The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) published their report in response to the allegations of sexual abuse at various Children’s homes in Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council on 31st July 2019.
There was 15 days of public hearings in 2018 where the Inquiry heard from victims of child sexual abuse who allege physical and sexual abuse whilst they were in the care of Nottinghamshire Councils. The report found that 350 victims had come forward and reported allegations of sexual abuse from the 1960s onwards. The exact number is thought be higher.
The Inquiry looked at a case study into Beechwood Children’s Home. Beechwood opened on 1st November 1967 as an one‐unit remand home for 20 boys, and was not intended to be a children’s home. In 1974 it was an observation and assessment centre for children that had committed an offence and had been remanded in care by the local authority. However, by 1976 it consisted of four units: The Lindens, Redcot (originally a separate children’s home), Enderleigh (opened in 1967 as a remand home for 18 girls), and a central administration and teaching block. Beechwood also housed children on an emergency basis and those that were waiting for long term placement. The inquiry report reveals how “this mixed cohort of children, with different challenges and needs and with ages ranging from 10 to 17 years old, produced further tensions resulting in difficult and sometimes very aggressive behaviour”.
The Inquiry report states that the staff at Beechwood were unqualified and untrained in caring for vulnerable children, and in 1979 there was only two professionally qualified residential staff. Operation Day break concluded that Beechwood was “riddled with abuse from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, with serious sexual abuse being most prevalent in the 1970s.” Nottinghamshire Police recorded around 95 allegations of sexual abuse occurring at Beechwood between 1967 and 1980, including allegations of rape, buggery, sexual assault, and being inappropriately touched or watched in the showers.
The police received reports of 400 incidents of children absconding from Beechwood in 1985, a girl’s death following a fall from a window at the home and that girls at Beechwood had been working in a “sex club”. The inquiry report revealed that”the culture in Beechwood was of violence and staff ignored the abuse of children by their colleagues.” The Inquiry heard how the culture prevented the victims from reporting the abuse that they were suffering, as they were fearful of the repercussions they would receive and most likely would not be believed. One victim told the Inquiry he thought it was normal to be physically abused as it was a common occurrence in Beechwood, and happened to most of the residents.
Sexualised behaviour by staff was tolerated or overlooked, allowing abusers to thrive. The Inquiry heard how the staff at Beechwood were physically violent and how most children were sexually abused and raped by staff. Despite the high numbers of allegations of child sexual abuse, only two disciplinary actions were taken whilst Beechwood was open. Throughout the 39 years that Beechwood was open, it was recommended that it should be closed three times, and it was finally closed in late 2006 or early 2007.
Police investigations into abuse at Beechwood and other children’s homes in Nottinghamshire started in 2010. So far 16 residential staff have been convicted of sexual abuse of children in residential care and there are 12 convictions relating to harmful sexual behaviour of children against other children in care.
The Inquiry report concluded that both Nottinghamshire City and County Councils still do not have a process for reporting child sexual abuse allegations. The Inquiry concluded that:
“neither of the Councils learned from their mistakes despite over 30 years of evidence of failure to protect children in care.”
Professor Alexis Jay, Chair of the Inquiry, said:
“For decades, children who were in the care of the Nottinghamshire Councils suffered appalling sexual and physical abuse, inflicted by those who should have nurtured and protected them. Those responsible for overseeing the care of children failed to question the extent of sexual abuse or what action was being taken. Despite decades of evidence and many reviews showing what needed to change, neither of the Councils learnt from their mistakes, meaning that more children suffered unnecessarily. We hope this report and recommendations can help ensure it never happens again.”
The report made the following recommendations:
- Recommendation 1:
Nottingham City Council should assess the potential risks posed by current and former foster carers directly provided by the council in relation to the sexual abuse of children. They should also ensure that current and former foster carers provided by external agencies are assessed by those agencies. Any concerns which arise should be referred to the appropriate body or process, including the Disclosure and Barring Service, the local authority designated officer (LADO) or equivalent, the fostering panel and the police.
Nottinghamshire County Council should assess the potential risks posed by current and former residential care staff and foster carers, which are directly provided by the council, in relation to the sexual abuse of children. They should also ensure that current and former staff in residential care provided by external agencies, and current and former foster carers provided by external agencies, are assessed by those agencies. Any concerns which arise should be referred to the appropriate body or process, including the Disclosure and Barring Service, the relevant regulatory body, the local authority designated officer (LADO), the fostering panel and the police.
- Recommendation 2:
Nottingham City Council and its child protection partners should commission an independent, external evaluation of their practice concerning harmful sexual behaviour, including responses, prevention, assessment, intervention and workforce development. An action plan should be set up to ensure that any recommendations are responded to in a timely manner and progress should be reported to City’s Safeguarding Children Partnership”.
Nottingham City and County Council should publish their response to these recommendations, within six months of the publication of the report.
So far there have been nearly 200 civil compensation claims against Nottinghamshire County Council. The Inquiry will look at the civil claim process and how the Defendant solicitors and their Insurers handled these claims at the Accountability and Reparations investigation from 26 to 27 November 2019.
Jordans Solicitors have a specialist team of lawyers that deal with child abuse compensation claims. We successfully represent numerous victims that have suffered physical and sexual abuse at various institutions, including Beechwood Children’s Home. Our child abuse lawyers have successfully managed to settle claims against Nottinghamshire County Council and have even managed to obtain a formal apology from the Council for our client.
If you have been a victim of child abuse and would like to speak to one of our specialist abuse lawyers in confidence, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can advise you on the available options for pursuing a civil damages claim. Jordans successfully represent and secure compensation for numerous victims of abuse and are experts in overcoming the particular challenges that arise in these sensitive cases. Our abuse team can be contacted on 0800 9555 094 or 0330 300 1103.