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BBC Wales's Gail Foley
"Sir Ronald said the importance of listening to children was the most salutary lesson."
 real 28k

Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 14:40 GMT
Abuse victims' evidence was 'harrowing'

Bryn Estyn children's home Bryn Estyn children's home in Wrexham, where abuse took place


A judge heading a massive inquiry into abuse at childrens' homes in north Wales has spoken of the "harrowing" evidence uncovered.

Sir Ronald Waterhouse was speaking at the Listening to Children conference in London about some of the lessons learned from the investigation into allegations of abuse.

The conference was originally intended to be held after Sir Ronald's report was published.

Sir Ronald described the evidence of victims as disturbing.

He revealed that nearly half of the 260 witnesses needed counselling for psychiatric help after giving evidence.

He has called on everyone who has contact with children - from headteachers to cleaning ladies at schools - to be alert and aware for signs of abuse.

The closely-guarded 800-page document followed a long-running inquiry and is said to have identified the recruitment of a 100,000-a-year commissioner as a priority.

This was the first speech Sir Ronald has given since starting to write the report, and it will be studied closely.

Criticisms

Observers will be looking to see what clues it may give to the criticisms he will air and his recommendations to improve the lot of children in the care of local authorities.

Speculation surrounds those whose names have been linked to the job of childrens commissioner, including the Prime Minister's wife Cherie Blair, a QC with a keen interest in children's issues.

Mrs Blair is thought to have been ruled out because of the government's sensitivity to accusations of cronyism.

Other possibles are said to include Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, and Denise Platt, head of the social services inspectorate.

Another candidate could be the leading woman judge, Lord Justice Butler-Sloss.

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See also:
26 Dec 99 |  Wales
Pressure mounts for children's commissioner
12 Oct 99 |  Wales
Child abuse inquiry report due to reach Murphy
16 Jul 99 |  Special Report
Final deadline for abuse cases
Links to other Wales stories are at the foot of the page.


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