Is this another cover-up of a paedophile ring unfolding?
While child rapists avoid prosecution simply by apologising to their young victims, abuse witness at Beechwood Children’s Home, Nottingham, Melanie Shaw, is locked up on remand in Peterborough prison accused of arson with no evidence of a crime having been committed.
She says she’s being persecuted because she exposed a paedophile ring. To a public accustomed to abuse scandals and cover-ups, Melanie’s story is bound to set alarm bells ringing.
It was Friday 11th July when news first emerged of Melanie Shaw’s disappearance during a lunchtime broadcast on internet TV channel, UK Column, after the team received a mysterious text message from Melanie urging them to call her urgently: ‘…I don’t trust the police and I may be locked up tomorrow’ it said.
Shortly before her arrest, Melanie had criticised Operation Daybreak, the police investigation into Beechwood and other children’s homes; where rampant abuse and deaths are alleged to have occurred. A victim of rapes, physical assaults and psychological abuse suffered within the care system, Melanie suddenly found herself accused of setting fire to a neighbour’s shed; a charge she denies and was remanded in HMP Peterborough.
Bullied by staff, strip-searched several times, her Valium and other prescription medicines withheld for the first three weeks – this harsh prison environment is where Melanie remains incarcerated today as she awaits news of the trial. It’s a stress and distraction she could do without.
Normally, for someone of good character, there would have to be strong reasons for being held in custody. Such treatment is likely to reinforce her distrust of authority, says Jon Bird of NAPAC (The National Association for People Abused in Childhood). “She already says she doesn’t trust the police. We need to make sure such people feel confident that their testimony will be taken seriously if the perpetrators of abuse against children are to be caught and stopped.”
“Unfortunately, we know that defence teams will use any means available to discredit a witness, that is what they are paid to do. We continually see such practices allowed by judges and many other sectors of society, who find it easier to blame victims rather than seek out the really dangerous criminals.”
The GP who guided Melanie towards recovery over twenty years – a man she has nothing but praise for – is now under investigation by the General Medical Council. He too has become a target, she says, and can’t be named for legal reasons.
Nottinghamshire City Council and County Council deny liability for abuses against Melanie and some 100 other victims of Beechwood Children’s Home, but have already paid out compensation to 26 former residents to the tune of £250,000. Some of the allegations made against staff go back as far as the late 60s through to the early 00s.
Chris Ratcliffe, a Director with Uppal Taylor Solicitors and the solicitor acting for 75 former residents, said in an earlier press release: “the sheer scale of the allegations made is shocking. We are not just talking about a discrete period of time with a few rogue members of staff. What we are looking at here is a period of around 40 years, during which numerous vulnerable children were abused by a number of staff members.”
“These former residents suffered great pain and fear, during their residence at Beechwood, and the impact that such terrible abuse has had upon their lives is immeasurable. The former residents deserve recognition for the atrocities that they suffered and compensation, which will go some way to rebuilding the life that they could have had, had they been looked after properly.”
Writing from prison, Melanie paints a disturbing image of deeply traumatised inmates. “There are so many ex-care kids of government rape and torture in here, self-harming, people with terrible burns where the boiling water urn suddenly turns up, broken hands from hitting walls.”
Melanie, who bravely stepped forward in 2011 as a witness, hopes her testimony will help deliver justice for all ex-care victims. “It’s not right the perpetrators, the Council and Police investigate themselves,” she says. “We want a full public enquiry into kids care home abuse nationally and the truth for the victims and public.”
Meanwhile, a change in attitude towards victims is needed, says Jon Bird. “Anger is a very common and understandable emotional response. Unfortunately for children in care or in difficult home situations there is very little emotional support and the young people are labelled as simply being ‘bad children’. So we should not be surprised if abused and unsupported young people exhibit challenging behaviour. They need support to recover, not more punishment in an environment which is far from nurturing.”