400 files on sex abuse in care homes

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The Independent Online
The number of confidential files on alleged sexual abuse at children's homes in Britain has increased from 80 to 400 over the past few years, according to the secret report into homes in Clywd, north Wales.

The suggestion that accusations of child abuse in homes may be at a level previously unimagined is supported by the Independent on Sunday's own inquiries which have established that no fewer than 10 police forces across Britain, perhaps more, are currently carrying out inquiries. One, coordinated by Cheshire police, is on a huge scale, and detectives have interviewed 1,847 former pupils at children's homes.

Detective Inspector Terrence Oates, who leads the Cheshire inquiry, said: "We believe it is the biggest inquiry into abuse ever carried out in the UK in all ways - numbers of statements taken, former children traced, number of allegations made, the numbers likely to go to court."

The Independent on Sunday has now seen a full copy of the Clwyd report, which the Welsh Secretary, William Hague, is still considering whether or not to publish. Security-coded on every page to prevent leaks, the report names a number of people accused of abuse and refers to others, who were investigated but are still working.

As many as 200 children are believed to have been abused in Clwyd's homes; seven care workers have been jailed, but 300 cases were reported to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The authors of the Clwyd report, John Jillings, Jane Tunstall and Gerrilyn Smith, say: "Inquiries of the Department of Health reveal that the numbers of files relating to inquiries into abuse in residential establishments escalated from 80 to 400 over a few years. It is now described as a significant problem."

The report describes individual cases at homes in the county. A named woman care officer at one home is said to have admitted sexual intercourse with a 16-year-old boy who was also being abused by a male colleague. "She was not subject to court proceedings," says the report.

Another named officer is said to have been asked to retire early because he was caning children at the establishment.

The report describes how frightened children ran away from the abuse, only to be returned, sometimes by the police.

It says: "Some say they cried during or after such experiences and ran away. It appears, however, that boys were invariably returned, often after police intervention."

The report says that the police inquiry in north Wales involved 3,755 statements being taken. It says: "Of the number of statements taken, it is not clear how many were forwarded to the prosecuting solicitors for consideration. It is also unclear how many other professionals, including police officers, were named in the statements as perpetrators of assaults. We do not know how many disciplines may have resulted.

"We do know of at least three current employees of the Clwyd Social Service Department who were interviewed as part of the (police) investigation. To our knowledge none of them has been disciplined."

The inquiry team reveal that some people in senior positions refused to meet them. "The newly appointed Chief Constable of north Wales, Mr Michael Argent, declined to meet the panel. The former director of social services, Gledwyn Jones, declined through his solicitors."

The Welsh Secretary, Mr Hague, is to meet Labour MPs on Tuesday to discuss publication of the report and also calls for a full judicial public inquiry.