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Sunday, 21 February 2016
Playland: A amusement park used for pucking up kids to abuse
By Cathy Fox
Playland was going to be shut down after it was found to be the base for picking up and sexually abusing children or as they put it then “the operations centre of a homosexual vice racket involving young runaway boys” . The Westminster Council Licensing committee in fact refused to renew its licence and reduced three other amusement arcades in the West End to 3 year licences instead of 5. It also stated customers were to be over 16 and accompanied by a parent or guardian , despite the low possibility that this would actually take place. Playlands solicitor Alan Grieve said they would appeal. This wikipedia entry might be the same man.  in which case the solicitors may have been Gray’s Inn solicitors Taylor & Humbert.
Playlands owners, Piccadilly Amusements, with Bruce Eckert the Managing Director, did appeal and Knightsbridge Crown Court granted a 3 year licence on 7 April 1976. Details of this case are not further known apart from what it says in the imperfect article below . Eckert claimed no knowledge about what was going on in his arcades until the vice racket trial itself. He blamed police and staff for not telling him what was going on! He said after the case “I hope it is in our power to maintain an outstanding reputation which the court has now given us”  showing an early and advanced case of media spinning disease.
It was reported in June that Westminster City Council had asked Mr Jenkins, the Home Secretary, to tighten up the law on running amusement arcades after its refusal to relicence Playland, near Piccadilly Circus, was overturned by a Crown Court . Ironically Mr Jenkins was the most reforming Home Secretary in regard to the “permissive society” and some had question marks over its boundaries. With regard to paedophilia, this was welcomed by some . Some have questioned Jenkins’s loyalty to Britain, mentioning his allegiance to German intelligence DVD along with Ted Heaths allegiance also 
1974 had also seen Lambeth child abuser Roger Gleaves aka “Bishop of Medway” in court for minor offences , and 1975 for more serious ones, but not as serious as he should have faced. It was specifically the Gleaves case that led the Department of Health and Social Security to set up a working party to investigate the problem of the runaways, and in Summer 1975 Michael Meacher announced that the Home Secretary has instituted a full internal inquiry in connection with the Gleaves affair 
The working party progress was not overly rapid at first. A ministry official said that in the short time since Mr Gleaves’s conviction it had managed to do no more than complete its formation and begin preliminary talks .
Forty years later I tried to find further information about this pivotal time and what was learnt from it, and how it impacted upon our social infrastructure. I wanted to know what all the public concern, MP’s fine words, working parties, internal investigations led to, what they recommended, and what changes were brought about. There had been a succession of exposes in Johnny Go Home TV programme and book, the murder of Billy Two-Tone, Roger Gleaves child sexual abuse and childrens home scan, and the Playland. So far I have not been able to find out, so any help appreciated
I emailed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request FOI to the Department of Health.
“In 1975 in response to the Johnny Go Home documentary there was a debate in the House of Commons about Homelessness.
Please could you send me the reports from each of these projects, and then the recommendations and actions taken by the Department from these reports. I realise that no 2 and 5 were not your department but nevertheless your department should have had a copy in order to make the decisions.
Department for Health and Social Security 3 year research project on young people newly arrived in London.
Department of Environment sponsored a research study with CHAR re accommodation needs of young people.
DHSS study of Counselling and Advisory Services on what help for young people?personal, psychological and practical.”
DHSS Cooperation with Camden and Westminster seeking their co-operation in working out the further steps that need to be taken.
“The Home Secretary instituted a full internal inquiry to investigate what action was taken by the various departments of the Home Office and related services in connection with the Gleaves affair. We are seeking to find outexactly what happened and why there was not the dissemination of the information to other Departments.”
In Feb 1976 Feb Meacher announced a Government working party to examine lessons learnt from Gleaves case. 6 months later it reported ”
I received the reply:
The Department does not hold the information you have requested. In accordance with the Department’s information management policy, records are not ordinarily retained for more than 30 years. You may find it helpful to search The National Archives, using their search tool called Discovery. Searching for records created after 1950 which relate to homelessness provides details of records created by the former DHSS and other Government departments. Records relating to supporting documentation and to research on the creation of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 are also available.
[This needs a follow up by someone, in National Archives]
I wrote to Michael Meacher, the Social Services Minister at the time with Barbara Castle as Social Services Secretary. Micahel Meacher did reply in October 2014. “Thank you for your enquiry. I’m afraid I do not have access to the information you seek. I suggest you contact your own MP and ask him/her to make enquiries on your behalf. Best regards, Michael Meacher”
I wrote an FOI request  to Westminster City Council, who refused to provide the information [13a]. “In accordance with the Department’s information management policy, records are not ordinarily retained for more than 30 years,” but stated it was in their archive. I believe that they are under a duty to provide the information from the archive as it is also Council owned. However they did eventually provide information as to its whereabouts, and it would have been easy for them to scan 19 pages, but they chose not to.
“This review can further inform you that the archives may hold some information which is relevant to your original query as follows: 17 Sep 1975 meeting (pages 185-186): report of City Solicitor and Trading Standards Officer (reproduced on pages 245-246) considered, some licences renewed, and others referred for legal opinion re refusal 29 Oct 1975 meeting (pages 261-262): report of General Purposes (Licensing) Sub-committee dated 26 Sep 1975 (reproduced on pages 294- 295) considered re code of practice. I had a look at 1976 as well to see if the subject carried on, and it did: 12 May 1976 meeting (pages 129, 138): code of practice (reproduced on pages 143-144) noted; appeal against council refusal to renew licence of ‘Playland’ These minutes are available for viewing at the Archives Centre (open Tuesday- Saturday). Please see the link https://www.westminster.gov.uk/archivesfor further details.”
[This needs a follow up by someone, at Westminster Archives]
So at the minute is it seems that Playland was allowed to keep open despite being a centre of a vice racket, and presumably carried on with business as usual. Profits before people?
The full text about renewal of licences in my post Paedophilia around Piccadilly Part 4 Playland Trial and Cover up was:
“What happened to Playland and other arcades? Were they closed down?
Wing commander Bill Kearney Chairman of General Purpose Committee of Westminster City Council wanted to shut down arcades as they were vice dens. He said they were “centres of vice where vultures prey” John Alliot QC told the Judge that such places should “cease to exist” but another QC and Chris Tugendhat MP for Westminster South said it would just move it elsewhere. The gaming licences of 7 centres were due for renewal by Westminster Council at the end of the same week in which the sentences were given. 
Mr William Molloy, Labour MP for Ealing North, said: “The Old Bailey trial points to the need for immediate co-operation between local authorities, the police and the managements of these arcades.” If this was not given, the arcades must be closed, he said.
Not sure of the result of this without further research or a FOI to Westminster City Council but I think they were shut down but reopened a few years later”
We are slightly further forward – Playland did not shut down straight after the scandal, despite all the fine words of Westminster Council and some MPs. What exactly happened and why not?
Already in 1976, Deakin and Willis had written in the book Johnny Go Home  …
and in the words of @HIVstories “the kids were failed spectacularly”.
For more on Playland, Bits of Books blog  CassandraCogno Russell Playland Part 1 and 2015 May 6 Cathy Fox Blog Paedophilia around Piccadilly Part 4 
The text of the articles may be faulty in places as an auto text reader was used. Please therefore check the orginals that follow them, where available for definite wording. The original and definite headline for Article 3 is not available here.
The future of an amusement arcade near Piccadilly which was named in the Central Criminal Court this week as the operation centre of a homosexual vice racket involving young runaway boys will be decided tonight. An application for the renewal of a five-year licence by the owners, Piccadilly Amusements Ltd. will be considered by the licensing sub- committee of Westminster City Council. In a sense the committee will also be deciding the future of the thousands of young people who run away from home and head for the bright lights and agony of the West End, because their decision will be seen as a reflection of the attitude of the authorities. The Playland arcade which opened for business with slot machines and bright lights 40 years ago became a centre for runaway boys witlh no mioney and nowhere to sleep, whose determination to remain in London lured them into vice. This week four men were convicted in a homosexual prostitution trial in which it was said that, once corrupted, some boys became male prostitutes and were able to earn as much as £80 a night. Piccadilly Amusements said yesterday that they were hopeful of getting their, licence renewed, and that with increased surveillance in the arcade they were now certain the place was ” clean.” An official said: “We do not admit anyone under 16 unless accompanied by an adult. The adult may not be a parent but perhaps an uncle. It is not easy to walk up to someone and ask him if he’s a homosexual.” Last year; 934 boys and 1,806. girls between the ages of 14 and 17 were reported missing, and 350 boys and 264 girls under 14. Most of them, the police say, headed for London where estimates of young people sleeping rough are as high as 25,000. The situation has been present for years, but three events in recent months have arrested the attention of the Government and public. Apart from this week’s trial there was the murder of Billy McPhee aged 20, by three men involved in a hostel racket, and the jailing of Roger Gleaves on buggery and assault charges, Mr Gleaves, who called himself alternatively the Bishop of Medway, and the Count de Giglio, ran a hostel for boys, helping them to claim social security benefits and charging them board. It was specifically the Gleaves case that led the Department of Health and Social Security to set up a working party to investigate the problem of the runaways. A ministry official said yesterday that in the short time since Mr Gleaves’s conviction. The working party had managed to do no more than complete its formation and begin preliminary talks. ” This is a problem the responsibilitv for which has never actually been laid down,” he said. Most voluntary organizations are pessimistic. One of them, After Six, is preparing a leaflet for distribution in the provinces which will warn young people of the pitfalls of the West End, and the shortage of jobs and accommodation. A number of organizations are pressing for information centres to be set up at main line train and coach stations Mr Nicholas Beacock, director of the Campaign for-the Homeless and Rootless, said “The homeless are now going to tourist information points in London, though of course aren’t equipped to deal with this problem.” He added: “If the working party continues to talk and not actually do anything my organization will withdraw from it.”
 27th Sept 1975 The TimesCouncil Refuses to renew Playland Licences Westminster City Council decided last night that Playland, the amusement arcade in Piccadilly which was named as a homosexual centre in a recent trial, must close. The council’s licensing sub-committee of four men and a woman decided not to renew its licences for three other amusement arcades in the West End of London have been renewed but for three years instead of five, and subject to conditions. Those are that customers should be over 16 or accompanied by a parent or guardian that the premises should close at midnight and that they should be brightly illuminated. Mr Alan Grieve, solicitor to Playland’s management, said an appeal would be lodged.
 8th April 1976 The TimesPlayland the amusement arcade near Piccadilly, London is to remain open.
Playland the amusement arcade near Piccadilly, London is to remain open. After a three-day hearing, Knightsbridge Crown Court yesterday granted a three-year licence to the premises. An appeal was lodged when Westminster City Council refused to renew the permit on its expiry last year after publicity surrounding a homosexual vice trial at the Central Criminal Court. *Mr Bruce Eckert*, managing director of Piccadilly Amusements Ltd; -which owns the premises, welcomed the result of the hearing. “I hope it is in our power to maintain an outstanding reputation which the court has now given us “, he said. The court had heard of the activities of homosexuals who had been kept under observation In the arcade by police. Mr John Marriage, QC, for Westminster City Council, said that homosexuals regarded Playland as diu”: It;-s ilso tretIuEn1ed ‘liy ~tyI%en da -omen prostitutes and other social undesirables. Giving evidence, Mr Eckert said- that people employed by him to watch the premises had failed in their duty to’ report what was going on. When asked how he first knew of the activities ‘he said: “The first I heard of it was. through the press coverage of last year’s Old Bailey vice trial “.. He added that the police had never informed him of what was going on and said that they were “encouraged to visit the premises “. Judge Friend, sitting with three justices, said: “We have considered the evidence and paid great attention to the arguments put forward. I find it difficult to find words to describe the moral standard of some, of the people who frequented the premises in 1974 and 1975.”
 16th June 1976 The TimesPlea to tighten fun arcade law
Westminster City Council has asked Mr Jenkins, the Home Secretary, to tighten up the law on running amusement arcades after its refusal to relicense Playland, near Piccadilly Circus, was overturned by a Crown Court. It wants Mr Jenkins to extend the Gaming Act, 1968, so that the renewal of a permit could be refused if allegations of impropriety arose.
 1975 Sep 26 The Times Michael Horsnell Council to decide on Playland Arcade. Court cases bring home the plight of many runaway children
 1975 Sept 27 The Times Council Refuses to renew Playland Licences
 1976 Apr 8 The Times Playland the amusement arcade near Piccadilly, London is to remain open.
 1976 Jun 16 16th June 1976 The Times Plea to tighten fun arcade law