For anybody with more than a passing interest in looking at all aspects of the North Wales Child Abuse scandal, Richard Webster’s book ‘The Secret of Bryn Estyn’ is essential reading.
I believe that it’s always important to look at all sides of any story in order to draw a logical conclusions as to where the truth lies.
THE SECRET OF BRYN ESTYN – THE MAKING OF A MODERN WITCH HUNT
In summary: One disgruntled former manager (Alison Taylor) who lost her job because of her record of poor performance, made a number of third party allegations.
The police investigating them found her allegations to be untrue.
She enlisted the help of a former resident (Ryan Tanner) from a children’s home, who, acting as her acolyte, sought to involve others.
The former manager met with a journalist, who when facing a tight deadline, for whatever reason stated, did not do the correct research.
This same woman met with two anti-police labour councillors.
From the interactions of these five people, and their different individual motivations, ten years of trauma, trawling, interrogation, convictions, deaths, and suicides emerged.
Initially, that quintessential intensity and debt of faith in British justice seemed well justified.
The police were very appropriate in how they investigated the early complaints.
As the allegations changed, and the press began to talk of a police cover up, the reactions of the police became very defensive.
It was this that changed the entire climate.
Although Richard Webster presents the facts in great detail, I found it frustrating that his constant referring to a witch hunt, took him away from stating that at some point, the police acted as if Social Care Workers were just collateral damage.
The goal of the police was to deal with the rumours that:
“had circulated that the force was riddled by freemasonry and that this, together with the participation of its own officers in an alleged paedophile ring, had been one of the principle motives for an alleged cover up.”
In order to clear their name, the police had to be seen to be investigating the allegations and had to get convictions.
The Secret of Bryn Estyn is a very detailed account of how they went about this, deviating from all previous accepted practice, perverting the course of justice, regardless of the implications for others of their actions.
What Alison Taylor and her acolyte Ryan Tanner had begun, was now out of their hands.
Thanks to the salacious journalism of Dean Nelson, and the interference of Labour counsellors Malcolm King and Dennis Parry, a police trawl began, taking on a life of its own.
Richard Webster stated when talking of the Waterhouse Tribunal that:
‘The North Wales police were acutely conscious that one of the main reasons the Tribunal had been called into being was that allegations had been made against them.’
Having read his account of how the North West Police went about the trawling for allegations, in order to clear their own name, Richard Webster has made a very strong and compelling argument that the methods used were inappropriate, unjust, and corrupt.
I don’t believe he used these words, but in every detail he recorded how allegations were sought, how they were edited, and in Chapters 66 and 67 how information was either withheld or disregarded if it damaged the case for prosecution.
Careful study of the ‘unused evidence’ made it quite clear that the case presented in the trial had been arrived at through careful editing.
For obvious reasons the prosecution had discarded the more blatant fabrications.
The account given implies either that the defence legal teams were all inept or else there were major breaches of the appropriate disclosure protocols.
What is described in the book must surely represent a major corruption of the justice system on the part of the investigating police.
Rather than look at the witch hunt theory, it could be argued that if the Waterhouse Tribunal was not aware of the inappropriate investigation practices, then some of their rulings would be reasonable, rather than be part of a conspiracy or witch hunt.
For example in “note 516” it is stated by the Tribunal that:
‘Our approach has been that, in the absence of a successful appeal, the convictions are evidence that the offences were committed and that it has not been within our jurisdiction to question the correctness of those convictions, unless possibly fresh evidence were to be tendered going to the root of the convictions.’
I believe this to be a sensible argument given that if the Tribunal was not to take on the role of an Appeal Court, which it was never designed to be, then it had no other choice than to accept the legitimacy of the convictions, given its implicit trust in the integrity of the police investigation.
Whereas Richard Webster writes that the Tribunal Chairperson, Sir Ronald Waterhouse dismissed the undertaking of a detailed examination of each specific allegation as being “impracticable and wastefully expensive,” Richard goes on to say “that a fundamental principle of justice was ignored”.
The predisposition to accept the police investigation’s evidence without proper scrutiny is understandable if we look at Richard Webster’s comments quoted earlier on the deep faith British people had in the justice system.
One of the most striking examples of this was seen earlier in an unrelated rejection of an appeal by the Birmingham Six in 1979.
Lord Denning, in his ruling rejecting the appeal stated:
‘If they won, it would mean that the police were guilty of perjury; that they were guilty of violence and threats; that the confessions were involuntary and improperly admitted into evidence; and that the convictions were erroneous.’
That was such an appalling vista that every sensible person would say, “it cannot be right that these actions should go any further.” Lord Alfred Denning, (from the Appeals Court Transcript 1979).
When we look at the comments made in 1999 in ‘You told me you loved me’ a booklet published by three police forces in the Merseyside, Cheshire and Liverpool areas explaining the process and guidelines for Police Trawling in cases of institutional child abuse it is stated that:
‘Critics have pointed out that these operational methods represent a departure from normal police practice.’
This may be true but the methods have been scrutinised by the judiciary in trials without criticism to date.
If Richard Webster’s assertion that evidence had been altered, edited, or omitted in order to secure convictions then any scrutiny “by the judiciary in trials” was bound to end “without criticism to date.”
The fact that this document recognised criticism of their techniques may well have reflected a growing unease within the police forces involved.
However, it was not until 2000 with the collapse of the prosecution of David Jones, a well known football manager that a serious discrediting of the process took place.
It is difficult to fathom how the trawling experience took on a life of its own.
What started out as a normal investigation became contaminated by allegations of a police cover-up and then in their desperation to accumulate quantities of allegations, it was further contaminated by police forces and local authorities talking of compensation.
Synopsis By John Molloy