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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children in the care of Lambeth Council Investigation Report


F.4: Bullying, intimidation and racism

17. In 1979, when he was the race relations adviser, Mr Ouseley was tasked with ascertaining why building sites undertaking Lambeth Council building works had no black employees. The director of construction services told him that this was determined on site. Mr Ouseley met with the leader of the trade unions of the construction services, and with 29 stewards who operated on the building sites. He was met with hostility and racism, and described this to us as an example of the “complex web of people” with “vested interests that they seek to protect if they think someone is trying to move things in a different direction”.[1]

18. Fear, intimidation and racism permeated Lambeth Council. Intimidation was used as a lever even against the most senior officers. For example, when as chief executive he was conducting investigations into fraud, Lord Ouseley told us that:

I was getting calls in the middle of the night … I had all four of my tyres slashed in one go. I had my windscreen smashed.”[2]

One member of an extreme right-wing organisation said to him that his “home number is on every – on the walls of every public convenience in Lambeth”, which is how he came to understand how so many people were able to telephone him.[3] It was also reported in the press in 1997 that his office and home had been bugged.[4]

19. Mr Henry Gilby – the director of amenity services, then director of environmental services and finally chief executive of Lambeth Council (between June 1993 and December 1994) – also described being subject to intimidation. As director of amenity services, his office was the subject of a serious arson attack.[5] When attempting to tackle corrupt practices as director of environmental services, his office was broken into and computer records stolen.[6] During his time as chief executive, his office and home were broken into, he was threatened and his car tyres slashed.[7]

20. In February 1993, a Lambeth Council employee Mr Bulic Forsythe (whose responsibilities included building management) was killed. His body was found in his home, which had been set on fire. In June 1993, his murder was featured on an episode of the television programme Crimewatch. The murder of Mr Forsythe remains unsolved. It was the subject of a recent review by the Metropolitan Police Service (Operation Redsnow), as a result of concerns that there was a connection between Mr Forsythe’s employment at Lambeth Council and his murder, but no evidence of such a connection was found.[8] At the very least, the murder of Mr Forsythe is likely to have caused concern and fear on the part of staff and councillors.

21. A report in 1994 into Lambeth Council’s Housing Directorate – the Harris report – identified racism, sexism, nepotism and fear.[9] It arose following allegations that Lambeth Council employees were involved in making or distributing images of child sexual abuse. One member of staff was alleged to have told others that the content included sadism, bestiality and imagery of children, with films said to have been home produced by staff or people with whom they were associated.[10] The exchange of pornography was also alleged to have occurred.[11] The report described evidence of informal networks of men, and a department operated by cronyism and favouritism, which served to sustain organisational racism and sexism. It concluded:

The Panel is of the view that a network of exchange of pornographic videos does or did exist and that there is wider knowledge of this within housing than the Panel was able to obtain from witnesses.”[12]

22. The Harris report also referred to ‘Les’ or ‘LP’, who was thought to have links to the officers in the housing directorate implicated in the exchange of pornography.[13] While the Harris report did not specify the identity of this person, as DI Morley said in oral evidence, it might well have been Mr Leslie Paul, a care worker for Lambeth Council who was subsequently convicted of child sexual abuse.[14] It also referred to:

  • a Lambeth employee of a hostel for adults receiving a letter, intercepted by staff, which offered pornographic video material and “referred to providing children”, but “no management action was taken on the letter which was returned by the more senior manager”;[15] and
  • allegations that the personnel officer in housing had interfered in the investigation into an allegation of sexual assault made by a female officer against a male housing officer, which witnesses described as a “cover-up”.[16] (The Harris report also described “sinister” aspects of the investigation into the allegations of sexual assault, such as the removal of items of evidence by the personnel officer).[17]
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