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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale Investigation Report

Concluding remarks

109. We heard evidence of child sexual abuse in a variety of forms involving Knowl View children from its early years onwards. Inside the school, staff committed acts of sexual abuse on boys, and older boys sexually abused younger ones. Some boys were sexually exploited in Rochdale town centre, in the public toilets and the bus station, by men paying them for sex. Some boys were trafficked to other towns for the same purpose. In September 1990, Roderick Hilton, a known sex offender, who had previously been convicted of sexually abusing a boy at Knowl View in 1984, gained access to the school and the boys over two nights, indecently assaulting at least one of them. Hilton was well known to the staff of the school who did nothing over many years to deter him targeting the school. He was imprisoned in 1991 for a series of child sexual offences. Despite this, on his release from prison on licence, he continued to target the school, but nothing was done to stop his continued access to the grounds and the school buildings. 

110. Knowl View School staff complacency, if not complicity, means that they must share the blame for what was allowed to happen at the school. Staff treated the sexual abuse between the children as ‘normal’ without making any differentiation between experimentation, and coercion and intimidation. There was little indication that the school understood the profound damage that peer-on-peer sexual abuse could cause later in life.

111. The authorities met the problem of child sexual exploitation at Smith Street toilets with a total lack of urgency. These were serious sexual assaults but boys, some as young as 11, were seen not as victims but as responsible for their own abuse. While the police did not turn a blind eye to the sexual exploitation of boys in Rochdale town centre, they did not obtain sufficient evidence to prosecute. The surviving records provide no satisfactory answer why no one was ever charged.

112. Ian Davey, the Acting Director of Social Services, chose not to pursue child protection measures, a decision that was professionally indefensible and extremely poor judgment on his part. Diana Cavanagh, the Director of Education, commissioned reports and produced her own report. While some of this was useful, each of the reports was flawed in some respects, including factual accuracy. There was no urgency on the part of these senior officials to address the problems of sexual abuse at the school, and matters were left to drift. There were no regular meetings between the departments about child protection or other matters of mutual concern, exemplifying some of their failures of leadership.

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