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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale Investigation Report

Political accountability

30. We concluded that Richard Farnell, who was Leader of Rochdale Council from 1986 until 1992, lied to the Inquiry in the course of his evidence. We preferred the evidence of Peter Joinson, who supported other evidence suggesting that Mr Farnell must have known at least about the generality, if not the detail, of issues about child sexual abuse at Knowl View. 

31. In light of everything we have heard and seen, it defies belief that Mr Farnell was unaware of the events involving Knowl View School, especially within the context of the public scandal involving children in the care of Rochdale Council arising from the Middleton cases. We also reject the notion that Mr Farnell was not alerted by the then Chair of Education, the late Mary Moffat, about a further potential risk to the reputation of the Council, let alone its statutory duty of care towards abused children.

32. Regarding Mr Farnell’s final statements at the hearing, it was shameful that he refused to accept any personal responsibility for the young lives blighted by what happened at Knowl View while he was Leader. Instead, he laid all blame for what occurred at the door of the senior officials in Education and in Social Services.

33. We concluded that Mr Rowen bore considerable responsibility for the school as Council Leader from 1992 to 1996. As with Richard Farnell, he was prepared to blame others without acknowledging his own failures of leadership. At best, he was insufficiently inquisitive about Knowl View School, despite having knowledge of the serious problems that persisted at the school; at worst, as Council Leader, he turned a blind eye to these problems and chose to give them low priority.

34. It is beyond dispute that Mr Digan, a former member of care staff at Knowl View, brought his concerns to the attention of Ms Lynne’s PA, Deborah Doyle, as well as to the attention of Colin Lambert and the late Jim Dobbin MP. We have not sought live evidence from Ms Doyle or Ms Lynne, and so we cannot make, and it would be quite unfair to make, any findings about the truth or accuracy of either’s account. Likewise, the differences in recollection of Mr Lambert and Detective Superintendent Huntbach about the meeting with Mr Dobbin make it impossible to form any definite view.

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