January 1998

Council criticised over paedophile scandal

A Labour-run council has been severely criticised by an independent inquiry for its handling of a paedophile scandal.

The inquiry, headed by former Cambridgeshire County Council chief executive John Barrett, criticised the way Hackney Council in east London dealt with allegations that one of its social workers, who later died of an Aids-related illness, was abusing children in his care but said there was no political cover-up.

The report revealed widespread incompetence and mismanagement at Hackney in dealing with the Mark Trotter affair but it cleared the council of corruption.

The inquiry centred on allegations that Trotter, a social worker who worked for the authority from 1981 to 1993, abused children in his care.

He was about to be arrested over allegations of sex abuse when he died of an Aids-related illness in 1995, aged 34.

Trotter is thought to have sexually abused at least twelve children during a fourteen-year career as a social worker in Liverpool and Hackney.

The report is “highly critical” of the way the council carried out an internal investigation following Trotter’s death and its handling of four complaints of sexual abuse of children in Hackney and Liverpool made against Trotter while working for the council.

It said Hackney’s handling of these two matters amounted to “impropriety” but ruled out allegations that the Trotter affair had been covered up because he was a Labour activist.

The inquiry was triggered by allegations in the Evening Standard and caused a row within Hackney’s ruling Labour group.

Seventeen Labour councillors subsequently resigned, and were later expelled, thus causing the party to lose control of Hackney Council in September 1996.

Labour no longer has control of Hackney Council but the party’s group leader, John McCafferty, said: “I am pleased the independent report has concluded there was no cover up. Hackney Labour was wrongly accused.

“This accusation has been completely rebutted by this independent inquiry.”

The Liberal Democrats said while the report was good in places questions must be answered by the Labour Party about its handling of the affair.

It was claimed that Trotter, who was openly gay, had strong links with the then-ruling Labour group and stayed in his job despite being suspected of child abuse.