Workforce, Pensions and Training

12.04.18

Former Rochdale council leader lied under oath to child sex abuse inquiry

A recently-resigned Rochdale council leader has been suspended by the Labour Party and is facing a police investigation after an official child abuse inquiry found he lied under oath during the hearing.

The document, made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), argued Richard Farnell “ultimately had responsibility” for the young men abused at Cambridge House hostel, Knowl View school, and other areas in Rochdale between the early 1960s and mid-1990s.

The 154-page report published today claimed Farnell “lied to the inquiry during his evidence” and added that the former council chief was prepared to blame others without acknowledging his own failures of leadership.

The investigation said that pupils attending Knowl View experienced sexual exploitation from staff, older students and Rochdale town centre, noting that some pupils were even trafficked into other towns for that purpose.

“It was shameful that Mr Farnell refused to accept any personal responsibility for the young lives blighted by what happened at the school while he was leader. Instead, he laid all blame for what occurred at the door of the senior officials in education and social services,” the report said.

“Mr Farnell must have known at least about the generality, if not the detail, issues about child sexual abuse at Knowl View. In light of everything we have heard and seen, it defies belief that Mr Farnell was unaware of the events involving Knowl View School, especially within the context of Rochdale Council arising from the Middleton cases.”

The IICSA concluded that there was “no deliberate cover-up” from authorities involved, but claimed instead that the response was “careless and wholly inadequate.”

The report also focused on the influence of late MP Cyril Smith at Cambridge House. The investigation argued Smith, who represented Rochdale in Parliament from 1972 to 1992, had ready access to the boys living in the hostel, allegedly facilitating his sexual abuse of them under the guise of ‘medical examinations’ – including, in most cases, of a boy’s private parts.

In addition, the document stated: “Smith showed a strong, perhaps unduly detailed, interest in children in care as his political career developed. This interest appeared to go unchallenged.

“Valuable opportunities were, however, lost in 1998 and 1999 to charge and prosecute Smith during his lifetime, and for the complainants of his alleged abuse to seek justice.”

Professor Alexis Jay, chair of the inquiry, said: “After listening to the evidence presented by a number of victims and survivors in Rochdale at the time, I am deeply disturbed at the evidence of extensive abuse and the institutional responses to that abuse.

“Many of those who testified to their abuse have never had the opportunity to seek justice through the courts. I hope that the public hearings and this report has offered them some measure of acknowledgement for their suffering.”

(Top image c.AlanMBarr)

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