LEADERS of a controversial support group for childcare professionals and others accused of sexual abuse have resigned after an investigation by The Upsetter.
This newsletter examined claims from whistleblowers that Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers (FACT) had been “hijacked” by convicted paedophiles. It soon became clear that Manchester-based FACT allows sex offenders who either pleaded guilty or never challenged their convictions to join.
The group has hundreds of members and has been going for over 20 years with the support of academics from major universities, well-known journalists and law firms looking for business.
It also emerged that FACT was twice refused charitable status amid regulatory concerns about its vetting procedures.
The Charity Commission was alarmed about the group’s political and campaigning objectives, which have sought to exploit public reaction to the bungled Scotland Yard operation codenamed Midland into historic sexual abuse by Establishment figures.
No Clear Process
A troubled member of FACT contacted The Upsetter after the group made a failed second attempt to obtain charitable status using a new name.
The whistleblower was concerned about the group’s management team, which included two men convicted of child abuse and the wife of a disgraced priest who had pleaded guilty to molesting a young girl in his Sussex parish.
“I joined FACT after being acquitted of false allegations but later discovered it was run by men convicted of sex crimes who claimed innocence but never appealed. I felt the group had been hijacked,” said the source.
FACT believes the scale of historic child sexual abuse has been “exaggerated” by mendacious complainants leading to many miscarriages of justice.
While undoubtedly some people have been falsely accused, more recently by Carl Beech, the fantasist believed by Operation Midland, the Charity Commission is right to be troubled over the way FACT assesses the “innocence” of its own members while disparaging vulnerable witnesses, who judge and juries have already found to be credible.
The Charity Commission rejected FACT’s first application for charitable status in 2015 and again in March 2020.
On the last occasion it re-applied under a new guise “Supporting Victims of Unfounded Allegations of Abuse”, a limited company incorporated in 2019.
A spokesperson for the regulator said:
“As part of our consideration of these applications we considered how [FACT] defined ‘false allegations’ noting that there was no clear process of enquiry to test and determine that an allegation is indeed false”.
Declarations of Innocence
FACT secretary, Brian Hudson, 71, told The Upsetter that members must sign a “declaration of innocence”, which “hopefully in most cases” they can support with documents from their solicitor, family or even a court, he said.
But when it came to Hudson’s own brush with the law, he refused to discuss his 4-year sentence for historic abuse in a boys’ home, which has put him on the sex offenders’ register since 1997.
Hudson claimed he was appealing his conviction but refused to provide details, personally or through a lawyer, including of any fresh evidence.
It was the same story with FACT’s chairman and chief executive of the new limited company.
Nicholas Griffin, 62, remained silent when asked if he was appealing his 2011 conviction for abuse of boys at an orphanage he ran in Cambodia following a joint operation with the UK Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.
On his deportation to the UK, Griffin was arrested on separate historic abuse claims in north Wales. That case was dropped on CPS advice. The police refused to say why.
Griffin has let it be known through FACT’s newsletter that he is innocent. And tells a story about being homeless on the streets of London. However, he refused to discuss details of his past with The Upsetter.
Instead, the holy figure of FACT president, Sister Dominica, aka Frances Ritchie OBE, came to the defence of Hudson, Griffin and other members of the FACT flock.
The self styled ‘Sister of Mercy’ said FACT had always been “an open and transparent organisation” that “abhors” child abuse. But she refused to respond to questions about individual members’ cases.
She said in a statement:
“We are an organisation that prides itself on the support we provide to our members and that support includes an expectation of privacy.”
Ritchie, a paediatric nurse, pointed out that members of FACT include the accused but never prosecuted, the acquitted and the convicted that maintain their innocence.
“FACT will not allow anyone into its membership unless they sign a declaration that any allegations of abuse that have been made against them are false and warrant they have not downloaded child pornography.”
The declaration amounts to no more than box ticking. There is no way of policing it and FACT accepts its trust-based approach makes it vulnerable to infiltration by paedophiles, for whom deception is a way of life.
Ritchie, who was accused by two women of historic abuse but never prosecuted and maintains her innocence, said the Charity Commission was “politically motivated and controlled and opposed to critics of government policy”.
FACT also claims to have been snubbed by Baroness Jay’s on-going Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse.
But the group has enjoyed at least tacit support from leading academics and lawyers including David Janner QC, the barrister son of Lord Greville Janner, the now dead Labour peer who prosecutors belatedly accept should have been tried for multiple claims of child abuse while he was an MP for Leicester.
During FACT’s failed efforts to attain charitable status, Patricia MacDuff first appeared as a trustee and then as a director of the new limited company.
She is the wife of Brian Spence, who pleaded guilty in May 2018 to indecent assault on a 10-year-old girl while he was a Church of England priest in the late Seventies. He was jailed for three years and two months.
The couple and Sister Frances refused to discuss why anyone would plead guilty to such an appalling crime if they were innocent.
However, in an internal email Hudson expressed alarm that The Upsetter had discovered the connection between the disgraced priest, FACT and MacDuff as Spence sometimes uses his wife’s surname.
The Wrong Truncheon
It was these concerns that led former Scotland Yard detective Gurpal Virdi to resign from FACT to protect his reputation as someone who provably had been falsely accused.
Virdi joined the group after his swift acquittal in 2015 on historic charges of sexually assaulting a teenage prisoner with a truncheon in a police cell in 1986.
Virdi’s prosecution was widely seen as a fit-up by the anti-corruption squad, the so-called Untouchables, in retaliation for a 30-year career exposing police misconduct and racism in Scotland Yard until his retirement in 2012.
News that Virdi had been charged was made public by the police just before the local elections in May 2014. He was forced to stand down as Labour candidate for his home borough in west London.
The plot came unstuck at court when the alleged victim, who never complained at the time of his arrest, claimed the extendable truncheon inserted through trousers into his anus was of a kind not issued to the police until many years later.
The jury came back with a not guilty verdict. Even the trial judge hinted at a conspiracy behind the prosecution.
After his acquittal, Virdi was desperate for the collective therapy found among victims of false accusations. Having such a high profile member and former policeman was a coup for FACT, who made him a trustee.
But the doubts about its vetting processes grew and Virdi resigned last year. Whistleblowers then came forward with concerns about the people in charge.
A Direct Stain
FACT survives on membership fees, public donations and sponsorship. By becoming a limited company with charitable status it hoped to access grant funding and employ Nicholas Griffin part time as chief executive on a salary.
But the plan stalled when The Upsetter started asking questions.
Sister Frances, 78, was the first to resign in November. She stood down as director of the limited company and then as president of FACT in December. The Sister of Mercy refused to say why, but members were told it was due to “pressing commitments”.
Next, Griffin resigned as chairman in January. Members were told he left “to move on with other opportunities in his life.”
That month, Hudson started a telling recruitment drive for a new board of the limited company. His email to members said:
“It is not ideal for us to have those with or related to those with a conviction to be the sole directors (we have already encountered one issue with this), and ideally would like a company or individuals free from the direct stain of a false allegation and/or conviction join the board of directors.”
On March 7, he too resigned as a director.
Before he went, Hudson texted The Upsetter to say Patricia MacDuff was “considering her position.”
But on Easter Sunday, the wife of a disgraced priest who pleaded guilty to abusing a child remains a director of FACT.
And so it goes.