The Minister and Her Lies; CHILD SEX ABUSE: AN ANALYSIS OF HOW SHE STILL TRIES TO AVOID BLAME

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY

MARGARET HODGE yesterday tried to blame everyone but herself for the failure of Islington council - which she led - to tackle child abuse.

She even claimed the events took place two decades earlier, and tried to deflect criticism by highlighting the fact that the children in care were "difficult" and traumatised. Here are Mrs Hodge's key claims in a BBC Radio 4 interview - and the dreadful reality she was avoiding responsibility for.

Mrs Hodge

"I think in the Seventies and Eighties, if you look back at that time, there was an enormous lack of understanding of what was happening in children's homes."

In reality

The critical events took place not in the Seventies but in the period from 1990, when Mrs Hodge was warned by social workers that something deeply worrying was happening in Islington, to 1992, when the scandal was finally exposed in an award-winning series of Evening Standard articles.

Mrs Hodge

"I think there was a deep lack of understanding by myself, by social services, by policy makers, by all of us as to the state of what was happening in children's homes."

In reality

The big child abuse scandals in the Eighties - from the Orkneys to Cleveland and Rochdale - meant councils were well aware by 1990 of the appalling nature of the problem.

Moreover, the exposure of Frank Beck, the Leicestershire care home operator, in 1990 revealed how abusers could ingratiate themselves with local authorities to avoid suspicion. Mrs Hodge should have been alert to such dangers and the need to question the judgment of senior officers.

Mrs Hodge

"Whenever an allegation of something going wrong was brought to me we investigated it, including of course the allegations that were brought to us by the Standard."

In reality

Mrs Hodge dismissed the Evening Standard's detailed accounts of victims' stories in 1992 as "a sensationalist piece of gutter journalism". It is now claimed she was warned 2 1/2 years earlier of serious concerns of a major problem at Islington. She has never apologised for dismissing the Standard reports but in February 1992, after an official inquiry vindicated this newspaper's journalism, she conceded: "You were right that there was abuse in the children's homes." She added: "I was completely misled. If you had been in the same situation, with confidence in your senior officers, what would you have done?"

When it was pointed out she repeated false claims that children were paid for information, she replied: "I didn't know that but that was what I was told. …