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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale Investigation Report

The Mellor report

8. The judgment in the Middleton case certainly had an indirect impact on events at Knowl View School in that it led to the involvement of Valerie Mellor. Mrs Mellor, a consultant psychologist at Booth Hall Hospital, had given expert evidence in the Middleton proceedings about the nature of ritual abuse and the proper approach to be taken when interviewing children to establish whether or not they had been abused. It was because of this that she was identified as an appropriate person to conduct a review about what had happened at Knowl View School.

9. Diana Cavanagh said that she disagreed with Ian Davey’s decision (as set out in the 30 May 1991 memorandum) not to pursue an investigation into the abuse of children who resided at Knowl View School, but was powerless to change it. She therefore needed to find a new strategy. It was decided that this was to be an investigation by an outside agency, and it was David Shipp (Deputy Town Clerk and Director of Legal Services) who recommended that Mrs Mellor be invited to conduct it.[1] 

10. This underscores the perplexing nature of the Social Services Department’s judgment on how to proceed. It also raises the question why Mrs Mellor was considered the correct person to conduct such an investigation. She may have been a qualified and indeed experienced psychologist with expertise in interviewing and treating children in respect of sexual abuse. However, she had no formal background in education as she made clear in her report.[2] It was quickly decided, in any event, that she would not interview any children. Her appointment may in part have been a defensive action in other words, one by which no one could criticise Rochdale if it brought on board the very expert whose opinion had been used to devastating effect in the Middleton case.

11. On 4 June 1991, Diana Cavanagh introduced Mrs Mellor to a meeting of the key individuals involved in Knowl View School. This included Mr Bradshaw, Mr Shipp, Mr Bentley and Ms Simpson. The record of the meeting makes clear that Mrs Mellor’s role was to provide advice as to how best to proceed with an enquiry into the activities of boys at the school.[3] It was suggested that Mrs Mellor’s consultancy should provide an impartial response to three questions: (1) was the school providing education appropriate to the needs of the pupils at Knowl View; (2) were staff able to deal with the problems identified; and (3) what should be provided?

12. At this meeting, Mrs Mellor asked if a video recorder could be used when children were interviewed in case they disclosed abuse. Mr Bentley and Ms Simpson had reservations about this course of action. Mrs Cavanagh explained that Mr Bentley and Ms Simpson thought it would be unnerving for the children but that in any event Mrs Mellor did not insist on it.[4] Mr Bradshaw, by contrast, thought that people “... wanted this to go away” or that some individuals considered that such interviews would make a greater deal out of the incidents than was warranted.[5] 

13. Mrs Mellor was not asked within her terms of reference to establish what had actually happened to the children who lived at the school. When asked about this point, Mrs Cavanagh told us that she did not want Mrs Mellor to undertake the job of police and social services. Mrs Cavanagh wanted Mrs Mellor to tell her about the school: was it safe for the pupils; did they feel well educated and well cared for; did the sexual activity stop; and what else could be done to enhance the experience of children or improve it?[6]

14. There was a further meeting of the same individuals on 25 June 1991, by which point it is apparent that Mrs Mellor had been able to make some enquiries. Mrs Mellor informed the meeting that she had spoken to Detective Inspector Henderson of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) who told her that there were no ongoing concerns about the town centre toilets.[7]

15. She also indicated her tentative view that it would neither be right nor necessary to interview boys at the school because: (1) it was too long after the event; (2) too many changes had occurred; and (3) it would be dredging up facts from which the boys had moved on. She said that there was no indication that inappropriate sexual behaviour was taking place in the school.[8] 

16. Mrs Mellor highlighted her concern that one child had been placed in the school having been an inpatient in a psychiatric hospital prior to his admission (this was RO-A11) and that one seven-year-old was placed with older children.[9]

17. Mrs Mellor should have been asked to talk to the children sensitively to find out what their experience of living in Knowl View School was like, and to comply with her terms of reference. In the course of doing so, what had happened to them may have emerged. It was a significant mistake attributable to the Local Authority not to expressly ask her to do so.

18. Mr Bradshaw’s evidence was that he considered Mrs Mellor’s focus had been on the Hilton incident: first, how it had occurred and what could be learned from it; and, second, whether there was a culture of continuation of sexual abuse and coercion. Mrs Cavanagh agreed with that view.[10]

19. There was then a further meeting of 12 September 1991, by which time Mrs Mellor had yet to produce a report. She expressed the opinion that Roderick Hilton had not been regarded as external to the school but rather very much a part of school life. Mr Bradshaw observed that there had been “agency sympathy” for Roderick Hilton rather than the school. He expressed concern about the security of the school and the possible availability of duplicate keys.[11] Mr Bradshaw was asked about this in his evidence to us and he confirmed that, prior to his arrival, Roderick Hilton had been regarded as “part of the furniture” of the school.[12] He also said that staff had been aware that Hilton had slept in the school minibus and on school premises and had not stopped him.[13]

20. Mr Bradshaw also said that the concern that outsiders to the school had keys was a real one and that there were occasions when he had a feeling that people had access to the school; he changed the locks in response to this.[14] There is evidence from May 1991 of a male prowler trying to gain access to the school around this time.[15] 

21. In Autumn 1991, Mr Bradshaw recorded that the school had been rock-bottom when he started and that the Mellor inquiry made the ‘Pindown Experience’ look like a day at the seaside. Nonetheless, he recorded that he was sick of writing memos that were totally ignored.[16] It appears he was not being taken seriously.

22. In the interim, concerns were mounting at the length of time that Mrs Mellor was taking to produce her report. It was not produced until February 1992. This was the same month that Chief Inspector Berry of GMP wrote to Mr Graham, an Area Manager for Rochdale Social Services, saying “very little progress had been made” in relation to RO-A9.[17] There were concerns that he had been subjected to ‘network’ abuse on an organised scale. None of this information appears to have been made available to Mrs Mellor.

23. The Mellor report, when it was eventually delivered, was not a comprehensive or detailed document.[18] It was ten pages long and accompanied by an appendix that set out information about the sexual abuse of certain boys. The appendix is almost identical to the “Who is doing what to whom” document Stephen Bradshaw had produced in May 1991. It confirmed that there was a high incidence of sexual abuse among boys prior to their entry to the school, although this is information that must have been readily available since September 1990 or before.

24. Mrs Mellor sounded a note of caution in her report, observing that she had no formal background in education and had avoided making any recommendations that properly should have come within the province of education officers. The report noted that there was a history of sexualised behaviour at the school but this was not detailed. It referred to boys meeting Roderick Hilton in a copse on school grounds in 1987 and 1988. It did not refer to Hilton’s conviction in 1984 for sexually assaulting a Knowl View School pupil.

25. The report also referred to information received from the police in the summer of 1991 that surveillance at Smith Street toilets was taking place and there was “no longer any homosexual activity going on there”,[19] which was based on an unchallenged assertion by Detective Inspector Henderson made at the meeting of 4 June 1991.

26. The report mentioned differences of opinion between care staff about how to approach what was happening to children. Some staff members felt that it was not being taken sufficiently seriously; other staff members considered that it was behaviour that was normal for boys within an institutional setting. The report does not explore that issue and how it impacted on the care given to children.

27. Mrs Mellor had met with the families of two boys who had attended the school but who refused to return because they had been frightened by sexual approaches made to them by older boys.[20] One boy (from ‘family X’) had been sexually abused prior to starting at Knowl View. He had been subjected to threats of physical violence at Knowl View if he did not agree to participate in oral and anal sex. Mrs Mellor was unable to obtain any information from ‘family Y’ save that the boy was still in fear of one particular child who was still at the school.

28. Mrs Mellor also obtained information about Roderick Hilton from the school keeper or caretaker, Andrew Found, according to whom Hilton had threatened to set his house on fire and had threatened to give him AIDS. Importantly, Mr Found described many incidents of Hilton having been on school premises before the September 1990 incident, none of which was recorded in the school log book.

29. Mrs Mellor concluded that a quarter of the pupils at Knowl View had been involved at some stage in serious sexual incidents. Boys had participated in gross sexual activity with each other involving coercion and violence. Some boys had sold sexual favours for money at Smith Street toilets, and some boys had participated in gross sexual acts with Hilton both in the school grounds and within the school itself. The involvement of children with Hilton quite clearly went further than the September 1990 incident but this was not explained further. In fact, none of Mrs Mellor’s conclusions on sexual activity were particularised further.

30. Mrs Mellor also concluded that it was very hard to believe that this sexual activity had not come to the attention of staff, and that the danger that Hilton posed to boys must have been obvious to those working at the school, yet many incidents were not recorded in children’s notes. Mrs Mellor referred, obliquely, to staff views of sexuality affecting their reactions to incidents. This is not explained further. Mrs Mellor ended her report by recommending that there be a review in six months (that is, from February 1992).

31. This was a first attempt by anyone to lift the lid on what was going on at Knowl View. We acknowledge the fact that Mrs Cavanagh commissioned the report, but the terms of reference were insufficient to enable the matter to be considered fully.

32. Mrs Cavanagh ensured that the Mellor report was considered by those individuals with relevant responsibilities across the political spectrum. She convened a meeting on 13 March 1992 at which Councillors Moffat (Labour), Hawton (Conservative), Beasley (Conservative) and Sarginson (Liberal Democrat) were present together with Mrs Mellor, Mr Bradshaw and others from the Education Department.[21] The report was not hidden from the view of any local political party.

33. There was a further meeting on 27 March 1992 at Knowl View School in order to present the report to the staff; it was chaired by Mrs Moffat.[22] The version of the report presented to staff differed in two respects from the original report that had been prepared. First, the version of the report that staff saw did not contain the appendix with the information about individual children. Second, the report omitted a section on the school keeper that had originally appeared on page seven of the Mellor report. Staff were permitted to read the report but not to retain it.

34. Mrs Cavanagh explained that staff were not provided with the appendix because Mrs Mellor was extremely nervous about the dissemination of that information.[23] Mrs Cavanagh also explained that the omission of the information about the school keeper was because Mrs Mellor feared it was libellous.[24] Mrs Mellor’s account provided to us in a witness statement of 18 May 2015 was that Mrs Cavanagh had asked her to remove the identification of the pupils and the part about the school keeper. She took legal advice about the circulation of her report to prevent it being circulated in an unrestricted way.[25] That accords with Mrs Cavanagh’s evidence about Mrs Mellor’s anxiety about the appendix. A memorandum from Mrs Cavanagh to Mr Pierce (the Chief Executive) said the references to the school keeper were deleted from the second version of the report because of advice that distribution of that information might prejudice any possible prosecution of him by the police.[26]

35. We accept that there was no deliberate attempt to cover up the role of the school keeper and that the removal of the section concerning him in the second version of the report was because of the implications of sharing views about him with other staff. Having noted that, there is very little in the first version of the report to suggest that Mr Found may have been assisting Roderick Hilton.

36. Mrs Cavanagh also circulated the report to senior officers of the Council. By letter dated 23 March 1992, she invited, among others, the Director of Social Services, Chief Superintendent Houghton and the Chief Executive to a meeting on 9 April 1992 at which the Mellor report would be presented.[27] Mrs Cavanagh also gave evidence that she had hand delivered the report to a number of these invitees.[28] 

37. The extent to which the report was circulated is important, given later allegations that it had been suppressed. We are satisfied that by April 1992 the Mellor report had been appropriately circulated to key Council officers and elected members in relevant leadership positions.

38. It is worth noting here that despite the picture painted by the Mellor report and despite the acceptance by the Education Department that Mr Bradshaw faced an enormous task in turning the school around, the evidence points to him not always being supported by the Council and to the school not receiving the funding and management input it required. In a memorandum to Mrs Mellor of 11 March 1992,[29] Mr Bradshaw described himself as “totally shell shocked from the battering” that he was taking from Rochdale Council.[30] He considered that, while he was given emotional support, when it came to to the crunch about resources that was much more difficult.[31]


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