Calls for child-abuse inquiry are rejected

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The Government has rejected calls for a full-scale public inquiry into abuse at children's homes in north Wales, in the aftermath of a police investigation which led to seven separate convictions.

William Hague, the Secretary of State for Wales, has accepted the recommendation, in a confidential report by Nicola Davies QC, on abuse allegations involving children's homes in Clwyd and Gwynedd, that a full judicial inquiry would not be appropriate or in the public interest.

The decision - which is expected to be announced by Rod Richards, the Welsh health and social services minister, in a written parliamentary answer today - effectively brings to a close one of the longest-running and most serious abuse scandals involving children in local authority care.

Ms Davies's report is understood to make a number of procedural and administrative recommendations, designed to ensure that the authorities act speedily and decisively to prevent abuse and to deal with allegations when they arise. But she rejected the case for a full-scale inquiry like that which led to the report on sexual abuse in Cleveland in 1988.

Ms Davies was appointed in May by John Redwood, Mr Hague's predecessor, to conduct an investigation into evidence - some of it going back 20 years - after the ending earlier this year of the last prosecution to result from a four-year police inquiry into allegations involving up to 46 children's homes.

John Allen was jailed in Chester for six years for committing sex offences against boys at the Bryn Alyn Home in Wrexham, where he had once been in charge.

The previous year, Peter Howarth, the former deputy head of a council- run home, Bryn Estyn, was sent to prison for 10 years after being found guilty of assaulting seven boys between 1974 and 1984.

An experienced and respected criminal lawyer, Ms Davies worked as a junior counsel for Dr Marietta Higgs and Dr Geoffrey Wyatt - the doctors at the centre of the investigation - during the Cleveland inquiry, and became the first woman barrister in Wales to become a QC.

During their investigation, which began in 1991 and is generally regarded as the longest of its kind, police took 2,000 statements involving 150 complaints. The Crown Prosecution Service received 58 files but only seven people were in the end convicted of offences against children.

At the time of Ms Davies' appointment, Malcolm King, chairman of Clwyd's social services committee, said there was a "real need" for the "fullest judicial inquiry".

He added: "Such an inquiry would ensure that all those who wish to raise matters or to have their questions answered would be assured of a hearing."