Council cleared over `abuse' report

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The Independent Online

Buckinghamshire County Council has been cleared by the local government Ombudsman of failing to publish an internal report which identified evidence of abuse at residential homes for the mentally handicapped.

The report contained statements from a number of staff members and other eye-witnesses of physical abuse and humiliation of residents.

The report into two homes - run by Longcare Limited in Stoke Poges - was anonymously sent to the Independent last year. Thames Valley police have since set up an inquiry team to investigate the allegations; the inquiry is expected to be concluded in a few weeks.

The Local Government Ombudsman rejected a complaint that the council was guilty of maladministration in its handling of the report. The ombudsman said that the report was not inaccurate.

However, the ombudsman said: "The council acted quite properly in treating the investigation unit's report as a confidential and privileged report. The form of their subsequent open proceedings and the publication of the director's report are to be applauded and calls for no criticism from the ombudsman."

A number of families with relatives in the homes have take legal action against the council for alleged negligence.

The report alleged that individuals had been assaulted by managers, and subjected to repeated humiliation. Police found a number of allegedly pornographic videos, involving the residents, belonging to Gordon Rowe, who owned the homes.

It was admitted by the local authority that it had not passed on detailed witness statements to the police at the time. They said that the police had not asked for them.

The ombudsman said that the council had a clear duty to investigate complaints about treatment of residents.

"In the ombudsman's view the county council correctly addressed the issue and it could not be said to amount to maladministration that the county council had initiated an inquiry which produced no formal steps against the company."