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Quarriers victims speak out as the Parole Board prepares for case

By Tristan Stewart-Robertson, the Monday Investigation, Greenock Telegraph, 14/03/2005

ONE of Inverclyde's sickest perverts wants out of jail after jess than three years. The Telegraph investigates the so-called "Beast of the Bell Tower." 'Don't let this man go free'

VICTIMS of a notorious sex offender have pleaded for him to be kept behind bars for their safety and the public's.

John Porteous, labelled the Beast of the Bell Tower for his choice of abuse venues, is being considered for parole after serving two-and-a-half years for attacks on two young boys between 1969 and 1977.

Charges of cruelty against his wife Helen were dropped in the November 2002 trial.

The Telegraph has learned that his victims, or supporters, have until Friday to make submissions to the Parole Board for Scotland.

The date is exactly one year after Porteous' brother-in-law, Alexander Wilson (62), was convicted of molesting eight girls over two decades while also working at Quarriers.

At times there have been as many as nine former staff under investigation by Greenock police for their conduct at the children's village.

But despite Porteous being flagged up to officers in 1982, he was still put on the school board for Kilmacolm Primary in the early 1990s. And he was appointed chairman of the Children's Panel Advisory Council for Inverclyde.

Although this post would not have put him in direct contact with children, it has raised questions with victims about how this man could continue in aspects of youth work.

Porteous, a former Quarriers boy himself, has never admitted to his crimes and continues to denounce his victims as liars.

The Telegraph understands he has refused any therapy or treatment while serving time in HMP Peterhead.

David Whelan, one of Porteous' victims, had to sacrifice his right to anonymity when Porteous and his supporters attacked him as making up his story for money.

He has already sent his letter to the Parole Board for Scotland objecting to any early release because his attacker continues to deny his guilt.

David, now living in England, said: "He is still in denial and has not shown any remorse, and continues to attack us in the media. I consider him to be a danger."

David (48) and his sister want to get on with their lives, but feel they have to fight against a man who is attacking them publicly rather than accepting his guilt.

He said: "If he had accepted his guilt, none of this would have happened. He will never admit it. We asked for assurances that we would not be attacked in the media.

"But people were intimidated - I got abusive phone calls and had to report it to Greenock police.

"Porteous needs to come to terms with what he has done. I have the necessary compassion that if he accepts it, then we should be allowed to get on with our lives, as should he."

David is currently in a civil action against Quarriers, in which Porteous is also named. He repeated calls for a public judicial inquiry from the Scottish Executive into everything that went on at Quarriers.


Panel that will decide his future

PORTEOUS' bid for freedom will be considered within weeks as the deadline for submissions approaches.

A spokesman for the parole board said Porteous will be interviewed within the next two or three weeks, and aims to have him in front of a five-member panel in April.

He said: "We hope to have a meeting in April. Victims would be notified of the decision either way by early May. The board will look for a risk of re-offending and if this guy will do this again.

"I would say the likelihood of him ever being in charge of children is nil. Denial of a crime does not stop someone getting parole. If you are denying, maybe the risk is higher, but it doesn't stop them getting out."

Although victim statements carry the greatest weight, anyone can make a case for or against the release of a prisoner.

The statements will be shown to Porteous, but made anonymous first.

The board can be contacted by fax on 0131 244 6974 or by post at: Parole Board for Scotland, Saughton House, Broomhouse Drive, Edinburgh, EH11 3XD


First complaints made to police in 1982

VICTIMS and campaigners have questioned how John Porteous continued to work on youth issues.

The first complaints against Porteous were made to Greenock police in 1982, the same year as a picture showing him handing out gifts at a "Fuzzy Wuzzy Club" Christmas party.

In the annual report for the year, Porteous was called "the best church officer in Scotland".

Despite warnings to the police, Porteous was appointed as a co-opted member of Kilmacolm Primary's school board around 1992 until 1994, council sources said.

In 1996 Porteous was made chairman of the Children's Panel Advisory Council for Inverclyde.

The Telegraph understands the appointment would have to have been made by the Government top brass - then Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth. Forsyth, now Lord of Drumlean, was asked by the Telegraph to comment on Porteous being chosen for the post. He did not reply to requests for an interview at the time we went to press.

David Whelan said: "What police checks were done to allow Porteous near the children's panel? He somehow slipped through the nets."

The Telegraph will continue to investigate how Porteous was appointed to these Inverclyde posts.


Others oppose release

OTHER abuse victims have stepped forward to oppose any early release of John Porteous.

One of his victims living in Inverclyde, who cannot be named for legal reasons, spoke of her fear at the thought of bumping into her attacker. She fears repercussions for speaking out against Porteous by those who know she lives in the area.

She said: "I could go in and shop any day and see him. I was frightened before they even put him away. I don't think justice has been done. He has not admitted his guilt. We thought we were going to be able to live our lives for a little, eight years, and now he could be getting released early.

"I hope he doesn't get released, for everybody's benefit. Don't let him out."

Elizabeth McWilliams, who says she suffered abuse through most of her childhood in Quarriers, but not by Porteous, slammed any thought of releasing Porteous.

She said: "This man cannot get out. If he gets out, it's the biggest injustice.

"There were some children who were very happy. But I have suffered physical, mental and sexual abuse in Quarriers."

Both women have sent letters to the parole board opposing an early release.


Strict checks

PHIL Robinson, Chief Executive of Quarriers, said: "There is no question of Quarriers employing John Porteous. His wife does not own property nor have a tenancy of any property within Quarriers Village. His wife is not employed by Quarriers.

"Quarriers will deal with community safety issues arising from John Porteous' release from prison at the time this arises.

"They will be dealt with in the same way as in any other community in the UK when someone is released from prison after a sentence for a sexual offence - in partnership with the relevant agencies. Quarriers has already had meetings in relation to these offences with these agencies. There are three units caring for children in Quarriers Village. Only authorised adults are given access and the children are not allowed out unsupervised. Quarriers today has in place child protection procedures that are among the most sophisticated in the country.

"At the request of Quarriers, the police and social work department have reviewed community safety issues and have declared themselves satisfied. All of Quarriers staff have been the subject of police checks and have been cleared to work with children and vulnerable adults."

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