In 1992, social
workers told Jeremy Corbyn (pictured that year) that organised child
abuse was rife in his Islington constituency
his constituency office in North London, the Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn
sits down to a pre-arranged meeting with five very anxious social
visitors on that day in 1992 include four current or recent employees
of Islington Council, the London borough where Corbyn’s constituency is
situated. Their jobs are to safeguard some of its poorest and most
that end, they want to share some deeply troubling news with the local
MP. For some time, the social workers tell Corbyn, a near-constant
stream of drugged, hungry, distressed and often tearful young people
have been turning up at their offices each day and exhibiting tell-tale
signs of sexual abuse.
are residents of Islington Council’s children’s homes, where they seem
to have been raped and assaulted by staff and visitors.
spend time at a flat nearby called ‘The Hot House’, which appears to be
operating as a child brothel. A few also exhibit signs of being
trafficked around London, the Home Counties and even abroad by organised
social workers tell Corbyn that they have recently come to the
conclusion that organised child abuse is occurring across Islington on
an alarming scale.
had been seeing so, so many 12 to 15-year-olds who were being sexually
exploited that we could hardly believe it,’ Liz Davies, one of the five
social workers, recalled this week.
children would be queuing up outside our offices at 9am for help. Most
of them had obviously been out all night. We discovered that they were
being driven around the country in vans.
‘I’d personally identified at least 61 potential abuse victims in our small patch of Islington.’
scale of the problem suggested to Davies and her colleagues that
paedophile gangs were targeting young people, on a nightly basis, across
Panton (left), a survivor of abuse, told Corbyn (right) in August 1992
that ‘very bad things had happened’ to him when he’d been living at an
Islington care home several years earlier
were at their worst in children’s homes, she informed Corbyn, where
even known sex-abusers, and convicted child pornographers seemed able to
commit crimes with impunity, sometimes staying overnight, with the
apparent consent of council employees.
a time, I had been putting vulnerable children into Islington’s homes
to be safe,’ she says. ‘It took me a while to realise that was the worst
possible place, because they were being abused there, too.’
bad was the apparent problem that, earlier that year, Davies and a
fellow social worker called David Cofie had attempted to blow the
whistle to Margaret Hodge, the then leader of Islington Council who went
on to become a prominent Labour MP. To their dismay, however, Hodge
ignored the duo’s concerns.
and several colleagues — including Neville Mighty, a children’s home
manager, and a social worker called Celia Stubbs — had therefore
scheduled a meeting with Corbyn in an attempt to persuade him to take
the issue seriously.
On that day in 1992, they duly ‘told him everything’, says Davies.
were in his office for more than an hour. We shared all of our
concerns, including our fears that local children had been murdered by
listened politely. ‘He responded that he’d heard similar things from
other constituents, and promised to do something about it, starting by
talking to Virginia Bottomley, the Health Secretary,’ says Davies.
‘We were very pleased to hear him say that. I’d say that we all left the room feeling heartened.’
But not for long.
before Davies had arranged that meeting with Corbyn, the London Evening
Standard newspaper had published sensational allegations regarding the
widespread abuse of vulnerable children in Islington.
In the weeks, months, and years that followed, those allegations would snowball into a major public scandal.
Social workers attempted to blow the
whistle to Margaret Hodge, the then leader of Islington Council who went
on to become a prominent Labour MP. Hodge (above, in 1993) ignored
emerged, during that time, that paedophiles had been able to
systematically rape and sexually abuse scores of vulnerable boys and
girls in the borough throughout the Seventies and Eighties, infiltrating
all 12 of its children’s homes in the process.
Labour-run council had, meanwhile, both facilitated the abuse by
employing known paedophiles and brazenly attempted to cover it up,
shredding crucial documents and dismissing subsequent media reports
about the scandal as ‘gutter journalism’.
who raised concerns were accused of racism and homophobia, and often
hounded out of their jobs. Some, including Liz Davies and Neville
Mighty, received death threats.
30 council employees accused of child sex crimes were allowed to take
early retirement (on generous pensions) instead of being subjected to
formal investigations or referred to the police.
As this revolting saga unfolded, Davies and her colleagues expected Corbyn to begin demanding that something be done about it.
was, after all, an outspoken Left-wing ‘firebrand’. And, thanks to
their briefing, he had detailed knowledge of the scale of the scandal.
they thought, Corbyn would therefore stop at nothing to protect
Islington’s vulnerable children, and to bring rapists, pornographers and
possible murderers to justice
Or so they hoped. But, in the event, Davies and her fellow social workers would be sorely disappointed.
Corbyn never wrote to Davies, or telephoned, to acknowledge their meeting, or thank her for seeking to blow the whistle.
that meeting, we never heard another thing,’ Davies recalls. ‘There was
no letter. No phone call. I never, ever saw him speak about it.
fact, whenever I saw Jeremy afterwards, sometimes years later at Stop
The War marches and events like that, I’d always go up to him and say:
“This scandal is still going on, Jeremy.” He’d be very polite, but he
never seemed to do anything.’
23 years later, Liz Davies has yet to see Corbyn express what she
regards as sufficient anger, or regret, over the Islington abuse
scandal, or to publicly criticise the many local politicians, council
workers and political allies who allowed it to happen in the first
seems highly pertinent given that Corbyn is now standing for the Labour
leadership, at a time when historic abuse allegations are to be the
subject of a major public inquiry.
the question of what Jeremy Corbyn did, or didn’t do, when the now
notorious child sex scandal hit his Islington North constituency all
those years ago, became a talking point in the current leadership
Labour MP John Mann published an open letter accusing him of ‘doing
nothing’ to prevent the abuse. ‘Your inaction in the 1980s and 1990s
says a lot — not about your personal character, which I admire, but
about your politics, which I do not,’ Mann wrote, adding that the
Left-winger’s track record on the issue made it ‘inappropriate’ for him
to now become party leader.
further pointed out that, in a separate 1986 incident, Corbyn had gone
so far as to attack the Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens for drawing
public attention to the alleged existence of a child brothel on
Islington’s Elthorne housing estate.
Dickens — who was convinced there was a conspiracy to cover up
widespread paedophilic abuse in political circles and the security
services — had raised fears of a child prostitution racket operating
there, Corbyn used a local newspaper to accuse the Tory backbencher of
‘getting cheap publicity at the expense of innocent children’.
he formally complained to the Commons Speaker about Dickens visiting
the constituency without first informing him, calling those actions
The Paedophile Information Exchange
was popular at the time of the Islington abuse scandal. The lobby group
held that paedophiles ‘loved’ children and wanted to liberate them
sexually. PIE was granted ‘affiliate’ status within the National Council
for Civil Liberties. At the time, the NCCL was run by Patricia Hewitt
(left), the future Blairite minister, along with Harriet Harman (right),
the Labour Party’s current acting leader, and her husband Jack Dromey
(centre), also now a Labour MP
these incidents in mind, Mann argued that Corbyn had ‘inadvertently
helped the rubbishing and cover-up’ of abuse, and was therefore
unsuitable to ‘attempt to lead the Labour Party’.
That’s quite a claim.
it was perhaps little wonder that, in response to the letter, Corbyn’s
camp should issue an angry statement saying Mann’s comments marked a
‘new low’ in the ill-tempered leadership campaign.
statement, issued in the past ten days, formally denied, among other
things, that he turned a blind eye to the Islington scandal.
Corbyn has a long record of standing up for his constituents,’ it read.
‘He called for an independent inquiry into child abuse in Islington at
the time, and has taken this strong line ever since.’ That response drew
the sting out of Mann’s charges, and in the days that followed, Corbyn
found himself propelled to front-runner status in the leadership race,
after receiving important endorsements from major trade unions.
Mann stands by his allegations. And with the issue unresolved as the
Labour leadership campaign enters its final weeks, much of Corbyn’s
credibility would appear to now rest on two important questions.
did Corbyn really ‘call for an inquiry’ into the Islington scandal in
the early Nineties, as he now claims? And, second, did he indeed, as he
again claims, take a ‘strong line’ over allegations of child abuse in
On the first issue, things would appear, at best, unclear.
Davies certainly can’t remember him saying anything of that nature. And
the Mail has been unable to find newspaper cuttings, recorded public
statements, or extracts from Hansard, in which he makes such a call.
that can be found is a single, short quote he gave to the Evening
Standard a couple of days after the scandal broke, commenting: ‘These
allegations are extremely serious and must be properly investigated.’
that constitute ‘calling for an inquiry’? Up to a point, perhaps. But
it hardly provides evidence that he campaigned relentlessly on the
issue, as Davies and fellow whistle-blowers hoped he would.
seems odd. After all, Corbyn is never usually afraid to make a stand on
issues he deems important, or to demand public inquiries into matters
deemed scandalous in Left-wing circles. Such interventions rarely pass
without gaining some form of public attention.
the years, he’s been mentioned in print calling for inquiries into
dozens of incidents, from Bloody Sunday, to the Afghan and Iraq wars, to
the mysterious death in 1984 of anti-nuclear protester Hilda Murrell,
to the tendering process for bus routes through Islington.
However, of his alleged call for an inquiry into the all-important Islington abuse scandal, there appears to be no trace.
spokesman for Corbyn was unable to identify, when asked this week,
where or when he might have made such a call, or where a record of it
might now be. However, his campaign insists their recent statement is
accurate and we must, of course, take them at their word.
there is the question of whether Corbyn did, as he now so vigorously
claims, take a ‘strong line’ when presented with details of the
Islington abuse scandal in 1992.
[Corbyn] was polite but never seemed to do anything
Davies believes otherwise. And so do at least two other people who
attempted to bring important aspects of it to Corbyn’s attention at the
time. One is Eileen Fairweather, the journalist who first broke news of
the Islington scandal in the Evening Standard in October that year.
like Davies before her, also held a meeting with Corbyn at the time,
informing him of the seriousness of the child abuse and shared detailed
evidence about how the borough’s children were suffering.
like Davies, she says that the MP listened politely, but never wrote,
or called, after the meeting, to thank her, and responded to her claims
other is Demetrious Panton, a survivor of abuse who told Corbyn in
August 1992 that ‘very bad things had happened’ to him when he’d been
living at an Islington care home several years earlier.
he never detailed what these ‘bad things’ were, or disclosed to Corbyn
that he’d been sexually abused, Panton was dismayed over the ensuing
years by what he regards as Corbyn’s silence on the scandal.
Both of their claims will be considered in more detail later. First, however, some context.
Islington abuse scandal has its roots in the extraordinary belief,
popular in progressive circles during the Sixties and Seventies, that
paedophiles were merely an oppressed minority, who ‘loved’ children and
wanted to liberate them sexually.
this morally bankrupt argument was the Paedophile Information Exchange
[PIE], a lobby group which campaigned for the ‘rights’ of predatory sex
offenders and the abolition of the age of consent, and which was
controversially granted ‘affiliate’ status within the National Council
for Civil Liberties (NCCL), a pressure group which became Liberty.
the time, the NCCL was being run by Patricia Hewitt, the future
Blairite minister, along with Harriet Harman, the Labour Party’s current
acting leader, and her husband Jack Dromey, also now a Labour MP.
PIE’s founder, Peter Righton (above) –
a prominent social worker later prosecuted for importing child
pornography from Holland – was put in charge of training courses on
which council staff learned how to care for vulnerable children.
Righton, who had a flat in the borough (as did PIE’s one-time key
member, his friend Morris Fraser) once boasted: ‘Every Islington care
home manager knows I like boys from 12’
member of the ruling NCCL executive was a lawyer called Henry Hodge.
His wife was Margaret, the Labour leader of Islington when the scandal
first unfolded. Ms Hewitt has since apologised for her dealings with
PIE, though Harman and Dromey insist they have nothing to say sorry for.
the Eighties, PIE propaganda, along with the dogma of political
correctness, had become so entrenched in the modus operandi of Left-wing
councils that, in some of them, sex offenders were able to operate with
it was in Labour-run Islington, where the political elite regarded
anyone who attempted to blow the whistle on child sex crimes as being
motivated by homophobia, and where paedophiles posing as gay adult men
were routinely allowed to stay overnight in the rooms of vulnerable
residents of children’s homes.
of abuse were systematically brushed under the carpet by officials who
appeared to give more weight to the so-called human rights of
paedophiles than those of children.
founder, Peter Righton — a prominent social worker later prosecuted for
importing child pornography from Holland — was put in charge of
training courses on which council staff learned how to care for
who had a flat in the borough (as did PIE’s one-time key member, his
friend Morris Fraser) once boasted: ‘Every Islington care home manager
knows I like boys from 12.’
Islington Council’s then trendy equal opportunities rules, employees
who declared themselves gay, or who came from an ethnic minority, were
hired ahead of rivals, and also exempted from intrusive background
checks that were supposed to prevent paedophiles working with children.
explains how Michael Taylor, an Islington care home manager exposed in a
later court case as a PIE member, was put in charge of several homes in
which abuse occurred. He was later jailed for four years for abusing
also explains how social workers such as Liz Davies were told, by their
superiors, to place vulnerable children with foster parents whom they
had reported as suspected abusers, a fact which eventually prompted
Davies to resign from her job.
we digress. For when the scandal broke, in October 1992, Islington
Council responded with a classic display of denial and obfuscation.
Hodge accused Eileen Fairweather of ‘gutter journalism’, said the abuse
claims were untrue, and claimed, wrongly, that alleged victims had been
paid for interviews.
would be more than a decade before Hodge apologised for the slur,
claiming she had issued it after being lied to by unnamed members of
In the meantime, the scandal left local MP Jeremy Corbyn in a very tricky position indeed.
self-confessed Marxist, who before entering Parliament had been a
full-time ‘organiser’ for the National Union of Public Employees, which
represented town hall staff, he would not just upset such political
allies as Hodge, Hewitt, Dromey and Harman by speaking out. He might
also offend and compromise comrades in the trades union movement.
of Corbyn’s close political associates were also implicated in the
controversy, including Derek Sawyer, his agent, who became council
leader at Islington after Hodge moved on in 1992.
With this in mind, perhaps the easiest option for Corbyn would have been to remain largely silent. Is that the path he chose?
Panton certainly thinks so. Now a successful barrister, he has spent
much of the past 20 years campaigning for justice for fellow child abuse
victims, many of whom were Corbyn’s constituents, and says he has no
recollection of the MP ‘making any public comments’ about it.
‘This was despite the fact that a major child abuse scandal had taken place in his constituency,’ Panton comments.
am aware that Mr Corbyn is an active campaigner for the protection of
human rights of a range of people, including those who have never been
am not aware that he ever deployed his obvious zeal and effort to
ensure that the human rights of his constituents who were abused while
in the care of the London borough of Islington, were protected.’
was early 1993 by the time Corbyn met Eileen Fairweather, agreeing to
see her in the Palace of Westminster to discuss the scandal.
veteran Left-winger, who had previously worked for the feminist
magazine Spare Rib, she was anxious to reassure him that the Islington
abuse claims were not, as Margaret Hodge had suggested, part of a
took me to a cafeteria, and we sat in a quiet corner with our backs to a
wall,’ she recalls. ‘I took him through the whole story and laid out
the evidence, piece by piece.
was perfectly nice. Very cordial. I really thought I was getting
somewhere. He gave me the impression that he took the whole thing
seriously and said he would go away and make inquiries.’
Like Davies, Panton and so many others before them, she would also end up sorely disappointed.
was the last I heard from him,’ she says. ‘He never wrote, never called
and never said a thing about it in public. I rang him some time later
and got short shrift.
best guess is, frankly, and I feel sad to say this, is that he lacked
strength and discernment. That he was too trusting, or fell for lies, or
didn’t want to rock the boat and put people’s backs up. What I think he
did, sadly, was to just hide.’
is, Fairweather now reflects, an old saying that applies to the
Islington debacle — ‘that all it takes for evil to flourish is for good
men to do nothing’.
Jeremy Corbyn mounts an audacious attempt to seize control of both his
party and the country, at least one of the questions he must now surely
answer is this: when whistle-blowers told him of the systematic abuse of
vulnerable children in his constituency, what, in all honesty, did he