Cover-up of child abuse in Sixties

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A secret report on the brutal regime at a children's school in North Wales reveals that boys were being abused as long ago as the 1960s.

Boys were regularly kicked, punched, thrown, kneed and viciously beaten by named staff members at the Bryn Estyn school according to an unpublished Home Office tribunal report. In one case, two boys were whipped from head to toe, and one needed medical treatment.

Fourteen workers at the home gave evidence to the tribunal but its report - completed in February 1971 - was never published. It is believed that only a handful of copies of the 255-page dossier exist.

A copy obtained by the Independent, establishes that abuse at Bryn Estyn went on for more than 30 years and started long before the abuse that led to the 1991 police investigation.

Until now, it had been thought that most of the abuse in North Wales was confined to the late 1970s and 1980s. But the emergence of this latest report shows that physical abuse was widespread in the 1960s.

Bryn Estyn was run as a residential school until the mid-1970s when it became a children's home. Children at the home were subjected to widespread physical and sexual abuse in the 1970s and 1980s.

Witnesses gave evidence to the tribunal of boys being punched by a named officer in the head and the stomach and then kicked across the room.

One another occasion, a boy was kicked and punched and thrown against a wash-basin. Another staff witness said, "Mr [X] had canes in both hands and then proceeded to lash both boys from head to toe. Each of the canes was broken into little pieces."

When one alleged perpetrator was quizzed by the eight-strong committee of inquiry about why he had beaten up a boy rather than use a cane, he blamed a shortage of canes.

"There was a postal strike on and we hadn't applied for any more canes. The canes come from the Home Office in threes, you see. I had forgotten the fact that the canes were broken. I must say that the Home Office doesn't supply good quality canes. These were so dry that when they were used they splintered into smithereens."

It is understood that no one was prosecuted as a result of the inquiry. All copies of the reports and evidence were recalled.

The report was the first of 15 investigations in abuse of children in residential establishments in North Wales, none of which have been published.

t The latest official inquiry into the sexual abuse of children in care in Clwyd - to be headed by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, a judge of the Queen's Bench Division - has been blocked by the Labour MP, Ann Clwyd, who fears it will create a "wall of silence" and prevent public debate on the scandal.

Among the issues she is most anxious to raise are allegations made in the Jillings Report, publication of which was suppressed earlier this year for fear of libel. These included the pressure exerted by the council's insurance company to suppress the report, and the refusal of North Wales police to accept help from an outside force, despite allegations local police had been linked to the abusers.