'Haunted' victim clashes with protesters and calls for prosecutions

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The Independent Online

Child protection campaigners called yesterday for greater safeguards to ensure that the systematic abuse revealed by the Waterhouse inquiry will never happen again.

Child protection campaigners called yesterday for greater safeguards to ensure that the systematic abuse revealed by the Waterhouse inquiry will never happen again.

The Children's Society said a robust complaints procedure was needed for children in foster care. Ian Sparks, chief executive, said: "We have better protection, but there are still adults who want to abuse children. We have to make sure that the child safety net extends to all children in care."

As the findings were made public there were clashes between protesters and one of the victims of the abuse at a press conference in Mold, north Wales. A small group of demonstrators, protesting on behalf of the innocent teachers and carers who feel their reputations have been damaged by being included in the inquiry, had their placards ripped by Steven Messham who was abused at four of the homes in the report. Mr Messham said: "It still haunts me every night ... Recommendations are not enough. We need prosecutions now and if we don't get them we will have wasted £13m."

The local councils in whose areas the abuse occurred, including the now defunct Clwyd County Council, welcomed the Waterhouse report as a "landmark". Ron Evans, solicitor for the local authorities said he could not disagree with the scathing condemnations of the former local authorities contained in the report, having heard the evidence.

He said the recommendation that there should be individual complaints officers for each authority had been unexpected, but "we welcome that [as] a positive step forward".

He said the authorities would be suggesting to their insurers dealing with compensation claims from victims that they acted speedily and dealt with matters "sensibly".

A spokesman for Zurich Municipal - which insured Clwyd and Gwynedd county councils - said the insurers were happy to work with the recommendations of the Waterhouse report. David Forster said: "Broadly, we are in agreement with the tribunal's recommendations. It has done a tremendous job and found that insurers acted with 'honourable intentions'. We will work closely with the appropriate authorities to implement the recommendations." He added that he had not seen anything in the report which suggested Zurich had acted in "anything other than the best interests" of those involved.

Richard Scorer, a partner in the Pannone and Partners law firm, which is representing 30 victims of the sexual abuse said: "This report confirms beyond doubt the systematic abuse of children in Clwyd children's homes over a 30-year period. It vindicates the courage of the many hundreds of victims who gave evidence to the tribunal and contains many positive suggestions for change."

Jane Hutt, Health and Social Services Secretary in the Welsh Assembly, described the report as "an appalling account of sexual, physical and emotional abuse of vulnerable young people". She added: "Clearly we have to act on the recommendations of the inquiry and look very carefully at them ... We have put £5m into local authorities to ensure they have the right kind of standards for the most vulnerable children in their communities."

Ann Clwyd, Labour MP for Cynon Valley, said the report revealed the "depravity" of the abusers and was a "damning indictment" of the system that allowed them to commit their crimes. "As a society, we must learn the crucial lessons of the failures that tragically resulted in the scarring of so many innocent lives," she said.

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