Far-left firebrands who led Lambeth at time of child abuse scandal

Pictured: The far-left firebrands of Lambeth Council that used children in care ‘as pawns in toxic power game with Thatcher’s government’ and oversaw a ‘culture of cover-up’ that let sex offenders freely abuse 705 victims

  • Lambeth Council leader were more focused on opposing the ruling Tories than tackling abuse, report says
  • Nationally-known Labour leaders such as Ted Knight and Linda Bellos were posturing against Government 
  • At the same time social workers treated children with ‘callous disregard’ and allowed paedophiles free rein
  • Report says council in South London was dominated by ‘politicised behaviour and turmoil’ during the 1980s

More than 700 child abuse victims in the care of a notorious hard-Left council were ‘pawns in a toxic power game’ local leaders were having with Margaret Thatcher’s Government in the 1980s, a damning inquiry has found. 

Frequent and vicious abuse by paedophiles was allowed to go on while the leaders of Lambeth Council in South London were more focused on opposing the ruling Conservatives – with the children treated as ‘worthless’, it said.

While nationally-known Labour leaders such as Ted Knight and Linda Bellos postured against the Government and condemned racism, social workers treated children with ‘callous disregard’ and allowed paedophiles free rein. 

Between 1986 and 1988 the council’s leader was gay rights and anti-racism activist Miss Bellos, 70, who now runs an equality consultancy. The radical feminist succeeded Mr Knight, who died aged 86 in March last year. 

The report released yesterday said Lambeth Council was dominated by ‘politicised behaviour and turmoil’ during the 1980s and that the authority sought to ‘take on the Government’ to the detriment of local services.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) report said: ‘During that time, children in care became pawns in a toxic power game within Lambeth Council and between the council and central government. 

‘This turmoil and failure to act to improve children’s social care continued into the 1990s and beyond.’

It told how ‘bullying, intimidation, racism and sexism thrived within Lambeth Council’, all of which was set within a context of corruption and financial mismanagement which permeated much of the council’s operations. 

The report said senior council officials who tried to rein in corruption were threatened – and levels of intimidation against staff deepened when one official who resisted corruption was murdered in a crime that went unsolved.


Former Lambeth Council leader Ted Knight (pictured left in 1985, and right in 2001) was one of the driving forces behind the Labour councils’ rebellion against Margaret Thatcher’s attempts to limit the budgets of local councils in the mid-1980s


Lambeth Council’s leader between 1986 and 1988 was gay rights and anti-racism activist Linda Bellos (left, in 1987; and, right, in 2015). The radical feminist said yesterday that she wishes she ‘should have known’ about abuse that happened at the homes

Joan Twelves, who was Lambeth Council’s leader from 1989 to 1991, became involved in politics in the 1970s in fighting fascism. She was suspended by the Labour Party in 1991 for campaigning against the Poll Tax and the Gulf War

The report said more than 700 child abuse victims in the care of Lambeth Council were ‘pawns in a toxic power game’ local leaders were having with Margaret Thatcher’s Government. The former Prime Minister is pictured with John Major in 1991

One victim at Shirley Oaks (pictured) said she was abused every week for two years until she told a nurse what was happening

Yesterday, survivors of Lambeth Council children’s homes revealed the horrific abuse they were subjected to as the report exposed how predators ‘infiltrated’ the system to abuse 705 victims.

Sandra Fearon said she was driven to the point of being ‘seconds away from suicide’ after a doctor launched a campaign of violent sexual abuse against her from the age of 12.

Who led Lambeth Council when Margaret Thatcher was in power in the 80s? 

Ted Knight (1978-1986)

‘Red Ted’ was expelled from Labour in 1954 for being a member of the Socialist Labour League, before being readmitted in 1970. He left his job as contracts manager of a cleaning company to work at the council full-time in 1978 – and he earned just £60 a week there, which was the allowance for attending committee meetings. He was one of the driving forces behind the Labour councils’ rebellion against Margaret Thatcher’s attempts to limit the budgets of local councils in the mid-1980s. 

Linda Bellos (1986-1988)

Between 1986 and 1988 the council’s leader was gay rights and anti-racism activist Linda Bellos, 70. The radical feminist was not called to give evidence by the IICSA and said yesterday that she wishes she ‘should have known’ about abuse that happened at the homes. She now runs an equality consultancy and introduced Black History Month as chair of the London Strategic Policy Unit. She was awarded an OBE in 2006.

Joan Twelves (1989-1991)

 

Joan Twelves became involved in politics in the 1970s in fighting fascism and held numerous positions in the Labour Party in Lambeth and London in the following decade. She was suspended by the party in 1991 for campaigning against the Poll Tax and the Gulf War. 

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990

Elizabeth McCourt, who was sexually abused at Angell Road care home, told BBC News she was later kidnapped by a pimp and forced into prostitution because of the council’s ‘negligence’. 

Philip Wells told Sky News he was 10 when, over the course of seven months at Shirley Oaks, he was sexually abused two or three times a week by a teacher. 

He said he reported his injuries at the time but was ignored by staff and it went on to become ‘a dark secret’. He went 60 years without revealing what had happened to him. 

Employees at Lambeth Council ‘treated children in care as if they were worthless’ and appeared to demonstrate ‘a callous disregard for the vulnerable children they were paid to look after’, yesterday’s report said.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) heard evidence of children being raped, indecently assaulted and sexually abused while investigating what happened over several decades since the 1960s.

But the report said that of the 705 former residents across three such facilities who complained, only one member of senior staff was ever disciplined as it estimated the number of those abused was likely much higher.

And it recommended the Metropolitan Police should consider whether there are grounds for a criminal probe into a boy who died in a care home in 1977 having previously complained of being abused by a senior member of staff. 

Victims have spoken out about their experiences following the report.

Ms Fearon, who was at Shirley Oaks between 1964 and 1969 with her siblings, said she was abused every week for two years until she told a school nurse what was happening.  

‘I got to the point where I was probably seconds away from suicide. That’s how bad my health was and the state I was in,’ she said, adding that the abuse ‘absolutely destroyed me’.  

Ms McCourt, 56, told the BBC she ‘felt ashamed’ after the abuse and hasn’t been able to hold a job down because of her subsequent criminal record.  

Mr Wells thought the abuse was ‘the way things are done in schools’ until he realised the way he had been treated was not okay. He said what happened to him has been ‘constantly on his mind’ since a teacher assaulted him regularly after swimming lessons. 

One girl claimed she was raped 500 times by older boys at Shirley Oaks during the 1950s. 

And Mr Wells, who moved to Shirley Oaks in the 1950s after his mother became unwell, said he thought a ‘corrupt viper’s nest of paedophiles’ had targeted children at the home. 

In its summary, the IICSA report said: ‘With some exceptions, they (Lambeth Council staff) 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, life-long consequences for their victims.

The report highlighted the case of Michael John Carroll (pictured in 2014), a member of staff at the Angell Road home who had failed to disclose in the 1970s a previous conviction for child sexual abuse but was retained when this was found out. He was subsequently convicted in 1999 of 34 counts of child sexual abuse, including of two boys in the care of Lambeth Council

Philip Wells (pictured) told Sky News he was 10 when, over the course of seven months at the Shirley Oaks home, he was sexually abused two or three times a week by a teacher

Mr Wells, who moved to Shirley Oaks in the 1950s after his mother became unwell, said he thought a ‘corrupt viper’s nest of paedophiles’ had targeted children at the home. Pictured, Mr Wells as a child


Elizabeth McCourt (pictured), 56, told the BBC she ‘felt ashamed’ after the abuse and hasn’t been able to hold a job down because of her subsequent criminal record

‘For several decades, senior staff and councillors at Lambeth Council failed to effect change, despite overwhelming evidence that children in its care did not have the quality of life and protection to which they were entitled, and were being put at serious risk of sexual abuse.

The six men convicted of child sexual abuse

Despite the scale of reported abuse and suspected abuse in Lambeth, only six perpetrators have been convicted of child sexual abuse. They are as follows:  

William Hook: In 2001 pleaded guilty to 26 offences, including indecent assault, gross indecency and buggery, in respect of six children in the care of Lambeth Council and one he abused after leaving the Council. Sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Philip Temple: In 2016 pleaded guilty to 29 counts of child sexual abuse related to 13 victims, four of whom had been at Shirley Oaks. Sentenced to 12 years in jail, which was increased to 18 years upon the Attorney General referring the case to the Court of Appeal. 

Leslie Paul: Convicted on three separate occasions – in 1994, 2002 and 2016 – of a range of sexual offences against several children in Lambeth Council’s care, including from South Vale. In 1994, he was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment, in 2002 to 18 months’ imprisonment and in 2016 to 13 years’ imprisonment.

Michael Carroll: In 1999 was convicted of the sexual abuse of two boys in the care of Lambeth Council, as well as nine boys from a children’s home in Liverpool. The indictment before the court in 1999 contained 76 counts relating to child sexual abuse. Carroll pleaded guilty to 34 charges and was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Patrick Grant: Convicted in 2019 of eight counts of indecent assault on a boy under the age of 16, two of which concerned a child in Lambeth Council’s care. Sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment.

Geoffrey Clarke: In 1998 was convicted of the sexual abuse of three children not connected to Lambeth, where he had worked in children’s homes. Sentenced to three years in jail. Later charged with various offences of indecent assault and possession of indecent images, but took his own life on the day the trial was to start.

‘When systemic failures were identified, time and again they were minimised and levels of risk ignored.’

The inquiry into Lambeth Council, held in the summer of 2020, examined five facilities – Angell Road, South Vale Assessment Centre, the Shirley Oaks complex, Ivy House and Monkton Street – dating back to the 1960s.

The report highlighted the case of Michael John Carroll, a member of staff at the Angell Road children’s home who had failed to disclose in the 1970s a previous conviction for child sexual abuse but was retained when this was eventually found out.

He was subsequently convicted in 1999 of 34 counts of child sexual abuse, including of two boys in the care of Lambeth Council between 1980 and 1983.

The report found ‘clear evidence’ that sexual offenders and those suspected of sexual abuse were co-workers in Lambeth Council’s children’s homes at the same time.

Carroll also had a role in recruiting staff and investigations at Angell Road.

The report said: ‘Through such poor practice and its failure to respond to concerns and allegations, Lambeth Council put vulnerable children in the path of adults known or suspected to be perpetrators of child sexual abuse.’

It described sex offenders as likely feeling ‘untouchable’, while children were left feeling ‘isolated and ignored’.

The report identified a ‘culture of cover-up’ and a ‘lack of concern for the day-to-day lives of children in its care’.

It said Lambeth Council was dominated by ‘politicised behaviour and turmoil’ during the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, and that the council sought to ‘take on the Government’ to the detriment of local services.

The report said: ‘During that time, children in care became pawns in a toxic power game within Lambeth Council and between the council and central government. 

‘This turmoil and failure to act to improve children’s social care continued into the 1990s and beyond.’

It said ‘bullying, intimidation, racism and sexism thrived within Lambeth Council’, all of which was set within a context of corruption and financial mismanagement which permeated much of Lambeth Council’s operations. 

The report acknowledged there were ‘much-improved systems in Lambeth’, but said there was still evidence of a more recent case, from 2016, in which an allegation of rape did not result in a strategy meeting taking place to consider the claim.

The report added: ‘For several decades, senior staff and councillors at Lambeth Council failed to effect change, despite overwhelming evidence that children in its care did not have the quality of life and protection to which they were entitled, and were being put at serious risk of sexual abuse.

‘When systemic failures were identified, time and again they were minimised and levels of risk ignored.’

The report made a number of recommendations, including that the council publish an action plan to deal with the issues raised in the report, and for a review of recruitment and vetting checks of current foster carers and children’s home staff.

It also said Scotland Yard should consider whether there were grounds for criminal investigations into the council’s actions when providing information to the coroner about the circumstances of a child’s death – known during the inquiry as LA-A2 – who died in the bathroom at Shirley Oaks in 1977 having previously alleged his house father, Donald Hosegood, abused him. 

One of the facilities examined was Angell Road in Lambeth which was a children’s home from January 1981 until March 1995

Another of the facilities examined was the Shirley Oaks complex, where 2,400 children were placed between 1965 and 1983

A child died in the bathroom at Shirley Oaks in 1977 having previously alleged his house father, Donald Hosegood, abused him

The London Borough of Lambeth and the children’s homes considered in the report – including Ivy House, which in 1987 was moved from the Shirley Oaks site to Warham Road, Croydon

The inquiry heard Lambeth Council did not inform the coroner of the boy’s allegations.

‘Repeatedly abused’ woman says she won’t stop campaigning until all the perpetrators’ names are made public 

Husna-Banoo Talukdar, who said she was repeatedly abused while in Lambeth care homes between 1976 and 1979, said she would not stop campaigning for justice until all the perpetrators’ names were made public.

Husna-Banoo Talukdar said she was repeatedly abused while in Lambeth care homes between 1976 and 1979

Ms Taludkar, who waived her right to anonymity, said: ‘The inquiry missed that opportunity to get those names out there, to get it known who did what – the abusers, the council, the police who covered it up.’

The 57-year-old said she sought to banish the memories of her childhood growing up, but began getting nightmares and flashbacks in her 40s.

She said she tried to kill herself three years ago, and detailed her ordeal in a 91-page letter before taking an overdose, but survived after more than a week in a coma. She said: ‘Every day counts now, I know that. I will not stop trying to get justice.’

Other areas of investigation during the long-running inquiry have included Westminster, the church and the internet.

The final report of overarching findings from all 15 sections of the investigation is being laid before Parliament at a later date.

Husna-Banoo Talukdar, who said she was repeatedly abused while in Lambeth care homes between 1976 and 1979, said she would not stop campaigning for justice until all the perpetrators’ names were made public.

Ms Taludkar, who waived her right to anonymity, said: ‘The inquiry missed that opportunity to get those names out there, to get it known who did what – the abusers, the council, the police who covered it up.’

The 57-year-old said she sought to banish the memories of her childhood growing up, but began getting nightmares and flashbacks in her 40s.

She said she tried to kill herself three years ago, and detailed her ordeal in a 91-page letter before taking an overdose, but survived after more than a week in a coma.

She said: ‘Every day counts now, I know that. I will not stop trying to get justice.’

Richard Scorer, specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, who is representing the sister of a teenage boy who killed himself in a care home after making allegations of abuse against staff member Donald Hosegood, said: ‘It is clear from today’s report that Lambeth Council deliberately withheld information from the coroner in order to give the impression that our client’s brother was happy in care.

‘IICSA have now recommended that Lambeth Council’s cover-up in this case is investigated by the police.

‘We urge the Metropolitan Police to act on that recommendation without delay and urgently establish a full investigation – anything less would be a betrayal of our client, of her deceased brother who took his own life in 1977, and of the generations of children who were let down by the litany of council and police failings set out in this report.’

One former leader of Lambeth Council has said she wishes she ‘should have known’ about abuse that happened at council-owned homes.

Ms Bellos, who led the council from 1986 to 1988, was not called to give evidence by the IICSA.

She told the BBC: ‘It is so shocking to hear … the hurt that has been done to children. I am actually shocked. I responded to the questions and I wasn’t asked to say any more, but now listening to what has happened I am shocked. I am disgusted in fact.’ 

Employees in Lambeth ‘treated children in care as if they were worthless’, the report found. Lambeth Town Hall is pictured

She added: ‘I should have known, there should have been transparency for the services that we were supposed to be giving to vulnerable children.

Former council leader says she ‘should have known’ about child abuse

Former Lambeth Council leader Linda Bellos

A former leader of Lambeth Council has said she wishes she ‘should have known’ about abuse that happened at council-owned homes.

Linda Bellos, who led the council from 1986 to 1988, was not called to give evidence by the IICSA.

She told the BBC: ‘It is so shocking to hear … the hurt that has been done to children.

‘I am actually shocked. I responded to the questions and I wasn’t asked to say any more, but now listening to what has happened I am shocked. I am disgusted in fact.’

She added: ‘I should have known, there should have been transparency for the services that we were supposed to be giving to vulnerable children.

‘On the other hand, to ask any questions of any officers, the media, and I can think of a number of national newspapers who were accusing me of interfering. I didn’t wish to micromanage senior officers. We were paying them thousands of pounds to do their work.’

‘On the other hand, to ask any questions of any officers, the media, and I can think of a number of national newspapers who were accusing me of interfering. I didn’t wish to micromanage senior officers. We were paying them thousands of pounds to do their work.’

Claire Holland, Lambeth council leader, said: ‘The council was responsible for their care and protection but failed, with profound consequences. The council is deeply sorry for their experiences. 

‘The extent and scale of the horrendous abuse, which took place over many decades, remains deeply shocking.

‘The council failed to acknowledge concerns when they arose, often failed to believe children when they disclosed abuse and then failed to take effective action.

‘That so many children and adults were not believed compounded their experiences and caused further pain and distress with lifelong impacts.’

Ms Holland added: ‘Lambeth Council fully accepts the recommendations from this inquiry and will continue to strive to improve the care we provide to children and young people.

‘The council recognises that there is much more to be done as part of its improvement journey and that we can never be complacent.

‘We believe children and young people are better listened to and better protected in the Lambeth of today.

‘Lambeth Council – and our partners – welcomes all the recommendations from IICSA that will assist the council to continue to keep children safe now and in the future.’

John O’Brien, secretary to the IICSA, described the Lambeth Council report as ‘the most difficult to read’ of the inquiry’s 15 completed investigations so far.

He said: ‘It’s a fairly difficult read. I’ve been involved in every report we’ve ever issued and this is genuinely the most difficult read of all.

‘If you look at all the elements in our other reports, many contain common areas – this contains everything we found in other areas, all happening in one place. 

‘The only way I can describe it is a generally toxic environment.’ 

The findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse were published yesterday. John O’Brien, secretary to the IICSA, described the Lambeth Council report as ‘the most difficult to read’ of the inquiry’s 15 completed investigations so far

Mr O’Brien added that childhood for a young person placed in care in Lambeth at the time would have likely been ‘bewildering, frightening and soul-destroying’.

What happened to the victims of child abuse? 

A series of horrifying accounts described by victims in residential settings and foster care were given in the report. Here are four of them:

LA‑A307 was taken to Shirley Oaks at the age of nine. He described hearing other children screaming at night and he himself routinely experienced violence and sexual assault, including being photographed whilst being raped.

LA‑A147 was in the care of Lambeth Council in the 1990s and 2000s, from the age of three. Over ten years, she was placed in nine children’s homes and with four sets of foster carers. She described being raped by a foster carer’s teenage son at the age of nine, and was also frequently sexually abused by older men she met whilst in care. By the age of 13, she had developed a drug addiction and was ‘selling herself’ to fund it.

LA‑A2 was found dead in a bathroom at Shirley Oaks in 1977. Lambeth Council did not inform the coroner that he had alleged being sexually abused by Donald Hosegood, his ‘house father’. In the course of Hosegood’s employment at Shirley Oaks, six out of eight children looked after by him and his wife alleged sexual abuse by him.

LA‑A7 described sexual abuse by three male members of staff, including two from South Vale. Two of them separately photographed him at their private homes when he was either naked or wearing only his underwear. One of them, Leslie Paul, was convicted of indecent assaults against him.

He said: ‘It didn’t matter which corner you look in here, you found a failure or a number of failures. 

‘It’s the only report where, reading through it, I’ve had to put it down at regular intervals because what it’s describing is just unrelenting.

‘Everything you read just made you think: I know when I turn the next page I am just going to read another story of something not happening.’

He added: ‘People were in here and saw no way the environment they existed in was ever going to change.’

Asked if there were any people who emerged from the report with any credit, Mr O’Brien replied: ‘No, I don’t think so.’

He said: ‘Officers named in the report, largely speaking, failed to do their job properly – if at all.

‘Councillors weren’t focused on what they needed to do, there’s not one element of this where you think they did their job properly.

‘There was nobody doing the job in the way they should have done, and when things were brought to their attention they deliberately didn’t do very much about them.’

He added: ‘More people involved in this need to put their hands up and commit to making sure this doesn’t happen again.’

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s the World at One, Mr O’Brien also warned there might still be the danger of abuse without the recommendations of the inquiry being acted on.

He said: ‘We have certainly got an environment where without those recommendations being acted upon it would be easier for people to do things like not fully declare their background, which is a real concern.’

Mr O’Brien had earlier said the failures by Lambeth Council could not be ‘disentangled’ from the ‘political argument that was going on between Lambeth and central government at the time’.

He had earlier said: ‘This was truly a failure of the whole authority to protect the children in its care over an extended period of time and when abuse was reported or when it came to light it wasn’t investigated properly, and in many instances people that had been accused of abuse were simply allowed to carry on with their jobs as if nothing had happened.’

Abusers were rife and there was a focus on politics instead of service delivery: Key findings in abuse review

The latest report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has found staff with Lambeth Council failed children in care and foster homes repeatedly from the 1960s. Here are some of the key findings:

The abuse was widespread

Sexual and other abuse of children was ‘widespread’ in Lambeth Council’s residential and foster care homes during the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. The investigation covered five children’s units – Angell Road, South Vale Assessment Centre, the Shirley Oaks complex, Ivy House, and Monkton Street. The inquiry said that by 2020, 705 former residents from Shirley Oaks, South Vale and Angell Road made complaints about sexual abuse, though the true number is likely to be much higher.

Children who raised the alarm were effectively dismissed

A number of victims reported sexual abuse to adults at the time, including to other staff or their social workers. But in many cases, this did not result in the investigation or prosecution of alleged offenders, or any disciplinary action being taken. The report found some children were too frightened to tell anyone, or were threatened with violence by the perpetrator if they reported the abuse. At Shirley Oaks, staff viewed children with hostility and as given to ‘fantasy’. The report said: ‘This complete disbelief of children was incomprehensible and further increased their vulnerability. Even when their allegations proved to be substantiated, they were shown no compassion and given no support.’

The children themselves were among the most vulnerable in society

Two of the facilities – Ivy House and Monkton Street – were for children with complex needs and communication difficulties. Some were taken into care because they experienced – or were at risk of experiencing – abuse or neglect at home. But it also found that some children were in care simply because they were from families whose problems were rooted in poverty or poor housing. The report said that from the 1980s onwards, ‘too many children were taken into care because of a lack of family support, poor planning and poor children’s social care practice, often carried out by unqualified staff’.

Impact of the lack of care

The report found that many Lambeth Council staff involved in children’s social care appeared to demonstrate ‘a callous disregard for the vulnerable children they were paid to look after’. It meant that some former residents experienced emotional, physical and sexual abuse. John O’Brien, secretary to the inquiry, said: ‘People were in here and saw no way the environment they existed in was ever going to change.’

Abusers were rife and acted with impunity

The report found staff and councillors failed in their professional and statutory duties when it came to responding to extremely serious allegations of staff misconduct, including criminal behaviour, towards looked-after children. For example, Michael John Carroll, a member of staff at the Angell Road children’s home who had failed to disclose in the 1970s a previous conviction for child sexual abuse, was retained when this was eventually found out. There is clear evidence that sexual offenders and those suspected of sexual abuse were co-workers in Lambeth Council’s children’s homes at the same time, the report found. Carroll also had a role in staff recruitment and investigations at Angell Road. The report added: ‘Sexual offenders operating within children’s homes were likely to have had a sense of being untouchable, while children were left feeling isolated and ignored.’

The focus on politics rather than service delivery

The report found Lambeth councillors failed to hold senior staff accountable for the dismal quality of children’s social care, and did not themselves take responsibility for setting an appropriate strategy or ensuring improvements were made in order to protect children in their care. They crossed the boundary into operational and professional decision-making, when they should not have done so, the report found. It said Lambeth Council was dominated by ‘politicised behaviour and turmoil’ during the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, and that the council sought to ‘take on the Government’ to the detriment of local services. The report said: ‘During that time, children in care became pawns in a toxic power game within Lambeth Council and between the council and central government. This turmoil and failure to act to improve children’s social care continued into the 1990s and beyond.’

The cover-up

Reputation management has been a feature of several IICSA reports to date, and it was present at Lambeth council ‘with spades on’, IICSA secretary John O’Brien said. The report found that rather than a culture of openness and a willingness to improve when it came to the fundamental interests of children, there was instead ‘defensiveness and resistance to change – children’s interests were secondary to those of staff and councillors’, the report found. It said that when systemic failures were identified, ‘time and again they were minimised and levels of risk ignored’. One former council official told the inquiry that Lambeth ‘spent a lot of time not being transparent and that problems were covered up’.

The tragic case of LA-A2

The inquiry heard evidence of one teenage boy – known only as LA-A2 to protect his identity – who killed himself while at Shirley Oaks in 1977. He had previously accused a senior member of staff – Donald Hosegood – of abusing him. The inquiry heard LA-A2 was ‘slow at doing things’, and had trouble speaking, and that he was one of a number of people allegedly abused by Mr Hosegood. Mr Hosegood later went on trial for 11 counts of rape and indecent assault involving four children, but the case collapsed after only four days. The inquiry heard Lambeth council did not inform the coroner of LA-A2’s allegations about Mr Hosegood. LA-A2’s sister said: ‘Following the court case, (my brother) was even less like his old self. He hardly spoke and he never seemed to be happy or engaging when I saw him. Had fate been kinder to my beloved (brother), and had counselling and support been available, (he) may have been able to represent himself (at the inquiry).’

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