Skip to main content

0800 917 1000   Open weekdays 9am-5pm

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale Investigation Report

The Cavanagh Report June 1992

65. Diana Cavanagh produced her own report on staff behaviour at Knowl View.[1] Mrs Cavanagh was asked in the course of her evidence what the purpose of this report was, given all that had gone before. Her view was that the Shepherd and Mellor reports had been general and that, although Mrs Mellor had made her criticisms clear, they were not precise. The purpose of Mrs Cavanagh’s own report was therefore to convey that, if the staff at Knowl View School could not sign up to the new regime and follow the procedures that Mr Bradshaw was instituting, then they should go elsewhere.[2]

66. Mrs Cavanagh’s report drew from all the previous reports and the responses that had been received from outside agencies up to that point. It accords with the culture as described by Mr Bradshaw: for example, the claiming of expenses that were not owed, and a culture of lessons and activities described as “macho” and which sometimes spilled over into violence and aggression.[3]

67. The report discussed the Ashworth Unit (for boys aged 11 to 13) and noted that several pupils from it were involved in homosexual activity at the Smith Street toilets “up to Spring 1990”. Mrs Cavanagh reported “Information from the Police and Social Services was not communicated to the school/Health Authority”. She went on to state that those supervising the boys in the evenings appeared either not to notice that they were missing or not to communicate their observations about them.[4]

68. As regards the Norden unit (for boys aged 15 to 17), Mrs Cavanagh wrote that pupils from this unit were involved in homosexual activity and abuse on the premises, including on two recorded occasions when Roderick Hilton was allowed into the building by the boys. She observed that this abuse took place over an extended period. Again she noted that staff who were on night supervision appeared either not to notice the behaviour of the boys or to communicate any observations to other staff.[5]

69. As for children who were subjected to sexual exploitation at Smith Street toilets, Mrs Cavanagh recorded that information about this was known to both police and social services, and that the period of activity seemed to have ended by the summer of 1990 “when Police surveillance failed to detect any activity at that site”. She further observed that “there is no record of this information being passed to the Education Service, either the Education Psychological Service, the school or the Department.”[6] There is sufficient evidence in what we have said so far to show that this was incorrect.

70. In her report, Mrs Cavanagh posed the question “Why did Knowl View staff not report what was happening?” She went on to give two examples of incidents that staff had reported. This included the discovery of two boys in bed together engaged in sexual activity,[7] and finding a used condom in one of the dormitories. She notes that a report of these incidents by staff within Knowl View did not lead to any action, with the “obvious inference that ‘it was unimportant’”.

71. Mrs Cavanagh also concluded that some staff were not on the premises when they were supposed to be on duty, and that staff on duty were engaged in activities that made it unlikely that they would be alert to what was happening in the dormitories. Some of these on-site activities were sexual.[8] In other words, staff were engaged in sexual relations when they were supposed to be supervising pupils. In her evidence before us, Mrs Cavanagh said that she thought this related to teaching staff.[9] Similarly, in her report, Mrs Cavanagh considered that a reason why there was no coherent sex education policy was that pupils were aware of a considerable level of sexual activity among certain staff on the school premises that may have inhibited proper discussion between pupils and staff.[10] Ultimately, she concluded that there had been “a catastrophic failure of leadership”.[11]

72. Neither the Hodge/Dobie report nor the Director of Education’s report in 1992 prompted any further action by the Education Department. While staff had not been forthcoming about the problems affecting the school when they were first interviewed, the Education Department could have taken action then to ensure the accountability of staff who had been at fault as regards the Hilton incident. Far more could have been done at the outset to get to the truth. There is little to suggest that the Board of Governors played any role in seeking greater accountability at an earlier stage.

73. The Hilton incident appeared to be treated in isolation rather than the manifestation of a more profound and enduring problem. This was ultimately to put children at risk for longer than was necessary.

Back to top