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BBC Social Affairs Editor Niall Dickson
It is perhaps the greatest scandal to engulf the modern welfare state
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Assoc of Directors of Social Services Jo Williams
Children are listened to nowadays
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Case worker Alison Taylor
"The only action taken was to suspend the investigation- and me"
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Tuesday, 15 February, 2000, 16:32 GMT
'Wicked' child abuse condemned

Bryn Estyn Children's Home Much of the abuse took place at Bryn Estyn home

Children in care in north Wales endured years of "appalling suffering", the UK's largest child abuse investigation has revealed.

"It is a tragedy that such treatment should have been meted out to children in care," Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy told the House of Commons.

Paul Murphy Paul Murphy said far-reaching reforms would be made
Mr Murphy said there was no evidence of a high-level paedophile conspiracy, but that a paedophile ring around Cheshire and Wrexham had preyed on young people in care in the 1970s and 1980s.

The report condemns social workers, children's home staff, police and local councils and makes 72 recommendations to protect 4,000 children currently cared for by local authorities in Wales.

Individuals named in the report who were still working in childcare had been traced and risk-assessed, said Mr Murphy. Efforts continue to trace others who have left the child-care system.

The Waterhouse tribunal at Ewloe in north Wales heard evidence from more than 650 people who had been in care from 1974.

The three-man panel sat for more than a year. It cost more than 12m and took almost two years for its report to be completed and published.

Sir Ronald Waterhouse Sir Ronald Waterhouse took two years to complete the report
Much of the abuse took place at Bryn Estyn Children's Home in Wrexham, where paedophiles like Peter Howarth - a former housemaster - sexually abused boys as young as 12.

'Scum of the earth'

Howarth was jailed in 1994 for 10 years. He died in prison.

But for one of his victims, Andrew Teague, the repercussions of Howarth's attacks are relived almost every day.

"They are the scum of the earth," he said.

"They can paint it any way they like - psychiatrists, psychologists - they can say what they like about them, they are scum."

Four staff at Bryn Estyn have been convicted of either sexual or physical abuse of children.

However, Bryn Estyn was not unique. Complaints were made to the tribunal about 40 homes throughout Gwynedd and Clwyd.

Not all the alleged abuse was sexual. Much was physical - children being thumped, kicked and hit for minor misdemeanours.

Some children did complain, but according to Chris Walby - a social services expert helping with another child abuse investigation in Merseyside - their word counted for little in an atmosphere where they were not listened to or believed.

He said people in power abused their positions.

In the 80s, North Wales Police began investigating the claims, but its inquiry was later criticised as sluggish, shallow and inadequate.

Allegations persisted and the former Clwyd County Council commissioned a report from an independent expert, John Jillings.


The Jillings Report named abusers and those considered negligent in failing to stop their activities, including social services.

Finally in 1996, William Hague - then Welsh Secretary - decided an inquiry was the only way of quelling public disquiet.

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Suffering in secret

See also:
15 Feb 00 |  UK
Children in care: Now and then
09 Feb 00 |  Wales
Abuse victims' evidence was 'harrowing'
26 Dec 99 |  Wales
Pressure mounts for children's commissioner

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