Friday 6 June 2014

Lord Hansard Publication, Gary Cooke

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 17, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 20, 21, 22, 30, 31, 34, 35, 36 and 44.
These amendments deal with extending the measures in this Bill to others in a position of trust. They also include the preparation or, as I understand it is known in the trade, grooming of a young person for sexual purposes. It is worth remembering why the abuse of trust provision was put into this Bill in the first place. Certain Members on the Government Benches in another place were unhappy and uneasy about lowering the age of consent. They brokered with the Home Secretary the abuse of trust clause. They, like us, felt that if the age of consent was to be lowered, some young people would be in a particularly vulnerable position and some people who held positions of trust over children ought to be subject to the measures in this Bill.
Amendment No. 17 deals with preparing a young person for later sexual activity. Amendments Nos. 20, 21, 22, 30, 31, 34, 35 and 36 are consequential. Amendment No. 44 defines social care workers, and there are many references to the different types of people who are involved and who are to be included in the additional categories.
Those of us who support these amendments were heavily influenced by the findings of the Waterhouse report. For those who have read it, the report makes chilling reading. For anyone who cares about the protection of children, it makes particularly chilling reading. The abuse of trust offence will operate only where there is a continuing professional relationship between the child and the abuser. For example, when a child leaves a home, he is no longer protected from those who were his carers. An abuser may with impunity groom a child for abuse, so long as that person refrains from sexual activity until after the child leaves his care. Another example would be that of a school teacher who "romances" a pupil during the final term at school but says that they must wait until the pupil is 16 and has left the school before having sex. That would also apply when a child leaves a detention centre.
Care workers understand the care system. They also understand how vulnerable young people can be manipulated. That is precisely what happened with the unscrupulous care workers named in the Waterhouse report. They groomed young people for abuse, including abuse after the young person had left care. The Waterhouse report concluded that Reginald "Gary" Cooke had ready access to children in residential care in the Wrexham area. This is significant, since Cooke was employed as a care worker for only a little more than a year. There was no ongoing professional relationship, yet he still had access. One of the buggery victims in respect of whom Cooke was convicted in 1987 was 18 years old and not in care at the time of the offence. The victim had earlier
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been in care at Bersham Hall, when he first met Cooke. G, referred to in the report, was abused by Jacqueline Thomas, a care worker at the children's home at which he was resident, but it was not until G was 16, and had gone to live in another home, that she had full sexual intercourse with him.
I refer to something that I said in the previous debate. We are talking about the most vulnerable young people who seek affection and go to great lengths to be wanted and loved by other people. The tragedy of the cases about which I am now speaking is that that precious trust was breached by the very people to whom these young people turned for advice. John Allen was a chief executive of the Bryn Alyn homes. Properties owned by him were used,

    "to house young men who had been discharged from care".
The professional relationship no longer existed, but we all know that the abuse went on.
C, referred to in the report, alleged that Allen abused him in Bryntirion Hall, when aged 16, and subsequently after he had left, right up to the age of 23 and 24. Allen also made many attempts to abuse D, who was aged 16 when he entered Bryn Alyn. Another attempt was made many years later after he had left the home. The report makes clear its misgivings about the way in which Allen was able to continue his abuse of young people who had left care. I quote again from the report:

    "It is a cause for great concern also that his influence extended for some beyond the period of their residence in care with the Community to later years when they should have been establishing themselves in normal patterns of life".
Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 refer to absconders. The Waterhouse report found that absconding was very common. In the case of local authority care or other accommodation, it is arguable that a child who is absconding is not protected, since he is no longer "resident" at the home, as the wording of the Bill requires. This is a legal loophole, which abusers could exploit. I hope that the Government, who are genuinely concerned about this part of the Bill, will allow this loophole to be plugged by these amendments.
An abuser may persuade a child to run away from the home at which he works to stay with a friend. He may then be able to take sexual advantage of him without committing this offence. If he was prosecuted, he could argue, in the case of residential care, that the child was no longer resident at the home when the sexual activity took place, which would then make it legal. Many of the abused children referred to in the Waterhouse report ran away from the children's homes. Sometimes they stayed with the very paedophiles who were abusing them. Often the abusers 'farmed out' the children, to be abused by other known paedophiles. One of the most heart-rending passages of the Waterhouse report that affected me concerned three young brothers who went to the person in charge of the home to plead for help, and they were abused by the very person from whom they sought help. I cannot think of a worse breach of trust by an adult in that situation.
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It is a well established fact--and I now refer to Amendment No. 36, which refers to youth groups--that paedophiles can seek to obtain positions of responsibility in youth organisations where they can come into contact with children. The notorious paedophile, Reginald "Gary" Cooke, was employed as a care worker for a relatively short time. He worked for only two weeks in Bersham Hall, probably in or about 1972. He was later employed for over a year by the Bryn Alyn Community in two children's homes. Later still, he was the warden of a probation hostel for six months. Most of the boys whom Cooke abused were not actually in care at the time. Those who were in care tended to have met Cooke outside the home. One boy was in care from April 1973, when he was aged 16, until the end of 1974. His evidence was that he was abused by Cooke after a friendship developed between them when he attended a youth club. Cooke was a team leader in the youth club. The abuse continued until the boy told Cooke that he did not want it any more. He argued that Cooke--and I quote from the report--"took advantage of him when he was in need of friendship". When Cooke was an instructor in the Army Cadets he met boy B who claimed that he had been abused "on about half a dozen occasions" before he went into care. The years of abuse during which Cooke manipulated B into giving consent all started because of the relationship which began in a youth club.
Amendment No. 30 covers social workers who work with children outside children's homes. Jacqueline Thomas, to whom I have already referred, was convicted of abusing a 16 year-old boy called S. The police investigation followed allegations made by G following his return from Christmas leave. G alleged that on Christmas Eve he and S had stayed at Thomas's flat. David Gillison, a social worker with Clywd County Council, was also there and group sexual activity took place. Gillison was later convicted of two charges of gross indecency with G. If the abuse of trust provisions had been in force at that time Thomas could have been convicted under them but her accomplice Gillison could not since he was not the social worker directly responsible for G or S. A care worker from one home can abuse children from another without committing an abuse of trust offence. This is a straightforward loophole in the proposed legislation. I am aware that the Home Secretary is concerned about this matter, and I hope that he will accept this amendment. If Thomas had introduced the boys to Gillison and refrained from taking part in sexual activity she would not have been committing an abuse of trust offence. Young people were, therefore, farmed out by one paedophile to others who abused them.
It is difficult to draft an offence which would cover that type abuse without it being ridiculed as too wide, and I have no doubt there will be an attempt to do that tonight. However, it is possible to extend the reach of the offence to cover any contact between a social worker and a young person in a professional setting. Those who leave care may still be in regular contact with social workers in a professional setting. We have
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only just passed an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill. In that one is talking about the use of probation hostels for people whose convictions are spent. Therefore, one is aware that professionals have contact with young people in these situations.
Amendments Nos. 30 and 44 cover social workers in all their dealings with young people, not just in children's homes. The amendments protect young people only from social workers who have direct professional dealings with them. They also give effect to recommendation 32 of the Home Office review of sexual offences in respect of care staff in paid posts. As to that, my noble friend Lady Young has gone to enormous lengths to ensure that the amendments tabled today are consistent with the recommendations of that review. I have no doubt that arguments will be found to counter these amendments. However, the most vulnerable children should look to Parliament for protection, and these amendments aim to do just that. I beg to move.
6.30 p.m.

Lord Elton: In view of the enormous increase in the number of, and support for, mentors, many of whom are provided by the voluntary sector--for example, the DIVERT Trust, in which I declare an interest as its president--does my noble friend believe that this amendment embraces that activity, which should be covered? I am not sure that the amendment extends to that field.

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