Scotland's Secret Shame

This speech was given to the Fresh Start Foundation roadshow in Kirkcaldy, Fife, on Saturday 26 May 2018. It sets out what the Fresh Start Foundation, Scotland's non-Establishment inquiry into child abuse, has determined so far about this massive evil and how it can be defeated.

I want to have a discussion regarding what we’ve learned so far.

I’m looking at this, and it’s a fight on many levels, but it’s a fight on the level of ideas first and foremost, of understanding. So what I’d like to do is say a few words about what I’ve learned.

I was trying to explain this to a relative a little while ago, and I said, “Well, you see, the thing is, the problem we have is we have a great deal of corruption, and the corruption permeates all levels of officialdom. It permeates all the layers of government that are meant to protect us. And you see it occasionally; you see it randomly. It’s not on display all the time.”

Children as currency

One of the problems is that the corruption is not generally using money as its primary currency. The thing that I’ve had to get my head around is that the corruption uses children as its primary currency.

From the point of view of the corrupt, money costs money. If you bribe someone, well, you can rent them for a while, but you don’t own them. But if you’ve got them on a tape with a child, you own them. They will do anything that you tell them to.

And what we are seeing — what I am seeing personally as I am investigating some cases in Scotland, which I’m looking at from a journalistic point of view — is you are seeing reactions which make no sense. You’re seeing officials make decisions which make no sense.

And then you realise: the person that seems to be protected might be quite a low-life, might be someone who’s not got any obvious official connections. It might be someone who’s constantly on the edge of criminality. But it’s not the Establishment; that’s the thing that struck me. It’s not the Establishment protecting itself. These are people who are not Establishment. And yet, they’re protected.

We find people who are immune. Immune from any sort of prosecution. And any time I ask, “What about this person that seems to be immune?” and I start fishing, is there any connection with child abuse? Yes, every time. Every time, there’s something: he’s either had a conviction, or he’s been trafficked out of homes, or parents or relatives have been convicted. There’s always some connection to child abuse.

And here’s what seems to be happening: The children are the currency.

Now, unlike money, children — in this country — come cheap, because they’re getting trafficked out of care homes and the care system. They’re there for another reason; they’re there to be cared for, apparently. And all of the funds for that are extracted from everybody in terms of taxation, so for the people who abuse them, it’s a free resource.

And it’s not just about sexual depravity, and it’s not just about torturing a child — although it is about both of those. It seems to be about actually generating a means of exchange and a means of control that is the underlying corruption in this country.

So, to give you a couple of examples:

  • In one case, there’s a man who seems to be immune. To my knowledge, he’s committed five, six serious assaults, and we think one murder. He’s constantly being picked up by the police. Nothing. Drives without insurance. Nothing. Covered his girlfriend in petrol, threatened to set her alight. Nothing. He’s immune. The police know about him; the police have got lots of reports, and he’s immune.

Why is he immune?

He can’t possibly buy that immunity. Nobody could, in fact, but he’s got no visible means of support. We’re talking about someone who would be on claiming benefits and odd jobs. We’re not talking about someone who’s got serious money to buy silence. And I think that what he’s buying it with is, he’s got the goods on senior police officers, because they’re part of the same child abuse ring, or he’s trafficking children into the child abuse ring. He’s got something on them, because they can’t touch him.

  • And there’s another case, the Shaun Ritchie case. The background there is, this boy disappeared on Hallowe’en 2014, and he’s never been seen again. And of the people he was with when he disappeared, one of them was up on a charge for attacking another person in that same party with an axe. And the police’s response was: “That’s completely unrelated to the disappearance of Shaun Ritchie.”

This is loopy! It makes no sense.

And what then happened was, the relatives started complaining, and then the relatives were targeted by the police, who have their own particular way of dealing with people who complain. The relatives now have criminal records — criminal records that I do not believe, but criminal records nonetheless.

So, you look at how this system works, and that looks like corruption. How does it work? What’s the mechanism?

What I’m suggesting is, the primary mechanism is not money. Money comes into it, because you can buy people. Some people will sell their integrity for very little. But you don’t buy the cover-up of murder. Even if you have serious money, that’s hard to buy, because you’ve got to keep paying, and it gets very expensive.

If children are the currency — if we make children into merchandise — then that starts to make sense, because the people who are involved in that will do anything to remain unknown.

That’s what I’m seeing.

Let me give you another example. One of the first things I learned was, I was speaking to people at Izzy’s Promise, the victim support charity in Dundee, at the Fresh Start Foundation’s Dundee roadshow, and what they were saying was that they see a pattern in events. They were having people come to them — generally young women — who were saying that they’d been the survivors of Satanic ritual abuse rings. They were describing horrific torture and things of tremendous trauma, and they wanted to escape.

Often, they had kids. The way they’d been treated was clearly and severely criminal, and in the early days, what the charity was doing was sending them to the police, to report the rape and the torture and sometimes the murder.

The first thing that happened was that they lost their children. Social Services would seize their children.

The second thing that happened was that the children would be given to one of the abusers they had named.

And this happened over and over again. So the charity said, “Well, we don’t really know why or how, and we can’t say that it’s a conspiracy, but this is what’s happening, and it makes no sense to us.” This also brings in Mental Health Services, which is a strange beast in itself, because the reasoning there seems to go like this:

  • Satanist ritual abuse doesn’t exist.
  • You are reporting Satanist ritual abuse.
  • Therefore, you are insane.
  • Therefore, you are a threat to your children.
  • Therefore, we’ll take your children away from you.

How that then gets to the system giving the children to one of the abusers, I’m not sure; that doesn’t seem to make any sense even on that level.

The other thing — and this one is really unpleasant — is the other approach:

  • Well, we do believe you were abused.
  • Because you were abused, this makes you more likely to abuse (which is something for which there is no evidence).
  • So we’ll take your children off you, and we’ll give them to the abuser.

It makes no sense; so there’s something else, something hidden, going on here. And that’s the pattern.

Now, what Izzy’s Promise and charities like them now say, after a lifetime of working with this, is:

“Are you a victim of Satanist ritual abuse? Yes? You have kids? Yes? Have you got somewhere to run to, someone you can trust? Good. Take the kids and go. Don’t talk to the authorities.”

So that’s a strange situation to arise, where charities that deal with survivors are having to say, “Here’s the plan: Don’t talk to the police.”

Scotland’s shadow police

So, how did we get there?

Now, we know from Jon Wedger’s talk at the Stirling roadshow that there are many policemen who will stand up and try to do the right thing, but even when you get good policemen on the case, it’s not working, because what happens — and this is another story from Izzy’s Promise — is this.

The policemen start taking information — and you’re talking about the most horrendous abuse; you’re talking about sexual abuse, torture, horrible things. So there’s a process first of the victim developing a rapport with the police officer doing the interview. It’s a personal relationship; you can’t just tell this to anybody. Who here would like to come up in front of the microphone and talk about their sex life, let alone the sort of things these girls and young men have had to endure? So there’s a process of developing confidence, trust.

What Izzy’s Promise found was that in one particular case, they got two officers from Tayside Police who were excellent. They were patient; they built that trust; the victim was speaking; they were getting a lot of good usable evidence; they were building a case. It was going great.

They got moved on. Some hectoring Sergeant came in and said to the victim, “Right, I’m not believing any of this! We’ll have to start again,” and conducted the interviews in a way that made it quite clear he didn’t believe a word she was saying.

So, what would the victim do in that case? What would anybody do? She had to pull out, because all it becomes is more abuse. It’s not a matter of courage, because you’ve had courage to tell the story in the first place. Eventually, it’s a matter of self-preservation, because you can’t keep torturing yourself through the system.

And people get the message. The message is: “You’ve got some information about some horrendous abuse that you’ve suffered. We don’t want to know. Keep it to yourself.” That’s been the message.

Our message is, obviously, the complete reverse. We want to know. Come and talk to us!

You’ve then got the government inquiry. I’m not sure what to make of it. It’s doing some good work, but it’s very selective, cherry-picking. After 9/11, there was a group of four widows called the Jersey Girls, who pushed to set up the 9/11 Commission. They said, “Well, the answers they gave us satisfied maybe a third of our questions — but it was the really obvious third. The third that they couldn’t ignore, they looked at; the rest of it, not at all.”

I wonder whether that’s what’s happening — that there’s going to be certain cases and certain institutions looked at, and then nothing? Is it just going to be a verdict of, “It was all tremendously unfortunate, and lessons have been learned”? Is that what it’s going to be?

So, while it’s good to see some of the truth coming out — and some of the stories that have been coming out have been horrendous — I kind of feel that maybe it’s one in ten, if we’re lucky. John Shields will be able to speak more about that this afternoon, because he’s lived it.

We have, then, a situation where the system is corrupt. People are going to the police, and the victims are becoming the targeted ones. The police are targeting the people who have suffered. We see this over and over again.

And it’s random. There’s a strange element to it, that you don’t know what you’re going to get. They say of the Scottish justice system, “Show me the judge and I’ll show you the law.” But it’s now a case of, “Show me the policeman and I’ll show you the law,” because it depends who you get. I even had a retired policeman talk to me about people he calls the “shadow police”, whom he’s obviously frightened of. A strange comment!

Justice delayed is justice denied

And then you’ve got the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service as another aspect of this, because COPFS is completely opaque. So, even if the police do their job, it goes in there, and forty per cent of the cases just don’t go anywhere.

If someone wants to fix the system in Scotland, it’s really easy to do. You only need half a dozen key posts. If you can put half a dozen people that you can control in the right posts:

  •   the Lord Advocate;
  •   the Solicitor General;
  •   the head of the Scottish Legal Aid Board;
  •   the head of the Law Society of Scotland;
  •   the Law Society complaints person;
  •   the Lord President,

or if you have a dozen, senior judiciary, you’ve easily got it covered. You don’t need many people. And the system is so hierarchical that that cuts off any progress.

You then have information going in to COPFS, and it just dies. And bureaucratic inefficiency can be the excuse: “Oh, we’re terribly sorry.” There was a case before Sheriff Graeme Buchanan in Aberdeen where there was a clear case of child rape; it was an open-and-shut case. It took so long to come to court that the perpetrator walked, because it was “against his human rights” to have waited so long for justice.

So all you need is delay. You need delay and bureaucracy, and then you can do anything; you can make black white, you can make the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent. And it’s all done apparently legally.

We stand on the law

This is the background we’re looking at; this is the reason we exist, because we are looking to do something else. We started with a few basic principles.

One of these principles is that the people that have suffered and have been harmed are actually, by and large, extremely brave, extremely coherent, and they have a story to tell and should be listened to.

If they could collect themselves (and we hope to be the vehicle for that), they have enough information — it’s all splintered just now; if we could collate that information, there’s enough, in the people who have suffered, to actually explain how the system works.

If we can bring that information together, we destroy the system.

As an example, we had a young lady, Vicky Von Blackwood, talking at one of our earlier events, and she was saying, “Look, if you went around the brothels and you asked the girls two questions — when did you get into prostitution, and how; where did you come from — what you would find” (and I think she’s right) “is the same care homes, the same respite care, the same council-run homes, and the same people, the same council officials, who would be saying to the girls, ‘Oh, it’s not very nice in here, but a pretty girl like you doesn’t need to stay here; I’ll make a phone call’, and the next thing you know, they’re slaves. The same names would come up.”

And if you get twenty, thirty, forty young girls in brothels all saying, “I was trafficked into prostitution and I was 14 or 13,” or whatever age it was, and all pointing at the same care home and the same people, that’s evidence. That’s incriminating.

But no-one will do it! — Well, we’ll do it.

And it’s like that, I think, more generally; it’s like that for the people who’ve suffered through care homes, it’s like that elsewhere. The information is there. All we need to do is collate it, and information is power.

So this is what I’m starting to see that this is all about. If we can gain people’s confidences to draw together, we’ll succeed. Individuals are picked off. If you stand up against the system as an individual, the chances are that you will end up with a criminal record, because people will lie about you. I’ve just had an interview, that I’ll be writing up in the weeks and months to come, with someone who’s been fitted up. I believe they were fitted up. And they’ve now got a criminal record. Why? Because they were asking the wrong questions.

So, if you’re an individual and you stand up, expect a criminal record, and we’ll destroy your life — you know, as much as we need to before you get the message. But twenty? Thirty? A hundred? Two hundred? A thousand people with information, and a coherent narrative, and an explanation as to how the system works? That’s different. That’s powerful.

And the other principle we’ve decided, right from the start, is that we stand on the law. Because it’s our law. These guys who are lying, falsely accusing people, falsely convicting people, locking them up, abusing, raping, threatening — none of this is lawful. So the Fresh Start Foundation view is: Well, actually, we’re lawful. The system isn’t; they have to be accountable. Because we’re going to stand on the law.

That gets around a whole lot of problems, because this was one of the problems to be resolved. If you look at what Robert Green did, he got a conviction. Now, I’ve looked at the case quite carefully, and I don’t think the Crown proved its case. It was just about possible that they could have. Just about. They didn’t, but they maybe could have, because Robert named the people who abused Hollie Greig.

Now, the reason Robert named them was that there had been no proper investigation. Hollie had named these people in detail, with full evidence; “an entirely consistent and credible witness”, as stated by the police. And we’ve later found out that the police had an intelligence file on two of the people she named, saying they “had a predilection for young girls”!

Hollie was credible; still is. And none of the people she named were even interviewed. None.

And then the police and Crown Office turned around and said, “There’s been a full and thorough investigation, and there is insufficient credible and admissible evidence.” Well, there wouldn’t be, because you haven’t interviewed any of them! You haven’t looked for any evidence. This is like Nelson putting the telescope to his blind eye and saying “I see no signal”; this is “I see no evidence”. Well, they didn’t look.

So, Robert was put in this position: you’ve got an ongoing paedophile abuse ring, abusing children, and you know. What do you do as a Christian man? Do you walk away and let them abuse children, or do you stand up? And he decided he had to stand up.

Now, none of that got examined in the court, the courts didn’t want to know. But he did name the people, and they hadn’t been convicted, and yes, they could have been subject to some fear, maybe. (They weren’t, but I suppose it was just about possible.)

So, we’re not going to be doing that. If we have evidence against people, we’ll go to a grand jury, and we’ll say to the grand jury, “Here’s the evidence.” The people accused will be invited along, and at this point, it will be entirely confidential. And if the grand jury decides there’s a case to answer and to indict, we’ll report that. We will not be saying anything in public about any individuals until it has been lawfully established that there is an issue, because that’s how the law should work. It’s meant to be driven by a jury of our peers.

And I have to say, my experience of this, such as it’s been, is that a jury is excellent. I’m really quite surprised: a common-law grand jury is driving things, the jury is asking the questions. If you put fifteen people [or twelve in other common-law jurisdictions] in a room and ask them to look at a problem, they don’t miss much. If it’s one or two people, you know, they will come in with their own life experience and their own viewpoint, and will look at a certain narrow zone. You put fifteen people together, and it’s really quite impressive; it’s very good. It works.

So, we stand on the law; they break the law. We stand for those harmed; they continue to abuse those harmed.

I suppose another of the things that makes this very different is that it’s run on a shoestring. No-one gets any pay. As a result, there’s no vested interests.

The legal system is part of the cover-up

But also, we’re starting to get comments from around the world that this is the only one. We seem to have hit on something, because everywhere else, there’s groups set up to help the people that have been harmed — so there’s groups that are offering therapeutic services, or they are supporting victims through the existing court and legal system — but we are the first ones to have come along and said, “This existing court and legal system is the court and legal system that has covered this up for the past fifty years; this is the same court and legal system that we can point to in innumerable cases of justice not being done.” (We’ll hear about one such case this afternoon.) “That system’s going to solve the problem?! We’re going to go to lawyers to help?”

Now, I don’t mind lawyers taking forty per cent of any compensation you get, because there’s risks and things, and it takes a free market. But we go to lawyers who are official Scottish lawyers, and we don’t have any problems about this?! This is not credible. The Scottish legal system is very tightly controlled! To be a practising lawyer in Scotland, you have to be a member of the Law Society, and you have to be insured under the Law Society’s master policy, or you don’t get to practise.

So the Law Society says, essentially, who can be a lawyer and who can’t. And the master policy, the insurance and professional indemnity cover, is a very interesting thing, because if you’ve got professional indemnity insurance, what happens if anybody complains and there might be a claim on the insurance? The first thing you have to do — or you’re not covered, so you have to do it — is to tell the insurers.

And that means, effectively, telling the Law Society.

And there’s a couple of big legal firms in Scotland that manage the risks associated with this master policy, so they know the dirt on every lawyer in Scotland. It’s a wonderful system!

And then, the defence is then handed over to, is run by, the insurers. Because the insurers are taking the risks, the insurers then call the shots. The insurers decide what the response will be at any given moment. This crops up a lot in child abuse cases, because if the local authority is liable, what you will get from the local authority is a stonewall: “We’re not giving you any information. We’re not giving you any help.”

Now, the person that’s been abused wants to know their own history, wants to know their own medical history. Remember, where do you find abuse victims? If they’re female, you find them in the mental health services and mental health institutions; if they’re male, you find them in the prisons. And the other place where you find female abuse victims is in the fertility clinics, because the physical effect of the abuse is so severe that there are all sorts of fertility problems later in life.

So, you’ve got people who want to know what happened to them, and they can’t find out, because there’s a stonewall. A lot of that is the insurance companies. The insurance companies come in, and they say to the councils, “You will not be giving any information. You will not be admitting liability. You will not be admitting any wrongdoing. You will not, you will not, you will not.” And that’s where the blockage, a lot of it, comes from.

In the legal system, then, the lawyer’s defence against any potential claim of wrongdoing is largely run by the insurers. And then you have the legal complaints system, which is run by the Law Society. I mean, come on! It’s run by the Law Society! So it’s run for the Law Society.

So, let’s say — this is, I know, fiction — that you’re a young lawyer in Scotland and you have a drive for justice. And the only thing you care about is making the world a better place by upholding the standards of the law, and to fight injustice. And then you get a client who comes in, and they describe how they’ve been abused, and the abuse has been covered up. And you decide to go right behind that, and go after all the institutions that let that person down. How long do you practise? I would suggest the answer is, not long at all. It’s a very tightly controlled system.

Our position, then, was: We’ve looked at this — the Law Society, the Crown Office, the lawyers themselves, the courts, the police, the councils, Social Services, and everything else that the councils are doing, including education and housing — and all of this factors in to the abuse and the trouble that comes people’s way.

The view that we have taken is that going back to that system and saying, “Well, would you please admit how much wrong you’ve done, and not do it again? Please?” is not credible.

So, we’ve decided that what we’ll go back to is, “No, the following people are now indicted. This is how the system works, and it will stop. And if it doesn’t stop, the list of indictments is going to grow. Your call.” That’s what we say to the system.

That’s why we’re different.