Home manager jailed for attacks on boys

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Government and council officials are to study the case of a former children's home manager jailed yesterday for 15 years for a catalogue of abuse against boys.

Peter Harley, 50, of Cardiff, had admitted at a previous hearing 17 indecency charges involving boys aged six to sixteen, over five years from 1977- 1982.

At the High Court in Glasgow the judge, Lord Weir, said the case raised the questions of how such a man came be in charge of a children's home - and why the children were unable to get help over the years of abuse. Those running homes should examine "very carefully indeed" the selection of those in responsible positions, and to ensure victims could get speedy outside help, he said.

The case centred on the Merkland home in Moffat, Dumfriesshire, where Harley was the officer in charge. The home closed down in the Eighties and the council responsible for it has been replaced by Dumfries and Galloway.

The Scottish Office said last night that it would study Lord Weir's remarks, but added: "A lot of change has occurred since this case. A number of improvements have taken place for selection of staff, and also for allowing children to make their views known."

Dumfries and Galloway council said it "deeply regretted" the events which gave rise to the case, and it would continue to study the circumstances to see if there were lessons to be learnt.

Social services director Keith Makin said: "I can only say that at this distance in time, it is not possible to understand the process by which Peter Harley was recruited. "Today we routinely make police checks and have a much more rigorous approach to staff recruitment and supervision with regular quality checks and inspections within all our residential homes."