MPs pursue Clwyd child abuse case

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The Independent Online
THE Secretary of State for Wales, William Hague, will face a barrage of questions about the Clwyd child-abuse scandal and the suppressed report on it when Parliament reassembles on Tuesday.

Mr Hague will be pressed to publish the report on what is thought to be the biggest case of child abuse in Britain, with up to 200 victims from the children's homes run by the former county council in North Wales.

Details of the report were disclosed in the Independent on Sunday last week, including the key recommendation by the three authors, all experts in child care, that there should be a full public judicial inquiry - to which Mr Hague will also be pressed to agree.

The report has been suppressed at the request of Clwyd's insurers, Municipal Mutual, who feared a rash of compensation claims and threatened to withdraw insurance cover if it came out.

Labour's Health spokesman in Wales, Rhodri Morgan, who has tabled five question for Mr Hague, said yesterday: "I am asking whether it is right that insurance companies can interfere in the process of open government and in the setting up of these inquiries, and whether they can veto publication of the reports of investigations.

"I want him to look into the behaviour of insurance companies and it may well be that a change in the law is needed."

Child-care agencies also want a change in the law to allow the Clwyd inquiry report to be published, on the basis that there is little point in having a report which makes more than 50 recommendations when those recommendations will never be seen.

"We are asking for a full inquiry and publication of the report," Mr Morgan said. "The downside for him is that if he doesn't place a copy of the report in the House of Commons library, and have an inquiry, it is going to look as if the Welsh Office has something to hide."

The Welsh Secretary is also to be asked on Tuesday about the role of the social work inspectorate at the Welsh Office. The suppressed report says that no evidence could be found that any home in Clwyd was inspected for almost 10 years during the height of the abuse allegations.

Meanwhile, up to a dozen people are already preparing legal action over the abuse they suffered during several years in Clwyd's homes, for which seven men were eventually jailed, although many more were reported to the Crown Prosecution Service.

One of those seeking legal action is Zak Savio, a fomer inmate of the Bryn Alyn home, the head of which, John Allen, was jailed for six years last year for six indecent assaults on boys in his care.

Mr Savio still has nightmares about Thursday nights at Bryn Alyn. That was his night to be regularly sexually and physically abused at the home, and 10 years later the memories of those events have not dimmed. Three of his friends who were also in care at Bryn Alyn and who also were haunted by the memories of abuse have killed themselves, and Mr Savio f says he has himself twice attempted suicide.

Mr Savio went into care when he was four years old, after a member of his family had been physically abusing him, abuse which included being put into scalding baths. He is now 26, but his lifetime's experiences in homes are still vivid in his memory.

"When you have grown up in care, that is the only life you know," he said yesterday. "I wasn't put into care because I was bad. I was only four but I was being abused. I hadn't hurt anyone.

"The abuse started in the homes when I was eight. Because you have grown up in the care system you don't know how the outside world works. You think that what you are suffering is what the world is all about.

"In those homes you don't say anything, you don't do anything, you put up with everything. You don't make complaints. Those were the rules.

"It was not something you could talk about. There is fear instilled in everybody. I had no knowledge that it was happening to others - you have your suspicions, when someone is called too often to an office, or spoken to in a certain sort of way.

"Often, you think it is only happening to you. I used to think that what I was suffering was normal, which might sound strange, but it was just another thing happening in a disorganised world in which we lived.

"For me it was every Thursday night - that was my turn. I would be called to the office or the house and the abuse would happen.

"It was like heaven when you came out of that set-up and realised that the world really is different. You don't have to have sleepless nights where you need medication to sleep. This isn't how life is, you don't have to have that done to you.

"The problem with these homes is that if you haven't had any good in your life and everything is bad, you don't know any different.

"The abuse went on for years at the home until I left. It still hurts a lot, what happened. On the sexual side I have never been able to have a relationship, I just couldn't. Three of my friends have killed themselves, I tried twice when I was very low during the trial of John Allen.

"I think somebody has to speak out about these things. I'm taking legal action, but I want to talk about it because it might give hope to all the other children who were abused."

Mr Savio's's solicitor, Nicola Namdjou, confirmed yesterday that she was preparing legal action for him and one other client.

Solicitor Gwilym Hughes is representing four other alleged victims of abuse in the homes and has filed a court application asking a judge to release the report into the Clwyd inquiry.