Clwyd `abuse victims' seek report publication

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The Independent Online
Lawyers who act for four alleged victims of child abuse in north Wales have begun legal proceedings to force the release of a secret report of an investigation into abuse in residential homes.

The action, by solicitor Gwilym Hughes, was filed earlier this week and it is scheduled to be heard by a judge in chambers at Wrexham County Court on 17 May. The move follows the decision of Clwyd County Council, who commissioned the report from three independent child care experts, not to publish it.

The council, which ceased to exist at the end of last month after local government reorganisation, has given copies to the Welsh Office for the Secretary of State for Wales, William Hague, to make a decision.

John Jillings. former director of social services at Derbyshire, and his team who carried out the investigation foresaw attempts to stop publication. At one point the report says: "The intention appears to be to prevent publication of the report and its disclosure to any individual."

Clwyd made its controversial decision a week before Easter. It also asked the three authors to return their copies of the 300-page report. Mr Hague, who is due to return from a trade mission to North America tomorrow, is coming under increasing pressure to both publish the report and to accept its key recommendation that there should be a full judicial public inquiry into events in Clwyd.

Child care organisations believe that lessons can only be learnt if the report is published.

Up to 200 young people suffered abuse in homes over two decades. Police took 2,600 statements and seven men have been convicted of various offences in the last few years.

Mr Hughes said: "We have filed for disclosure of the report and other documents. The fact that they are anxious not to disclose it makes me more keen to see what is in it. Whether we will be successful remains to be seen. If we are successful we would have access to the report."

Lawyers say that if the action is resisted by the council, the main defence would be one of public interest, but that is thought unlikely to succeed. Alan Levy, QC, leading child care law specialist, said: "In general, claims for privilege or public interest immunity by local or central government can be defeated if a greater public interest can be shown. And the greater public interest will almost always succeed."