THE MACUR REVIEW — Part One: BLOODY WHITEWASH
THE REPORT of the Macur Review — an examination of the work of the 1996-99 North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal — is a whitewash.Lady Justice Macur’s report was finally published on March 17 this year — nearly three and a half years after it was commissioned.
“I have found no reason to undermine the conclusions of the Tribunal in respect of the nature and scale of the abuse.”
She brushes aside evidence submitted by Rebecca — one of the Tribunal’s major critics.
She also rules out the existence of a national paedophile ring:
“Neither is there evidence of the involvement of nationally prominent individuals in the abuse of children in care in North Wales, between 1974 and 1996.”
“Consequently, I do not recommend the establishment of a further public or private inquiry.”
But Lady Justice Macur is also highly critical of the Tribunal.
Her team has done enough digging to find shocking shortcomings in its work.
She could have condemned it as unfit for purpose.
There’s a precedent for this.
The first Bloody Sunday Tribunal — chaired by Lord Widgery — largely cleared British soldiers of killing 13 civilians during a demonstration in Derry in 1972.
The Widgery Report was widely branded a whitewash.
A second, more thorough Tribunal — the £200 million Saville Inquiry — finally ruled in 2010 that paratroopers “lost control” and killed people “none of whom was posing a threat …”
The Macur Review didn’t take this route, choosing to whitewash the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal.
But it’s still a bloody whitewash.
Lady Justice Macur delivers devastating blows to the reputation of Tribunal chairman, Sir Ronald Waterhouse.
One of her judgments concerns Waterhouse’s handling of a witness who gave ‘tainted evidence’ before him.
The Welsh Office became aware the witness wasn’t telling the truth — and was so concerned it asked a barrister to look at what happened.
The barrister recommended an inquiry.
But when the Welsh Office sent the barrister’s opinion to Sir Ronald, he ignored it.
He didn’t even mention the allegation in his report.
Lady Justice Macur finds his response “surprising”.
She could easily have said it was “shocking” and “unforgiveable”.
She condemns another of Waterhouse’s decisions — a refusal to establish a register of freemasons — for showing “a lack of due diligence in a matter of clear public interest”.
Lady Justice Macur is saying, in effect, that Waterhouse was contemptuous of public concern about the issue.
The Macur Review also reveals that masonic infiltration of the Tribunal was far greater than previously suspected.
But one of the Review’s most important revelations — that North Wales Police withheld dramatic new information from the Tribunal — cannot be reported for legal reasons.
Lady Justice Macur ends her foreword with the words:
“I hope that this Report may bring a conclusion to the question mark raised against the Tribunal …”
It doesn’t — it succeeds only in adding new ones …
THE MACUR Review was set up in dramatic circumstances.
On 2 November 2012 the BBC Newsnight programme carried an interview with Stephen Messham, a child abuse victim from North Wales.
Messham claimed that an unnamed senior Tory politician — later revealed to be Lord McAlpine — had abused him while he was in care at the Bryn Estyn children’s home near Wrexham.
The broadcast, coming a month after the shocking ITV programme outing Sir Jimmy Savile as a sexual predator at the heart of the British establishment, was electrifying.
Three days later, on Bonfire Night, David Cameron announced two new inquiries.
One was a new police investigation into historic child abuse allegations — Operation Pallial.
The second was a judge-led investigation — the Macur Review — into the work of the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal which sat between 1996 and 1999.
ebecca has been a long-standing critic of the inquiry — Britain’s only child abuse Tribunal — with a long series of articles called The Case Of The Flawed Tribunal published in 2010.
The most important of these — Silent Witness — concerned a former care home executive who was not called by the Tribunal.
He claimed to have alerted police to allegations of abuse more than a decade before a major North Wales Police inquiry began.
In October 2011 — just a few months before the Newsnight programme — editor Paddy French wrote to then Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan asking her to “appoint a suitably independent barrister to examine the Rebecca allegations”.
Gillan never replied.
The day after the Prime Minister announced the new inquiries, Home Secretary Theresa May made a statement to the House of Commons about the police investigation.
In the debate that followed, Paul Flynn MP (Newport West) raised the Rebecca articles:
“I ask the right hon. Lady to look not only at the fresh evidence but at the evidence that was available at the time and that was almost certainly suppressed by powerful people.”
“Will she look at the evidence produced by Paddy French and the Rebecca website …”
Home Secretary May replied:
“The police investigations will look at the evidence that was available at the time in these historical abuse allegations, and at whether the evidence was properly investigated and whether avenues of inquiry were not pursued that should have been followed up and that could have led to prosecutions”
“I can therefore say to the hon. Gentleman that the police will, indeed, be looking at that historical evidence. That is part of the job they will be doing.”
That debate took place on Tuesday.
But by Friday Stephen Messham had retracted his allegation:
“After seeing a picture of the individual [McAlpine] in the past hour,” he said, “this [is] not the person I identified by a photograph presented to me by the police in the early 1990s, who told me the man in the photograph was Lord McAlpine.”
By then it was too late to stop Operation Pallial.
And the Review of the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal was also under way …
♦♦♦FOR MORE than two years Rebecca co-operated with the Macur Review.
After a first statement was submitted in January 2013, Lady Justice Macur asked for a meeting with editor Paddy French.
This took place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London in March 2013.
By that time a second statement had been delivered.
A third statement was submitted in July 2013.
But things began to go wrong in the autumn of 2013.
A fourth statement could not be completed because access to the transcripts of the public hearings of the Tribunal in 1997-98 was denied.
These had been made available to Rebecca when it was preparing the 2010 series The Case Of The Flawed Tribunal.
Many of these articles could not have been written without access to the transcripts.
In September 2013 Rebecca wrote to then Welsh Secretary David Jones asking for a full set.
His spokesman said:
“Access to material is solely the responsibility of the independent Macur Review.”
Lady Justice Macur refused to provide them.
A spokeswoman said:
“ … it would be inappropriate to provide the transcripts because she wants to hear your perspectives based on your recollections so as to preserve the integrity of your submissions.”
In October 2013 Paddy French wrote to Lady Justice Macur to express “a sense of concern” at her decision.
He said that he given her “everything that relates to my personal recollection” and concluded:
“Without the transcripts I don’t feel able to make a further statement.”
Lady Justice Macur was unmoved, access to the transcripts was denied — and the statement was never completed.
By this time, Rebecca was also becoming concerned at the length of time the review was taking.
An official said there were “no imminent plans to submit our report …”
In February 2015, more than two years after the Review started work, Paddy French wrote to Lady Justice Macur:
“I am considering withdrawing from the Review.”
“The passage of time has seriously eroded my confidence in the process.”
“It’s clear to me that the Review will not be complete by the election and, by the time the new administration is in place and able to take a decision, we will be into the autumn.”
An official replied:
“Lady Justice Macur has seen your email … and noted its contents.”
Rebecca — by now suspecting the Review would be a whitewash — withdrew.
Paddy French asked the judge to remove his statements from her report — and to “include my reasons for doing so in the Review’s report …”
The Review replied:
“The judge has asked me to let you know that she has found no reason to refer to your submissions specifically in her report and therefore it will not be necessary for her to indicate why she has removed them.”
In March 2015, Rebecca also wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May to express “concerns about the delay in the completion of the Macur Review …”
The letter pointed out that the review — which the judge had initially promised would “be thorough and expeditious” — had already taken 26 months.
This compared to the 39 months of the original Tribunal, an “enormous undertaking” costing £14 million.
Lord Leveson’s three volume report into press ethics was published in just 17 months.
Paddy French added:
“I am also concerned that the Review may have already made up its mind, concluding that the Waterhouse Tribunal was broadly sound.”
When the Macur Review was finally published, in March this year, it had taken 38 months — just one month less than the Tribunal it was examining.
And it proved to be the whitewash that was feared.
♦♦♦THE MACUR Review is a classic example of the “long grass” theory of handling a political crisis.
As former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson put it:
“ … it’s that classic leadership trick, which a number of us pull when we are in deep difficulty, to say — this is disgraceful and we must have an inquiry.”
The idea is to launch an inquiry which takes so long to report that the reason for its existence is long-forgotten.
This is precisely what has happened to the Macur Review.
The Welsh media only carried its findings.
(BBC Wales said the inquiry took two years when it was closer to four.)
No London-based newspaper reported the conclusions — and even Private Eye, which has a long-standing historical interest in the story, was silent.
This means the Rebecca analysis is likely to form the only serious examination of the Review.
The second article — The £3m Whitewash to be published tomorrow — examines how the Macur Review handled our key complaint against the Tribunal.
The Tribunal had cleared North Wales Police of failing to investigate abuse allegations in the 1970s and 1980s:
“there was no significant omission by the North Wales Police in investigating the complaints of abuse to children in care.”
But the Tribunal did not hear the testimony of a care home executive who claimed he reported a major abuser to the police more than a decade before he was arrested.
The third article looks at the Review’s damning indictment of the way Tribunal handled freemasonry.
The fourth piece examines some of the new material thrown up in the course of the review.
This includes an extraordinary claim by former Welsh Secretary of State, David Jones, that a member of the Tribunal staff rang him before the Waterhouse report was published.
The official told him that former Chester Tory MP Sir Peter Morrison, Margaret Thatcher’s private parliamentary secretary, would be named in its report.
Lady Justice Macur notes that Morrison’s name is not mentioned in the Waterhouse — and decides the phone call was probably a “hoax”.
The final article — dealing with sensational new material concerning North Wales Police — cannot be released at this time for legal reasons.
It’s likely to be published towards the end of this year or the beginning of 2017.
The full report of the Macur Review can be found here.
There’s more detail on the main Rebecca criticism of the Waterhouse Tribunal in the article Silent Witness. A TV programme, A Touch Of Frost, was withdrawn after ITV refused to allow its copyright material to be used. However, ITV Wales later broadcast an edition of its Wales This Week strand which carries most of this footage. To see click it, on Still Lost In Care.
The story of how Rebecca came to withdraw from the Macur Review is told in the piece The Macur Review — A Loss Of Confidence.
Published: 9 May 2016
© Rebecca Television
THE MACUR REVIEW — Part Two: THE £3m WHITEWASH
Critics say the force failed to investigate allegations that residents of care homes were being sexually abused in the 1970s and 1980s.
Britain’s only child abuse inquiry — the 1996 Waterhouse Tribunal — was set up to examine these claims.
The Tribunal gave the force a clean bill of health:
“ … there was no significant omission by the North Wales Police in investigating the complaints of abuse to children in care.”
Rebecca has long argued this conclusion is suspect.
The Tribunal did not consider the testimony of a witness who claimed he reported the most serious abuser in the scandal — John Allen — to police in 1980.
This was 15 years before Allen was gaoled.
In 2012 David Cameron ordered two new inquiries into the scandal.
One was a police investigation, Operation Pallial: the other a judicial examination of the Tribunal, the Macur Review.
These inquiries presented an opportunity to revisit the cover-up.
Home Secretary Theresa May promised the House of Commons the evidence presented by Rebecca would be examined.
Operation Pallial detectives found new victims of John Allen from the 1970s.
In 2014 he was gaoled for life for abusing 19 of them in the 1970s and 1980s.
But Pallial did not investigate if any of these victims had tried to complain at the time.
And it found:
“ … no evidence of systemic or institutional misconduct by North Wales Police officers or staff in connection with these matters …”.
The baton passed to the Macur Review.
Its report — which cost £3m million and took more than three years to complete — found:
“ … no reason to undermine the conclusions of the Tribunal in respect of the nature and scale of the abuse.”
It brushed aside the evidence submitted by Rebecca.
The Review is yet another whitewash.
♦♦♦JOHN ALLEN is one of the key figures in the North Wales child abuse scandal.
He ran a private care home complex near Wrexham, making millions looking after hundreds of difficult boys from all over England and Wales.
He groomed some of the most vulnerable and sexually abused them.
He is — by far — the most prolific child abuser in the scandal.
His victims were showered with expensive gifts such as motor bikes and hi-fi systems.
Some were sucked into a sinister ‘after-care’ system where they stayed in houses and flats Allen provided in London and Brighton.
Several committed suicide or died in mysterious circumstances.
In 1995 Allen was gaoled for six years after a jury found him guilty of sexually abusing residents between 1972 and 1983.
But could the North Wales Police have brought him to book more than a decade earlier?
♦♦♦IN 1996 rumours about prominent paedophiles being protected by police and freemasons led to Britain’s first ever child abuse Tribunal.
It’s known as the Waterhouse Tribunal after its chairman, retired High Court judge Sir Ronald Waterhouse.
In 1997 — while the Tribunal was halfway through its public hearings — the television company HTV investigated John Allen.
One of the highlights was a new witness who’d been ignored by the Tribunal.
Des Frost, a former social worker, had been John Allen’s senior administrator.
In his interview Frost said that, in 1980, a member of staff had come to him with “some rumours which were going round the organisation at the time”.
There were “some pretty hairy stories about allegations of child abuse by John.”
He could not remember most of detailed allegations except one:
“ … a member of staff caught him [Allen] in, shall we say, a compromising position and John had a perfectly legitimate answer for that one.”
And Frost wasn’t just passing on rumours.
He told HTV of another incident where he personally saw Allen one morning with a black eye.
Allen’s explanation was that it had happened the previous evening when he was trying to get into a caravan where a boy was sleeping.
Allen didn’t offer an explanation for why he was trying to get into the caravan — and Frost didn’t ask for one.
Frost didn’t want to believe Allen was an abuser but he was concerned.
He went to see a local magistrate about the rumours.
The magistrate told him he, too, “already had his suspicions about the stories I told him”.
Initially, Frost agreed with the magistrate that, in the absence of hard evidence, there was nothing they could do except keep in touch.
But Frost later changed his mind:
“I then decided to go to the police on behalf of myself and the rest of the staff because it was a difficult situation but I didn’t want it ever said that — why didn’t you do anything about it?
“I obviously could not go to the police in Wrexham,” he said, “because Bryn Alyn tended to keep them in business, with lads constantly getting into trouble and being taken there.”
“The probability was that someone would recognise me, and would communicate the information to John Allen, and therefore I decided to go elsewhere.”
He arranged an interview with detectives from the neighbouring Cheshire Police.
At the meeting, which took place in Chester, Frost asked them to pass on the allegations to North Wales Police.
Just before HTV broadcast its programme, the Tribunal learnt Des Frost would appear.
Officials warned programme makers they faced contempt of court proceedings if they revealed details of any of his allegations.
The allegations were removed but the programme revealed that Frost had gone to the police.
Broadcasters assumed Frost would be called to give evidence.
And when the report of the Waterhouse Tribunal — Lost In Care — was published in 2000 there was no mention of his allegations …
♦♦♦IN 2010 Rebecca revealed the story of how the Tribunal had censored TV journalists.
The article also revealed another twist.
Despite his seniority, Frost had not been interviewed by North Wales Police when they finally started to investigate Allen in the early 1990s.
After HTV interviewed Frost in 1997, however, detectives turned up at his office in Wrexham — without making an appointment — and took a statement from him.
The man who carried out the interview, Detective Chief Inspector Neil McAdam, had been one of the leading officers in the criminal investigation of Allen in the early 1990s.
In 2009 Rebecca wrote to McAdam to ask why he’d interviewed Allen.
McAdam acknowledged but never replied.
Rebecca made an official complaint about his failure to answer.
The complaint was investigated but McAdam was cleared because he’d reported the matter to his superiors.
He was told responsibility for answering the Rebecca letter belonged to police headquarters in Colwyn Bay.
We had already written to chief constable Mark Polin.
He didn’t answer.
This was another mystery Rebecca expected the Macur Review to get to the bottom of.
♦♦♦LADY JUSTICE Macur’s handling of the Rebecca evidence is disturbing.
She doctors our submissions.
Her report does not mention:
— the Tribunal’s censorship of television journalists
— the abrupt decision by North Wales Police to interview Frost when they’d ignored him for more than five years.
All that’s left is a single criticism:
“Two journalists have queried … the failure of the Tribunal to call a witness, Mr Desmond Frost, to give evidence.”
(As well as Rebecca editor Paddy French, the journalist and broadcaster David Williams — who has been involved in reporting the scandal from the beginning — also raised the Frost issue.)
Lady Justice Macur relegates the affair to page 176 of her 251 page report.
And it takes her just one paragraph — and parts of two later ones — to dismiss the evidence.
“ … I do not regard the decision not to call Mr Frost to be at all questionable.”
She reveals for the first time that the Tribunal did have a statement from Des Frost.
But there are serious questions about Lady Justice Macur’s version of how this came about.
“Mr Frost was contacted by the Tribunal as a result of evidence from another witness … and “…. made a Tribunal statement on 24 October 1997.”
This is misleading.
Frost was interviewed by the North Wales Police — not by the Tribunal’s dedicated Witness Interview Team.
The Witness Interview Team comprised retired police officers deliberately chosen not to have any connection with North Wales Police.
This was because an important part of the Tribunal’s remit was to investigate the activities of the North Wales Police.
It seems North Wales Police handed a copy of the statement they took from Frost to the Tribunal …
♦♦♦LADY JUSTICE Macur says Frost’s statement echoes what he told HTV back in 1997.
She then adds:
“The Tribunal was informed that investigations were made with the Cheshire police in regard to Mr Frost with nil return.”
Who “informed” the Tribunal?
It’s clear the Tribunal did not find out for itself.
The implication is that it was North Wales Police who carried out the inquiry.
She says the result was “nil return”.
This is also misleading.
In 1997 Cheshire Police told HTV that they would not hold records going back to the 1980s.
A spokesman also made it clear what the policy was at the time — any allegation concerning another force area would be automatically transmitted to that force.
In other words, if Frost did talk to detectives in Chester, as he claimed, then his allegations would have been referred to North Wales Police.
Was the swift action by North Wales Police to interview Frost designed to prevent the Tribunal from carrying out its own investigation to see if his allegations had ever reached police in Wrexham?
There’s no evidence the Tribunal ever investigated this possibility.
Lady Justice Macur goes on to say:
“Mr Frost’s evidence was orally summarised” at the Tribunal.
Once again, this is misleading.
Tribunal chairman Sir Ronald Waterhouse appeared to know nothing about Frost’s Chester allegations.
In 2000 Sir Ronald agreed to meet Paddy French, who was then a journalist with ITV Wales.
French told Waterhouse Frost’s story about going to Chester police.
Waterhouse appeared to be ignorant about Frost’s Chester allegations.
Waterhouse did know that Frost had been questioned — around the same time — by police over a separate incident.
A former resident had been arrested in Durham and a letter addressed to John Allen was found in his pocket which police suspected was blackmail.
Durham police asked North Wales to investigate and a local constable was sent to interview Frost.
But Waterhouse insisted the Tribunal believed Frost had no other information.
French later summarised Waterhouse’s position in a letter:
“Your position was that the inquiry had the local policeman’s statement: there was no indication Frost knew any more and that there was nothing he could add to the knowledge already gathered by the Tribunal team.”
In his reply, Waterhouse did not contradict this version of the conversation.
The second problem with the Review’s statement that the Tribunal actually heard Frost’s evidence is that there’s no way of checking it.
Lady Justice Macur refused to allow Rebecca access to the official transcripts of the Tribunal’s hearings.
These hearings were held in public and transcripts were freely available at the time.
This makes her next statement impossible to check:
“[Frost’s] evidence was therefore deemed to have been read into the evidence before the Tribunal without challenge.”
She adds that Frost’s “evidence is referred in part in the Tribunal Report”.
This is downright misleading.
There is no reference in the Tribunal Report which suggests that Frost directly gave a statement.
There’s a discussion about the letter found on a former resident by Durham police which raised questions about the possibility of blackmail:
“A police officer … was asked to investigate,” noted the report, “and learnt from the Bryn Alyn accountant at that time that money was being paid to former residents.
Although he’s not named, the “accountant” was Des Frost.
There’s nothing about Frost giving a statement to the Tribunal itself — and, as a result, there’s nothing about his claim to have gone to police in Chester …
♦♦♦LADY JUSTICE MACUR concludes there was no reason the Tribunal should have brought Frost to give evidence in person.
“His attitude that ‘it was no big deal’ and his description of the information he gave to be rumours would not have indicated a necessity to call him, and may well have accounted for the fact that Chester police officers did not consider it sufficiently important to log or pass on to the [North Wales Police].
She also uses a similar argument in explaining why the Waterhouse Report is silent about the Chester allegations.
“It would be unrealistic to expect every piece of evidence to be mentioned or to assume that it was therefore not considered by the Tribunal.”
“ … it appears to me that the nature of Mr Frost’s evidence was sufficiently imprecise to enable findings to be made either as to when he informed the police officers in Chester or whether they had adequately informed Wrexham police.”
This is nonsense.
The Tribunal report not only examined the issue of the Durham blackmail letter but considered evidence from four separate witnesses about it.
The letter is only indirect evidence of possible abuse.
Frost’s claim is far more explicit, more widespread — and more serious.
He claims he reported the allegations to the police.
And he says there were several people who could corroborate his evidence.
If the Tribunal was aware of Frost’s evidence, then its report had to consider it in exactly the same way the Durham blackmail letter was handled.
And that meant it had to hear directly from Frost — and those he claimed knew about the incident.
Frost’s testimony is a serious challenge to the Tribunal’s conclusion about the North Wales Police:
“there was no significant omission by the North Wales Police in investigating the complaints of abuse to children in care.”
By endorsing that verdict, Lady Justice Macur has left herself open to the charge that she, too, is involved in the cover-up …