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Leading child abuse lawyer joins calls for judicial inquiry into fresh claims of UK abuse by child migrants

A Times Newspaper investigation reveals fresh allegations of abuse in UK institutions suffered by British children who were later 'chosen' to be forcibly repatriated to Australia to suffer further abuse in Australia.

Posted on 16 June 2014

The managing partner of law firm Leigh Day and leading child abuse lawyer, Frances Swaine, has joined calls for a judicial inquiry following claims by the Times newspaper that some of the 6,000 to 7,000 children sent to Australia were sexually and physically abused in British institutions before facing further abuse in Australia.

Ms Swaine said: “These allegations are horrifying.  What these children went through, from being abused in the UK to then being forcibly sent to Australia only to suffer abuse in their new homes, defies belief.

“It is incumbent on this Government to create a judicial inquiry into the legality of this scheme, who knew what at the time and how could thousands of children, many with parents in this country, be repatriated to neglectful and abusive care.

“Nothing like this should ever happen again.

“We will be investigating the allegations surrounding the UK institutions named in the article and looking at who may have ultimate responsibility for the abuse suffered.”

Margaret Humphreys CBE, OAM who founded the UK based Child Migrants Trust, said a judicial inquiry is needed to establish how children were selected in the UK to be ‘trafficked’ to Australia.

Ms Humphreys said: “It is vitally important that the British Government looks into these allegations of abuse in UK institutions and how these children were selected then trafficked to face further abuse in Australia.

“Was this nothing more than an international paedophile ring? 

“We have heard evidence that members of the Christian Brothers came over to the UK to choose children and we have also heard allegations that those chaperoning the children began the abuse on the boat over to Australia.

“The Government should now begin a full judicial inquiry into how thousands of British children, many with families in the UK, were forcibly repatriated to face appalling brutalities on the other side of the world.”

David Hinchliffe, the chairman of Britain’s inquiry into the forced migration of thousands of children and former Labour MP for Wakefield, told the Times that a full judicial inquiry into child migration was needed to establish what was the legal basis for the scheme and whether child migrants should be compensated for the harm suffered.

Norman Johnston, chairman of the International Association of Former Child Migrants, told the Times that his organisation suspected that British institutions tried to cover up sexual abuse by forcing abused children abroad.

He said: “We suspect that . . . many of those children were trafficked because of the abuses that happened to them.”

Child migrant Peter Bagshaw (66) who lives in Perth explained how staff in institutions in Lincolnshire and later Cornwall sexually abused him.

“It happened probably once a week. Being so young, there was nothing I could do about it. You got told not to talk about it,”

Mr Bagshaw, 66, told the Times that the sexual abuse continued until he was 14 when he was told he was being sent to Australia. He was overjoyed to be escaping his tormenters.

On arrival at Fairbridge Farm School, in Pinjarra, Western Australia, however, he discovered that child migrants were used as cheap labour. He was put to work from 3am each day. A staff member also sexually abused him.

Michael O’Donoghue told the Times that his abuse started when he was five at Nazareth House in Romsey, Hampshire. “It was done by a teacher,” he said. “It was done regularly in the toilets and the dormitory.”

He left for Australia on his 11th birthday. He was taken to a Christian Brothers’ Orphanage, in Western Australia, where the sexual abuse began almost immediately.

He told the Times how he had escaped when he was 15, riding a bicycle 155 miles to Perth.