This month, BBC’s Panorama exposed the institutional cover up of child abuse within the Army Cadets. One of these cover-ups involved Allan Waters, whose day job was working with children at the Local Education Authority and whose free time was spent as a Commanding Officer of the Cheshunt Sea Cadets. A cover-up of allegations of sexual abuse made against Waters in 1979 allowed Waters to have continued and unrestricted access to not only teenage boys in the Sea Cadets over the next 23 years, but to children of all ages, of both genders, in the UK and overseas.

Waters’ conviction for child sexual abuse against homeless street children in Mumbai in 2006 (upheld in 2011) demonstrates just how far reaching the consequences of a cover-up of child sexual abuse in the UK can be. Indeed, in April I wrote an article about a failure to report child abuse at summer camps held at a prestigious public school in the UK. The failure to report and prosecute British barrister, John Smyth QC, allowed him the opportunity of a fresh start when he moved overseas. He set up summer camps in Zimbabwe at which it is alleged that he abused teenage boys in a similarly brutal and sadistic way as he had done in the UK.

In the last five years, over 300 victims of child abuse in the Cadets have come forward making it clear that we are only just starting to uncover and understand the extent of the abuse of teenage boys within the Cadets. What should also be becoming clear is that cover-ups of child abuse in the UK can directly or indirectly lead to the abuse of vulnerable children overseas.

Cover-up of abuse by Allan Waters

Allegations of abuse were made against Allan Waters in 1979 by a Sea Cadet, Tony, who alleged that he had woken in the night to find the lower half of his body exposed. Waters was crouching by his bed and had been touching him sexually.

Tony disclosed the abuse to his parents who reported these allegations to a senior member of the Sea Cadets. Two officers from head office, both dressed in full uniform, arrived at Tony’s home and told Tony’s parents that whilst the allegations of abuse were accepted, the Sea Cadets wanted to deal with the matter internally. These officers persuaded Tony’s parents that the police should not become involved because, if they did report the abuse, the Sea Cadets would be stopped which would be unfair on other children in the area.

Parents of other Sea Cadets also held concerns about Waters’ behaviour and held a meeting to discuss these concerns. Like Tony’s parents, other parents were persuaded not to report the abuse to the police, this time in return for a promise that (1) Waters would be dismissed from Cheshunt Sea Cadets and (2) Waters would never again work with children.

Waters was not dismissed. He was simply moved to another division of the Sea Cadets and even promoted to a role with responsibility for 10 other Sea Cadet units. Although concerns did arise about his access to children, he navigated his way up the ranks of the Sea Cadets for another 23 years.

Abuse of homeless children in Mumbai by Allan Waters

In 1995, a retired British navy officer and friend of Waters, Duncan Grant, set up three shelters in Mumbai for homeless children. Waters became a frequent visitor to these shelters which housed approximately 200 boys aged between eight and 18.

By January 2000, rumours about physical and sexual abuse at the shelters were circulating among the community of social workers in Mumbai. In October 2001, five boys came forward to the police to report physical and sexual abuse, organised paedophilia and sexual trafficking in the shelters. Waters, along with Grant and D’Souza (the manager of the shelters), were charged in relation to these allegations of sexual abuse. By this time, Waters and Grant had returned to the UK and it was some years before they were extradited to India to face trial. In the meantime, Grant had set up children’s shelters in Kenya and later Tanzania and Waters had visited Grant’s shelter in Tanzania at least three times.

In March 2006, Waters and Grant were convicted of child sex abuse and sentenced to six years imprisonment. With both men claiming that they were victims of a conspiracy by another paedophile who they claimed had convinced the boys to make malicious complaints to social workers, they both lodged appeals. In July 2008, Waters, Grant and D’Souza were acquitted of the allegations that they had sexually abused children at the shelters. However, after further appeals the Supreme Court reinstated the conviction on 18 March 2011. Waters and Grant were sent back to prison to serve the remainder of their sentences.

It is impossible to know how many children, both in the UK and overseas, could have been protected from Allan Waters if the Ministry of Defence had not chosen instead to protect their reputation.

The Metropolitan Police have an open investigation into Allan Waters after a survivor of his abuse came forward last year and gave a statement to the police. Given the extent of the abuse cover up within the Cadets, the police believe that there are many other victims, who they are urging to contact the police. As of next week a new investigation team will be taking on any reports of abuse that relate to the BBC’s Panorama episode “Cadet Abuse Cover-Up”. For now, the Metropolitan Police are asking any survivors of child abuse by Allan Waters or any other cadet instructors, or anyone with information, to come forward by either going to their local police station or contacting the police on 101.