HOWEVER difficult it is, the public must not become impervious and desensitised to harrowing cases of historic abuse still coming to light.
Victims have suffered in silence for years – decades in many cases – and only now do they have the confidence that they will be believed. It is a sorry indictment of society that it has taken so long to reach this point.
Without victims having the courage to come forward, some bravely waiving their right to anonymity to raise the profile of cases, justice would have been denied to many of those whose personal dignity was violated by depraved physical and sexual abuse.
This is self-evident in today’s disturbing account by former vicar Mark Stibbe who is one of many people, including the Bishop of Guildford, to speak publicly about the alleged abuse they say they suffered at the hands of John Smyth who ran Christian holiday camps and who has become so embarrassing to the Church of England. Decades of torment come pouring out in his humbling essay on the preceding page.
It’s equally applicable in Rotherham, a town still coming to terms with the infamy of its child sexual abuse scandal, almost unprecedented in scale, in which the police and local council were too afraid to investigate allegations for fear of being branded racist. Days after six members of the latest grooming ring were jailed for 80 plus years, more than 100 CSE cases are still being considered and the reverberations will be felt for years to come.
However, Rotherham must not become a byword for abuse – this vile behaviour pervaded every section of society, notably those previously trusted public institutions thought to be beyond reproach, and the nation is in debt to those like Professor Alexis Jay, who is now heading the national inquiry and who did recognise this betrayal of humanity. However, the country should not wait for her complex inquiry to conclude for lessons to be learned. They should already have been learned. And, if not, there are known failings which can, and must, be rectified now if the most important people of all – the victims – are to retain their confidence in a justice system that ignored their cries for help for so long.
BY Jeremy Corbyn’s standards, this was one of his better weeks as Opposition leader – he actually used leaked texts, inadvertently sent to a Labour councillor in error, to embarrass Theresa May at PMQs over the social care crisis and its wider ramifications for the NHS.
Yet, as ever with Mr Corbyn, it is a case of one step forward, and two back, with the week ending with yet another Shadow Cabinet reshuffle necessitated by Brexit splits and confusion over Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett’s status as election co-ordinator.
And this is before by-elections in Labour-held Copeland and Stoke Central which are effectively mini-referendums on Mr Corbyn – many of the party’s alienated ‘big beasts’ appear to have reached a Faustian pact in which they temper their personal criticism so their leader can attach no blame to them if the results do go against Labour.
What is disturbing is the extent to which key posts have been filled with such inexperienced MPs. Reshuffles used to reward rising stars who had served an apprenticeship – this is little more than the Westminster equivalent of musical chairs. With respect, these aren’t people being appointed on merit, they’re the only MPs willing to accept these roles and a pale imitation of the five former frontbenchers who used their liberated status as backbenchers to put Mrs May on the spot at PMQs.
Mr Corbyn defends his position by saying he has won two leadership elections in two years. The question for Labour is how can it regain a semblance of credibility from this perilous position? The democratic process, and public interest, demands nothing less.
The facts of life – good manners still cost nothing
IT WAS medieval knights who coined the expression ‘manners maketh man’ in the hope of encouraging gentlemanly chivalry towards women. It’s a harmless saying that today’s PC brigade scoff over because of its sexist undertones.
However, in an era when men can be made to feel embarrassed for politely holding a door open, how ironic that it is women who are least likely to give up their seat on public transport to an expectant mother. The survey finding misses the most profound point of all – good manners cost nothing. The sadness is that there are people – male and female, young and old – who need politely reminding of this fact.