The recent coverage of child abuse has given rise to sickening displays of hypocrisy from the sections of society who should be hanging their heads in shame, argues Richard Allday
The recent debacle at the BBC exposes the lie of our rulers’ commitment to the notion of a free press. The horror that was Bryn Estyn, a children’s home where the children were a commodity, exploited for their cheap labour and sexual services is not a new story; it has been known for over 30 years. It has been ‘investigated’ by a high court judge. The allegations were that senior members of the judiciary, the police, the social care system and the elite were involved. In some cases they were named, but the children’s testimony was devalued, or ignored.
It only came to the fore again because the Savile scandal and the Hillsborough cover-up have allowed a bit of space for investigative journalists to ply their trade. But as soon as it looked as if members of the elite were going to be specifically named, the shutters came down again. Indeed, the purge at the top of the BBC is not intended to strengthen its commitment to journalistic rigour and investigation ‘without fear or favour’. Its purpose is the exact opposite: a message to any one who dares think of challenging the rich and powerful that such journalism will not be tolerated.
Children in no ‘care’
Then there is the sickening way in which the government refers to children in ‘care’ when the clear reality is that children condemned to life in the state’s hands should not expect to receive any ‘care’ from the state at all. Whether you look at the abysmal level of educational under-achievement, the complete abdication of responsibility for their welfare when they are kicked out on reaching adulthood; the disproportionate number of homeless people who have been through the ‘care’ system; the ridiculously high proportion of inmates in our prisons (over 25%); the one word that should not be used to describe the state’s intervention in their lives is ‘care’.
Hypocrisy twice over
This brings up another piece of hypocrisy, and it comes in two forms, both relying on us swallowing the claim that the government is determined to take the issue seriously. One is the argument that this ‘historical’ case is taking scarce resources from children currently suffering abuse. This was presented by Noreen Tehrani, a psychologist working with police on child abuse:
‘If you take your best people away to investigate a historical case, what you have left back … are the live cases where a child is being abused tonight. It is just not right. Obviously people are still upset and are coming forward all over the place … But the abuse at the North Wales children’s homes has stopped for these people.’
This argument is flawed on several levels. The fact that resources are scarce is not an argument for ignoring abuse, it is an argument for more resources, while the idea that the victims of Bryn Estyn are no longer victims is amazing coming from a psychologist working with victims of abuse. The abuse does not end with the physical act, it endures often for life, and there is no prospect of closure until justice is done. The naivety of the belief that those whose whole professional lives are devoted to maintaining the status quo (the very purpose of the police) are the best defenders of the powerless seeking justice is risible.
Cameron’s intended cover-up
When Cameron tells us that he views this so seriously that he intends to set up inquiries into inquiries, we should know that what he actually intends is a cover-up. To those well-meaning individuals who argue this is best left to the police and the judiciary, we should reply with a list of previous inquiries which left cover-ups unexposed: ‘Hillsborough. Bloody Sunday. Mark Duggan. Hillsborough. Blair Peach. Bloody Sunday. Hillsborough’
There are those who worry that the emphasis on these scandals can obscure the fact that the majority of abuse happens in the home. Leaving aside for the moment that this argument also applies to Bryn Estyn (where the children were imprisoned in a home) and to the majority of Savile’s victims (in children’s homes, hospitals and other institutions), there is another point here, which is that we live in a world where our rulers believe we exist for their satisfaction. Whether that is to make profits for them (and when we cease to fulfil that function, we are chucked aside), or satisfy their physical needs, we are items to be used, not persons in our own right.
The system that leads to Bryn Estyn is the same system that leads to Strass-Kahn and Savile. And when you look at how they were fawned upon and flattered, you know how seriously corrupt that system is.
Richard Allday is a member of Unite the Union’s National Executive, a branch secretary and shop steward in road haulage. A member of Counterfire, his comrades know him better as 'the angry trucker'.