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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Accountability and Reparations Investigation Report

B.2: North Wales children’s homes

2. Allegations of child sexual abuse in North Wales children’s homes first emerged in the 1970s and have been the subject of numerous police investigations, inquiries and litigation. This included children’s homes run by two local authorities, Clwyd County Council and Gwynedd County Council. Child sexual abuse was also prevalent among private children’s homes run by individuals or companies in North Wales. In particular, we focus on the experiences of the victims and survivors who suffered sexual abuse at the Bryn Alyn Community, a group of privately run children’s homes set up in 1969 by John Allen, who went on to be convicted of multiple counts of sexual abuse of children in his care.

Allegations of sexual abuse

3. Victims and survivors of abuse at children’s homes in North Wales described the sexual abuse and rape they suffered at the hands of Allen, other members of staff and older residents at the homes.[1] Many were sexually abused on multiple occasions over the course of a number of years and all were left traumatised and vulnerable.

3.1. AR-A1 was physically, psychologically and sexually abused by Allen and two other perpetrators at Bryn Alyn over the course of three years.[2]

3.2. AR-A78 described being slapped repeatedly on the bottom by Allen and being sexually abused by AR-F28 so many times he could not put a number on it.[3]

3.3. Numerous victims and survivors were anally raped by Allen, including AR-A19,[4] AR-A26[5] and AR-A30.[6]

3.4. Other abuse included having genitals fondled,[7] attempted anal rape[8] and oral penetration.[9]

4. Survivors of this abuse have lived with guilt and shame,[10] anxiety and depression,[11] and drug and alcohol dependency.[12] AR-A24 used alcohol to “numb the thoughts of the abuse and the pain”.[13] Many have serious issues trusting people, in particular men and those in positions of authority,[14] which has impacted on professional, personal and family relationships.[15] For AR-A1:

“The impact for me has been a life blighted by the effects of the abuse; perhaps even more than the abuse itself … I have never been able to trust people, and trusting people is an essential part of being a productive adult”.[16]

Many remain “highly vulnerable and disadvantaged even when they are adults”.[17]

Police investigations

5. Between 1976 and 2003, North Wales Police conducted several individual investigations and four major investigations into sexual abuse at children’s homes in North Wales,[18] which led to a number of convictions.

5.1. Six men were convicted of various sexual offences in children’s homes after separate investigations between 1976 and 1984.[19]

5.2. From 1988 to 1990, there were a number of convictions for sexual offences at children’s homes in Gwynedd and Clwyd.[20]

5.3. In July 1994, Peter Howarth, the former Deputy Principal at Bryn Estyn, one of the North Wales children’s homes, was convicted of seven offences of indecent assault against boys committed between 1972 and 1983, for which he was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.[21]

5.4. In February 1995, Allen was convicted of six indecent assaults against boys at Bryn Alyn between 1972 and 1983 and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. He was acquitted of four other counts of indecent assault.[22]

6. In 2012, the BBC broadcast an interview with a former resident of a children’s home in North Wales who alleged a culture of physical and sexual abuse. This prompted further reports of abuse and a new police investigation, Operation Pallial, which was directed and controlled by the National Crime Agency.[23] It reviewed all previous investigations into child sexual abuse in North Wales and investigated new allegations.[24] As a result, in 2014, Allen was prosecuted again. He was found guilty of seven counts of buggery or attempted buggery, 25 counts of indecent assault and one count of indecency with a child. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommended minimum of 11 years.[25]

7. Operation Pallial continues today. By December 2018, 375 complainants had alleged abuse at 31 children’s homes by 146 identified suspects, across North Wales, between 1953 and 1995. Although 41 suspects had died, 23 had been arrested and a further 42 interviewed under caution. Of 18 people charged, 11 were convicted of a total of 106 offences, ranging from possession of indecent images through to buggery. The prosecutions of 81 additional offences were not successful.[26] Operation Pallial had stopped investigating new complaints by the time of our hearings, but there are ongoing criminal proceedings. Four further matters are listed for trial and others are under consideration by the Crown Prosecution Service.[27]

8. In his evidence to the Inquiry, Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Neill Anderson apologised to all of the participants in the Inquiry who, in the past, had not received the service from North Wales Police that he would expect by today’s standards.[28]

Other inquiries

9. In addition to police investigations, a number of other independent inquiries have examined the scale of, persistence of and response to child abuse in children’s homes across North Wales, such as the Jillings and Waterhouse inquiries.

9.1. The Jillings Inquiry: This was an internal independent review commissioned by Clwyd County Council of allegations of sexual abuse of children in its care and the failings that allowed the abuse to continue undetected for so long. The inquiry ran from 1994 to 1996 and was chaired by John Jillings (former Director of Social Services for Derbyshire).[29] It concluded that there had been extensive abuse of children in care in Clwyd from 1974 to 1995.[30] It made numerous critical findings of various organisations, including the County Council, the Welsh Office and North Wales Police, and found that the response to the indications of abuse were inadequate.[31] However, the report was never fully published, in part because the Council’s insurer, Zurich, indicated that publication of the report might invalidate their insurance cover.[32]

9.2. The Waterhouse Inquiry: In 1996, Sir Ronald Waterhouse (a retired High Court judge) was appointed by the Secretary of State for Wales to chair a tribunal of inquiry into the abuse of children in care in Gwynedd and Clwyd since 1974.[33] Many victims and survivors gave evidence of the abuse they suffered to the tribunal. Its report, Lost in Care,[34] made 72 detailed recommendations about continuing areas of concern.[35] In relation to Bryn Alyn, it concluded that Allen’s convictions were “merely a sample of his overall offending[36] and that there was inadequate management and supervision, instruction and training for staff.[37] At Bryn Estyn, two of the most senior members of staff were “habitually engaged in major sexual abuse of many of the young residents without detection[38] and physical violence was “endemic”.[39]


10. In the late 1990s,[40] a large number of claims for damages for sexual abuse at children’s homes in North Wales were issued in the High Court.[41] The claims were known as the North Wales Children’s Homes Litigation[42] and were split into three tranches: claims against Clwyd County Council; claims against Gwynedd County Council; and claims against Bryn Alyn Community and other organisations.[43]

11. Most of the claims against Clwyd and Gwynedd were settled.[44] In 2000, 11 claims against Clwyd went to trial[45] but the abuse was mostly admitted and liability was undisputed. The main issues were causation and quantification of damages.[46] All of the claimants succeeded and were awarded damages of between £2,000 and £35,000.[47] An appeal by the Council was dismissed.[48]

12. The focus of this Inquiry’s investigation is a group of between 50 and 60 claims[49] arising from abuse within the Bryn Alyn Community. This litigation took many years to resolve and was complicated by disputes over whether Royal & Sun Alliance (RSA) and another insurer, Eagle Star, were obliged to indemnify the company for the abuse that had taken place.

12.1. In January 1998, a number of claims were brought against Bryn Alyn Community (Holdings) Ltd, the holding company to which the assets and liabilities of the trading company, Bryn Alyn Community Ltd, had been transferred in 1996.[50]

12.2. Upon receipt of the statements of claim, RSA, the company’s insurer, informed the claimants that there was a potential conflict of interest between themselves and the company. One of the reasons for this was the existence of a clause in the insurance policy that excluded liability for any deliberate acts of the insured. It was therefore necessary for RSA to be added as a second defendant in the claim.[51] In December 1998, Bryn Alyn Community (Holdings) Ltd was wound up, so it played no part in the proceedings.[52]

12.3. In August 2000, RSA confirmed that it was prepared to indemnify the company where the alleged abuse occurred from the date on which the company commenced trading, 1 July 1973, despite a lack of documentation prior to 1982. This confirmation was given subject to the provisions of the exclusion clause.[53]

12.4. The first stage of the litigation determined the liability of Bryn Alyn. In early 2001, 14 lead claims went to trial in the High Court. Many issues were disputed by RSA, including limitation, negligence, causation of injury and the amount of money claimed (quantum).[54] With the exception of AR-A23, all of the claimants were successful in 2001.[55] Both sides then appealed to the Court of Appeal on various issues, including limitation, vicarious liability and the quantification of the damages.[56] Save for AR-A23, the claimants were ultimately successful in early 2003 and their damages were increased.[57]

12.5. In the second stage of the litigation, the claimants issued fresh proceedings in June 2003 to enforce the judgment against RSA,[58] which resisted the claim under the exclusion clause in the insurance policy.[59] In January 2006, the High Court determined that the exclusion clause was not engaged.[60] However, the court also considered evidence about when RSA started to insure the company and concluded that it did not do so until August 1976.[61] Claimants who were abused prior to that date were therefore unable to recover damages from RSA.

12.6. The Court of Appeal then ruled that the exclusion clause meant that RSA was not liable for the abuse perpetrated by Allen between 1976 and 1981, and the abuse by other directors and senior managers from 1981 onwards.[62] This prevented further claimants from recovering damages from RSA.

12.7. The third and final stage of the litigation began in 2007, when the remaining claimants issued proceedings against Eagle Star,[63] which was thought to be the insurer for the period before August 1976.[64] This was eventually conceded by Eagle Star.[65] By January 2009, the remaining issues were the scope of the exclusion clause, the amount of the damages and the apportionment of liability between RSA and Eagle Star.[66] In December 2010, settlement terms were agreed with Eagle Star, excluding any injuries suffered as a result of the abuse by Allen.[67] The remaining claims against RSA were then settled following a meeting in August 2011.[68]

13. For many victims and survivors, the journey towards obtaining accountability and reparations took many years. For those abused by Allen, it was around 20 years before he was first convicted in 1995, and around 40 years until his further convictions in 2014. It took more than 12 years for the civil claims of some victims and survivors to be concluded.


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