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PIE: The call for Lawyers, Social Workers and Medics

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CassandraCogno RussellWestminster
PIE: The call for Lawyers, Social Workers and Medics
A closer look at PIE's first two newsletters: A wider call to rally legal and medical professionals for their support and Righton's 1973 report into Larchgrove Assessment Centre, Springboig, Glasgow.

In the beginning was a newsletter, a pre-drafted constitution, and a questionnaire. A campaigning organisation was to be built through gathering and politicising its subscribers.

For the first 6 months Michael Hanson, Executive Committee member of the Scottish Minorities Group and a University of Edinburgh student in his final year, was responsible for postal enquiries and producing the newsletter.

PIE's initial and very brief information sheet (Newsletter No 1, November 1974), dispatched in reply to inquiries received from their first advert in Gay News, made it clear that the only current benefit of membership was a newsletter.

"PIE was founded in October 1974 by 3 members of the Scottish Minorities Group who felt that there was a need in Britain for a group for those men and women who were sexually and otherwise attracted to young people below the age of about 17. Until March 1975 PIE's sole function is the production of a newsletter; in March it is hoped that an organisation will be set up by subscribers and that that organisation will undertake the following aims:"

The first newsletter published in November echoed Dr Michael Coulson's request for social workers and social work organisations to get in touch, except this time lawyers and doctors as well as social workers were identified as the professionals campaigning paedophiles especially wanted to get in touch with.

"The first step that is being taken is the appeal for people who can offer advice and help in a professional field - e.g. legal, social work, medical, etc - who can make us more aware of the problems ahead, and some of the ways of tackling them."

By 1 December 1974 Hanson reported PIE had received 15 subscriptions from individuals and had sent out 28 newsletters. "Mail flowed in thick and fast during the first two weeks of November then tailed off towards the end of the month."

"However, most paedophiles who have contacted PIE are adult men who are attracted towards boys between the ages of ca 8 to 16, and it seems likely that PIE will develop with a bias in favour of this group, although hopefully without discrimination against other paedophiles."

Hardly surprising when the only recruitment drive for subscribers had been in the pages of Gay News and SMG publications. But by April 1975 there would be a small fanfare over PIE's first woman member as reported in GN 67 but if PIE had been serious about either its purported women's lib credentials or its wish to attract female paedophiles surely it would already have advertised in publications such as Spare Rib, Arena 3, or Sappho?

Gay News 67 / April 1975 / back page
PIE Newsletter No 2 / 1 December 1974 / 

 By PIE Newsletter No 2 (1 December 1974) debate on the focus of the group and its activities were underway. Whether incestuous abuse of children was included in the definition of paedophilia adopted by PIE caused some initial disagreement, eventually being decided in favour of family abusers. Strategically the point was accepted that to exclude paedophiles who abused within a family context risked limiting PIE's appeal to a sizeable section of the paedophile community.

And in order to build a network of associated organisations to assist with lobbying, Hanson reported 8 organisations received free newsletters: 

 - National Council of Civil Liberties (NCCL); (where Keith Hose, soon to become PIE Chairman mid-1975, was already a member of the Gay Rights Committee alongside Nettie Pollard, Gay Rights Officer, who also joined PIE and Mickey Burbidge, co-drafter of the PIE manifesto and CLRC sexual law reform consultation response produced by PIE)

NCCL Annual Report 1974/5 p.13

- Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE);

- CHE London Information Centre; 

- Gay Liberation Front (GLF) London

- Gay Switchboard

- Gay News (for whom Ian Dunn was Scottish correspondent)

- Scottish Minorities Group (SMG - of which Michael Hanson and Ian Dunn were Executive Committee members)

- International Gay Rights Congress (which Ian Dunn was involved in organising to take place on 18-22 December 1974 and would host a workshop on paedophilia which Newsletter No 1 had urged attendance at)

Larchgrove Assessment Centre, Springboig, Glasgow

Newsletter No 2 contained copies of two newspaper cuttings.

On 22 October 1974 The Scotsman reported William Henderson a 29 year old from Lockerbie, Dumfries had abused two boys aged 11 and 13, between January and March 1974. He received a fine of £150 and promised to undergo a course of medical treatment to suppress his sexual drive.

After 9 months in prison for an indecent assault against a young boy, Henderson had been employed as a housemaster at Castelraigh Residential school, West Linton, Peebleshire moving on with a reference that said he should not live-in. Despite the reference, Henderson secured a residential position at Larchgrove Assessment Centre in Glasgow where 85 boys between the ages of 14 - 16 were housed while they awaited 'assessment' following referral by the children's panels and sheriff's courts. 

With some pride Hanson reprinted the above Scotsman report along with a letter of his in response, posing the question 'Who is the victim?' raising 3 points: 

(1) Due to the abuse having taken place over 4 (Hanson's error) months and no violence or coercion mentioned, the legal term 'indecent assault' was pejorative and consent could be assumed;

(2) The printing of the man's name in the newspaper amounted to harassment and a punishment in addition to the fine and probation period; and

(3) Medical treatment to suppress libido was 'chemical castration' and that due to sexual drive forming such a large part of an individual's character it could destroy someone's personality

The focus of paedophile liberation lobbyists in campaigning against medical treatment aimed at increasing self-control over offending, would shortly come to dominate NCCL discussions as being a violation of paedophiles' rights to freedom from inhuman, degrading treatment or torture. Sadly, the clamour for freedom from chemical castration would prevent any discussion of sexual abuse of children as a breach of their rights to freedom from inhuman, degrading treatment or torture. Although, somewhat anomalously, PIE would later launch a campaign against corporal punishment

And in a precursor to the NCCL's response to the Criminal Law Revision Committee's (CLRC) on sexual law reform which saw Harriet Harman, on behalf of NCCL as their legal officer, endorse the view advanced by PIE that “childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in, with an adult result in no identifiable damage”, Hanson finished on the following point:

"Scientific and sociological studies have long since demolished the myth that a child who has early voluntary sexual experience with an adult comes to harm; to some the experience can be beneficial if the adult cares for the child and exerts a positive influence. It is only when parents or teachers disover the experience of such relationships and guilt feelings are planted in the child that ill-effects result. How long will it be before society ceases to perscute and prosecute individuals and groups for victimless 'crimes'?"

In March 1973, Peter Righton, (who within 2 years would become PIE Member No 51), then a 'senior official with the National Children's Bureau' assisted Ronald Bennett QC, Sheriff of Berwickshire in conducting an inquiry into 30 allegations by boys at Larchgrove. 

Righton and Bennett spent 18 days interviewing 53 people before sending the final report to Glasgow Corporation Social Work & Health Committee for action. Only 13 allegations of violence and neglect were found proven 'on the balance of probabilities'; 17 allegations were found not to be corroborated. Initially seven members of Larchgrove's staff were charged with assaulting boys. No mention in the press was made of any sexual abuse allegations. In fact, as the Glasgow Herald reported on 7 March 1973 the Crown agent, Stanley Bowen, had instructed that no publicity should be given by newspapers to the section dealing with specific allegations of ill-treatment until criminal proceedings had been completed. A fortnight after which, acting on the authority of Heath's Lord Advocate and MP for Edinburgh Pentlands, Norman Wylie QC, Stanley Bowen said the required standard of evidence 'beyond reasonable doubt' had not been reached in order to commence criminal proceedings. With criminal proceedings halted, no further reports of the specific ill-treatment Wylie QC and Bowen had asked newspapers to withhold were published.

Files containing Bennett and Righton's report will not be released unredacted until 2060 by the National Archives Scotland and redacted copies were only released in November 2008. It's as yet unknown whether the specific section containing allegations which the Crown in Scotland was so keen to keep newspapers from reporting on is available in a redacted form - or whether William Henderson's 1974 offences against children could have been prevented by an inquiry into child abuse at Larchgrove conducted by someone who wasn't sexually abusing boys himself.

Righton's success at narrowing inquiries into abuse at children's homes to focus on neglect or physical punishment, although equally serious, would be repeated several times over during his career - all the while averting any public sense of the scale of the epidemic of sexual abuse sweeping through institutions accountable to the State for the protection of the very children they were so abysmally failing.

For further news reports on Larchgrove Assessment Centre please see:


Desiring Progress

#Peter Righton, #Larchgrove Assessment Centre Glasgow, #Michael Hanson, #Paedophile Information Exchange, #Lord Advocate Norman Wylie QC, #Stanley Bowen