MMR scare doctor Andrew Wakefield breaks his silence: Measles outbreak in Wales proves I was right

As measles cases rise, experts condemn Wakefield’s outburst

Jeremy Laurance

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The discredited doctor who triggered the MMR scare 15 years ago has pinned the blame for the outbreak of measles in south Wales on the Government.

In an extraordinary intervention, Andrew Wakefield, who was struck off the medical register, said the “British Government is entirely culpable” for the outbreak and accused officials of “putting price before children’s health” – despite a widespread consensus that it was the panic over his flawed research that led to the surge in the disease.

The number of measles cases in the Swansea area rose to 693 on Thursday. It is now the largest outbreak in the country for over a decade, exceeding the 622 cases recorded in Merseyside in 2012.

Public Health Wales warned that the outbreak was unlikely to peak for “two to three” weeks because of the incubation period for measles. Children return to school after the Easter holiday on Monday and will begin mixing with a wider group of their peers, which could accelerate the spread of the disease.

Health officials urged parents to take their children to one of the drop-in vaccination clinics set up in the wake of the outbreak.

They say at least 6,000 people remain unprotected in south-west Wales and it is only a matter of time before a child develops serious complications as a result.

Dr Wakefield was the chief author of the now infamous and discredited 1998 Lancet paper that first linked the MMR vaccine with bowel disease and autism. In a statement posted on Thursday on  the US website Age of Autism, he blamed the rise in measles in the UK on the Government’s decision to withdraw import licences for single vaccines in September 1998, six months after the Lancet paper appeared.

He said the Government was more interested in protecting the MMR programme than protecting children and challenged “any serious defender of MMR vaccine safety” to a debate on live television.

He had recommended the use of single measles vaccine at the press conference to launch the Lancet paper and said that “remains my position”.

But when, in 1998, he asked the UK Health Protection Agency why the import licences for single vaccines had been revoked he says he was told that allowing parents the choice would “destroy our MMR programme”.

“The Government’s concern appeared to be to protect the MMR programme over and above the protection of children,” he claims.

He accused officials of having approved “dangerous” brands of MMR vaccine a decade earlier in 1988, when the vaccine was first launched in the UK, which later had to be withdrawn because they “caused meningitis”.

“These government officials put price before children’s health and have been seeking to cover up this shameful fact ever since.”

He cites cases in the courts in the US and Italy where families of children suffering autism have won damages worth hundreds of thousands of dollars after judges accepted the children had suffered “vaccine-induced brain damage”.

Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol and an expert on childhood vaccines described Dr Wakefield’s claims as “balderdash”.

“His proposal for single vaccines was not based on any observations in his published paper. It came straight out of his head. There has never been any evidence it would have made any difference.

“There were, however, real concerns that sticking more needles in children was unkind, fewer children would show up for each round and they would face delays in getting protected. Single measles vaccine is only used in poorer countries that cannot afford MMR. No country in the world has switched from MMR to single vaccines.”

Professor Finn said there had been a problem in the early years of MMR with one strain of the mumps virus used in the vaccine causing a transient form of aseptic meningitis. The make-up of the vaccine was changed, but the facts were well known and had not been covered up.

In relation to the court cases, he said it was important not to confuse principles of justice with the principles of science.

“Judges look at the case in front of them and make a judgement as best they can. They don’t do it in a systematic way as scientists do.”

In 2010, The Lancet retracted Dr Wakefield’s research paper and he was struck off the medical register by the General Medical Council.

The GMC verdict found that he had acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly”, showed “callous disregard for children’s suffering” and betrayed patients’ trust.

But the affair sparked a media storm which saw vaccination rates plummet, hundreds of thousands of children left unprotected, and measles cases soar.

Dr Wakefield moved to Texas, US, in 2001 where he is director of Medical Interventions for Autism and in January was promoting a reality TV series on autism.

Paedophile scandal: Convicted North Wales care home boss is working in family-friendly hotel


10 Nov 2012 22:25

John Allen was accused of the sexual abuse of dozens of vulnerable children when he was head of a multi-million-pound care home company

Pervert: In 1995 Allen was jailed for six years
Pervert: In 1995 Allen was jailed for six years

A DANGEROUS paedophile at the centre of the North Wales children’s home scandal is working as a night porter at a Premier Inn hotel.

Convicted pervert John Allen was accused of the sexual abuse of dozens of vulnerable children when he was head of a multi-million-pound care home company.

A Sunday Mirror investigation has discovered Allen, now 71, is working at the family-friendly hotel after moving to a different part of the country.

Allen, who was jailed for six years for child sex abuse in 1995, went into hiding after he was cleared of another 36 offences in 2003 when a judge ruled he would not receive a fair trial under European human-rights legislation.

The Waterhouse Inquiry into the children’s homes abuse over two decades exposed the full extent of Allen’s crimes, with 28 victims ­accusing him of sex attacks.

Crucially, wealthy Allen was in a position of power and it was ­reported he threatened to kill his victims if they spoke out.

It was also claimed he ran a male ­prostitution empire that had links with senior ­establishment figures.

John Allen at Mold Courts
Free: Allen was cleared of new allegations in 2003


This week, as the scandal ­reignited amid false allegations against top Tory Lord McAlpine by former care home resident Steve Messham on Panorama, we tracked down Allen to a rented £120,000, one-bedroom flat in the East of ­England.

His colleagues and neighbours have no idea about his past and how he played a pivotal part in the scandal which led to 700 complaints of abuse by 350 young victims.

A neighbour said: “I only know him as John. He’s lived here for about a year. I sometimes hear his door opening and closing at odd hours.

“He is friendly enough to say ‘hello’ to, but I don’t really know anything about him.”

Allen worked in the hotel ­industry before moving into the residential care business in North Wales in the mid-1960s. In 1969, he opened a children’s home at Bryn Alyn, near Wrexham.

His company expanded and at one stage Allen ran up to 50 homes in North Wales, Cheshire and ­Shropshire providing specialist care for ­troubled ­children.

It is estimated up to 500 children were put in his care during this time.

It became an ­extremely lucrative business ­because, even in the 1980s, councils paid around £15,000-a-year per child.

In the 13 years up to 1990, his ­empire had a turnover of more than £28million and, in the mid-1980s, the annual turnover was about £2.6million – which would be valued today at £6.8million.

Allen’s salary in 1988 was £204,894, equivalent to £470,000 now, and he had a yacht and properties in the Costwolds and France.

Allen retired in 1990 and his ­double life began to ­unravel when police ­carried out a three-year probe into a series of claims from boys.

John Allen with children in his care
Position of trust: Allen (centre) with boys in his care


In 1995, Allen was jailed for six years after being convicted of six offences of indecent assault between 1972 and 1983. He was ­cleared of four other charges.

More damning and ­wide- spread claims of sex abuse were made against him ­during the ­Waterhouse Inquiry and they were detailed in 2000’s Lost in Care ­report.

The ­report said 28 ex- ­residents had ­alleged they were sexually abused by Allen and they gave ­disturbing accounts oftheir ordeals, including serious sexual assaults.

Allen’s pattern of abuse included him giving vulnerable boys­ ­expensive gifts after assaulting them, to buy their silence and groom them for more abuse.

A report in 1996 suggested Allen had ­connections with senior ­establishment figures and was ­hiring out children as rent boys.

At the Waterhouse Inquiry, Allen denied being a ­paedophile and claimed a prominent politician was a child sex abuser.

Two brothers who had been ­victims of Allen died in ­mysterious circumstances. Adrian Johns had tried to blackmail Allen in 1992. Months later he was killed in an arson attack in Brighton. His ­brother ­Leander ­survived.

Leander and another brother Chris, who believes he escaped abuse because he was too old, gave evidence against Allen. Chris claimed he had under-age sex with a high court judge and was raped by another official.

Allen absconded and was missing for five days during which time Leander, 34, was found dead in his flat. The corone r concluded he died of a drug overdose.

Following the report, police launched another inquiry which ­resulted in 36 new charges. But ­Allen’s lawyers argued he would not face a fair trial so he walked free.

A Premier Inn spokesman said: “We were unaware of Mr Allen’s conviction as he neglected to disclose this on his job application. We have suspended him with ­immediate ­effect pending further enquiries.”


Tory paedophile scandal: will MPs use privilege to name X?

Meanwhile X himself tells Telegraph the sex abuse  allegations are ‘totally without any grounds’

Column LAST UPDATED AT 09:52 ON Tue 6 Nov  2012

EDITOR’S NOTE at 1.20pm: Home Secretary Theresa May warned MPs not to  use Parliamentary privilege to name any suspects including ‘X’ because “they  will risk jeopardising any future trial”. As a result, no MPs named names in the  chamber today, but they could do so in written Parliamentary Questions.

MPS ARE under pressure to use parliamentary privilege to name “X” – the  senior Tory at the centre of an alleged paedophile sex ring – when Home  Secretary Theresa May announces two inquiries into the scandal in the House of  Commons this afternoon.

May said on the Today programme this morning – under some strange  questioning by Evan Davis, who seemed to belittle the evidence – that what had  prompted the fresh inquiries was “serious allegations of shocking behaviour – we  need to make sure they are properly investigated”.

She will tell MPs there will be two inquiries – one into the original 1996-99  investigation by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, a high court judge; and a second into  the police handling of the allegations by the boys from the Bryn Estyn  children’s home near Wrexham in north Wales who claimed that senior police  officers were involved in the sex ring in addition to local businessmen,  traders, politicians and the senior Tory referred to as X in the Waterhouse  inquiry.

All eyes will be on MPs such as Labour’s Tom Watson to see whether one of them will name X under  Commons privilege. It was Watson who brought the dormant scandal back into the  headlines when on 24 October he asked David Cameron to ensure that the police  investigate evidence of a “powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and  Number 10”.

X has been widely named on the internet but he cannot be named by the press  because of a gagging order made by Waterhouse, raising fresh allegations of a  cover-up by the establishment.

Mark Stephens, the lawyer who represented a number of children at the  Waterhouse Inquiry, said: “I am convinced parliamentary privilege will be used  to ask a question as to why this high-ranking politician who was named by a  victim in the north Wales child abuse inquiry has been afforded protection.”

That could be taken as an invitation to name X, who is threatening to sue  anyone who names him outside the confines of Parliament.

The Daily Telegraph has interviewed X anonymously today. He  told the paper that he has only visited Wrexham on one occasion.

He said: “Some guy said I was in the habit of taking young men from Wrexham  in my Rolls-Royce. But I have only been to Wrexham once and I didn’t visit the  children’s home, I made a speech to the constituency. I was with an official at  all times. I never had a Rolls Royce.

“When the inquiry was taking place I hired a lawyer to watch it in case there  was any mention of my name. The point is that it is totally without any grounds  whatsoever.”

The allegations by Steve Messham, who lived at the Bryn Estyn home in the  1970s and claims he was gang-raped by X and others, were supported by a second  victim, who said the politician had taken him for a meal which he paid for with  his “gold credit card” before he abused him. The man also had a Harrods account  card”.

Sir Ronald dismissed the allegations as “embarking on the realm of fantasy”.  He said: “It is obvious on this evidence that we cannot be satisfied that any  member of the X family was involved in paedophile activity.”

Messham will meet David Jones, the Welsh Secretary, this afternoon, to  discuss the allegations in detail.

David Cameron was forced to announce the inquiries after coming under  pressure during his trip to the Gulf yesterday. As The Mole reported, Michael Portillo, a former Tory  Cabinet minister, warned the PM would be open to a charge of double standards if  he refused a fresh inquiry into the alleged Tory sex ring, given the demands by  Culture Secretary Maria Miller for openness at the BBC in its inquiry into the  Jimmy Savile scandal.

The investigation promised by Cameron will examine whether the Waterhouse  inquiry ordered by William Hague, the then Welsh Secretary, was “properly  constituted and properly did its job”. Hague could appear as a witness in the  new inquiry.

Separately, Downing Street confirmed a second inquiry into the police  handling of the scandal, which could be led by a retired Chief Constable or the  Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

Cameron said: “Child abuse is an absolutely hateful and abhorrent crime and  these allegations are truly dreadful and they mustn’t be left hanging in the  air, so I’m taking action today.”

Read more:

Allegations of abuse by a paedophile ring involving politicians. Now has claims of “mysterious early deaths”, suspicious fires and other forms of threats and intimidation as part of a possible cover-up.

David Cameron announces inquiry into ‘dreadful’ Tory child abuse claims

David Cameron has announced an investigation into “truly dreadful” child abuse claims involving a senior Tory at a Welsh children’s home.

Twitter claims identify politician in North Wales child abuse case

Steve Messham told Newsnight that he was abused by a leading Conservative politician while he was a child in care Photo: BBC/Newsnight

3:52PM GMT 05 Nov 2012

The Prime Minister said the historic allegations of abuse by a paedophile ring at children’s homes in Wrexham, North Wales, could not be left “hanging in the air”.

He said a senior independent figure would investigate whether a previous inquiry “properly did its job”.

Mr Cameron said: “Child abuse is an absolutely hateful and abhorrent crime and these allegations are truly dreadful and they mustn’t be left hanging in the air, so I’m taking action today.

“I’m going to be asking a senior independent figure to lead an urgent investigation into whether the original inquiry was properly constituted and properly did its job and to report urgently to the government.”

Steve Messham, the sexual abuse victim who made the claims, will meet David Jones, the Welsh Secretary, tomorrow.

He said a senior Tory politician had abused him in a hotel room with eight other paedophiles. However, he says that when he went to the police in the 1970s he was accused of being a “liar” and his claims were not properly investigated.

He was a witness at an inquiry led by the judge Sir Ronald Waterhouse into allegations spanning 40 homes between 1974 and 1990. The inquiry, which reported in 2000, dismissed the allegations as “embarking on the realm of fantasy”.

However, Mr Cameron has decided to investigate the inquiry after the allegations formed the centrepiece of an investigation featured on BBC’s Newsnight on Friday.

A legally binding order issued by Sir Ronald at the time of the inquiry banned the media from naming the politician and the man also made clear to the BBC last week he would sue if he was named.

But yesterday his name was widely circulating on the internet including through hundreds of messages on the social networking site Twitter. However several other politicians not suspected of any involvement were also included in the messages.

One current public figure was among those posting messages mentioning him and another identifying the man was reposted by other users more than 100 times.

Lawyers involved with the inquiry warned that those behind the Tweets could find themselves facing legal action.

They likened the breaches to a string of cases involving public figures who took out so-called super-injunctions but who were then named on the internet.

As happened on several of those cases, there were predictions last that the man could eventually be named in Parliament using special privilege protecting members from being sued for libel for comments in the Commons or Lords.

The speculation grew as the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Mr Towler, called for a new inquiry into the allegations amid claims that the full scale of the abuse was covered up.

His comments followed a raft of claims that politicians from a previous Government were involved in or had links to those involved in sexual offences involving children.

Tom Watson, the campaigning Labour MP who helped expose the phone hacking scandal, said he had received scores of emails, calls and letters from the public containing potential leads after he raised the matter in the Commons 10 days ago.

He said that the allegations, involving “household names”, could potentially lead to bigger scandal than phone hacking.

In a posting on his blog Mr Watson said he had been reduced to tears by some of the allegations including claims abused children were marked with knives to show “ownership” or driven to golf course car parks to be exploited by paedophiles after they had finished a round of golf.

He said there had even been claims of “mysterious early deaths”, suspicious fires and other forms of threats and intimidation as part of a possible cover-up.

But he also disclosed that since raising the issue he had received warnings about his “personal safety”.

Richard Scorer, who represented Mr Messham said: “My view of this is that nothing would surprise me honestly.”

But he insisted: “The evidenced has to be properly investigated … I don’t say it’s true, I think it is quite possible that public figures could be involved in child abuse as almost certainly Jimmy Savile was.

“My view is that we’ve got to get a decent investigation going and look at it all.”

Mark Stephens, who represented around 15 of the children at the Waterhouse Inquiry, said: “I am convinced parliamentary privilege will be used to ask a question as to why this high-ranking politician who was named by a victim in the north Wales child abuse inquiry has been afforded protection.”

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph last week, the politician strenuously denied ever going to the home concerned. He was unavailable to comment on the internet claims last night.

University researchers being funded to find out how many students are charging for sex

University researchers have been given £500,000 of lottery funds to find out how many students are selling sex to pay for their education.

Student Life: Connecting on Facebook and Twitter before university begins is also a great way to start contacting your peers.

A survey published in 2010 found more than a quarter of 315 undergraduates at a London university knew of a student who had worked in the sex industry Photo: Alamy


12:31PM BST 20 Sep 2012

University researchers have been given £500,000 of lottery funds to find out how many students are selling sex to pay for their education.

It will spend three years investigating the scale of students turning to prostitution, lap-dancing and escort agencies to fund their studies.

A website was launched yesterday to allow students to talk confidentially with researchers to talk about selling sex.

Student leader Hannah Pudner said: “We are coming across more and more stories of female students turning to the sex industry to fund their studies.

“This research is more important now than ever. This industry is often seedy, unregulated and dangerous.

“The more we know about it, the more we can help the students working in it, ” said Ms Pudner, director of the National Union of Students in Wales.

Swansea University research leader Dr Tracey Sagar said: “Our project identifies ‘sex work’ as including activities such as erotic dancing, web cam sex, phone chat sex, escort work, massage parlour work as well work in the porn industry.

“Also our project emphasises that sex work is not associated only with women but also men and transgender workers.”

Dr Sagar, lecturer at the Centre for Criminal Justice and Criminology at Swansea University, specialises in the regulation of sex work.

A survey published in 2010 found more than a quarter of 315 undergraduates at a London university knew of a student who had worked in the sex industry.

They listed pole or lap dancing as the most popular type of sex work, followed by stripping, but prostitution was the next most common.

About ten percent knew of someone who had worked as a prostitute or escort, and when asked why they thought students undertook sex work, 93 per cent gave the need for money as the main reason for doing so.

The National Union of Students (NUS) said it was aware some students were sex workers and research was needed.

Sexual health agencies are concerned that increasing numbers of students are becoming sex workers to pay for their education.

The website will go live following a major Student Sex Work Project conference at the University today.

Dr Sagar hopes that student sex workers will get in touch via the website to share their views in confidence.

Researchers will be at student events, such as fresher fayres and student nights.

Dr Sagar said: “What we now need is for students and student sex workers to get involved with the project.

“We will work to ensure that the right policies and services are in place for young people who engage in the sex markets.”

Heroin users warned after second anthrax death

Hospitals and walk-in clinics across the UK warned to expect further cases after second drug user dies in Blackpool

Amelia Hill, Monday 10 September 2012 12.35 EDT

Anthrax bacteria

Anthrax bacteria: drug users may become infected when injecting, smoking or snorting heroin contaminated with spores. Photograph: Smc Images/Getty Images

A second person has died from an anthrax infection after injecting heroin, causing health experts to warn hospitals and walk-in clinics across the UK to expect more cases.

The death comes three weeks after another heroin user died after contracting the disease from what is assumed to be a batch of contaminated heroin.

Both fatalities were in Blackpool but two further cases of infection have been reported in Scotland and Wales since early June.

The deaths are part of a European-wide outbreak of anthrax among people who inject drugs: there have been 10 cases across Germany, Denmark and France in recent months.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction have issued warnings that heroin users in Europe are at risk of exposure to anthrax and warned  there may be further cases.

“Anthrax can be cured with antibiotics, if treatment is started early. It is therefore important for medical professionals to know the signs and symptoms to look for, so that there will be no delays in providing treatment,” said Dr Fortune Ncube, an expert in blood-borne viruses with the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

“It’s likely that further cases among people who inject heroin will be identified as part of the ongoing outbreak in EU countries,” he added. “The Department of Health has alerted the NHS of the possibility of people who inject drugs presenting to emergency departments and walk-in clinics, with symptoms suggestive of anthrax.”

Local drug services throughout the UK have been alerted and the National Treatment Agency has circulated posters and leaflets about anthrax contamination aimed at heroin users.

Drug users may become infected with anthrax when heroin is contaminated with anthrax spores. This could be a source of infection if injected, smoked or snorted.

Ncube said there was no safe route for consuming heroin or other drugs that may be contaminated with anthrax spores.

“The HPA is warning people who use heroin that they could be risking anthrax infection,” he said Ncube. “We urge all heroin users to seek urgent medical advice if they experience signs of infection such as redness or excessive swelling at or near an injection site, or other symptoms of general illness such a high temperature, chills, severe headaches or breathing difficulties. Early treatment with antibiotics is essential for a successful recovery.”

Don’t Wait for the UK Snoopers’ Charter to Pass: Encrypt Wikipedia Now

September 6, 2012 | By Eva Galperin

A joint committee of the UK’s House of Lords and the House of Commons is preparing to debate a draft bill known as the Snoopers’ Charter, a disastrous data retention bill which, as Techdirt explained, “would require ISPs to record key information about every email sent and Web site visited by UK citizens, and mobile phone companies to log all their calls.” But before they begin, MPs are doing their homework. In addition to having a public consultation, they are taking oral testimony from a range of stakeholders, including Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

Wales has been an outspoken critic of the Snoopers’ Charter from the beginning, characterizing the proposed bill as “technologically incompetent,” and comparing it to the tactics of authoritarian regimes: “It is not the sort of thing I’d expect from a western democracy. It is the kind of thing I would expect from the Iranians or the Chinese.” In this week’s testimony, he went on to say that if the data retention bill were passed into law, he would move to encrypt all of Wikipedia’s connections with Britain, forcing the government to resort to the “black arts” in order to gain information about the pages Britons are reading and editing on Wikipedia. He went on to urge other Internet companies to do the same.

Wales was not specific about the technology he had in mind, but we assume that his testimony referred to enabling HTTPS (the encrypted, more secure version of the protocol that displays content on your web browser) by default in the UK. Wikipedia currently supports HTTPS for security-minded users, but defaults to the insecure version. Chrome and Firefox users can make sure that they always access Wikipedia securely via HTTPS by using HTTPS Everywhere.

While it is unclear that Wales has the authority to mandate the use of HTTPS by default for Wikipedia users in Britain, EFF believes that this is an idea that the Wikipedia community should consider—not just in Britain, but all over the world. Rather than waiting for bad legislation, Wikipedians should take this opportunity to make one relatively small technical change that could serve as a bulwark against all kinds of government surveillance, filtering and data retention laws

Sex education ‘doesn’t cut teen pregnancy rate’ claims academic

Sex education lessons and freely handing out contraception to young people has   little impact on teenage pregnancy rates, according to a controversial study

Unwanted pregnancies have proved “remarkably resilient to policy initiatives”,   according to David Paton, professor of industrial economics at Nottingham   University, who says the under 16 pregnancy rate in England and Wales has   remained virtually static for 40 years.

Between 1969 and 2009 the rate has risen and fallen, he said, but not in time   with national efforts to bring it down.

Family planning groups strongly dispute his findings, arguing that the   evidence actually shows initiatives do work if given time. Drops since 2009   mean the rate is now the lowest since the end of the 60s, and they say   credit should be given to governments that have adopted a more liberal   approach.

Writing in the journal Education and Health, Prof Paton said: “Millions   of pounds have been spent by policymakers on numerous initiatives aimed at   cutting teenage pregnancy rates.

“However, identifying the impact of policy interventions … presents something   of a challenge.”

He said the conception rate among under 16s had changed little since 1969,   fluctuating between about seven and 10 per 1,000 per year.

It has peaked above nine three times: in the mid 1970s, the early 1990s and   again in 1996. Since then there has been a general if bumpy decline.

Prof Paton argued the 1996 peak came despite the introduction of the Health of   the Nation initiative in 1992, which aimed to cut sexually transmitted   infections and unwanted teen pregnancies, by making advice and contraception   more readily available.

He also found no link between councils judged to have the best sex education   policies, and falls after 1996.

He wrote: “Unwanted pregnancy among minors in England and Wales has proved   remarkably resilient to policy initiatives.”

The focus should be shifted so it was “aimed more directly at reducing the   level of underage sexual activity,” he argued.

However, Brook, the sexual health charity, said the under 16 pregnancy rate in   2010 was the lowest since 1969, at 7.0 per 1,000.

Reductions in the early 1990s, caused by better services for young people,   were only undone by a 1995 health scare about the contraceptive pill, said a   spokesman.

She cited the Netherlands, saying the country had the lowest teen pregnancy   rate in Europe because the Dutch had “an open and accepting attitude towards   teenage sexuality, widely available information and sex education, and easy   access to confidential contraceptive services”.