Institutional child abuse. How horrible a concept is that eh? You’re taken from an abusive situation as a child to a place that is supposed to be safe, a place where people, part of the state machinery, are supposed to look after you. Except they do exactly the opposite…
The news has been full of stories of such abuse recently, largely because many of the abusers are/were famous and, in some cases dead.
So it’s with some trepidation that I’m now going to look at an emerging story of institutional abuse in our manor. Everything I have got hold of is in the public domain. It’s all second hand obviously and finding what you might call ‘facts’ is a bit like nailing jelly to the wall. But here goes.
First thing is to set out a basic historical context. Until 1998 children’s homes, along with all other children’s social services in the city were the responsibility of Nottinghamshire County Council. In 1998, the City Council was given unitary status and took over all services within the city boundaries which had previously been the County’s remit. This included all social services, education, trading standards, all sorts. I think it’s probably fair to say that, as far as I can tell, the majority of the abuse allegations concerned incidents happening prior to the 1998 handover.
The first allegations appeared in 2011 concerning the former Beechwood Children’s Home on Woodborough Road, which closed in 2006. Claims of abuse at other homes locally surfaced in 2013 and hit the nationals. Note the bravery of the individual who gave up his right to anonymity for that story, this led another brave individual to do the same. The latter individual wrote a much longer personal account which you can read here. I think it’s fair to say he has been unimpressed with officialdom’s attempts to ‘help’ him. The police have called their investigation ‘Operation Daybreak’.
Not entirely surprisingly, it appears that some records have been ‘lost’. Knowing local authorities as I do I should say that may not be entirely due to evil intent (as opposed to some dumbass chucking them in a skip) but it hardly lightens the atmosphere or encourages a feeling of mutual trust.
More recently it has emerged that a total of £250k compensation has been paid to some of those alleging abuse. Again, most cases were from the time of the County’s administration but there are more to be considered. The information apparently originated from a journo’s FoI request but unfortunately, the City’s Freedom of Information ‘Disclosure Log’ gives us the question asked but is one of the many entries that neglects to include the response files (general point NCC, please sort this issue out, it happens a lot).
Anyway, that’s the mainstream stuff. This blog doesn’t deal with County Council issues, that’s for others to worry about with my limited mental energy. According to the media links above, it seems that the City is leading on all legal claims against both councils so that keeps that aspect within our remit. The police? Fuck knows who really makes the decisions there.
Anyway, a bit of simple Google search has thrown up huge amounts of stuff, only a tiny proportion of which I can link to here. But here’s one thing that seriously caught my eye, I think it’s a bit sinister.
Back in 2003, Community Care magazine ran an article about the death of a resident at, you’ve guessed it, Beechwood Children’s Home. It concerns a 15 year old girl who was found hanged. The article states as fact that she was a victim of bullying at the home. That’s a grim story in anybody’s language but, sadly, not completely unheard of in the looked-after children sphere. Was it ‘just’ bullying?
It gets significantly dodgier looking when you read the allegation that the National Care Standards Commission (now defunct/replaced) had previously advised the City Council to close the home on the basis that the home had become “steadily more unstable and difficult to manage”. The Social Services Director at the time said “I don’t recall this recommendation ever being made.”
Hmm. “I don’t recall…” There are lots of things I don’t ‘recall’ but that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.
I’m presuming that the lawyers representing the survivors have all this because I would’ve thought it would significantly undermine any claim by the City that they had no idea there were any problems at the home. That’s not the same as saying they knew about all the abuse but you know, a kid hanged herself, you’d hope they’d have looked into it.
The final bit for now is the rather disturbing claims concerning a woman called Melanie Shaw.
Most of the allegations appear to come from the blog UKColumn. There are countless other entries on the web but most seem to be a copy and paste from the original.
What is claimed is that Ms Shaw is a witness and a victim of abuse at Beechwood. However UKColumn reported that Ms Shaw has recently been arrested and was being held on remand in Peterborough Prison. This is backed up by a Nottm Post court report. I’m not sure of the political stance of UKColumn but the detail demands that we take the reports seriously, at least until they are credibly disproved. There is talk about a ‘secret hearing’ at the Crown Court and that Ms Shaw is accused of arson. There is a later report of a further hearing where her remand at Peterborough was extended. I can’t verify anything in it but it doesn’t make pretty reading, especially about her treatment in prison. What also seems a bit odd is that local media don’t seem to be willing to touch Ms Shaw’s story with a bargepole.
Whatever the actual detail of the allegations that got Ms Shaw in front of the Crown Court, you have to wonder why an abuse survivor is on remand in a Cat B prison when she just happens to be making allegations against the people who used to look after her. Longtime readers of this blog would not be surprised at a suggestion that Notts Police might be willing to help the City Council out in a time of need. Frankly, I doubt that anybody sensible in the UK would be surprised at the suggestion that the police would be there for the establishment if the shit hit the fan.
Hopefully much more of this will come out. Hopefully, at least some of the police are actually doing their job. We’ll see.