Child abuse inquiry goes back 40 years

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The Independent Online
A major inquiry into child abuse stretching back 40 years has been launched in Greater Manchester. Nearly 50 complaints about life in children's homes have been made and police are appealing for people to come forward. Glenda Cooper, Social Affairs Correspondent, investigates.

Greater Manchester police yesterday appealed for people who had been abused in children's homes in the area to come forward and help them with their investigation.

A major inquiry named, Operation Cleopatra, was launched yesterday in conjunction with social services and the force's family support unit after 40 people, mainly men, are believed to have made allegations of abuse about the time they spent in children's homes. The majority of the complaints, which date as far back as 1958, are allegations of sexual abuse.

Detective Superintendent Peter Stelfox said officers were investigating 48 complaints involving children aged between 11 and 18.

Such is the sheer volume of complaints that the investigation is likely to take at least a year. But there are fears that the inquiry may be hampered by the length of time which has elapsed, and the difficulty in locating witness evidence and medical records.

"The volume of allegations is such that we are bringing them under one operation. Over the last 18 months ... 58 allegations have been made," said Det Supt Stelfox. "At the moment we are sifting through and trying to gather supporting evidence which means we can go out and interview offenders. Seven local authorities have been named so far within the area. A number of complaints are about the same abuser."

He confirmed a number of the allegations were about systematic abuse and said he was expecting today's appeal to lead to further alleged victims coming forward.

"We are in the early stages of this inquiry and are beginning the painstaking process of taking detailed statements from complainants," he said. "If there are other people who have been abused in children's homes in Greater Manchester, we would like to hear from them."

The allegations arise from other inquiries conducted in Cheshire, North Wales, and Merseyside, and from the Greater Manchester area itself.

Bob Lewis, director of social services in Stockport, one of the seven authorities, said yesterday: "I hope that the culture of children's homes will have changed. We now have a series of guidelines and reports which give clear guidance on recruitment and monitoring at children's homes. The ways in which children are looked after have changed significantly in recent years."

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