Skip to main content

0800 917 1000   Open weekdays 9am-5pm

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Institutional responses to allegations of child sexual abuse involving the late Lord Janner of Braunstone QC Investigation Report

C.1: Background

1. A number of the allegations against Lord Janner were made by complainants who were former residents of children’s homes in Leicestershire. The Inquiry also examined the wider institutional response of Leicestershire County Council to allegations of child sexual abuse made against other individuals. As counsel on behalf of Leicestershire County Council said at the outset of the hearings:

[I] acknowledge on behalf of the LCC [Leicestershire County Council], the Council’s profound regret for the abuse suffered by any children in its care, particularly its children’s homes … The LCC is realistic about the limited value to complainants of an institutional apology, but it nevertheless offered it unreservedly and with sincere regret.”[1]

2. By way of background, in 1974, Leicestershire County Council was formed when Leicestershire and Rutland County Council, and Leicester City Council, were unified.

3. Leicestershire County Council’s Residential and Day Care team, known more usually as Care Branch, was part of the social services department and was responsible for care within children’s homes. Between April 1974 and December 1980, there were around 490 places for children in children’s homes in Leicestershire. Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, the number of children resident in the children’s homes gradually decreased. Similarly, the number of children’s homes decreased. In 1976, there were 31 children’s homes in Leicestershire. By 1991 to 1992, this number had reduced to nine. At the time of our public hearing, Leicestershire County Council no longer operated any residential children’s homes.

4. We heard wider evidence that, in the 1970s to 1980s, Leicestershire County Council received “numerous” complaints that children within its children’s homes were being physically and sexually abused by individuals, including by children’s home staff. The complaints came from a variety of sources, including the children themselves, their parents, staff within the homes, foster carers and teachers. “Many” of those complaints reached senior management within Leicestershire County Council.[2]

5. Leicestershire County Council accepted that its procedures for detecting and responding to those allegations were “inadequate”.[3]

5.1. Complaints of physical and sexual abuse were not properly dealt with, and there was no standardised policy setting out how staff should respond to and report an allegation. A former Director of Social Services for the Council accepted that the lack of a complaints policy contributed to the failure by Leicestershire County Council to detect allegations of abuse in the 1970s and 1980s, and said that if there had been such a policy, “children would have been listened to, there would have been action taken and we would have gone to the police”.[4]

5.2. Investigations into allegations were carried out on “an ad hoc[5] basis.

5.3. There was no evidence that staff were systematically trained in how to deal with allegations of child sexual abuse and such training as was delivered was within the homes themselves.[6]

5.4. Regulations requiring the homes to be visited monthly were not always adhered to, with “variations in terms of the frequency of people attending homes to inspect them”, and when inspections were carried out there were “variations about how [the inspection] was reported and recorded”.[7]

5.5. There was little oversight from senior management.[8]

6. Mr John Sinnott, Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service, provided the Inquiry with a corporate statement on behalf of Leicestershire County Council. He told us that children who were resident in children’s homes had the option of having an adult visitor or befriender to visit them. The rationale for such visitors was that “some sort of befriending scheme could potentially have been helpful to children in care”.[9] Mr Sinnott stated that, between 1965 and 1990, there was no formal policy for visitors or befrienders and that Leicestershire County Council accepted that “the lack of any coherent and standardised vetting system … left children exposed to risk”.[10]

7. Mr Sinnott confirmed that he had seen no evidence to indicate that, in cases where the police decided to take no further action against a member of staff, Leicestershire County Council went on to conduct its own investigation and to consider whether the staff member posed a risk to children. He also acknowledged that there had been a failure to invoke disciplinary measures and to suspend staff against whom allegations of abuse had been made, stating that it was “symptomatic of the culture at the time, which was a reluctance to confront difficult issues”.[11]

8. We heard that subsequent changes in the law mean that an authority looking after a child now has a duty to appoint the child with an independent visitor who is required to act in the best interests of the child. Leicestershire County Council has a safer recruitment policy for those who seek to act as an independent visitor, and those appointed to this role are provided with supervision.[12] Mr Sinnott told us that child protection in Leicestershire was “unrecognisable” from the position in the 1970s and 1980s.[13]

Back to top