Skip to main content

0800 917 1000   Open weekdays 9am-5pm

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children in the care of Lambeth Council Investigation Report

Contents

B.2: Case study: Shirley Oaks

Background

2. Shirley Oaks opened in 1905 and was intended to provide homes for groups of children in small cottages rather than in a large institution. There were approximately 38 cottages on the site, which could together accommodate approximately 350 children at any one time.[1] However, this approach was considered out-of-date by 1965, when Lambeth Council was formed and became responsible for Shirley Oaks. In April 1964, the regional inspector wrote that “the house mothers in these crowded cottages rarely achieve a high standard of care”.[2] Shirley Oaks had its own school, its own medical facilities and its own leisure facilities for children.[3] It closed in 1983.[4]

Shirley Oaks children’s homeShirley Oaks children’s home

Sexual abuse at Shirley Oaks

3. More than 2,400 children were placed at Shirley Oaks between 1965 and 1983.[5] As at June 2020, Lambeth Council was aware of at least 529 people who allege they were sexually abused while at Shirley Oaks by a total of 177 adults employed or connected with the home.[6]

4. There were no successful prosecutions until 2001. Donald Hosegood was acquitted of sexual abuse charges in 1975 and died in 2011.[7] In 1978, Patrick Grant was also prosecuted but not convicted, although he was convicted in 2019 of eight offences of indecent assault against three victims and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment.[8] In 2001, William Hook was charged with 37 offences against seven victims; he pleaded guilty to 26 offences and was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.[9] Philip Temple was interviewed by police regarding allegations of child sexual abuse in 1977 but not charged. In 2016, he pleaded guilty to 29 offences, including 27 child sexual abuse offences against 13 children, for which he was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment.[10]

William Hook (1964 to 1974)

5. William Hook lived in a Shirley Oaks cottage with children in the care of Lambeth Council for 10 years from 1964. He did so free of charge in return for providing swimming lessons.[11] He also had a role as a house father or social uncle.[12]

6. In February 1974, the police were called to a hotel by staff concerned about the welfare of a young teenage boy who was staying with Hook in a room at the hotel. The boy was in the care of another local authority. The police notified that local authority about the incident, commenting that they had significant information about Hook and expressing surprise that he had ever worked with children.[13]

7. Staff at Shirley Oaks already had concerns about Hook’s behaviour, with several referring to widespread rumours.[14] It does not appear from the evidence received by the Inquiry that these concerns were acted on.

7.1. One former house father referred to rumours that Hook had “children who used to hang around him … and the rumours were that he was supposedly playing around with them”.[15]

7.2. LA-A63 and LA-A64 both described being given lavish gifts by Hook after he began sexually abusing them. LA-A64’s mother complained about the gifts but nothing happened.[16] Both children were abused by Hook in the mid-1970s. LA-A63 was aged between 15 and 16. LA-A64 was abused between the age of 8 and 13. Hook later pleaded guilty to the abuse of these boys.

7.3. Children also knew Hook by different names, which should have raised questions. It is unclear if any staff member queried his use of different names.[17]

8. In 1974, LA-A203 (a child in care at Shirley Oaks), when aged 11, made allegations against Hook of sexual abuse at a swimming lesson. He described Hook making him swim naked and touching him inappropriately. LA-A203 said that he felt “shattered” after these experiences.[18] Lambeth Council subsequently terminated Hook’s employment, but did not inform the police about him.[19]

9. In 2001, Hook was charged with more than 40 offences of child sexual abuse. He pleaded guilty to 26 offences in respect of six children in the care of Lambeth Council and a child he had abused after leaving Lambeth.[20] He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.[21] Lambeth Council was aware of 65 children who have made allegations of sexual abuse against Hook.[22]

Geoffrey Clarke (1969 to 1991)

10. Geoffrey (or Geoff) Clarke was a computer programmer who worked for Lambeth Council between 1969 and 1991. He also volunteered at Shirley Oaks from around 1973 – “the phrase they then used was a ‘social uncle’ for children” – spending almost every weekend there and taking children on holiday abroad alone.[23]

11. There were also rumours about Clarke. One Lambeth Council social worker between 1970 and 1978 recalled that staff:

had our doubts about Geoff … The reason we had doubts about Geoff was because we couldn’t really understand why he was there at Shirley Oaks, spending so much time with the children without getting paid for it … generally, he was trusted to spend time with the children unsupervised, within and outside the house … In the evenings he’d take the children up to bed. He’d go upstairs on his own with them and spend some time up there. I don’t know how long generally, but it was long enough for us to assume he was reading to them. Probably at least half an hour or more, possibly longer.[24]

12. LA-A306 lived at Shirley Oaks in the 1970s. He described being sexually assaulted by the swimming teacher as well as physical abuse and violence by staff.[25] He remembered Clarke, who managed the football team:

All of my siblings would go to his house and get bathed there and he would try and buy us sweets. He would make us feel really special. He drove a Mini and would let us drive around on his knee.[26]

13. Even when specific concerns were raised, senior staff in children’s social care in Lambeth Council failed to understand the risk Clarke posed. For example, Clarke involved himself in LA-A51’s life, interfered in relationships with his family and with foster placements, and was asked to limit the time he was spending with him.[27] This began when LA-A51 was aged approximately seven or eight years. When LA-A51 was aged 13, LA-A51’s father wrote to Lambeth Council questioning whether Clarke was fit to work with children.[28] As conceded by Ms Annie Hudson, strategic director for children’s services at Lambeth Council from May 2016 to March 2020, Clarke:

managed to override some of the views of some professionals who were concerned about his relationship with this particular child – certainly the concern of [the] father, who subsequently at some point made a complaint – and continued to have contact with this child even though he was told that he shouldn’t … He was interfering in this way which absolutely was not in the child’s interest.[29]

14. In 1984, Clarke applied to become a foster parent for Southwark Council, together with a female house parent from Shirley Oaks, although they were not a couple.[30] This may have been an attempt by Clarke to avoid his application being rejected as it most likely would have been at that time if he had applied as a single man. One of the referees from Lambeth Council, LA-F81, referred to Clarke teaching a child about control of his penis in support of the fostering application.[31] This contact between a ‘social uncle’ and child was regarded as positive, rather than raising concerns. Clarke was subsequently approved as a foster carer by the London Borough of Southwark and at least one child in the care of Lambeth Council was placed with him for four years.[32]

15. Clarke remained involved with Shirley Oaks until its closure in 1983. After it closed, he started visiting Chevington children’s home, also in Lambeth, and built up relationships there. He left Lambeth Council’s employment in 1991 but continued working in a children’s home outside London.[33]

16. In 1998, Clarke was convicted of the sexual abuse of three children (none linked to Lambeth Council) and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.[34]

17. Further allegations were made against Clarke by children in care – in Lambeth and elsewhere – between 2000 and 2002, during Operation Middleton. He was charged with numerous offences of indecent assault and possession of indecent images. In March 2003, he took his own life on the day his trial was due to start.[35] Lambeth Council was aware of at least 49 children – including 37 in its care – who have alleged sexual abuse by Clarke.[36]

Donald Hosegood (1968 to 1975)

18. Donald Hosegood and his wife were appointed jointly as house parents at Shirley Oaks in May 1968.

19. LA-A25 moved to Hosegood’s cottage in September 1968, when she was around 12 years old. While she described her initial house parents at Shirley Oaks as “really lovely and caring” who “treated us as if we were their own children”, this was not her experience with the Hosegoods.[37] For example, LA-A25 described coming back to Shirley Oaks from a family visit:

when I got upset from coming home from my nan’s, I would cry, so he’d make me stand on the landing for hours … The more I cried, the longer I would have to stand there.[38]

20. Hosegood looked at LA-A25 (for example through keyholes) when she was washing.[39] One staff member on two or three occasions witnessed Hosegood walk into a toilet which LA-A25 was already using, but did not take the matter further because they had only worked at Shirley Oaks for a short time.[40] Another member of staff at Shirley Oaks saw Hosegood entering a toilet with a child, and was sufficiently concerned to tell a senior management officer about this. Annie Hudson said that Lambeth Council were unable to locate any response to this complaint.[41] LA-A25 said that for around four years Hosegood raped her approximately three times a week. He also tried to force her into sexual activity with another child, and showed her pornographic films.[42] He threatened her should she tell anyone:

That he’d kill me, and then, when it got more worse, the things he was doing to me, he said he could get me locked up and no-one would believe me, and I’d be away forever.[43]

21. A parent of another child at Shirley Oaks – who said that their child was being abused by Hosegood – asked LA-A25 if it was happening to her and she told them that it was. LA-A25 finally spoke to her manager at work, who contacted the police (although he also told her that she would be dismissed from her job if she was lying).[44] The police officer told her that he “did believe me”, which LA-A25 struggled to accept having been told before that she was a liar.[45] As she told the police that Hosegood had threatened her, the police ensured that LA-A25 did not go back to Shirley Oaks.[46]

22. LA-A2 was born in 1961. He and his older sister were taken into care in the early 1960s.[47] His sister explained that Hosegood would pick on LA-A2 because he was “generally slow at doing things” and “had trouble speaking”.[48] One night, LA-A2’s sister was walking past his bedroom and saw Hosegood kneeling at the side of his bed. It was obvious to her that he was doing something to LA-A2. She shouted and pulled back the covers and saw that Hosegood was abusing her brother. Even after this, LA-A2 did not speak to her about the abuse he was suffering.[49]

23. LA-A69 described abuse by Hosegood over an eight-year period in the 1970s, when she was six or seven years old. Hosegood also abused the girl with whom she shared a bedroom, which LA-A69 witnessed. Hosegood told LA-A69 that if she said anything about his behaviour to anyone, he would kill her. She was terrified and believed him.[50]

24. In 1975, Hosegood was tried for 11 charges of rape and indecent assault involving four children.[51] Lambeth Council was willing to provide a letter about Hosegood for the purposes of the criminal investigation. An internal memo sent by Mr N Elliott, senior children’s homes officer, to Lambeth Council’s chief solicitor stated that:

it is the belief in this Directorate that the majority of allegations against the housefather [Hosegood] are pure fantasy. The history of the children is that some are given to sexual fantasy and the previous relationship between the house father [and] these children also suggests an element of victimisation against him.[52]

Mr Elliott’s letter records that Mr and Mrs Hosegood were asked to leave their cottage for “two weeks pending developments”.[53]

25. Hosegood’s trial collapsed after four days.[54] The children who made allegations against Hosegood were not offered support by Lambeth Council or through the criminal justice process. LA-A25, who gave evidence at the trial, left care and her job, and received no support.[55] Less than two years after Hosegood’s trial, LA-A2 was found dead in the bathroom of a Shirley Oaks cottage. His sister said that:

Following the court case, LA-A2 was even less like his old self. He hardly spoke and he never seemed to be happy or engaging when I saw him. Had fate been kinder to my beloved LA-A2, and had counselling and support been available, LA-A2 may have been able to represent himself today. The police charged Hosegood with many sexual crimes against minors. What failed my beloved brother more than anything was the total lack of support offered when the judge dismissed the charge against Mr Hosegood.[56]

26. The outcome of the criminal case was treated as the end of the matter. There was no disciplinary investigation.[57] An assessment of the risk to children should have been initiated by senior staff in children’s social care in Lambeth Council. Failure to do so showed complete disregard for generally accepted safeguarding principles, and put children at significant risk of sexual abuse.

27. Hosegood was reinvestigated to a limited degree by Operation Middleton, which ran from 1998 to 2003 (see Part J). Six complainants (including three involved in the 1975 trial) came forward to make allegations of sexual abuse against Hosegood. Three further potential victims were also identified, including a child with special educational needs who a number of individuals (including children who were at Shirley Oaks at the time) thought might have been sexually abused by Hosegood.[58] Despite this, the Metropolitan Police Service did not speak to Hosegood during Operation Middleton. Detective Inspector (DI) Simon Morley told the Inquiry that Hosegood was not pursued because officers mistakenly believed that all of the allegations made against Hosegood were dealt with in 1975. Ms Hudson confirmed that the Children’s Homes in Lambeth Enquiry (CHILE) mistakenly believed he had died and told some individuals who came forward this.[59] Hosegood died in 2011 without being the subject of any further police investigation.[60]

28. In the course of Hosegood’s employment at Shirley Oaks, six of the eight children who lived in his cottage and one other child accused him of sexually abusing them.[61]

Philip Temple (1975 to 1977)

29. In 1975, Philip Temple was employed as a house father at Shirley Oaks. Although Lambeth Council was not aware of it, he had left his previous employment at a Wandsworth Council children’s home after two children there made allegations of sexual abuse. Temple was not charged by the police but resigned.[62]

30. In 1977, two young boys at Shirley Oaks had made allegations that they had been sexually abused by Temple. Their social care files recorded that the children were interviewed by a detective constable, in the presence of their social workers. One child twisted in his chair, hid his face and cried. The social worker noted that:

at this point the DC almost ran from the room, saying he would not question him further. He was too young. He later said that he had not questioned anyone as young as these two in this type of case before.[63]

31. The social workers and children were recalled to the police station the following day. They were told:

House father had been interrogated for the second time that afternoon and had threatened suicide but still maintained that the children had fabricated the story. The police felt this was quite plausible and that, as a person’s career was at stake, they must question the children further.”[64]

32. It appears that the children were being pressured about their accounts. Despite this, the social worker noted that one of the children “simply stated and restated that he had told the truth, even when CP emphasised how serious the effects could be for uncle and how much the truth mattered”.[65] (‘CP’ was a member of staff who worked for Temple at the cottage, ‘uncle’ was how the children referred to Temple.) He was asked if he was lying to help his friend and why he had not cried the previous day. When the other child was questioned again, he “broke down and cried”. The detective constable said “He’s halfway there. We’re sure it’s a string of lies. He’s about to tell the truth.” The social worker “felt the police seemed relieved they could exonerate” Temple, who they described as “desperate”.[66] As a consequence, the police investigation went no further. A record from April 1977 stated that “the police have told him they believed him and not the children”.[67]

33. Senior staff in children’s social care did not institute Lambeth Council’s own misconduct investigation or process following the decision not to charge Temple. This meant that there was nothing to prevent Temple from being able to resume his role as house father and raised the question of whether the children would remain in his care. Temple was only prevented from returning to his role at the home because of the efforts of a more junior member of staff. She was given no support by senior managers but was left to confront Temple and “virtually put in the position of justifying her refusal to accept him as house father at Rowan”.[68] This did not resolve the position. Temple then requested a meeting with the staff in the home at which the staff were instructed not to refer to the child abuse allegation at all and to “reject him” purely in terms of “house management”.[69] Temple requested that a senior manager did not attend these meetings. It was Temple, not senior staff, who took charge of the process which determined whether he would return to the house.[70]

34. Within weeks, a sibling of a third child came forward and told a social worker that his brother, LA-A4, had been sexually abused by Temple when he was at Shirley Oaks in 1976. Police were provided with a statement from LA-A4. A meeting to discuss the allegation was then held between the police, the social worker and Ms Marjorie Moyce, the principal children’s officer who had already been involved in the earlier allegations. There is no evidence to suggest that Lambeth Council took any steps to investigate the allegations internally or to review the allegations of the two other boys.[71]

35. Some time later, as recorded in a note to the Department of Health and Social Security dated July 1977:

Two senior managers advised the house father of this further allegation whereupon he admitted that there was truth in it. He resigned immediately and returned to Liverpool”.[72]

Although he confessed to the sexual abuse of children in its care, senior staff in children’s social care in Lambeth Council allowed Temple to resign and failed to inform the police.

36. Temple went on to abuse other children. In 1998 and 1999, he was prosecuted for three offences of indecent assault on a boy aged 15, which had happened in 1997. He was acquitted but later pleaded guilty to two counts of perjury relating to these trials.[73] In April 2016, Temple pleaded guilty to 29 counts of child sexual abuse relating to 13 victims. Four of the children had been in care at Shirley Oaks between 1976 and 1977 and had provided information to Operation Middleton. Temple was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment, although this was increased to 18 years on appeal by the Attorney General, on the basis that it was unduly lenient.[74]

Patrick Grant (1977 to 1985)

37. In May 1977, Temple was replaced at Shirley Oaks by Patrick Grant, who became officer in charge of one of the cottages in August 1977. Patrick Grant was subsequently to work at South Vale between 14 July 1980 and 15 October 1981.[75]

38. In February 1978, he was charged with 10 counts of indecent assault on seven boys. Five of the children had been in his care when he worked for a different borough, and two of the children lived in his cottage at Shirley Oaks.[76] One of these children from Shirley Oaks was also one of the children who had disclosed that they had been sexually abused by Philip Temple. In December 1978, Grant’s trial stopped after six days, resulting in his acquittal. Despite being accused of sexual abuse by two groups of children from two different boroughs, senior staff in social care did not undertake any further investigation or institute disciplinary proceedings after his acquittal.[77]

39. While he was awaiting trial, Grant was temporarily transferred to adult services to undertake administrative duties and Lambeth Council offered him a secondment to undertake training to become a qualified social worker, which he completed in 1980. This included Lambeth Council paying the fees for a two-year training programme at a higher education institution and also a salary.[78] The decision was made by Marjorie Moyce (principal officer, social work) and a training officer, but the director of management services, the director of finance, the senior assistant director homes and daycare provision and the senior personnel officer were all included in the correspondence to Grant. The decision of Lambeth Council to second Grant on professional social work was a gross error of judgement.[79] Plainly, he was a risk to children.

40. Following his qualification, Grant worked at South Vale as a manager between July 1980 and October 1981.[80] He was subsequently an administrative officer for the Children’s Home Service until April 1985.[81]

41. In 2019, Grant was convicted of eight counts of child sexual abuse, including in respect of one child who had been at Shirley Oaks in the care of Lambeth Council in the 1970s.[82] Lambeth Council is now aware of at least 15 children who have alleged sexual abuse by Grant, eight of whom were in its care.[83]

References

Back to top