Rochdale child sex abuse: A 30 year scandal that the authorities failed to stop

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Knowl View School, Rochdale Pic Credit: TheUKdatabase.com

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The report by the Independent Inquiry Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse into Rochdale is a  detailed devastating document of the failure of its senior local authority  officials , councillors, the CPS and even the Honours Committee to tackle  the issue of long standing abuse.

The only organisation that seems to come out well over this is Lancashire Police which tried to prosecute Sir Cyril Smith – the paedophile Liberal Democrat MP  – but was frustrated by a wrong and questionable legal decision by the Crown Prosecution Service. And it might be said the brave and diligent journalists on the Rochdale Alternative Press who did expose the scandal only to be let down by a feeble mainstream media who were too frightened to taken on the popular Sir Cyril.

The damning findings go well beyond the behaviour of Sir Cyril Smith – a VIP paedophile I doubt even Daniel Janner or Times columnist David Aaronvitch could defend – they show for three decades young children were sexually abused while very senior officials, council leaders and staff in the school and hostel did nothing or deliberately turned a blind eye.

There were two main sexual abuse centres in the town – Cambridge Health, a hostel for young workers – and Knowl View School, a  residential place for maladjusted kids which was supposed to be a refuge from pretty appalling homes.

Let’s be clear who we are talking about. The inquiry quotes  Diana Cavanagh (then Rochdale’s  Director of Education), writing in 1994, children who were attending Knowl View School “… have been unable to cope with mainstream and (often) their family circumstances. Many have a poor self-image, have been abused and are on the Child Protection Register, have not found it possible to make good relationships with other children. Some are extremely withdrawn, avoiding contact or relationships with others and running away if pressurised. Some are aggressive and violent towards their family, other pupils and staff, both posing a physical risk to others and disrupting other pupils’ education. Some manipulate or bully other children and constantly use inappropriate language or inappropriate sexual behaviour. They may be out of control and attention-seeking at home and school …”

These were the kids whom the authorities failed to protect from a predatory convicted paedophile,Roderick Hilton, from camping outside the school gates and entering the premises. They were the people who allowed Sir Cyril Smith to conduct bogus medical examinations  so he could cane the bare buttocks of young kids.

They were the people once it was known that kids from the school – one possibly as young as eight – were cottaging with sexual predators in public toilets in plain sight of the social services directorate’s office and tried to lambast the staff at the school for talking to an official from the local health authority who raised the alarm.

There is also a damning finding from the inquiry about the role of the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee in their deliberations in recommending a knighthood for Cyril Smith.

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Child abuser Sir Cyril Smith Pic Credit: dreamcatchersfor abusedchildren.com

The inquiry found far from there being a cover up about his appalling behaviour – they knew all about it but didn’t believe it. The report says:

“It is also clear from the correspondence that what was of most concern to the PHSC was fairness towards Smith and concern for the reputational risk to the honours system caused by adverse media coverage.

 “Concern for those who may have been abused by Smith did not feature.

“Moreover, the documents show a marked tendency to take Cyril Smith’s progress in local and national politics, along with his previous honour (an MBE in 1966), as evidence that the allegations were unlikely to be true.

“This demonstrates a significant deference to power and an unwillingness to consider that someone in a position of public prominence might be capable of perpetrating abuse. This matters because the conferring of a knighthood on Smith was to make him even more powerful. ( my emphasis in bold).”

An interesting comment given recent events.

Then there are the two  Rochdale council leaders – one Labour and one Liberal Democrat. The former Labour leader is branded a liar by the inquiry.

“It was in our view shameful and a dereliction of his responsibility as Leader at the time that Farnell not only refused to accept any personal responsibility, but also was perfectly prepared to lay the blame on the Directors of Education and Social Services as well as the Chief Executive Officer for his claimed state of ignorance.697 In so doing, Mr Farnell soughtto shirk his responsibility and render himself totally unaccountable for the ills of Knowl View and the children who suffered. This is the opposite of honest, dutiful and responsible leadership.”

They are equally dismissive of Paul Rowen, the Lib Dem leader and later MP:

“We felt, just like Richard Farnell, that he was prepared to blame others for their faults without acknowledging his own failures of leadership. At best, he was insufficiently inquisitive about Knowl View School when the evidence that he knew about was that serious problems persisted there, which would not be resolved quickly; at worst, he turned a blind eye to the very serious problems that were in his judgment low down on the priority list.

“Although he boasted that the style of his administration was to be a departure from the past, his misplaced reliance on Council officers allowed him to sidestep his own responsibility, and blame others when he never made any or any sufficient enquiry either about the really serious problems that affected the school and its children or the efforts to deal with those problems while he was Leader. This demonstrated a lack of judgment and a failure of leadership.”

And two leading officials, were also criticised.

 Ian Davey, the Acting Director of Social Services, chose not to pursue child protection measures, a decision that was professionally indefensible and extremely poor judgment on his part.

“Diana Cavanagh, the Director of Education, commissioned reports and producedher own report. While some of this was useful, each of the reports was flawed in some respects, including factual accuracy. There was no urgency on the part of these senior officials to address the problems of sexual abuse at the school, and matters were left to drift.”

This is a catalogue of horrors. More will no doubt come out when the inquiry examine Lambeth and Nottingham. But I suspect it is the tip of a very large iceberg that even this huge inquiry will not be able to investigate. What about Richmond in south London, what will come out in Telford. What about Oxford, Staffordshire, Islington Rotherham,Leicestershire. What about other big cities and  has it been solved now. I doubt it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Janner’s family – and his accusers – denied core participation status in Westminster child sexual abuse inquiry

Alexis Jay at the Rotherham inquiry Pic credit BBC

alexis jay at her previous inquiry into Rotherham child sexual abuse

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The Janner family and their accusers have all been denied ” core participant ” status in Westminster child sexual abuse strand of the independent child sexual abuse inquiry.

Instead they will keep ” core participant” status in a separate strand of the inquiry which examine the allegations against his father in an inquiry into child sexual abuse in institutions in Leicestershire where he was an MP.

Core participants have special rights in the Inquiry process. These include receiving disclosure of documentation, being represented and making legal submissions, suggesting questions and receiving advance notice of the Inquiry’s report.

Alexis Jay, chair of the inquiry, announced the decision, following an appeal by his son, Daniel Janner and his two daughters, Marion and Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner.

Daniel Janner told the preliminary hearing in January :”The strand does risk turning into a witch-hunt of dead politicians,a circus, where fantasists will have free rein to live out their fantasies in evidence. There were no paedophile rings in Westminster, save in warped imaginations. But the evidence and findings of the Westminster strand will have an influence and bearing on the strand which follows in my late father’s name, because, madam chairman, the two strands — again,  as we have witnessed today — are inevitably and inexorably intertwined.”

Alexis Jay said yesterday: ” The extent that Mr Janner’s application is based on concerns about his father’s reputation, and his ability to respond to allegations made about his father, these are matters for the Investigation involving the late Lord Janner of Braunstone QC, in which the children of the late Lord Janner have already been granted core participant status.”

The inquiry also refused an appeal by a survivor who was sexually abused under the care of Hackney social services. but he may be able to appear as a witness.

” I acknowledge that WM-A4 may be able to provide the investigation with a first-hand account of what his lawyer described as “a system” of practices involving child sexual abuse operating at Westminster. This may well make him a useful witness to this investigation and the Inquiry will consider whether to ask him to provide a witness statement.”

Other decisions made earlier include granting core participant status to Esther Baker,

Alexis Jay said of her :
“Ms Baker alleges that she was sexually assaulted by persons of public prominence associated with Westminster and that there were institutional failings in
connection with that alleged abuse by police and law enforcement services.

“Ms Baker was under 18 years of age at the time of the sexual abuse described and therefore within the Inquiry’s terms of reference. Ms Baker also alleges related failings by public officers and bodies. I am also aware that Ms Baker has spoken publicly and in her own name about these matters, and I regard that as an important factor in considering the nature of her interest in this investigation.”

The Westminster strand also  accepted as core participants survivors who say they were sexually abused by Sir Cyril Smith- the former Rochdale MP – in  the context of Westminster. And Mike Veale, chief constable of Wiltshire Police, who ran Operation Conifer, into allegations of sexual abuse by Edward Heath, will also be a core participant.

Among others turned down for this strand include Jonathon Brackenbury who alleged sexual abuse in the military,  one from Sarah McDonagh  alleging sexual abuse involving a magistrates bench and one from Sabine McNeill on a  cult in Hampstead, London. Jonathan Brackenbury decided on his own volition to withdraw his application but is willing to be  called as a witness giving details he gave to the now closed  Met police Operation Midland while he was working as a Homeless Housing Worker in the West End / Earls Court area of London in the 1980s. He is also proposing to submit a case to the inquiry for an investigation into sexual abuse in the military.

 

 

Independent Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry WILL investigate the late Greville Janner and whether there was a cover up

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Lord Janner Image courtesy BBC

The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse has decided to go ahead with a wide ranging inquiry into allegations that the late Greville Janner was involved in child sexual abuse and whether the Labour Party, the intelligence services, Parliament and government departments could have been involved in a cover up.

The decision, announced on the inquiry’s website, comes despite strong objections from Lord Janner’s family and a plea from retired  Assistant Chief Constable Tony Butler, from Leicestershire Police  to halt investigations immediately.

The terms of the inquiry are set out in a full statement  from Alexis Jay, chair of the inquiry here but the full terms are worth repeating in full.

” 1. The Inquiry will investigate institutional responses to allegations of child sexual abuse involving the late Lord Janner of Braunstone QC (“Lord Janner”).
2. In particular, the Inquiry will consider
2.1. the adequacy and propriety of law enforcement investigations and prosecutorial decisions relating to allegations falling within paragraph 1 above;
2.2. the extent to which Leicestershire County Council and the Kirkwood Inquiry were awareof allegations falling within paragraph 1 and the adequacy of their response;
2.3. the extent to which the Labour Party, Parliament, government departments, and/or the security and intelligence agencies were aware of allegations falling within paragraph 1 and the adequacy of their response;
2.4. the extent to which any other public or private institution may have failed in its duty to protect children from sexual abuse in respect of the allegations falling with paragraph 1;
2.5 whether any attempts were made to exert improper influence in order to hinder or prevent an institution from effectively investigating or otherwise responding to allegations falling within paragraph 1.
3. In light of the investigations set out above, the Inquiry will publish a report setting out its findings and recommendations to improve child protection and safeguarding in England and Wales. ”

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Daniel Janner QC Pic credit: http://www.regulatorycriminallawyers.co.uk

In a series of private meetings Lord Janner’s three children, Daniel Janner QC,Marion Janner OBE and Rabbi LauraJanner-Klausner,  objected to further inquiries while they were pursuing cases against people who had claimed they were sexual abused by him in the civil courts.

They two daughters argued: “The Janner family and Estate remains energetically opposed to the singling out of an innocent, dead man for a paradigm case study that will, necessarily, be based on incomplete and distorted information.

“It is a further insult to Lord Janner’s posthumous reputation with consequential cost to the Janner Family and Estate, including devastating emotional upset.
It would be more representative to pick a prominent person from public life as the paradigm who is either alive,or has been subject to a prosecution process (whether convicted, or not).”

Daniel Janner argued:“the decision on whether to hold the investigation and whether it should be part of the Westminster strand should be put on hold pending the outcome of the civil case and IPCC.”  He insisted that his father was innocent.

There was also an attempt by the Janner family to have one member of the panel, Dru Sharpling removed from this particular inquiry, on the grounds that she could have a conflict of interest having worked for the Crown Prosecution Service and HM Inspector of Constabulary, but this was rejected by Amber Rudd, the home secretary.

But the strongest objection came from the former assistant chief constable of Leicestershire Tony Butler, who wanted the inquiry stopped.

He argued:”this particular investigation is unlikely, by virtue of temporal scope, number
of institutions involved or as a paradigm of the “pendulum effect”, to contribute
any unique or unusual feature”

He claimed all previous inquiries had already established what needed to be done in Leicestershire – during the time Frank Beck, who was found guilty of numerous child sex abuse attacks – in the 1990s. This is quite evidently not the case as the excellent book Abuse of Trust by  Paul Gosling and Mark D’Arcy which examined the Beck scandal reveals.

But this was rejected by alleged victims of child sexual abuse and counsel to the inquiry and their view prevailed.

I am very pleased with the decision particularly now it is known that the scope of the inquiry will be wide ranging. It is equally important that the inquiry looks at whole picture surrounding the allegations of child sexual abuse against Lord Janner which means delving into the Labour Party, Parliament, the security services and Whitehall and also forensically investigating whether there were further cover up. if they appear to be true.

So I applaud Alexis Jay for pursuing this against a background where some newspapers would rather it was not investigated.