Saturday, 19 March 2016

Rochdale Council Scrap Sex Abuse Inquiry

The letter below was published in today's Rochdale Observer.
It outlines the history of the setting up of the inquiry into the
abuse of young lads at Cambridge House by Cyril Smith in the 1960s,
and into the quite separate allegations of abuse at the residential school
Knowl View.  The Garnham inquiry was set up by the then leader
of Rochdale Council Colin Lambert in April 2014, it has now been
closed down by a Labour Council led by Richard Farnell.
Dear Sir,
Now that the Garnham inquiry has been axed perhaps we should remind
ourselves of why it was thought necessary to establish a local inquiry
in the first place.

Claims of a so called 'cover up' about events at Knowl View special
school can be traced back to an article which appeared in the
Independent on Sunday in September 1995.

What does not seem to be disputed is that the 1991 report by Aids worker
Philip Shepherd which detailed claims of homosexual activity between the
boys at the school, some of it coercive in nature, and of boys
importuning at the then Smith Street toilets, was sent to both the
Education and Social Services departments of RMBC and that a further
report by a consultant clinical psychologist was commissioned.  This
confirmed Mr Shepherd's findings.

Mr Shepherd's report was the basis for the 1995 article, though not for
the interpretation that was put upon it.  Cyril Smith was not referred
to in either the report or the article derived from it.

Following Mr Danczuk's rediscovery of the story of Cyril Smith's
activities at Cambridge House which had been published in Rochale
Alternative Paper (RAP)
in May 1979 these two quite separate stories
became conflated.  Mr Danczuk used his book to try to persuade readers
that Smith had been involved in abusing boys at Knowl View though the
'evidence' he produced will not stand up to even slight scrutiny.

I don't believe there was a deliberate 'cover up' because I fail to see
how anyone could have found an instant solution to all the very serious
problems which were uncovered.  Immediate closure of the school was
clearly not an option.

So the question which needs to be answered is, 'did the people who knew
about what was going on at the school, whether they were officers or
councillors, make a serious attempt to sort out the problems that had
come to light?'

If Mr Justice Garnham has produced an interim report I think we can
assume that this contains details of which council officers saw the 1991
Shepherd report and the February 1992 report by consultant psychologist
Valerie Mellor, what action they took themselves, what further action
they recommended to councillors and which councillors they reported to.

The leaders of the council in the relevant time span, the early 1990s,
were Richard Farnell and Paul Rowan.

If suspicions of a 'cover up' are to be dispelled it seems to me most
unfortunate that one of these two men is leader of the council at a time
when axing the Garnham inquiry is up for discussion.  The answer would
seem to be to publish the interim report.

Les May

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