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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale Investigation Report

Dennis Leckey

7. Dennis Leckey was employed by Rochdale Borough Council between 6 November 1989 and 10 September 1997. Initially, he was employed as a Senior Education Welfare Officer but, in November 1992, following a disciplinary procedure for alleged professional misconduct in relation to an unrelated matter, he moved, at his own request, to a vacant post of Education Welfare Officer.[1] In October 1995, a 17-year-old boy alleged that Leckey, who had been working with the boy, had committed an act of gross indecency on him when he was staying overnight at Leckey’s home.[2]

8. The police were informed of the complaint, and the boy was willing to tell them what had happened but not willing to make a witness statement or support any prosecution.[3] Leckey was interviewed in November 1995 and denied the allegation but admitted he had had a friendship with the boy. Following this, the Council held a strategy meeting at which the police said that they could not take any further action without the boy’s cooperation, and so it was decided to deal with the situation as a matter of unprofessional behaviour and carry out a formal investigation under the Council’s disciplinary procedures.[4]

9. The account given by Leckey in the course of the disciplinary investigation was that he had had very little contact when the boy was a school pupil and had befriended him after he left school in 1995. However, the investigation revealed other evidence that showed this to be untrue.[5] Despite Leckey’s account being demonstrably false, it was decided that he would not be dismissed even if the allegation of unprofessional behaviour was found proved, and he remained in post throughout the disciplinary process.[6]  

10. Gail Hopper noted in her evidence to us that it appeared the view was reached that the relationship between Leckey and the boy was consensual, and there was no appreciation that there may have been a grooming process.[7] There also seemed in her view to be a failure to appreciate that the boy had made a very serious allegation, and that, even though a criminal prosecution had not been commenced, the allegation still stood. Ms Hopper said she was shocked by the approach.[8] 

11. A disciplinary hearing was held in July 1996 at which four allegations of professional misconduct were found proved – that Leckey had failed to follow accepted reporting procedures in relation to his contact with the boy, that he had ‘befriended’ the boy while he was a pupil and concealed this from others, that in developing and continuing the relationship Leckey put himself and the Service at risk of complaint, and, finally, that the behaviour was inappropriate for an Education Welfare Officer. As a result, Leckey was given a first and final warning but did not lose his job.[9]

12. However, on 8 July 1996, the same day as the disciplinary hearing, the boy’s aftercare worker visited him at home, and he reported that he was having nightmares and flashbacks about being raped by Leckey and wished to pursue a complaint. A statement was taken two days later.[10]

13. On 25 July 1996, Leckey was arrested by police and charged with sexual offences against children. The charges related not just to the boy Leckey had ‘befriended’ but also to the children of two families in an area where Leckey had worked some 10 to 15 years earlier.

There were 13 counts of buggery, indecent assault and the taking of indecent photographs. When police searched Leckey’s home, they found material that indicated he had been committing similar offences for more than 20 years. Among other items seized were diaries that contained sexual fantasies about children and indicated planned, systematic abuse and a warped personality. He was suspended from duty the following day.[11] 

14. By October 1996, the number of charges against Leckey had increased to 19.[12] His criminal trial began in September 1997. He contested the allegations and was eventually found guilty and sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment. He was immediately dismissed by the Council.[13]

15. The fact that such a prolific child sex offender had not been dismissed by the Council at an earlier stage (and had only been prevented from continuing in his post because of the coincidental timing of the police investigation and arrest) was acutely embarrassing for the Council. Linda Richardson, a Child Protection Officer at Lancashire County Council, was instructed to carry out a review of Rochdale Council’s procedures.[14] 

16. Her report was produced on 6 September 1998. It appears at one point to conclude that the Council’s approach to Leckey in 1996 had been appropriate, and that disciplinary action might not be indicated.[15] Ms Hopper was surprised about this conclusion; she commented to us in her evidence that the kind of allegation made against Leckey was such that “it has never been anything other than grossly unacceptable”. Her view was that Ms Richardson was not assessing what had been done by Rochdale Council but rather describing the process that had been followed.[16] However, Ms Richardson’s conclusions were largely positive. She found that the action taken worked well and there was good evidence of inter-agency collaboration. There had been no obvious indications that Leckey was abusing children before the 17-year-old boy made his complaint, but when that allegation was made it was responded to appropriately and in accordance with the procedures.[17] 

17. Leckey should have been dismissed as a result of the proven allegations of seriously unprofessional conduct against him, even leaving to one side the absence of a criminal prosecution at that point in time. What this suggests is that even a number of years after the events at Knowl View, institutions in Rochdale were at the very least uncertain about how to proceed in the face of serious allegations of child sexual abuse.

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