MPs demand 'open' child abuse inquiry

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The Independent Online

William Hague, the Secretary of State for Wales, will come under mounting pressure this week to launch a public inquiry into what is thought to be Britain's biggest child abuse scandal.

Welsh MPs repeated demands for openness this weekend following the Independent's revelation that Clwyd county council voted to suppress a report into decades of abuse in its children's homes.

The secrecy surrounding the findings is such that even the inquiry team, which is led by John Jillings, former head of Derbyshire's social services, have been told to hand in their own copies.

They are understood to have been highly critical of all the agencies involved in the failure of care, from social services to North Wales police and the Welsh Office. They argue in the report that only a judicial inquiry into the "extensive and widespread" abuse can address wide areas of concern. There are unresolved suggestions that public figures may have been involved in the abuse.

Mr Hague will find a copy of the findings waiting on his desk when he returns from a foreign trade mission this week.

Labour MP Rhodri Morgan said the social services inspectorate at the Welsh Office had had copies of the draft report since February, so there was little reason for any delay in action.

A full public inquiry was needed because of the "phenomenal number of different people at different homes who have been involved," he said.

More than 50 staff have been disciplined since 1974 and 13 convictions obtained. Stephen Norris, head of the Cartrefle children's home, near Wrexham, was jailed for 10 years for sexual assaults on boys in his care. His conviction led to the discovery of the widespread abuse.

Mr Morgan, the Labour Party's health spokesman in Wales, said: "We do need to know whether there is a common pattern, whether they were connected to each other and how so many paedophiles managed to target children's homes in north Wales. It defies logic to think these people all landed there by accident."

The real lesson of the scandal could not be learned until the whole picture had been established, Mr Morgan said. There had never been a public investigation of claims that social workers effectively procured boys for people outside the homes, in addition to using them for their own pleasure,

None of 14 reports, including 12 carried out internally into the affair, has been published. The most recent was blocked last Tuesday for fear it could help seriously damaged victims in legal claims against the council. Municipal Mutual, Clwyd council's insurers, threatened the council if it did so, and most copies are now being pulped.

It is thought that at least 100 children and possibly double that number may have suffered sexual abuse in homes in north Wales in the 1970s and 1980s.

At least 12 former residents are dead and there are suggestions that there may be as many as 16 whose deaths were related to their experiences in the children's homes.