CHILD ABUSE SCANDAL : Paedophiles were `free to perpetrate evil'

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The Independent Online
The widespread sexual abuse of hundreds of children in care by workers may remain hidden for decades, because the victims have been convinced by paedophiles that they will never be believed, according to a senior police officer leading the inquiry into child abuse in Cheshire.

Detective Inspector Terrence Oates described the insidious methods used by the paedophiles who found jobs in children's homes in the area. They made their victims feel completely isolated to ensure their credibility was undermined, so avoiding exposure.

"It is part and parcel of paedophile activity to convince the boy that he is the only one and that if he does tell anyone, they won't believe him, because look at who he is compared to who the perpetrator is," DI Oates said.

The allegations are only emerging now, according to DI Oates, because victims have finally found the confidence to come forward following a host of prominent scandalsacross the country, including Staffordshire, Leicestershire and London.

An unprecedented number of people have been interviewed in the Cheshire investigation, covering alleged abuse in the Seventies and Eighties. The police have traced 1,847 out of the 2,331 former residents at the homes and have taken 2,000 statements.

The children were already in care because of traumatic circumstances, and in a large number of cases they had been placed there because they had suffered sexual or physical abuse within their families.

But many of them were also difficult to handle because of their experiences, and their accusations were not believed.

DI Oates said: "There is no doubt that in that period when the abuse was at its height, a lot of the residential care workers were so poorly paid that it was an easy avenue for these paedophiles ... They had a captive audience and no one believed the kids. They were free to perpetrate their evil.

"These victims [went] away believing that they were the only ones, and never talked about it," he added, "that is often why these allegations are now being made several years later, after young people realised that what happened to them was wrong.

"There is evidence too that some [abusers] have risen fairly high up in social services and so when allegations started to come in they were in the ideal position to stop it in its tracks.

"Some of these lads were moved from one home to another where they were abused, and the perpetrators moved from home to home too. It is essential that we root out the paedophiles that still work in the childcare arena."

Allan Levy QC, a leading childcare barrister who chaired the "Pindown" inquiry in Staffordshire, says paedophiles are still operating in children's homes. He wants better policing of the homes but says that the Department of Health is cutting back on inspectors.