Monday, 28 April 2014

Rochdale Council Switch Horses in Mid-Stream!

TODAY, Rochdale Council announced it had appointed a new barrister to replace Andrew Warnoch QC, to 'head an expanded review' into the sexual abuse of young lads at Knowl View residential school for boys.  Mr. Warnoch had been investigating these allegations of abuse in the 1980s and 1990s since January this year, but his remit had been confined to Knowl View.  

Now Colin Lambert, leader of Rochdale Council, has just told a press conference that Neil Garnham Q.C. is to 'head an expanded review' which will investigate all of the information about sexual and physical abuse in Rochdale between 1961 and 1995; both with regard to Cyril Smith and others in the frame.    Mr. Garnham is a 'leading silk in public inquiry law, (who) acted as Counsel to the Victoria Climbie Inquiry & sits as a deputy High Court Judge.' 

Rochdale MBC has also decided 'In the light of the enlarged review, .... to instruct external solicitors Hempsons and to second one of the Council's Principal Solicitors to assist the review team.'  

The Council's Press Statement further states:
'Due to his other commitments Mr. Warnock is unavailable for the timescale which this new widened investigation will require.' This follows the 'serious allegations made in the last few weeks, (which has led the Council) to widen the scope of the review beyond the Council's decision making.'

The Council statement also says:
'It is clear that to ensure there is public confidence in the thoroughness of the review we must widen its scope to include a review of all information available to the Council.'

Mr Garnham's intention is to provide his report by the end of July 2014:
'The report may be final or interim depending on the conclusions he is able to reach. We have asked Mr Garnham to liaise with Greater Manchester Police to ensure that his review does not compromise any element of the current investigations being pursued by the police. Council will publish Mr Garnham's report as soon as possible after he delivers it to us.'

This new review will consider the sexual abuse over the longer period from 1961 up to 1995, and look at if any council officers, council employees or councillors were responsible for what took place.  It will examine if there any patterns to the activities, whether the sexual abuse of children was tolerated, facilitated or promoted by the Council or its officers or staff, and if there was a culture operating in the institutions to inhibit the proper investigation, exposure and prevention of such abuse.  This review will include allegations that are now the subject of existing civil claims against the Council, but it will not seek to determine any issue of civil liability, and if the investigation should show evidence of criminal acts which has not yet led to convictions, Mr. Garnham QC will make no determination on this matter, but will hand his evidence over to the Greater Manchester Police, who are conducting their own separate investigation.  The review will, however, look at the Council's knowledge of, and response to, such evidence, regardless of whether criminal convictions take place or not.  And if such evidence shows the potential commission of disciplinary (rather than criminal) offences, the review will include this in its report. 

No comments: