Hague urges councils to publish child abuse report

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Councils working on publishing the confidential and controversial report into widespread child abuse at Children's homes in North Wales have been told by the Secretary of State for Wales, William Hague, that they must act quickly and fix a publication date.

The move by Mr Hague follows growing concern that the report is at risk of becoming bogged down in bureaucracy because of the need for at least four councils to agree on what action to take.

The report's authors are willing to take another look at their 300-page document to try and remove any hindrance to its publication. John Jillings, the former director of social services in Derbyshire, who chaired the inquiry panel, said yesterday: "I have written to the council saying I would be happy to try and assist with the publication of the report and invited them to contact me. Today I have had some preliminary contact, and I can say no more than that."

Clwyd County Council, which commissioned the report and who decided in March not to publish it, despite two years of work by three leading specialists in child care, ceased to exist after local government reorganisation on 1 April.

Four of the successor authorities have now been told by Mr Hague to find a way of publishing the report which itself calls for a judicial inquiry into the events at children's homes in Wales which led to Britain's biggest child abuse police inquiry. In his letter yesterday, he said: "I think it is essential that every effort is made by the local authorities to produce a version of this report that can be published, and soon.

"I look forward to hearing the outcome of your initial deliberations and in particular, the details of your timetable for rendering the report publishable."

The report reveals in detail what went on in homes over a 21 year period, looks at the types of abuse that occurred, who carried it out, and criticises the role of the Welsh Office and other agencies.

The report's summing up says: "It is clear that in a significant number of cases the lives of young people who have been through the care system in Clwyd have been severely disrupted and disturbed. At least 12 young people are dead.

"These issues are of fundamental importance and we regard it as imperative that they are addressed in the full view of public scrutiny. We consider that a public judicial inquiry . . . should be initiated."

One of the reasons for not publishing it was the belief that it might contain libels against individuals. Welsh Office lawyers have been closely examining it over the past two weeks.

Labour's spokesman on health in Wales, Rhodri Morgan, said: "The report must be published but we also must not lose sight of its main recommendation, that there is an urgent need for a full judicial inquiry."

Mr Hague has not ruled out a judicial inquiry which, it is estimated, could cost up to pounds 5m. Supporters of the call for such an inquiry say that it is the only way of establishing what really went on in North Wales children's homes over two decades.

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