The recent appointment of a senior and effectively retired judge Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss to head an investigation into allegations of paedophiles operating within politics, the church, public bodies, and the media is probably as good an example of the British Establishment shamelessly attempting to control scandalous events which have reached the public arena as you could wish to see.
To begin with Butler-Sloss is the sister of Sir Michael Havers who was attorney-general in the Thatcher government in the 1980s. During that time many of the child-abuse scandals now being uncovered or alleged were taking place. Some of these allegations would have reached Havers. One we do know of: Havers was accused in the 1980s of preventing the prosecution for paedophile crimes of the senior diplomat and member pf the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) Sir Peter Hayman.
Those facts alone should have made her unsuitable for the post because judges like Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion. But there is more. Butler-Sloss is an active member of the House of Lords , albeit a cross-bencher. That in itself makes her quite unsuitable for the job whether or not she veers towards the conservative side of politics – and she probably will lean to the Right bearing in mind her family background and the fact that she stood as a Tory candidate in the 1959 General Election . She will be engaging in politics, expressing political opinions and consorting with the same class of people who have appointed her, all of which renders her a figure who cannot reasonably be regarded as impartial.
Then there is her previous role in another investigation concerning paedophilia which produced a report in 2011 that criticised her competence , viz:
Baroness Butler-Sloss, the former judge appointed to investigate allegations of an establishment cover-up of child sex abuse, was forced to issue an apology after making crucial errors in a previous inquiry into two paedophile priests, The Telegraph can disclose.
The peer was put in charge of a “flawed” investigation into how the Church of England handled the cases of two ministers in Sussex who had sexually abused boys.
Eight months after her report was published Lady Butler-Sloss had to issue a six-page addendum in which she apologised for “inaccuracies” which, she admitted, arose from her failure to corroborate information which was given to her by senior Anglican figures as part of the inquiry.
Finally, there is her age. She is eighty. Ask yourself how many people of that age you have met who seemed really mentally alert and possessed of considerable mental and physical stamina? I am in my sixties and can honestly say I have never met anyone of Butler-Sloss’ age who possessed all those qualities. Yet that is precisely what is required for an investigation like this. Her negligence in the paedophile report cited above suggests that even in 2011 she was not mentally up to the job.
Nor would lack of mental and physical capacity to undertake a thorough investigation be the only drawback to employing someone of her age. The nature of the investigation will mean that there will be people with power wealth and influence under threat involved together with any servants of the elite who may have acted to protect them. At best these will be people who have the money and connections to publicly fight against any disagreeable conclusions Butler-Sloss’ report may come to and at worst such people may use their power and influence to engage in a dirty tricks campaign against Butler-Sloss. Even if Butler-Sloss has no skeletons in her cupboard whatsoever it is difficult to imagine an 81-year-old having the stomach for a prolonged public fight. Consequently, the temptation will be for her to suppress evidence or misinterpret it on purpose to avoid controversy.
Finally, there is the fact that her age means there is a strong chance of her being either unable to complete the report through incapacity through disease such as a stroke or through death.
Why did Cameron put someone who was so obviously wrong for the job in charge of the investigation? Perhaps it was simply sloppiness. He wanted an establishment figure who could be relied on to produce a report which would not point the finger of blame at any politicians at the least and most probably not at anyone from the elite. He probably simply grabbed her because (1) she was a senior judge and (2) because she was a woman which would earn Cameron pc brownie points. He may have also consciously or unconsciously thought of this type of subject was more naturally the province of a woman because the victims were either children or women.
It might seem incredible that no check was made on Butler-Sloss’ background, but think of the number of times that politicians demonstrate a bewildering ignorance of the consequences of the laws they pass. Simple incompetence is all too plausible. The alternative explanation is that Cameron did know but simply ignored the red no-go lights in her background because he believed, cynically, that the public will swallow anything however outrageous provided a public enquiry is set in motion.
What should be done?
Public enquiries have a tremendous monotony to their outcomes. Inquiry reports whose conclusions and recommendations severely criticise a politician who is still active and whose party is in power when the report is published have a frequency of occurrence only marginally better than that of unicorns, while any really severe criticism of any politician or senior public servant, whether retired or not, is pretty rare.
Often public inquiry reports contain a good deal of material which suggests that serious negligence or crimes have been committed by politicians or senior public servants, but the conclusions and recommendations of the report do not carry through on the evidence. A classic example of this is the Hutton Inquiry which produced a good deal of evidence that suggested the suicide verdict was a nonsense – the lack of blood, the position of the body, the absence of a suicide note and so on – and instead came to the bland and friendly to the Blair government view that it was undoubtedly suicide.
Experience shows that putting a judge in sole charge more or less guarantees that the outcome will be friendly to the government of the day and hoodwinks the public into thinking the process is impartial. The situation is little better when a senior public servant is in charge. Consequently, there needs to be some check by those who are not part of the elite on a inquiry’s proceedings and the conclusions reach at the end of the inquiry. Perhaps a jury of ordinary citizens could be employed to oversee the public inquiry. Perhaps whoever is placed in charge of an inquiry could be placed under oath and questioned about their findings once their report is published. What is certain is that the present system is a sham.