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Government Quango Whistleblower

Daily Mail Newspaper - June 2011

This story exposed how the public were misled into believing that child slaves were working in the agricultural fields of the UK.

Whistleblower Almut Gadow said the Gangmaster Licensing Authority (GLA) had deliberately allowed the media to run with a story about child traffiking in this country knowing it was untrue.

She claims that the GLA was so worried that it would be disbanded by the Government that it had deliberately overhyped the story.
We had the story placed in the Daily Mail newspaper for Almut and helped find her legal representation.

Whistleblower exposes a quango's cynical lie about child labour in an English onion field

When these ‘child slaves’ toiling in a British field were dramatically rescued, officials crowed they had busted a trafficking ring.

But it turned out to be a farce – with the public hoodwinked and the government agency behind the raid accused of desperately exploiting its publicity to save itself from budget cuts.

For the officers of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) quango who swooped on the spring onion field last October and plucked the Romanian youngsters to safety, it was certainly a publicity coup.

The very idea that trafficked children as young as nine were working as slaves on English farmland led to  headlines around the world. 

And the GLA – set up to combat modern-day slavery in the UK but facing an uncertain future in the Government’s ‘bonfire of the quangos’ – wasted no time in issuing photographs taken in the field to highlight how they had ‘saved’ the youngsters.
The episode was exposed by whistleblower Almut Gadow, a GLA policy officer and a trained lawyer, who was determined to reveal the ‘sham’But a Daily Mail investigation reveals that even before they took to the airwaves, social services ruled out foul play, declared the children had not been slaves after all and sent them back to their families.

The episode was exposed by whistleblower Almut Gadow, a GLA policy officer and a trained lawyer, who was determined to reveal the ‘sham’.

Yesterday the agency’s bosses were accused of ploughing on regardless with a publicity campaign that misled the public and was designed to justify the quango’s £5million budget.

The chairman of the GLA,  Paul Whitehouse, apparently proclaimed ‘Tally ho!’ when informed his GLA officers had found a case of child slavery.

The GLA was still waiting to hear the size of the cuts it could expect from the Comprehensive Spending Review. 

The quango was established after the 2004 Morecambe Bay Chinese cockle pickers tragedy, to regulate ‘gangmasters’ in charge of workers.

The Romanian children had been discovered in the field in Worcestershire on October 20 last year, along with about 50 adults picking spring onions. 

A GLA officer called in West Mercia Police, who took away seven children aged nine to 15 and put them into the care of social services.

But within hours of the ‘rescue’, and certainly by the end of that week, it was established the children had  actually been with their parents in the field. 

Social workers also found ‘no evidence’ of child labour and returned the youngsters to their families.

Yet that did not stop the GLA crowing about its operation. It briefed the Independent on Sunday and, on October 24, it duly ran a story headlined: ‘The new slaves: children forced to work as farm labourers.’ More...

DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Quango that should be first on the bonfire
Quango chiefs take payoffs of up to £275,000 (and just 2,500 of 700,000 workers go in 'bureaucratic bonfire')
Equality staff 'paid too much' and quango blew £1.6m more 'without authority'


The article quoted Mr Whitehouse trumpeting the agency’s success, saying: ‘In 2007, we celebrated the 200th anniversary  of the end of the slave trade, but  in 2010 we’ve got people working  in appalling conditions who, while not actually being slaves, are very close to it.’ 

The story was also picked up by TV and GLA chief executive Ian Livsey went on ITV News and the BBC to promote the raid’s success. It was all too much for whistleblower Mrs Gadow, 31.

She told the Mail: ‘I was getting quite angry and I said that if they peddled this lie again, that we had cracked a child trafficking ring, I was going to expose it for the sham it was. 

'It made me very angry with our chief executive and chairman. 

'The cynicism with which they were using these children and their parents to their advantage was appalling. 

‘Our operations are media-driven. It is not what you achieve, it is what headlines you achieve.’

Documents seen by the Daily Mail show she emailed her immediate boss, David Nix, and his boss, Nicola Ray, warning them to ‘stop the chairman appearing on television and claiming that we found child labour/slavery/trafficking’. 

Within half an hour, Mr Nix admitted: ‘This has just steamrollered out of control.’ 

When challenged by the Mail, Mr Livsey repeatedly failed to explain why the GLA continued to promote the  story after it became clear it was untrue.

Mr Whitehouse said: ‘I was never told this story was false, and always spoke in good faith.’ 

He admitted matters had turned out to be ‘not quite so serious as originally thought’, and claimed the GLA had made efforts to correct the story.

He claimed it was ‘a load of rubbish’ to suggest the GLA had exploited the story.

Shamed over police shootingIt is not the first time Paul Whitehouse has been accused of misleading the public.

The GLA chairman was Sussex Police Chief Constable when James Ashley was shot dead in his bedroom after police burst into his flat in Hastings in January 1998 following a tip-off about drugs. 

At a subsequent press conference, Mr Whitehouse tried to portray Mr Ashley as a dangerous man wanted for attempted murder, but this was not true.

A damning official inquiry made clear that even after being told Mr Ashley was unarmed, naked and shot without warning, Mr Whitehouse said: ‘I am satisfied that the operation was properly and professionally planned.’ 

The report by former Hampshire Chief Constable Sir John Hoddinott accused Mr Whitehouse of lying in the aftermath of the shooting. 

He denied any wrongdoing but quit the police, with a reported £1million pay-off.

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