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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 November, 2003, 23:57 GMT
Abuse victim 'may sue minister'
Demetrious Panton, who is furious with the children's minister
Demetrious Panton was "shocked" by comments by the children's minister
A man who was abused at a children's home has threatened to sue the children's minister, after she described him as "extremely disturbed".

Margaret Hodge's claim came in a letter of complaint to the BBC about a probe into child abuse in Islington, north London, where she was council leader.

Demetrious Panton said he was "shocked" and was looking at his legal options.

Mrs Hodge said the letter was never meant to be published, and expressed regrets for events in Islington.

Mrs Hodge was the leader of Islington Council in the 1980s, when it emerged that children in the council's care had been abused in the past.

She has been accused of failing to act, despite receiving warnings - an allegation she denies.

I am not extremely disturbed, I have never been extremely disturbed
Demetrious Panton
Her claim about Mr Panton, one of the victims, came in a letter to the BBC as she tried to stop the corporation pursuing his story.

The letter was read out on Radio 4's Today programme, and now Mr Panton wants to take legal action against the minister.

"I am not extremely disturbed. I have never been extremely disturbed," said the 35-year-old philosophy graduate, whose job now includes advising the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

"I am shocked and horrified that I've been labelled as such.

"I now wish to find out what options are available to me through the judicial process."

Resign calls

Mrs Hodge insists she has learned lessons from the scandals in Islington.

She also expressed regret for events there, describing what had happened to Mr Panton as "dreadful".

But opposition politicians called for Mrs Hodge to resign over her comments about him.

Children's minister Margaret Hodge
Children's minister Margaret Hodge says she has learnt from her time at Islington
The new shadow health and education minister Tim Yeo said: "I think it's scandalous the minister should attempt to cast a slur on him, and equally scandalous that having done so she should attempt to gag the BBC.

"She won't make a statement to the House of Commons. The only honourable course is for her to resign her position."

Tony Blair's official spokesman insisted Mrs Hodge was the right person to be minister for children, and that she "has the full confidence of the prime minister".

But her opponents said someone in her position should not be trying to discredit someone who was abused as a child.

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