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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children in the care of Lambeth Council Investigation Report

Contents

H.2: Operation Trawler

Background

4. Michael John Carroll’s sexual abuse of children came to light as a result of an investigation by Merseyside Police named Operation Care. This commenced in 1993 to investigate the possible sexual abuse of children by Carroll at St Edmund’s Children’s Home, Liverpool. By 1998, it was investigating allegations against Carroll related to his employment by Lambeth Council as well.[1]

5. Clive Driscoll was a police officer in the Metropolitan Police Service. He was made a detective inspector in 1998 and joined the Lambeth Child Protection Team.[2] He retired in 2014 in the rank of detective chief inspector. He explained that Merseyside Police needed the assistance of the Metropolitan Police Service in order to further its investigations into Carroll in London.[3] This assistance took the form of a Metropolitan Police Service investigation that became known as Operation Trawler. Dr Driscoll explained that his role within the Child Protection Team was a demanding one and that, at most, he worked for about 30 days on Operation Trawler. This mostly involved supervising a detective sergeant and a detective constable, and attending meetings. He explained that there was a meeting every Friday with Lambeth Social Services in respect of Operation Trawler.[4]

6. A contemporaneous report from 1998, written by then DI Driscoll, described that in June 1998, the Metropolitan Police Service was asked to assist Operation Care.[5] It had been agreed that Lambeth Council would forward the names and dates of birth of children who had lived at Angell Road and Highland Road (the other Lambeth Council home that Carroll had worked in). The Metropolitan Police Service agreed to locate those children and forward them letters from Operation Care, “inviting children to disclose offences”.[6] The report also stated that the response to this exercise had produced allegations against other staff at Angell Road and Highland Road, which were the responsibility of the Metropolitan Police Service to investigate.[7]

7. In keeping with the suggestion that other allegations had come to light that were for the Metropolitan Police Service to investigate, Dr Driscoll explained that he spoke to individuals linked to Lambeth Council with information about Lambeth Council’s children’s homes. This included former councillor Ms Anna Tapsell and Ms Theresa Johnson, who he believed had been the manager of Angell Road.[8] He explained that Ms Johnson’s concerns were that funds and food from Angell Road had been stolen, that parties were taking place in a flat that Carroll used on the premises and that people attended who were not connected to the home.[9] According to Dr Driscoll, Ms Johnson told him that she had seen Mr Boateng at Angell Road.[10] Dr Driscoll explained that although Ms Johnson mentioned this specific name, in his words “there were other people that I was really concerned about”.[11]

8. In his evidence to the Inquiry, Dr Driscoll was asked about a notebook he kept at the time. This had an entry marked “Angel Town 1981”. It stated:

The child followed Carroll everywhere. Secrets. And other child excluded from school. Petrified of John. Would not talk about anything. Uncle John would be angry.

Dr Driscoll confirmed that this was information that Ms Johnson provided to him in 1998.[12] This was the only entry in the notebook specific to Angell Road. Dr Driscoll suggested that he had other notebooks, and that a list had been drawn up of 10 children who had made complaints relating to the time that Carroll was in charge of Angell Road. Dr Driscoll confirmed that this list went to Operation Care.[13]

9. In his evidence to the Inquiry, Dr Driscoll was asked whether during Operation Trawler anyone had provided him with information about Lambeth Council approaching Southwark Council to consider an application to foster by the Carrolls (see Part D). Dr Driscoll said that Ms Bernadette Khan (a social worker with Wandsworth Council) had told him about such an application to Southwark Council during Operation Trawler.[14] In her written evidence, Ms Khan referred to her knowledge of applications to foster being made to Croydon and Wandsworth Councils; she made no mention of any application considered by Southwark Council.[15] Ms Khan was the person who was most involved in the fostering application made by the Carrolls – she regarded them as unsuitable to be foster parents and was highly critical of Lambeth Council’s support of the Carrolls.

10. Dr Driscoll was also asked about the suggestion he made in his witness statement to the Inquiry that he had spoken to Mr Clive Walsh during his investigation in 1998.[16] Between 1985 and 1989, Mr Walsh was the head of fieldwork and community services at Southwark Council. He provided evidence to the Inquiry that Southwark had been asked by Lambeth to approve the Carrolls as foster parents. Mr Walsh gave evidence to the Inquiry that he spoke to DI Driscoll in or around 2013 or 2014 about this (when there was press reporting about Carroll), not in 1998.[17]

11. Aside from Mr Walsh and Dr Driscoll, the Inquiry has not seen any evidence of knowledge of any application to Southwark Council by or on behalf of the Carrolls being known about in 1998 or before 1998. There is no mention of any application to Southwark Council in Wandsworth Council’s records about the Carrolls’ fostering application. Mr Richard Clough carried out an inquiry into Carroll’s employment by Lambeth Council in 1993. He confirmed to us that no one mentioned such an application to him. It is reasonable to assume that individuals like Ms Khan (who had no reason not to disclose it) would have mentioned it to Mr Clough if they knew of any approach to Southwark Council.[18]

12. This demonstrates the need to approach Dr Driscoll’s recollection of events in 1998 with some caution. Although he was clear in his memory that he spoke to Mr Walsh in 1998, the evidence of Mr Walsh undermines that. It is not surprising that there should be some confusion about these events, which took place a long time ago. There is also an obvious risk that press reporting after the event may conflate what witnesses knew at the time with what they now believe they knew, having read these press reports.

13. In addition, Dr Driscoll confirmed that he worked on Operation Trawler for a relatively short period of time. He also explained the demanding nature of the role of detective inspector on the Child Protection Team. The majority of his time “was taken trying to improve relationships”. He attended case conferences with investigating officers and had several cases that were going to court as well at this time.[19]

14. It is important to understand therefore that Operation Trawler was of short duration and that during it, as a detective inspector, Clive Driscoll was not working on it full time.

15. Dr Driscoll told us that his working relationship with Lambeth Council had been amicable until the point that he began raising questions about the involvement of people other than Carroll at Angell Road. After that point, the relationship became “very strained”.[20] Dr Driscoll also gave evidence that there was a meeting on 28 August 1998 with Lambeth Council, during which he mentioned the names of some people that had been provided to him in the course of his investigations. According to Dr Driscoll, after this meeting he spoke with Dr Goldie and Mr Paul Clark (an inspector with the SSI) about those names. According to Dr Driscoll, Mr Clark said he would speak to Mr Dobson about this. This was a reference to Mr Frank Dobson MP, the then Secretary of State for Health.[21]

16. Dr Driscoll said that after this meeting (during which he had named individuals said to be linked to Angell Road), Lambeth Council pressured him into repeating the names at a further meeting.[22] He said that senior police officers had also encouraged him to disclose the names, although he also said that he made the decision to disclose the names and that it was his responsibility.[23] As described below, he was removed from the investigation shortly after this point.

17. Dr Goldie was made the assistant director of corporate strategy and quality in Lambeth Council in 1996. He was not a social worker and was not an expert in child protection. He became responsible for the Lambeth Council child protection team, which he explained was to ensure that the child protection team had a different line of management and independence from the social work field offices. He told us this was management at a high level, with experts beneath him.[24] He said:

I’d been managing a range of functions, and this was at a high level. It was management with the experts beneath me. I wasn’t so I felt confident about in the light of having some very good people working in that unit, that they would be able to advise me and access the source of professional knowledge, because they were the ones who were dealing at the front-line with chairing cases planning meetings and so on and so forth. That was something that was not for me to do.[25]

18. In 1998, Operation Care discovered that a child (LA-A29) had made allegations some time before of sexual abuse by Steven Forrest, a careworker at Angell Road. This allegation, and Lambeth Council’s failure to adequately respond to LA-A29’s disclosure at the time, formed the basis of John Barratt’s interim, Part 1 and final reports.[26]

19. Dr Goldie’s evidence assists in understanding how Operation Care, Operation Trawler and the Barratt final report link together. The Barratt final report explained that it was Merseyside Police’s involvement that finally prompted a full Lambeth Council social services’ response to LA-A29’s disclosure. According to the report, had it not been for the involvement of Merseyside Police, LA-A29’s disclosure would have been overlooked.

20. Although the Barratt final report was extremely critical of Lambeth Council’s response to LA-A29’s disclosure, the report does refer to Lambeth Council child protection officers having taken action to try to get a child protection process reinstated when they first became aware of the disclosure.[27] Dr Goldie explained that he then became part of Lambeth Council’s liaison with Operation Care when LA-A29’s disclosure came to light again.[28]

21. Dr Goldie attended a meeting with the Metropolitan Police Service, which he thought might have been in July 1998, at which Mr Clark was also present. Dr Goldie said that, at this meeting, DI Driscoll mentioned information about politicians visiting Angell Road. Dr Goldie said that after this meeting he asked Mr Clark what he was going to do about it and that Mr Clark said he would speak to Frank Dobson MP.[29]

22. Dr Goldie wrote to the chief executive of Lambeth Council, Dame Heather Rabbatts, briefing her about developments in the Carroll prosecution and ongoing investigations. Although this briefing is undated, it refers to Carroll’s committal date at court being scheduled for 14 September 1998, and so must have been written before this. Carroll had been charged and was awaiting trial at this point.

23. This briefing does not mention anything about politicians visiting Angell Road. It stated that the SSI were well briefed on matters, and that Mr Clark would do a briefing for Frank Dobson MP directly, given the sensitivities over “the Boateng” connection with Lambeth Council.[30] Dr Goldie confirmed that this was a reference to Mrs (now Lady) Janet Boateng having been involved as a councillor in Lambeth (Mr (now Lord) Paul Boateng being the Parliamentary Under Secretary in the Department of Health until 28 October 1998). Dr Goldie said that he did not list the names of politicians who were being linked to Angell Road until he had a “clearer indication that there was some basis for doing that”.[31]

24. This briefing may confirm that Dr Goldie and Mr Clark were at a meeting together prior to 14 September 1998, and spoke about Mr Boateng being connected to Lambeth Council (through his wife), but it does not confirm that the names of politicians were mentioned to Mr Clark, in relation to Angell Road.

25. Dr Goldie was asked about the suggestion that Lambeth Council staff pressured DI Driscoll to name high-profile people in the course of Operation Trawler at meetings. Dr Goldie did not recollect that having occurred at all.[32] He recalled a meeting in November 1998 (the date of which he remembered because it coincided with press activity concerning Steven Forrest) in which DI Driscoll named politicians.[33] The meeting was intended to bring together social workers who might be able to support and engage in disclosure work with victims during the police investigation. Dr Goldie said that, during this meeting, DI Driscoll suddenly started speaking in a very open way about the allegations concerning politicians. Dr Goldie said that this alarmed him because press reporters were looking for a news story, and Lambeth Council was prone to leaks.[34] He said that his concern was that, by revealing these names to the audience of social workers, DI Driscoll was endangering Operation Trawler.

26. This disclosure caused Dr Goldie such concern that he went to see Dame Heather Rabbatts the same afternoon. She said that she would speak to her contacts in Scotland Yard, which Dr Goldie said she started with an immediate telephone call, and he left.[35] Following this, Dr Goldie was asked to meet Detective Superintendent (Det Supt) Richard Gargini of the Metropolitan Police Service. They met at a café and, according to Dr Goldie, he was probed about what DI Driscoll had said and was told that he should not speak to anyone about it – the police would get back to him.[36] At a further meeting with Det Supt Gargini (which Dr Goldie recalled happened the following week), Dr Goldie said he was told that the police “had looked into the allegations that Clive Driscoll was making and they had not found anything to support them”, and that DI Driscoll would be suspended and disciplined.[37] Dr Goldie did not think that this would be the outcome:

I was very shocked at that comment because I hadn’t thought it would lead to something of that nature. It didn’t seem, to my mind, to have warranted that kind of dramatic response.[38]

He said this left him with the feeling that “a decision had been taken ‘We’re going to put the lid on this’”.[39]

27. Mr Gargini retired from the Metropolitan Police Service in the rank of commander in 2010.[40] He retained a note of his first meeting with Dr Goldie (made immediately afterwards and that Dr Goldie did not dispute).[41] It recorded that Dr Goldie communicated a number of concerns. The first was about a leak to a newspaper of confidential and sensitive information, and concern about whether that leak might have come from DI Driscoll. The note stated:

Mr Goldie referred to highly sensitive and inappropriate remarks made by DI Driscoll in structured meetings. He was particularly concerned about the disclosure of unsubstantiated rumour in relation to prominent politicians in the presence of junior members of the Social Services Department. Mr Goldie alleges that DI Driscoll has linked a number of senior political figures without foundation.”[42]

It further stated that “Mr Goldie asserted that DI Driscoll failed to understand the impact and the implications of repeating the names in a structured meeting”. The note referred to Dr Goldie telling Det Supt Gargini that trust and confidentiality had been breached and that he compared DI Driscoll unfavourably with the Operation Care officers. The note ended by recording that Dr Goldie stated that progressing the enquiry with DI Driscoll in post would be difficult.[43]

28. DI Driscoll wrote a report during the course of Operation Trawler about his relationship with Lambeth Council and working with them. The report was written because of his concerns about the working relationship between the police child protection team and the social services child protection team.[44] It was written prior to the meeting at which DI Driscoll named politicians in November 1998. The report set out his concerns that decisions made as to what the Metropolitan Police Service would investigate in Operation Trawler were being attacked, and that an attempt was made to steer the police away from investigating Angell Road and Highland Road homes. DI Driscoll referred to a Lambeth Council child protection officer as having said that investigation into these homes would cause embarrassment to social workers who were still employed. The note summarised DI Driscoll’s main concerns as being that: decisions were being overturned without consultation; files were being tampered with; an attempt was being made to control a criminal investigation; information was being passed through unauthorised channels; and meetings were taking place between Lambeth Council and Operation Care without the Metropolitan Police Service’s involvement.[45]

29. In the course of his oral evidence to the Inquiry, the Chair asked Dr Driscoll about his evidence that efforts had been made to steer him away from Highland Road and Angell Road. In terms of where this came from, he said “it was more of a concerted effort on behalf of Lambeth”. When asked what the motivation might have been, Dr Driscoll replied “Embarrassment”.[46] He went on to say:

I worked for an organisation that is very loyal. I have to say that sometimes that really gets us into trouble, because I think sometimes we may look at the organisation to protect it, when, in fact, we need to be open and transparent … I think Lambeth realised that, after thinking that in 1996 the Appleby had sorted it out, that here we are in 1998 and it still looks like a nightmare where files go missing and bits and pieces.[47]

30. The evidence does not demonstrate that the removal of the then DI Driscoll from investigating child sexual abuse in Lambeth Council children’s homes amounted to improper interference with Operation Trawler by the Metropolitan Police Service. DI Driscoll’s contemporaneous report shows that he had serious concerns about Lambeth Council’s attitude to Operation Trawler. The then Det Supt Gargini’s note of his meeting with Dr Goldie demonstrates that a complaint was made to the Metropolitan Police Service by Lambeth Council that DI Driscoll had disclosed unsubstantiated rumours about prominent politicians to staff unconnected to the investigation. According to Det Supt Gargini’s note, Lambeth Council questioned whether the investigation could be progressed while DI Driscoll remained in post. Det Supt Gargini confirmed how seriously this complaint was taken.

References

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