Jillings report: 'Extensive' abuse at children's homes

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Media captionJohn Jillings says some of the treatment was 'bestial'

A report written 17 years ago has finally been published identifying long-term "extensive" abuse at children's homes in north Wales from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Abuse allegations at several children's homes, including the former Bryn Estyn home in Wrexham, emerged in the 1990s.

An inquiry by John Jillings was carried out in 1996 but shelved due to fears there would be compensation claims.

The 300 -page report was published following an FoI request by the BBC.

The report followed North Wales Police's inquiry into abuse claims in 1991 and the conviction of seven former care workers. As more claims of abuse in almost 40 homes emerged, the former Clwyd County Council commissioned Mr Jillings in 1994 to investigate.

However, his inquiry was never published amid concerns of costly insurance claims.

Last year, the BBC submitted a Freedom of Information (FoI) request and a redacted [edited] version of the report was published. It found:

  • Extensive abuse of children over a substantial number of years
  • Children had been severely disturbed by the abuse. Some later took their own lives
  • Responses to reports children had been abused were "too little and too late"
  • The interests of children were sacrificed to safeguard professional position
  • Five men working at Bryn Estyn were convicted of serious offences involving 20 boys and five girls aged 10-16
  • The inquiry, hindered by serious constraints over available social services and police material, was almost abandoned
  • Some staff refused to meet investigating panel
  • North Wales Police did not conduct independent investigations of allegations against former and serving police officers
  • It was not known how many statements made were handed to CPS
  • It was not known how many alleged abusers, including police officers, were named in the statements
  • An earlier report into abuse at another home was shelved after concerns over prejudicing a prosecution and insurance worries
  • The report had urged a public judicial inquiry

The report said: "Our investigations have led us to conclude that the abuse of children and young people in Clwyd residential units has been extensive, and has taken place over a substantial number of years.

"It is clear that, in a significant number of cases, the lives of young people who have been through the care system in Clwyd have been severely disrupted and disturbed. At least 12 young people are dead."

There was criticism of how the authorities had dealt with complaints made by children of sexual abuse.

"Our findings show that time and again the response to indications that children may have been abused has been too little and too late," said the report.

"Furthermore the needs and interests of children and young people have tended to be an incidental, rather than a primary concern.

"The most striking fact to emerge is that five men who shared in common their employment as residential care workers at Bryn Estyn were convicted of serious offences involving at least 24 young people."

The report said there had been a lack of clarity of how many statements made about sex abuse allegations had been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for consideration.

It also said there was a lack of information over how many professionals including police officers had been accused of assaults.

There was severe criticism towards North Wales Police over its refusal to accept it was inappropriate for it to investigate itself.

Individuals at the now defunct council were also criticised.

It also emerged in the Jillings report that another inquiry into abuse - this time centring on the Cartrefle children's home - was not published because of CPS concerns it may prejudice a prosecution, as well as concerns over insurance.

Jillings recommended a public judicial inquiry into the issue and said former residents who had made complaints "did not appear to be motivated out of a desire for financial recompense" and "the motivation appeared to be a genuine desire to see the situation improved for children in care".

He called on agencies such as health, education, probation and police to put more effective safeguards in place.

However the recommendations were not made public at the time and copies of the report were said to have been pulped after concerns compensation claims would follow.

That same year, another report into sex abuse at children's homes in north Wales was undertaken by the late Sir Ronald Waterhouse, which took four years to complete.

Sir Ronald found there had been "appalling mistreatment" of children over a period of 20 years.

He had gathered evidence from 650 people, with most allegations focusing on seven homes.

Last year the scandal re-emerged after a victim claimed the Waterhouse report in 2000 had not uncovered the full scale of the abuse.

Home Secretary Theresa May then launched a new police inquiry into the abuse allegations.

Following the publication of the Jillings report, a joint statement from the north Wales councils was released.

It said: "The North Wales Councils recognise that the release of the report may bring distress to those affected by historic abuse and they encourage anyone who is affected by its release to call one of the numbers below if they need support.

"All councils have and will continue to support anyone affected by abuse.

"In north Wales, the safeguarding of children and young people is a high priority for today's councils."

Asked if he thought the Jillings report drew a line under the issue, Winston Roddick, the police and crime commissioner for north Wales, said: "You can't draw a line under under things of this kind.

"All you can do - and what you should do - is learn lessons."

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