Yesterday it was announced that the Judge-led Lowell Goddard inquiry into historical child sex abuse will also examine whether there was an establishment cover-up regarding the allegations against Lord Greville Janner: this will include the operations of Leicestershire Police and Leicestershire County Council. Re. the latter, below we revisit some of the reports undertaken in the early 1990s into how the Council dealt with Frank Beck (who was convicted of serious child sex abuse in Leicestershire children’s homes), the other cases of documented child sex abuse and the Council’s responses to the reports. The overall picture is one of widespread abuse and a Council and social services department that were incompetent at best and possibly guilty of cover-up at worst.
These reports, while historical – though some have only recently been made available – assume added significance given the number of child sex abuse scandals that have emerged over the last six months involving city and county councils and other statutory bodies across the UK.
(Note: the Goddard Inquiry will also be seeking evidence from Janner’s alleged victims and may also indict Janner to appear before the Inquiry. Goddard has reportedly already asked DPP Alison Saunders to provide all the prosecution files against Janner. Also, today the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it will be looking into Leicestershire Police’s handling of complaints made against Janner and others in 1991, 2001, and 2006. The family of Lord Janner continue to refute all allegations.)
The conviction of Frank Beck on 29 November 1991 resulted in the establishment of two inquiries, one into the way in which the police had dealt with the allegations against Frank Beck and another was the Kirkwood Inquiry, which examined all aspects of the management of children’s homes by Leicestershire County Council between 1973 and 1986. There were also the Minutes of Special Meeting of (Leicestershire) Social Services (marked ‘Confidential’) to discuss the Kirkwood Report. In addition, there were the Newell reports, dated Sept 1990 and Dec 1990.
A. The Newell Report
The Newell Report investigated actions taken by the social services department in relation to the conduct of Mr Frank Beck as an employee and management processes in place. This report criticised senior Council officers for not suspending Beck, who was a Liberal Blaby District councillor, when he was charged with assault in 1982. Newell also condemned the Council for approving Beck as a foster parent, despite what he called the “aggregation of complaints” against Beck. Further, Newell found it was “unacceptable” that after Beck quit the Council in 1986, following a sexual assault allegation, Council officers subsequently provided references to help him get social care work.
The reports say there were 12 recorded ‘incidents’ at The Beeches home in Leicester Forest East, the home which Beck ran, between January 1982 and December 1985. Newell found that the incidents were pursued “promptly and in detail” but found it extraordinary that nothing actually happened other than Beck written to occasionally. Newell wrote: “It was possible that those in immediate line management ‘sat on’ what they knew. “It is possible that they passed on information and concerns and the inactivity was a conscious decision by their senior managers.” He added: “Whatever was the situation between 1982 and 1985, the evidence was overwhelming for ‘something to be done’.” He also said that incidents such as those listed in the report made it clear that Beck had “friends in high places”.
B. The Kirkwood Report
Here are the main points from the Kirkwood report:
- Nearly all staff in the homes of which Frank Beck was Officer in Charge were young, single people, introduced by Frank Beck.
- Early warnings of problems were ignored even when they came from reliable sources.
- An investigation undertaken in 1978 was ignored by senior managers.
- Much of what Beck did, did not go through normal channels.
- There was a series of complaints against Beck, one of which resulted in a court case in 1982; only one of these prompted an investigation and no connections were made across the stream of complaints; Beck was even approved as a foster parent while awaiting trial.
- Following the conviction for sexual offences of the Officer in Charge of another home, the recently appointed Deputy of The Beeches took two complaints by staff members to the Personnel Department, whose suspension of Beck prompted his resignation.
- The Director, Brian Rice, subsequently supplied two references to Frank Beck without mentioning his suspension or resignation.
- Allegations against other members of staff in the department were generally handled without a proper investigation.
- Mr Rice resigned, following an inquiry which revealed lack of confidence in him; his successor took appropriate and positive action to address the issues.
- According to the report the people primarily responsible for the situation persisting were Dorothy Edwards, Director at the time of Frank Beck’s appointment, and Brian Rice, who had failed to act decisively in the face of overwhelming evidence of problems.
See also a detailed summary of the Kirkwood Report.
‘Missing’ 114 child sex abuse files: Janner doc identified; abuse was widespread
Janner child sex abuse allegations: private legal challenges explained
Lord Janner argues dementia no bar to prosecution; original Inquiry docs here
Janner child sex abuse: legal failures presage alternatives to prosecution/inquiries