Insurance and Child Abuse, Radio 4 File on 4 including transcript

BBC File on 4 Tim Whewell has made a radio programme on Insurance and Child Abuse that is only available for one month on i-player here [1]. It is also available immediately below [11]

The transcript is available below – please scroll down.

With a growing number of compensation claims arising from cases of historic sexual abuse and more recent high profile cases of sexual grooming, Tim Whewell investigates the key role which insurance companies play. In representing the local authorities where scandals occurred, insurers naturally seek to limit liability but are they doing so at a cost to victims? Lawyers say they have to battle to get access to files and other information – causing further distress and delaying help for those damaged by abuse. Some say the fight is getting harder as insurance companies have toughened their approach in recent years. And, with a national inquiry into historic cases of child sex abuse, how much influence did insurance companies have on the way some past investigations were carried out? File on 4 talks to senior local authority insiders who say they were told to alter their approach to abuse investigations to protect the insurers’ interests. But was that at the expense of children at risk? Reporter: Tim Whewell Producer: Sally Chesworth.


The insurance industry is one part of the jigsaw of the commercial child sexual abuse industry of child snatching, forced adoption, child trafficking, child prostitution, child “porn”, ritual and satanic abuse.

2037905437-3 I have put all the links that I know on insurance and child abuse in the timeline, which is below the transcript.

The Transcript of the Programme follows [10]

TRANSMISSION: Tuesday 24th February 2015 2000 – 2040
REPEAT: Sunday 1st March 2015 1700 – 1740
REPORTER: Tim Whewell
PRODUCER: Sally Chesworth
EDITOR: David Ross
– 1 –
Transmission: Tuesday 24th February 2015
Repeat: Sunday 1st March 2015
Producer: Sally Chesworth
Reporter: Tim Whewell
Editor: David Ross
WHEWELL: On a cold day last month, outside Parliament, some of those who’ve campaigned for years for a national inquiry into child abuse, laid white flowers to remember the victims.
MAN: We’ve been stonewalled at every single turn in the last 25 years and it has been a cover up for too long.
MAN 2: Now is a pivotal time. This has to stop now.
WHEWELL: Finally, as that inquiry now begins, they hope for some answers to the question: why? Why did so many authorities ignore so many abuse allegations for so long? Was it conspiracy? Naivety? A knee-jerk impulse to protect institutions rather than children? There’ll be many answers. But one, just one, unexpected one came after the flower-laying, from a man once responsible for child protection in his area. He pointed to the hidden hand of institutions with no democratic accountability, insurance companies.
– 2 –
HULBERT: What we were trying to do was to manage a very complex situation where children had allegedly been abused and we were expected to jump through all sorts of hoops for the insurer. I just find that immoral and obscene.
WHEWELL: What was that former Director of Social Services talking about? File on 4 has heard evidence across the country that council insurers have attempted not only to beat down compensation claims for abuse, but also to suppress information about allegations that they’ve contributed, in some measure, to the cover-up.
GREENWOOD: My name is David Greenwood and I am a solicitor and
I have worked in the field of child abuse since, well full time since 1998. I’m currently working on behalf of 38 of the 1,400 victims of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.
WHEWELL: And the scale of it is still really only emerging. I mean, we are driving through central Rotherham now, past Rotherham United football ground, going past the station here. I mean, this is in a way still a town in shock, isn’t it?
GREENWOOD: It is. It’s hard to imagine what it must be like to be a Rotherham resident.
WHEWELL: Rotherham Council, according to government inspector, Louise Casey, reacted with ‘disbelief and evasion’ to the discovery that over a period of 16 years at least 1,400 girls had been victims of often violent sexual exploitation. But now there’ll be a bill to pay. David Greenwood says up to 200 victims may seek compensation. Payouts may average £100,000 each. But much of the cash probably won’t come directly from taxpayers. It’ll come from the council’s insurers.
GREENWOOD: We are driving now to the house of a client of mine. She has never spoken openly about her abuse before and I am hoping that she will be able to give you some detail of her experience. That is her car, she should be in.
– 3 –
SARAH: Come on.
GREENWOOD: He’s got nice ears ….
WHEWELL: We’re visiting a young woman we’ll call Sarah. Now she’s in her early thirties, with a rented house, children and a dog that demands attention. She’s trying to put the nightmare of her past behind her. But to pursue her claim, the solicitor’s assistant needs her to let the details of her past be reassembled.
ASSISTANT: Can I just ask you to sign these papers? They are authority so that we can contact various organisations such as Social Services, the police, your GP to get details of your records which cover the period when the abuse happened.
SARAH: Yeah, that’s fine.
WHEWELL: Sarah says everything started to go wrong when she was 13. She dropped out of school after being introduced to one of a group of British Asian men. She understands now that they targeted girls like her.
SARAH: They were older, normally muscly, nice cars, had loads of money, you always felt protected. The only person who could hurt you is them. And they told you that this is my girl, telling you that they love you and stuff like that.
WHEWELL: Gradually, she was drawn ever deeper into a world of guns and drugs. When she was 15 she got pregnant, had an abortion, and left home.
So you were really frightened when you got pregnant?
– 4 –
SARAH: I were really confused. I were constantly crying, one minute I wanted to keep it because I thought he loved me and it were a way to keep him, then the next minute, thinking, I am a 15 year old girl – how am I going to do this? But his brother told me that he had got seven children to different girls and he didn’t know any of the kids’ names or dates of birth, so what makes you think you are any different? He were just a paedophile really. He traded me in for a younger model. He said that I weren’t good enough anymore, the younger the better. I were just in a complete mess.
WHEWELL: Neither Sarah’s parents nor anyone in authority picked up on the signs that she might be being abused. Not her school, though she saw a psychologist for an eating disorder, not the doctors she went to for the abortion, not the police, who once arrested her for assaulting an older man but never discovered he’d been trying to rape her.
What do you think you have missed out on?
SARAH: An education, so that I can get a decent job and be able to provide for my children and have a secure future. And then obviously, because of all the things that have happened in the past I have suffered from depression, which makes it all so hard to be able to live a normal life. I’m just hoping that from doing this and actually dealing with it head on, I can finally start to move on, sort my life out.
WHEWELL: And in terms of making a claim, how do you decide what it is worth? You’ve got to decide an amount of money to ask for, haven’t you?
SARAH: I don’t think really any amount of money covers what’s happened, because I can’t get them years back.
WHEWELL: But some people will say, it’s just about the money, that’s what they’ll say, isn’t it?
SARAH: It’s making up for what you’ve lost that you can’t get back. I lost my childhood [cries].
– 5 –
WHEWELL: Sarah was firm that she wanted to tell me her story. But it’s hard and her solicitor David Greenwood says that to get compensation she’ll have to tell it again and again.
GREENWOOD: From a client’s perspective, having to go through one of these cases must be unimaginably difficult. To have to relate their worst sexual experience to a lawyer across a table in an office and that experience having taken place when they were a child must be a horrific situation to be in.
WHEWELL: When a council like Rotherham is insured for negligence claims, it’s the insurer who will usually run the case. Uninsured councils sometimes fight claims, but as elected bodies they may want to settle quickly, for public relation reasons. Insurers have different calculations to make. They’re commercial companies responsible to shareholders, who must examine claims thoroughly and avoid unjustified pay-outs. In David Greenwood’s experience, that means they play hardball with child abuse lawyers like him.
GREENWOOD: Our opponents try to defeat claims by technical arguments, such as time limits and also, when they can’t knock the case out altogether, they will try to reduce the value of the case, either by attrition – wearing the claimant down and making the case take so long that they get fed up of the whole thing, or by forcing a claimant to go through a second psychiatric examination, which is distressing in many cases and leads a claimant to want to settle the case early. Only the toughest get through.
WHEWELL: And it becomes a kind of fight?
GREENWOOD: Yes, it becomes a fight, and I detect that the outlook for claimants coming forward has got tougher.
WHEWELL: They will say that their clients, councils, obviously exist on taxpayers’ money, and in the end, whether by premiums or however or by direct payouts, it’s taxpayers’ money that this is coming from and therefore that they are right to try and defend it and lower the value of claims.
– 6 –
GREENWOOD: Listen, I respect the fact that insurers have a job to do. They have a duty to their shareholders and to their companies to try and keep a lid on claims that are coming forward. But for that to translate into insurers and solicitors trying extremely hard in some cases to knock cases out in the face of what we know has happened in institutions, I think it’s unfair.
WHEWELL: Getting the insurers’ side of this isn’t easy. None of the companies we approached would be interviewed for this programme. But lawyers who act for insurers told me, informally, that with the start of the national abuse inquiry, the industry has to brace itself for more claims. And while it believes that many are genuine, it’s concerned that some are jumping on a compensation bandwagon. In any case, mental trauma is harder to define than physical injury, so insurers think it’s sometimes justified to require an extra psychological examination by their own expert. And how do you put a price on a lost childhood like Sarah’s? There’s no clear compensation scale. That’s why Richard Scorer, a Manchester based solicitor who’s pursued claims on behalf of hundreds of abuse victims, says he sometimes finds himself, in effect, haggling with insurers’ lawyers and being forced to make what he calls ‘uncomfortable value judgments.’
SCORER: These are in many ways quite distasteful and unseemly calculations that we have to do, and they don’t really reflect the appalling nature of the abuse which happens. We can’t do what happens in the courts in America, where these decisions are made by juries and they have the opportunity to award damages to reflect their horror and disgust at what happened. In the English courts, the calculation is very much around what have you lost financially. We will always argue and we believe very strongly that abuse is damaging and it impacts on people over the course of their lives, that it impacts on earning capacity and other areas of life. So what we may have to look at is, well, if somebody has performed badly in exams as a result of abuse, what do we think their potential would have been in the absence of the abuse? Would they have done better at school? Would they then have been able to go on to higher education? Defendant insurers will try to argue firstly that the victim didn’t have an established earnings pattern when the abuse occurred, so how can you say what their earnings would have been in the future? But they will also often try to argue, well, this individual was vulnerable anyway or had difficulties anyway, irrespective of the abuse, and therefore may not have earned very much in the future in any event. It does put victims in quite an invidious position.
– 7 –
WHEWELL: But in a negligence claim, proving damage to the victim is only half the battle. The other half is proving the liability of the authority. Insurers naturally want the councils they cover to avoid incurring liability where possible, nothing wrong with that. But do they also want them to avoid admitting it if they have? We all know that we’re supposed to say as little as possible when we’ve pranged someone else’s car: just exchange numbers is the usual advice. And we know, though of course we regard it completely differently, that local authorities sometimes try to say as little as possible about abuse allegations. As File on 4 has now discovered, that silence, that reluctance to investigate, can also be dictated by insurance concerns.
MCKELVIE: Coming here on a day like today, you would think it was idyllic, wouldn’t you really, just looking at it?
WHEWELL: You would never guess what actually went on inside those walls.
MCKELVIE: What went on behind those walls, no.
WHEWELL: We are in the middle of the Worcestershire countryside, it’s very peaceful here. I can see the Malvern hills blue in the distance, and this is, what was, Rhydd Court School for boys with special educational needs. It is a very long- fronted building with lawns in front of it, red brick and what looks like a much older chapel on one side. So today it is an icy but sunny day. It all looks quite nice. I am here with Peter McKelvie, who began to uncover the abuse here.
MCKELVIE: This is the first time I have been back here since the school closed. But coming back here today is an eerie feeling really, because it was a horrible tale and children suffered horrendously when they really should not have. They were there to be looked after and to be protected and quite the opposite happened to them. After a very lengthy investigation, we discovered that at a conservative estimate, 80% of the boys here were being abused by older boys. And the abuse was up to rape of young boys by older boys.
– 8 –
MCKELVIE cont: There was a lot of bullying, a lot of beating of boys by older boys and it had been going on for many, many years.
WHEWELL: Peter McKelvie is now a key figure in the national campaign for justice for abuse victims. It was he, two years ago, who gave the MP Tom Watson the tip-off to ask the now-famous Parliamentary question about a possible one-time paedophile ring at Westminster. The question that led ultimately to the national inquiry. But for File on 4 he’s come back to his professional roots here in Worcestershire, where he began to uncover abuse, to meet a fellow child protection officer he hasn’t seen for many years.
MCKELVIE: Hey, how you doing? You’ve got grey hair there now, eh?
SMITH: There’s a lot more of him than when I last saw him. Look at him [laugh]. You are looking well, though, Peter, I will say that.
WHEWELL: That’s Peter meeting up with his old colleague, Alastair Smith. They were on this pioneering, really for those days, child protection team that was very much a proactive team, and because of all the investigations you did, you even referred to one another as Lewis and Morse?
MCKELVIE: I don’t know if the rest of them would ….
SMITH: Privately, yeah [laughs].
WHEWELL: As they began to break down the wall of silence around Rhydd Court School, they discovered there had been many warning signs of what was going on. They told their bosses at Hereford and Worcester Council. And they also thought they had a duty to tell parents. But they say the council, particularly the Education Department, which ran the school, tried to shut them up. Its fear, they understood, was that telling parents would lead to an avalanche of compensation claims. And if it was proved that
– 9 –
WHEWELL cont: the authority had known about the abuse, as Peter and Alastair said, it could lose its insurance cover.
And if we look at your diary, Alastair, this is February 1991, an entry that you must have written after one day of discussion with other people in the council, it says ‘Difficult day at work due to Rhydd Court, this is another attempt to silence and make legal threats’. Yet another entry – ‘I was having legal threats about the implications of speaking out.’
SMITH: There’s quite a few. I think there’s about four entries there. I’m absolutely certain what I was being told was that what you know remains with you; it’s not shared with anyone else; it’s not shared with other colleagues; it’s certainly not shared with parents or children on the basis that there could be a claim somewhere.
MCKELVIE: There was very clear pressure on me as an individual as to what I could say and couldn’t say to the team, so that they could give messages to the parents. And the message was saying, ‘The school are a good school until proved otherwise and you’ve got to direct parents to the school’ even though all this abuse was going on and we were aware of it, and we were aware that it had been going on for a very long time.
SMITH: Having revisited it again today, when things have happened you can feel them physically, so I can feel it physically and it’s like, you know, you’re going back to those events, you’re sat in rooms and you can feel that there’s pressure on you not to move things forward.
WHEWELL: Eventually, things did move forward, slowly, and an independent inquiry was set up. But Peter says he was still limited in what he could say.
MCKELVIE: I was told very clearly that I was not to give evidence to the point of saying that the Education Department and the staff were liable, were culpable. I was not to give a view on that at all. I could talk about the abuse that children suffered, but I was not to talk about how it could have been prevented, how many times children went and told the headmaster, how many children got the slipper or the cane or a punch for actually being caught abusing. I mean, children were caught in the toilets, a boy abusing a boy, and instead of the school reporting it to Social Services, the children got beaten.
– 10 –
WHEWELL: But surely it’s key to an inquiry of this kind whether there were warnings or not, whether or not the management the staff of the school could have been expected to know – that’s a crucial point?
MCKELVIE: Absolutely, that’s the whole point. The council, at the very top level, would have been very aware of the insurance issues and the possibility that if there’d been liability for fifty, sixty, seventy, a hundred pupils being abused, then there were real implications for having the insurance for the county council withdrawn if liability was admitted, because it would go right across every service the county council provided if the insurers pull out.
WHEWELL: They were right to be scared. The independent inquiry confirmed that the headmaster of Rhydd Court had ‘prima facie evidence that criminal offences had taken place.’ And, exactly as the council had feared, the insurers, Municipal Mutual, repudiated cover, leaving the council to pick up the claims bill. The company has told us they did that, very unusually, because the council informed them about the situation so late, two to three years, they say, after matters first began to be uncovered, and didn’t keep them informed of developments, in breach of their policy conditions. Municipal Mutual says it ‘refutes any suggestion that it acted to the detriment of pupils at Rhydd Court School.’ As for the council, Hereford and Worcester no longer exists. And its successor in this area, Worcestershire, says it’s unable to comment because it can’t find any relevant documents. But David Tombs, then Head of Social Services, Alastair and Peter’s boss and their champion against other council departments remembers clearly how insurance worries affected the authority’s whole handling of Rhydd Court and other abuse cases.
TOMBS: We had a very difficult and serious task to tackle. That was dealing with child abuse and, at that time, relatively recently recognised child sexual abuse. But here was another element coming into the debate, an element which we had never had to consider before. The issue for me is the extent to which insurance companies were, in effect, threatening local government by repudiating a policy. Indeed, it set up a conflict of interest, because they were interested in something quite different from the responsibilities that we had to perform. It was influencing us, influencing adversely, because we were going to be looking over our shoulder all the time.
– 11 –
WHEWELL: Particularly when the issue was child protection?
TOMBS: Exactly. And here we were confronted with an organisation totally outside local government, which was impacting on our ability to do the job properly.
WHEWELL: David Tombs wasn’t the only Social Services chief to get that impression. In the same year as the Rhydd Court report – 1994 – his counterpart in Bedfordshire, Tim Hulbert, remembers direct meddling by an insurance company. He was helping set up an inquiry into allegations of physical abuse at a children’s home when there was an unexpected intervention.
HULBERT: I had a phone call from the insurers, who were anxious to influence the terms of reference of the inquiry, so that they didn’t actually produce circumstances which would increase the likelihood of claims basically. I was told under no circumstances must I admit liability for anything. Secondly, that I must under no circumstances apologise to either the staff or the children. From the point of view of insurers, obviously they regard that as an admission of guilt, which can then be turned into a claim for compensation.
WHEWELL: Specifically, he says, the insurers told him not to release the name of a well-known childcare expert, Barbara Kahan, who was advising the inquiry, because she had been involved in a previous inquiry with another council which had led to compensation claims.
HULBERT: I said, well tough, because the press already know about it, and in any case you know that’s such a ludicrous requirement that you’re making that there’s no way that I would stick to it anyway.
WHEWELL: But the same demand was repeated when the inquiry report was published.
What did you think of that?
– 12 –
HULBERT: I thought it was disgusting. What we were trying to do was to manage a very complex situation where children had allegedly been abused and we were expected to jump through all sorts of hoops for the insurer. I just find that immoral and obscene.
WHEWELL: Two years later, in North Wales, an outspoken Chairman of Social Services was having a similar experience.
KING: It was really quite Kafka-esque. There was a pile of these reports on the table and so the Chief Legal Officer was saying, ‘Well look, okay, you can all have your copy, they are all numbered,’ and went to give them to people and most people in the room actually physically recoiled back as though they would catch some nasty disease from touching them.
WHEWELL: That’s Malcolm King, then of Clwyd Council, talking about the report of the Jillings inquiry into abuse in children’s homes. The council refused to publish it, following legal advice that it could lose its insurance cover, because adoption of the report might constitute admission of liability. But Malcolm King says that similar concerns were also raised much earlier, when he was campaigning to get an inquiry set up in the first place. And they led to a warning that he and his family could be ruined if he didn’t shut up.
KING: If I carried on saying the things I was, about us needing to get to the bottom of it, or saying anything, Clwyd County Council would become liable on its own. They would become uninsured and that because I had been warned then I would be the person held responsible for putting the council in that position, that I would then become personally liable for all the claims.
WHEWELL: For millions of pounds possibly?
KING: For many millions of pounds, yes. Of course, my house has never been worth that amount, so I would have become permanently bankrupt. That was the kind of constant threat. It was kind of impossible to insulate my family from it. I remember my daughter saying a couple of times, ‘Dad, don’t make us bankrupt.’
– 13 –
WHEWELL: And how old was your daughter at the time?
KING: Ten or eleven, I suppose. So yeah, yeah, she was aware of it, and that was probably one of the worst points, I suppose, was the fear that my family had because of it all.
WHEWELL: Municipal Mutual Insurance, which covered Clwyd for claims arising from abuse in the 1970s and 80s, told File on 4 that any comments about Malcolm King’s position would have been from council lawyers at the time, not from them. They point out that the Waterhouse Tribunal, which followed the Jillings inquiry, said that the insurer had ‘acted throughout with the honourable intention of preventing Clwyd Council acting in such a way that insurers would be compelled to repudiate liability for claims.’ But Waterhouse also said the insurers themselves accepted that ‘at times the tone of the correspondence on their behalf had been intemperate and went too far in the demands made of the Council.’ And the Jillings panel – whose report was finally published, with redactions, after a BBC Freedom of Information request just two years ago, said that had they been constrained by ‘the many restrictions the insurers’ solicitors wished to impose’, their report ‘would have been much more limited in scope’. They concluded that the issues raised by the insurers’ advisers ‘impinge on the established democratic and constitutional arrangements of England and Wales.’ Malcolm King is less formal in his language.
KING: The insurance companies, by doing what they were, they were providing a perfect cover for paedophiles to operate. The most important thing to combat paedophiles and what they do is to shine a bright light on the dark corners that they inhabit, and for insurance companies then to maintain that the lights must be switched out at all times by everybody couldn’t be better cover for them. So yes, I regularly used to refer to them as the paedophiles best friends.
WHEWELL: All this is 20 years ago. Is it really still the same now?
KING: The fiduciary duty of the county council then was more important than the duty to protect children, which unfortunately is still the case, so hanging on to your money is more important than protecting children, and that is still the law in Britain.
– 14 –
WHEWELL: And now, File on 4 has heard that insurers apparently warned about holding an abuse inquiry as recently as last year.
LAMBERT: One of my main drives in political life has been about protecting residents and getting to the truth.
WHEWELL: That’s Colin Lambert, leader of Rochdale Council until 2014.
LAMBERT: And a serious drive during my four years was to ensure that we got to the bottom of what happened, more recently on the grooming, but also historically regarding Knowl View and other child abuse, which had been at best ignored and at worst covered up.
WHEWELL: Knowl View was the special school for boys where former pupils have alleged they were sexually abused by the town’s former MP Cyril Smith and others.
LAMBERT: It was becoming clear that the council in the 80s and 90s had knowledge of offences that had been taking place in the Borough, particularly at Knowl View School. Complaints were coming in that nothing had been done to help the lads, but it appears many people had known about it. So it was important for me to know that the council’s hands were either clean or dirty, and we needed to know who knew what. I then went and asked for a high level inquiry.
WHEWELL: All this was just over a year ago.
LAMBERT: I can recall a conversation with the officers that this could lead to the insurers withdrawing cover. Holding an actual open inquiry would expose exactly who did know what and therefore the council probably would have been liable, and that opens up then the insurers to claims. I had made it clear from day one that I was out to get the truth and nobody was going to stop me.
– 15 –
WHEWELL: You did think at that point that there was a possibility that had to be faced down, that the insurers would try and call the tune?
LAMBERT: Oh yeah, there is always a probability. So what you have to do, if you are determined as a leader to pursue the truth, is see through that smog and just say, right, we are going to find out the truth. And at the end of the day, if everybody is innocent, then the insurers have been helped by the inquiry. If people are guilty, then the authority has a liability which morally it must meet and financially it must meet, and these people deserve justice, and in some cases that justice is going to mean a payout as well, but it has to be pursued.
WHEWELL: In the end, the independent QC-led inquiry did go ahead. The evidence it passed to police prompted them to launch their own investigation. That’s still continuing, and the council’s inquiry has been suspended. Rochdale Council hasn’t denied that a discussion about insurance took place, but it said in a statement:
READER IN STUDIO: Officers and members would not be influenced by any pressure, perceived or actual, to either withhold evidence or not to carry out a full and thorough investigation. The decision to commission an independent inquiry into activities at Knowl View, demonstrates this desire for transparency.
WHEWELL: As for insurers, they say in general that they follow guidance issued after some of the North Wales events which states that it’s for a council alone to decide whether to hold an inquiry. They say insurers would not expect or wish to be involved in the decision. But there’s been one fairly recent case, involving a physical assault, not sex abuse, that appears to lift a lid on what can happen in practice.
WEBSTER: Yes, here we go.
After Henry was attacked, he was absolutely covered in blood, and he has red hair, so it was quite strange really. You can see it in the picture here, you can actually see the blood in the red hairs.
– 16 –
WHEWELL: I’m with Liz Webster in her airy kitchen in a village near Swindon, looking out towards the Wiltshire Downs. She moved here from London when her son Henry was small, and could never have imagined the tragedy that would change his life forever when he was fifteen.
WEBSTER: Altogether he was hit seven times with a hammer, and the final blow, which was the one that caused the majority of the brain damage, was administered as Henry was in a ball, and he sort of put his legs astride Henry. The final blow then came down on to the right hand side of his forehead.
WHEWELL: Henry was attacked by a gang of men and boys on the tennis courts of his school one afternoon eight years ago. Thirteen people were later convicted of involvement. Henry suffered permanent brain damage.
WEBSTER: It’s had a huge impact on Henry’s life and it’ll be with him for the rest of his life; it will never go away. He’s trying to move forward and continue on with as normal life as possible, but day to day he struggles with continued problems. He’s, you know, physically he’s got a tremor on his left hand side, he’s got a weakness in his left leg, trouble concentrating. You know, he sometimes struggles with getting his words out. He wanted to be a civil engineer. He was a very bright child, that’s probably what he would be doing.
WHEWELL: Liz said the school had failed to maintain discipline or deal with rising racial tensions. Henry is white and his attackers were all Asian. But after she eventually succeeded, after more than two years campaigning, in getting a serious case review to examine what happened, she still had to go to court to prevent a further delay.
The reason for the postponement shocked her and her lawyer Mark McGee.
MCGEE: The school had received advice from its liability insurers that it couldn’t cooperate with the serious case review. We just didn’t fully know about that. That issue emerged during the course of the submissions when we went before the judge and, certainly from my experience it was very, very unusual for me or for any court to hear that a school, which is a public body, had been told by its liability insurers that it just couldn’t cooperate with what was effectively a public inquiry into the circumstances of a very
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MCGEE cont: serious event. That was very, very, very surprising. It was also a matter of concern, both for ourselves and also for the judge, which is why he made such a play on it in his judgement.
WHEWELL: Finding in the Websters’ favour, the judge appears to have been outraged at the role the insurer had apparently played. He drew a wide-ranging lesson for public policy far beyond the case in question in comments which got little media coverage at the time.
So we were just reading the findings now of the judicial review …
WEBSTER: Oh yes.
WHEWELL: And it says the board simply accepted that the school must remain silent because their insurers told them to remain silent.
WHEWELL: And then it says, the outcome in this case, namely that a prompt and expeditious comprehensive serious case review that was required to further an important objective, laid down by Parliament, was substantially deferred further because of the apparent stand taken by the liability insurers …
WHEWELL: … of one of the principal parties, the emerging picture of Parliament’s intentions being frustrated is not attractive.
WHEWELL: What do you make of that?
WEBSTER: Well, it’s terrifying, isn’t it, really, to think that there you are, we’re all paying our taxes, we all by law have to send our children to school, and the school has to have liability insurance, but really who is running the school? And here it
– 18 –
WEBSTER cont: clearly shows that all they cared about was what the insurance company wanted, which was the insurance company wanted to deny liability and not have to pay out compensation for what had happened to Henry. Ultimately, if the insurers are making big decisions that people in important jobs in local authorities should take and then be able to manipulate that, then that’s tantamount to corruption and that’s ultimately terrifying as a citizen of Great Britain – it feels like you’re in Italy really.
WHEWELL: The judge said, ‘The spectre of statutory Serious Case Reviews being effectively stymied by the insurance industry would be of potentially such significance to public policy as to engage the attention of the Secretary of State and, through him, if need be, the Association of British Insurers and, in the last resort, the industry regulator, the Financial Services Authority.’ The school’s insurers, Ecclesiastical, denied to us that any instruction was given to the school at any time which requested or implied that the school should not cooperate with the serious case review. But the lawyer, Mark McGee, thinks there are wider lessons from the whole case that still haven’t been learnt.
MCGEE: This is about the truth. It is not about admissions of liability; it is about the truth and trying to get to the truth and to learn lessons from the truth, because this event affected children. It is all about protecting and safeguarding them. That is where the legislation comes from and that is why lessons that needed to be learned were so important in terms of having to be learnt, because at the end of the day no one wants to put children at risk.
WHEWELL: But children have been put at risk in Britain’s schools, care homes and on its streets again and again, with endless examples of the truth being covered up. Judge Lowell Goddard is now going to find out why, in an investigation that may take years.
GODDARD: I feel that this inquiry is so important and at the forefront of it are so many victims, more than 100,000, I believe, who really require and deserve answers.
– 19 –
WHEWELL: The issues she examines will certainly include the influence of insurance companies. None of the individual insurance companies we approached would be interviewed for the programme. The Association of British Insurers also declined to be interviewed. They said:
READER IN STUDIO: This programme has raised a number of complex and serious matters that we will discuss with our membership. Any survivor of abuse should be able to have confidence that their case will be dealt with fairly and openly by all parties and we will work with our members to ensure that the role of insurers in these sensitive processes is well framed and understood.
WHEWELL: But for many in local government and outside, that role still isn’t fully understood and there’s no legal clarity. Tim Hulbert, the Social Services chief who raised the issue, thinks it time to make clear, once and for all, where councils’ ultimate responsibilities lie.
HULBERT: I think there is actually a conflict between the responsibilities of a local authority to safeguard its finances and the responsibility to protect children in whatever circumstances. I suspect that perhaps the insurers are less militant than they used to be, but the more I talk to contemporise of mine, the more I talk to other people who have been involved in either civil actions against authorities from the survivor’s point of view, or people who have been involved in child protection investigations and so on. The more convinced I am that this was actually, and maybe still is, quite commonplace. For that reason, it needs to be dealt with as part of the whole examination of what influences have allowed the cover-ups of child abuse for so long.


1996 March 27 Independent [6] Council blocks report on child victims

1996 Jun 3 The Times [5] Dominic Kennedy Lawyers at police insurance company tried to discourage inquiry

2000 Feb 16 The Times [8] Why scandal was hidden for so long: The Insurers

2002 April 30 The Times [7] Inquiries: why the truth should out

2014 Nov 26 US Star Tribune [9] Twin Cities Archdiocese sues insurers, saying firms won’t pay abuse claims

2015 Jan 14 Insurance Times [2] Whistleblower accuses council insurers of suppressing sex abuse facts

2015 Feb 24 Insurance Times [3] Council Insurers accused of suppressing child sex abuse facts

2015 Feb 24 BBC [4] Tim Whewell Insurers accused of hampering child abuse inquiries

2015 Feb 24 BBC File on 4 [1]

Please note that victims of abuse may be triggered by reading this information. The following are links for the UK .  The Sanctuary for the Abused [A] has advice on how to prevent triggers.  National Association for People Abused in Childhood [B] has a freephone helpline and has links to local support groups. Other useful sites are One in Four [C] and Havoca [D]. Useful post on triggers [E] from SurvivorsJustice [F] blog.


[1] 2015 Feb 24 BBC File on 4 Tim Whewell

[2] 2015 Jan 14 Insurance Times Whistleblower accuses council insurers of suppressing sex abuse facts

[3] 2015 Feb 24 Insurance Times Council Insurers accused of suppressing child sex abuse facts

[4] 2015 Feb 24 BBC Tim Whewell Insurers accused of hampering child abuse inquiries

[5] 1996 Jun 3 Spotlight The Times Dominic Kennedy Lawyers at police insurance company tried to discourage inquiry

[6] 1996 March 27 Spotlight Independent Council blocks report on child victims

[7] 2002 April 30 The Times Inquiries: why the truth should out

[8] 2000 Feb 16 The Times Why scandal was hidden for so long: The Insurers

[9] 2014 Nov 26 US Star Tribune Twin Cities Archdiocese sues insurers, saying firms won’t pay abuse claims

[10] Transcript download

[11] Insurance and Child Abuse File on 4 You Tube

[A] Sanctuary for the Abused


[C] One in Four

[D] Havoca

[E] SurvivorsJustice Triggers post

[F] SurvivorsJustice Blog

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 #OpDeathEaters, BBC, Child Abuse, Child sexual abuse, Childrens home, Herefordshire and Worcestershire and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Insurance and Child Abuse, Radio 4 File on 4 including transcript

  1. joekano76 says:

    Reblogged this on Floating-voter.

  2. Pingback: Forgotten – Les Cummings. A Portsmouth Child Sexual Abuse Network | cathyfox

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