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Leigh Day act in Islington child abuse scandal

Margaret Hodge is asked to apologise by victims of child abuse 'ignored' during her time as leader of Islington council.

Posted on 18 November 2003

The scandal currently surrounding Margaret Hodge, minister for children, is escalating as more adults who were abused as children come forward to confront her. Margaret Hodge was head of Islington council for ten years from 1982, a time when children in the borough’s care homes were abused and raped.

Frances Swaine in the Human Rights department of Leigh Day & Co. acted for Yvonne Williams in her case against Islington council in 2001. She won £30,000 in an out of court settlement for the abuse she suffered as a child. Yvonne was at Gisburne house, an Islington controlled children’s home from the age of 10 until 17. The superintendent in charge of the home, Geoffrey Wilde-Jones, ‘horribly abused’ her on a daily basis.

Yvonne was interviewed in the Evening Standard about her experiences: “If Hodge had only listened when the social workers told her what was going on in 1990, my case would have been properly investigated and I would have got closure.” She is now calling for a public apology and the chance to tell her story to the minister, face to face.

Frances is also representing Douglas Fitch, who was abused whilst in the care of Islington council at Shephall Manor Special School in Stevenage. He is determined to bring a lawsuit against the council and against Margaret Hodge.

“I hold Hodge directly responsible for the abuse I suffered,” says Douglas in an interview with the Evening Standard. “My brother Michael was sexually abused in care before me, and if Hodge had listened to the social workers he complained to, then there is every likelihood that I would never have been abused.” Douglas is also calling for a public apology.

There have been calls for Margaret Hodge to resign following accusations that she ignored reports of social workers that abuse was happening to children as young as eight in the council’s care. She has always denied this allegation, saying that she was badly advised by senior professionals. Also, this week she was forced to publicly apologise to a man who had been abused while in the care of Islington council. In a letter to the BBC, complaining about an inquiry into the child abuse scandal, she called the victim,Demetrious Panton,‘extremely disturbed’.

In her role as children’s minister, Margaret Hodge is responsible for policies on the under-fives, childcare, teenage pregnancy, family law and children at risk.

Frances Swaine echoed the requests of her clients for a public apology from the minister of state when she commented on the developments in the scandal earlier today: "[I was] initially saddened and ultimately outraged that the plight of children in the care of the council could be so overlooked by someone with so much authority - and thus the ability to make changes, I feel it is only right that a public apology should be heard far and wide."

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