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Tuesday, 02 October 2018

Two generations of same family abused in Nottingham care home, inquiry told

Written by Tess de la Mare

An inquiry into decades of sexual of abuse of children in the care of Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council has heard that one boy was abused in the same home his mother had been when she was a child.

The Nottingham strand of the Independent Child Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) will look at the alleged failure of the two councils to protect vulnerable children in a bid to protect their own reputations.

Complaints of systemic sexual and physical abuse of vulnerable children in council-run homes stretch back to the 1960s, but only a handful of perpetrators were ever prosecuted, the inquiry heard.

Since 2010 there have been more than 900 allegations of sexual abuse of children under the care of the two councils perpetrated by staff in care homes, foster carers and by vulnerable children against one another.

Only a handful of people have ever been prosecuted.

Stephen Simblet, for some of the victims, said that many of his clients suffered abuse in the Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council care systems that was significantly worse than they had experienced at home.

"They received far worse at the hands of those who were entrusted to provide them with better," he said.

He said that many victims had felt unable to speak out about the sexual abuse, but had tried to speak out about the beatings they received regularly.

These allegations were also swept under the carpet, he said, with one boy being told by a police officer: "You probably deserved it."

The mother of one of his client's was so damaged by the abuse she received in the notorious Beechwood care home (pictured) that some of her children were taken away from her when she had children of her own.

As a result, her son came to be abused by staff at the same home in which his mother had been incarcerated as a vulnerable teenager.

He also said that black and Asian children were particularly isolated and abused by staff in a campaign of racism.

Mr Simblet added: "It would be wrong to consider [the abuse] as something from the distant past - individual abusers may have come and gone but the management, environment and culture persisted, so that children there in the 2000s would have suffered the same abuse as children there in the 1960s."

Caoilfhionn Gallagher said that many of her clients who had tried to report abuse as adults had received only a text message from police to say that no further action would be take against perpetrators.

She said many were now sleeping rough, dealing with alcohol and drug abuse and had a history of offending.

Ms Gallagher added that some of her clients had criminal records dating back to their time in care that acted as a "mark of Cain" preventing them from ever moving on with their lives.

One former female resident at the Beechwood care home said: "Staff knew we had no family and that nobody cares about you and you have no-one - that's why you're there in the first place."

The inquiry heard that the culture that normalised sexual abuse stretched into the 2000s at Beechwood despite repeated investigations into allegations of abuse in the home that rarely resulted in prosecutions.

A 2001 report complained of a "macho environment" where there was a "culture of banter relating to sexual harassment" and exchanges of "obscene text messages".

It said that "young people were likely suffering significant harm" and that there was an "unacceptable level of risk, neglect and vulnerability".

Despite recommendations that the home should close, council staff said they would do everything to ensure the safety and welfare of people living there.

In 2017, a report by the NSPCC said that the "culture of the unit was that violence was expected".

Three weeks of hearings are due to be devoted to abuse in Nottinghamshire to determine how much of this is down to failings by Nottinghamshire County Council and Nottingham City Council.

It will look at the nature of the abuse of children in council-run care homes, as well as those in foster homes and with adoptive families.

The hearings will also look at the institutional response to allegations of sexual abuse of children in care and the failure of the councils to protect children from sexual abuse.

Other matters to be considered are the response of the two councils, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and other public authorities to reports of child sexual abuse of youngsters in council care.

It will look at allegations of child sexual abuse by individuals who were employed or contracted by the councils and the extent to which the council tried to tackle the issue and provide support to victims.

The IICSA was set up in 2015 to examine the extent to which institutions failed to protect children from sexual abuse, the extent to which those failings have been addressed and to make recommendations to protect children from abuse and exploitation in the future.

The hearing is due to sit again on Tuesday when the barristers for the remaining victims will make their opening remarks.

Reports into each of its 13 strands will continue to be published after the public hearings, including a final report.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.