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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children in the care of Lambeth Council Investigation Report


H.3: Operation Middleton and CHILE

31. Det Supt Gargini became the officer who led Operation Middleton. This was the successor to Operation Trawler. Mr Gargini began his evidence with an apology for any failings or missed opportunities during his tenure as senior investigating officer and member of the Gold Group for Operation Middleton.[1] He said that he was “deeply saddened that more victims and survivors had not had prompt access to justice which they deserved and continue to deserve”.[2]

32. Mr Gargini explained to the Inquiry that he had been asked to conduct a review of the Metropolitan Police Service’s response to Operation Care, and that it was in this context that he was asked to respond to Lambeth Council having raised issues about DI Driscoll.[3] He added that Dr Goldie’s complaint about DI Driscoll’s naming of politicians had raised “deep concerns with me and would have resonated with senior officers within the Metropolitan Police”.[4] He explained that:

if you put the name of a high-profile individual into a meeting and the inference is that there is criminality around that individual, bearing in mind the importance of that individual, to do that without the proper level of consent and knowledge of the most senior police officer on southwest area would have been regarded as a misconduct issue.”[5]

In Mr Gargini’s view this amounted to a senior police officer sharing highly sensitive and highly confidential information suggesting that there was a link between an individual and criminality when the proper enquiries had not been undertaken. The appropriate course of action would have been to seek guidance and permission and consent at the appropriate level (which would have been the assistant commissioner).[6]

33. Mr Gargini told us that the remit of Operation Middleton was to investigate child sexual abuse within Lambeth Council across its 35 children’s homes over a period of 20 years, from 1974 to 1994. In addition to the police investigation, there was an independent social work team that was to work with the police.[7]

34. This social work element of Operation Middleton became known as the Children’s Homes in Lambeth Enquiry (CHILE) and was led by Ms Helen Kenward.[8] Ms Kenward was appointed, on the recommendation of the Department of Health, to lead CHILE as an independent inquiry in December 1998.[9] She had 37 years’ experience as a social worker and was a specialist in child protection, and she had led other investigations. CHILE was established with 16 social workers, researchers and administrative staff. In order not to risk the independence of CHILE, only two of these had been Lambeth Council employees.[10] Ms Kenward explained that CHILE developed a protocol about working with the police. It would be open, honest, share information and keep the child at the focus of all the investigations.[11]

35. One witness who took issue with the approach adopted by Operation Middleton was former councillor, Ms Tapsell. She gave evidence to the Inquiry that she had a meeting with Det Supt Gargini and Ms Kenward at which she raised a number of concerns about the sexual abuse of children in Lambeth Council’s care. She explained that she felt this meeting was intended to put her off investigating these issues further.[12] A manuscript note of this meeting exists. It recorded a meeting of two and a quarter hours, with Det Supt Gargini and Ms Kenward asking Ms Tapsell what she wished to add to the statement that she had already made to Operation Care.[13] Mr Gargini did not recognise Ms Tapsell’s characterisation of the meeting. He thought that Ms Tapsell may have been slightly frustrated that material she showed them that related to other matters was not within the remit of Operation Middleton.[14] When asked about Ms Tapsell’s view of the meeting, Ms Kenward observed:

That’s not my recollection. My recollection is that Anna Tapsell had a lot of knowledge and experience of Lambeth, lots of documents which she was very open to sharing and allowing us to use. She was – I think it is true to say that her concerns didn’t always understand the difference between intelligence and evidence”.[15]

Ms Kenward thought that Det Supt Gargini’s response to Ms Tapsell was about containing gossip rather than gossip being allowed to spread like wildfire, and thought that he had been very patient.[16]

36. Ms Kenward was also asked about the approach that she and Det Supt Gargini took to Ms Theresa Johnson. They visited Ms Johnson after she had provided a statement to Operation Care (which is referred to above).[17] Ms Kenward described it as “a very, very sad interview”.[18] Ms Johnson “was in a very distressed state” and also unwell.[19] She “felt bullied, marginalised and dismissed … and that her experiences at Angell Road with John Carroll had been ignored”.[20] As regards Ms Kenward’s assessment of Ms Johnson’s information that Paul Boetang had visited the Angell Road home, Ms Kenward explained that she and Det Supt Gargini had no evidence to support that information from any of the documents that they had seen or any of the information that they had previously been given.[21]

37. Ms Kenward explained that she and Det Supt Gargini agreed that they should approach this information with a need “to be circumspect and not leave it open to gossip and innuendo and surmise”.[22] They agreed that they would not disclose this information to anyone outside the Home Office, Number 10 and the Operation Middleton Gold Group.[23]

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