Saturday, 22 November 2014

Bits and Pieces

We haven't mentioned the irritating and self-serving Sir Stephen Bubb for some time, CEO of the trade union for charity sector CEO's, but a reader has nudged me in the direction of their recent manifesto:-  

Acevo calls on politicians to protect charities' independence and right to campaign

Apart from the nice photo that Jim may like to have as a screen saver, I find this article very interesting. Demanding from the government independence and freedom to speak out against policy, whilst at the same time bidding for government contracts for workfare and TR, appears to me that the third sector want their cake as well as eating it. It also makes it quite clear just how naive they are in trying to profit from public sector work if you actively seek involvement in something that you may also want to stand against!! Strange world.

This on the CivilSociety website:- 
Acevo calls on politicians to protect charities' independence and right to campaign
The government should bring in a series of measures designed to protect charities’ right to campaign and maintain their independence, the charity chief executives body Acevo says in its manifesto ahead of the 2015 general election. Freedom of speech of the third sector should be enshrined in law, the freedom of charities to speak out against injustice should also be protected and there should be a presumption in law that charity campaigns constitute fair and honest comment, the document, Free Society – realising the nation’s potential through the third sector, published today, says.

The manifesto also calls on politicians to protect charities’ access to judicial review and extend legal aid to charities that represent an at-risk or underrepresented group, commit to a single Third Sector Act that brings together all the regulation around charity campaigning, and to work with organisations with a mission to maintain the independence of the sector’s voice and set up an All Party Parliamentary Group for Third Sector Independence and Campaigning. It calls for all parties to repeal the Lobbying Act in the first year of the next parliament. The manifesto urges politicians to restore the minister for civil society to minister of state level and allow whoever holds the position to attend Cabinet meetings.

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, called on politicians to commit to the five-point “pledge card of policies to safeguard charities’ and campaigners’ ability to speak out". The manifesto is in response to concerns about a ‘chilling effect’ on charities’ ability to criticise government policy that has descended over the last 18 months after government legislation restricting access to judicial review, legal aid, and charities ability to campaign before general elections, Acevo said.

Bubb said: “Charities and campaigners depend on a free and independent voice. At exactly the time when their views are needed most, the voices of many of our most important campaigners are being chilled by laws like the Lobbying Act. “It’s time for politicians to recognise this and stand up for our country’s civil society. Rather than promises of a big society tomorrow, we need a free society today. Acevo’s manifesto suggests policies to make it impossible for charities to be gagged in future. It is a blueprint for a free society and it’s time for the political parties to listen.”
In response to the manifesto, Rob Wilson, the minister for civil society, said the document “merits consideration” by the government and all parties. “It’s interesting to see such a detailed package of policy asks from the charity sector. I look forward to scrutinising and debating the manifesto in the weeks to come,” he said. “Over the next 6 months positive dialogue between charity leaders and politicians is vital.”
Blanche Jones, campaign director at 38 Degrees, said in response to the manifesto: “After a series of big money lobbying scandals and broken promises, the public’s trust in Westminster politics is crumbling away. More people are looking to charities to speak truth to power, and pinning their hopes on campaigners to fix the problems our country faces. “But the third sector is facing the most hostile environment in decades. The Lobbying Act leaves corporate lobbyists untouched but effectively gags many non-profit campaigners, while a series of concerted political attacks on charities seems intended to silence them. “If politicians want to win back trust from the public, they have to protect the right of campaigners to speak freely. Repealing the disastrous Lobbying Act would be a good place to start.”
Yes, we will all be watching closely over the coming months as the charity sector gets screwed by the probation primes! You have been warned though, and you still have time to pull out.

The Rochester and Strood by-election result continues to confirm that the Westminster political class is in serious trouble and that a massive protest vote in favour of UKIP at the May general election will be as much a desire for 'a plague on all your houses' than it will be support for any set of policies. A worrying time for the democratic process, but probably inevitable and overdue given the history of bad behaviour and general contempt politicians have long-held for the electorate. The feeling is mutual of course.

Emily Thornberry's sacking and the now infamous tweet of white van and England flags rather nicely sums the issue up, together with her reported observation that she broke a cardinal rule of politics viz 'voters can be rude about politicians; but politicians can never be rude about voters'. 

I mention political bad behaviour deliberately and not just in the context of fiddling expenses and nest-feathering, but much more serious matters that ever-so-slowly are at long last beginning to emerge and that have the potential to really rock the cosy Westminster political boat. It's a matter I've touched on before in connection with allegations of child sexual abuse involving the former Elm Guest House in West London and prominent Establishment figures. 

In view of recent delopments, I'd like to return to the matter, not least because historical sexual offending is still very much in the news. Celebrities continue to be convicted as a result of victims coming forward in the wake of the Jimmy Savile revelations. The most recent is former DJ Chris Denning, as reported here in the Guardian:-
Former Radio 1 DJ Chris Denning admits 41 sex offence charges
Chris Denning, a former DJ, has admitted a total of 41 sex offence charges against young boys in a series of crimes spanning 20 years. A former colleague of Jimmy Savile and one of the first Radio 1 DJs, Denning, 73, pleaded guilty to 10 charges of indecent assault on a male, a charge of gross indecency and another of indecency with a child when he appeared in custody on Friday at Southwark crown court in London.
Denning, of Basildon in Essex, previously admitted 29 charges – including 26 counts of indecent assault on a male and three of indecency with a child – at a hearing at Southwark crown court in August. One of his victims was aged nine. He is set to be sentenced on the 41 charges when he next appears in custody at Southwark on 9 December.
Scotland Yard said the offences involve 26 male victims who were assaulted between 1967 and 1987. On Friday Denning also denied one count of indecent assault on a male. After the hearing DCI Michael Orchard, from the sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command, said: “Christopher Denning is a dangerous serial offender who committed numerous offences over a 20-year period against a large number of young boys. One of these victims was as young as nine years of age. Denning’s only redeeming quality is that he has not made his victims go through the trial process.” He added: “I would like to thank the victims for their bravery and courage in coming forward. I hope that Denning’s admittance of guilt is the first step in helping them move on with their lives.”
But, as many have suspected, this concentration on celebrities both major and minor is but a distraction from some very serious matters that have been covered up for decades and that go right to the heart of the British Establishment. Despite a huge amount of effort, it's not going to go away as the genie is now well and truly emerging from the bottle and there's a real sense of the net closing in on some very big names, some of whom are still with us.

Theresa May recently announced the findings of the Wanless Report, as outlined in the Guardian:- 
Theresa May: Wanless report finds Home Office cover-up ‘not proven’
The official Wanless review into whether there has been a cover-up of the Home Office’s handling of child abuse allegations in the 1980s has returned a verdict of “not proven”, the home secretary, Theresa May, has told MPs. “There might have been a cover-up,” she said. “I cannot stand here and say the Home Office was not involved in a cover-up in the 1980s and that is why I am determined to get to the truth of this.”
Peter Wanless, the chief executive of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), concludes in his inquiry report into 114 missing Home Office files relating to child abuse in the 1980s that there is no evidence that they were “deliberately or systematically removed or destroyed to cover up organised child abuse”.
Wanless says the record-keeping practices inside the Home Office at the time mean it is not possible to reach a categorical conclusion on whether or not files were destroyed as part of a cover-up but says: “We found nothing specific to support a concern that the Home Office had failed in any organised or deliberate way to identify or refer individual allegations of child abuse to the police.”
The home secretary responded to Wanless’s review of the original Home Office internal investigation into the missing files by asking him to look further at how the police and prosecution authorities handled the child abuse allegations that were passed on to them by the Home Office at the time.
She has also asked Wanless and his co-author, Richard Whittam QC, to establish whether any of the material mentioned in the internal inquiry or in connection with the 114 missing files was passed to the security services, and if so, what action they took. MI5 responded to the Wanless inquiry by carrying out a search of its own files but said it had not found any relevant to the review. 
The home secretary also announced that the Metropolitan police had agreed to investigate allegations by a journalist, Don Hale, that a file of allegations involving prominent people, including MPs, passed to him by Barbara Castle, had been seized from him by special branch officers.
Then the prime minister started spinning in a most unwise manner that will inevitably return and bite his arse. I quote selectively from a piece in the Huffington Post:-
Abuse Campaigners Are Not Conspiracy Theorists, Mr Cameron
Cameron has spun in a different direction, arithmetically, trying to convince people concerned about child abuse and cover-ups that two plus two makes nothing. Spinning on the day the Wanless report, into missing Home Office documents said to contain information about powerful people abusing children, was released, Cameron resorted to calling abuse campaigners conspiracy theorists. To do so, he exploited the fact that evidence could not be found within a few weeks to explain just how at least 114 files concerning child abuse went missing.
One of the missing files is a dossier presented in 1983 to then Home Secretary Leon Brittan by the Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens. Mr Dickens, who is now deceased, spoke in 1983 of a paedophile ring involving "big, big names - people in positions of power, influence and responsibility". Despite attempts to posthumously smear Dickens, there has been progress in investigating abuse rings linked to powerful people, including those involving the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE).
Therefore for Cameron to say, in response to the Wanless report, "It is important that it says that there wasn't a cover-up. Some of the people who've been looking for conspiracy theories will have to look elsewhere" seems astonishingly callous and shows little respect for survivors. The fact that NSPCC chief executive officer and former civil servant Peter Wanless wasn't able to prove exactly how files went missing does not prove that the abuse described in files did not take place or that the files were not deliberately removed or destroyed.

There are compelling and troubling links between abuse in North Wales and that in children's homes and approved schools across the country, PIE, Westminster and Elm guest house in London. Not to mention links between Jersey and Jimmy Savile, and between Savile and Cyril Smith - who is also linked to Elm guest house and the abuse of children elsewhere. There are also questions to answer about the security services alleged presence at Kincora Boys' Home in Northern Ireland and Elm guest house.
These are just a few examples where connections have been established. Anyone who has researched child abuse rings in Britain is painfully aware of links between networks. Any commentator also knows that writing about these abuse rings at the moment is a legal minefield, as people who previously could have been mentioned - to help explain links between rings - have recently been re-arrested. As legal proceedings are active for those cases, it is not possible to name them in a piece relating to abuse rings, because it potentially prejudices forthcoming trials. The absence of that information in this piece protects me. The absence of files from the Home Office - however they went missing - can only protect abusers and their protectors.
The search for copies of the missing files widens as reported by ITV news:-
Former Blackburn MP's archives searched in hunt for abuse files
Police are searching the library archives of former Blackburn MP Barbara Castle in the hunt for documents which may help uncover claims of historical child sex abuse. Officers from the Metropolitan Police are working through the official archive of the former Labour Minister at the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library in search of the infamous 'Dickens Dossier', the missing file containing allegations of a paedophile ring in Westminster in the 1980's, as well any other information relating to abuse.
The developments come three days after the Home Secretary Theresa May ordered the Met to investigate claims by North West journalist Don Hale that he was handed a separate dossier by Barbara Castle in 1984, when he was editor of the Bury Messenger. He claims it contained the names of 16 prominent MPs who were involved in a paedophile ring, who were actively campaigning on behalf of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) for Parliament to make sex with children legal.
But before he could publish the story, the says the files were seized by Special Branch officers, who warned Mr Hale he'd face prison if he published its contents. The 'Castle Dossier' was produced just 12 months after the 'Dickens Dossier' was handed to the Home Office by former Littleborough and Saddleworth MP Geoffrey Dickens. He believed high profile figures in Westminster and other areas of public life were abusing children. It's a belief Barbara Castle shared. She campaigned tirelessly against paedophilia and child abuse, and had asked numerous Home Secretaries what had happened to the 'Dickens Dossier'.
The Met are now trawling through 850 boxes of documents in the Barbara Castle Archive to see if contains a copy of either the 'Dickens Dossier' or the 'Castle Dossier', both of which have gone missing. Officers are also searching through hundreds of 'closed' files including letters and correspondence in search of any information which may help locate the whereabouts of the dossiers, as well as any other information which may help uncover allegations of high-profile historical sex abuse. 
  We also learn of a possible homicide as reported by the BBC:-
Historical abuse inquiry: Police examine 'possible homicide'
Police are investigating "possible homicide" linked to what has been described as a paedophile ring involving powerful people in the 1970s and 1980s. The group is alleged to have included senior figures in public life, the military, politics and law enforcement. 
In a statement Scotland Yard said inquiries were at an early stage. A key witness who has spoken to police has told the BBC that he was abused for nine years as a boy. He has appealed for others who may have evidence to come forward. The Metropolitan Police said detectives were made aware of allegations regarding possible homicide during the last month.
Speaking anonymously to the BBC but using the name "Nick", the alleged victim said he had given three days of video-taped evidence to detectives. His accounts are being assessed as part of Operation Midland, a new Scotland Yard investigation which is under the umbrella of its inquiry into historical abuse, Operation Fairbank.
Nick, now in his 40s, says that he was first abused by his own father before being "handed over" as a young boy to the group. "They were very powerful people and they controlled my life for the next nine years," Nick added. "They created fear that penetrated every part of me, day in day out. You didn't question what they wanted, you did as they asked without question and the punishments were very severe."
Nick said the group was "very organised" and would arrange for chauffeur-driven cars to pick up boys, sometimes from school, and drive them to "parties" or "sessions" at locations including hotels and private apartments in London and other cities. The children were not usually allowed to speak with each other and Nick says he struggled to work out the identities of the abusers. He has given the names of some of those he believes were involved to the police and the BBC.
The BBC has agreed not to reveal any of these names because of the ongoing police investigation and because of the need for further evidence to corroborate his account. "They had no hesitation in doing what they wanted to do," Nick said. "Some of them were quite open about who they were. They had no fear at all of being caught, it didn't cross their mind." When a child "stepped out of line", he said that abusers would inflict brutal and painful punishments. He said: "[The abuse] destroyed my ability to trust. It's pretty much wrecked any relationships I have had. Intimacy for me is a pretty much a no-go area."
Nick said he had one motivation for speaking to the BBC - to encourage other alleged victims or those who unwittingly assisted the abusers to come forward. "They need to find the strength that we as survivors have done," he said. "People who drove us around could come forward. Staff in some of the locations could come forward. There are so many people who must have had suspicions. "We weren't smuggled in under a blanket through the back door. It was done openly and people must have questioned that and they need to come forward."
Nick says his torment suddenly came to an end when he went to a pre-arranged place to be picked up by a driver and no-one arrived. He went the next day, worried that he would be punished for a diary mistake. Again there was no car waiting. He never saw his abusers again and says he still has no idea why.
At long last this whole dreadful murky story is beginning to emerge. Files may still be missing, but victims are coming forward with testimony and it's going to shine a very harsh light indeed upon the whole matter of child sexual offending, our attitudes to historical offences, not to mention the role of the Establishment, official 'cover-ups' and the accountability of politicians. Of course the Probation Service is expected to deal with much of the consequences and it's a moot point if TR will make this difficult and challenging task any easier? I'll end on this from the Daily Mirror in July:-  
Tory child abuse whistleblower: 'Margaret Thatcher knew all about underage sex ring among ministers'
Margaret Thatcher was warned that senior ministers were involved in a child sex ring, a former Tory activist claims. Anthony Gilberthorpe says he sent her a 40-page dossier in 1989 accusing Cabinet members of abusing underage boys at drug-fuelled conference parties.
Mr Gilberthorpe, who claims he was ordered to recruit boys for the ministers, says he posted the “graphic” allegations to Mrs Thatcher after befriending her. Mr Gilberthorpe, who was a young Tory hopeful when he was asked to recruit for the parties, said: “I outlined exactly what I had witnessed and informed her I intended to expose it. “I had met Mrs Thatcher on several occasions and even presented her with a birthday cake in 1983. I believed she had to know.”


  1. Does anyone know who accredits SOTP's?

    1. I do not know, but it presumably is some department now within Ministry of Justice that grew from the original accredited programmes unit in the Prison Service, primarily run by Psychologists and at one time (if my memory is right) led by Martin Narey.

      I recall coming into contact with that unit when I became an accredited Prison Service tutor for the, by then already revamped (Enhanced), Thinking Skills Treatment Programme - that was in late 1997 or early 1998 when ALL tutors before they were allowed out were required to attend a residential prison service training programme - I ended up doing two courses.

      Not much help to our enquirer but at the outset those Psychologists were insistent that in order that the results could be properly monitored the programmes were delivered in a very strict consistent way. Sex Offender Treatment Programmes were also in development, though I was not directly involved and I think they tended to start from within the probation services.

      The people that were involved at the beginning were very committed and a great deal of training, preparation, supervision and monitoring of tutors was involved.

      The amazingly varied long list of current programmes seem to be listed here, but it does not say who or how they are accredited.

    2. I should have said the close scrutiny of the Prison Service ETSP was not just to achieve accurate comparative monitoring of the programmes in England and Wales but because (I think) the programmes were delivered under licence from the Canadian originators who held a copyright on the training materials

      The originators - though not (I think) of the SOTP were Robert Ross, Elizabeth Fabiano, Frank Porporino, who now has a Consultancy: -

      I see there was an article with knowledgeable comments about the whole business from the point of view of prisoners particularly those trapped by an IPP sentence in 'Inside Time' a while back: -

    3. CSAP - Correctional Services Accreditation Panel. Formerly the Joint Prison Probation Accreditation Panel. Google it.

  2. National programme accreditation board used to. Not sure if this still exists?

    1. NOMS or their appointed agents. They used prison service psychologists to bring in OASys (Danny got a gong for that). Perhaps external accreditors for the various sotp's, e.g N, Tv, etc? Perhaps google (other made up words are also available) Northumbria Sex Offender Programme And see what comes up? Prof Grubin is, I think, a key figure there. Don't know if accreditation carries the same checks & balances as academic validation or peer review. I suspect its more of an approval than any scientific process.

    2. Danny who? I'd love to know who to blame for OASys.

    3. Danny Clark, HMPS senior psychologist

    4. Blimey a name! Thanks. The guy has no idea how his award winning programme fucked up a whole profession, drove many an officer to utter despair, early retirement and probably an early grave. The person hours wasted on this pile of utterly useless garbage is incalcuable, and is probably the single biggest reason we are in the bloody mess we are now.

      Thanks Danny - it would be lovely to hear you speak in defence of your handiwork.

  3. if something's accredited would you not expect it to be periodically reviewed in order to ensure it's 'fit for purpose?'

    1. It depends on who is doing the accreditation. As someone who works in programmes, I can confirm that the process is fixed for the benefit of of those who design it and those who promote it

  4. I'm very suspicious of SOTP Facilitators, as to why they prefer to work in SOTP... perhaps one or two can tell us?

    1. Some of the most challenging and successful work I've ever undertaken has been with sex offenders, but it was not part of an accredited programme.

    2. Right, I take it you weren't being filmed or had to stick to a manual or had 8 or 9 other sex offenders in attendance either?

    3. SOTP is some of the most challenging, sophisticated, nuanced and valuable work probation do. There are some more opportunities for professional CPD than other roles and it's one area where it's been a little easier to retain adequate resources, at least in the trust's I've worked in.

    4. Correct, it was not being filmed and one of the reasons I chose not to deliver any accredited programme is because I was not happy with video recording.

      In my view groups of 8 or 9 for SOTP is too large and 4 or 5 would be preferable and is the sort of size I have been used to when undertaking work with sex offenders. However not everyone is suitable for groupwork and in my experience neither is one-to-one. We found two-to-one worked well, but takes time and sadly not likely to be considered in the present climate of cost-cutting.

  5. The research, evaluations and evidence etc of SOTP over the last 25 years, is no secret..anyone wishing to do their homework, will be able to answer all questions raised above and from yesterday. However, it isn't an easy read, as it is based in therory and based on numerous large scale tests, specifically from North America. It can be improved on, but it does rely on a certain number of assumptions, which have over many years been accurate. As a practitioner, I prefer to do face to face individualised work, but I also accept that some work, lends itself to groupwork, and SOTP is one of those interventions, not as a stand alone, but in collaboration with Superving Officers. Also, one overwheming recurring theme, from those convicted of sexual offences, is one of denial, minimisation and blame; rather than rubbish the programmes which currently exist, do something to improve them..and incidentally, I have worked with hundreds of men, who have found SOTP to be the vehicle through which they gain a better understanding of themselves, and who are happier than they were previously - alhtough I am refering to people who want to engage in the process. It also occurred to me that the approval of and development of interventios, is held to a greater degree of accountability and testing, than TR, by a mile; an acutual mile.

    1. I did engage in the process and found the process and the behaviour of Facilitators to be highly abusive and manipulative.

      Which assumptions are these that are proved accurate?

      Large scale tests of Sex Offences in general or different sub-group offences?

      Of course if you are saying that you can judge the effects of the programme on one individual by saying that several thousand people reacted to it in a certain way then you are plain wrong in the first instance.

      If you have worked with hundreds who claim to have been improved by SOTP (assuming that some were simply not saying that in order to gain your favour in a final report) then you have undoubtedly worked with thousands who either went on to reoffend, possibly due to the clumsy intervention, or even those who didn't re-offend but have been damaged by having their offending thoughts challenged by other sex offenders and under-qualified abusive Facilitators.

      I can see where you are coming from and why you would want to think in the way that you do. Can you see my point of view?

    2. No I don't and if you wish to review the work and the outcomes, objectively, feel free, but don't presume to know everything about everybody based on your own experience!

  6. A sex offender questioning the validity of the programme they are subjected to? There is at least one in every group. Spending hours talking about the process is a great way of avoiding talking about the offending. A VERY common phenomenon in working with this group of offenders.

    1. Maybe they do have a point though, perhaps they would prefer to talk about the highly questionable validity of the programme rather than discussing their life history and being questioned on this by strangers and other assorted sex offenders. Please issue the relevant statistics in a further response. I have no statistics to offer, no one is going to come up with a statistic that disproves what they want to validate are they? They're only going to look for the stats that prove their point...

      Stats that back up these programmes please...

    2. How about you tell us how to work effectively with people who commit sex offences; that would be refreshing, rather than listen to people who have devoted their entire lives to developing such interventions. I said previously, do your own research instead of asking other contributors for the information! However you do need to keep an open mind!

    3. Individually, one to one with real people who can respond themselves in a friendily and polite manner, instead of the robots with manuals for brains, talk in buzz words and bull shit and who deffer the responsibility of response to Joe Sex Offender.

      If you know the latest statistics to validate these SOTP's then why not publish them here?

      Are they perhaps not quite as conclusive as you'd have thought?

  7. I sexually offended adult Women yes, exposure charges, perhaps I caused them psychological damage I don't know, I can only apologise. Can SOTP Facillitators and Managers admit that they may have offended their clients that they themselves who uphold this programme may have cause the Offenders psychological damage, they certainly caused me it. You'll never see it though will you? Perhaps your intervention was infact the cause of the reoffending? What is your response to that?

    1. Well, if you really were responsible for indecent exposure offences, and this is not just another tiresome mud slinging ploy - whether they all from one especially embittered individual or different people we don't know - then my response is as follows: Our work with sex offenders will ultimately fall short of its goal where individuals are determined, be that by specific intention or general inclination, to refuse personal responsibility and resist any effort to help them to benefit from what the programmes can offer. If you truly have undertaken the programme then you know as well as we do that there is in truth nothing in it that could genuinely be considered psychologically damaging by someone looking to participate and address their offences - as opposed to someone looking to sidestep accountability and responsibility by deflecting blame and defensively adopting an inappropriate self pitying, 'I'm the real victim here' standpoint who may well be inclined to grasp at any opportunity, however tenuous, to avoid looking at the truth.

      Simon Garden

    2. I worked in a specialist sex offender unit and my main concern with the preceding posts is that the golden rule of treatment is to first assess for eligibility. The participant has to consent or should be withdrawn from the programme - the various posts here make no sense to me at all. It is relatively simple to take an Order back to Court with SOTP as an accredited programme requirement and to have this removed as unsuitable - happens all the time. In the case of a licence the facilitators would also assess suitability - this is not usually a reason for enforcement other than wilful non compliance. So all in all, there is a dialogue here that does not stack up with what happens in practice.

    3. Had you not chosen to expose yourself to a woman, you could have avoided all the pain you describe! Interested in why you chose a woman? Maybe a man would have knocked your teeth out-ahh the great deterrent !

    4. The abuse continues... Surely the last commentator cannot have anything to do with probation? No, on second thought they most probably do.

      What happens to those sent back to court then? Why do so many agree to go along with such a practice as SOTP? Hmm, if the likelihood was to be let go and not do any programme then I'm sure everybody would be sent back to court...

      It's a ramshackle nonsense and those working in it will try to get away with doing as little real work as possible.


    1. The security services are facing questions over the cover-up of a Westminster paedophile ring as it emerged that files relating to official requests for media blackouts in the early 1980s were destroyed.

      Two newspaper executives have told the Observer that their publications were issued with D-notices – warnings not to publish intelligence that might damage national security – when they sought to report on allegations of a powerful group of men engaging in child sex abuse in 1984. One executive said he had been accosted in his office by 15 uniformed and two non-uniformed police over a dossier on Westminster paedophiles passed to him by the former Labour cabinet minister Barbara Castle.

      The other said that his newspaper had received a D-notice when a reporter sought to write about a police investigation into Elm Guest House, in southwest London, where a group of high-profile paedophiles was said to have operated and may have killed a child. Now it has emerged that these claims are impossible to verify or discount because the D-notice archives for that period “are not complete”.

      Officials running the D-notice system, which works closely with MI5 and MI6 and the Ministry of Defence, said that files “going back beyond 20 years are not complete because files are reviewed and correspondence of a routine nature with no historical significance destroyed”.

      The spokesman added: “I cannot believe that past D-notice secretaries would have countenanced the destruction of any key documents. I can only repeat that while any attempted cover-up of this incident might have been attributed to a D-notice the truth would be that it was not.”

      Theresa May, home secretary, this month told the Commons that an official review into whether there had been a cover-up of the Home Office’s handling of child-abuse allegations in the 1980s had returned a verdict of “not proven”. The review, by Peter Wanless, the chief executive of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, was prompted by the discovery that 114 Home Office files related to child abuse in the 1980s had gone missing.

      On Saturday night the Labour MP for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk, whose book Smile for the Camera exposed the child sex abuse of the late Liberal MP Cyril Smith, said it was a matter of deep concern that D-notice correspondence had also disappeared, presumed destroyed. D-notices to media outlets are rare, with just five sent in 2009 and 10 in 2010, according to a freedom of information response from Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Vallance, secretary of the defence, press and broadcasting advisory committee, which oversees the system.

      Danczuk said: “There are clearly questions to be answered as to why these documents were destroyed. They issue very few of them – where was the need to destroy correspondence?

      “It feels like just another example of key documents from that period going missing. We need to know more about what has happened. The journalists who have said that D-notices were issued are respected people with no reason to lie.”

      The two journalists, Don Hale, the former editor of the Bury Messenger, and Hilton Tims, news editor of the Surrey Comet between 1980 and 1988, both recall their publications being issued with D-notices around 1984. Tims, a veteran of the Daily Mail and BBC, where he was head of publicity for the launch of colour TV, said that his chief reporter had informed him that a D-notice had been issued to him after he tried to report on a police investigation into events at Elm Guest House, where Smith is said to have been a regular visitor.

      Tims, 82, said: “One of the reporters on routine calls to the police learned that there was something going down at the guest house in Barnes. It was paedophilia, although that wasn’t the fashionable phrase at the time, it was ‘knocking up young boys’, or something like that.

    2. “The reporter was told that there were a number of high-profile people involved and they were getting boys from a care home in the Richmond area. So I put someone on to it, the chief reporter I think, to make inquiries. It was the following day that we had a D-notice slapped on us; the reporter came over and told me. It was the only time in my career.”

      Hale, who was awarded an OBE for his successful campaign to overturn the murder conviction of Stephen Downing, a victim of one of the longest-known miscarriages of justice, said he was issued with a D-notice when editor of the Bury Messenger. He had been given a file by Castle, by then an MEP, which had details of a Home Office investigation into allegations made by the Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens of the existence of a Westminster paedophile ring. The files contained the name of 16 MPs said to be involved and another 40 who were supportive of the goals of the Paedophile Information Exchange, which sought to reduce the age of consent.

      Hale said he asked the Home Office for guidance on the dossier and the progress of the investigation but was stonewalled.

      Hale said: “Then shortly after Cyril Smith bullied his way into my office. I thought he was going to punch me. He was sweating and aggressive and wanted to take the files away, saying it was a load of nonsense and that Barbara Castle just had a bee in her bonnet about homosexuals. I refused to give him the files.

      “The very next day two non-uniformed officers, about 15 uniformed officers and another non-uniformed person, who didn’t introduce himself, came to the office waving a D-notice and said that I would be damaging national security if I reported on the file.”

      A spokesman for the D-notice system said: “If Don Hale was ‘served’ with anything purporting to be a ‘D-notice’, it was quite obviously a fabrication.”


    1. A prisoner is in hospital with life threatening injuries after he was assaulted in HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes.

      Officers were informed by the prison service on Thursday of an incident which took place in the Category A prison shortly before 3pm in which a prisoner, a 27-year-old man, was assaulted.

      The victim was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries and he remains in a stable condition.

      Det Sgt Phil Turner-Robson, of Milton Keynes Force CID, said: “We are investigating an incident of assault occasioning grievous bodily harm.

      “This incident was contained within the prison and officers are working closely with the Prison Service to establish the circumstances of what happened.

  10. As a practitioner I have observed how some (usually inexperienced) SOTP trained staff have accorded themselves with the status of 'expert'...yet because they are so rigid in their views (as instructed to be by their training) I would suggest that they ignore anything that sits outside of the parameters of that training or attempt to pigeon hole challenges to the delivery of said programme as individuals being a) Manipulative or b) often have you heard this around the office when someone on the programme dares to stick their head above the parapet and challenge the 'expert'-there is a role for the programme but not as a one size fits all, in my humble opinion....and on top of this the recently released paper which calls into question the validity of SARN as a future risk predictor should shift the Parole boards reliance upon the word of the psychologist against that of the practitioner.....

  11. The MOJ published some academic research about 12 months ago that stated that of all the CBT courses had less than spectacular re-oofending rates. SOTP had the best re-offending rates. Something like a 14% reduction over one year but diminishing rapidly after that.

    CALM, ETS and the like I think were round about 7%or8% reduction in re-offending in the first year, again falling to 3%or 4% after that.

    Supervision based on respectful relationships and RJ were the most effective. As a PO I know that when the people we are working with understand we are there to help them in the areas in which they need help, this is the most effective type of intervention. Together with holding on to the certainty that human interaction is complex and difficult; yes people it takes time and effort form all concerned. The privatised world of probation will not have time for the complexity.

    SOPT is not a magic bullet and if needs to be run with imagination and compassion; we need to work with people not drill them.


  12. You see, maybe blowing my own trumpet here but I am perhaps slightly brighter than your average customer and when something stinks as badly as SOTP I get upset. Compliance has made me a worse person. I'm not however and never have been at any risk whatsoever of reoffending but any response that isn't "Yes, I agree entirely" is met with heightening of risk and very excited Police Officers arresting you for every similar offence that takes place in the county.

    The vast majority of Offenders on SOTP know precisely what it is, a crock of shite, indeed, as soon as we leave the building we can all be guaranteed to be in agreement that it doesn't address anything in a worthwhile manner.

    That's where I agree about privatisation that they wont do anything better (not that they have SOTP, well not yet) but the state service has been doing these things for years in preparation for this.

    You don't need any real qualification to be a Facilitator just the ability to read the manual...

    I'll leave this from a tentative version of a blog I am slowly writing up...

    Group Manager: We pride ourselves on being completely transparent.

    Me: Can I read the Manual?

    Group Manager: No.

  13. I hope you find a path to treatment and that this allows you to recognise how frightening and devastating it is for victims of exposure offences. I hope you can develop healthy sexual functioning that does not involve breaking the law or being responsible for the victimisation of others.

  14. It's of little surprise that someone who committed these offences and then refused to participate meaningfully in the programme is also just repeating his baseless carping / argue about anything as long as i don't have to account for what i did or why i did it behaviour here ad nauseam and can't/won't countenance any discourse that involves his needing to concede any fact or accept the slightest scintilla of responsibility. Can't you reintroduce comment monitoring until he finds another route to deflect his responsibility?

    Simon Garden

    1. I agree with that suggestion. The comments are repetitive and quite offensive.

  15. I don't know why people are getting into this stuff. Perhaps its away of avoiding the original topic and the horrific abuse suffered by children and then the continued abuse by covering it up by those in poser.

  16. Sorry supposed to be power not poser.

  17. Oh but I am remorseful and fully aware that what I did was wrong, I do not blame others for what I did, it was me, I know precisely why I was doing what I did,.If I could do anything to attempt to rectify what I did I would do so. I am merely saying how I myself have been offended by the useless intervention that has zero statistical evidence to suggest what it does helps.

    I would like for the statistics that prove the effectiveness of SOTP's to be published on this blog by someone in the Probation Service, i that is too much to ask?

    Simon Garden, whoever you may be in the world of Probation, (perhaps you could tell me who you are and what you do?) is culpable of the same thing that he is accusing me of.

    Introduce comment moderation if you will, it's only to help those who have no ability to come to terms with what SOTP's do is highly abusive in itself, nothing will ever convince them that that is the case.

    I can see where Mr. Garden is coming from, he himself continuously fails to see my point of view...

    I still see no champions of SOTP coming forward with statistical evidences to prove conclusively that what they do has an accurately measurable effect on stopping re-offending.

    1. Anon 23rd Nov 01:15 "I still see no champions of SOTP coming forward with statistical evidences to prove conclusively that what they do has an accurately measurable effect on stopping re-offending."

      Anon 22nd Nov 12:25: "Of course if you are saying that you can judge the effects of the programme on one individual by saying that several thousand people reacted to it in a certain way then you are plain wrong in the first instance."

      On the assumption that the two comments were made by the same person, can you tell us what you want those statistics to prove?

      I have worked with a number of men, convicted of sexual offences, who have demanded statistical proof that the programme would work for them before engaging in SOTP. In each case, I believe that this was their way of avoiding taking responsibility for their behaviour, because the consequences of that (e.g. admitting to family and friends that they were guilty after all) was too difficult to contemplate. Of course the only person who will really know the truth of that is them - and perhaps even they still do not know.

      I'm prepared to accept that Anon 01:15 experienced SOTP as unhelpful, but without offering anyone an explanation of what it was that was "abusive", nothing is going to change - particularly the assumption that he isn't as remorseful and accepting of responsibility as he claims.

    2. Whats "abusive"? The entire concept of SOTP from the outset. The way it is delivered, the way nobody here has any statistical analysis to back up the validity of SOTP. The entire thing from the outset.

      Those who support SOTP are blinkered to the abuses they allow.

      Probation is dead.

    3. You are trying my patience my friend and I will not have this blog hijacked by anyone. We have aired the issues and I have suggested you write a guest blog. I am drawing a line under this subject and will have to request that you stop posting comments that are basically repetitive.

  18. To Anon 01:15
    This is not the place - take your concerns to NOMS/MOJ for they have the answers you seek. Your posts have an anger directed at practitioners and most reading them simply see deflection, go to the place that holds your answers and perhaps when you get them share them here.

  19. As Cantona famously said: Why do the seagulls follow the trawler? It's been said many times on this blog, if you don't give attention to contributions you don't like, they will probably fade away. And it's pointless to criticise someone for hijacking debate, much better to make your own substantive points.

  20. Indeed. We've been nicely sidetracked for several days now and the editor feels we've exhausted most of the issues surrounding the delivery of SOTP, together with the general failings of the Probation Service seen from a consumers point of view.

    There are other more important issues to concern us at the present time and I am therefore drawing a line under this subject. As always I urge the irritated commentator to put their thoughts and arguments into a guest blog and I will publish it.


    1. Whoops, sorry Jim - I posted above at 8:33 before seeing this comment.

    2. That's ok - no problem. In an ideal world and one where we wern't fighting for survival, I'd happily just let it run until everyone got bored, but I'm conscious our friend's contributions are very effectively taking the blog away from the main business in hand. I'm not going to allow that. I hope every one understands that, even if not in agreement with it.