Man charged in abuse inquiry at Barnardo's

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The Independent Online
A FIFTY-ONE-YEAR-OLD man was charged last night with buggery, indecent assault and actual bodily harm following a n inquiry into abuse at a Barnardo's home in Yorkshire.

The man, who will appear at Harrogate magistrates' court this morning, was a house-parent at Springhill residential school, in Ripon, North Yorkshire. He had been interviewed by police who were investigating a series of allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the school in the Sixties and Seventies.

The inquiry is the latest in a series of scandals where former residents of children's homes around the country have made extensive allegations of abuse, particularly in North Wales and Cheshire, where Britain's biggest investigation into the abuse of children in care was launched four years ago.

The Yorkshire investigation began last September after a former resident at the school, which looked after children with learning difficulties and challenging behaviour, made a complaint to the charity Barnardo's which was passed on to the police.

Police have now spoken to 60 former residents of the school, which was responsible for boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 16, and 10 complaints of abuse have been made against former members of staff. These allegations are being investigated.

"Since receiving the initial complaint we have spoken to a number of former residents, some of whom have made allegations of physical and sexual abuse," said Detective Inspector Phil Metcalfe, who is leading the inquiry. "We are continuing our inquiries and it is vital we hear from people who lived at the Springhill school in order to substantiate these allegations."

Twelve officers and two social workers from North Yorkshire County Council have been drafted in to help with the investigation, codenamed Operation Pudsey.

During the Sixties and Seventies, the Barnardo's Springhill School was based in an old Church Commission building called the Bishop's Palace. It included 82 acres of land, and had a chapel, a coach house and a gate lodge.

Between 1940, when the school was established, and 1949, it was an all- girls school, but in 1950 it became mixed and was known as a school for the "educationally subnormal". In 1989 pounds 2m was invested in constructing four new buildings for the school. There were on average 40 children cared for by the school each year, although this went up to 56 in 1979.

A spokeswoman for the police said that she was not aware of any previous investigation into Springhill. None of the current staff is under suspicion.

A spokesman for Barnardo's said: "We are saddened and distressed by any claims relating to the protection of children entrusted to our care. This matter was brought to our attention in 1997, we immediately investigated and passed the matter over to the police.

More than 100 homes and schools in Cheshire and Merseyside have been or are being investigated amid allegations that children in care have been abused. And for the past two years, police have been investigating claims of abuse in the North-west.

Despite this a national conference on child abuse, organised by social services in the North-west, had to be cancelled because not enough social workers wanted to attend.

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