Camden Council and Stockgrove Park School Abuse

Stockgrove Park School, Heath and Reach, Leighton Buzzard, Buckinghamshire was founded in 1970 by the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) for “maladjusted children”. As with all these institutions, its role and governing bodies changed over the years. In 1989/90 the school was taken over by Camden Council and was a boarding school for emotionally disturbed children and boys from abusive and impoverished homes from across London.

stockgrove2

Stockgrove Park 1994

In 1992 Buckinghamshire Social Services took over the child protection role, whilst Camden ran the school. Camden Education Director Peter Mitchell insisted on a new Head and brought in Ken Rabone who he had known previously. Rabone had no experience with emotionally disturbed pupils and failed to disclose his criminal conviction for assault with an offensive weapon.

The Kahan Report was commissioned in 1995 by Camden Council. It took 18 months and was published on Aug 1 1997. In 2013 the Council controversially refused to publicly release the Report under Freedom of Information, more of which later. The Report, it stated in the Evening Standard [5] at the time,  said that the climate at the school changed soon after Mr Rabones appointment. He was said to dress eccentrically, be unwilling to share issues with other teachers and developed a regime in which he frequently and irregularly expelled boys. [5]

stockgrove park 1990s

Stockgrove Park from the air 1994

The Evening Standard continued “Things took a turn for the worse in November 1992, when an anonymous letter was sent was sent to the education director alleging that Mr Rabone and his wife had engaged in unacceptable practices on a canal boat activity trip. [5]

Police and local social services first became involved when a pupil alleged that a black [sic] care worker at the school had been sexually and physically abusing children “for some time and quite frequently”. [5]

The man was suspended but Camden managers completely botched the disciplinary proceedings against him. Crucially, they failed to use video and audio tapes of police interviews with the boy pupil. A disciplinary hearing found the man guilty of “misconduct” but decided to issue him only with a final warning. This was later downgraded to a written warning. The care worker returned to work several months later but he was suspended within six weeks following more allegations of abuse. He was suspended a second time and finally dismissed in February 1994. [5]

The deputy head Terry Skillings, a man with 22 years’ experience at the school, was disciplined for alerting managers to allegations of abuse. He was found guilty by Camden of “vilification” of the head and told to leave in 1993. [5]

Mr Rabone himself then began making allegations that some of the boys had been abused. He claimed that boys were regularly beaten, stripped and made to stand wet and naked in front of open windows. He also said that they were given the “cold hands treatment”, where staff would wake up boys by placing their hands on their bodies. Mr Rabone was told by Mr Mitchell to go on sick leave in January 1994 and the school was finally closed in June that year. [5]

The Report by Dr Kahan is extremely critical of Camden’s handling of Stockgrove Park and the suspension of the care worker. What it fails to mention is that, since 1994, two former pupils have died of drug overdoses. One of them claimed to have been abused by the man. [5]

Judith Barnes, leader of Camden’s Tory opposition, said today: “The then Director of Education and senior Camden staff responsible for this nightmare must be made to answer for their extraordinary behaviour.” [5]

Camden’s Director of Education throughout the Stockgrove Park affair was Peter Mitchell. The first appeal hearing into allegations of sex abuse by the care worker was overseen by Dick Beedon, assistant director of education. [5]

On the crucial question of which Camden officer decided to ignore a letter from police offering evidence of abuse, the inquiry is vague. A council investigator, referred to only as “E”, was one of those directly involved. “E” admitted he had no experience in child protection, had never worked with the police before and was answerable to at least three superior officers. [5]

Other senior figures at the time were head of special needs Denise Fenn and schools inspector Neil Smith. Mr Mitchell, Mr Beedon and Ms Fenn no longer work for Camden.” [5]

stockgrove3

Stockgrove Park 1994

I asked in 2013 for the Camden Council to release the Report under the Freedom of Information Act [1a]. Some councils are not keen to release Reports that are critical of themselves and often invent an inappropriate exemption to serve as a delay or disincentive to the requester. Camden Council initially refused [1b] quoting Section 38 which they say “provides  an  exemption  from  disclosing  information  if  such  disclosure  would endanger  the  physical  or  mental  health  of  any  individual or  endanger  the  safety  of  any individual. The exemption does not necessarily deal with what are commonly thought of as health  and  safety  matters  such  as  the  process  of  ascertaining  the  cause  of  an accident under health and safety legislation.”

I applied for an internal review on of this decision on the basis that the public interest test was not carried out properly amongst other reasons. The pdf download is here [1c]. A lawyer, Joann / Joanne Reeves carried out the internal review, which she did not sign.  She stated “I have been informed by our Childrens Schools and Families Department that..on balance, it was considered that the significance of the potential harm that the individuals, now in their 30’s, could suffer from the disclosure of this report into the public domain weighted heavily in favour of withholding over all other considerations that could possibly be raised. We mentioned the possible contribution to learning as a factor which may weigh in favour of disclosure as it was felt that this was something to be considered.”

In other words, she was saying that unnamed individuals of unknown job title and unknown qualifications in the Childrens Schools and Families Department thought that victims of abuse could suffer “potential harm” from disclosure of the report.  This potential harm, she thought weighed so heavily in favour of non disclosure that they did not even bother to properly put forward reasons in favour of disclosure for the compulsory public interest test except a weak “possible contribution to learning”.

This seems a strange, dishonest and unlawful way to do things. Rather than carrying out a public interest test taking into account all major factors and then balancing them, they decide that one factor outweighs all others that may be considered so they are not considered. The people consulted, and those carrying out the Review, work for and get paid by Camden Council-  an obvious bias when deciding whether to release a report which was critical of senior management of Camden Council.

camden1 The “potential harm” of victims that Camden claim to be so worried about, was not actually verified by checking with or consulting any of these victims. In fact, though I am sure there are some, I have never met, talked to or written to any victim of a local authority, (non familial) child abuse who does not want the truth out – mainly so that lessons are learned for others and for the future.

No one is under any illusion that the journey to healing and closure through truth, can be a bumpy ride and emotionally painful but there will be few who do not choose it. It is a price every victim I know is willing to endure to reach the next stage of their journey towards closure of their own abuse, and so that others do not endure what they went through. If published, the Report would be redacted and victims can choose whether or not to read the report, and when, and at their own pace.

If the report is not released then victims who want to learn the truth are prevented from doing so, by an authority that did not even consult them, yet which claims it is preventing release for the victims own good. If indeed there was some potential harm, would it not be for the Council, who failed in their duty of care to the children, to counsel the victims so failed? By refusing to release the Report, Camden Council draw attention to their own failings in their duty of care, both at the time and since.

camden2 To dismiss victims views without even consulting them is unethical and  unprofessional in the extreme. Camden is the only council in all my experience of FOI that has put forward this dishonest reason as an exemption for non release of the report. To me it is clear that they do not want the report released and are willing to go to considerable lengths to stop its release.

What have they got to hide? Interestingly Joann Reeves described herself as “Principle Lawyer” which ascribed to herself an inappropriate level of moral authority, rather than what I suspect she meant Principal Lawyer.  She also failed to properly answer any of the points I raised for the internal review [1a]

Since my FOI request, there has also been a different one, asking about the Councils response to the Report. This met with some success of which this is the pdf download [2b] In 1997 on July 14th, which was two weeks before the report was published, although it not known whether it had been considered by any council committees,  two motions were put forward by Conservative Councillor Judith Barnes, who was obviously a thorn in the side of the Executive, pdf download [2b]

camden1One motion stated that on serious misconduct, gross negligence, or criminal activity by Camden staff, an inquiry should be instigated which included the police or an external investigator unless only one member of staff is involved. The resulting report should be received and considered by the relevant committee, pdf download [2b]

The second motion stated that files should be made available on Stockgrove Park School to Judith Barnes or any other members of Education Committee as  legal obligations required them to be, pdf download [2b]

The first motion was passed, a week later on July 21, the second motion I think ran out of time and was to be considered at the next ordinary meeting of the appropriate standing committee, pdf download [2b]

That is the extent of official information I have seen at this stage though it is obvious that much information has yet to be released. If there are any researchers local to the Camden Council that could do this research, then it would simplify matters and I would be grateful. The conduct of Peter Mitchell and perhaps others should be examined more carefully in light of what we now know of about enablers of child sexual abuse, as well as his friend the Headmaster Ken Rathbone who was accused of inappropriate behaviour.

Although the Kahan report is reported to have found little evidence of sexual abuse, it should be remembered that absence of evidence should not be taken as evidence of absence of sexual abuse. Kahans other, later, report I was the influential Staffordshire Council Abuse “Pindown” Report. Links to it are available on my previous blog on Pindown [11] . More detail on Barbara Kahan is available on the Bits of Books blog [7] and in the video on Peter Righton there.

Although it is possible that the sexual abuse at Stockgrove Park School was localised in extent, most organised abuse appears to take place in networks, and any information on further networks would be useful.

stockgrove4northlodge01N

Stockgrove Park School North Lodge 1994

Previous to this abuse, in 1983 Camden was shown to be paying for children to be at homes for mentally handicapped children at homes owned by Norman Walker through the Walker Foundation for Children, founded in 1969. [8]

Walkers childrens homes were The Old Rectory, Burston, Norfolk and the Diana Quenton School, Park House, Palgrave, Suffolk. Norfolks Director of Social Services, Emlyn Cassam said that he has been told by a former employee of Walkers that Walker had taken boys to his house.

*Update in Jan 2016. Please could anyone with any document from the Walker Foundation or from the homes he ran or from Walker contact me on walker@cathyfox.33mail.com. The documents could be a school prospectus, a letter, accounts or anything, even if it does not seem important. I would be very grateful, thankyou*

Cassam also said that although there was not a prosecution, Walker had agreed not to take children home again. Cassam also stated that the information was presented to the authorities who placed children in the homes. Camden Council in the Daily Star published on 1 Aug 1983  said “..we are not going to ignore what you have raised”. Other councils who kept children at Walkers childrens homes were Lambeth, Westminster, Croydon and Greenwich. [8]

Norman Walker, used the money from the childrens homes to build a sex empire in Amsterdam for £70,000, partly bought from Bert Geeratz. He owned “vice” clubs called Why Not? and Boys Fantasy Island as well as a sex cinema, two gay escort services and a bookshop [8].

DSC02409

Why Not Club Amsterdam pre 1983

British paedophiles in Amsterdam and The Why Not Club and were one of the hubs of international pornography empire and the Club was later owned by Warwick Spinks, who was involved in child torture “pornographic” videos and snuff films.[8]

It is not known whether any criminal charges were ever brought against Walker or whether Camden or other authorities withdrew the children that were in their care. Returning finally again to Stockgrove Park School, I have some limited information from victims of abuse at the school, and I would be grateful to receive more information in confidence. Furthermore if pupils would like to be put in touch with others then please write a comment on this post or email me on Stockgrove@cathyfox.33mail.com

Updated 2016 Set 22 Also for Camden child abuse check out cathy fox blog Camden posts [15] and Scepticpeg CAMDEN SOCIAL SERVICES & A DANISH CULT? [16]

Timeline

1970 Stockgrove Park School founded by Inner London Education Authority for “maladjusted children” [5]

1983 Camden sends children to Norman Walker homes in Suffolk and Norfolk [8]

1989/1990 Camden Education Department took over responsibility for Stockgrove Park School from ILEA [3]

1992 Buckinghamshire Social Services took over responsibility for child protection investigations and Camden was left with responsibility for the school.[5]

1992 New Headmaster Mr Rabone, appointed at Stockgrove Park School on the insistence of Camden Education Director Peter Mitchell [5]

1992 Nov An anonymous letter sent to the Education Director [5]

1994 Camden closed Stockgrove Park School [5]

1995 Camden commissioned Report into claims by headmaster that pupils were emotionally and physically abused before his appointment in 1992. [3]

1997 Independent Inquiry Report by Barbara Kahan and Bodil Mylnarska on Stockgrove Park School that had taken 18 months [10]

1997 Jul 14 Motion 1 put forward by Judith Barnes that said that serious misconduct, gross negligence, or criminal activity of Camden Staff, an inquiry is instigated which includes the police or an external investigator unless only one member of staff is involved, The resulting report received and considered by relevant committee [2b] Motion 2 to make files available on Stockgrove Park School to Judith Barnes or any other members of Education Committee as their legal obligations require them [2b]

1997 July 21 Motion 1 was passed, motion 2 was to be considered at the next ordinary meeting of the appropriate standing committee, due to meeting running out of time [2b]

1997 Jul 31 Evening Standard Betrayal of the Children: Another London council attacked for ignoring warnings about abuse [6] Council severely criticised for way it dealt with sexual, physical and emotional abuse but report founds little evidence to support abuse claims. Council left senior staff feeling gagged. This article states that a black social worker was reinstated after complaints of abuse and allowed to continue abusing. Camden ignored information from Bedfordshire Social Services and Police. Camden acted chaotically, fired teachers giving information, refused police information, reinstated a social worker only to fire him 6 weeks later [6] Camden’s director of education Bob Litchfield said: “We fully acknowledge the concerns that have been raised and we must, of course, learn from past mistakes. An action plan is in place to take on the recommendations in the report.” [6]

1997 Aug 1 Publication of the Kahan Report [10]

1997 Aug 1 Evening Standard The warning signs that fell on deaf ears  [5]

1997 Aug 7 Community Care Natalie Valios Inquiry Raps Camden over abuse probe [3]

2013 Jun 2 FOI request for Kahan report [1a]

2013 Jul 26 FOI refused [1b] 2013 Sept 19 Internal Review refused pdf download [1c]

2013 Sept 19 Cathyfox blog Camden refuses to publish child sexual abuse report [4]

2014 Jan 28 FOI request Helmsley for the Camden Council Response to Kahan Report  [2a]

2014 Oct 7 FOI answer Helmsley pdf download [2b]

2014 Oct 7 Further FOI Helmsley not yet answered [2c]

Please note that victims of abuse may be triggered by reading this information. 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.

Links

[1a] 2013 Jun 2 FOI request to Camden for Kahan report  https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/1997_barbara_kahan_and_bodil_myl

[1b] 2013 Jul 26 FOI Kahan report refused https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/163477/response/413353/attach/html/3/8586595%20Response.pdf.html

[1c] 2013 Sep 19 Kahan Report Internal Review refusal https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/163477/response/431376/attach/2/internal%20review%20decision.pdf

[2a] 2014 Jan 28 FOI request Camden Council Response to Kahan Report  https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/council_response_to_stockgrove_p

[2b] 2014 Oct 7 FOI answer pdf download https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/195096/response/569922/attach/2/Response%20FOI%209149893.pdf

[2c] 2014 Oct 7 Further FOI not yet answered https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/council_response_to_stockgrove_p

[3] 1997 Aug 7 Community Care Inquiry Raps Camden over abuse probe https://spotlightonabuse.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/inquiry-raps-camden-over-abuse-probe-07-08-97/

[4] 2013 Sept 19 Cathyfox blog Camden refuses to publish child sexual abuse report (Comments on this) https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/camden-refuses-to-publish-child-sexual-abuse-report/

[5] 1997 Aug 1 Evening Standard The warning signs that fell on deaf ears  https://spotlightonabuse.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/the-warning-signs-that-fell-on-deaf-ears-1-8-97/

[6] 1997 Jul 31 Evening Standard Betrayal of the children: Another London council attacked for ignoring warnings about abuse https://spotlightonabuse.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/betrayal-of-the-children-another-london-council-attacked-for-ignoring-warnings-about-abuse-31-7-97/

[7] 2014 Sept 9 Bits of Books blog Barbara Kahan and Peter Righton https://bitsofbooksblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/barbara-kahan-and-peter-righton/

[8] 1983 Aug, September The Star, Community Care Norman Walker Homes in Suffolk and Norfolk  and video The Boy Business https://spotlightonabuse.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/norman-walker-a-link-between-uk-childrens-homes-and-the-amsterdam-sex-trade/

[9] Shindles webpage http://www.shindles.co.uk/stockgrove/

[10] “Kahan Report” ie  1997 Barbara Kahan and Bodil Mylnarska Inquiry Report on Stockgrove Park School commissioned by Camden social services.

[11] Pindown Report https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/the-pindown-report-released-online/

[12] 1994 Apr 18 Independent Children in care ‘were whipped and tortured’: Woman sues council over ‘treatment that drove her to drugs and prostitution’ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/children-in-care-were-whipped-and-tortured-woman-sues-council-over-treatment-that-drove-her-to-drugs-and-prostitution-1370784.html

[15] Cathy fox blog Camden posts https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/?s=camden

[16] 2016 Sept 22 Scepticpeg CAMDEN SOCIAL SERVICES & A DANISH CULT? https://scepticpeg.wordpress.com/2016/09/21/camden-social-services-a-danish-cult/

[A] Sanctuary for the Abused http://abusesanctuary.blogspot.co.uk/2006/07/for-survivors-coping-with-triggers-if.html

[B] NAPAC http://www.napac.org.uk/

[C] One in Four http://www.oneinfour.org.uk/

[D] Havoca http://www.havoca.org/HAVOCA_home.htm [

E] SurvivorsJustice Triggers post http://survivorsjustice.com/2014/02/26/triggers-what-are-they-and-how-do-we-work-through-them/

[F] SurvivorsJustice Blog http://survivorsjustice.com/

This is all written in good faith but if there is anything that needs to be corrected please email cathyfox@bigfoot.com. cathyfox the truth will out, the truth will shout, the truth will set us free

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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 Camden, cathy fox blog, Child sexual abuse, Freedom of Information Request, London, Refused and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Camden Council and Stockgrove Park School Abuse

  1. l8in says:

    Reblogged this on L8in.

  2. Pingback: CAMDEN SOCIAL SERVICES & A DANISH CULT? – scepticpeg

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