Council refuses to name `abuse victims'

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Crime Correspondent

Charities who are trying to help mentally handicapped people reported to be suffering severe post traumatic stress from sexual abuse cannot find out the names of those affected because a county council is refusing to disclose information on past and present residents at two private homes.

One charitable organisation received traumatised former residents from homes in Buckinghamshire as recently as this month even though the alleged abuse ended three years ago. Buckinghamshire County Council said yesterday that the details are confidential and that local authorities and carers had been informed of the allegations individually. They have also denied allegations that they are withholding information because they are concerned about being sued by former residents.

News of the continued effects of the abuse - described by experts as some of the worst cases of post traumatic stress they have ever seen - comes a fortnight after the death of the former manager of the homes, who is believed to have killed himself. Gordon Rowe, who set up and ran the homes in Stoke Poges, near Slough, for 10 years until 1993, was found dead in a car on 18 March, days after he learnt he was about to be charged with ill-treating residents. Thirteen people accused him of 40 assaults.

Police had investigated allegations that mentally handicapped adults were raped beaten and humiliated. A confidential council report concluded that residents were "continually subjected to a catalogue of abuse, deprivation, humiliation and torment".

The council allowed the homes - only one of which is now operating - to remain open on the condition that new management was introduced. The operating company, Longcare Ltd, is now run by Rowe's son Nigel and a family friend, Ray Craddock, who took over in 1993.

There is no suggestion that the present management was responsible for the reported cases of abuse.

About a dozen of the pre- 1993 residents, aged from their teens to mid- forties, have since been sent to Respond, a charity which provides psychotherapy to victims of sexual abuse with learning disabilities. The former residents are still suffering from a range of post traumatic stress symptoms including self-mutilation, inappropriate sexual behaviour, smearing faeces on walls, and aggression.

A spokesman for Buckingham County Council said the decision to withhold names was entirely a matter of good practice, not money. He said: "The homes are privately run. Details of residents are a matter for the placing local authorities or other relevant parties and the proprietors. It would not be proper for the county council to release information about people placed by other authorities and individuals."

Grant Wetherall, a social worker at Ealing Mencap, a charity for people with learning disabilities, which has also treated former residents suffering from trauma, added: "Buckinghamshire have allowed a home to continue to remain open when there has been horrific abuse. We believe that even though there is new management there are still residents who are suffering psychological damage from treatment under the old regime."