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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale Investigation Report

Reasons for investigating Rochdale and issues considered

34. In summary, therefore, the reasons for investigating the sexual abuse of children who lived at Knowl View School and other residential establishments in Rochdale were multiple and compelling. It was not simply the contention that Rochdale’s prominent Member of Parliament was involved in the sexual abuse of vulnerable children, but rather it was that contention in combination with a number of other significant facts. These included that children from Knowl View had been targeted for exploitation by men on the streets of Rochdale, that a known sex offender was able to gain access to the children at the school and that children there had been abused by other children. Finally, there was the allegation that children in other residential settings may also have been sexually abused, which justified historical consideration of the Rochdale area.

35. While this part of the investigation has necessarily been backward-looking and has been designed to throw light on events in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it has not lost sight of the criticisms made of Rochdale authorities in the much more recent past about the subjection of children to sexual exploitation, as identified in the reports referred to above. The investigation has had in mind throughout that previous exploitation and failures to protect children in the care of Rochdale might throw light upon more recent weaknesses in child protection and safeguarding.

36. Thus the Inquiry initially identified a number of issues that were to form the core focus of its investigation. They are broadly summarised as follows:

a. Whether children who resided at Knowl View School were sexually exploited in Rochdale town centre by adult men who travelled to Rochdale for that purpose.

b. Whether children who resided at Knowl View School were sexually abused by a known sex offender who was able to gain access to the school.

c. Whether children who resided at Knowl View School were sexually abused by Cyril Smith.

d. Whether children who resided at Knowl View School were sexually abused by staff at the school.

e. Whether children who resided at Knowl View School were sexually abused by other children who resided at the school.

f. Whether staff and officials from the Council may have been aware of this abuse before steps were taken to put an end to it.

g. Whether residents of Cambridge House Hostel were sexually abused by Cyril Smith.

h. Whether other children in Rochdale care homes were being sexually abused (including their being exploited in public toilets).

37. The issues the Inquiry has sought to address in this investigation, which it named Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale, are derived from the definition of scope set by the Inquiry and by the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry set by the Home Secretary. The terms of the definition of scope for this investigation are: 

“1. The Inquiry will investigate:

1.1. whether boys who resided at or attended Cambridge House Boys’ Hostel and/or Knowl View School were the subject of sexual abuse, including by former Liberal Party MP, Cyril Smith;

1.2. the extent to which children who resided at Knowl View School were subject to sexual exploitation outside the school premises;

1.3. whether, during the same period, children residing at or attending other institutions (where their placement was arranged or provided by Rochdale Council) were also subject to sexual abuse;

1.4. the extent to which Rochdale Council, law enforcement agencies, prosecuting authorities, the security and/or intelligence agencies, and/or other public authorities were aware of allegations of sexual abuse concerning children who resided at Cambridge House or Knowl View and failed to take appropriate steps in response to it;

1.5. whether any public authority hindered or prevented the effective investigation of such abuse including whether there was inappropriate interference in law enforcement investigations and/or prosecutorial decisions in relation to the abuse.

2. Where a sufficient evidential basis exists, the Inquiry will make findings on:

2.1. the nature and extent of the sexual abuse which took place at Cambridge House, Knowl View and at other institutions children were attending or residing at during the relevant period;

2.2. the nature and extent of the failings of Rochdale Council, law enforcement agencies, prosecuting authorities, the security and/or intelligence agencies, and/ or other public authorities or statutory agencies to protect children from sexual abuse;

2.3. the extent to which children who were sexually abused may have had special educational needs and/or any other form of special need or vulnerability and whether that may have made them more vulnerable to sexual abuse;

2.4. the adequacy of support and reparations offered to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse who were abused while residing at or attending Cambridge House and Knowl View School.

3. In light of the investigations set out above, the Inquiry will publish a report setting out its findings, lessons learned, and recommendations to improve child protection and safeguarding in England and Wales.”

38. The process adopted by the Inquiry is set out in Annex 1 to this report. Core Participant status was granted under Rule 5 of the Inquiry Rules 2006 to eight victims and survivors and five institutions. The Inquiry held four preliminary hearings in March and July 2016, and May and September 2017. The Inquiry held its substantive public hearings in this investigation over 14 sitting days at its Hearing Centre in Pocock Street, London, SE1, between 9 October and 27 October 2017. 

39. The Inquiry took evidence from a number of sources. Witnesses who gave evidence to the Inquiry included Complainant Core Participants, all of whom provided impressive and compelling accounts of the terrible sexual abuse they suffered. The Inquiry took evidence from corporate witnesses on behalf of Rochdale Borough Council, the Crown Prosecution Service, Lancashire Constabulary and GMP, and from various former Rochdale Council officers, teachers and care workers at Knowl View School. Evidence was also taken from a sociology lecturer who ran a local paper in Rochdale, as well as local politicians. The Inquiry heard an Opening Statement from Counsel to the Inquiry on 9 October 2017, and Closing Statements from all Core Participants (apart from the Department for Education) on 27 October 2017.

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