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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale Investigation Report

Operation Cleopatra

46. Knowl View School stopped admitting pupils in 1994. As we have seen, by 1996 there were already allegations in the public domain that there had been a cover-up of the sexual abuse of children who had resided at the school. The source of these allegations appears to have been the Digan ‘dossier’. This dossier comprises documents that were copied by Mr Digan in 1994, prior to his leaving his employment at Knowl View. He believed there to have been a cover-up, because he and other staff members had only ever seen the second version of the Mellor report. As previously discussed, the version shown to staff omitted a section on the school keeper and the appendix that detailed information about individual children. The documents, which are understood to have formed the core of the Digan dossier, are the unredacted Mellor report, the Shepherd report and the Cavanagh report.[1] One aspect of Operation Clifton was to investigate whether there had been any other reports that had been suppressed and that were part of the dossier, but according to Mr Marsh the only documents Operation Clifton ever identified as having been part of the dossier were those three reports.[2] The decision in 1992 not to show staff the version of the report that referred to the school keeper or the appendix with information about individual children was not sinister, but rather a reflection of concerns about confidentiality and possible prejudice. Mr Shepherd sent his report to a number of individuals whom he regarded as the appropriate people to see it. Mrs Cavanagh’s concern was that it should not travel further than this, but there is no suggestion that she ever tried to conceal its existence or that of the Mellor report. Even if these concerns were misguided, that does not equate to a deliberate attempt to conceal the existence of these reports.

47. In 1992, Mrs Cavanagh ensured that the Mellor report was circulated to politicians from different parties within the Council, to the Health Authority and to the police. When, in 1996, Detective Superintendent Henderson told the press that the issues involved at the school were discussed and investigated at the time by a number of agencies, this was correct. It might be thought that these investigations and any action taken thereafter were inadequate, but this does not mean that there was any cover-up.

48. Operation Clifton investigated six occasions on which Mr Digan presented his dossier to an individual and considered that he had not received an adequate response. These six occasions were with the following people: (1) Diana Cavanagh in 1994; (2) Rochdale police in 1994; (3) Liz Lynne MP in 1996; (4) Lorna Fitzsimons MP in 1998; (5) Colin Lambert and Jim Dobbin in 2000; and (6) the Chief Whip in 2000.[3]

49. Mr Digan believed that there had been a deliberate withholding of information from staff. The fact remains that the information set out in those reports had been shared between organisations at the time. The real issue does not appear to us to be one of coverup but, as we have indicated, rather the inadequacy of the response at the time. The three reports had been seen by numerous people, they had been referred to in the press and they had been widely discussed. They were not concealed and there was no evidence to suggest that there was any other report in existence that has not come to light.

50. Operation Clifton found evidence to suggest that individuals like Liz Lynne MP and Jim Dobbin MP had passed information on or sought to raise the matter with others. Ms Lynne was able to point to press reports in 1996 that referred to her having received information from Martin Digan and to what she intended to do with the information (which might be regarded as inconsistent with any suggestion that she was trying to conceal knowing anything about the allegations).[4] Similarly, there was independent evidence that Jim Dobbin and Colin Lambert had contacted officers from Operation European (specifically Detective Superintendent Huntbach) with information provided to them about former Knowl View pupils.[5] 

51. Operation Cleopatra itself was a substantial investigation by GMP that ran between 1997 and 2002. It had three phases. In its first phase, it was a specific investigation into allegations against Eric Butterworth, a member of staff at the Rosehill Assessment Centre in Manchester. In its second phase (from January 1998), it became broader and considered all ‘historic’ allegations that related to residential care homes in the Greater Manchester area. This expansion in its remit saw Operation Cleopatra provided with greater resources and moved to the police station at Grey Mare Lane in Manchester. In its third phase (from August 1998), social workers became part of the investigation and worked alongside the investigating officers.[6]

52. The first phase resulted in Butterworth being charged with 12 offences related to children at Rosehill Assessment Centre and Foxholes Children’s Home in Rochdale. On 3 May 1999, all charges against him were discontinued on the basis that he was medically unfit to stand trial.

53. On 20 April 1991, Operation Cleopatra opened its investigation into David Higgins (a teacher at Knowl View from 1 September 1969 to 21 December 1971). He had by that stage been convicted of the indecent assault of one boy and two girls (known to have been aged eight and nine). These convictions were in 1976 and 1983 respectively.[7] On 2 May 2002, he was charged with ten counts (ten counts of gross indecency and five counts of indecent assault) in respect of three former pupils from Knowl View. Higgins ultimately pleaded guilty to eight counts of gross indecency and three counts of indecent assault. Two allegations that Higgins had indecently assaulted the third pupil were left to lie on the file. On 19 September 2002, he was sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months.[8]

54. A point to note is that Operation Cleopatra did not consider allegations of peer-on-peer abuse. A policy was applied during the currency of the operation to the effect that allegations of abuse by former pupils against other former pupils did not fall within its terms.[9]

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