Monday, 9 May 2016

A cult and an ultimatum

It's not really "spanking", of course: that gives the impression of something much less serious, some kind of sex game. What we are actually talking about is violent sexual assault
Curtis spanked the other [woman] on her naked genitals, while she was completely undressed, to "cure her frigid spirit"
which is why Howard Curtis, former leader of Coulsdon Chess Fellowship and former Director of Management Services at the British Chess Federation, has been jailed for six years.

So what next?

There's a choice, I think, between the following courses of action:
  • deciding that because chess wasn't mentioned in court and only Howard Curtis was in the dock, the matter is settled and no further action need be taken
  • recognising that Howard Curtis wasn't just an isolated individual but the leader of a religious cult built in his image, and asking why that religious cult should continue to be involved in chess.

I wrote pretty much all I wanted to on the subject after Curtis was convicted last month. Quoting yourself is not always a good habit, but in this particular instance I'd like to reiterate this.
given the nature of the religious organisation, the cult, that Howard Curtis headed, given that the nature of that organisation facilitated his abuse, there is plainly an obligation on that organisation to demonstrate that it is fit to work with the public, and an obligation on chess bodies to demonstrate that they are satisfied that CCF is a fit organisation to work with. This is an organisation which, at the very least (the alternatives are worse) failed to notice over a period of years that its leader was abusing women and physically assaulting children.
This can't be satisfactory, unless we wish to pursue the nothing-to-do-with-us option. And that's not an option that should be pursued, not unless you're really sure that nothing else happened that is still to come out, that nothing like this could happen with CCF in the future, and that nobody at CCF knew in any way that these sexual assaults and acts of child cruelty had taken place.

But what did they know, at CCF? What did the people at Howard Curtis's religious cult know about the assaults he committed? So far, they won't say.

They should be asked again.

Let me suggest, again, roughly what I suggested last month, but with a couple of specifics.

First, the SCCA (or may be even the ECF) should issue a statement, expressing satisfaction at the verdict and inviting anybody affected by Howard Curtis's activities to come forward.1

Second, the same body should write to CCF, or invite them to send a representative for a hearing, in order to ask the following questions:
  • Did anybody at CCF know about Howard Curtis's activities?
  • Did anybody at CCF receive any complaints about Howard Curtis's activities and fail to act upon them?
  • Did anybody at CCF in any way observe or participate in Howard Curtis's activities?
Third, unless CCF are able to give entirely satisfactory answers to these questions, a further statement should be issued disassociating the SCCA (and/or the ECF) from CCF on the grounds that they are neither fit to work with children nor with adults.

There's no reason whatsoever why these questions should not be asked. And all kinds of very good reasons for asking them.

-- -- -- -- -- --

[1Why do this? Because victims don't always have the confidence to come forward unless they're specifically invited to do so.]

The disturbing story of Howard Curtis
A correspondence with CCF
A Surrey state of affairs
Six years


Anonymous said...

When you write CCF, are you referring to the Coulsdon Christian Fellowship (a church) or the Coulsdon Chess Fellowship (a chess organisation)? The Surrey County Chess Association and the English Chess Federation doesn't include a church in its membership and unless there's unpublished allegations from the trial, the court case didn't involve members of the chess club apart from the defendant.


Jon H said...

Roger, I do not know you and I do not think I've ever played you. I see that you like to comment (ad nauseam) on chess forums and blogs. You seem to have a strong opinion on most subjects. So it would be interesting to know what your knowledge of CCF actaully is. If you had played chess in Surrey you would know that Curtis was very much instrumental in the chess activities in Coulsdon. He was for many years the main man and was actively involved with all players including juniors (and for example including Jessie Gilbert, no doubt). So here is a convicted criminal who was involved in the chess activities of many junior players. I think the distinction between Coulsdon Christian Fellowship and Coulsdon Chess Fellowship is largely irrelevant to the main issues that Justin raises.

Anonymous said...


I am quite horrified by your stance. It appears that you consider the matter unresolved. Let me mention a few items.

1. With reference to Howard Curtis and his court case, this has been settled in a legal manner under the English justice system. I do not see what it has to do with current chess activities. This should not be talked about on a chess forum. Indeed if anybody wants to mention his legal issues, they should redirect themselves to a law and legal forum for open and honest discussion. As he is required to sign the sex register for life, he will not be working with adults or children again.


2. CCF is an excellent club with a growing positive reputation. They do work in schools and each and every trainer has a current and up to date DBS which schools are entitled to examine. Schools are free to make their own recruitment choices and if schools feel that the trainer and lesson "requires improvement" (to quote OFSTED) then they are free to contact CCF with issues. Headteachers are intelligent people and are perfectly capable to judge for themselves the suitability of a CCF trainer. Furthermore, the hall is packed out every Monday night with up to 50 juniors in the afternoon and nearly 100 adults in the evening. It is the only club in the country whereby each and every member (except trainees in schools) has a full or partial FIDE rating (I am open to correction on this). This number might appear "so what", however if you consider that weekend congresses cannot even get this amount (again I am sure that there are a few exceptions). Incidently, does any club in the country have such large numbers?

3. The above comment might seem to be extolling the virtues of CCF - it is not it's intention to do so, but if it does, then that is good. However the intention is merely to emphasis that it has moved on and any reference to the past may retard the progress of chess in Surrey and perhaps England (point below).

4. Is it fair that chess players and their parents be made aware of such issues in the past? I think not. For 2 reasons: a) Those that live in the locale and attend CCF and are aware of the previous issues are satisfied with the issues being resolved. b) Anybody else outside of CCF, the issues and politics should not concern them.
A personal concern of mine is that the past issues could influence the minds of the younger members of the chess establishment. We should remember that past issues with CCF occurred when the Director of Home Chess was still at primary school and chess politics were far away from his mind!! Should he and other youngsters influencing the ECF be aware of past issues occurring?

5. A previous comment referred to Jessie Gilbert. That was totally unnecessary and below the belt and in bad taste. I think that Jon H should retract his comment immediately and I am convinced that practically everyone involved with chess is of the same opinion.

6. CCF, SCCA, SCCU and ECF do not need to issue a statement as frankly speaking, the legal issues have nothing (I repeat nothing) to do with chess.

Ryan Foster

Anonymous said...

My only connection with the Coulsdon Chess Fellowship is that I played a county match there once, many years ago. I'm aware that it runs many chess tournaments, but I have never felt tempted to take part. Despite the removal of Howard Curtis, it continues to exist and run events. I had also supposed that the actions of the chess club were completely distinct from those of the church. There does appear a wall of silence from those who take part in CCF activities.

I don't think either the ECF or the Surrey County Chess Association have any powers to carry out the investigations or witch hunt that Julian seems to be demanding.

There's been an historic undercurrent of distrust, to say the least, between CCF and Surrey, but nothing in recent years, in public anyway.


Jonathan B said...

"This should not be talked about on a chess forum."

A very common response when issues are raised that some folk would rather ignore.

"I would rather not think about this" is fair enough to a certain extent. "I demand that you do not think about this" is a rather different matter.

Jon H said...

@Ryan Foster

You totally fail to grasp the points being raised by Justin.

Let me summarise one aspect of it in this way:

I am a parent in Surrey. If I thought that anyone still extant at CCF had knowingly turned a blind eye to Curtis's criminal activities, then I would not want my children within 100 miles of the place.

So it is totally justifiable to ask to what extent people at CCF were aware of what was going on. It may be that the answer is that no-one had any idea - and if that is the case then fine. But I firmly believe that anyone having anything to do with the current CCF has a right to know whether the current CCF staff were aware and chose to do nothing. I for one would not want to blithely assume that they were all unaware.

And re Jessie Gilbert. I am merely stating as a fact that she had considerable involvement at CCF with a convicted child molester called Howard Curtis. I do not infer from that that there is anything linking Curtis or CCF with her tragic death, but I do feel that asking the question is entirely fair given his conviction.

Moreover, as Justin says, asking others to come forward if they have had concerns or issues is the best way of finding out the truth. Remember Jimmy Saville...? Or perhaps you think it was unfair to ask people to come forward in his case too?

Finally, please understand that asking these questions is in no way insinuating any guilt on anyone at all; I firmly hope everything that went on is out in the open and that there are no more issues whatsoever. But history has shown time and again the need to ask questions - and not just in the case of Saville and the BBC - why not think about the issues in the film "Spotlight" for example which is a classic example of people not wanting to ask difficult questions until much too late.

ejh said...

Apologies to people for not responding before. Anyway:

I don't think either the ECF or the Surrey County Chess Association have any powers to carry out the investigation

Well anybody has the powers to send CCF an email or a letter, but as it happens I believe CCF are affiliated to SCCA.

If I thought that anyone still extant at CCF had knowingly turned a blind eye to Curtis's criminal activities, then I would not want my children within 100 miles of the place.

This is the point. Did anybody there turn a blind eye? It's a necessary question to ask.

a convicted child molester called Howard Curtis

It might be worth, purely for the record, recalling that Curtis was convicted of child cruelty, an extremely serious offence but not what we would normaly think of as child molestation.

Ryan Foster - it might have been nice had you identified yourself as a member of Coulsdon rather than referring to "they". You might also bear in mind that "past issues with CCF occurred" as recently as July 2013. Has there been a total change in personnel at CCF since then? I don't believe there has.

It can't be said often enough that this was and is a religious cult, a tightly-knit one with personnel who were personally selected by Howard Curtis and personally loyal to him. They have been invited to say whether anybody knew of the allegations against him and have refused to reply. So we have a religious cult which won't say if anybody there knew about serious allegations of sexual assault, and the important thing is that nobody says anything bad about them? Do me a favour.

Anonymous said...

If you really wanted to wind up the ECF Directors (and why not?) how about using their "Ask the Director" feature to ask what if anything the ECF proposed to do about CCF? Purely symbolic of course as the likely answer is along the lines of "Arkell v Pressdram"


Anonymous said...

I expect that the ECF doesn't want to call attention to the matter. Nevertheless, it is the sort of incident that you would expect a statement about, albeit that such a statement would either be suitably buried or carefully wrapped in layers of newspeak.

glaucous gull said...

All what Mr Horton is insinuating is the truth, I am an ex CCF member, if you are reading this Mr Horton, I would like you to contact me!!!!!!!!!