Judge lifts lid on secret children's homes report

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A judge yesterday ordered the disclosure of contents of the secret report into child abuse in North Wales.

Judge Hoffman, sitting in chambers at Wrexham, ordered that lawyers and their client s should have access to parts of the Jillings report which looked at widespread sexual and physical child abuse at children's homes in Clwyd over a period of 21 years. The ruling is the first time the secrecy of the report has been legally challenged. It was being seen as a significant victory for those who have been campaigning for publication of the 300- page report with its main recommendation that there should be a judicial inquiry into the abuse scandal.

Its disclosure to lawyers and their clients who are suing Clwyd means that attempts to suppress it in order to prevent would-be litigants using it as evidence in compensation claims have been thwarted.

Its availability also calls into question the decision by the Welsh Office that the report needed to be cleaned up before it could be seen.

Lawyers acting for other former residents of homes who are suing Clwyd are also now likely to see the report. It is understood that around 25 former residents are taking action at present and more are likely. One estimate is that more than 200 children suffered abuse.

One of the solicitors in the case, Gwillym Hughes went to court to gain access to the report which has been kept secret by Clwyd on behalf of a client who was a resident at the Bryn Estyn Home in Wrexham.

The full report details a catalogue of errors and mistakes which led to such widespread abuse.

It also links the deaths of 12 young men to the experiences they suffered in homes.

The judge's decision came at the end of a three hour hearing in private. The court action came as council and the Welsh Office became embroiled in yet another debate over how, when and where the report should, or could, be published. Earlier this week, the councils who took over from Clwyd in local government reorganisation told the Secretary of State for Wales that it was impossible to produce a credible version.