and shallow”.

However, the Tribunal added that there was no evidence that, had it been pursued properly, the police would have been aware that it needed to investigate child abuse more deeply.

The Tribunal Report concluded “there was no significant omission by the North Wales Police in investigating the complaints of abuse to children in care”.

But there was one incident which the Tribunal concedes might have triggered a wider inquiry. The Tribunal’s report states:

“There was an occasion in 1981 or 1982 when John Allen’s sexual activities might have come to the attention of the police. Police officers in Durham had become aware that a former resident with the Bryn Alyn Community was receiving substantial cheques from Allen.”

LOST IN CARE The massive 937 page report cleared the North Wales Police of any failures

THE WATERHOUSE REPORT
The massive 937 page report of the Tribunal cleared the North Wales Police of any failures.

“A police officer at Llay, near Wrexham, was asked to investigate the position and learnt from the Bryn Alyn accountant at that time that money was being paid to former residents.”

This police officer was PC Jim Jones.

“We heard the recollections of four witnesses about this matter but only one of them, Keith Allen Evans [the head of care at the time], claimed to have told the Llay police officer about rumours or banter in relation to residents who received gifts in return for “bending down” for Allen; and Evans himself did not believe what was being said about Allen.”

“The Llay police officer, on the other hand, said that there was no suggestion by the Durham police or by the Bryn Alyn staff of blackmail. The officer said that blackmail was not the subject of investigation and that he was not told of any rumour of sexual abuse by Allen.”

“In these circumstances,” the report concludes, “we cannot be satisfied that anything was said to the North Wales Police at that time to put them on notice of allegations of sexual misconduct by Allen.”

At the time the Llay police officer investigated the letter his superior officer was Inspector Gordon Anglesea, a fact that is not mentioned in the Tribunal Report.

When he gave evidence to the Tribunal, Anglesea was not asked if he knew anything about the visit to Bryn Alyn by PC Jones.

The accountant mentioned in the paragraphs from the Tribunal report about PC Jones’ visit is Des Frost.

And the events that are being discussed come, according to Frost, after he claims to have gone to the police in Chester with allegations of sexual abuse by Allen.

For this article Rebecca Television pressed Frost for more information that might help give the date more accurately.

Frost has always maintained that his visit to Chester was around the time of a suicide that happened not far from Bryn Alyn. A former resident called Robert Chapman had committed suicide by jumping from a railway bridge near Bryn Alyn.

Later a letter arrived for him and, because John Allen was away, Frost decided to open it. The letter had strong homosexual overtones. When John Allen returned and discovered that the letter had been opened he went, Frost recalls, “ballistic”.

We checked the date of the Robert Chapman suicide – it was in July 1978. This means that, if Frost’s recollection is correct, his interview with Cheshire police happened several years before Durham police alerted North Wales Police to the suspicious letter they had seized.

♦♦♦

Frost also has an extraordinary story about the events that surrounded the censorship that took place in the October 1997 Wales This Week programme about John Allen.

He says that ten days after he was interviewed by the programme-makers, he received a phone call from Detective Inspector Neil McAdam who said he was outside with another officer.

McAdam said they wanted to interview him. Frost says he formed the impression they were from the Tribunal.

He agreed to meet DI McAdam. McAdam and detective constable Karen Lewis took a statement from him.

Frost says he told them what he’d told the television journalists.

By an extraordinary coincidence, this day – 22 October 1997 – was two days before the Wales This Week programme about John Allen was due to be screened and during the period when the Tribunal was expressing concern about the interview with Frost.

Frost says that McAdam and WDC Lewis returned a fortnight later with the statement for him to sign.

But McAdam and Lewis were not employed by the Tribunal.

They were detectives from the North Wales Police. McAdam, in fact, had been involved in the investigation that led to the conviction of John Allen.

In December 2009 Rebecca Television asked McAdam, who is still serving, to confirm he’d interviewed Frost and to explain why he had done so.

A fortnight later McAdam emailed to say the questions were “receiving attention”.

In July 2010, after six months’ silence, we lodged an official complaint against McAdam with the Professional Standards Department of the North Wales Police.

The investigation was carried out by Superintendent Paul Breed of the Western Division.

He said that three days after he received the questions from Rebecca Television, McAdam brought the issue to his Divisional Command Team.

The Divisional Command Team then talked to the senior officers at force HQ in Colwyn Bay “with the suggestion that given the nature of the enquiry DI McAdam should not be the person to respond…”

“It is reasonable,” concluded Breed in his report on the complaint, “that DI McAdam has sought advice and guidance from his line managers expecting that ownership to respond … rest with someone higher within the organisation.”

We  had already written separately about the issue to Chief Constable Mark Polin back in January 2009. He never answered.

We wrote to Gordon Anglesea to ask if he remembered anything about PC Jones’ visit to Bryn Alyn. He didn’t answer.

We wrote to Gerard Elias, QC who was the Tribunal’s main counsel. He did not reply.

We also wrote to Andrew Moran, QC who represented the North Wales Police at the Tribunal. He did not reply.

We wrote to Sir Ronald Waterhouse about the Frost allegations. He told us: “the Tribunal has said all that it could properly say on the evidence before it in its report and that it would be both unwise and inappropriate for me to
comment further.”

SIR RONALD WATERHOUSE The retired High Court judge who chaired the Tribunal. He wouldn't comment on the allegation that the Tribunal had prevented Des Frost from giving evidence.

SIR RONALD WATERHOUSE
The retired High Court judge who chaired the Tribunal. He wouldn’t comment on the allegation that Des Frost had been prevented from giving evidence.

At that point, we had not discovered that North Wales Police had interviewed Frost. When we wrote to Sir Ronald about this interview, he did not reply…

We also sent a synopsis of this article to the two other members of the Tribunal: Morris le Fleming and Margaret Clough.

Morris le Fleming told us: “I have no wish to comment on your synopsis. I am not, nor ever have been, a Freemason.”

Margaret Clough said: “Thank you for the courtesy of sending the synopsis but I do not have any comment to make.”

NOTES

1  This article was first published in 2010, part of a series called The Case of the Flawed Tribunal — other articles in the series will be added at a later date.

2  Events have moved on since this article was published. Last year, David Cameron announced a new child abuse police investigation and ordered a review of the Tribunal, headed by Mrs Justice Macur. Rebecca Television has given two statements to both inquiries.

3  The interview with Des Frost can be seen in the video A Touch of Frost.

♦♦♦ 

© Rebecca Television 2013

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards


RASH JOURNALISM — THE SWANSEA MEASLES EPIDEMIC

June 14, 2013

14 June 2013rebecca_6aTHE CURRENT measles epidemic in the Swansea area has led to more than fourteen hundred children and adults catching the disease throughout Wales.

A large part of the responsibility for the outbreak rests with Swansea’s local paper, the Evening Post.

In 1997 the paper ran a high-profile series of articles on behalf of a group of parents who believed the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine — MMR — had damaged their children.

No medical evidence has ever been found to justify these concerns.

The paper’s campaign led to a dramatic fall in vaccination rates in the area which helped to create a large reserve of unprotected children. This allowed the current outbreak to take hold and spread.

The newspaper refuses to accept its share of the responsibility for the largest measles epidemic in Wales this century.

The current editor says the Evening Post was only doing what any responsible newspaper would have done.

But Rebecca Television has investigated the campaign — and finds the paper guilty of rash journalism.

THE MEASLES VIRUS Before the introduction of the single measles in 1968, around 100 children in England and Wales. But the single vaccine failed to eradicate the disease — before MMR was introduced in 1988, there were still between 50,000 and 100,000 cases a year.

THE MEASLES VIRUS
Before the introduction of the single measles vaccine in 1968, the disease killed 100 children a year in England and Wales. But the single vaccine failed to eradicate the disease — before MMR was introduced in 1988, there were still between 50,000 and 100,000 cases a year.

ON APRIL 18 this year a young Swansea man called Gareth Colfer-Williams, 25, was found dead at his home.

His mother, Angela Colfer, said the day before he died he went to the doctor complaining of a rash all over his body except his arms.

She added that he had also recently been treated in hospital for asthma.

Post-mortem tests showed he was suffering from measles but the precise cause of death was unclear. Further tests are taking place.

If his death is shown to be due to measles, he will be the first fatality of the disease in Britain since 2008.

By June 10 this year the number of cases in the Swansea health board area — which includes Neath, Port Talbot and Bridgend —  had reached 934.  The total for Wales stood at 1,413.

The local paper, the South Wales Evening Post, has been reporting the epidemic.

It now supports the campaign to give all children the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine — known as MMR.

But in the late 1990s the paper was sending out a different message — and one that led to a massive drop in the number of children getting the jab.

The saga started with a straightforward Evening Post article at the end of July 1997.

The piece highlighted a warning from the local health board urging parents to ignore press reports of a possible link between the MMR jab and cases of autism and the bowel disorder Crohn’s disease.

The warning was issued because, two days earlier, the Daily Mail carried a story about claims that MMR caused autism and Crohn’s disease in a small number of chidren.

The Daily Mail was, in turn, picking up an interview in the doctors’ magazine Pulse with an academic researcher called Dr Andrew Wakefield who was flagging up a piece of research he was undertaking at London’s Royal Free Hospital.

The Daily Mail said the “two illnesses most commonly linked to vaccination problems are Crohn’s disease, which causes ulcers by leading to chronic inflammation of the gut, and autism, the condition in which children are unable to mature socially”.

Wakefield told Pulse the results of his and other studies “clearly confirm our suspicions and take them further. We have not enough published evidence to change policy at the moment, but we have accumulated enough evidence … to conduct an independent review.”

Wakefield was questioning one of the most successful immunisation programmes Britain has ever seen.

MMR — which reduced the number of injections for measles, mumps and rubella from six to two — was introduced in Britain in 1988.

It had already been used in the USA for 25 years and in Sweden for ten.

MMR is given to children on their first birthday with another booster injection just before they go to primary school.

The programme is a spectacular success.

In the Swansea area, in the three years before MMR was introduced, there was an average of more than a thousand cases of measles every year.

By the time of Wakefield’s interview in Pulse in 1997 there had been no cases at all in Swansea in the previous two years.

In its July 1997 article, the Evening Post reported that Dr Peter Donnelly, Director of Public Health for the Iechyd Morgannwg Health authority, insisted there was no medical evidence of any link between the MMR vaccine and the two diseases.

PETER DONNELLY Dr Donnelly — the  Public Health Director for the Swansea area in 1997— warned that even discussing alleged  links between MMR and autism and bowel disorders risked driving down vaccination levels.

PETER DONNELLY
Dr Donnelly — the Public Health Director for the Swansea area in 1997— warned that even discussing alleged links between MMR and autism and bowel disorders risked driving down vaccination levels.

He also laid down an important marker which the Evening Post would later ignore.

Donnelly told reporter Nick Dermody that “merely debating such fears could prompt parents to do the worst thing of all and stop taking their youngsters for their jabs.”

Donnelly warned: “If we were to have an outbreak of measles because people stopped taking their youngsters for their jabs that would be very serious indeed.”

Fifteen years later that’s precisely what happened.

♦♦♦

ON 12 August 1997 Evening Post reporter Jo Bailey wrote a front page story — “Mum’s Plea in Vaccine Scare” — about a Swansea mother whose son was given MMR and later developed autism and a serious bowel disorder. 

Although the mother believed MMR was responsible for her son’s problems, she wasn’t blaming anyone.

She was simply asking for parents to be given more information about the possible risks involved in taking the MMR jab.

The next day the Evening Post also carried a response from Dr Brendan Mason, then a public health consultant for Iechyd Morgannwg Health.

“Allegations about the MMR vaccine have been around since the early 1990s,” he said, “and there has been a great deal of research into links between the vaccine and conditions such as autism and the bowel ulcer condition Crohn’s disease.”

“However, despite all this research, no evidence has been found of any such link.”

But, two days later, the seeds of the Evening Post campaign were sown.

On August 15 reporter Nick Dermody wrote a piece about Port Talbot mother Jackie Eckton who blamed MMR for turning her three-year-old son Daniel into a “distant and silent recluse”.

She believes to this day that her son’s problems are the result of MMR.

Dermody reported that Jackie Eckton was calling on other parents who believed their children had also been affected by the jab to “team up” and form an action group.

The piece included health officials’ insistence there was no evidence to back up the assertion.

After this article Jackie Eckton was contacted by other mothers concerned that their children’s problems had been caused by the MMR jab.

Three days later this produced a key front page lead story.

Written by Jo Bailey, it was marked “Exclusive” with the headline — “Jab Mums Fear A Rogue Batch” — running across the entire front page.

A much smaller sub-heading added that “Experts say no proof of  vaccine link”.

2013-06-01 21.44.34

FRONT PAGE EXCLUSIVE
The story that claimed the Post had “discovered that dozens of children in the Neath, Port Talbot and Swansea areas” who were believed to have been damaged by the MMR vaccine in the space of a few months. That claim was false.

The piece reported Jackie Eckton’s fear that a rogue batch of MMR was circulating in the Swansea area.

This article, published on August 18, said ” … the Evening Post has discovered that dozens of children in the Neath, Port Talbot and Swansea areas, who were all given the jab in the period between the end of 1994 and the beginning of 1995, are believed to be suffering problems.”

Rebecca Television can find no evidence to back up this claim.

A later study into 36 alleged victims by the local health board found that only seven had been given the vaccine in the whole of the year from July 1994 and June 1995.

Only two of them had been given vaccine from the same batch.

This was shoddy journalism — the Evening Post was giving massive publicity to alarming claims without making any attempt to substantiate them.

By the time of the article, the Evening Post had only published  stories about three alleged victims.

As it did with all its reporting, the paper also included a comment from the public health side.

This time it quoted Singleton Hospital’s consultant paediatrician Dewi Evans who insisted there was no evidence of any link.

♦♦♦

BUT BY now the Evening Post had decided it would mount a campaign on behalf of parents with children allegedly damaged by the MMR vaccine.

It began the next day, August 19, with another front page lead story by Jo Bailey, headlined “We’ll Check Jab Batch Numbers”.

This reported the agreement of Iechyd Morgannwg Health to investigate the possibility that a batch of the vaccine had been contaminated.

This piece carried the first use of the logo of a syringe with the words “MMR Parents’ fight for the facts”.

THE CAMPAIGN BEGINS The paper's "MMR Parents' fight for the facts" begins.

THE CAMPAIGN BEGINS
The paper’s “MMR Parents’ fight for the facts” campaign starts with a distinctive logo featuring a syringe. In the year that follows, vaccination rates in the paper’s circulation area fall dramatically.

In another piece the same day reporter Paul Turner interviewed solicitor Michael Green of Swansea law-firm Smith Llewellyn.

Green told the paper that, if parents could prove that 80 per cent of their children’s health problems was due to the vaccine, they were entitled to compensation under the Vaccine Damage Payments Act.

Inside there was a two page spread, again illustrated by the campaign logo, giving the pros and cons of each side of the argument.

However, the spread was dominated by an article headed “Solicitor takes up the fight for truth”.

Reporter Jo Bailey introduced this piece with the words: “To vaccinate or not to vaccinate is the most pressing issue facing South Wales parents today.”

The article featured the battle by Norfolk solicitor Mike Barr who had been given Legal Aid to assess 903 cases across the UK of alleged damage to see if they could sue the manufacturers of the vaccine.

The feature also detailed four more cases of alleged damage to local children from the MMR jab.

On the same day, there was an editorial entitled “Parents must have jab choice.”

It said the paper’s coverage “should be required reading for every parent. We are not trying to alarm anyone.”

It says that was the reason it was putting the case for and against the vaccine in a special feature.

“What is needed most of all,” it says, “and this must come from Government rather than local level, is a commitment to give parents the right to a truly informed choice when it comes to vaccination.”

It then says that when people are given advice about contraception, they are given an assessment of the effectiveness and possible dangers “in percentage terms”.

“Giving parents the same sort of detailed information and statistics when it comes to vaccinating their child should not be a lot to ask for in a world where science has given us the ability to see the surface of Mars on our television screens.”

The next day, August 20, a story on the front page reported that more than 40 families had now contacted the Evening Post.

In the same edition, Jo Bailey and Paul Turner reported a further seven cases of alleged MMR damage to local children.

Again, the denial of any link from health officials was carried.

By August 21, the Post was reporting health officials’ refusal to give single jabs instead of MMR with an article headlined “Health chiefs stand by jab”.

The piece reported that health officials admitted there was “no medical reason why single vaccines are not offered.”

The Post reported that this view “has incensed parents who claim their youngsters have been permanently affected by the jab”.

When MMR was introduced in 1998 licences for single vaccines were withdrawn.

Another feature the same day reported another batch of five children allegedly adversely affected by the jab. The headline was “Parents’ cry for answers”.

On August 29, health officials reported, as the headline said, “No proof of rogue vaccine batch.”

This article was written by chief reporter Susan Buchanan. It did not make the front page.

By August 29, the Post was reporting that 50 families are forming themselves into an official action group and teaming up with the national anti-MMR organisation JABS.

♦♦♦

BUT IN this same edition, there was an indication of unease about the campaign at a senior level.

The Post published its second editorial on the issue entitled  “Parents are still waiting for answers”.

Of the cases it had reported, it asks “Can there really have been so many coincidences?”

“Logic would immediately say no, but medical research effectively says yes.”

It repeats the position of the Singleton Hospital paediatrician Dewi Evans — that there was no evidence linking MMR with autism and Crohn’s disease.

“There are few more respected and experienced paediatricians than Dewi Evans,” noted the editorial, “and neither has Dr Evans been afraid to oppose the party line has he felt the need to do so.”

“Yet Dr Evans says he is not aware of any scientific research which links MMR injections with subsequent learning difficulties or chronic health problems.”

If any research existed, “Dr Evans would know about it.”

“As things stand there is no answer …”

The editorial ends with the advice that parents should talk to their doctor or health visitor.

But, whatever the misgivings, the Evening Post campaign continued.

On September 3 the paper reported on “calls to withdraw MMR jab” from the action group.

By September 9, the Post reported that Michael Green of local solicitors Smith Llewellyn was preparing an application for Legal Aid for some of the families.

On September 22, in an article which reported the health board’s detailed research dismissing the “rogue” batch of MMR theory, the Post increased the number of children allegedly affected by the vaccine to 60.

By this point, the paper had carried reports of only 21 of these 60 alleged cases.

Before the paper’s campaign, the uptake of MMR in the Swansea area had been higher than the rest of Wales.

After the campaign got under way, vaccination rates began to fall.

In February 1998 Andrew Wakefield finally published his research in The Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals.

Even though it stated categorically that the article “did not prove a link between MMR vaccine and the syndrome described”, the article sparked a massive controversy which lasted several years.

It even reached No 10 in 2002 when Tony Blair refused to say if his young son Leo had been given the jab.

Vaccination rates fell throughout the UK.

But a study carried out by the Iechyd Morgannwg Health officials, Peter Donnelly and Brendan Mason, and published early in 2000, showed that the decline was much sharper in Swansea.

The two experts compared the uptake rates of MMR in the period July to September in 1997, when the Post campaign was at its height, with the rates in the same quarter a year later.

They found that the rate of vaccination in the Swansea area dropped by more than 13 per cent compared with a fall of less than three percent in Wales.

The two doctors concluded the data “suggests that the [Evening Post] campaign has had a measurable and unhelpful impact over and above any adverse national publicity.”

The Post continued its campaign.

In September 1998, it published an editorial in which the unease of a year before had vanished.

The line was now uncompromising.

“Parents are making it abundantly clear they want separate vaccinations,” it stated.

“Any further debate on why and how that feeling is so strong is pointless and, increasingly, dangerous.”

“It is a fact of life and blithely repeating ad infinitum that ‘MMR is safe’ is not going to change that.”

And it defended the Evening Post campaign.

“If the uptake rate on MMR falls any further there will only be one place to point the finger of blame — and that is not at the drug companies or the press.”

♦♦♦

IT TURNED out that Dr Andrew Wakefield, the man who started the MMR scare, was a charlatan.

An inquiry by the investigative journalist Brian Deer, commissioned by the Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, revealed that Wakefield was already working for the Norfolk solicitor Mike Barr in 1996.

Barr was the lawyer, as the Evening Post reported on August 19, who was trying to put together a “class action” to sue the manufacturers of the MMR vaccine.

The case was initially funded by the Legal Services Commission until barristers decided in 2003 that there was no hope of the action succeeding — the medical evidence didn’t stack up.

By that time, the legal aid bill had reached £18 million.

A substantial chunk of that money went into Wakefield’s pocket — he amassed £435,000 in fees.

When his infamous paper was published in The Lancet, in February 1998, Wakefield did not inform the editors that he was working with Barr. This was unethical practice.

Deer also discovered that Wakefield had patented single vaccines for measles — and formed companies apparently created to market them.

Deer’s campaign eventually led to the General Medical Council charging Wakefield with unethical practice.

He was struck off in January 2010 for performing unnecessary invasive procedures on some of the twelve children who formed the basis of his 1998 article in The Lancet.

The GMC branded Wakefield “dishonest”, “unethical” and “callous”.

The Lancet article was partially retracted in 2004 and fully retracted in 2010 after Brian Deer showed that the data had been manipulated to fit Wakefield’s thesis.

The full story can be found on Brian Deer’s website — see the notes below for the link.

None of this was known to the Evening Post in 1997.

♦♦♦

WHEN THE current epidemic began in November last year, the Evening Post was silent about its conduct in 1997.

Four months after the measles epidemic began, the BBC Radio 4 programme Today carried a report about the role of the paper’s “MMR Parents’ fight for the facts” campaign in the outbreak.

The current Evening Post editor Jonathan Roberts declined to appear on the programme.

He said the campaign “pre-dated their entire newsroom”.

One of the paper’s current reporters is called Paul Turner.

As we have already seen, there was a Paul Turner among the team of Evening Post reporters who worked on the story in 1997.

We asked the Paul Turner who works for the paper today if he’s the same Paul Turner who wrote MMR stories back in 1997.

He emailed to say “you will have to deal with the editor on this I’m afraid”.

We asked Jonathan Roberts. There was no answer by the time this article went online.

Five days after his refusal to appear on Today,  Roberts finally wrote about the issue in his own paper.

The piece appeared on April 12 under the headline “South Wales Evening Post campaign was hard-hitting but reflected parents’ concerns at the time”.

The core of Roberts’ defence of the 1997 campaign is that “It is dangerous to judge this campaign outside of its time.”

“The evidence of a link between the MMR and autism has since been discredited, but in 1997 that was not the case.”

This is a travesty of the facts.

In August and September 1997 the medical evidence was overwhelming — MMR was safe and effective and no medical evidence had ever been published demonstrating a link between MMR and autism and Crohn’s disease.

Study after study had shown no connection between MMR and autism and Crohn’s disease.

For example, a Swedish study of autism rates in the five years before and the five years after MMR was introduced showed no increase in autism.

At the time the Post mounted its campaign all that existed was Wakefield’s press interview in Pulse which was given additional credibility in the Daily Mail.

Right at the beginning — and more than a week before the Post campaign began — local public health chief Dr Peter Donnelly warned that even debating the issue was dangerous because it risked driving down vaccination rates.

No journalist would accept Donnelly’s point that the issue shouldn’t be debated — but he clearly put the paper on notice that it had to do so responsibly.

A week later the health board’s public health consultant Dr Brendan Mason told the paper there was no evidence of a link between MMR and autism and Crohn’s disease.

The paper’s first piece of rash journalism was Jo Bailey’s shoddy front page story of August 18 about an alleged “rogue” batch of vaccine.

Her claim was that the Post had “discovered dozens of children” believed to be suffering problems “were all given the jab in the period between the end of 1994 and early 1995.”

As we have seen, the local health board’s study of 36 of these children found only 7 had been immunised in the entire year covering the year from July 1994.

Only two had received the same vaccine.

But the damage had been done.

Parents were getting the message that there were question marks over MMR generally — and the disturbing idea had been floated of a “rogue” batch of vaccine circulating in the Swansea region.

The day after this disastrous article, the Post mounted its “MMR Parents’ Fight For The Facts” campaign.

This implied that, somehow, important “facts” were being deliberately with-held.

And yet — even though Jo Bailey was commended for her investigative work at the 1998 BT Press Awards — she and the Post  seemed uninterested in uncovering the “facts”.

Instead they rushed into print with the flimsiest of evidence.

Throughout August and September 1997, the Evening Post coverage concentrated on simplistic reports of parents’ claims that their children had been damaged.

No attempt was made to investigate the circumstances behind each case.

For example, when the parents of 36 children with alleged problems came forward so that their children’s vaccination records could be checked in August and September, health officials found many of them had not been diagnosed with autism at all.

For this article, a spokesman for Public Health Wales said that most of these children “did not have autism. The usual diagnosis was learning difficulties.”

“In many (perhaps the majority) the diagnosis was clearly documented in the records before the MMR was given.”

Public Health Wales also told Rebecca Television there was no significant change in the rates of autism or Crohn’s disease in the Swansea area at the time.

Nor did the Post seem to grasp that the average age of a mother’s perceived sense that her child might have learning difficulties was around 14 months (for experienced mothers who already had at least one child) and 18 months (for first time mothers).

With the first MMR jab coming after a child’s first birthday and with more than 90 per cent of all such children at that time receiving MMR, the chances of parents reading the Evening Post at the time, putting two and two together and coming up with five were extremely high.

When Jonathan Roberts says there was “genuine concern, even fear, among parents that they could be putting their children at risk”, he’s talking about “concern, even fear” that was being generated by the Evening Post campaign…

♦♦♦

THE MOST likely explanation for the editorial position of the Evening Post in 1997 is that the paper was taking a gamble.

It was banking on Dr Andrew Wakefield producing hard evidence of problems with MMR — and, with its clutch of local victims, it would be shown to be in the vanguard of journalists exposing the scandal.

image

Awards and kudos would come to the team who led British journalism with their hard-hitting “MMR Parents’ Fight For The Facts” campaign.

So, what should have happened?

In the days after Jackie Eckton brought cases of alleged damage following  the article about her son’s problems, the paper should not have published anything.

Instead, it should have organised a systematic piece of investigative journalism.

Reporters should have started to compile detailed medical profiles of each alleged victim.

They should have obtained parents’ permission to talk to their children’s GPs and obtained their medical histories.

Reporters should have started to research the general medical background to see if the rates of autism, Crohn’s disease and other related problems had been rising in the Swansea area.

It should have sought the co-operation of health officials in this investigation, especially in the suggestion that a rogue batch of vaccine was responsible for the alleged Swansea victims.

It should have waited until it knew what the score was.

In the end, it would still have had a story — perhaps not as sensational as the “MMR Parents’ fight for the facts” — but the one that had the merit of being accurate.

It would have responsibly investigated the concerns of parents with damaged children — and shown there was no evidence that the vaccine was responsible for their children’s problems.

At the same time it would have reassured parents that MMR was safe.

And, last but not least, it would almost certainly have prevented Wales’ worst measles epidemic this century.

The paper’s journalists can’t argue that they weren’t warned about the consequences of backing the wrong horse.

Tens of thousands of children were not vaccinated — and the rate in the Swansea area was so much greater than elsewhere in Wales that the only possible culprit is the Evening Post.

The paper made the wrong call.

It was rash journalism.

 ♦♦♦

WE WROTE  to current Evening Post editor Jonathan Roberts and the four named reporters who contributed to the campaign and spelt out these criticisms.

There was no reply from Roberts — who edits the largest circulation newspaper in Wales — by the time we went online.

Susan Buchanan, the chief reporter at the time, is now ironically, the communications chief at the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health board, under her married name of Susan Bailey.

She had not commented by the time this piece was published.

As we have already seen, the current Post reporter Paul Turner won’t say if he is the same journalist who worked on the story in 1997.

Jo Bailey, now Jo Doek, is a press officer for Swansea City Council. She did not reply to emails.

Nick Dermody now works for the BBC in Cardiff. He too, did not answer  emails.

The Evening Post editor in 1997 was George Edwards.

He has not responded to our criticisms.

However, he told the BBC programme The Wales Report in April that the newspaper was not responsible for the fall in vaccination rates in Swansea.

He said the paper never told people not to get their children vaccinated — and was providing a service for its readers.

“As I saw it, their concerns were totally genuine.”

“Newspapers listen to their readers, report what they say, and then go to the relevant people and say ‘what have got to say about this?’ And then publish that response.”

He’s unrepentant.

“It’s impossible to have regrets. I’m certain that if we wound the clock back and started again, I can’t imagine any reason why we wouldn’t do it the same way.”

♦♦♦

NOTES

1  This article is based on a detailed survey of Evening Post articles in July, August and most of September 1997. It is not exhaustive and there remains scope for a major piece of academic research on what remains an important story about the interplay between the media and public health.

2  The only parent mentioned in this article is Jackie Eckton and she only features because she played  a central role in the 1997 campaign. She continues to insist that MMR damaged her son. We do not believe the parents featured in the “MMR Parents fight for the facts” campaign can be criticised for their part in the saga.

3  The articles by Brian Deer can be found on his website, click here.

4  The full defence of the Evening Post by current editor Jonathan Robers can be found here.

5  The BBC online report of then Evening Post editor George Edwards’ justification of the 1997 campaign can be found here.

6  The National Autism Society can be found here

7  The campaign group JABS, headed by Jackie Fletcher, can be found here.

8  More information on the current measles outbreak can be found on the Public Health Wales website, here.

♦♦♦ 

© Rebecca Television 2013

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

COMING UP
The Son Of The Man From Uncle
tells the story of the rise to power of the current Director of BBC Wales, Rhodri Talfan Davies. He’s a member of one of the most powerful media dynasties Wales has ever seen — his father Geraint Talfan Davies was head of BBC Wales for ten years. Geraint Talfan Davies’ father was a senior executive at the corporation in Wales and his uncle, Sir Alun Talfan Davies, was one of the dominant figures in Wales for more than a quarter of a century.


A PLAGUE ON ALL THEIR HOUSES

May 1, 2013

rebecca_6aTWO OF the candidates in tomorrow’s Anglesey elections are staunch supporters of affordable homes for local people.

John Arthur Jones and Hefin Wyn Thomas both include a commitment to affordable homes in their election manifestos.

But their idea of “affordable” isn’t always exactly the same as the voters.

For example, both men made sure their own homes were made more “affordable” by valuable planning permissions ordinary residents would have struggled to get.

And their role in some applications to build “affordable” homes has been controversial.

In one case, Hefin Wyn Thomas argued that planning permission should be given to a local woman so she could afford to build a home on the island.

It turned out she already owned a house in Cardiff and later sold the Anglesey site for a massive profit.

In another case John Arthur Jones was the island’s housing director when his department cheated a man out of a plot so that a housing official could have it instead.

ANGLESEY Some residents find it easier to get "affordable" homes than others. Picture: Barry Davies

ANGLESEY
Some residents find it easier to get “affordable” homes than others. Picture: Barry Davies

IN 2005 Hefin Wyn Thomas spoke up for a planning application for a new house on a field at Llanddona in the east of the island.

The field was called Cae Bryntirion and it enjoyed stunning views of the sea.

Planners were opposed to the proposal because the Local Structure Plan did not include the village as a place where development would normally be allowed.

Hefin Wyn Thomas, the Executive portfolio holder for planning, did not agree.

He said that the field was owned by a local woman whose family had lived in the area for 70 years.

He told the planning committee: “On completion of her studies and embarking on a career she wishes to relocate to the area with her husband.”

“The nature of their work means that they are able to work from home”.

He said that the committee should approve the application due to “local need”.

By the time of the May 2005 planning committee, Hefin Wyn Thomas had joined a new political group, the Radical Independents, led by John Arthur Jones.

The two men supported the application as did a third member, David Lewis Roberts.

The application was approved.

But the couple who owned the site, Elwen Rowlands and her husband, didn’t need a house — they already had one.

Two years earlier they had bought a property in Merches Gardens in the Grangetown area of Cardiff for £108,000.

Rowlands was in her early thirties and working as a script editor on the first season of the revived BBC Doctor Who series.

And she’s no ordinary Anglesey girl.

Her father was councillor John Rowlands who had just become the fourth member of John Arthur Jones’ Radical Independents.

Rowlands declared an interest in his daughter’s planning application and took no part in the proceedings.

For months the planning application attracted little attention.

But when David Lewis Roberts began his campaign to drive through similar applications in another part of the island — see The Case of the Corrupt Councillor — it began to be scrutinised.

It turned out that Elwen Rowlands’ application was just the tip of the iceberg.

In the two years up to June 2006, Hefin Wyn Thomas had been instrumental in gaining approval for another eight applications which planners had opposed.

The total value of these permissions was more than a million pounds.

In July 2008 Elwen Rowlands sold the plot — worth just a few thousand pounds without the planning permission — for £150,000.

A FIELD OF GOLD The field in the foreground was worth a couple of thousand pounds an acre. With planning permission it was worth £150,000.

A FIELD OF GOLD
The field in the foreground was worth a couple of thousand pounds an acre as agricultural land. With planning permission it was worth £150,000.

She has always insisted that her planning permission “was granted on the basis of a properly submitted and properly considered application. Any suggestion otherwise is incorrect.”

She claimed that she had been driven out of the area by sustained criticism by the whistleblower Barrie Durkin.

“It had always been my intention to move back to Anglesey to make a home with my husband.”

“However, as a result of the concerted campaign against me and my family I decided I could no longer live happily in the community and this was also the reason why I decided to sell the plot …”

♦♦♦

IT WASN’T the first time that Hefin Wyn Thomas had been involved in planning controversies.

He was suspended for two months in 2002 for failing to declare an interest in a planning application.

In 2006 he was investigated by the Ombudsman, Adam Peat.

Thomas had supported a proposal to build an estate of private houses on a field in the village of Pentraeth owned by a millionaire property developer called John Wood.

Thomas had commercial and social links with the developer.

Three years earlier, Thomas had declared an interest in another of Wood’s schemes.

But he did not declare an interest in the Pentraeth scheme.

The Ombudsman was not impressed:

“I conclude on the balance of probabilities that Councillor Thomas’ strong support for the inclusion of the developer’s land at Pentraeth … in the teeth of overwhelming local opposition was actuated by the prospect of pecuniary gain …”

He referred the matter to the Adjudication Panel for Wales.

But there was a dramatic development when the Panel met to hear the case in June 2007.

John Wood said that by the time he was promoting the Pentraeth scheme, he’d fallen out with Thomas.

Thomas had been renovating one of his properties and Wood felt that the work was sub-standard. He ordered him off the site.

“I couldn’t stand the sight of him,” he told the Panel.

HFIN WYN THOMAS In 2005 he was picking up £25,000 a year as a councillor and a member of the executive.

HFIN WYN THOMAS
In 2005 he was picking up £25,000 a year as a councillor and a member of the Executive.

The Panel decided that, while Thomas had technically broken the rules, there was no friendship between the two men.

The Panel found that he was in partial breach of the council’s code of conduct but decided not to impose any sanction.

Hefin Wyn Thomas lives in house on a farm just outside Pentraeth.

The property was built as an agricultural dwelling after he became a councillor in 1995.

He had bought the farm and wanted the new dwelling because he wanted to introduce a milking herd.

He was given permission but the milking herd never materialised.

Instead he became a builder.

In the early 2000s he had a close commercial relationship with John Arthur Jones and his company Best Value.

Best Value specialised in renovation grants and planning applications.

From 2001 until John Arthur Jones resigned from the company on his election to the council in 2004, Best Value won 85 renovation contracts from the council worth nearly £2m.

Hefin Wyn Thomas’ company did the work on 12 of those contracts, worth over £250,000.

But the firm did not prosper. In the autumn of 2005 Cefni (Pentraeth) Limited went bust owing the government over £100,00 in unpaid tax and VAT.

In April 2011 Thomas was convicted of benefit fraud.

He had been claiming incapacity benefit while he was receiving allowances as a councillor.

He was fined £750 and ordered to repay £7,700.

In June last year the council’s Standards Committee decided that this offence was also a serious breach of the council’s code of conduct.

Thomas claimed that he did not know that council allowances were income.

The excuse cut no ice with the committee because Thomas had been paying tax on his allowances.

He was suspended for six months.

♦♦♦

LONG BEFORE these events took place, John Arthur Jones had made sure he had an “affordable” home.

In the 1980s he bought a piece of agricultural land on a hill overlooking the village of Bodffordd.

It includes a low hill with a magnificent view of the island and Snowdonia.

In 1987 Jones applied for planning permission to build a bungalow on the site.

He wrote to the director of planning to say that “for 10 years I have been looking for a suitable site on which to develop a fish farm”.

This particular site was perfect for the operation. There was just one snag — security.

Jones wrote ” … the best possible deterrent is to live on the site and be in a position to see the ponds by day and which can be lit up at night.”

Planners were opposed. The application was in “conflict with the approved Anglesey Structure Plan Policies”.

But approval was given by other officers using delegated powers.

By 1990, by which time Jones had been appointed Housing Director, the permission to build the bungalow had sprouted dormer windows.

He did not start construction work on the house —  known as Nant Garedig — until the mid 1990s.

Rebecca Television has examined council records to see if this property ever came before a committee of the authority. There was no evidence it ever did so.

The fish farm never materialised.

At present day values, the planning permission was worth between £125,000 and £150,000.

John Arthur Jones was also the Housing Director when perhaps the most celebrated “affordable” home on Anglesey was built.

Even by Anglesey standards, the story of the hanky-panky that took place at a site in a street called Nant Y Pandy takes some believing…

NO 5 NANT Y PANDY A house with a chequered history.

NO 5, NANT Y PANDY
A house with a chequered history.

THE HOUSE in the picture is No 5, Nant y Pandy in Llangefni. 

Even before a brick was laid, the site in the centre of the island was the subject of skulduggery.

In 1993 the site was one of five offered by council to people who wanted to build their own home.

One local man, whose identity has never been revealed, applied for one of the sites.

There was a meeting between the prospective purchasers and the housing director John Arthur Jones and his director of contract services, Gareth Roberts.

According to District Auditor Ceri Stradling, who investigated what happened, a local man drew Plot 5 “following a random draw of names from a hat.”

Number 5 was the plum site: not only was it the largest it was also the furthest away from the nearby council estate.

But the man who’d drawn Plot 5 found that the process of completing the purchase was the subject of delay after delay.

By April 1994, he’d had enough and wrote to the council withdrawing his application.

The next day, a technical officer in the housing department called Paul Roberts, wrote to the director of contract services Gareth Roberts. The two men are not related.

Paul Roberts had been allocated Plot 1, next door to the council estate.

He asked Gareth Roberts to allow him to switch his plot from Number 1 to Number 5.

The next day Gareth Roberts replied “… I have transferred your allocation of plot no 1 to plot No 5 Nant y Pandy, Llangefni, and hope that you can now proceed with the purchase of plot 5 as soon as possible.”

Neither of the two Roberts could explain to District Auditor Ceri Stradling “why there had been delays with the purchase of the two relevant plots.”

“Both Mr Paul Roberts and Mr Gareth Roberts were unsympathetic to the concerns expressed by the person who brought the matter to our attention,” noted Stradling.

“I believe Mr Paul Roberts benefited personally from information obtained from his position within the Department, by obtaining a larger and more sought-after plot that ultimately may have a higher market value on re-sale.”

Not satisfied with having used his position in John Arthur Jones’ housing department to grab the site, Paul Roberts then went on to “persuade” several contractors to help him build his house.

Take the “contribution” made by a business called Ponsonby Joinery.

Between 1994 and 1998 the firm were awarded £38,000 work by the council, much of it ordered and approved by Paul Roberts.

The district auditor noted: “During our enquiries we were informed that all the hardwood windows and the staircase of Mr Paul Roberts’ home … had been supplied by Ponsonby Joinery in the autumn of 1994 to the value of several thousand pounds.”

“Our investigations revealed that Mr Roberts has paid a partial instalment of £1,700 for these goods, which he has subsequently confirmed. He did however say that he always intended to settle the remainder of the debt.”

“In my view it is unusual that any supplier in normal circumstances would wait nearly four years for an account to be settled.”

Then there was a builder who also did a considerable amount of work for the council.

Some of this was ordered by Paul Roberts and he was the man who checked the work for payment.

The contractor told the auditor that he knew Paul Roberts well.

“He said he had done some plastering work on Mr Roberts house … in the late autumn of 1994 at an approximate cost of some £2,000.

He said that Mr Roberts made no effort to pay him for the work.”

The District Auditor said that “At that time [the contractor] relied upon the Council for a substantial proportion of his income and was given the impression that if he pursued Mr Roberts to settle his debt he would receive fewer orders for the work.”

And finally there was Cefni Glass, a company owned by a man called Ken Jones, who was a close friend of Paul Roberts.

The auditor noted that “Mr Ken Jones and his employees carried out work on Mr Paul Roberts’ own house when it was being constructed. Mr Paul Roberts has admitted to us that this was done without monetary payment.”

JOHN ARTHUR JONES He was the council's housing director in the 1990s when its operations were criticised by the District Auditor.

JOHN ARTHUR JONES
He was the director of the council’s housing department in the 1990s when its operations were criticised by the District Auditor.

“Mr Roberts does not accept that in accepting this favour he has placed himself in a compromising position.”

In the four years up to 1998 Cefni Glass were given council work worth £171,000.

The company was a “favoured” contractor and the District Auditor found that the council’s Standing Orders were often ignored when work was awarded.

For most of this period Cefni Glass were supervised by Paul Roberts: he raised orders from the firm and checked their work.

During the period when the company’s work for the council was at its height, Paul Roberts was working an enormous amount of overtime.

It was at the time of local government reorganisation.

In one nine month period in 1996 he clocked up 770 hours in overtime worth £10,764.

When the district auditor started investigating, Paul Roberts decided it was time to settle some of his long-standing bills.

He went to see the man who had done the plastering work on his house.

The auditor reported that “Mr Roberts turned up unannounced in May 1997 and paid him £1,000 in cash.

He said the event had stuck in his mind since at the time the press was reporting the Police investigation of the Director of Housing and Property [John Arthur Jones].”

“He said that Mr Roberts had brought a further £600 in cash on the day following … He substantiated these comment by reference to his paying in records.”

Paul Roberts was not a senior official but he had responsibility for some important assets belonging to the council.

One of these was the former Shell terminal at Rhosgoch.

The District Auditor found Roberts did not take his duties as seriously as he should have done.

Two large transformers, worth £4,000 on the second-hand market, went missing.

It was Roberts who had commissioned the specialist valuation of these and other assets at the site.

“He was unable to account for the whereabouts of these transformers and expressed surprise that they were no longer there,” reported the District Auditor.

He added: “I have been able to ascertain that no insurance claim or report to the Police has been submitted in respect of these large transformers.”

Another valuable asset was the huge amount of hard-core on which the terminal was built.

John Arthur Jones placed an ad in the local paper and one of those who successfully tendered was the builder O J D Griffiths, who was carrying out work at Paul Roberts’ home.

In October 1996 John Arthur Jones drafted a letter warning the contractor that he had “carried a large quantity of stone” from the site “in direct contravention of the prohibition” not to enter the site without permission.

“Before I refer the matter to the Police for further investigation,” he continued, “I invite you to respond to these allegations.”

O J D Griffiths never got the chance to reply because the letter was never sent.

Paul Roberts noted: “John Arthur Jones … said letter not to go – speak to the contractor instead.”

“I am particularly concerned,” District Auditor Ceri Stradling wrote in his report, “to discover that during this period Mr O J D Griffiths was undertaking work on the home of Mr P Roberts … and later in the year sold and delivered hardcore from the [Rhosgoch] site to the Director of Housing and Property [John Arthur Jones] which was in the process of being constructed.”

“The apparent lenient approach taken by these officers towards this contractor represents, in my view, extremely poor judgement, particularly in the light of their personal contractual relationship with the contractor.”

♦♦♦ 

© Rebecca Television 2013

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

COMING UP

POACHER TURNED gamekeeper Rhodri Williams is the Welsh Director of the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom. In the article — A Man Of Conviction — Rebecca Television charts the story of his rise to power and his dramatic departure from the television company he helped to found. In the television programme — Hidden Agenda — his former partner Ron Jones tells the story of the dramatic days leading up to Williams’ dismissal. 


%d bloggers like this: