It is fair to say that as an editor I have on occasions made errors of judgement, the biggest of which was 18 years ago when as a younger less experienced journalist I failed to act on one of the most shocking scandals to hit Buckinghamshire.
This week the council was severely criticised for failing to protect vulnerable children letting slip years of previous high quality community care.
Those in charge have rightly responded vowing to pick up the pace and sort things out following the damning Ofsted report. But let’s hope the council never disgraces themselves as they did in the late 80s and early 90s when disadvantaged children were being physically and sexually abused right under their noses. In those days there was no Ofsted and it seems it was all too easy for authorities to sweep reports of abuse under the carpet rather than deal with the problems.
The Jimmy Savile scandal and other high profile cases have shown authorities unwilling to act in the face of indisputable evidence of wrongdoing.
So what is it that leads me to beat myself up when confronted by stories such as these? The historic incident I refer to was when a confidential report was exclusively leaked to me detailing systematic and horrific incidents of abuse on children throughout Bucks County Council run homes.
I had the story first and I failed to act, fearful of the consequences of getting it wrong. The revelations including names and locations was off the scale for possible libel action and so I ran to the lawyers instead of the presses.
By the time the legal eagles had finished with the documents there was very little left of the original revelations so the story was spiked. To whoever did drop me those documents, and I never found out who, I would like to apologise.
Your decision to be a whistleblower saved children further suffering and pulled Bucks children’s services from the abyss.And with the help of the national newspapers blew the lid on a scandal of huge proportions – the rest as they say is history.
For the wealthy county council the incident was a huge embarrassment, for the victims and their families justice was seen to be done.
As for me I will never forget my weakness over a matter of such public concern. I know I could I have done more. Next time I will ‘publish and be damned’.