Sunday, February 19, 2017

Abuse of Trust: Frank Beck and the Leicestershire Children’s Homes Scandal by Mark D'Arcy and Paul Gosling

Abuse of Trust: Frank Beck and the Leicestershire Children’s Homes Scandal
Mark D'Arcy and Paul Gosling
Canbury Press, 2016

In 1991 Frank Beck was sentenced to five life-terms for sexual and physical assaults against more than one hundred children in his care while he worked for Leicestershire County Council. He was sentenced to a further 24 years on 17 charges of abuse, including rape.

Mark D’Arcy (now the BBC’s political correspondent) and Paul Gosling published the first edition of this book in 1998. Now it has been reissued with a significant extra chapter.

It begins:
Throughout the Frank Beck trail there was a shadow in the court – a man named by the defence and who much private speculation centred around. That was Greville Janner MP. Just as Janner was an elusive figure in the Beck trial, so, for legal reasons, he was only mentioned, almost in passing, in the original version of Abuse of Trust. Now more can be reported – and very much more is known.
They go on to detail the growing allegations against Janner. The first emerged during Beck’s trial: by the time his failing health put paid to a prosecution in 2015, 30 witnesses had accused him, of whom 12, regarded as the strongest potential witnesses, would have given evidence in court.

It also emerged that Janner was not telling the truth when told the Kirkwood inquiry into Beck’s crimes that he had never met him.

The allegations against Janner have been widely reported over the past couple of years, but in many ways this book’s reappearance is most welcome because it reminds us of Frank Beck’s crimes.

As I once blogged, the secrecy with which officialdom sought to surround first his trial and then the Kirkwood inquiry was extraordinary. The Beck trial was the first of several involving widespread abuse in children’s homes, so any historian of that episode will want to read it.

I have also read that Kirkwood’s report is now hard to obtain, though there was a copy in the library at the University of Leicester in the days when I haunted it. My strongest memory from reading it is the squalor in which the children lived and the low quality of the people, Beck included, who controlled there lives.

I can add today that my distinct impression when Beck was arrested was that no one was terribly surprised.

Later I worked with a woman who had hung out with a group of friends when she was a teenager. She said that the boys had all heard stories about the children’s homes Beck ran.

Unless we learn the lessons of cases like this, we shall go on being surprised by child abuse.

You can buy Abuse of Trust from Amazon UK or direct from Canbury Press.

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