Margaret Hodge, Demetrious Panton and child sexual abuse at Islington Council

On 2 March 2008 – around the time of Brian Pead’s Employment Tribunal hearing – the following article appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

Ask Margaret Hodge how horrors can hide
By Jenny McCartney
12:01AM GMT 02 Mar 2008

All right-thinking people like to imagine, when hearing stories of the maltreatment of children, that they themselves would guarantee sanctuary. But often they simply don’t. A senior social worker, Liz Davies, and her manager, David Cofie, first told Margaret Hodge, then leader of Islington council, in 1990 of their suspicions that there was widespread sexual abuse of children in Islington care homes.

Ms Hodge instead believed senior officials who assured her that nothing was the matter. In 1992, the London Evening Standard published extensive evidence of the abuse, which Ms Hodge denounced as “a sensationalist piece of gutter journalism”. In 1995, an independent report found that the council had indeed failed to investigate the allegations properly.

In 2003, Tony Blair appointed Ms Hodge the first ever Minister for Children. Some questioned her suitability, including a courageous and articulate man called Demetrious Panton who had been sexually abused in an Islington care home in the late 1970s and whose attempts to expose what was happening had been repeatedly ignored.

Ms Hodge wrote privately to the BBC describing Mr Panton as “extremely disturbed”, a remark for which she was later compelled to apologise in the High Court. The first person to categorise Panton as “disturbed” was the paedophile boss of his children’s home, Bernie Bain, a man later described by police as “a brutal sexual abuser”: Panton was 10 at the time.

Children leaving the care system today face appalling outcomes. Their educational success is markedly low, and they are vastly over-represented among the homeless and prison populations. Ironically, one legacy of abuse scandals is that care-home workers often maintain a deliberate distance from children, preoccupied instead with elaborate form-filling to keep themselves in the clear. When the children leave at 18, they are frequently discouraged from further contact with their carers.

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