During our recent look at the Broxtowe false SRA allegations, which generated the suppressed JET report and the response from Team 4, we had occasion to re-examine some material we’ve seen before, but hadn’t properly understood in its context.
For example, who can forget the epic scene in this video, “Listen to the Children”, produced by journalist Beatrix Campbell for Channel 4’s “Dispatches” programme?
In her role as Plucky Satan-Hunter, armed only with a torch and a film crew, Campbell opens a drawer during her ultra-spooky exploration of ultra-spooky tunnels under an ultra-spooky graveyard, and finds…a very modern-looking battery-operated vibrator?
Yes, the explorations of the graveyard are pretty hilarious—of course, you’d never expect to find a cross carved in a wall in a graveyard, would you? And a candle with bits of burnt paper? Highly unlikely that kids might choose the privacy of a graveyard to smoke a little weed, make a little love, get down tonight….
Oh, sorry. Wrong post. Moving right along….
In the notes under the video, the poster states:
Replete with similar melodrama to the Beyond Belief programme the ‘discoveries’ in Campbell’s piece were ‘secret’ tunnels under a cemetery in Nottingham which matched some of the testimony of children and a cache of sexual prosthetics found in a Lodge in the cemetery. – Only after the emotive effects of the programme was it disclosed that Nottingham is riddled with such tunnels and caves and that this is common knowledge to all residents.
The cache of prosthetics turned out to be the weekly haul of litter from the grounds which the caretaker was waiting to dump. These weak circumstances lead Dispatches to claim ‘new evidence’. Pathetically many ‘believers’ still consider the evidence presented in this programme to be worthy.
Beatrix Campbell and Judith Dawson/Jones
Re-watching this in the context of what we now know about the JET report, its suppression, and the Team 4 report which was meant to invalidate the Joint Enquiry Team’s findings just in case the suppression thing didn’t work, we were struck by the fact that one of Beatrix Campbell’s primary sources for the video was none other than Judith Dawson, who would later change her name to Judith Jones.
She makes her first appearance at 07:00 in the above video, and is introduced as “Judith Dawson, Principal Professional Officer, Child Protection”. We have mentioned in previous posts that Campbell and Dawson were—and still are—romantically involved. The question is, was this the case when this programme was made in the early 1990s?
David Aaronovitch and Beatrix Campbell
We are not the first to wonder this, of course.
We have mentioned that in the wake of Mrs Justice Pauffley’s verdict on the Hampstead fact-finding hearing in March 2015, Times journalist and Hampstead resident David Aaronovitch produced a two-part BBC Radio programme which dealt with the Broxtowe case in some detail.
This stirred up a shit-storm of epic proportions. Three of those who were either interviewed for the programme or featured in it made complaints about the programme via two blogs, as well as formal complaints to the BBC. The details of their 18 complaints may be found here; only two were upheld.
We were particularly interested in a Twitter conversation between Mr Aaronovitch and Ms Campbell at around this time:It’s interesting that rather than address the substance of Mr Aaronovitch’s challenge—and there is no doubt that they both know what that is—Ms Campbell chooses to take an arch tone, and accuse him of seeing conspiracy theories where none exist.
Mr Aaronovitch goes directly to the heart of the issue: Ms Campbell’s personal relationship with Ms Dawson/Jones ought to have been declared when they wrote the book Stolen Voices together. And if that relationship began prior to the production of the Dispatches programme, it ought to have been declared there, as well.
In his post on BarristerBlogger, Mr Aaronovitch goes into more detail about Stolen Voices:
Campbell takes what can only be described as a “high moral tone” about what she conceives the job of a journalist to be and how balanced and evidence-based that job is. Well, I have the advantage of having paid quite a lot of money to get hold of the book she co-wrote with Judith Dawson (by then Judith Jones) and published in 1999 under the title of Stolen Voices: an Exposure of the campaign to Discredit Childhood Testimony.
The publishers, The Women’s Press, withdrew the title before distribution on the basis of threats of legal action to which they must have considered that they would be vulnerable. I imagine that the danger was spotted by the publisher’s legal advisers, but what the problem was and why the offending material could not have been excised, I do not know. But what I do know is that the book is a 226 page hatchet job, which seems, among other things, to be paying off old scores against critics of Dawson and other social workers and which deploys guilt-by-association on an industrial scale. …
In hers and Dawson’s book Stolen Voices, there are desultory attempts to question some of the facts in the JET report – and in 600 pages one can imagine that there are the occasional errors. In Stolen Voices police are characterized, essentially, as clodhopping males who distrust the women social workers and who semi-deliberately set out not to find the physical evidence that will vindicate the Erin Brockoviches of Nottinghamshire. The dangers of such a denialist approach for the police (one can imagine what would have happened to the denying cops if a video of the rituals, the remains of babies or, say, a blood-stained altar had been found by journalists) is not something Campbell or Dawson consider.
But by far and away the preferred method for dealing with JET, and casting it as part of a concerted “backlash” against social workers and abused children, is guilt-by-association. Campbell may like to tell us how many times in the last 25 years she thinks she has written an article or a chapter or a blogpost blackening the record of John Gwatkin, the senior social worker on the JET team. Readers will find her at it here in 1993, again in the Guardian in 1995, and in Stolen Voices (1999). In each of these she relates how Gwatkin – as social services director in Newark – was deficient in his handling of two cases completely unrelated to the handling of the JET report. In Stolen Voices the clear implication is that Gwatkin’s record suggests that he was unsuitable for the task and inferring that the case made by the JET report is therefore weakened because of his involvement in it.
To be perfectly clear: we do not know the date when the relationship began between Ms Campbell and Ms Dawson, as she then was. Certainly there is every possibility that it occurred after the Dispatches programme was broadcast. But it does seem very probable that the relationship began prior to the publication and subsequent withdrawal of Stolen Voices.
To draw attention to this is not a question of seeing conspiracy theories behind every door. Nor do we have any prurient interest in the details of the two women’s lives.
Rather, it is a question of journalistic integrity. Any journalist worth his or her salt ought to be well aware of the dangers of conflict of interest, which often apply to financial interests, but also include close personal or romantic relationships. At the BBC, journalists are required to sign declarations of conflict of interest prior to broadcast, as any undeclared close relationship could cast doubt upon the ability of the journalist to cover the subject in an evenhanded manner.
We have not read Stolen Voices, but if it was, as Mr Aaronovitch claims, a hatchet-job against anyone who had ever wronged Ms Dawson/Jones, it was critically important that their personal relationship be made clear to the reader. Mr Aaronovitch, who has read the book, says that it was not.
To say, as Ms Campbell did, “My relationship with JJones well known, vy public” is nowhere near sufficient. It implies that everyone reading their books or watching their television programme ought to be well aware of their relationship status, possibly through some sort of osmotic process?
Blasting the JET lead social worker
Whether Stolen Voices was a hatchet-job or not, Mr Aaronovitch is certainly correct in pointing out that Ms Campell’s 1993 article in The Independent, “A dangerous place to be young: Why have 18 vulnerable children died in Nottinghamshire in 18 months?” specifically pillories John Gwatkin, head social worker on the JET team, blaming him by inference for child-protection problems in Nottinghamshire:
The connection between the Broxtowe controversy and the county’s current crisis is John Gwatkin, Newark area director.
Gwatkin’s work has surprised and alarmed colleagues for some time. He had been criticised by police in 1988 for refusing to put a two- year-old boy on the at-risk register after his mother had rolled around laughing when she sent him spinning in the tumble drier. She had also beaten and scalded him on his genitals. She was jailed for 18 months. Gwatkin was pilloried by the judge, and subsequently called to an internal inquiry.
Yet a year later he was appointed by the social services director, David White, to head an internal inquiry into the Broxtowe case. This inquiry was to examine the serious rift that had emerged between social workers and police about the reliability of children’s evidence in abuse investigations.
Gwatkin’s Joint Inquiry Team endorsed the police and promoted the notion that social workers had brainwashed children. Although David White accepted this thesis, he later retracted and Gwatkin’s report was thrown out by the authority’s social services committee in 1990. Furthermore, the children’s evidence was subsequently affirmed in several court hearings.
And would anyone care to guess who Ms Campbell’s source was on this story? Go on, three guesses. We dare you.
That something is badly wrong with Nottinghamshire’s social services is confirmed in a recently leaked confidential document, dating from early 1992 and written by Judith Dawson, an independent child abuse consultant employed by the department. Her report demonstrated that an authority with a consistently good record of caring for children at risk during the Eighties has undergone a spectacular decline in standards. It is widely thought that this is a direct result of changes in managerial practice within the social services department. …
Dawson also reminded the directorate of its obligation to assimilate new knowledge about adults’ dangerousness, in this case Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy, later to become notorious in the Beverly Allitt case, which happened in the same area. She warned: ‘I would need reassurance that the police, who were recently resistant to the inclusion of Munchausen’s in the (child protection) procedures, are open to new research and new areas of abuse.’ …
Dawson’s role was being purged. The official reason was restructuring. The unofficial reason, according to senior staff, was that she picked up on too much child abuse and that she and the specialist child protection team were being punished for criticising the director and the chief constable in the aftermath of the county’s largest child abuse case, the Broxtowe case, which had earned Dawson and the team the congratulations of a High Court judge and the prime minister in 1989.
Just a quick reminder on that last point: yes, the social work team in Broxtowe did earn public congratulations from a High Court judge and the Prime Minister in 1989. This is because the real abuse which took place in Broxtowe was identified, and social workers and police coordinated efforts to ensure that all the abusers were arrested, tried, and convicted. However, all of this took place before there was any whiff of “Satanic ritual abuse” about the Broxtowe case.
As Mr Aaronovitch correctly pointed out in their Twitter conversation, whenever Ms Campbell publishes or speaks on issues in which her partner has an interest, she has a professional obligation to declare her interest. Attempting to put people off the scent by accusing critics of seeing conspiracy theories where none exist, or by accusing them of being anti-woman, anti-feminist, or any other sort of backsliding revisionist you care to name just will not do.