Islington children: Poems 1990

I wrote these poems in 1990 at the height of my investigations into the child abuse scandal. I am not a poet – that will be obvious. I wrote many I cannot include but they were my way of expressing how I felt at the time. They represent brief moments within all the efforts our small team were making to keep children safe from sexual exploitation.

The neighbourhood office or local ‘patch’ social service structure in Islington during the 90s,  meant that children came into the office themselves – even young children on their way to and from a care home, school, police station or local park. They knew we would  listen even when they could not find the words to tell us about what was happening to them.  Nowadays, it would be almost impossible for a child to get themselves to a social worker past security systems and large bureaucratic structures where they would be given a number like at an Argos shop and told to wait. With high staff turnover, they may not even know a social worker to ask to see – someone who would know them and their family.

Inquiries in Islington in the 90s blamed the decentralised, local office structure for the lack of a proper management response to the abuse being exposed. Yet without friendly shop fronts and ‘pizza-hut’ style offices, we would never have got to know the children or developed their trust. This led to us, as a team, slowly putting together the fragments of the information the children gave us and collating evidence from the many small clues they presented about the adults abusing them.

Please be aware some of the content is distressing and keep yourself safe.

Quiet voice

She hung her head and


In soft, dull tone

One word blended with

The next in a stream of

Unspecific sorrow.


Sometimes she said, a male voice

Was in her head.


She waited hour on hour

To see

Someone, anyone.

‘What’s she here for’?

They said.

‘She’s here again’

‘Not again’

‘There’s no dialogue.

What’s the point’?


Some persisted,

Reaching out within the pain

Entering inside the enigma

And barely holding on.


Still she came

She was so young.


He trapped her every day

Six times.

She cannot fight.

He gave her drugs.

He pinned her down.


Her inner voice kept her sane.

The phantom male loved her while

The abuser stole her body

And tore her mind.


Now she can – now and then

Look me in the eye

For one small fleeting moment only.


Social worker

I shout

They do not hear


I shout and shout

They cannot hear.

Professional abuse

By managers

Who cannot hear

Me shout


The shouting will

Get louder

And stronger


Because children


And do not




I don’t want my party

I don’t want my presents

I don’t want my birthday.


I’ve started menstruating

They want me now

They want to rape me.

They want me now.


I don’t want to go home

I don’t want a birthday.


London flat

Two little blonde boys

Can’t be very old

Snuggled under a large duvet

In a living room

with a big TV.


Big space in between them

Ready made for one

To snuggle in beside them

In his greasy dressing gown

With his soft, soft touch of hate

and hurt, hurt




Sullen and pouting

Shrugging shoulders

and head tossed high.

‘I know what I’m doing’

As we got closer

She said

‘If you grass – they slice you’.


She hasn’t been sliced

She didn’t grass

We didn’t push her.

She knows where we are

if the going gets too tough for


12 year old.


Question and Answer

I wonder how a child

Who is being tortured day and night

Whose body aches and pains

Can sing

Or laugh

Or anything?


How can such a child

Play in the playground

And pretend

So perfectly?


There’s no feeling

That’s how it’s done.



You stare from somewhere

Under your eyes

Your half smile

Is mere politeness.


No-one believed you

Over 15 years.


They thought you liked

Wearing girl’s clothes

And thought you were


In fearing blood.


But he was such a nice friend

To you

So perfectly respectable

So plausible.


He gave you so much

So many outings and sports activities.

To a deprived child.


No one saw the volumes

Of naked photographs

Album upon album.


He had created you

For him.


When the police got him

You were angry



Because now you

Would have to see if

You were anywhere to be




This dog knows evil

I can taste it

It licks me

I feel unclean


It knows no love

It is a dog of hate

It tears at the leash

It bares its teeth

It hates

And hates.


Its owner says

‘Social workers one and two –

Assassinate, assassinate’

But kindly spares me

Pulling the straining leash.


I’m glad to leave.

I feel shaky.

My mouth tastes sour.


Young brother and sister

‘Give us money’

‘Why’? I said

‘Mum says you must’

‘Why’? I said

‘You’ve got to

Or we daren’t go home’.

‘You seem so scared’, I said

‘We are we can’t go back

Without money’.


‘Will she hit you’?


‘Will she shout’?



The tears they poured.


‘Please, please, please the money

You can do it – please.’

‘Is it something you can’t tell me’?

‘Yes, she’ll make us earn it’.


‘Of course I’ll give you

The money

You can come in whenever

You want, you know

I will listen.


I won’t be shocked

But I know it’s hard to tell’.



Naked men and women

Naked children

Writhe around in these



Men with breasts

Women with penises

Children on the ground

Unusual drawings for a 4 year old.


Spikey, spidery lines

Cross-cross over all these



A vain attempt to camouflage

The excruciating pain.



You’re curled up on the sofa

In this safest of places

Nurtured and cossetted.


Your face no longer taut

Your body now relaxed

Your head no longer bowed.


No more do you ask others to speak for you

Because you say it all yourself in

Your own time.


You need restoration

You need space

Because a paedophile nearly

Stole your heart and soul.



Children don’t hate rabbits

These children do.


They say the rabbits die

They say the rabbits are killed


But they say they haven’t seen

A dead



So how do they know?

How are they so sure?

How do they hate so much?


So many rabbits they say




The boys all love you

Such a nice man

Gives them fags and money

For a little bit of fun.


Gives them dope and music

Loves to see them dance

Buys them trendy trainers

Even trips to France.


Why is it I loathe you

When I see you pass me by?

With a happy little smile

To say ‘Nice aren’t I?’


I see you with these children

I see through your lies

They say they like your company

But I can hear their cries.


They cry behind a tearless face

They cry inside their souls

They cry for each other

As torture takes its toll.


I see their awkward glances

I see their painful walk

I offer them escape routes


But not one of them

Will talk.