IICSA’s Second Report – Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale

Today IICSA published its report into Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale.

The report is split into seven parts: Introduction, Cambridge House, Knowl View School, Police Investigations, Political Accountability, Other Institutions and Conclusions. The Panel has provided an Executive Summary and has drawn the following conclusions:

  •  Cyril Smith’s prominence and standing in Rochdale allowed him to exert influence of others locally including putting pressure on people to stay quiet about any allegations of abuse. However there is no evidence to support the allegation that others exerted influence on the DPP influencing his decision to not prosecute Smith. Valuable opportunities were lost to prosecute him in 1998 and 1999.
  • The concern relating to Smith’s receipt of a knighthood in 1988 and the high level discussions about the rumours demonstrated “a considerable deference to power and an unwillingness to confront the possibility that a person of public prominence might be capable of perpetrating sexual abuse”.
  • Smith’s links to Knowl View School led the Inquiry to a wider investigation of that school and allegations of sexual abuse by other individuals of children who lived there over a period in excess of 25 years beginning in 1969.
  • Institutions failed to protect the children at Knowl View School and instead came to regard the sexual abuse the children suffered there as expected or something that could not be prevented. The school failed in its basic function to keep the children in its care safe both within and outside the school.
  • The incidents involving Roderick Hilton are referred to in detail. The Inquiry concludes little was done to stop Hilton’s continued access to the school.
  •  The Inquiry consider the staff at Knowl View were “at best complacent but arguably complicit in the abuse they knew to be taking place, and they must take their share of the blame for that was allowed to occur…staff simply treated the sexual abuse between boys as ‘normal’…”.
  • The authorities knew about the abuse occurring at the Smith Street public toilets from at least 1989. Some Social Services’ staff could see the toilets from their offices, recognised some of the boys as children in care and despite their suspicions there was no follow-up. The evidence demonstrates a total lack of urgency to treat this as an urgent child protection issue.
  • Police investigations demonstrate the police did not turn a blind eye to the sexual exploitation of boys in Rochdale town centre. They knew what was occurring at the Smith Street toilets but they had insufficient evidence to prosecute. However the records still in existence do not provide a satisfactory answer as to why the police did not charge anyone.
  • The Inquiry is extremely critical of Ian Davey, the Acting Director of Social Services and his decision to not pursue the child protection issue at Knowl View school in 1991. They conclude it was “his decision alone; it was inexplicable, professionally indefensible and extremely poor judgment on the part of the most senior social work officer in the Council’s employment”. The Inquiry acknowledged Diana Cavanagh’s, another senior member of the council, attempt to bring about an independent review of the school by commissioning various reports (Mellor, Hodge/Dobie and the Cavanagh reports) however all were flawed factually. The worst part was that no senior officials addressed the problems at the school. The Inquiry heavily criticise Rochdale Council who were the provider of the school and its external manager however they accept the situation was made worse by the feeble Board of Governors who also did not fulfil their duties.
  • There is no evidence to suggest there was executive liaison between Education and Social Services departments of Rochdale Council. The council failed to implement the 1988 ‘Working Together’ guidelines for years and their failure to discuss child protection and other mutual issues of concern reflects badly on the Directors of Education and Social Services.
  • The Inquiry state they do not believe the evidence of Richard Farnell, Leader of Rochdale Council from 1986-1992 who denied having any knowledge of the abuse occurring at Knowl View. The Inquiry said it was shameful he refused to accept personal responsibility for his failures, instead blaming all that occurred on the Education Department and Social Services. The Inquiry said Paul Rowen, the Liberal Democrat Leader from 1992-1996 also bore responsibility but like Farnell he was prepared to blame others without acknowledging his own failures of leadership.
  • The evidence heard in relation to sexual abuse at other institutions in Rochdale and the convictions of four men in relation to these demonstrated the police and council’s capability of confronting allegations and taking actions.
  • Despite the focus of the investigation relating to Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale from the early 1960s to the mid-1990s, the issues that have come to light remain of relevance today.
  • The Inquiry make no recommendations following this investigation because they will be considering evidence that is relevant to the protection of children in the care of local authorities in the outstanding local authority investigations including Children In the Care of Nottinghamshire Councils and Children in the Care of Lambeth Council as well as in some of the thematic investigations such as Child Sexual Abuse by Organised Networks. They consider they will then be better placed later on to consider making overarching recommendations further to the conclusion of all related investigations. Despite this, the Inquiry expect the public bodies involved in this investigation to reflect on their report and make changes to their practice as necessary to protect children in the future.

 MIRIAMAuthor, Miriam Rahamim, a solicitor with BLM



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