700 children were sexually abused by paedophiles in ‘toxic power game’
At least 705 children were abused by paedophiles working in the care system in one of Britain’s worst ever child abuse scandals, it emerged today.
The victims – all former children’s home residents – were “pawns in a toxic power game” between politicians and left at the mercy of abusers who deliberately sought out jobs which gave them access to the vulnerable.
An inquiry into the scandal concluded that youngsters in the care of Lambeth Council experienced levels of cruelty and sexual abuse that was “hard to comprehend”.
Among those who have faced criticism are the Metropolitan Police, the Social Services Inspectorate and local politicians and officials.
Victims have so far received a record £71.5million in compensation.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was set up to investigate abuse across different institutions and organisations
The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) found more than 700 allegations of sexual abuse against hundreds of staff and individuals connected with just three homes in the borough. The true scale of abuse was likely to be far higher, it said.
It said Lambeth council had allowed violence and sexual assault to flourish in its children’s residential homes, had failed to act against known abusers, or tackle the brutal, harsh and punitive culture of its homes – with devastating consequences for many children in its care.
“It is hard to comprehend the cruelty and sexual abuse inflicted on children in the care of Lambeth council over many years, by staff, by foster carers and their families, and by volunteers in residential settings,” the report concludes.
Although most of the children had been taken into care after suffering violence and neglect at the hands of family members, the report noted that for some “the experience they had [in the residential homes] was worse than living at home with their birth families”.
The council failed on multiple occasions to protect children, including employing staff who it knew posed a risk to children, failing to investigate employees suspected of sexual abuse, and exposing children to situations where it knew they were at risk of abuse.
The effect on many children in Lambeth’s care was devastating, the report says. As one witness, known as LA-A309, put it: “I felt from an early age that my feelings were inconsequential or of little value and that my pain didn’t matter. It was clear from an early age that no one really cared about me.”
Over 40 years just one senior employee was disciplined for their part in the catalogue of abuse. Six perpetrators of sexual abuse connected to Lambeth homes, some of whom were council employees, were convicted of child sexual abuse between 1994 and 2019.
Many staff in Lambeth children’s homes “demonstrated a callous disregard for the vulnerable children they were paid to look after”. Some failed to act when they knew about sexual abuse, and showed little compassion to the victims. “It was as if staff intended to create a harsh and punitive environment,” the report concludes.
It is also critical of the children’s services inspectorate, Ofsted, and its predecessors, for failing to to do enough to identify the serious failures in services and staff practices, and the Metropolitan police for failing to properly investigate links between offenders identified in separate criminal investigations.
IICSA has recommended the Metropolitan police investigate the case of one child, known as LA-A2, who was found dead in a bathroom in one of the homes, Shirley Oaks, in 1977. The report found the council had failed to inform the coroner that he had alleged he was sexually abused by a staff member there.
The leader of Lambeth, Cllr Claire Holland, said: “Lambeth council wishes to re-state our sincere and heartfelt apology to all victims and survivors of abuse and neglect while in Lambeth’s care. The council was responsible for their care and protection but failed, with profound consequences. The council is deeply sorry for their experiences.”
The report is scathing of what it calls the “progressive” leftwing culture of the council in the 1980s. “Many councillors and staff purported to hold principled and beliefs about tackling racism and promoting equality but in reality they failed to apply these principles to children in their care.”
It notes that the overwhelming majority of children in its homes were black. At Shirley Oaks in 1980 57% of the children in care were black; at South Vale home children a decade later 85% of the children were black. “Racism was evident in the hostile and abusive treatment towards them by some staff.”
In one staggering case, paedophile John Carroll was allowed to remain in his job as boss of one care home, despite senior officials learning he had a conviction for child sexual abuse in 1986.
Carroll was finally sacked in 1991 but only for “financial irregularities” and was finally jailed for ten years in 1999 after admitting a string of sexual assaults against children following a Merseyside police probe.
The inquiry report criticised police for failing to properly investigate sexual abuse during Operation Bell in 1992 and Operation Middleton which ended in 2003.
It said: “The Inquiry has identified failures to follow up evidence leads – in particular, the links between perpetrators that may have led to the identification of further offending.”
But it rejected claims of political interference in police investigations saying the “reality” is that some staff and politicians were complicit in putting children at risk of sexual abuse because they “simply did not care enough”.
The report found: “With some exceptions, they treated children in care as if they were worthless. As a consequence, individuals who posed a risk to children were able to infiltrate children’s homes and foster care, with devastating, lifelong consequences for their victims.”
Lambeth’s compensation scheme remains open until January 1, 2022 and the south London borough has agreed to borrow up to £125m to fund it.
In total, it has received 1,877 applications for compensation with more than 75% having been completed.
Legal firms helping handle the process have been paid over £10m.
It was launched after a probe by the Shirley Oaks Survivors’ Association, jointly led by one care home victim, Raymond Stevenson.
Referring to the report into the murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan that branded the Met Police “institutionally corrupt”, he said: “The least we will accept is a Daniel Morgan style finding by the inquiry.