“I have the impression she’s not able to hear about serious child abuse. She seems to shut down and there is the sense that she can’t even hear it. It’s come up again and again. When she described children in care as ‘disruptive and difficult’ – those aren’t terms we ever use. We’re not into pathologising children and that’s what you do when you don’t listen. You define them out of existence.”
MR. Adam Walker, the President of Solidarity Trade Union - has once attacked Barking MP Margaret Hodge, for her part in a sex abuse scandal.
In particular, he singled out her treatment of Mr. Demetrious Panton, as “outrageous” and questioned her suitability as an MP.
Hodge, was born in Egypt as Margaret Oppenheimer, the daughter of a refugee millionaire German Jewish steel trader and his Austrian wife, Hans and Lisbeth Oppenheimer (1). Her family later settled in London.
In 1973 she was elected as a councillor in the London Borough of Islington (2).
From the 70s – 90s, many children who were in Islington council care suffered serious sexual abuse. Hodge was Leader of the Council from 1982 till 1992 (4).
One of those who were abused was Demetrious Panton (3). In 1978, Mr. Panton was just 11 when he was abused by paedophile Bernie Bain, the former head of an Islington children’s home (5).
Demetrious Panton first made allegations against Mr. Bain in 1979, but no other children would talk. The case was dropped and Islington Council was off the hook. In 1985 Demetrious – just turned 18 – wrote to Islington Social Services. This time he went to the police with the backing of the council.
Despite the seriousness of Mr. Panton’s claims, Hodge twice rebuffed approaches from him to discuss the sexual abuse he suffered (6).
She wrongly labelled Mr. Panton “an extremely disturbed person”. Her comments were to get her in hot water.
The Solidarity Trade Union General Secretary noted that this wasn’t a view shared by Detective Superintendent John Sweeney. He was the man tasked with launching a full and thorough investigation into the allegations. Indeed, DS Sweeney found Mr. Panton “to be very articulate and very measured”.
These comments so enraged Mr. Panton that he sought legal action against Hodge. In late 2003 she agreed to fork out legal costs over £20,000. At the time it was seen as a move to save her job – of all things, as Labour’s children’s minister.
So on 17th November 2003, Margaret Hodge, after consultation with her and Mr. Panton’s solicitors, said:
”I can now confirm that we have agreed the following.
“One, a statement in court will be made shortly reiterating the apology made on 14 November. Two, I will make a donation of £10,000 to NACRO (7). Three, I have agreed to pay Mr Panton’s legal costs.”
At the time it was suggested that the legal costs to be paid by Mrs Hodge were going to be more than £20,000. For the fabulously rich Hodge, this seems to be a small price to pay for her transgressions.
Talking recently about the case, Mr. Walker claimed that Hodge’s view was “outrageous”. He also questioned her suitability as an MP. At the time she resisted all calls for her to resign. (Indeed, she is now Minister of State at the Department for Culture, Media & Sport).
Mr. Walker said:- “Hodge was leader of the council. She should have ensured that action was taken. She should have done everything possible to protect the children.”
He went on to note that after paying the £20,000, Hodge should have done the decent thing and resigned.
“Instead Nu Labour stuck two fingers up to the ordinary working folk of Britain. Incredibly, they made Hodge the first ever Minister for Children Young People & Families, where she served between 2003 and 2005. ”
Hat Tip Pat Harrington