TIME

England: Land of Royals, Tea and Horrific Pedophilia Coverups

Two Men Arrested As Part Of Operation Fernbridge
The site of the former Elm Guest House in Barnes. The site of the former Elm Guest House in Barnes.

As Scotland Yard triples the number of officers on high-profile child abuse cases, the UK struggles to find faith in its politicians

From politicians’ fraudulent expenses to phone hacking, Britain has become surprisingly scandal-strewn in recent years, but the latest reputational cyclone to sweep across its shores is casting an especially dark light: pedophilia in high places.

Newspapers and TV bulletins have been dominated for the past week by allegations that politicians with links to Margaret Thatcher’s government sexually abused vulnerable children in the 1980s and hid the truth for decades through their “chumocracy.” Suspicions of an establishment cover-up involving government departments, Scotland Yard and other elements of the establishment intensified in recent days when the law-and-order ministry, the Home Office, confirmed dozens of potentially-relevant files alleging sexual misconduct had gone missing from its archives.

The allegations—which centre around the suggestion that politicians of all parties and other VIPs preyed on children at a guest house in the London suburb of Barnes—have been given greater credence because in the past two years a string of national figures have been exposed as predatory pedophiles.

Most notoriously of all, Sir Jimmy Savile, a BBC children’s television presenter feted by the Royal Family and Downing Street, abused 450 victims, mostly boys and girls as young as eight over 50 years. While Savile had long been seen as odd, the scale of his offenses shocked the country, not least because he was allowed special access to hospitals and the authorities laughed at or ignored his victims, before he died a national hero. An ensuing police inquiry, Operation Yewtree – which has arrested 18 TV presenters, comedians, disc jockeys and other showbusiness associates – last month jailed fellow BBC children’s presenter Rolf Harris for indecent assaults dating back decades, on girls as young as 8.

Into this febrile atmosphere, Tom Watson, a Labour Party lawmaker, told the House of Commons in October 2012 that police should “investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful pedophile network linked to Parliament and Number 10.” Newspaper columnists suggested Watson – whose campaigning on phone hacking contributed to the downfall of the Prime Minister communications director Andy Coulson ­– was stoking a “witch-hunt.” But as a result of Watson and online news agency Exaro’s investigations, Scotland Yard launched Operation Fernbridge, an inquiry into the now-notorious Elm Guest House.

One confirmed visitor through its front door was Cyril Smith, a jovial 406-pound Liberal MP who was shown after his death to have been a serial abuser of boys at a local authority care home in his home town of Rochdale. Private Eye investigative magazine has suggested that Special Branch, the UK’s national security police, halted police inquiries into Smith in the 1970s to prevent the collapse of the Liberal-Labour coalition government. Attention then swept back to its successor government. In 1983, the far-right Conservative MP, Geoffrey Dickens, compiled a 40-page dossier alleging pedophilia among Westminster politicians and gave it to the Home Office and Attorney General’s Office. This year, the Home Office discovered that 114 files potentially relevant to historic allegations of sexual abuse, including the Dickens dossier, had gone missing.

A year ago Lord Brittan, the Home Secretary to whom Dickens handed his dossier, told reporters he could not recall anything about it. But last week following the intervention of another campaigning MP in Parliament, Lord Brittan issued a statement remembering that he had received the dossier and had asked his officials to study its contents. Over the weekend it emerged that Lord Brittan had been interviewed as a suspect in the rape of a 19-year-old in 1967; an allegation he dismissed as “wholly without foundation.”

On Monday, Home Secretary Theresa May announced an inquiry into the failures of the authorities to protect children. To the dismay of many, she then said it would be led by Dame Butler-Sloss, a respected family judge but also the sister of the late former Attorney General Michael Havers, who was passed a copy of the Dickens dossier, and who decided not to prosecute a diplomat for exchanging obscene material with members of a pro-pedophilia group.

What does all this mean for Britain?

A new openness among police and prosecutors has led to the number of sexual offenses recorded by police jumping 17% in a year; Britain’s jails are bursting partly as a result of “historic sex abuse cases.

More high-profile prosecutions of pedophilia may shock the country; according to one whistleblower, allegations of sexual abuse have been made against 20 VIPs. Much will hinge over the next two years on the new inquiry, which, conveniently for politicians, will not be public until after the 2015 general election.

For now the scandal is likely to increase the public’s jaundiced view about politics and public life in the UK. Research last year found that political engagement was low and trust in institutions had been damaged by the MPs’ expenses scandal, interest-rate fixing and other controversies. Disaffection with the three main political parties helped the far-right United Kingdom Independence Party, which wants to withdraw from the European Union, win the 2014 European Parliament elections.

In the case of the Westminster “pedophile ring,” the mounting sentiment that Britain’s establishment serves its own interests and conceals its wrongdoing may be well founded. Until recently only seven police officers were working on Operation Fernbridge; Scotland Yard announced today the figure is now 22.

Martin Hickman is a freelance journalist in London.

TIME Religion

Pope Francis Pivots To Take on Scourge of Church Corruption, Child Sexual Abuse

Pope Francis leaves for trip to Holy Land
Pope Francis disembarks a plane at Queen Alia airport in Amman, Jordan upon his arrival for a papal visit on May 24, 2014. L'osservatore Romano/EPA

On a flight back from Holy Land tour, Pope Francis talked to reporters for 45 minutes.

The man never stops.

On the plane back from his three-day trip to the Middle East, Pope Francis held a 45-minute press conference with journalists, and he announced that he will meet with a small group of victims of sexual abuse for the first time in the coming weeks. The church, Francis said, cannot have “Daddy’s boys” who would be exempt from punishment for sexual abuse of minors. “There are no privileges,” he said.

Victims from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Ireland will participate in the meeting. Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, one of Francis’ core group of eight advisory cardinals, will also participate. While the meeting is a first for Francis, Pope Benedict XVI met with victims of sexual abuse several times.

Francis also announced that he will visit the Philippines and Sri Lanka in January. He also indicated that future Popes may follow his predecessor’s example and retire. He himself would consider retiring, if that is what he senses God is calling them to do. “I believe Benedict XVI is not an isolated case,” he said.

But amid all the religion-themed news of the flight, coming off of a high-profile and news-packed pilgrimage, there was another significant tidbit that could get lost in the shuffle: Francis confirmed that the Vatican is investigating charges that $20 million went missing from the Vatican bank during Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s watch. Bertone, Benedict XVI’s secretary of state, stepped down in October when Francis replaced him with Archbishop Pietro Parolin. “It’s something being studied, it’s not clear,” Francis said, when asked about the investigation of missing funds. “Maybe it’s the truth, but at this moment it’s not definitive.”

It is a reminder that Francis still faces the substantial task of reforming the Vatican’s scandal-plagued financial system. He has been making some progress. Last August, he issued a statement against money laundering. In February, he established a new Secretariat of the Economy and appointed Australian Cardinal George Pell to lead it. He also created a 15-member council of lay financial experts and Catholic prelates to guide policy and oversee audits at any time. Over the last year, the Vatican bank, under the leadership of Ernst von Freyberg and formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion, has closed hundreds of accounts.

Even for a smooth operator like Pope Francis, it takes time to turn an operation as giant and unwieldy as the Vatican around.

TIME Vatican

Pope Declares ‘Zero Tolerance’ Sex-Abuse Policy

Pope Francis prays as he holds an envelope before placing it in one of the cracks between the stones of the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray, in Jerusalem on May 26, 2014 Andrew Medichini—AP

Pope Francis plans to meet with sex-abuse victims next month

Pope Francis announced on Monday that he would meet with a group of sex-abuse victims at the Vatican. He declared that there would now be a “zero tolerance” policy for any members of the clergy who sexually violate children. The Pope went on to reveal that three bishops are under investigation by the Vatican for abuse of children (or for aiding in the systemic cover-up).

The Pope has previously been criticized by victims of assault for not reaching out to them. He has spent time with those who have suffered, but not at the hands of the church. The Pope plans to meet with six victims early next month and attend Mass with them.

‘‘On this issue we must go forward, forward. Zero tolerance,’’ Francis said to a group of reporters as he returned from his trip to the Holy Land. He called abuse of children an “ugly” crime that betrays God, according to the Associated Press.

[AP]

TIME Hollywood

X-Men Director Bryan Singer Accused of Teen Sex Abuse

Court papers filed Wednesday allege the Hollywood icon sexually abused a teenage boy in 1998 and 1999. The plaintiff claims to have been coerced into sexual acts with the promise of a role in an X-Men film. Singer denies all allegations

+ READ ARTICLE

X-Men director Bryan Singer stands accused of sexually abusing an aspiring teen actor 15 years ago, according to a civil suit filed in U.S. District Court in Hawaii Wednesday.

Singer, 48, one of Hollywood’s most successful directors and producers, allegedly offered the plaintiff a film role in the Marvel Comics franchise if the the teen submitted to his sexual demands, and threatened to destroy his career if he refused.

The director’s legal representative said the “absurd and defamatory” accusations were “completely without merit” and he was certain his client would be vindicated.

“It is obvious that this case was filed in an attempt to get publicity at the time when Bryan’s new movie is about to open in a few weeks,” said the attorney.

Most of the alleged sex abuse was supposed to have taken place at parties at a California mansion in 1998 and 1999 when the plaintiff was 17, according to court papers.

New York-born Singer rose to international prominence with his 1995 breakthrough smash hit The Usual Suspects, which won two Oscars.

TIME celebrities

Scarlett Johansson Says It’s ‘Irresponsible’ to Involve Her in Woody Allen Controversy

Scarlett Johansson, arrives at the premiere Of Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" at the El Capitan Theatre on March 13, 2014 in Hollywood.
Scarlett Johansson, arrives at the premiere Of Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" at the El Capitan Theatre on March 13, 2014 in Hollywood. Frazer Harrison—Getty Images

The actress calls Dylan Farrow's open letter to Hollywood -- in which she reiterated claims that the director abused her as a child and mentioned Johansson along with Alec Baldwin and Cate Blanchett -- "irresponsible"

Actress Scarlett Johansson says it wasn’t fair for Dylan Farrow to mention her in Farrow’s open letter last month detailing claims that adopted father Woody Allen abused her as a child.

In the harrowing New York Times op-ed on Feb. 1, Farrow reiterated claims that Allen abused her, something Allen has steadfastly denied for years. Farrow also called out a few celebrities who have continued to work with Allen since the allegations were first made, writing, “What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson?”

Now in a new interview with the Observer, Johansson has addressed being thrown into the controversy.

“I think it’s irresponsible to take a bunch of actors that will have a Google alert on and to suddenly throw their name into a situation that none of us could possibly knowingly comment on,” she said. “That just feels irresponsible to me.”

Johannson also made an attempt to defend Allen, who directed her in 2008’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. “I’m unaware that there’s been a backlash,” she said. “I think he’ll continue to know what he knows about the situation, and I’m sure the other people involved have their own experience with it. It’s not like this is somebody that’s been prosecuted and found guilty of something, and you can then go, ‘I don’t support this lifestyle or whatever.’ I mean, it’s all guesswork.”

She also indicated she’d like to stay out of the controversy, saying, “I don’t know anything about it. It would be ridiculous for me to make any kind of assumption one way or the other.”

Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin have also briefly addressed the controversy, as has Allen himself, who penned his own Times letter, in which he again declared his innocence and blamed Dylan’s mother Mia for the accusations.

[Observer]

TIME sex abuse

Dottie Sandusky on TODAY Show: Jerry “Did Not Do Those Horrible Crimes”

"I'm not a weak spouse," wife says

In an exclusive interview with Matt Lauer airing on the TODAY show Wednesday, Dottie Sandusky defended her husband, former Penn State coach and convicted child sex offender Jerry Sandusky, and spoke out against critics who questioned her role in the Penn State sex scandal.

“I’m not a weak spouse,” she said. “They call me ‘Sarge’ because Jerry said I kept everybody in line.” She also addressed criticism that she may have enabled Sandusky’s abuse, or at least turned a blind eye. “If they want to say that, let them say that,” she said. “I know who I am.”

Sandusky also continued to deny that the abuse ever happened. “I know he did not do the horrible crimes that he’s convicted of,” she said. She said her husband misses family meals and playing with his grandkids while he serves his 30-60 years in prison for child molestation.

[TODAY]

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