Victims of social worker and serial abuser Sean Bell speak of 'ongoing nightmare' after damning Tanner report findings

Victims of serial abuser Sean Bell have spoken of their ‘ongoing nightmare' after an inquiry found allegations made against the social worker were ignored.

Monday, 25th October 2021, 12:28 pm
Updated Monday, 25th October 2021, 3:35 pm
Susanne Tanner QC

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Bell’s first wife Elaine Samson, second wife Tricia Bell and stepdaughter through his second marriage, Emma Barrie, said they welcomed the findings of the Tanner report, which found that two senior council officials were guilty of a ‘dereliction of duty’ in failing to investigate allegations made against the social worker, who was found dead at the foot of Salisbury Crags in August 2020. The report said it was understood that he had ‘committed suicide’.

“Sean Bell was a predatory, controlling, serial abuser – sexually, physically, emotionally and psychologically,” they said in a joint statement today.

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"His actions devastated the lives of so many – particularly women – over decades. It has been an ongoing nightmare.”

The three women, who all suffered at the hands of Bell, have waived their anonymity following the publication of the report of senior QC Susanne Tanner’s investigation, which criticised Alistair Gaw, former education director, and Andy Jeffries, who was a senior manager in the children and families department, both of whom have now resigned from their roles.

It said that there were several occasions over the years when serious acts of impropriety by Bell were reported to officials and added that, where an investigation should have been launched into an alleged assault by Bell on a colleague in the 2010s, both Mr Gaw and Mr Jeffries decided to take no action.

The report said: “It was a dereliction of duty on their part, compounded by the fact that, as vastly experienced social workers themselves, they really should have known better.”

And it went on to say that Bell’s inappropriate behaviour appeared to be an ‘open secret’ in the children and families department.

It said: “Several witnesses spoke of a culture at the council in which they felt that, if they complained about SB’s behaviour, they would either not be believed or, worse still, there would be some form of retribution for coming forward. They suggested that SB was the ‘golden boy’ and that, in the eyes of his fellow managers, he could do no wrong.”

A series of recommendations are made within the report, including a reform of the council’s system of investigation into sexual allegations, domestic abuse, physical violence, stalking or harassment. It also calls for mandatory training for all managers on domestic abuse, coercive control and dealing with individuals making complaints of a potentially criminal nature.

Ms Samson, Ms Bell and Ms Barrie are now calling on the council to 'learn the lessons’ and ‘implement every single recommendation’ made in the report.

"To City of Edinburgh Council, we say this – it is your fault Sean Bell’s repeated abuse was allowed to continue for so long,” they said.

"We urge you to implement every single recommendation in this report. Learn the lessons and never let this happen again.

"We would like to thank the investigative team for their thorough, respectful and diligent approach. While nothing can repair the damage that’s already been done, this report finally sets out the truth as we attempt to move forward, in privacy, with our lives.”

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