…as John Lennon famously observed, “nobody told me there’d be days like these”. With hindsight, it’s probably a really good thing they didn’t, if they had I would have crawled under the nearest duvet and would still be waiting for someone to tell me it was safe to come out. This is the first blog post I’ve put on this website and it’s been difficult to know where to begin. School and all the parenting in the world didn’t prepare me, couldn’t prepare anyone, for dealing with the bitter cocktail of malice and insouciant incompetence the Public Sector offers to those who want answers, perhaps even openness, honesty and transparency when things go wrong. Like watching a herd of elephants trying to ballet dance, witnessing the inability of Public Sector bodies to demonstrate empathy, understanding and subtlety at the points where it is needed most, is truly a unique and disheartening sight to behold. And the further down the rabbit hole I go, I realise it shouldn’t be this way, and it needn’t be this way.
It is now almost thirty years since the 12th of August 1988, the day my sister Alison had a crisis abortion due to the illegal sex acts of a trainee Mental Health Nurse. He, and his colleagues, many of whom turned a blind eye to what was going on, were supposed to be looking after Alison in an NHS Hospital in Carlisle called the Garlands. Instead, despite records showing he was advised and warned that what he was doing was inappropriate, unethical and illegal, a 35yr old trainee Mental Health Nurse called Robert Scott-Buccleuch, decided Alison was there for his gratification. He thought it would be a good idea to engage in sex on hospital premises with a vulnerable mentally ill 21yr old young woman. As a result of his actions, Alison became pregnant and had a crisis abortion. Scott-Buccleuch, the Nurse who got Alison into this predicament, then kept the truth from people who should have been told and could have helped. It seems he kept quiet to save himself. Following the failings in her care and the breach of trust she was subjected to, in December 1991, around the anniversary of the anticipated birth date of her aborted baby, Alison took her own life. It is the sort of thing you think only happens to other people or the families of other people, a far-fetched fiction or nightmare. But what is most amazing in all this tragedy, is that even though the facts are in the public domain, no one has ever been held accountable for the atrocious and ultimately tragic actions that happened in an NHS Hospital.
When I added a blog page to this website I wasn’t sure about calling it the “slog blog”, I thought people might think it was inappropriate for me to suggest that seeking justice for a sister I loved should be a slog. But it is. I may have the benefit of a deep and increasing reserve of anger and no shortage of passion, but it is still a slog, an exhausting mentally frustrating energy sapping process with more steps back than forward, and up to press many more disappointments than victories. Seeking justice for Alison has been made a slog by the intransigence, duplicity and sometimes just good old fashioned Public Sector incompetence that has been ever-present each and every step of the journey so far. If like me you were brought up to think the best of people then thinking the worst of those who manage the delivery of our public services doesn’t come naturally, though I must admit, it is getting easier. Our experience so far has been that each and every time we extended our trust and placed our faith and our fate in the hands of the system, we have been bitten. It seems decency is construed as weakness by people who have needed to become so cynical to survive in their respective shark tanks, we can only hope they would be unrecognisable, perhaps even the subject of revulsion, to their younger selves.
But we persevere, my older sister Sarah, my mum and I, we headed out on this journey with three objectives in mind; “straightforward” objectives so we thought. We set ourselves three goals of truth, accountability and justice…timeless simple concepts that we felt still mean something. We have a smattering of our first objective, truth, and we have taken some comfort from knowing that after nearly thirty years the perpetrator was finally forced to admit what he had done to the Police. As for accountability and justice, we still have a mountain to climb before we achieve these things. But we will keep on keeping on, we will continue to wade through the seemingly endless ocean of bureaucratic treacle, we are driven on by something bigger than ourselves, we will keep going until we get justice for Alison…