Lucy Gates Report – Published or covered up?

I have been trying to get a sent to me a copy of the “Report of Panel of Inquiry” by the London Borough of Bexley and Bexley Area Health Authority Nov 1982 since July 9 2013. I submitted a Freedom of Information Request to Bexley Safeguarding Children on the Whatdotheyknow website [2]. Unfortunately I never received a reply to several requests, and I am trying to ascertain from the website whether the email address is current.

I therefore submitted a request to the Bexley Council  on 7 Sept 2014.[3]

They refused the request “The information is being withheld under Section 41 of the Freedom of Information Act.
Section 41 of the Act applies because the Council has a duty of confidence in respect of
the information contained in the report”.

I asked for an internal review of the decision, because I felt that if this was the case, then the information could be redacted; but it seemed likely not to be the case as it appeared from several references that it already had been published eg [9] [10] [11].

Although the public interest test is not taken into account for the purposes of Section 41 of the FOI Act, the law of confidence recognises that a breach of confidence may not be actionable when there is an overriding public interest in disclosure.

Therefore it was relevant that information had recently been published by MWalkerdine, that the Lucy Gates case had been discussed by Margaret Thatcher when Prime Minister [12], making it more in the public interest that the core information – the report was released.

This information below from Oct 21 1982, showed that the council were delaying publishing the report, which it seems is what led to the Prime Minister discussing it.

Mr James Wellbeloved (Bexley Erith and Crayford)

Will the Leader of the House find time for an urgent debate into the horrifying death of Lucy Gates who lost her life while in the care of the local authority? Is he aware that the urgency of a debate is magnified by the refusal of the council of the London borough of Bexley to publish the results of the inquiry that has been held into the little girl’s death?

Mr John Biffen (Oswestry)

I cannot give any guarantee of Government time for a debate on that subject next week. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be the first to acknowledge that it is exactly the type of topic that can be pursued with success and vigour by a Back-Bench Member. [8]

Then I received this email below, a copy of one sent to the Council, which I reproduce in full, from Colin Smart who was on the Lucy Gates Inquiry Panel at the time. The panel could not agree on the approach taken so in the end, the Chair wrote a Report and the rest of the Panel wrote a separate report. Both however were critical of the local authority. It would appear from what Colin Smart states, that the report was published and that there are many references to show that the report was published.

Adding to the already overwhelming public interest case for republication is that “one witness published three articles about her experience. That former officer of the Council is now a member of the Panel of Inquiry for England and Wales.”

Further in the public interest that the report should be published is the fact that negligence was identified on behalf of the council. Any attempts not to republish the report would inevitably mean the  Bexley Council would face accusations of cover up.

From: colinsmartone <xxxx> To: freedomofinformation <>
Sent: Mon, 3 Nov 2014 21:07
Subject: Re: Information request (ref: 1393964)

Gates Family Inquiry

Thank you for the considered response dated 3.11 2014 and I can well understand the
caution being exercised.

In this response I deal mainly with the issue of publication and my understanding of the
position although I suggest you should pass a copy of this letter to the Chief
Executive and Chief Legal Officer of the Council as I shall be sharing aspects of my
involvement with the Gates Family Inquiry as part of my evidence to the Independent panel of Inquiry set up by the Home Secretary.

My understanding of the position is the Council did not want to publish the majority
report of the panel which I drafted because of the negligence we identified on the part
of the Council. For this reason you should reconsider not to respond positively to the
Freedom of Information request

You may wish to consult other Freedom of Information Officers/and their Councils about the action they have and are now taking in relation to similar requests including internal
reports not previously published and internal information marked confidential and private.
Sunderland Council in particular has volunteered to a whatdoyouknow Cathy Fox request such documents marked private and confidential without redactions in which individual officers are named. Newcastle Council has recently published with redactions an internal report in relation to the Hugh Bostock Scandal.

I would therefore advise Bexley Council to take steps to secure all existing records.

The Council eventually agreed to make available the two reports made by the Inquiry Panel.
When the decision was taken to prepare the majority report the Legal Chairman consulted me about what he should do and I advised that there should be the two reports. His report
prepared for him by Counsel for the inquiry and that of the three specialist officers
which I drafted, a local Member of Parliament raised the issue of the delay in
publication. There was an exchange of correspondence between Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher and then Secretary of State Patrick Jenkin which has now been published about
the case and which led to the Inquiry taking place.
It is my understanding that the two reports were made [available] to the media but to other parties upon request. The reports do not identify individual officers other than by
designations but one witness published three articles about her experience. That former
officer of the Council is now a member of the Panel of Inquiry for England and Wales.

I have identified 200 pages of media reports in relation to the Inquiry of which a
significant proportion relate to its publication and findings. The issue of the attempted
cover up was given prominence. I gave one live interview to Sue Lawley London evening news programme in which I confirmed that there had been a cover up but declined to go into details. One reason for this is that those who agreed the majority report also agreed to
exclude a significant fact from the report as did the chairman and which it is my
understanding was made known to the legal teams who were granted leave to attend the
inquiry and with the right to question witnesses. It is my intention to make the point to
the National Child Abuse Inquiry panel that there are circumstances when a report will
not disclose all the information available including information regarded of major
significance. However it is not my intention to disclose the specifics of that
information unless asked by the inquiry in a closed session.

It should be appreciated that the experience of my involvement in the Gates Family Inquiry is only one aspect of the evidence I shall be providing. I am in the process of listing
all the media information available and will provide you with a copy of the list in due
course. In this context I would mention that Sunderland Council previously volunteered
to place all the press cuttings information in its possession on line to which again I
plan to add my additional records of published media when I have the time.

I am forwarding a copy of this letter to the Cathy Fox site

yours sincerely

Colin Smart

I am grateful to Colin Smart for the information. Colin was the “man who fought for the abused and was gagged” in this article by Nick Davies Silencing a Scandal The Story of Colin Smart [13] .

If the report published, as I believe it was, in which case it should be made available to me now by FOI, if it was not published as the Council would like to believe, then they are under fire for covering up their own negligence.

I hope that Bexley Council sends me a copy of the report soon.

Links, References and Biography

[1] 1982 Nov 20 Spectator

[2] 2013 Jul 9 FOI Bexley Safeguarding Children

[3] 2014 Sept 7 FOI Bexley 2

[4] 1982 Footage 5 min BUFC

[5] Thatcher document

[6] 38 children killed no2abuse

[7] Social Care online paywall

[8] 1982 Oct 21 They work for you Hansard

[9] The Lancet

[10] Remaking Social Work with Children and Families: A Critical discussion on the ‘modernisation’ of social care. Paul Michael Garrett Routledge: London 2003

[11] 1993 Beyond Blame Child Abuse Tragedies Revisited Peter Reder, Sylvia Duncan and Moira Gray

[12] cathy fox blog Thatcher and Jenkin Discuss Lucy Gates

[13] 1998 Nick Davies Silencing a Scandal The Story of Colin Smart The man who fought for the abused and was gagged

[14] 2104 Nov 1 The Times (paywall so not accessible to me , so I could not take into account the information in this article unfortunately)

[A] Sanctuary for the Abused


[C] One in Four

[D] Havoca

[E] SurvivorsJustice Triggers post

[F] SurvivorsJustice Blog

This is all written in good faith but if there is anything that needs to be corrected please email

cathyfox the truth will out, the truth will shout, the truth will set you free

About cathy fox blog on Child Abuse

the truth will out, the truth will shout, the truth will set us free...
This entry was posted in Bexley, cathyfoxblog, Child Abuse, Child sexual abuse, Freedom of Information Request, London and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Lucy Gates Report – Published or covered up?

  1. Cj aka Elderofzyklons Blog says:

    Reblogged this on ElderofZyklon's Blog!.

  2. l8in says:

    Reblogged this on L8in.

  3. Pingback: Report of the Panel of Inquiry into the death of Lucy Gates 1982 | cathyfox blog

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