Distinguishing the wood from the trees
Well, we certainly seem to have stirred up a hornet’s nest with our last blog calling for an enquiry into the Hollie Grieg case, but if anything the facts appear ever murkier now. Robert Green is alleging a conspiracy of silence extending as far as the great and the good of Scotland; the other side are saying there’s absolutely no evidence, and that Anne Greig (Hollie’s mother) is mentally ill and just trying to get revenge on her husband. That the abuse concerned is alleged to be satanic only further muddies the waters and makes it harder to see what’s going on. But whatever the truth, emotions are clearly running high on both sides – so what on earth are those of us who simply seek justice for the vulnerable to make of the controversy?
Fact : The base line would appear to be that Hollie, a Down’s Syndrome sufferer, alleges that from the age of 6 onwards she suffered abuse. Initially at the hands of her father and brother, and then involving a wider circle of individuals, many of whom she subsequently named. A complaint was made to the police by her mother when Hollie was 14. Some limited enquiries appear to have been made, but all evidence, both forensic and medical, subsequently disappeared.
VfJUK suggests that this is much as can be known with any certainty. But leaving aside the satanic overtones to this case, which must always make one a little wary, the fact Hollie is alleging she was abused should per se merit investigation. In the recent grooming case in Oxford, one of the most shocking details to emerge is that at least one of the victims had told police and social workers some six years before the case was finally investigated that she was being abused. Nothing was ever done, because neither body believed her. She was the proverbial ‘bad girl’ who had made a lifestyle choice. In making complaint she was probably, therefore, just seeking attention. This girl, and many other abuse victims like her, went through hell because the authorities wouldn’t take her complaint seriously, and it is a tribute to both her courage and resilience that she has at last found justice.
In the news today (November 4), we are hearing fresh reports of the suppression of abuse by one of the monks at Downside School. Here, apparently, there was never any question of the abused boy not being believed, but the abuse was covered up in order to avoid adverse publicity. Keir Starmer, the ex director of public prosecutions, has now recommended that not reporting child abuse should be a criminal offence.
Abuse or sexual exploitation will always be a difficult area. One of the complaints most frequently made in such cases is that the victim is either ignored or not taken seriously, and again, reverting to the Oxford sex grooming cases, one of the lessons the police claim to have made is that they are now much better at responding to such allegations, and will immediately investigate them.
So, to come back to Hollie Grieg, VfJUK feels that the alleged satanic overtones to this case have perhaps been unhelpful, increasing institutional wariness to investigate her claims. They should, for these purposes, be ignored. If there is a paedophile ring operating, then whether it’s self-avowedly satanic or not, makes not a scrap of difference. If there is even suspicion of a ring sexually abusing vulnerable children, then it needs proper and balanced investigation, and the evidence needs to be open to review.
And there, unless and until we see concrete evidence either way, we shall leave this topic. Our brief is to help victims of abuse or trafficking, but we do not have the machinery (or indeed calling) to carry out investigations ourselves. So we hand this over to the proper authorities, but with the reminder that complaints of such abuse should never be dismissed without proper enquiry.