By Bob Forrest
Date Posted: December 15th, 2011
Bob Forrest who started off as a teacher was formerly the head of Kerelaw List D School in Scotland. Bob was the school’s longest serving head and retired before the school was taken over by Glasgow City Council.
The Kerelaw Papers (The Final Act)
Office of the Minister for Children and Early Years November, 2009
“I think we’ve been rumbled.” I said to Humphrey, as he entered my office.
“What on earth do you mean, Minister?” asked Humphrey.
“It’s the blasted Kerelaw thing. It has raised its head again. I was at a conference of Residential Schools recently and I couldn’t help overhearing staff discussing Kerelaw, the Glasgow City Council (GCC) and Frizzell reports. In fact the language got quite colourful. Questions were being asked about why neither GCC nor Frizzell ever bothered to contact the local medical practice to ascertain whether it had any concerns about, or complaints from, pupils. After all, pupils were examined frequently and had the opportunity to speak in confidence to the practice nurse who visited the school every week.”
“Well, Minister,” said Humphrey, “I happen to know that the Serious Crime Squad interviewed the medical practice as part of its investigations into abuse allegations.”
“And, Humphrey, what did they find out?” I asked.
“I understand that the police were told that in the 25 years the practice had responsibility for Kerelaw it had never had any concerns about the treatment of young people nor had heard any complaints from them about maltreatment or abuse. This, Minister, is a reminder of how important it was that the Enquiry was not provided with information it did not want to receive.
“You’re absolutely right, Humphrey. I was re-reading the Enquiry report and marvelled again at Frizzell’s mastery of language. “The Inquiry found no grounds for concluding that sexual abuse was widespread or institutional, but cannot rule out that sexual misconduct took place… To say it cannot be ruled out is not to imply that it must have happened.” I don’t understand however, why that finding and the rubbishing of GCCs report did not appear in the Executive Summary—it was hidden at the very back of the report, on page133”.
“Ah well, Minister,” explained Humphrey “Frizzell may well have included that in his Executive Summary, but you will realise that whenever we commission an Independent Report, we have to retain editorial control. We assume that most people will only read the Summary and not bother about the report proper. The media are notoriously lazy and never bother about the important details—too often details spoil an otherwise good story for them. We had to kill the Kerelaw story as quickly as possible and could not afford some bright spark thinking that there was more mileage in the story—it could have run on and on.
“! suppose you’re right, Humphrey. One thing I heard that really surprised me, though. Did you know that when GCC moved out the Senior Management team, and suspended 20 staff, it installed as Principal of Kerelaw someone who had never worked in any form of residential care? Would you believe that: the largest residential resource of its type in Scotland with the greatest concentration of challenging young people managed by a complete novice? The Residential School staff were having a right laugh at that.”
“That’s hardly fair, Minister. The Acting Principal was a qualified social worker and a senior manager of many years’ standing. His skills were transferable,” said Humphrey, leaping to GCC’s defence. “Transferable skills! Transferable skills, Humphrey!! If I’m lying in theatre waiting for open heart surgery and the surgeon tells me that he’s actually a gynaecologist, but not to worry as his skills are transferable, do you think I would stay there?”
“Don’t ‘but’ me, Humphrey. If I’m charged with murder and my lawyer tells me in court that she’s actually a corporate lawyer, what chance would I have? Or if I’m at the check-in at the airport and the chap beside me tells me that he designed the plane we’re about to board—he’s actually a civil engineer, but his skills are transferable, do you think I would get on the bloody thing?” By this time I was struggling for breath, Humphrey took this opportunity to intervene.
“Minister those scenarios are fantasies—they simply could not happen.” said Humphrey “Absolutely right,” I replied feeling much calmer, “And why? Because their own professions would not allow it. Tell me which other profession would allow a novice to take operational control of a large complex organisation?” I challenged.
“Well,” said Humphrey after a few moments reflection, “other than Banking, I can only suggest Politics.”
“That’s outrageous! You know perfectly well that we politicians come from wide and varied backgrounds and have a huge range of experiences and qualifications. We are not involved in the minutiae of operational management, but rather, the larger policy, strategic dimension. In short we have…”
“Transferable skills, Minister,” interrupted Humphrey before I could finish. This was not going as planned “What about the Civil Service? —you’re just as bad,” I retorted.
“Minister, this argument is getting us nowhere. Can we just agree that at a strategic level, skills are transferable?” suggested Humphrey.
“You’re perfectly right. I’m sorry. I’m a bit on edge. These nicotine patches don’t appear to be working. I must say, I was fairly rattled by the comments of those residential staff. But, tell me, Humphrey, why can’t Social Work Departments think before they indulge in knee jerk reactions and rush to judgement?”
“Well, Minister, that’s easy to answer. Social workers are not trained to think. They are trained to react— rather like Pavlov’s dogs. At the slightest suggestion of abuse they start slavering and havering. They get terribly excited, dispense with any rational thought processes or critical faculties that they may have possessed and set in motion a whole series of procedures designed to ensure that, whatever the outcome, someone else is responsible and no blame can possibly be directed at the Directorate or Elected Members. Mind you, other agencies are equally guilty of such over reaction—the media, the police and even the prosecution service”, explained Humphrey “Normal rules of justice are inverted. The presumption of guilt replaces that of innocence. The basic premise of British Law is reversed – it is better that ten innocent people be convicted than one guilty one walks free. I could go on for ever.”
I could not believe my ears “Help save a child, kill a social worker,” I muttered, head in hands./p>
“What was that, Minister?” inquired Humphrey.
“Sorry, I was thinking out aloud. Something Alexis Jay said,” I replied.
“I think, Minister, you mean Alexei Sayle,” said Humphrey icily.
“Do I, Humphrey? Who’s Alexis Jay, then?” I asked.
“She is the Head of the Scottish Government Social Work Inspection Agency, Minister.”
“Of course she is, Humphrey. Stupid of me.” I couldn’t resist smiling.
“Mind you, it would have caused a right furore if Alexis had voiced that opinion. Quite amusing really.”
“I see nothing funny in the situation, Minister” said Humphrey.
These people had no sense of humour. I thought I had better change the subject.
“Well, Humphrey, what shall we do?” I asked.
“About what, Minister?” Humphrey looked puzzled.
“Well, obviously those staff in the Residential schools aren’t taken in by the Glasgow City Council and Frizzell reports. What will we do when they go public?”
Humphrey drew himself up and I could see that he was preparing himself for a lecture. “Go public, Minister? They’ll never do that. It’s more than five years since this whole sorry episode started. Have you seen any comment by anyone in the Residential School sector during that period? Of course not. It’s over two years since GCC published its report and six months since the Frizzell Report. No one in the sector has commented on them and no one ever will. They cannot risk drawing attention to themselves or their own establishment in case it puts them under the microscope. No one is prepared to be accused of being an apologist for abusers. Similarly, the inspection agencies will say nothing. Remember, since the publication of these reports, the only sound heard from them has been the creaking of the fence that they all rushed to sit on. Anyone of any significance in any organisation wants Kerelaw forgotten. I assure you, Minister that in this case our best policy is to say nothing and do nothing. We in the Civil Service have learned never to confuse activity with achievement. There will always be individuals who never let things rest. They’re like dogs with a bone. But we have found that if we ignore them, they eventually get bored, fed up or die and stop asking awkward questions. End of problem.”
I thought about what Humphrey had said and came to the conclusion that he was probably right.
“Remember when that MSP asked Frizzell who the external advisers were that provided him with expert advice?” continued Humphrey. “Frizzell ducked the question. If you recall, Minister, you were subsequently asked the same question by that same MSP. I, of course, drafted your reply to him, ignoring the question he had asked and waffled on about irrelevancies. He never did pursue it. That’s generally what happens. People are too busy to pursue things. I must say, I was slightly worried when we put together the members of the Independent Enquiry. I knew there would be general acceptance of Frizzell’s chairmanship. His reputation was absolutely solid. But when we added someone from the Department of Agriculture and a representative from Glasgow City Council, I knew we had to have a fall back position if questions got really awkward. Hence the ‘external advisers providing expert advice.’ By the time anyone had found out who they were, the whole issue would have been long gone.”
“But, Humphrey, who were these people?”
“Minister, I can assure you that they were highly regarded people with impeccable reputations and, more importantly, very impressive job titles.”
“Thank goodness for that, Humphrey. So at least Frizzell had advice from people who knew something about residential schools and secure units.”
“Well, not exactly, Minister” said Humphrey sheepishly.
“What do you mean, Humphrey?”
“Actually none of them has ever worked in that particular field.”
“We’re all doomed”, I thought, with my head in my hands as Humphrey left the room.
Several days later.
“Humphrey, I’ve been thinking about that conversation that we had the other day about Kerelaw. You know ,none of that really matters. The most important thing is that two abusers were convicted and jailed – so the world is a safer place for young people at least. We’ve sent out a message. No one can abuse children and escape justice,” I said triumphantly.
“Well said, Minister. You’re absolutely right. It really would be the icing on the cake, though, if we knew they were actually guilty” said Humphrey.
I couldn’t believe my ears. “‘Icing on the cake'” ‘actually guilty!!’ What are you talking about, Humphrey? Are you suggesting that they might be innocent?”
“Minister, Minister, please calm yourself. Of course I’m not saying that they are innocent. But, innocent or guilty, the outcome for them would have been exactly the same.”
“Humphrey, I can’t take any more of this. I am going out for a cigarette.” It actually took three cigarettes before I could face Humphrey and when I did he looked his usual calm, composed self.
“Well, Humphrey. Explain yourself,” I said as sternly as I could.
“Minister, I have now had the opportunity to look in detail at the Kerelaw sequence of events. We never had the time for it before as we had to devote all our energies to ensuring that the department emerged unscathed from the shambles. These are the three factors in the equation: Glasgow City Council, Strathclyde Police, and the Prosecution Service. With regards to the first, we know that there was no one in GCC management with any experience, knowledge or understanding of Kerelaw. Many of them suffered from delusions of adequacy. In their desperate attempts to find evidence of widespread abuse, a paedophile ring etc, they messed up, ruined or managed to lose records which could have helped establish the truth. Additionally they modelled their investigations on those of McCarthy in the USA in the Fifties.”
“You mean a witch hunt, ‘reds under the beds’, rampant paranoia — that sort of thing,” I said.
“Exactly, Minister. Strathclyde Police for their part was advised by GCC. They believed whatever GCC told them. And, of course, GCC were convinced that they had uncovered widespread abuse and their investigation, if it could be called that, was merely to support this belief. In any event, the police used “trawling” as an investigative procedure. This turns normal procedure on its head and instead of starting from a crime and setting out to find the criminal, “trawling” starts with the suspect, or an allegation, and then attempts to find the crime. Consequently, it has been discredited and discontinued for years in England and Wales following a House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee report in 2002. I have underlined the part which you might find interesting,” said Humphrey handing me the report.
“I’m not sure I want to know about this,” I thought. Then I read: “Trawling is an absolutely unregulated process tailor-made to generate false allegations. There is deep concern over the conduct of police interviews and the integrity of witness testimony. Set in the context of a growing compensation culture the risks of effecting a miscarriage of justice are unusually high. It has been suggested and we believe it to be so, that a new genre of miscarriages of justice has arisen…”
“Humphrey, are you telling me that Strathclyde Police engaged in trawling to get former residents of Kerelaw to make allegations against staff, after this technique had been discredited in England?”
“Well the Police get a bit touchy about the term ‘trawling” Minister’. They prefer rather more neutral terms such as dip sampling. But, if you are asking me whether they actively sought out former residents of Kerelaw and asked them about particular individuals then, Yes, Wha’s like us, eh?“
“The investigation owed more to Clouseau than Poirot, then,” I couldn’t resist saying.
“Very droll, Minister,” continued Humphrey. ”The Prosecution Service was under pressure to get convictions. Millions of pounds of public money and more than three years of police time had been wasted chasing bogeymen. It decided to try the two staff together as co-accused. The two, between them faced 87 charges of abuse. In only two of those charges were they accused of the same offence. It was later revealed that an overenthusiastic police officer had altered a witness statement, deleting the name of another member of Kerelaw staff and inserting the name of one of the accused.”
“You mean a bent police officer doctored the evidence, Humphrey, ” I said.
“Indeed not, Minister! It was a pure accident. Their first names were the same. Just different surnames — and they both started with the same letter — an easy mistake to make. Anyway, when this was revealed in court these two charges against one of the accused were withdrawn,” explained Humphrey.
“Strathclyde’s Finest, eh! Are you telling me that there was then nothing to link the two staff as co-accused other than the fact that the poor sods were unfortunate enough to work at Kerelaw?” I demanded to know.
“Well I wouldn’t put it quite like that Minister but… yes, that’s about the size of it.” Humphrey looked embarrassed. I sat there shaking my head not believing what I was hearing.
Humphrey went on. “More than a quarter of the charges were withdrawn by the prosecution before evidence was led. The jury, having listened to all 87 charges, would make up its mind, before any evidence was presented that one or both must have been guilty of something. ‘No smoke without fire.’ The police might get some things wrong, but 87 times? No way!” The scene was set. Additionally, as in most cases of alleged historical abuse there were no independent witnesses, nor any forensic evidence. From then on it was simply a matter of how many charges would stick.”
“Tell me you’re making this up, Humphrey. It can’t possibly be true. It can’t even be legal.” I groaned.
“All true, Minister. It was all perfectly legal. All on the record.”
“ It might have been legal, Humphrey, but was it justice?” I asked.
“Justice is not in our remit, Minister.” Humphrey was quick to explain, ”The most recent offence for which either was convicted was 12 years ago and the longest over 25 years ago. Not one of the guilty verdicts was unanimous. One of the accused was found guilty of four charges out of the original 38 he faced and the other guilty of 18 out of 49. Interestingly enough, Ray Wyre, the recognised child abuse expert, who sat through every day of the trial approached one of the defendants before the jury had returned its verdict, shook his hand and told him he had nothing to worry about! How wrong can you be?!”
I sat stunned as Humphrey completed his summary version of events. “So it looks as if no good at all has come out of this mess,” was all I could think of saying.
“I wouldn’t say that,” said Humphrey. ”Some of the Glasgow managers received pretty good deals and one was even given a salary increase of over £20000 a year and, when he retired, a lump sum enhanced by £30000 and a pension increase of £10000 a year. Not bad for a few months work!”
“Humphrey, you’re not suggesting….” I began.
“Minister, I am not suggesting anything”. Humphrey interrupted.” Whenever something like Kerelaw occurs conspiracy theories abound, as people struggle to make sense of what has happened. There were stories of Glasgow looking for an excuse to close Kerelaw ; that one of the directors, who already had an extensive property portfolio had done a deal for the campus with a developer and countless other rumours. Every day there was a new theory. I have to say that personally I am not a great believer in conspiracy theories, having learned throughout my career never to attribute to malice what can be more easily explained by ignorance or stupidity, qualities which GCC appear to have possessed in abundance. They also seem to have suffered from some form of corporate cognitive dysfunction.“
As I sat absorbing all this, Humphrey continued, ”Minister, Kerelaw is history. You must forget all about it —please. I’ll leave with you a couple of comments written about the investigations into abuse allegations at Bryn Estyn in Wales and Sherbourne in Nova Scotia. There are striking similarities with Kerelaw.
“You’re rightas usual, Humphrey,” I sighed.
“Well, Minister, if there is nothing else,” said Humphrey, ”I have to clear my desk.”
“What on earth do you mean Humphrey? Desk? Clear? Why?”
“Minister, I was assured you had been informed,” said Humphrey shamefacedly. ”I’m sorry. I leave the department in half an hour. I’m retiring.”
“Retiring! But what will I do?” I almost yelled at him.
“You don’t have to worry, Minister, my replacement starts here on Monday and is very, very good,” Humphrey assured me.
“But does he know anything about Children and Early Years?” I asked. “It’s a ‘she’ actually, Minister, and I understand she has two of her own.”
“Two what, Humphrey?” I asked.
“Well, children of course, Minister. So she must know something about them.”
“But does she have any experience of Child care Legislation, Residential or secure Care?” I could hear my voice rising again.
“I shouldn’t think so. The majority of her career has been with the Fisheries Department. But don’t you worry. She is very bright and a very quick learner. She will have mastered her brief within a couple of weeks and will be able to advise you on every aspect of the department’s work.” I couldn’t believe my ears, and sat speechless. Humphrey, assuming I had nothing to say, continued, ”Well, Minister, it has been a pleasure working with you and if there’s nothing else I’ll be off.”
“B—e- off, Humphrey,” was all I could think of saying. As Humphrey closed the door behind him I picked up the papers he had left me.
The notes read, “In ‘The Secret of Bryn Estyn: The making of a modern witch-hunt,’ Richard Webster describes the way in which allegations of abuse in care are dealt with as ‘the gravest series of miscarriages of justice in recent British history —innocent lives have been destroyed, the public deceived and millions of pounds wasted in a hunt for a dark conspiracy which existed only in the imagination of the investigators.’”
“The Kaufman Report into the way Nova Scotia dealt with allegations of child abuse in residential care concludes that, ‘It was seriously flawed. So flawed that it left in its wake true victims of abuse who are now assumed to have defrauded the Government, innocent employees who have been branded as abusers,and a public confused and unenlightened about the extent to which young people were or were not abused while in the care of the Province of Nova Scotia. The report was to determine whether the government response was appropriate, fair and reasonable. The simple answer is that it was not. It was commendable that the government was concerned about the plight of abuse victims and understood its obligation to rectify past wrongs and prevent future wrongs. However, it lost sight of its obligation to its own former and current employees. And fairness became another victim.”
I continued reading. “Professor Jean La Fontaine, appointed by the Westminster government, concluded in her report in respect of residential child care that ‘One can now state with conviction that, up until the end of the 20th century, there had been no organised or even very much individual abuse in children’s homes.'”
At the bottom of the page Humphrey had scribbled “Remember Orkney, Cleveland and South Ayrshire. “
“You B–T–D Humphrey!” I thought. “I don’t need this. I’ll talk to the First Minister on Monday and tell him what he can do with his job!”
Inspired by the writings of Jonathan Lynn and Anthony Jay — some of which have been quoted directly from “Yes Minister” and “Yes Prime Minister.”
Andrew Walker writes : Glasgow City Council ‘…messed up, ruined or managed to lose records which could have helped establish the truth’.
Ex Kerelaw pupil XY is pursuing financial compensation against GCC for alleged abuse when at Kerelaw. At the Inner House, Court of Session, July 2010, Lord Eassie delivered an ‘Opinion’ from three Law Lords as follows (Case A228/07):
 The pursuer and respondent in this action seeks reparation from the defenders and reclaimers in respect of certain wrongs which she avers were done to her while she was resident in Kerelaw Residential School for a period which ended in October 1996. According to the pursuer, who was born in March 1981, she was sent to Kerelaw in 1991 when she was ten years of age. For their part the defenders aver that she was resident in the school from March 1994. Whichever be the correct date of admission to the school, it is accepted that it was administered and operated by the defenders or their statutory predecessors, Strathclyde Regional Council.’
WEll, well, well … there we have it. Does it really matter? Only about THREE YEARS in divergence of views: was she a pupil in 1991 OR from March 1994? I’ve said elsewhere that if XY was a pupil at Kerelaw in 1991 when aged 10yrs old ‘I’d eat my hat’!.
Is this the standard of evidence used to convict two Kerelaw staff, Matt George and John Muldoon? Matt incidentally still languishing in Saughton Jail.
Bob’s ‘Final Act’ – I think NOT! Humphrey may have gone, the Minister gone, Kerelaw demolished to the ground to make way for developers … but as long as I have one ounce of energy left in my body, I will not rest easily. Is the law an Ass?