Press release: Assembly Members in Wales to receive an early Christmas Present – The Truth About Bryn Estyn.

Balance, Fairness and the Burden of Proof: A Christmas Gift Worth Treasuring

South Wales Against Wrongful Conviction (SWAWC),
Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers (FACT)
False Accusation Support Organisation (FASO)
jointly call upon Welsh Assembly Members and relevant authorities to make themselves fully aware of the dangers which can attach to accusations of sexual abuse and the corresponding caution which is required when assessing them.

As an aid to these endeavours we will be presenting copies of the late Richard Webster’s meticulously researched books “The Great Children’s Home Panic” and “The Secret of Bryn Estyn” to members of the Welsh Assembly.  We fear that, in the current, anxiety-ridden climate, there is a danger that Richard Webster’s poignant account of “The making of a modern witch hunt” will be forgotten and the mistakes of the past repeated.

The presentation of these thought provoking Christmas Gifts to  Members of the Welsh Assembly will take place at 12.30 pm on Wednesday 5th December 2012 at the Senedd Building on Cardiff Bay.

To quote solicitor Chris Saltrese, from a recent FACT Press Release: -

“The Home Affairs Select Committee examined the broader issue of past abuse in children’s homes in 2002.  Its report was highly critical of current police practices and found that miscarriages of justice had occurred.   This report was shelved by the then Labour government”

Ten years on, the word “alleged” is increasingly absent from the messages broadcast by politicians, NGOs and the media in relation to sexual abuse generally.  This we believe will bring about more tragic cases of false accusation, destroying the lives of individuals and their families and friends and destroying with them the fundamental idea that citizens should be protected from arbitrary conviction and protected by a burden of proof.

Dr Dennis Eady of South Wales against Wrongful Conviction comments; -

“Accusations of sexual abuse are very often difficult both to prove and to mount a defence against.  When such accusations go back many years these problems become worse still.  We must be mindful that, however unpalatable such accusations may be, the abandonment of the burden of proof presents a danger to everyone in society.  Convictions based on volume of accusations, or convictions prompted by an atmosphere of outrage rather than by reliable evidence, are inherently dangerous and misleading”

Margaret Gardener Director of FASO (False Accusations Support Organisation) comments: -

“IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU!  A false allegation of abuse can cause you and your family enormous stress; your family can break down; you, the accused, can lose your self-worth (to the point of suicide), your job, voluntary work, house and home and any chance of ever setting up a family again.”

A FACT spokesman said: 

“It is not the care workers that are in denial but the institutions of the State.  Child abuse is horrific, but so are false allegations.  FACT calls on politicians of all persuasions and those involved in child protection and criminal justice to read Richard Webster’s books and to judge for themselves just who are the innocent victims in this case”.

Earlier this month FACT North Wales held a series of lectures in memory of the late Richard Webster, a distinguished cultural historian and author of the “Secret of Bryn Estyn – the making of a modern witch hunt.” 

For almost a decade Webster interviewed key people associated with the Waterhouse Inquiry including victims of abuse, falsely accused staff and officials who provided evidence to the Inquiry. Webster sought to establish whether Sir Ronald Waterhouse was correct in concluding that there was widespread abuse in North Wales care homes or whether, in fact, his inquiry itself formed part of a modern witch hunt?

Webster concluded that whilst some abuse did take place in North Wales care homes it certainly did not take place on the scale that was alleged and that there were many instances when staff (and others) were falsely accused.

“The Secret of Bryn Estyn” is essential reading for all truth seekers, and in particular, for anyone who is really concerned to understand the real secret of Bryn Estyn – that abuse was not endemic and that the vast majority of staff did their best for the young people who lived there – often with limited resources and in very difficult circumstances.

It is a book all politicians, particularly those associated with Wales, ought to read and we very much hope that Assembly Members will find time to do so over the Christmas recess.

As one senior politician* has already remarked, it is “a book of national importance”.

Another well respected politician** described Webster’s account as a “a tragic story” adding that he was in no doubt that a whole new genre of miscarriage of justice had arisen and that Webster had done us all a service by documenting so meticulously what went wrong in this seminal case.

The Home Affairs Select Committee examined the broader issue of past abuse in children’s homes in 2002 resulting in the publication of its “Report into the investigation and trial of people accused of sexual abuse in children’s homes”.  The Committee’s report was highly critical of police practice at that time and found that numerous miscarriages of justice had occurred.  The report however was largely ignored by the Government.

Notes  

 * The Earl Freddie Howe, Shadow Minister of Health 2002 – (quoted on rear book cover soft back edition of “The Secret of Bryn Estyn”)

** Chris Mullin, Labour MP, (quoted on the frontispiece and rear cover  - soft back edition)

FACT (Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers) is a voluntary organisation set up in 2000 in response to the escalating number of historic police trawl investigations implicating innocent care workers, teachers and other professionals, and is particularly active in North Wales.

FASO (False Allegations Support Organisation) is a voluntary organisation dedicated to supporting anyone affected by a false allegation of abuse.

SWAWC (South Wales Against Wrongful Conviction) offers mutual support to victims of miscarriages of justice and their families and friends.  SWAWC campaigns for greater safeguards and a more rational criminal justice and appeal system.  SWAWC is provided with practical support by a student team from the Cardiff University Law School Innocence Project.

For further information please contact

Chris Saltrese   Tel: 01704 535512  Web Site:  

Dr Dennis Eady (SWAWC) 07743438786     

References: -

Richard Webster (1998) The Great Children’s Home Panic.  Oxford: Orwell Press

Richard Webster (2005) The Secret of Bryn Estyn:  The making of a modern witch hunt.  Oxford: Orwell Press

The Secret of Bryn Estyn – the making of a modern witch hunt was published by the Orwell Press in 2005 and was shortlisted for the prestigious Orwell Prize. It was updated and reprinted in paperback in 2009.

Home Affairs Select Committee (2002) Report into the investigation and conduct of investigations into past abuse in children’s homes.  London HMSO

Richard Webster also wrote:

A Brief History of Blasphemy: Liberalism, Censorship and the ‘Satanic Verses’ (1990)

Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science and Psychoanalysis (1995)

The Great Children’s Homes Panic (1998)

Great Philosophers: Volume on Freud (2003) 

At the time of his death in 2011 he was working on his magnum opus, The Natural History of Human Beings and had been assisting Portuguese contacts to expose what he considered to be the most significant paedophile-ring scare in Europe. He had been due to publish a history of this affair, Casa Pia, in the week of his death.

For further information on Webster’s work and Bryn Estyn