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Lady Butler-Sloss should not lead the child abuse inquiry

10 July 2014

Last week, Nick Cohen suggested that Lady Butler-Sloss was not the correct person to lead the child abuse enquiry. She has now resigned from her role. 

The Guardian says today that Lady Butler-Sloss cannot be the right person to lead the inquiry into alleged child abuse.

Not only was her brother, Lord Havers, attorney general – and briefly lord chancellor – at the time of some of the allegations of cover-up. She is also of the same generation as those around whom rumours swirl. If she were still sitting as a judge, she would never contemplate being involved in a case that might touch, however remotely, on family or friends.’

Unfortunately, this isn’t true. I reported a few months ago on the case of Mr Justice Tugendhat and the former Tory party treasurer, Peter Cruddas, who sued the Sunday Times after it sent undercover reporters to interview him. The journalists pretended to be agents for foreign investors, who wanted to give money to the Tories, and covertly recorded as Cruddas talked.

The headline ‘Tory treasurer charges £250,000 to meet PM’ followed.

Tugendhat found the paper guilty of libel and malicious falsehood. It should not have said that Cruddas was a corrupt man, who offered opportunities to influence government policy and gain unfair advantage through meetings with ministers. It was also false, he continued, for the paper to allege that Cruddas accepted donations to the party knowing that the money was to come from abroad, in breach of UK electoral law. Tugendhat ordered the paper to pay £180,000 in damages – not least because the party leadership forced Cruddas out after the story broke.

Tugendhat did not, however, declare an interest, and invite the parties to request that he step down. He did not say that his brother, Christopher Tugendhat is a Conservative peer and former MP. Nor did he mention that his son Tom Tugendhat was searching for a Tory seat. Indeed, a few months after the trial, Conservatives in Tonbridge selected Tom to be their parliamentary candidate at the next election for one of the five safest Tory seats in the country.

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The Sunday Times appealed. In November last year, Lady Justice Sharp’s refused to allow the application. The Sunday Times pressed on, and asked for a hearing. Just before it began, we published our piece about Tugendhat’s family connections.

Lady Sharp contacted the paper and said that it may want to know that, like Tugendhat, she also had a brother who was a prominent Conservative.

So she did. Richard Sharp is a former head of private equity for Goldman Sachs. He is on the board of a right-wing think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies. As Private Eye put it, the think tank ‘campaigns against a mansion tax for wealthy homeowners and in favour of zero-hours contracts for poor workers’.

Last year the Wall Street Journal estimated that his personal fortune was £90 million. Sharp has personally donated tens of thousands from it to the Tory Party and Tory politicians. In 2007, he moved from Goldman Sachs to be chairman of the lobbying and PR firm Huntsworth plc, which also donates to the Tory Party.

George Osborne appointed him to the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee in 2013.

Lady Sharp stood down. Several lawyers told me, it was because the Spectator had raised Tugendhat’s family connections. I have no idea if this is true.

Instead of going before Sharp, the Sunday Times‘s appeal was heard by Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Lord Justice Laws on 16 April this year. Laws said the Sunday Times, had to persuade the court that Tugendhat ‘went wrong on the facts to a radical degree. That is a tall order on any view, and it is right to note that the trial judge in this case [Tugendhat] has a wealth of experience in the field of defamation.’

For all that, Laws allowed the Sunday Times to appeal. He found the Cruddas case ‘unusual and in some ways troubling’. There were ‘some singular features’ about it.

Equally singular are the rules on when judges should stand down. The Court of Appeal said in 2006 that ‘if in any case there is real ground for doubt, that doubt should be resolved in favour of recusal’ but essentially left it the judge’s discretion. If there is one thing the child abuse and Sunday Times cases teach us, it is that the rules need to be made much clearer.

A basic one, it seems to me, is that if you have a family connection to a case, you cannot judge that case.

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Show comments
  • Iain Hill

    The judge’s personal integrity is not in question. She was an excellent judge all the way back to Cleveland. Experienced people in the public sector know that it is the potential for conflict of interest which is the appropriate test.

    On the broader front, another attempt to keep things in the Kingdom of Cronies bites the dust. When will we have an independently appointed public commission to make these appointment from those whose independence can be better demonstrated?

  • beenzrgud

    I’m glad she has decided to step down. She is a part of the establishment and has connections to this issue. Maybe she finally realised the scale of what she was taking on, and that any hint of a cover up would have followed her to the grave. Maybe the victims will now get justice, but I’m not holding my breath.

  • Malcolm McCandless

    The perception will always be that the establishment investigating establishment crime will always produce an establishment whitewash.

    Lady Butler-Sloss was never the wrong person based on knowledge and experience it was just that she was never the right person based on establishment connections and past associations.

    The survivors have been listened to and Lady Butler-Sloss has done the right thing in stepping down.

  • john

    If Mrs BS got her title for achievement – shouldn’t she now lose it for this debacle? Let’s drop the silly titles,

  • Michael H Kenyon

    Well she’s gone now. It only took a week of damaging debate to make it happen. What bright sparks tried to push through this transparent conflict of interest and old-school Establishment fudge? Perhaps their judgement and integrity is wanting? The next edition of “Private Eye” should be a beauty.

    • rtj1211

      ‘Our Father in Mossad – hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom cometh, thy WILL be done, in the UK as in the Holy Land. Forgive us this day our institutional paedophiles, as we forgive those who finger kiddies in Israel.

      For thine is the Kingdom, the Power to be Gory, For Clevers in Leather.

      Our paedophile men.

  • Adrian Wainer

    The elephant in the room is that she is simply too old to take on such a role.

  • Shawn Edward

    Butler-Sloss is not at all the right person. I oppose her.

  • Thomas Hulls

    Now the BBC report that Butler Sloss protected a bishop by persuading the victim to keep his name from the enquiry and out of the press but still she insists she should handle this enquiry it gets beyond a joke and something must be done.

    • realfish

      Aah. That’ll be the BBC which has a dog in this fight.

      Clearly they want to pick and choose who will lead the investigation into child protection at the Corporation and their failings.

      • Thomas Hulls

        What about her botched handling of the inquiry she presided over and that she had to apologise over.
        It seems to me that it is more than the BBC who want to cover things up and if you think that news should not be reported by any responsible media and news I think you may be involved in this sordid affair yourself. Shame on you.

      • Tom Prescott

        “Aah. That’ll be the BBC which has a dog in this fight.”

        Does the Telegraph also have a dog in this fight?

      • rtj1211

        No, it’s highlighting an enquiry covering up establishment complicity because the head of the enquiry was attached to the church, not to justice for the victims.

  • Thomas Hulls

    The family she comes from is tainted by all sorts of things how people find it necessary to fawn at her feet is beyond me as all I see is a old woman who wants to pontificate about something she is bound up in. The whole system is sick and she is just more proof of the malady that rules.

    • realfish

      ‘The whole system is sick’. I think it’s you that’s sick

      • Thomas Hulls

        Support the old trout then and her pedophile husband sicko but I want nothing to do with her

        • Tom Prescott

          Well said Thomas.

  • Fiendorfoe

    How un-amazing. An Observer contributor invites us to believe that, from his position of implied un-bias, the investigation into wrong-doings during Labour administrations in Central and Local government should be set aside? Yeah, right… this is the same guy who supported the invasion of Iraq! Negative credibility.

  • 1498

    The left wing liberal media were all part of the cover up. It has recently emerged that the ‘civil rights’ group known as the ‘paedophile information exchange’ may even have received government funding during the 1970’s.
    There are no doubt numerous individuals and groups who would prefer this scandal to remain buried.
    I doubt anyone, (Lady Butler- Sloss included) will ever reach the truth on this case.

  • Thomas Hulls

    Lady BS’s husband is a pedophile her brother covered up child abuse she chaired a inquiry about child abusing priests that she had to apologise for of course she is well qualified on this subject

    • Tom Prescott

      Yeah, well qualified to cover it up thats for sure.

  • Frank

    Why an enquiry when it should be a police investigation?
    As for Lady BS, she should stand down, she is conflicted.
    As for Tom Tugendhat, he will probably be facing an onslaught from UKIP so may have trouble achieving the easy victory he is hoping for.

  • Mr Grumpy

    The notion that an entire generation is disqualified is fairly breathtaking. I suspect some at the Guardian have not forgiven her criticisms of the Cleveland paediatricians.

  • Alexsandr

    has no-one linked this to the PIE and Harriet Harman? Surely she should be called to account on this too? and her dozy husband.

  • swatnan

    Age should be against her.

    • Mynydd

      I understand she is eighty years of age, so she will be at least eighty five, maybe ninety, before she writes the final report.

      • swatnan

        So, we could end up with something like The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and the ending finished off by a Ghost Writer?

      • realfish

        I thought that you lefties worshiped at the altar of diversity and equality (but of course, only when it suits you).

        • Thomas Hulls

          Maybe Sir Jimmy should be part of the mix then just to keep it diverse

        • Thomas Hulls

          Now the BBC report that Butler Sloss protected a bishop by persuading the victim to keep his name from the enquiry and out of the press but still she insists she should handle this enquiry it gets beyond a joke and something must be done and tell me if you still believe she should keep her position.

      • Thomas Hulls

        Oh they are not hanging about with this one I did not expect it over that quickly

  • Marcus Markou

    You have to speak to the alleged victims (alleged because the crimes against them are alleged) about what they feel about this appointment. They will tell you its not a good one.

    • Mynydd

      This is not about victims, it’s about the Mrs Thatcher’s legacy, which at all costs, must not be tarnished by child abuse, when she was in power, and when she and her ministers could have done something about it.

      • SimonToo

        If you think this is only about the Conservatives, you are wearing some very powerful blinkers.

        • Mynydd

          Have I said it’s only about Conservatives. You don’t have to be a Conservative to be a child abuser, but it seems to help with the cover-up.

          • Inverted Meniscus

            You really are the most disgusting and despicable scumbag.

            • rtj1211

              So you have an explanation for Lord Tebbitt saying that Mrs Thatcher’s Govt was uniquely principled, whereas the Mirror alleges that Thatcher was confronted with what was going on at Tory Conference in terms of procuring under age boys to be buggered at cocaine-snorting, alcohol-swilling parties across whole floors of Conference hotels, have you??

              I’d call that the potential for Watergate-level cover up and then some…….

              • Inverted Meniscus

                Well smearing the dead is what you socialist nutters do lad.

          • Andy

            We can start by finding out what the links were between members of the Fascist Labour Party and P.I.E. That would make interesting reading.

  • Andy

    If that rag the Guardian don’t like her she must be the right choice. There is no question that her late brother acted other than correctly while he was Attorney General. They probably object to her because it was her father who sentenced Ruth Ellis to death. It’s all piffle.

    • Mynydd

      Part of the enquiry remit is to investigate what took place under Mrs Thatcher’s government in the eighties, therefore any one close ties with that government and its ministers should be chairperson or members of the panel. A close tie In this case being sister to Mrs Thatcher’s senior law officer.

      • SimonToo

        You seem to suffer from a bee in your bonnet. (Not only that, you seem to be confusing Mrs. Thatcher with the Queen).

        • Mynydd

          Mrs Thatcher thought she was Queen

          • Inverted Meniscus

            Yet another lie.

    • Thomas Hulls

      In that case no need for an inquiry what else can you see under the sand

      • Andy

        Well if Geoffrey Dickens was so dissatisfied with the way the Home Secretary and the Home Office had acted on the information he supplied he would hardly have thanked them on the floor of the house as he did in 1987 would he ? Frankly this whole story is whipped up by hysteria and a few people out to make names for themselves.

        However lets hope the inquiry will also look at the links between PIE and the Labour Party, and also the links between PIE and children’s homes run by Islington Council (then leader Margaret Hodge).

        • Thomas Hulls

          All I can say is google “JUSTICE DENIED” and lets hope this enquiry gets to expose all the filth that has been covered up over the years no matter what their political persuasion is and that the sand in your eyes does not blind you permanently.

    • Tom Prescott

      There is no question? Oh, thats nice to know:

    • rtj1211

      I think the objections are more based on allegations that her close relative, Attorney General Sir Michael Havers, was alleged to have attended cocaine-snorting, rent-boy abusing piss ups in Conference Hotels in Brighton and maybe other locations, as alleged in the Mirror this morning.

      It is also alleged that in previous investigations she told a victim that ‘she didn’t want to give the Press a Bishop’, considering her attachment to the church to be more important than outing a paedophile high up in the moral army of UK.

      Most would suggest that the very first to be offered to the Press would be bishops, so long as it was done through the courts and not Press witch hunts.

      • Andy

        Sir Michael Havers was her brother. He is not around to defend himself, so the Mirror is being its usual anti Tory self. And don’t you rather contradict yourself ? By not wanting to ‘give the press a bishop’ she may have been protecting the possibility of a court case and without that, firm evidence and due process, isn’t it just witch hunt and smear ? And actually that is really what we have now – witch hunt, smear and immuendo.

        She is probably well out of this farce. Unless the review comes up with the conclusion that many people have already decided, which is that there was a cover up and there are pedophiles everywhere and anywhere, they wont be satisfied. This is probably a complete waste of time and public money.

  • duyfken

    Any arbiter or investigator, before accepting an appointment, should be satisfied with and be able to declare their own independence from the parties, and have no affiliation with either/any of them. Similarly, the person must be prepared to act impartially. Lady Butler-Sloss would surely comply in both respects, but this enquiry is not a matter just for judicial consideration – it is highly political. The fault, and I believe there is one, is that the Home Secretary has failed to give due consideration to that important aspect. Rather, it would have been appropriate for advice to have been sought from a neutral source, such as the Lord Chief Justice whose recommendation may be demonstrably non-political.

  • LadyDingDong

    Ed Balls should not be Chancellor because his broher works at Pimco and is therefore conflicted. Blair should not have been PM because his wife was a civil rights lawyer who benefitted from Labour’s introduction of human rights legislation. No Labour MP supported by a union should ever have a government position. This is all nonsense of course because at some point you trust people to act correctly and there is sufficient oversight from the reptiles in the meejuh, as you have pointed out, to ensure they do. All recent judge led inquiries from Hutton to Chilcott to Leveson have been flawed but what is the alternative? Who decides? Tom Watson or. Chris Bryant or Isabel Hardman? For Christ’s sake, let’s just get on with it without all this navel gazing and second guessing every action of Cameron and the coalition.

    • realfish

      Well argued.

      Lady Butler-Sloss will not be working alone. Her work will be aided by a panel of independent experts and will be conducted in the glare of publicity. Can we not trust someone of proven skill and integrity to undertake this work? Or are we so beholden now to the narcissists and conspiracy theorists that the very inquiries they demand are stymied from the outset? (But of course no report, from whoever chairs the panel, will satisfy that particular cohort. They have already reached their conclusions based on their imaginings or because they met a bloke on the internet, who read on a site many years ago, of a story of an MP, that was never published, who [enter whatever allegation you wish to make up] and got away with it).

      It seems that the objections to Lady Butler-Sloss are largely emanating from the left, some of who, like the Shadow Attorney General should be ashamed of themselves. This is too important to be politicised or for some to seek political advantage from.

    • Sinceyouask

      You do indeed expect people to act correctly. in this case that is to expect her to recognise and anticipate the potential for subsequent criticism of any judgement she reaches. It is not about the nature of her qualifications or of her character, but those in positions of authority holding *themselves* to a higher standard for the benefit, not of themselves, but of the society they serve and the institutions they represent. She should not have to have this pointed out to her.

    • Thomas Hulls

      If the old trout had any judgement she would have turned it down in the first place and if you can not see the conflict of interest you are blind.

      • Tom Prescott

        Or corrupt!

    • Inverted Meniscus

      Great comment but your reference to that filthy scumbag Tom Watson made me throw up.

    • Tom Prescott

      Yeah all this is nonsense, she is clearly great and totally impartial, why is everyone complaining? could it be this perhaps:

      Or this:

      Or this:

    • Tom M

      “ trust people to act correctly…”
      Indeed you do.
      The question to ask is what are the terms of reference of the inquiry. The answer to that will place considerable constraints upon anyone conducting an inquiry and acting correctly now becomes something entirely different to the generally held definition of the phrase.

  • alabenn

    Does it matter who leads an inquiry that is designed to lead nowhere, nothing will come of it before the election as Labour are trying to make it political, that will be to cover their previous form on this, none of the parties want a result, as all are tainted.

    • Holly

      I also believe this goes far beyond any political party.
      It is individuals, that happen to belong to a political party/institution, and have used that to hide in plain site.
      Each political party will still have their ‘brand’ of politics despite all this, if you know what I mean.
      No part of the ‘establishment’ will walk away untarnished, and some should be more ‘tarnished than others…church/BBC/NHS/police/children’s services.

      Personally, I am still trying to get my head around the fact that everything I was encouraged to trust while growing up, was based on lies and secrecy.

      I never once got a ‘bloody good hiding’ for doing something wrong.
      I got one when found to be lying.
      Think shoe/sandal/belt..bare skin….ouch!

    • dado_trunking

      Yep, we are all tarnished now – we are all potential ‘pediatricians’ and guilty until proven innocent.
      Yet the day will come when the Magna Carta centralist elite will be
      disowned. The Duke of Westminister will top that list. Then observe the
      jam ooze out into the regions like a squirting tomato when it is crushed, tarnishing us all, again.

    • anyfool

      It is already political and Labour are making the running on this with that barrel of bloated pomposity Thornberry who is laughably Shadow Attorney General, overrated and over promoted she has ticked all the PC boxes and needed an all women shortlist to be selected.
      A woman without any earned merit, she fits perfectly into the current Labour Party.

      • Sinceyouask

        Doubtless she would wish to reply to these outrageous slurs on her character and reputation, perhaps by pointing to her performance on BBCQT. And if so, I would say| case proven.

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