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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church (EBC) Case Study: Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School Investigation Report

F.7: Ealing Council Children’s Services

50. Local authorities have for many years had specific duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area, including the requirement under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 for a local authority to undertake enquiries if they believe a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm. The local authority also has a vital role in working together with other agencies such as the police to safeguard children.

51. Despite the long-standing importance of its role, Ealing Council’s case records prior to 2009 were stored on one officer’s drive and were deleted when he left.[1] As a result, it was unable to find any record in respect of the complaints of RC-A418 in 2001, RC-A6 and RC-A419 in 2004, the imposition of restrictions upon David Pearce in 2005 or the civil judgment against him in 2006.[2] Carolyn Fair, the Director of Children’s Services at Ealing Council, has explained that the council’s response to allegations “became systematic” in 2009. Records of referrals are now processed and stored on a computerised social care database.[3]

52. The inadequacy of historic record-keeping at Ealing Council is reflected in the insufficiency of the information provided by the LADO to the DfE in June 2009. The DfE contacted the LADO at Ealing, and was told by the LADO that the Ealing Child Protection Strategy Group wanted to alert the DfE to a concern “that indicated the school ethos was to cover up any problems”, although no other information or explanation was given.[4] Most notably, there was no information given about the allegations against Pearce or his impending trial, nor was anything said about RC-F41 despite the Council having been informed in 2006 of historical allegations made against him.[5] The DfE was entitled to expect more detail from the local authority, as in effect Ms Fair admitted.[6] She stated that it was only around 2009 that the LADO role was created and a more consistent approach to record-keeping adopted at Ealing Council Children’s Services:

If this LADO role and experience had been established in May 2009 I would expect the LADO to inform the then DCSF, now DfE, due to the number of specific allegations within one establishment.”[7]

53. The Inquiry also noted a specific error by a social worker in the handling of RC-A595’s complaint in 1992. That social worker told Pearce of the allegation against him before the police had interviewed him.[8] By doing so, she put Pearce on notice of the complaint, which not only gave him time to think about the account he would give in interview but was inappropriate, as Commander Jerome agreed:

That absolutely runs the risk of tainting any evidence that may be obtained from the suspect.[9]

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