The independent report commissioned by Islington Borough Council has found evidence that former councillor Sandy Marks was associated with a group called “Fallen Angels” which campaigned to abolish age of consent laws and legalise sex between adults and children. Marks has denied these links.
Lawyers from Leigh Day, who represent the Islington Survivors Network, have welcomed the recommendation of the report that provisions should be made for life‐long support for survivors and to ensure that those children it has responsibility for today are adequately protected. In this regard, Lawyer Alison Millar, head of the abuse team at Leigh Day, commented that Islington council should, without further delay, set up a redress scheme to compensate survivors who were exposed to abusive or neglectful conditions in Islington Children’s homes as a result of the grave failures of management and governance that have been highlighted in this report.
Alison Millar has called on the council to review the individual cases that have been exposed in the review or in the case files studied by the review, to follow up these cases; attempt to trace the victims and witnesses to offer them support and provision; and to liaise with the police about criminal behaviour that requires to be investigated.
In addition she has called for the disclosure of all relevant papers that had been kept in the council’s ‘strong room’ so the public can see exactly what Islington councillors and employees were doing when reports were coming in exposing that children in Islington’s care were suffering abuse or were or might be at risk of such abuse.
The report was commissioned following allegations published by the Islington Gazette in May 2017 which claimed to have found documents and photographs linking Marks to the Fallen Angels group.
The report has also found that Marks knew of the poor state of management of Islington Social Services Department and was aware of abuse allegations before they were published by the Evening Standard in 1992. The report adds that Marks had no different knowledge to other members of the Council’s committees and sub committees.
Sandy Marks had many appointments including being a member of the Council’s Social Services Committee between 1983‐1991 and then the Chair of that Committee until 1995, sitting on the Case Review sub‐committee, and was the Chair of the London Borough’s Children’s Regional Planning Committee during the early 1990s. The report found no evidence that her involvement in Fallen Angels impacted on her duties in these roles.
The report details that from 1991 the Case Review sub‐committee was receiving reports from a programme of inspection of registered children’s homes in Islington. The independent review had access to case files in respect of a number of children who had suffered sexual abuse in care homes in the 1980s to 1990s, copies of documents from a box of files in children’s services archives and documents provided by the Evening Standard to the Social Services Inspectorate to the Council. It also had access to minutes from Social Services and Health Committee meetings and sub‐committee meetings from the council’s strong room.
The report did not find that there was evidence that Marks became aware of anything relevant to the allegations of “organised abuse”.
Dr Liz Davies, founder of Islington Survivors Network (ISN), a group set up to campaign and advocate for those subjected to abuse in children’s homes in Islington, said:
“In the opinion of ISN the rigorous investigation of non‐recent abuse, and Islington abuse networks, is essential in working towards the prosecution of the many alleged and known abusers who we believe continue to present a risk to children.
“Although the QC recommends the focus of energy and council resources to be towards those abused in care and to children in current need of protection, ISN is clear that children cannot be protected without removing abusers from their world and survivors know, better than anyone else, the importance of achieving justice. We will therefore continue to campaign for an overarching police investigation into non‐recent allegations of neglect, sexual and physical abuse against Islington children who were in 42 different children's homes as well as foster placements between the 60s and the 90s.
“The review confirms council knowledge in 1992 of the abuse of a number of children in Islington residential homes including a child victim of sexual exploitation ‐ which is an example of organised abuse. ISN have heard a great deal of similar but different evidence and is convinced that the abuse of Islington children did indeed include organised abuse.
“ISN intend to respond in more detail once we have had opportunity to study the report in full in consultation with our members, including those who gave evidence to Sarah Morgan QC.”
Leigh Day has been working with ISN since the 1990s and over the last year have assisted and advised the group in relation to the possible set up of a redress and support scheme for Islington survivors who suffered abuse and/or neglect as a result of the mismanagement by the council of their children’s homes.
Alison Millar, head of the abuse team at Leigh Day, said:
“The findings of the report by Sarah Morgan QC are truly shocking.
“Sandy Marks was involved in setting Council policy and scrutinising the management and running of the Social Services department in a crucial period in the 1980s and 1990s when Islington’s children’s services was highly dysfunctional. There must at the very least be concern that her ability to do this was fatally compromised by abhorrent beliefs about the so‐called sexual “freedom” of vulnerable children.
“Over and above this, this review has revealed that Islington council knew considerably more than previously understood about abuse and suspected abuse in Islington children’s homes and there was a total dereliction of duty by the Council as a whole to the children in its care. We agree that, as Sarah Morgan QC has recommended, Islington council must put in place the life‐long support and provision for victims and survivors it so badly failed. This should include the redress scheme that we have proposed on behalf of ISN.”
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