Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Initial thoughts on the Wanless-Whittam Review

I thought it might be useful to set down some initial impressions of the Wanless-Whittam review.

The copy I have seen came from here (just in case there is more than one version circulating):
The Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC review

For each specific comment I'll refer to Page X, Para Y. The page numbers are the page of the PDF document, not the printed number at the bottom of the numbered pages. The paragraph numbers repeat from 1 in each chapter.

My present impression is of a substandard study and poorly presented Report. I say the study is substandard because there is no clear approach or methology stated. It is possible, however, that the poor presentation makes the study look worse than it actually is.

The Report is a 38 page PDF file. Unhelpfully, there are multiple Annexes as separate files.

The presentation is awful. The Report is presented as a heavily cross-linked document but there are multiple files and no electronic links to follow lines of thought.

I assume it was designed for reading of the printed documents. So much for the 21st Century having arrived in the world of Home Office commissioned Reports.

In my view the Report and its Annexes should have been published as a single PDF file with elecronic links to assist the reader.

For what they may be (or more likely not be) worth here are some specific comments on the first half of the Report. If some paragraphs had been less opaque I suspect there would have been many more comments.

Report Page 4 Para 1 - Review 1 related to "organised" child abuse only. Did this include all child alleged child abuse by MPs and other prominent people? It's not clear.

Page 4 Para 1 Bullet points - A circularity problem here. If you can't read the (missing) documents how can you know who they should have been given to and when? Have all Police forces been asked to look through their files? Are those files complete?

Page 4 Para 1 Final Bullet Point - Did investigator 1 know of the allegations dating back to the 1980s that Leon Brittan was a paedophile? Did Wanless/Whittam? It's not clear that they did.

Page 5 Para 1 Does the public attach importance to a review with such Terms of Reference? I suspect that some, perhaps many, thought the review would produce little of substance.

Page 5 Para 2 Wanless/Whittam are reviewing two allegedly "independent" reviews. The identity of the reviewer(s) is secret, so there is no basis for the public to conclude the "independent" reviews were such.

Page 5 Para 2 The reivew of Paedophile Information Exchange funding from the Home Office may be in teh House of Commons Library. I haven't seen it. Is it available on the Home Office site?

Page 6 Para 4 "We have not redacted any part of our review" is misleading, I think. It does not exclude self-censorship.

Page 7 Para 6 Many words written. So what did Wanless/Whittam consider to be paedophilia? I'ts not clear to me.

Page 7 Para 7 I don't like passive voice "made available to us". It obscures what happened and makes it difficult to know who did what and what they didn't do.

Page 7 Para 8 I don't find this a clear account of methology.

Page 8 Para 10 Something wrong with first sentence. Not clear what the paragraph is trying so say.

Page 11 end of para 3 It's very worrying that Police routinely discarded files if a charge hadn't been laid, after two years. Potentially important information could have been lost/destroyed.

Page 11 Para 5 Wanless/Whittam don't know whether or not there was deliberate destruction of records.That's a key point.

Page 11 Para 6 What are "registered papers"?

Page 11 Para 6 Soothing noises. Nothing about what evidence they sought that would show systematic destruction. No methodology means likely no sound conclusions IMHO.

Page 12 Wanless/Whittam downplay the whistlblower evidence. In the absnce of (it seems) any evidence t the contrary why seemingly so dubious?

Page 13 Para 3 The anonymous investigator in Review 1 was male.

Page 15 Para 13 This paragraph is avoidably opaque.

Page 19 Para 1 This is a very opaque description of the methodology.

At the end of page 19 I have given up for the moment. The Report is a masterpiece of opacity at many points.

If this document had been prepared by a research student I would tell them to tear it up and start again.

In my view the pages I have read so far are unnecessarily opaque. The methology is unclear. Did Wanless/Whittam conduct a worthwhile exercise? Despite being seriously interested in knowing the answer to that question the opacity of the writing gives me no confidence in the approach or its presentation in the Report.

I recongnise that I haven't read even all the Report. I'll go back to it and try again but, in my view, it's a signal failure as far as communicating clearly is concerned.

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