The Jillings report: How the truth about North Wales child abuse scandal was suppressed - Crime - UK - The Independent

The Jillings report: How the truth about North Wales child abuse scandal was suppressed

Council insurers demanded that the first full investigation into the care home scandal was pulped. Roger Dobson – who has one of the few remaining copies – details an astonishing cover-up

A damning report that laid bare the North Wales child abuse scandal might have aired the issue of sex attacks on children in care nearly half a decade before an official judicial inquiry in 2000.

Instead copies of the report were ordered to be destroyed because the council that commissioned it feared it might be sued, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. Only a handful remain, including one obtained by this newspaper.

The suppressed report, by a panel of experts led by former social services chief John Jillings, outlined the widespread abuse of children in care, some as young as 10, years before the tribunal chaired by High Court judge Sir Ronald Waterhouse reported.

The copy held by The IoS shows:

* The then newly appointed North Wales chief constable, who was uncontactable yesterday, refused to meet them or help with access to the police major-incident database. "We were disappointed at the apparent impossibility of obtaining a breakdown of data. We are unable to identify the overall extent of the allegations received by the police in the many witness statements which they took.''

* Some 130 boxes of material handed over by the council to the police were not made available to the panel.

* The council did not allow the inquiry to place a notice in the local press seeking information. "This was considered to be unacceptable to the insurers,'' says the report.

While the report went unpublished, coverage of the scandal by this newspaper eventually helped to set up the Waterhouse review, which reported in 2000. Mr Jillings, a respected independent social services expert, was succinct yesterday about what he had found out back then: "What we found was horrific and on a significant scale. If the events in children's homes in North Wales were to be translated into a film, Oliver Twist would seem relatively benign." The scale of what happened, and how it was allowed, he said, "are a disgrace, and stain on the history of child care in this country."

Some 300 pages were compiled in the face of fierce opposition and obstruction: Mr Jillings and his team – Professor Jane Tunstall and Gerrilyn Smith – were so frustrated they almost quit. The results were pulped: one of the few remaining copies has now been sent to the Children's Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler. According to the report, the insurers – Municipal Mutual – suggested the chair of the council's social services committee, Malcolm King, be sacked if he spoke out: "Draconian as it may seem, you may have to consider with the elected members whether they wish to remove him from office if he insists on having the freedom to speak."

Mr King yesterday described the report's suppression as the destruction of an effective weapon against abuse: "Because it was suppressed, the lessons of the Jillings report were not learned. It was the exchange of financial safety for the safety of real people. It was one of the most shameful parts of recent history."

Mr Jillings's report paints an alarming picture of a system in which physical and sexual violence were common, from beatings and bullying, to indecent assault and rape. Some staff linked to abuse may have been allowed to resign or retire early.

Children's carers were recruited without proper references, without application forms, and, in one case, with a rugby club acting as a contact point for vacancies. Children who complained of abuse were not believed, or worse, punished for making false allegations.

The report also revealed that its members had considered quitting: "As the constraints emerged, the panel considered whether it could continue or abandon its investigations," it said. "We determined to continue despite the very considerable constraints placed upon us.'' From the outset there was difficulty and confusion over access to files.

Despite such obstructions they stuck to their brief to investigate child care in Clwyd in the wake of a number of allegations and court cases involving carers. Most of the allegations covered the period 1980 to 1988, and a four-year police inquiry saw 2,600 statements taken and 300 cases sent to the Crown Prosecution Service. Eventually eight men were charged, and six convicted. The panel was tasked with looking at what had gone wrong, reviewing practices, and making recommendations for change.

After reviewing internal reports and interviewing more than 70 witnesses, the picture that emerged was one of dysfunctional homes where children were abused sexually and physically. "It is the opinion of the panel that extensive and widespread abuse has occurred within Clwyd residential establishments for children and young people," they concluded. How many were abused is not clear, but estimates range up to 200. In the 1990s, around 150 had already sought compensation.

"The most striking fact to emerge is that five men who shared in common their employment as residential care workers at the Bryn Estyn home were convicted of serious offences involving at least 25 young people. Twenty of the victims were boys, five were girls. The age range was 10 to 16. Many of the allegations involving these men consisted of specimen charges; many others were left on the file,'' they reported.

There were allegations of widespread physical abuse, sometimes with care workers inflicting gratuitous violence, others involving other boys being used to attack victims. The report also says it was common practice for staff to take residents home for the weekend.

Staff recruitment was frequently chaotic. "In some cases references were provided which were barely adequate as recommendations for employment. There appears to have been no application forms in a disturbing number of cases. More than one staff member described the recruitment process as taking people off the street.''

There was also a culture of silence. "At Bryn Estyn, professional misgivings were discouraged and complaints viewed as disloyal. As a consequence, abusive and dangerous practices escalated out of control and unchecked.'' The report denounced those who should have stopped the abuse, saying: "Our findings show that time and again, the response to indications that children may have been abused has been too little and too late."

A key issue in North Wales has been whether there was a paedophile ring at work. One internal Clwyd council report from the time – like Jillings, unpublished – said: "There remain worrying current instances of conviction and prosecution for sexual offences of persons who are known to have worked together in child care establishments both in the county [Clwyd] and in other parts of the north-west,'' it said.

"These suggest, that abuse could have been happening unabated for many years and, that there could be operating a league or ring of paedophiles who help one another find sources and situations where abuse can be perpetrated and the addiction fed.''

There were allegations too of abusers outside the care system: "There were numerous claims and suggestions that senior public figures including the police and political figures might have been involved in the abuse of young people,'' the report said.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week