Sister of boy who died in Lambeth Council care demands ‘urgent’ police investigation

·5-min read
Lambeth Town Hall (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)
Lambeth Town Hall (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

The sister of a boy who died in the care of Lambeth Council after he complained of being sexually abused has demanded “urgent” action from the Met Police.

The youngster – anonymised as LA-A2 – killed himself in a bathroom of the notorious Shirley Oaks children’s home in Croydon in 1977, two years after the man he had accused of abuse walked free.

An inquiry on Tuesday said Scotland Yard should launch a fresh investigation into the death after finding that the background of suspected of child abuse was withheld from the coroner at the time.

Richard Scorer, specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon who is representing the sister of LA-A2, said: “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.”

The damning inquiry report found vulnerable children had been “put into the path” of sexual predators over decades within Lambeth’s care system, as politicians and officials either ignored the issue or were too inept to solve it.

Convicted paedophiles had been allowed to work in care homes, while complaints of abuse were routinely dismissed.

LA-A2 had been among the accusers of Donald Hosegood, a house parent at Shirley Oaks, who went on trial in 1975 charged with 11 counts of rape and indecent assault.

However within Lambeth Council the allegations had been dismissed as “fantasy” with Hosegood was painted as the victim, and the case against him collapsed on the fourth day of the trial.

The inquiry, chaired by Professor Alexis Jay, found the children who had accused Hosegood “were not offered support by Lambeth Council or through the criminal justice process”.

LA‑A2’s sister said her brother “was even less like his old self” after the criminal case, struggling to speak or engage in life.

“Had fate been kinder to my beloved (brother), and had counselling and support been available, (he) may have been able to represent himself today”, she told the hearings.

“The police charged Hosegood with many sexual crimes against minors. What failed my beloved brother more than anything was the total lack of support offered when the judge dismissed the charge against Mr Hosegood.”

The inquiry found Hosegood did not face any disciplinary action in the wake of the trial, and no assessment of the risk he may pose to children was made. “Failure to do so showed complete disregard for generally accepted safeguarding principles, and put children at significant risk of sexual abuse”, the report said.

Allegations of sexual abuse was made again against Hosegood when a fresh police investigation was launched between 1998 and 2003, but they were mistakenly dismissed as having been dealt with at the original trial. He died in 2011 without facing further criminal inquiry.

Malcolm Johnson, head of the child abuse department at Lime Solicitors which represented around 75 people who had been in care in Lambeth, said the inquiry had revealed an “appalling tale of institutional abuse”.

“The true scale of offending against children in Lambeth will never be known”, he said.

“In relation to Lambeth, the report says that the culture of neglect and abuse was so bad, that many children were better off being left with their families rather than being taken into the care system.”

He added: "Professor Jay lays particular blame on Lambeth’s elected councillors. They collectively failed to hold social workers responsible for the dismal state of the system, and did not discharge their statutory duty to provide independent and robust scrutiny of children’s homes.

“Children’s interests were a poor second to the interests of Lambeth’s councillors and their staff.”

John O’Brien, secretary to the inquiry, said this report was the worst of the 15 issued by IISCA to date. “It didn’t matter which corner you look in here, you found a failure or a number of failures”, he said.

“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.”

In a statement, 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.”

The council said it will review its existing action plan in light of the inquiry findings, while recommendations were also made for a police investigation into LA-A2’s death and the subsequent cover-up and safeguarding training for councillors and staff.

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