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Claims child abuse hidden in Stamford Hill Jewish community

11:20 14 February 2013

Ita Symons

Ita Symons

Archant

Claims that religious leaders in Stamford Hill have protected child abusers have been screened in a Channel 4 TV documentary.

Dispatches claimed that there were 19 cases where alleged crimes were not reported to police because the Orthodox Jewish community prefers to deal with the matter internally.

The programme, which is still available to watch online on 4OD, claims that those who report the crime to the authorities face being cursed, spat at and driven out of the community.

One rabbi, who spoke out anonymously, said: “The repercussions of someone going to the police and being labelled an informer could affect work opportunities, social standing, and who the child might marry years later.

“Being labelled as an informer is one of the most terrible things that could happen.”

Senior Rabbi Ephraim Padwa was filmed ordering an alleged victim to stay away from the police because the force is “non-Jewish”.

The person tells him: “Someone did bad things to me when I was younger,” to which he replies: “I know of whom you are talking. We’re dealing with this.”

But Holocaust survivor, community volunteer and chairwoman of the Agudas Israel Housing Association, Ita Symons, defended Rabbi Padwa.

Scandals

She believes the community is best placed to deal with child abuse cases and has been involved in dealing with some cases herself.

“If a person does break the law and does unlawful things, we have our own systems to deal with it,” she told the Gazette.

“In the first place in order to avoid scandals and disrupting the community and disrupting family life and so on, we deal with the alleged issues and we try to obviously send the perpetrator to therapy.

“As I say, when things get really tough on the rare occasions when things get really out of hand, we do deal with social services.

“Why we are in the first place not interested in the police is because putting people into prison doesn’t improve them, they all learn from each other how to be better thieves, there is no good role modelling there.

“We would rather send people to therapy and counselling, so they should overcome their evil inclinations, so the person improves and gets rid of his bad ways and becomes safe in the community; we feel that is more meaningful than sending him to prison. We’ve got a way of doing it, I’m not saying it’s perfect, but in a damaged situation we find it is the least damaging.”

Rabbi Padwa said in a letter that child safety is paramount and his church works with authorities.

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