ALLEGED ABUSE OF CHILDREN IN CARE IN PRIVATE RESIDENTIAL ESTABLISHMENTS IN CLWYD BETWEEN 1974 AND 1996
The Bryn Alyn Community
History and Organisation
21.01 We have set out in paragraphs 4.10 to 4.11 and 4.23 to 4.27 an outline of the foundation and subsequent expansion of this organisation and it is necessary to fill in some of the details here.
21.02 John Ernest Allen was born in Walsall on 22 July 1941 but his family subsequently moved to Gloucestershire, where he underwent training in hotel management after leaving school. He was later employed in the hotel trade in Oxfordshire and Worcestershire and became interested in residential care work in the course of conversations with care workers at a school. According to his own statement, he worked in various private sector children’s residential homes in Gloucestershire over a period of about six years before he moved to Holywell in Flintshire in or about 1965 to work at the Talbot Hotel, which was being used by his then employers to train adolescents in the range of 15 to 18 years; and he became interested in making alternative provisions for children who, at that time, were being sent to approved schools.
21.03 In or before 1968 the owner of Bryn Alyn Hall offered to give the house to Dr Barnardo’s Homes for use as a children’s home but the offer was declined with the result that in 1968 John Allen was able to acquire a 21 years lease of the 50 acre property in Llay New Road on the outskirts of Wrexham on favourable terms with an option to purchase after seven years. In April 1969, in partnership with his wife-to-be, whom he married in 1970, his parents and an uncle, Thomas Askew, Allen opened a children’s home at Bryn Alyn with 12 staff to provide for up to 20 boys in the age range of 11 to 16 years. None of the nine care staff, other than Allen and his future wife, had any previous experience of residential work with children and none of them had any formal qualifications for the work. There was one teacher who had experience in remedial teaching.
21.04 From 1968 until he retired in 1990, ostensibly on health grounds, Allen was, at least nominally, in charge of the affairs of the Bryn Alyn Community, including care issues, although it was said by one witness specifically that he had divested himself of day to day control by the mid-1980s. The private limited company, Bryn Alyn Community Ltd, was formed in 1972, on the advice of accountants, and it appears that Allen remained chief executive until 1990. The freehold of Bryn Alyn Hall was purchased with the aid of a mortgage when the company was formed. Norma Allen, his wife, occupied the post of Matron until late in the 1970s.
21.05 In this chapter we deal with complaints of abuse from former residents at four main establishments within the Bryn Alyn Community. These were as follows:
Bryn Alyn Hall
The main house was enlarged and divided after the freehold had been acquired and an additional residential establishment was built near the house. The three parts of the property were then called Askew House, Blackley House and Lindisfarne.
Pentre Saeson Hall
This smaller country house at Bwlchgwyn, near Wrexham, was acquired in 1970 and opened on 27 September that year as a children’s home for children younger then those at Bryn Alyn Hall. The provision was intended to be for up to 20 boys between the ages of 11 and 13 years.
This house in Mold Road, Caergwrle, was purchased by Allen in 1972 in trust for the Community and was intended to provide hostel accommodation for 15 working boys between 16 and 18 years.
This is in Berse Road, New Broughton, Wrexham, and had been a residential school prior to its purchase by the Community in or about 1982. It was opened on 1 April 1983 as a children’s home to provide for 14 boys and girls in the age range of 14 to 18 years with a view to preparing them for independence.
21.06 In paragraphs 4.23 and 4.24 we have referred to some seven other properties owned by the Bryn Alyn Community from time to time, including one in Cheshire and one in Shropshire, but it is unnecessary to refer to them in greater detail here for the purpose of relating the alleged abuse within the Community in Clwyd. John Allen estimated that at its peak the Community was accommodating about 200 children and adolescents. At that time Marton’s Camp in Cheshire and Cotsbrook Hall in Shropshire were still operating within the Community so that the figure for Clwyd would not have exceeded about 120 but other evidence suggests that the total occupancy in Clwyd alone exceeded 150 at times during the 1980s. It is important to stress, however, that only a small proportion of the children who went to the Bryn Alyn Community as a whole were placed there by either Clwyd County Council or Gwynedd County Council. The point is illustrated by analysis of the complainants known to the Tribunal who were formerly residents of one or more of the four homes listed in the preceding paragraph. The most accurate assessment that we can make is that, of a total of 172 complainants, only nine were placed by Clwyd and eight by Gwynedd (no information is available about three).
21.07 Reverting to the history of the company, we cannot be confident of the accuracy of some of the details that have emerged in the evidence, but the general picture is reasonably clear. The company was very much a family concern initially with Allen’s father as chairman, Allen himself as chief executive and his uncle (Askew) the director responsible for estate management. Allen held a majority of the shares with the balance in the hands of his wife, Allen senior and Askew.
21.08 Kenneth Henry White (White senior) became involved in the affairs of the Community after selling his hotel to the company for £130,000 on 11 July 1977. He had run the large house at Cefn-y-Bedd, near Wrexham, as White Sands Hotel in the 1970s but it reverted to its former name of Gwastad Hall after acquisition by the Community and it was used principally as offices but also to provide accommodation for some children and the Allen family. The Allens had lived early on in their marriage in a bungalow three miles from Bryn Alyn Hall and later spent a period at Bryntirion Hall before moving into Gwastad Hall with Allen senior and Askew. White senior was suffering from ill health at about this time and was advised to take some work as a form of therapy with the result that he became, initially, a volunteer in overall charge of the Community’s catering. He said in evidence that he did not have any involvement with child care matters, individual units, staff recruitment or the provision of education either then or later, but it is clear that he soon became increasingly involved in the financial affairs of the Community.
21.09 In or about 1980 White senior invested £300,000 in the company in return for a salary and an income on his investment. It seems that in November 1983 he accepted appointment as chief executive of the company but it is unlikely that this took effect because on 1 April 1984 he was appointed Business Administrator of the company for a period of five years at a salary of approximately £13,000 (and Allen was still on the scene). Then, on 14 August 1984, he was appointed finance director, his employment and salary continuing; and 2,000 shares were allocated to him in return for a payment of £3,000 and a loan to the company of £20,000.
21.10 The sketchy documentation available to us and the complications of the various property transactions make it impossible to trace accurately the financial dealings between White senior, Allen and the company. However, it seems reasonably clear that White senior made a number of subsequent loans to the company (mostly secured on the company’s properties) and substantially increased his shareholding at the expense of Allen. By February 1990 his secured loans to the company amounted to £356,000 and there was also an unsecured loan to Allen himself of £20,000. Further transfers of shares followed and on 16 October 1991 Allen was “paid off”, to use White senior’s words.
21.11 It seems that by October 1991 Allen was indebted to the company in the sum of about £210,000 on his director’s loan account. The agreement made with him was that he should receive the equivalent of £510,000 for his remaining 13,695 shares in the company, which were to be cancelled, and that an additional payment of £50,000 was to be made to him and his wife as compensation for loss of office. Of the £510,000, about £210,000 was to be in cash and was to be used to repay his loan account. The balance of £300,000 was represented by the release of a company car (£10,000) and of the company’s interest in a Brighton property, a French villa and a boat (£200,000), similar release of the company’s interest in a cottage in Gloucestershire (£80,000) and the transfer of the company’s 100 per cent shareholding in Bryn Alyn Care Ltd (£10,000), which had been a subsidiary of the company for only seven weeks or so, that is, from 25 August 1991. There was a separate transaction also immediately before this in which Allen transferred 1,300 shares in the company to White senior. The price ultimately agreed for the latter shares was £26,000 but this probably took into account Allen’s personal indebtedness to White senior.
21.12 Bryn Alyn Community Ltd continued to trade thereafter with White senior holding 17,995 of the 19,405 issued shares (including 3,100 new shares issued on 16 October 1991). There were protracted discussions with the banks in relation to their security for loans and about re-structuring the company. Eventually, probably in 1995, re-structuring was effected: the various properties were transferred to a new company, Bryn Alyn (Holdings) Ltd, whilst Bryn Alyn Community Ltd became the trading company, carrying on the care and educational activities. There were continuing registration difficulties, however, leading to voluntary liquidation of the trading company on 6 March 1997. White senior gave evidence before the Tribunal on 15 July 1997 but he died at the end of the year.
21.13 Although the venture ended in financial failure, it enjoyed about 20 years of considerable success and, as late as 1990, it had about 150 employees. Allen claimed that, at the height of the company’s trading, which he put in the mid-1980s, its annual turnover was about £2.6m and the profit of the order of £80,000 to £90,000. Accounts between 1977 and 1990 show that the total turnover, made up almost entirely of payments by local authorities, was £28.25m and that Allen’s salary in 1988 was £204,894. However, by 1990 his salary was shown as £50,000 (and White senior’s salary then was £28,000).
21.14 It has not been necessary for us to consider in depth the administrative structure of the Bryn Alyn Community and it would have been difficult to do so in view of the limited documentation available to us. It is necessary, however, to mention that some other directors joined the board from time to time. In particular, Kenneth J White (White junior), the son of White senior, assumed an increasingly prominent role from the early 1990s and he remains active in the affairs of Bryn Alyn (Holdings) Ltd. He became a shareholder (500 shares) in Bryn Alyn Community Ltd, when new shares were issued in 1991, and then joined the board. Similarly, Stephen J Elliott became a shareholder at the same time as White junior and subsequently a director for a short period before moving on to run Prospects, the successor of Bersham Hall. He had been a co-ordinator of child care at Blackley before undertaking a university degree course, after which he became part of the Community’s senior management on the child care side. The company secretary for many years was D Russell Evans. He acted also as personnel officer and was director of administration from about 1987, succeeding Frederick Streetly, formerly a probation officer in Liverpool, who was the first holder of the latter position from 1982.
21.15 We were told there were a number of senior managers answerable to the board of directors. These included a financial manager, a liaison manager, an education manager and a divisional director of child care (North Wales). The role of the liaison manager, who was qualified and experienced in social work, was to be responsible for liaison with local authorities, to deal with referrals and to co-ordinate visits and inspections. This post was held successively by Norman Wainwright, a former Liverpool social worker who later became marketing director; John Dickinson; and Stephen Elliott. The education manager was head of the teaching unit and was probably Adrian Jarvis who became Headmaster at Bryn Alyn Hall after teaching at Marton’s Camp.
21.16 According to Allen, his aim and that of the Community was for the regime to provide (in contrast to approved schools based on training and discipline) an environment that was as close as possible to that of a family: it was to be “stimulating and responsive, a therapeutic environment”. His idea was to provide a wide spectrum of establishments for youngsters and adolescents, ranging from residential special schools to various types of homes for children and on to halfway houses preparing young people for independent living, with later after care support for the vulnerable. Moreover, each unit had to be flexible in order to cater for individual needs, with a variable balance between containment and instruction for the same reason.
21.17 Allen’s scheme was to have each of these units run by a head or senior officer who would be professionally qualified and he claimed to have achieved this for all the units by 1990. Under the head there was to be a deputy and two teams, each with a team leader, working on a shift basis. There was also a night service of security staff, in effect, one being assigned to each unit on `waking duty’ from 11 pm to 7 am, complemented by sleeping in duty care staff.
The Community’s intake
21.18 We do not know specifically of any children who were placed with the Community privately. The vast majority of the children were in care and were placed at Bryn Alyn by local authority Social Service Departments. However, analysis of the complainants’ origins does not suggest any particular pattern in relation to these local authorities. We understand that initially placements by authorities in the north-east may have predominated but overall it seems that the Community attracted placements by authorities throughout England, from Newcastle and Durham in the north to Bromley in the south and from Blackpool in the west to Lincoln in the east. The London boroughs were prominent, as were Manchester and the West Midlands but there was no child from a South Wales authority on the list of complainants. It was undoubtedly a deliberate policy of Allen to maximise the Community’s intake and he said in evidence that he circularised no less than 38 local authorities with particulars of the facilities that he claimed to provide at an early stage.
21.19 The member of staff responsible for contact with local authorities was the liaison manager (and presumably later the marketing director also). According to Allen, all the placing authorities inspected the premises before any child or young person was admitted from that authority but this must, in our view, refer to a first placement only. The inspections were conducted by senior managers from each local authority who were responsible for `out of authority’ placements. Allen claimed also that senior management from 30 or more placing agencies using the Community, especially those with a number of residents on the premises contemporaneously, were accustomed to visit and inspect the facilities every six months or so. Each child’s social worker also was expected to attend once every six months for the purpose of reviewing the child.
21.20 Assessment of children on their reception by the Community was the responsibility of the liaison manager, in conjunction with the head of the unit to which a child was intended to be assigned, and the head of education. The Community did not provide any formal observation and assessment facilities but it did have available the services of an educational psychologist and a child psychiatrist on a contractual basis.
21.21 Whilst Allen no doubt intended to describe in his evidence how his system was designed to work, we heard evidence from several members of the staff of the influence of commercial pressures. Thus, we were told that the Community was paid more to cope with difficult youngsters with the result that, when staff advised that the Community was not the right place for a particularly difficult or troubled child, they would nevertheless be encouraged to persevere: many (according to one member of staff), or at least some, children were retained when they ought to have been placed elsewhere. It appears also that many emergency placements were accepted without consideration by the placing authority or the Community of the suitability of the placement or preparation of the child. There would be phone calls from a local authority pleading that a child should be taken in overnight until a place for the child could be found and, once in, the child would remain with the Community for months. One former member of staff spoke of a policy of “packing them in” at Pentre Saeson (not at Gatewen) and we were told that during a period of industrial action by social workers there were as many as 35 children in Pentre Saeson (in contrast to an optimum number of 20). Again, we were told by a staff member that it was decided to admit girls to the Community because the charge for girls was twice that for boys.
21.22 Finally, the facilities provided by the Community were intended to be essentially for long term care. Of the 172 complainants known to the Tribunal, it appears that only six stayed for six months or less whilst the large majority were there for periods of two or three years and upwards, the longest for ten years.
Allegations of sexual abuse
John Ernest Allen
21.23 Any account of the alleged sexual abuse by Community staff must inevitably begin with the allegations against John Allen himself. We know of 28 former male residents who have alleged that they were sexually abused by Allen whilst they were placed with the Community and six have alleged that they were buggered by him. Of these potential witnesses, six gave oral evidence to the Tribunal and we received in evidence the written statements of six others.
21.24 As we said in Chapter 2 Allen was convicted on 9 February 1995 in the Crown Court at Chester of six offences of indecent assault committed on young male residents of the Community between 1972 and 1983. Each offence involved a different resident. Allen was acquitted of four other counts of indecent assault involving four separate former residents alleged to have been committed between 1979 and 1984. Four other former residents gave “similiar fact” evidence. He was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on each of the counts of which he was convicted, the sentences to run concurrently. Allen denied the offences and maintained his denial when he gave oral evidence to the Tribunal on 16 and 17 February 1998 but there has not been any appeal.
21.25 We heard evidence from five of the former residents who were witnesses in that trial (two in respect of whom a conviction was recorded, two who gave “similar fact” evidence and one in relation to whom there was an acquittal). The statements read to us included one by a witness in respect of whom Allen was convicted, but who died before the Tribunal’s hearings began, in circumstances to which we will refer later. The statements included also the evidence of the third “similar fact” witness. It follows that, in all, 19 former residents have given evidence of sexual abuse by Allen either at the trial or to the Tribunal in oral or written form.
21.26 The first (A) of the two witnesses before the Tribunal in respect of whom Allen was convicted of indecent assault gave oral evidence to us that he lived with the Community between 1973 and 1975. He alleged that he was abused first by Allen after he had been at Bryn Alyn Hall a few months. A was then 13 years old and Allen went to A’s bedroom and kissed A before making A masturbate him. Similar incidents occurred about 12 times at Bryn Alyn Hall but Allen did not go further there. When A moved to Bryntirion Hall after about 12 months, the sexual abuse by Allen continued and occurred “quite a few times” in the form of masturbation and then oral sex. A said that he was confused and did not complain. He was given a few presents, more than the others, such as shoes and clothes, cassettes, a record player, a guitar, vouchers and money. After he left at the age of 15 years he received a Yamaha 50cc motor cycle from Allen, just before his 16th birthday in December 1975.
21.27 The second witness in this category (B) was with the Community much longer, from July 1974, when he was ten years old; and he was there with three brothers. He was not indecently assaulted by Allen until he was 13 or 14 years old and had moved on from Pentre Saeson Hall and then Bryn Alyn Hall to Wilderness Mill Farm. B was sharing a flat there with two other boys and became worried on one occasion that he had swallowed some glass whilst drinking milk. Allen turned up, which was not unusual, and took B to Gwastad Hall in his Range Rover to stay the night. Whilst there Allen took B to the lavatory, made B lie down there and asked B to touch him; he undid his trousers and asked B to masturbate him, which B did. B’s explanation of this was that he was frightened of Allen because B had seen him lose his temper and knew that he could be violent. Allen asked B if he was worried and whether he was missing anything that would make him happy. B alleged also that Allen went further and forced himself into B, penetrating him: it was painful and B discovered later in his bedroom that he was bleeding. Allen was interrupted because his wife made a noise. Allen left the room briefly and then returned, telling B to go to his bedroom. B said also that he was too scared to tell anyone what had happened. A couple of days later Allen picked B up at his flat and took him to Wrexham, where Allen asked him if there was anything that he wanted. B pointed out a hi-fi system costing about £500 and Allen bought it for him.
21.28 Later on there was a fire at the Wilderness Mill flats with the result that B had to move back to the main building of Bryn Alyn Hall. He alleged that Allen then assaulted him in his dormitory in the same way as on the first occasion. There were three other beds in the dormitory but they were unoccupied at the time. Altogether there were about four occasions when indecent assaults occurred: the first two culminating in buggery have been described, and the others occurred respectively at Bryn Alyn Hall and at a flat in Rhos(llannerchrugog), bought by Allen, where B stayed. On the third and fourth occasions only touching occurred. This witness also referred to further presents that he received from Allen: he received a pedal cycle as a Christmas present on one occasion and later a new Suzuki 50cc motor cycle. Allen also helped B with loans to purchase two subsequent more powerful second hand motor cycles.
21.29 B gave a full account of the first incident, at Gwastad Hall, when he was first interviewed by the police in May 1993 but did not then allege that it had gone beyond mutual masturbation or that there had been subsequent incidents. He was not willing at that stage to give oral evidence against Allen but he agreed to do so later. In his written statement to the Tribunal in October 1996 he said that there had been five other occasions when Allen had assaulted him but it was not until he gave oral evidence to the Tribunal that he spoke of the alleged acts of buggery. His explanation for not telling the police or the Tribunal about these acts earlier was that he was concerned about the effect such disclosure might have on his small business and upon his intended move from Manchester, where he was when interviewed by the police, back to North Wales.
21.30 This witness said also in evidence that, when he was 14 or 15 years old, he suffered from anal bleeding. A member of staff whom he told about it arranged an appointment for him at the Wrexham hospital but he was told at the hospital that it was caused by “piles”. He did not tell the staff at the hospital what had happened nor did he tell the general practitioner whom he saw on another occasion.
21.31 One of the two “similar fact” witnesses at Allen’s trial (C) was admitted to the Community at Cotsbrook Hall initially in September 1982 but went on to Bryntirion Hall in October 1984 and then to Gatewen Hall in January 1985. C alleged that Allen sexually abused him when he was 16 years old and living at Bryntirion Hall. The first incident involved oral sex and occurred during what purported to be a counselling session at Gwastad Hall and subsequent incidents occurred there when Allen telephoned him to visit Gwastad Hall or there was a pre-arranged meeting. C alleged also that Allen buggered him once at the Poyser Street studio. That was the only occasion when he was buggered but indecent assaults continued when he was at Gatewen Hall. In return Allen gave him presents of money from time to time such as £20 by way of pocket money and £45 to buy a jacket.
21.32 C said that, eventually, in or about 1986, he went to Brighton at Allen’s suggestion after staying in three of Allen’s halfway houses. Allen told him to get a rented flat in Brighton for which Allen would pay and Allen provided him with four weeks rent as a deposit. Allen told him that he had had a fragmented life and that Allen would be a father to him; but on other occasions he called C his boy friend. The sexual relationship continued and he received about £150 per week spending money in addition to having the bills paid. Allen visited him monthly and later fortnightly when he moved to another flat in Brighton. They met also in London and at Allen’s home in Gloucestershire. The relationship continued until the early 1990s when C was 23 or 24 years but there were difficulties about terminating it because of the mortgage payments on a third flat into which C had moved.
21.33 C made several statements to the police covering a wide range of matters in the course of their overall investigation. It is clear, however, that he alleged that he had been buggered by Allen in his first statement made on 5 September 1993.
21.34 The second “similar fact” witness (D) gave a rather different picture of his relationship with Allen. D was one of the first three boys to enter Bryn Alyn Hall and his recollection is that he did so on 24 October 1968, his 16th birthday, which was six months before the home opened formally. D remained there for about 18 to 20 months, by which time there were 30 to 40 boys. He had met Allen earlier at a children’s home in Gloucestershire and had been invited by Allen to move to Bryn Alyn Hall. D described a number of occasions when Allen had made sexual advances to him, which he had rejected, and he said that Allen had admitted several times to him that he (Allen) was a homosexual. After leaving Bryn Alyn Hall there was a period in 1971 when, according to D, he looked after Gwersyllt Hall for Allen, whilst living at Brymbo. D wrote a poem called “The Ruin”, which prompted Allen to suggest that D should be filmed reading it out as part of a documentary film. They went to the Poyser Street studio to collect equipment and then returned to Gwersyllt Hall. After D had read over the poem three or four times and some drink had been consumed Allen said that it would give it more poignancy if D were to take his clothes off and he did so. D was then filmed several times reading the poem whilst naked. Allen started touching D, saying that his skin was incredibly soft; D became aggravated and an altercation ensued, bringing the filming session to an end.
21.35 Many years later, in 1977 or 1978, this witness visited Allen at Bryntirion Hall to ask him for money to enable D to buy an amplifier. D’s justification for doing this was that Allen had encouraged him to come back if he needed a bit of pocket money because they were all one big family. On this occasion Allen gave D a glass of brandy and then sat very close to him, putting an arm around him and trying to pull him closer but D pulled away, saying that if he were ever to want to do anything in that way it would not be because of money. The upshot was that Allen accepted the rejection and he still gave D a cheque, albeit post-dated by three weeks.
21.36 The third “similar fact” witness (E), whose evidence was read to us and who was unwilling to give oral evidence to the Tribunal, lived with the Community between 1973 and 1975, as far as we have been able to ascertain. E alleged that Allen first made an indecent approach to him when he was at a summer camp in the grounds of Bryn Alyn Hall. On that occasion Allen stroked his head, cheek and upper body. Later on Allen sexually abused him in his bedroom at Bryntirion Hall: Allen, who had alcohol on his breath, entered the room whilst E was asleep and put his hand down inside E’s pyjamas. On another occasion, about three months later, E awoke to discover that Allen was fondling E’s penis. E pushed him away and the boy in the next bed stirred, whereupon Allen left the room.
21.37 The evidence that we have so far summarised gives a broad picture of the sexual activities of Allen of which complaint has been made. We heard or read the evidence of six other witnesses who alleged sexual abuse by Allen. One of the two who gave oral evidence alleged that he had been indecently assaulted on about 12 occasions whilst he was asleep but he was not an impressive witness and the jury found Allen not guilty of the count relating to him.
21.38 The other live witness (F), who gave a better impression, was with the Community for nearly six years from March 1975 (two months or so before his tenth birthday). F said that he was very close to Allen, who seemed to take to him from the instant when Allen saw him. Allen spoilt him with presents, clothes and money and both staff and residents called him “John’s boy”. F alleged that Allen fondled F’s private parts on many occasions from very early on mainly in F’s bedroom: it happened in Bryn Alyn Hall, Pentre Saeson, Bryntirion Hall, Allen’s house (Gwastad Hall, where F often slept), at the Poyser Street studio and on group holidays to the Bryn Alyn property in St Florien, near Bordeaux. Allen would also try and kiss F when he drank and F was very upset by it. The most severe assaults occurred when Allen was drunk and F would pretend that he was asleep. Despite all this, F continued to regard Allen as a father figure. F was nearly 16 years old when he was transferred to Ty’r Felin by Gwynedd Social Services Department on 6 January 1981; and he was given a Kawasaki 50cc motor cycle by Allen after he left. F kept in touch with Allen for a couple of years and was in touch with him again at the time of the trial: he said in evidence that he was not going to claim anything from Allen.
21.39 It is necessary to mention specifically one other witness (G), whose evidence was read and in respect of whom Allen was convicted of indecent assault. G was the brother of D and he went to Bryn Alyn Hall at the age of 12 or 13 years in or about 1971, after D had left. G described how he was given special attention in the first six months of his stay by Allen, who bought him new clothes and gave him a pedal cycle at Christmas. He alleged that the first indecent assault on him occurred just before Christmas 1971 when Allen led him from Askew House to a staff bedroom in the main house and there undressed him on a bed, whereupon Allen fondled and kissed him. A similar incident then occurred on New Year’s Eve, when mutual masturbation occurred. G said that Allen assaulted him after this in a similar manner at least once a month until he left Bryn Alyn at the age of 15 or 16 years. Oral sex occurred on one occasion only.
21.40 After G left Bryn Alyn he went to London and slept rough for about 12 months, earning money as a rent boy. He then moved to Amsterdam for 17 years, where he had occupations varying from rent boy to computer programmer, and he attempted to take his own life on several occasions. Allen got in touch with him there and sent him presents of money ranging between £250 and £1,000 from time to time. In 1992 G moved to Brighton, where a younger brother who had also been at Bryn Alyn was already living. He referred in his statement to the police made on 22 October 1992 to a visit paid by Allen to his brother’s flat when G was present and said that two weeks later (on the 18 April 1992) this brother was killed in a fire in a flat in a converted house in Brighton. The verdict at the inquest was that the brother had been unlawfully killed. G gave evidence at Allen’s trial but was found dead on a mattress in his flat on 1 February 1995 before the trial was concluded. The inquest verdict in his case was that the cause of death was “non-dependent abuse of drugs”.
21.41 Of the other four witnesses whose evidence was read to us, only one alleged that Allen had buggered him. This witness first met Allen in Gloucestershire and then moved to the Talbot Hotel at Holywell before becoming a resident with the Community. He was born in 1949 and his allegation is of a single incident at the Talbot Hotel; he does not allege any repetition when he was living with the Community and his evidence is not directly relevant to our terms of reference because he must have been discharged from care in or about 1968, if (as he says he did) he remained with the Community until he was 19 years old. This witness did, however, make the allegation in his first statement to the police on 1 June 1995, which post-dated Allen’s trial. Another witness alleged inexplicably that he was “groped” by Allen on the second day of the witness’ three week stay at Bryn Alyn in 1979. The other two witnesses, however, gave more credible accounts of indecent assaults of a familiar pattern by Allen during their respective stays with the Community from 1971 to 1975 and from 1981 to 1982, the earlier resident alleging also four attempts at buggery.
21.42 The evidence that we have outlined highlights two particular aspects of Allen’s alleged sexual activities, namely, his selection of individual boys for particular attention and favouritism and his practice of giving very valuable presents to those boys. Allen’s own estimate of the amount of Community money that he spent on extra support to child residents, over and above pocket money and incidentals, was £180,000. This total represented the overall cost of presents of the kind we have referred to, including stereo equipment, bicycles and clothes, the cost of accommodation and help with rent, and financial support. Allen denied, however, that this money was spent in return for favours received and the evidence does not support the view that his generosity was confined to those residents with whom he had a sexual relationship. The impression given is that he was much more generous to those with whom he had such a relationship.
21.43 When Allen gave evidence to the Tribunal, he repeated his previous denials of any sexual activity with Community residents and said that all the complainants were lying about him. He explained his policy in giving presents, usually in the name of the Community rather than himself, and said that they were given mainly to boys rather than girls because of their particular needs: for example, hi-fi equipment was given to everyone who moved into flats and bicycles were given to residents in employment to enable them to travel to work etc. Financial support was provided also for those leaving care who needed it and he, Allen, contributed some of this personally. Allen referred particularly to £6,000 he had advanced to two former residents who were starting a catering firm and to sums provided for witnesses C, D and G. Allen estimated that between £7,000 and £8,000 had been provided to the family of D and G by the Community and himself and he said that it was he who went to Holland to get D to return to the UK. As for C, again money had been provided by the Community and himself: he estimated that C had received about £12,000 in all. He felt that C had been blackmailing him: C had been to a newspaper and his demand for money was a result of his drug taking. On the other hand, Allen denied that a particular demand for £500 that he received from another former resident, 12 years after the latter left the Community, was a form of blackmail. That former resident did not give evidence to the Tribunal but he was one of the six in respect of whom Allen was convicted of indecent assault and Allen agreed that the £500 was paid to him (part of about £2,000 in all that he received).
21.44 Despite Allen’s continuing denials of improper conduct, we are fully satisfied that he was rightly convicted of indecent assaults on six former residents with the Community and that those offences were merely a sample of his overall offending in that respect, involving many more residents there between 1968 and about 1985. When Allen was tried early in 1995 he was not charged with any offence of buggery but we have heard evidence from three witnesses who alleged that they were buggered by him and another who said that he attempted to do so on four occasions. The fairest judgment that we can make upon this matter is that there is now credible evidence that Allen’s offences went beyond indecent assaults on some occasions but that we cannot make a more decisive finding, bearing in mind the procedural limitations of an inquiry like this. We should add that the complaints of buggery and attempted buggery by three of the four witnesses whose evidence we have heard were not made until after Allen’s trial, even though two of the three made the complaints in their first statements to the police.
21.45 We do not have adequate material on which to reach confident conclusions about Allen’s overall motivation in his non-sexual activities but it is fair to say that his reputation was that of a caring and generous person. As one member of the Community staff, Keith Allan Evans, who was employed there for 23 years, put it, “he came across to me as a person, not just to me but to everyone else as well, (as) a very, very caring person who devoted a lot of his time and finances, you know, to the young people. I mean we have seen some extraordinary expenses that he spent on young people, not just individuals, I’m talking generally speaking, and we thought he was just an extremely generous person”.
21.46 The evidence that we have heard indicates that from the late 1980s Allen became less involved with the Community as financial difficulties arose and White senior assumed the dominant role. Allen then turned his attention elsewhere, to London and Brighton particularly, where he and/or the company Bryn Alyn Care Ltd had acquired various properties; and Allen took over that company in the 1991 financial settlement. It appears that these properties were used, probably mainly, to house young men who had been discharged from care but it has not been within the scope of our terms of reference to investigate these later activities of Allen. Such evidence as has been given about them to the Tribunal has been largely hearsay, although not remote hearsay, and it would be inappropriate to make any findings about them; but the evidence has given us some cause for concern and has underlined the vulnerability of many young persons on leaving care.
21.47 We are satisfied that there was some contemporaneous discussion or gossip about Allen’s predilections amongst both staff and residents. Indeed, in view of his favouritism and distribution of presents, it would have been very surprising if there had not been such talk. There were rumours amongst the residents about his liking for particular boys and some talk of “Allen’s bum boys” but it did not amount to a great deal. These rumours were known to some members of the staff but they do not appear to have taken them seriously. Keith Evans did, however, go somewhat further in the evidence. He said that when staff heard rumours about Allen being gay and interfering with young boys nothing was ever said to the effect that he was interfering with a particular boy: it was his general reputation with “the few” and the staff put it down to jealousy. There was an occasion in about 1981 or 1982 when he was asked to go to Llay police station and was there questioned by two police officers (one of whom he knew) about allegations by some boys that Allen was interfering with them and about a boy in custody in the north east who said that he had been receiving money from Allen to keep him quiet. Evans was told that an investigation was being carried out and that he must not discuss the matter with anyone but, as far as he is aware, nothing happened after that.
Anthony David Taylor
21.48 Another member of the Community staff who has been convicted of sexual offences against former residents is Anthony David Taylor, who appeared at Talgarth Magistrates’ Court on 6 January 1976, when he was convicted of two offences of indecent assault and fined a total of £40. We do not have details of the circumstances of these offences but Anthony Taylor wrote to the Welsh Office in November 1975, when he was suspended from his employment pending his appearance in Court, describing offences that he had committed against boys from Newcastle upon Tyne when they attended a summer holiday scheme that he ran for the Community. He asked the Secretary of State whether something could be done to protect social workers from publicity when they committed offences, citing his own case as an example. He was dismissed after he had been convicted.
21.49 We know of four complainants who have more recently complained of sexual abuse by Anthony Taylor whilst they were with the Community and we received evidence from three of them. All four complainants were there at the same time and the longest resident of the four was with the Community for five years from about January 1971. The evidence that we received established that Taylor’s sexual assaults were not confined to those with which he was charged but occurred also in dormitories at Bryntirion Hall (where he was on the staff) and extended to oral sex with one of the complainants. In his written evidence to the Tribunal Anthony Taylor denied the offences but we have no reason to doubt the truth of the complaints. He is now retired and ill and it is unnecessary to say anything further about him.
21.50 The third member of the staff to be convicted was Iain Muir, who was Deputy Headteacher of the Community school in the mid 1980s. He was convicted on 22 July 1986 in the Crown Court at Mold of an offence of unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 16 years, for which he received a sentence of six months’ imprisonment, whereupon he was dismissed. The victim of this offence who gave oral evidence to the Tribunal, was resident at Bryn Alyn Hall for just over three years from October 1982 and attended school there. She was 15 years old when she left.
21.51 Muir, who was then 36 years old, committed the offence on 16 June 1985 at his flat in Wrexham at the conclusion of a weekend that the girl had spent with him and his family in Hertfordshire. It came to light in October 1985 when the girl confided in a fellow resident, who informed a Team Leader in Askew House. Muir, who could not be traced by the Tribunal, admitted the offence, which he said had occurred on one occasion only, and he tendered his resignation, which was accepted. The girl did not add much to this account in her evidence but she did say that there had been numerous occasions before the act of intercourse when there had been physical contact, including kissing, between them at Muir’s flat and on the school premises, which she had “gone along with”. She had been to his flat often and had been seeking affection from, and happiness with, him. This witness was a girl who alleged that she had suffered sexual abuse earlier in other children’s homes and from two other members of the Community’s staff.
21.52 We are aware of four complainants who allege that they were sexually abused by this former member of the Community staff and of 12 who complained of physical abuse by him. We did not hear any evidence in support of these allegations of varying gravity, however, because Kenneth Taylor was the subject of continuing police investigation in the course of the Tribunal’s hearings. He died suddenly on 8 August 1998 of a heart attack, at a time when it was expected that he would be charged with some of the alleged offences.
21.53 Kenneth Taylor was, according to Allen, a fully qualified residential care worker. He worked for the Community for a substantial period from about 1977, starting at Marton’s Camp and ending as Officer-in-Charge of Pentre Saeson Hall from about 1983. He was suspended from the latter position in or about April 1992 following allegations by children relating to possible sexual abuse of one resident by a Team Leader and a regime of excessive physical control exercised by him. The Crown Prosecution Service advised against a prosecution in relation to Pentre Saeson but Kenneth Taylor was dismissed in January 1993.
Other allegations of sexual abuse
21.54 It appears that about 28 former residents of the Community have made complaints of indecent assaults by other members of the staff. Most of these complainants, however, name different staff members; seven are unable to identify their assailants and four members of staff are named by two complainants so that 17 of the staff in all are named. Most of the allegations are of one form of indecent assault or another but three female former residents allege that they were raped (one by an unidentified person) and three of the men allege buggery (against one by an unidentified person). In these circumstances no pattern of alleged sexual misconduct by one of the accused members of staff has emerged and it has not been practicable to reach firm conclusions about individual allegations relating to events said (with only three exceptions) to have occurred between ten and about 25 years ago. We did, however, hear the evidence of eight of these complainants, four of whom gave oral evidence before us.
21.55 The girl who was the complainant in respect of Muir told us that she was also seriously assaulted by her key worker on the Community staff in the course of a camping trip, when he attempted to have sexual intercourse with her; and an allegation by her of rape by another member of the staff is currently under investigation by the police. Other evidence before us has been of indecent assaults of varying gravity by male staff on boys, including oral sex in a caravan on a pony trekking expedition. Another male witness said that he saw a member of staff ripping the top off a girl resident, exposing her breasts, for which the member of staff was allegedly dismissed.
21.56 The principal witness on behalf of the Welsh Office, John Lloyd, told us of a number of allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the Community’s various premises that were reported to the Welsh Office between 1989 and 1992. Thus, in July 1989 an allegation was made by a former resident that she had been sexually abused by a member of staff and this led to correspondence between Bryn Alyn and Clwyd Social Services Department, which we have not seen. We were told that the police were informed of the matter but no prosecution ensued and the member of staff was merely advised to have no further contact with the girl. Then in 1992 there was another investigation by Clwyd Social Services Department and the North Wales Police of serious allegations made by children about alleged sexual abuse of a girl resident by a Team Leader (and an alleged regime of excessive physical control at Pentre Saeson Hall). Although no prosecution ensued a child protection conference concluded that the complainant girl had been abused by the Team Leader, who had been suspended meanwhile. The girl’s name was put on the child protection register pending a full assessment but she then left the Community. The upshot was that the Team Leader was conditionally re-instated in December 1992.
21.57 Our conclusions are that (John Allen apart) sexual abuse by members of staff of the Community was not rife but that it did occur to a significant and disturbing extent. The comparatively few girl residents were specially vulnerable to this and, in our judgment, the organisation and structure of the Community and its premises were never suitably adapted for co-educational purposes. Paedophile activity in relation to boys was dominated by that of Allen himself. Otherwise it appears to have been sporadic and less likely to be detected for that reason. It is a cause for grave concern, however, that so many members of staff were named in the major police investigation, even though the allegations against particular individuals were limited in number.
Allegations of physical abuse
21.58 It appears that 139 former residents with the Community have complained of physical abuse during the period of their residence and 121 of them have named a total of 49 members of staff as alleged abusers in this respect (ten of whom are alleged to have been guilty also of sexual abuse). The other 18 former residents were unable to identify the alleged aggressor.
John Ernest Allen
21.59 John Allen himself was named by 14 of these former residents and we heard or read the evidence of seven of them. Most of them alleged that they had been punched by Allen. Witness E, for example, said that Allen punched and slapped him on three occasions but, after one of them, Allen gave him a leather jacket. Another witness complained that Allen punched and shouted at him twice. He said also that the home was “brutally run” and that there was a lot of violence between boys from different areas, which the staff chose to ignore. A third witness said that Allen assaulted him twice, once causing his nose to bleed and on the other occasion giving him two black-eyes. Witness B said that Allen would lose his temper and throw people around: it happened to B once. Two other male witnesses made complaints of being punched or smacked in the face and a former girl resident said that Allen was very aggressive: he punished her on numerous occasions with a punch, a slap or a kick.
21.60 Allen denied these allegations but we are satisfied that he did punch and slap residents on occasions when he was angry about what they had said or done. It was undoubtedly improper of him to do so but, in mitigation, it may be said that many of the residents were difficult children and that he was often faced with provocative situations. We do not think that he was an habitually violent man: the complaints against him of using excessive physical force are heavily outweighed by the allegations against him of sexual misconduct.
21.61 The other main alleged physical abuser was Peter Steen, who has been named by 19 complainants. He worked for the Community from about late 1976 until Gatewen Hall closed in or about 1993 with a break of about 12 months when Bryntirion Hall closed in or about 1986. Steen was about 36 years old when he joined the Community as a residential care worker at Bryn Alyn Hall. Earlier in his life he had been a self-employed building contractor but he had had to give this up because of an injury to his right arm, which ultimately required removal of the elbow joint and which necessitated five separate surgical operations over a period of four years, during which period he was unemployed. He had been involved, however, in running a five-a-side football team and this had led to voluntary youth work with the result that he had played a prominent role in establishing Plas Madoc Youth Association at Ruabon Leisure Centre. He had had no professional training in social work and he had been before criminal courts on seven occasions between 1955 and 1965, mainly for offences of dishonesty but on one occasion, when he was 23 years old, for two offences of assault occasioning actual bodily harm committed in Devizes when he was acting as a club “bouncer”. In his oral evidence Steen said that he told the truth about his convictions when he was interviewed for the Bryn Alyn post by Streetly, who said that a check would be made with the police.
21.62 Steen was employed by the Community initially at Bryn Alyn Hall for about seven years (he thought that it was four), starting as a shift worker for 12 months and then becoming a Deputy Team Leader. He estimated the ratio of staff to children to be one to ten at that time. There were about 80 children in all: the youngest (about 20) were in Lindisfarne; new entrants and the more difficult children (about 40) were in Blackley; and the less difficult children or those about to leave (about 20) were in Askew. Whilst he was at Bryn Alyn Hall, Streetly, a former Liverpool probation officer who had been employed earlier to run Marton’s Camp with Kenneth Taylor, was in charge and then Arwyn Thomas; and Keith Evans became Senior Team Leader and later Officer-in-Charge of Blackley House.
21.63 Steen was transferred to Bryntirion Hall when an allegation was made that he had assaulted two Blackley House boys. The allegation was made by a student residential care worker, Denis Finlay Williams, aged 34 years, who was sent to Blackley House as his final training placement in October 1983. The Tribunal’s staff were unable to trace this potential witness but we have seen the report that he submitted to the Directors of Social Services of Clwyd and Manchester and Salford College of Technology and the two statements that he made to the police in September 1992. In view of what occurred Williams only worked three eight hour shifts beginning on 11 October 1983. He was assigned to the team led by Steen and on the third day a minor incident occurred in a dormitory when a number of boys became involved in mock kung-fu fighting. A staff member sent two of the boys down to the office and Williams accompanied them. In the office Steen asked the boys, who were wearing only trousers, what they had been doing and on being told that they had been fooling around or words to that effect, Steen punched one of them in the heart area of the chest, telling him not to fool about again. Steen then turned to the other boy and started punching him in the chest. When he doubled up in pain Steen kept on punching him on his shoulder blades and back. The boys were then sent up to bed and Williams observed that both were heavily bruised, or at least their skin was distinctly reddened, where they had been struck by Steen.
21.64 Williams described also an incident that had occurred the previous day when Steen had thrown two substantial pieces of wood at two boys (one of whom was punched the next day), who had been playing football and were running because they were late for their class. The piece of wood missed the boys by about six feet but Williams was sure that, if either piece had struck the boys, they would have been injured.
21.65 Williams alleged also that on 13 October 1983, Steen had instructed him to be hard on another boy whilst supervising the boy in the task of scrubbing the showers. Steen said “if he stops for one minute, add another day to his punishment” and he added “I want to see really bad bruises on his knees when I come back” (caused by raised bumps on the tiles on which he was required to kneel). There were also bruises on the boys’ legs.
21.66 Steen said in evidence that he was transferred to Bryntirion Hall after Williams had alleged that he had punched two lads in the chest but he denied punching them and said that he had merely pointed at them when saying to them “Don’t you do this” when they were in the office with him. There was an internal inquiry and he was told by the head of Manchester Social Services Department that Williams had “overstepped the mark” and had been negligent in doing his (Williams’) own work. Steen alleged also that he received a letter to that effect. He admitted (in a hand written statement) throwing a light piece of rotten wood towards the two boys who were late for class but said that it fell far short of them and broke.
21.67 We have not received any evidence from the four other known complainants about Steen during his seven years at Bryn Alyn Hall and there was only one complainant in respect of his next three years at Bryntirion Hall. There were, however, 12 former residents of Gatewen Hall between about 1987 and 1992 who alleged that he assaulted them and we heard the evidence of four of these potential witnesses.
21.68 Both witnesses who gave oral evidence to the Tribunal about Steen alleged that they had been struck by him in the office at Gatewen. The first of these, V, who had previously been at Cartrefle, Bersham Hall and Bryn Alyn, was at Gatewen Hall for about six months when he was 16 years old between July 1989 and February 1990. V said that Steen was not “all bad at all”: it was possible to have something of a relationship with Steen, who would put himself out to help at times but, the witness complained of two specific incidents. The first of these occurred when he had returned late with another boy. Steen saw them both in the Gatewen office and Steen’s wife, who was the Matron, was present. V alleged that Steen hit him around the head, although it did not “really hurt” him. The second incident was more serious and occurred during a camping holiday in Cornwall. One of the boys was thought to have hit another boy in Padstow with the result that the latter had been admitted to hospital; and on their return to camp, V and another boy were questioned by Steen about their knowledge of what had occurred. V alleged that, when they both denied any knowledge, Steen attacked them, punching him in the stomach and ribs and kicking him when he went to the floor. In consequence, he was bruised around the ribs and he thinks that he had a cut lip. He added that he would imagine that other members of the staff heard him screaming but nothing was done about it. Everyone knew that Steen behaved in this way and residents took it as punishment. Of his overall period in care, V said in his written statement to the Tribunal that “Generally it was alright, but Cartrefle was a nightmare, Gatewen was violent, Bersham and Bryn Alyn were OK”.
21.69 The second witness who gave oral evidence, X, was at Gatewen Hall for about 12 months and arrived there about mid-way through V’s stay. X was a Plymouth boy who was placed at Gatewen Hall to prepare him for independence and because of family problems: he had been unable to cope with living in bed and breakfast accommodation. But he found that the staff were more violent then caring: they seemed to have been employed for their weight and strength rather than any professional qualifications. In his opinion Steen was one of four bad members of the staff and X complained of being dragged by Steen upstairs, where Steen pushed the back of his head against a wall three or four times. He was then taken by Steen into an office and lifted off the floor by his neck against a wall so that it felt as if he was being strangled. About six other members of staff were present, and one of them said “I saw you hit Pete Steen first”, to which the witness responded that he was a liar. X was bleeding from his head and had a graze on the side of his face three to four inches long. He was then taken to his room where Steen refused his request to go to hospital and he was given no treatment. He apologised to Steen, who said that it was his fault but X told Steen that it was he (Steen) who had started it. The only person who helped when he was in care was White junior (then Head of Gatewen Hall), who was one of the best and fair.
21.70 Steen appears to have made a near contemporary record (which he signed) of this incident at 8.50 am on 9 March 1990, relating that he had become aware that X was involved in an altercation with a girl resident and a member of staff and was refusing to collect his belongings and money, despite the fact that he had a bus to catch. The note continued:
“I intervened telling X to go into the office. X absolutely refused. Holding his arm I tried to guide him up the stairs. X pulled his arm away and lay down on the stairs, refusing to move, still being abusive and threatening. Again I got hold of him. He started kicking; I lifted him on to his feet and took him upstairs. X now had an audience because of all the commotion. He stood back against the wall threatening to punch me if I held him again. Crying in rage X tried to punch and kick out at meI pushed X against the wall pinning him by the chest. His head went back, hitting the wall. This sent X into a frenzy, trying to thrash and kick. I held him in this position until he calmed down. Afterwards he was spoken to by myself and Steven Ford. X later apologised for his behaviour.”
21.71 In X’s case, and almost exceptionally in relation to former residents of the Bryn Alyn Community, we have seen copies of many social services records about him during his stay at Gatewen Hall, compiled by or supplied to Devon social workers. These show that X made complaints to the police in October 1989 and August 1990 about incidents involving members of the staff at Gatewen Hall and that a solicitor’s letter was sent to his social worker at Plymouth on 15 June 1990 complaining of his treatment at Gatewen Hall. The relevant part of the letter read:
“X is, of course, a stranger to the writer” (the senior partner) “but gives the impression of being extremely nervous and shy, although he expresses himself very fluently. He complained to us that he is extremely unhappy at Gatewen Hall, principally because of bullying from members of the staff. He named four members of the staff and the Director as having acted towards him in a more or less bullying way and complained that in some cases physical force had been used towards him. His head has been banged against the wall and his face bruised.His face bore no indication of injury and he says that he has not received any medical treatment.”
21.72 X’s complaints were taken up by his Plymouth social worker with White junior, who wrote a long letter in reply dated 24 July 1990, in which he set out detailed accounts of the incident on 7 March and other incidents on 7, 22 and 24 June, involving three other members of the staff. It contained also the following passages:
“With regard to X’s negative attitude towards Gatewen the positive response from the case review has continued throughout the week. X is keen to take on board the opportunities offered in terms of moving on to Cluster Flats etc . . . As far as staff at Gatewen are concerned there appears to be no core of negative feeling towards X. He himself, through my discussions with him, has quoted examples of staff support in a number of different situations. In general, I feel that there is a lot of positive support for him within the unit, however, X must realise that the support offered will sometimes take the form of facing him with the consequences of his own actions and his responsibility for them.”[
21.73 This outline of events in 1990 in relation to X illustrates how difficult it is now to unravel quite complex incidents that occurred as long as eight years ago in a series of heated exchanges. Steen said in his evidence that, at first, X did not get on with him but later, on a camping holiday in Anglesey, he was the only person who would have anything to do with X. Steen denied banging X’s head against a wall but recalled two other incidents in which he had had to restrain X. In the first, X had fixed wires on the doors of this room “to electrocute” anyone entering. Steen went in, whereupon X went berserk so that Steen had to sit on him. In the second, X took a knife in the kitchen and went for another member of staff with the result that Steen had to hold X by putting his arms around him. X was a “little bit schizophrenic” and would say that a voice (Steven) had made him do it when he was caught doing wrong.
21.74 Speaking more generally, Steen volunteered that he (Steen) was the so-called bastard of the unit and said that some of the boys did call him that. He was the “trouble-shooter” at Bryntirion and Gatewen but not at Bryn Alyn. He did become angry with boys from time to time. Of V, who alleged that he had been struck by Steen, the latter said that he was regarded as a loveable rogue and that Steen got on as well with him as anyone else did, although Steen did not have much to do with him. Steen recalled interrogating V in the main tent in the presence of the rest of the staff at the Cornwall camp after a boy had been taken to hospital and not believing what V said but he denied assaulting him. It was after midnight and he had thought that it would be better to deal with the whole incident the following morning.
21.75 Two former girl residents of Gatewen Hall whose evidence was read to the Tribunal also alleged that they had been assaulted by Steen. The first alleged that, after she had been tied up for about 20 minutes by a woman member of the staff for something that she had done wrong, she and another girl ran away. They were caught and taken back to Gatewen Hall, where they were seen by Steen, who was Team Leader that day. She said that everyone was scared of Steen because he had such a temper. She could see that he was in a temper on this occasion when she was left alone with him in his room and he hit her full in the face, causing her to fall back over the desk. He was shouting and banging the table and said “Get out before I fucking kill you”. The second witness said that at Gatewen she would be slapped for not taking her medication and that she remembered Steen doing this to her. She said also that there was a room called “the palace” where people were taken to be assaulted and that Steen used to punch and kick her in the stomach. However, Steen said of the first of these two that she was a liar, who had made allegations against others that he did not believe; and the second was too disturbed emotionally to give oral evidence and be cross-examined.
21.76 Finally, two other witnesses whose evidence was read to us, claimed to have seen Steen assaulting a resident or inferred that he had just done so. The first, who was at Gatewen in the early summer of 1989, said that he saw Steen slapping a boy’s face and kicking his backside. The other, who was a girl resident at Gatewen three years earlier, alleged that she saw a boy who had taken a staff member’s car emerge from Steen’s office with blood on his face and shirt. Steen, however, denied both these allegations and said that he did not deal with the latter incident.
21.77 It is not easy to assess the allegations against Steen on the limited evidence before us. It is fair to say that as “trouble-shooter” at Bryntirion Hall and then Gatewen Hall, he was likely to be involved in confrontations with troublesome residents and to attract criticism for what he did in those situations. What is mildly surprising is that there were more complaints about his conduct at Gatewen Hall than at Bryntirion Hall, where the more troublesome residents were said to have been housed. The correct view probably is that the later residents of Gatewen Hall were older than before and proved to be more difficult to control, as some witnesses indicated. Steen himself said that he made several requests for training in physical restraint but was told that none was available. Bearing in mind his admission that he did lose his temper from time to time and his complete lack of professional training, we have no doubt that he did use excessive force from time to time in restraining and in disciplining both boy and girl residents. The overall volume of complaints about him, however, is moderate (if that is an appropriate word in this context), having regard to the nature of his role in the last ten years of his employment by the Community and the absence of any guidance as to how to perform it. One member of the staff, Keith Evans, said of Steen that he had a reputation as a hard man but that it was grossly exaggerated by the young people: he was strong and a disciplinarian, but he was a fair person.
Other complaints of physical abuse
21.78 As we stated earlier, Kenneth Taylor was the subject of complaints of physical abuse by 12 complainants but we were not able to hear evidence about them because of the continuing police investigation during our hearings. All but two of these related to his regime at Pentre Saeson as Officer-in-Charge between 1983 and 1992.
21.79 The other complaints of physical abuse have been so diffuse that, in general, it would be invidious to single out individuals. Thus, of the 49 members of staff referred to in paragraph 21.58, 31 were named by only one complainant and a further nine by only two or three. An additional problem has been the absence of any Community records of most of their residents because we were told in the course of our preliminary hearing that these records were destroyed in a fire that occurred on 25 October 1996 at a Pickfords storage depot in Hoole, near Chester. The result has been that the Tribunal’s ability to trace former Community residents from outside North Wales has been limited. In these circumstances the fairest course is to summarise the allegations that were made against some of the staff who held senior positions in the Community.
21.80 Keith Allan Evans was employed by the Community from April 1974, when he was nearly 30 years old until 30 June 1996. Before that he had served in the army for six years, driving armoured tanks reaching the rank of corporal, and then for seven years as a machine tool operator with a Wrexham firm. His introduction to the Community was through a former sergeant, who was already on the staff, and he understood that he was to organise and run outward bound type courses. Evans’ work, however, was that of a Residential Child Care Officer during the week and he was only involved in outward bound activities at week-ends and during holidays. He had no professional qualifications. According to his written statement, he progressed after about three years to Deputy Team Leader at Bryn Alyn Hall and then to Team Leader in or about 1980. He remained at Bryn Alyn Hall thereafter, rising to Senior Principal Officer from 4 January 1982 and to Head of Care from 7 June 1989. He had to revert to Principal Officer in June 1994 because new regulations disqualified him from holding the higher appointment, although he had undertaken some in service training by then. Evans was suspended for six days in August 1995 as the result of a slapping incident for which he received a written warning and he left the Community ten months later after a protracted argument about working shifts, although his own view, according to his statement, was that he was on sick leave until the Community went into liquidation in March 1997.
21.81 It appears that five complainants alleged subsequently that they had been physically abused by Evans at Bryn Alyn Hall and we received the evidence of one of them. The male former resident who gave oral evidence was with the Community for just over four years from November 1976, when he was approaching 12 years of age, after a rather turbulent history. His complaint about Evans, who was know as “Beef” or “Beefy”, was that “he had the weight behind him and a lot of the time he would let you know”. A warning was probably punching you in the chest or grabbing hold of your throat or shaking you. He never experienced a lot of physical conflict with Evans: he had never been actually assaulted, not beaten up badly, it was slaps and things like that. This witness alleged also that, after he and two or three others had run away to Chester, Evans and another member of staff had made them run all the way back and then around the grounds of the home for two or three hours as punishment for absconding.
21.82 It is noteworthy that all five complaints against Evans referred to a period before March 1983. The second witness about him, whose evidence was read, did not allege that she was struck by Evans. She said that after she had run away with two other girls and had been returned by the police about a week later, she was questioned by Evans and another member of the staff about the whereabouts of the other girls. Suddenly, the other member of staff smacked her across the mouth with the back of his hand, causing her lip to bleed. She was then allowed to go to bed.
21.83 Another person who made allegations against Keith Evans was the student, Denis Williams. He said in his report that he had witnessed the boy referred to in paragraph 21.65 being returned to Bryn Alyn Hall on 13 October 1983 after running away. Evans took the boy into the television lounge and Williams heard Evans shouting at him, saying that he had caused the home a lot of embarrassment by telling the police that boys were beaten there and that Evans would make sure that the boy himself was caused a lot of embarrassment over the next three days. The boy emerged in tears from the lounge after about 20 minutes, no longer wearing shoes, socks or jeans and was then set about the task of scrubbing the floors under Steen’s supervision. Williams alleged also, later in his report, that Evans presented himself as a bully. Williams regarded the punishment of “scrubs”, as it was known, as totally out of place.
21.84 In his own evidence to the Tribunal, Evans described himself as strict but fair and he said that Williams’ report was wildly exaggerated. At the time of his visit there was a social worker’s strike and the Community was having to deal with many difficult children, mostly on remand from courts; and there was an influx of youngsters on the closure of Marton’s Camp in Cheshire. Evans had to make decisions but the sanctions imposed were not of his devising: they were laid down by the Community. Moreover, his nickname “Beef” was given to him many years before by the sergeant who recruited him for the Community and who had known him from childhood.
21.85 Evans said also that he was suspended in August 1995 on his own initiative after he had slapped a boy, who had come into his office after being restrained. The boy was in a foul temper and had grabbed the Bursar and threatened the Matron. Evans had got the boy on the floor and had slapped his face after being head-butted by him. He had reported the incident and had suggested that he should be suspended pending an inquiry.
21.86 In his written statement to the Tribunal Evans pointed out that for about ten years prior to the closure of the Community he was almost always the person who was called upon to deal with the very difficult situations in which children might attack staff or there were other “confrontational” problems. He dealt in detail also with the allegations of the two witnesses whose evidence has been outlined denying specifically that boys were made to run from Chester (eight absconders were made to walk three-quarters of a mile from Gresford) or that he was present when a girl resident was struck across the face.
21.87 The comparative sparseness of the allegations against Evans when measured against the length of his service with the Community, the number of children passing through his hands and the nature of his role does not suggest that he was guilty of physical abuse. Despite his lack of professional training, he was quite an impressive witness, who gave a helpful account of the Community’s activities, and the evidence before us does not establish that he used excessive force towards the children for whom he was responsible or that he condoned such conduct by other members of the staff.
21.88 David Alan Challinor joined the Community on 24 June 1980 at the age of 19 years after taking a pre-qualification course in residential care (PCSC) for two years at Aston College, Wrexham, on leaving school. He was employed initially as a residential care worker at Cotsbrook Hall, where he received an official caution after only three months for throwing an object (a clipboard) in the direction of some boys, causing superficial injury to one of them. Challinor moved to Bryn Alyn Hall in the same capacity in 1980, becoming Deputy Team Leader there on 1 January 1985 and a Team Leader on 7 April 1987. He remained at Bryn Alyn Hall until September 1991 when he began the two year CQSW course at Cartrefle College and then Plas Coch. On completing that course successfully he was appointed Deputy Officer-in-Charge of Gatewen Hall from 13 July 1993 but he moved to Pentre Saeson Hall in May 1994 as Acting Unit Manager and became Manager 12 months later until it closed in March 1997 (like Evans his P45 showed his employment to have ended on 30 June 1996 for unexplained reasons).
21.89 It appears that seven complainants in all alleged physical abuse by Challinor in statements to the police and all of them referred to the period between 1980 and 1986 when he was at Bryn Alyn Hall. Only two of them, however, provided statements to the Tribunal and these were read to us. The first, who is now a patient in Broadmoor Hospital, complained that he was thrown around (but not punched) by Challinor, whom he referred to as “Tiny”. He alleged also that, after he had reported to Challinor and another staff member that some boys had tied him to a tree with part of the rope around his neck, neither Challinor nor the other member of staff would let him report the matter to the police or tell anyone. The second witness, who was unwilling to give oral evidence, was a resident in Askew House in 1986. She alleged that after she had dyed her hair green Challinor and a woman member of the staff forcibly dyed her hair blonde after she had refused to do so: Challinor forced her to the bath room and held her in a chair whilst the woman member of staff poured hair bleach over her hair and rubbed it in with the result that her hair started to fall out when she washed it and she had to have it cut off by a hairdresser.
21.90 Challinor said in evidence that he did not remember any argument with the girl who made the hair-dying allegation and he denied that he was involved when interviewed by the police. There was no Community rule about hair-dying. He denied also that he had pushed the other witness around. Challinor conceded, however, that he had been at fault on another occasion when a boy reported that he had been struck across the ear by a member of staff: Challinor suspended the latter that evening and thinks that he reported the incident, which he had not witnessed to his line manager, but he recognises that he should have arranged medical attention for the boy immediately rather than later, when the ear became more inflamed.
21.91 To sum up, therefore, the evidence against Challinor is so limited that we have not been persuaded that he was a party to child abuse during his service with the Community.
21.92 John Leslie Jeffreys worked for the Community for nine or ten years between about 1974 and 1983, starting when he was nearly 40 years old. He had begun working with children five or six years earlier in Derbyshire after five years as a supervisor for Rolls Royce in Derby. He became a community youth worker, after some training from the local education authority and then a residential care worker at a children’s home, where he received some training organised by Derbyshire Social Services Department. In 1974 Jeffreys responded to an advertisement placed by the Community in New Society and was appointed (after being interviewed by Allen and Wainwright) to work in the Talbot Road property, where two houses had been converted into one, and which was being used as a halfway house. From there he moved to Cotsbrook Hall, where there were about 50 boys in the age range of seven to18 years. At Cotsbrook Hall Jeffreys was appointed a Team Leader and his wife became Deputy Matron.
21.93 Jeffreys moved to Bryntirion Hall in 1978, where there were about 20 boys aged 14 and upwards and he was one of two Team Leaders under Russell Evans. Finally, he was Officer-in-Charge of Pentre Saeson for about 18 months, until Kenneth Taylor succeeded him. His wife ceased to be a matron on leaving Cotsbrook Hall and she then became one of the directors of the Community, working in its office.
21.94 Seven former residents alleged that Jeffreys had been physically violent to them and we received evidence from two of them. The witness who gave oral evidence went to Bryntirion Hall in May 1980 and was there for about two years. He alleged that he was given a hiding by Jeffreys during an annual holiday at John Allen’s villa near Bordeaux. The background was that he had stolen a penknife from a shop and that a boy had told Jeffreys about the theft. Jeffreys asked him where he had obtained the knife and, when he admitted stealing it, Jeffreys gave him a good hiding in a bathroom, punching and kicking him. As a result his shoulder blade hurt and he claimed that he still gets pain in the shoulder blade but said that he was given so many hidings by boys at Bryntirion (the worst time in his life) that he did not know which attack was the cause of his recurring pain. He did not receive any other punishment for stealing the knife.
21.95 The witness whose evidence was read was a Newcastle upon Tyne boy, who was already at Bryntirion Hall when Jeffreys moved there from Cotsbrook Hall. This witness had a brother who was at Cotsbrook Hall and had heard from others that the brother had been regularly beaten up there by Jeffreys. The witness (who would have been about 17 years old then) decided, therefore, to put his accusation to Jeffreys. His statement to the Tribunal continued:
“We went into the drying room, I locked the door behind me. We started to talk and I lost my temper and a fight ensued. It was a serious fight which involved punching and kicking.
Jeffreys’ spectacles were broken during the fight. Within seconds, members of staff broke the door in and pulled us apart. There were no serious injuries to Jeffreys and myself as a result of the fight. Russell Evans dealt with the incident. After this incident I had no problems with Jeffreys.”
The brother of this witness has not supplied any evidence to the Tribunal that he was assaulted by Jeffreys at Cotsbrook Hall.
21.96 Jeffreys said in evidence that he had found the boys at Bryntirion Hall easy to work with and that there was no excessive fighting amongst them. He recalled the theft of a pocket knife in France but said that he had sent for Russell Evans, who was in charge of the camp, to deal with it: and he denied beating up the boy responsible, who had made a different false allegation against him in 1992. This counter-allegation is not borne out by the documents before us, which show that the complainant made the same allegation against Jeffreys in his first statement to the police dated 8 June 1993 and said in a further statement on 1 January 1994 that the incident occurred on the first of his two holidays in France with the Community.
21.97 In relation to the drying room allegation, Jeffreys said that he had very little to do with that witness, although he could have spoken to the boy about the latter’s brother. Jeffreys said in his written statement that he remembered the brother at Cotsbrook Hall, with whom he had had no trouble; there was no substance whatsoever in the suggestion that he had been assaulting the brother. Moreover, the drying room at Bryntirion Hall was part of the laundry, which was kept locked when not being used: you could not simply enter the room and lock the door behind you as the witness suggested and he would not have put himself in a room with the boy as alleged.
21.98 Jeffreys gave too bland an account of his relations with residents during his employment by the Community and of the relations between boys and their peers to be a wholly credible witness. His evidence about this in respect of Bryntirion Hall is particularly difficult to accept having regard to the fact that the more troublesome boys were usually housed there. It is unlikely, in our view, that the bathroom incident in France has been completely invented and, although the other witness was somewhat vainglorious in his account of the alleged fight in the drying room, we accept that it did occur. Our conclusion is that Jeffreys did on occasions use physical force to residents when he should not have done so and allowed himself, for example, to be drawn into a confrontation that was not of his own making. The evidence before us does not, however, justify a finding that he resorted to force frequently or that he sought to rule by fear or intimidation.
Reports to the Welsh Office of alleged physical abuse
21.99 To complete the picture it is necessary to mention also that a number of allegations of alleged abuse were reported by the Community to the Welsh Office in the period between l988 and l993. Thus, in May 1988 there was an allegation of assault on a resident made against White junior, who was then apparently Director of Bryn Alyn Hall. The Solihull boy involved was 16 years old and was a resident at Gatewen Hall, whilst attending school at Bryn Alyn Hall. The incident was investigated quickly by the Community and Clwyd Social Services Department set in train Child Abuse procedures. The conclusion reached in the Community’s internal investigation was that White junior had “acted excessively”. He had been suspended from duty during the investigation and, after the North Wales Police had informed him that he would not be prosecuted, he was transferred to administrative duties within the Community. He did, however, act as Deputy Head of Gatewen Hall from the summer of 1991 to January 1993 following the resignation of Lynn Williams.
21.100 In June, August and October 1989 there were further allegations of physical abuse. The first and last of these involved the same member of staff on both occasions. On the first occasion he was alleged to have physically abused two boys and removed all their clothes, for which, after an investigation, he was given a formal warning. Then in October 1989 he was alleged to have abused a girl resident, for which he was dismissed. The complainant in August 1989 alleged that he had been struck and pushed on three occasions by different members of the staff, after which he had absconded to his home in Sandwell. The allegations were referred to the police for investigation but no support for them by other children named as victims or witnesses was forthcoming and no prosecution ensued.
21.101 The incident involving Peter Steen and a Plymouth boy was also reported to the Welsh Office by Devon Social Services Department in October 1990. It appears from the correspondence that Steen was temporarily re-located whilst the matter was investigated but the police found no case to answer and warned the complainant about wasting police time: it was concluded that reasonable action had been taken by Steen. The internal inquiry concluded that the boy had misread what had happened and had “twisted it to suit his own needs”: he had accepted the outcome.
21.102 The Welsh Office also received reports from the Community about allegations in relation to Kenneth Taylor and a Team Leader in 1992 and the outcome of those allegations.
21.103 There was a further complaint of physical abuse in March 1993, this time by a 15 year old girl who had been placed with the Community by Oxfordshire Social Services Department. She alleged that on 17/18 March 1993 she had been thrown across a room by a member of staff, suffering extensive bruising to her back. Ten days later she went to Clwyd Social Services Department (who were supervising her on behalf of Oxfordshire) to make her complaint and she refused to return to the Community with the result that she was placed with foster parents. She alleged also that she had suffered persistent physical and sexual harassment from fellow residents because of inadequate supervision. The girl, who had been with the Community since March 1991 went to Wrexham Police Station on 6 April 1993 and asked to withdraw her complaint. The police considered that their investigation should continue in the public interest but the Crown Prosecution Service returned the file and no further action was taken. The staff member was not suspended because the girl had left and she apparently acknowledged that she had otherwise had a very positive, caring and supportive relationship with him. By that time only four girl residents remained at Bryn Alyn Hall and there were none at Pentre Saeson or at Gatewen Hall, which had only two boy residents, who were both about to reach the age of 16 years.
21.104 In May 1993 two further matters were investigated and reported to the Welsh Office. The first involved a boy resident at Bryn Alyn Hall, who suffered some injury whilst being restrained but who did not make a complaint. Following investigation it was decided that no action should be taken and the boy has not made any complaint to this Tribunal. The second concerned a boy resident at Gatewen Hall who was reported to the police for an offence of criminal damage. At the police station he complained that he had been injured whilst being restrained. Slight injuries were found and a child protection conference was held but the boy was not put on the register: the conference was swayed by the boy’s own view that he was not at risk at Gatewen Hall.
Deficiencies in the evidence about the use of physical force generally
21.105 We are very conscious of the fact that the evidence that we have heard and seen about the use of physical force in the Community has been patchy and that we have not received a complete picture. This weakness has been unavoidable because the residents were drawn mainly from all over England so that they have proved to be difficult to trace and the disincentive for them to relive the painful past by volunteering evidence to a tribunal sitting in North Wales must have been great. The evidence before us, therefore, has been no more than a sample of what might have been heard if all the former residents who were seen by the police could now be heard. An alarming statistic is that the police themselves justifiably complained of having to deal with 280 absconders from the Community in one short period alone, that is, between l January and 19 June 1991.
21.106 Analysis of the sources of the complaints within the Community proves to be quite revealing. Thus, there were very few complaints by residents of Bryn Alyn Hall against identified members of the staff after 1986 and none in respect of Bryntirion Hall after 1984 (it operated as a children’s home until 1986 or 1987). On the other hand, most of the complaints emanating from Pentre Saeson related to the period from 1988 to 1992 and a very high proportion of these were levelled against Kenneth Taylor alone. As for Gatewen Hall, most of the complaints related to the same period but a wider range of staff was named: there were not less than 26 complainants who named 12 members of staff in all.
Other aspects of the Community regime
21.107 Rather surprisingly, comparatively few of the complainants who gave evidence to the Tribunal commented on the general quality of care provided by the Community but this was because they were pre-occupied with their allegations of physical and sexual abuse by members of the staff and, in some cases, of bullying by fellow residents. There were, however, many other causes for concern.
21.108 Allen himself, in his written statement to the Tribunal gave a rather complacent account of the organisation and development of the Community in accordance with his definition of its aims. According to him a comprehensive training programme was provided, beginning with senior managers, three of whom obtained certificates in the residential care of children (presumably the CRCCYP) at Salford Polytechnic and two progressed to a higher qualification. Middle management training was in the charge of another qualified social worker and one staff member each year was permitted to take the CQSW course. Teachers were assisted to obtain qualifications in special educational needs at Chester College; and in-house training, run by Stephen Elliott, was provided for care staff and teachers generally in the l980s and l990s.
21.109 Allen gave a similarly favourable picture of the organisation of management, supervision of care staff and night security arrangements. Following the Barclay report a system of key workers was introduced. Case reviews were attended by field workers from the placement agencies, of which 30 sent children to the Community regularly. Full documentation was maintained in respect of each child and other documents dealt comprehensively with such matters as complaints by children, disciplinary and grievance procedures, child protection principles, liaison with field social workers etc. Children were issued with an information pack on admission to the Community and any incident affecting a child was entered on both the unit’s daily log and the child’s personal file.
21.110 The reality was, however, very different. The overall picture that we have received has been of an organisation that developed rapidly far beyond its capabilities. By 1976, for example, it seems that there were about 80 children in Bryn Alyn Hall alone and substantial numbers of them were being transported daily to Marton’s Camp to be taught, a round journey of about 50 miles. Then, when Marton’s Camp closed in 1977, the children who had lived there were moved to Bryn Alyn Hall, increasing the number in residence there to at least 100 and requiring classrooms to be turned into dormitories. The pressure at all times then was to increase numbers; staff/resident ratios were low, and staff were unlikely to be released for training purposes.
21.111 Against this background several former members of the staff gave evidence of the lack of training opportunities before Stephen Elliott became responsible from about 1986 until he left in 1993. Peter Steen, who had no relevant experience or qualification when he was appointed in late 1976, said that he expected to receive training but was refused permission to take the CQSW course three times. Keith Evans also said that the reference to training in his contract was “absolute rubbish” in the 1970s, although some training became available in about 1981. Evans’ reference to 1981 was probably mistaken, however, because Patrick Bates, who was taken on in 1981 with no child care experience, said that he received no training until 1987. Elliott did encourage training and realistic staff appraisals; and a member of staff who benefited from this was David Challinor, who was seconded for the CQSW course from 1991 to 1993 but there were increasing financial constraints in the 1990s for obvious reasons before the Community went into liquidation.
21.112 Former members of the Community’s staff were critical also of the overall management and supervision of the various units. Keith Evans said that very little support was given, until Elliott arrived, to those on the ground who were running the units. John Jeffreys and Patrick Bates were similarly critical: there was very little help from senior management and team leaders were left to get on with it. Corporal punishment was not permitted but Lynn Williams, who progressed from care worker in 1983 to Deputy Director at Gatewen Hall, from 1987 to 1991, said in evidence that there was no policy on punishments whatsoever. It is right to say, however, that the later contracts of employment that we have seen included reference to sexual misconduct and physical assault of pupils as examples of gross misconduct that could lead to dismissal.
21.113 The report by the mature student Denis Williams, to which we referred earlier, came approximately half way through the Community’s history (October 1983) and would certainly have been an antidote to complacency if it had been circulated. Apart from the alleged physical abuse that he reported, he made a number of strong criticisms of the regime at Bryn Alyn Hall and, in particular, the part of it known as Blackley House. The criticisms that he listed included the following:
(1) A boy who absconded was put on “scrubs” for three days. To Williams’ knowledge, he was not allowed food for at least the first day. Williams regarded “scrubs” as totally out of place.
(2) There was a lack of healthy communication between the care staff and children in their care.
(3) No paperwork of any description was in evidence, other than a petty cash book.
(4) Boys were forced to sit or lie on the floor of the TV lounge (which was extremely cold) from 8.30 pm to 10 pm nightly, clad only in pyjamas (in some cases pyjama bottoms only). “.
(5) Coal or wood was burnt in the fireplaces as a means of heating and fires were only lit in the staff office or in the lounges for the benefit of staff after the boys had retired to bed.
(6) Clothing was taken from a boy’s bedroom whilst he was in the bathroom to prevent him going home on a Friday, although the matter had not been discussed with him and staff subsequently denied all knowledge of where the clothing might be. “.
(7) A booklet found in the office, which explained how the home was run, was immediately said to be “years out of date”.
Williams referred also to over-crowding at Blackley House. Some boys were sleeping out with staff. Sleeping in accommodation for staff was also being used to accommodate children, forcing staff to sleep on the floor of lounges.
21.114 One of Williams’ conclusions was that emotional care was non-existent, although in some respects Bryn Alyn Hall did cater for the material things in children’s lives there. He thought that standards of care were very poor, that physical and emotional abuse were standard practice and that all future operations of the Community should be looked into in some depth by “the relevant authorities”.
21.115 On 20 October 1983 he visited Bryn Alyn Hall with his course tutor and met there John Allen and Stephen Elliott (then Director of Child Care), who assured them that Williams’ concerns would be communicated to the social workers involved. Subsequently, on 7 November 1983 he was told by a senior officer of Manchester Social Services Department that his concerns had been fully investigated and that they were satisfied that the report was both unfounded and unprofessional. The officer warned Williams that he (Williams) could not distribute the report and that legal action would be considered by Allen. Williams did, however, raise the matter with the Home Office in June 1985 and with a number of newspapers and was interviewed on the subject by a representative of BBC television in September 1992.
Surveillance by the Welsh Office
21.116 We have already outlined briefly in Chapter 4 the steps taken by the Welsh Office in relation to registration of Bryn Alyn Hall as an independent school and the question of SEN approval; and we have referred to problems about the status of Pentre Saeson Hall and Gatewen Hall in respect of the provision of education. As we explain in Appendix 6 to the report, there was no requirement for a private children’s home to be registered until Part VIII of the Children Act 1989 came into force but the Secretary of State did have comprehensive powers of inspection of all forms of premises in which children in care were accommodated. As for independent schools, the law governing registration and inspection during the relevant period is summarised in the same Appendix at paragraphs 36 to 42.
21.117 If we were to give an extended account of the inspections carried out on behalf of the Welsh Office by HMIs and SWSOs (SSIWs from about 1989) and the correspondence with the Community following up those inspections, a separate chapter would be necessary. Having regard to our terms of reference, however, a fairly detailed summary will suffice.
21.118 Bryn Alyn Hall opened in April 1969 with two units, Blackley and Lindisfarne, as a private children’s home. Blackley then operated as a school from 1973 but the Welsh Office was told that it would close on 12 July 1976 and move to premises in Cheshire (presumably Marton’s Camp which opened in July 1976). The first brief inspection, by an HMI and an SWSO, took place during this early period on short notice on 14 November 1975. They looked at occupancy and turnover and the educational services available but the residential provision was not inspected. Impressions were favourable: Blackley was thought to be an unusual enterprise providing a stimulating and comfortable environment for difficult boys. Concern was expressed, however, about the Community’s “expansionist tendency” and the dangers attendant on size and dispersal.
21.119 A follow up visit by an HMI in April 1976 revealed that Blackley was having difficulty in providing a full secondary school curriculum and that local secondary schools were reluctant to accept Community pupils. The Welsh Office wrote to Allen informing him that, on the HMI’s evidence, the conditions for full registration laid down in 1973 were not being met and that a formal inspection was proposed. This took place in June 1976 and the senior HMI who conducted it was critical of several aspects of the educational provision. It was shortly after this visit that the Head of the school wrote to the HMI about the proposed closure of the school.
21.120 On 10 May 1977 the Welsh Office received a letter from the Community stating that a school was again located at Bryn Alyn Hall. This letter followed an unannounced visit by HMI who had found a number of unsupervised pupils apparently visiting from Marton’s Camp. No letter or notice had been received by the Welsh Office but the position was then regularised and the school was provisionally registered on 18 July 1977.
21.121 Substantive registration of Bryn Alyn Hall as an independent school for 69 socially maladjusted boys was eventually granted on 30 April 1980. In the three years preceding that there had been about seven visits by Welsh Office Inspectors to the Community and substantive registration had earlier been refused on 1 June 1978, when concern had been expressed about the school’s organisation on multiple sites, the standard of care and accommodation and the education provided. Amongst other matters that had caused disquiet were overcrowding, the admission of handicapped pupils contrary to statutory requirements and the provision of education on the premises at Pentre Saeson Hall. It had also been found in November 1977 that classrooms were badly underheated, in a very poor decorative condition and not thoroughly cleaned and that considerable improvements needed to be made in the educational provision itself. Inexperienced and, in some cases, unqualified teachers with no special training were trying to control difficult boys. By May 1979 improvements had been achieved but there was still uncertainty about the status ofPentre Saeson Hall. Registration of Bryn Alyn Hall followed further visits in December 1979 and April 1980 but the letter of 30 April 1980, stating that registration had been conferred, expressed the hope that there would be further development of the boys’ educational programme; that efforts should be made to place boys in outside schools, where practicable; that the Community should work with placing authorities to ensure the return of pupils to their home areas as soon as possible; and that more consideration should be given to the curriculum for the abler, older boys.
21.122 It appears that at this point, or by July 1980, the Community had decided not to attempt to use Pentre Saeson Hall (or Bryntirion Hall) for teaching and its ambition to expand its educational provision was focussed on securing approval for the admission of children with special educational needs. Exceptional permission for individual children was granted on occasions by the Secretary of State but it was not until 19 February 1985 that general approval was given to Bryn Alyn Hall only, under Section 11(3)(a) of the Education Act 1981, following a joint SWSO inspection in the autumn of 1984. However, the report of that inspection, which was the first of its kind by the Welsh Office under the Act of l981 drew attention to the absence of any overall educational philosophy at the school. It noted also “barely acceptable” standards of educational performance and achievement and expressed misgivings about some aspects of the social provision. Despite these reservations there was only one HMI visit (in January 1986) before the next inspection three years later.
21.123 A major inspection by HMI with secondary subject specialists and experts in SEN took place in February 1988. Rather surprisingly the education provided and library records were described as excellent, but the organisation of the education programme and the standards achieved by pupils were held to be unsatisfactory in general. The domestic accommodation was also described as excellent and other aspects such as the care arrangements, staffing and staff development and arrangements for admission and leaving were all deemed to be at least satisfactory. The Welsh Office drew the attention of the Community, however, to the fact that (a) the school was admitting some pupils below 11 years of age without specific approval (b) Pentre Saeson was providing education and needed to be registered separately and (c) the person in overall charge of the school had to be a qualified teacher.
21.124 The summary of the report dated 29 November 1988 contained the following revealing paragraph:
“4. Part of the problem of these establishments stems from the pupils catered for, largely young people with severe behavioural problems from the English inner-cities. In the case of Bryn Alyn School there are on the roll 50 boys and 15 girls but only three are from Welsh counties. The others are drawn from English counties and county boroughs, as far away as Newcastle and various London boroughs. A high proportion are from the NW of England. All but one of the pupils are subject to some form of care order. Many have only a tenuous contact with their homes or other permanent bases in the home area. Placements for far away from home are a concern to us and, with DES, we are proposing new Circular guidance on special educational needs, including an emphasis on the need for close co-operation between LEAs and Social Services Departments in placement decisions and for the whole needs of the child to be considered.”
21.125 It would be unnecessarily tedious to recount in detail the subsequent exchanges between the Welsh Office and the Community that led ultimately to the removal of Bryn Alyn Hall from the register in May 1997, after the company had gone into voluntary liquidation on 6 March 1997. It is sufficient here to summarise the main events, as follows:
(a) In January 1989 the Community was requested to provide within three weeks a response to the 1988 inspectors’ report setting out what was to be done to implement the report’s findings.
(b) The Community’s response in September 1989 was considered to be unsatisfactory.
(c) A further visit by HMIs took place in December 1991 and by letter dated 22 January 1992 the Welsh Office required urgent action (within six months) by the Community in relation to behaviour management, staff turnover and certain care practices, failing which withdrawal of SEN approval would be considered.
(d) Following further visits by HMIs in November 1992, June 1993 and February 1994, it was recommended to the Secretary of State that SEN approval should be withdrawn. The Secretary of State’s intention to do this was communicated to the school’s Director by letter dated 9 May 1994.
(e) SEN approval was not in fact withdrawn until 3 February 1997[
] following additional visits by HMIs in November 1994, October 1995 and May 1996 and a full inspection (under the five year cycle[
]) between 28 and 31 October 1996. Each of these visits and inspections had been followed by a recital to the Community of matters to be remedied.
(f) The letter of 3 February 1997 withdrawing SEN approval referred also to the fact that the Secretary of State was considering serving a Notice of Complaint (as a prelude to withdrawal of registration) but the liquidation of the company supervened a month later.
Action by Clwyd Social Services Department
21.126 Prior to the coming into force of the Children Act 1989 on 14 October 1991, Clwyd Social Services Department did not have any direct responsibility for the Community’s various units. Its concern with the Community was limited to its role as a placement authority to the extent that children in the care of Clwyd were placed with the Community and its role as the local authority charged with the duty of child protection within its area. From 14 October 1991, however, Clwyd became responsible for the registration of private children’s homes, including independent schools within the definition, and acquired powers of inspection.
21.127 We have already referred, in the context of Welsh Office inspections, to the doubts that had been expressed earlier about the status of Pentre Saeson because children were receiving education there. A similar problem arose in respect of Gatewen Hall because it had been registered as an independent school from 1978 under its previous ownership and the Community wished to maintain its registration after acquiring the premises in 1983. However, successive inspections in February 1984 and January and July 1986 confirmed that the premises were no longer being used as a school and Gatewen Hall was removed from the register in August 1986 despite Allen’s plea to maintain its status as a school. In the same year or the following year Bryntirion Hall ceased to operate as a children’s home.
21.128 Thus it was that Clwyd County Council received applications from the Community in or about October 1991 for the registration of Pentre Saeson Hall and Gatewen Hall as private children’s homes. There was then rather protracted correspondence with the Welsh Office about Pentre Saeson’s status and in the event, no decision was made in respect of either application within the statutorily prescribed period. The Community then appealed against what were “deemed refusals” to register and the appeals were dismissed by a Registered Homes Tribunal in December 1993. At the hearings of the appeals in September 1993 Clwyd County Council opposed them, a members’ panel having endorsed an officers’ recommendation against registration. The two children’s homes had been inspected by Clwyd in April 1993; and an investigation had been carried out by a team of three in May and June 1993 into certain complaints about Gatewen Hall. The appeal tribunal’s decision was made on the grounds that the proprietor of the Community was not a fit person to run a children’s home.
21.129 The question of registration of Bryn Alyn Hall as a children’s home under Part VIII of the Children Act 1989 did not arise until the Welsh Office withdrew SEN approval on 3 February 1997. It was then academic, however, because, in the letter of that date, the Welsh Office asked the Community “to liaise with placing authorities so that all pupils would be removed by 26 March 1997”. This request was made in the context that the Secretary of State was considering, as a separate issue, serving a Notice of Complaint. Nevertheless, Clwyd Social Services Department did earlier inspect Bryn Alyn Hall, in September 1992 and April 1993.
21.130 It is readily understandable that public concern, on the limited information then available, should have focused on the sexual abuse that was perpetrated on residents of the Community and, in particular, the abuse committed by John Allen himself. Whatever may have been Allen’s motives when he started the Bryn Alyn enterprise, his subsequent criminal conduct inflicted untold damage upon a large number of residents and, in many cases, distorted their subsequent lives. It is a cause for grave concern also that his influence extended for some beyond the period of their residence in care with the Community to later years when they should have been establishing themselves in normal patterns of life. Instead, it appears that they were encouraged to live in unfamiliar surroundings such as Brighton or London in accommodation (halfway houses or the like) provided or subsidised by Allen, without appropriate supervision or guidance, at a time when they were highly vulnerable and likely to fall prey to many temptations.
21.131 The evidence before us has, however, disclosed many other reasons for public anxiety. The heart of the matter is that a small group of unsuitable and ill-trained persons was able to establish, with official sanction, a mushrooming centre for the care and education of behaviourally disturbed children when they had virtually none of the resources necessary to cope adequately with the task. The dangers attendant upon Allen’s “expansionist” ambitions were recognised by Welsh Office Inspectors as early as November 1975 but the basic problems were allowed to persist and, to some extent, proliferate for over 20 years, despite quite frequent further inspections and some reports of alleged abuse. Throughout that period local authorities from far afield were able to consign “difficult” children to the Community for long stays, cut off from their families and local environments, with little prospect that they would eventually return better equipped to take their place in society. Yet this very problem had been canvassed in November 1988 in a summary of an inspectors’ report. A harsh but fair assessment would be that local authorities, acting in good faith, were persuaded by Allen’s blandishments and the Community’s advertising documents, to use the Community as an apparently safe dumping ground for children in care for whose needs they did not feel able to provide themselves.
21.132 On the basis of the evidence before us our findings are that:
(a) The Community’s staff were largely untrained and very few indeed had any training or experience in dealing with the special problems and needs of disturbed children.
(b) Members of the staff were not given any clear explanation of what the Community sought to achieve with individual children.
(c) Until Stephen Elliott assumed senior responsibilities there was no adequate managerial or supervisory control and the separate units within the Community were largely self-governing.
(d) There were many periods during which accommodation was over-crowded and staff/resident ratios inadequate. Physical conditions for the residents were often poor.
(e) Many children were retained by the Community, despite the fact that the regime was unsuitable for them to the knowledge of members of the staff.
(f) Despite the establishment of a key worker system at some stage following the Barclay Report in 1982, it had little impact on the residents and there was throughout a lack of individual care and attention to individual needs, except possibly for a favoured few.
(g) There were genuine attempts in the later stages to improve the regime but these attempts were bedevilled by financial difficulties stemming from earlier over-expansion and dissipation of resources in the absence of adequate managerial and financial control.
21.133 It has been difficult to obtain an accurate picture of the extent of physical abuse of staff and peer bullying because the number of former residents who have provided evidence is small as a proportion of the total number of children and young persons who were admitted to the Community and of those who eventually made complaints to the police. The picture given by Denis Williams was truly alarming. We do not doubt his sincerity but he stayed for only three days and his strictures upon particular individuals were not mirrored by the volume of subsequent complaints about them, despite their long service with the Community. We are satisfied that excessive force was used by members of the staff quite frequently, particularly in the early years of the Community when staff were almost wholly untrained; and in that context it is likely that bullying was prevalent. But we do not consider that the use of force by staff or residents was ever on a similar scale to that used in Bryn Estyn and we believe that the level receded in later years as more staff were trained, they matured and the climate of opinion generally hardened against any form of corporal punishment.
274 However, Pentre Saeson Hall, valued at £150,000, was transferred to White senior in lieu of a three year pension on 2 February 1995. Back
275 See paras 4.25 to 4.27. Back
276 See para 13.03. Back
277 See para 21.06 for the Clwyd and Gwynedd numbers. Back
278 See para 2.35(6). Back
279 See para 4.24. Back
280 See para 4.23. Back
281 Ibid. Back
282 For comment on this transfer see para 46.44. Back
283 The investigation into this fire by Sussex Police was re-opened in the course of the Tribunal’s hearings but no arrest has been made. Back
284 See para 21.11. Back
285 See para 2.07(1). Back
286 See para 2.07(5). Back
287 See para 21.56 for the decision in relation to the Team Leader. Back
288 This was the investigation previously referred to in para 21.53. Back
289 See para 21.36. Back
290 See paras 21.27 to 21.30. Back
291 See para 21.83 for the prelude to this incident. Back
292 See paras 21.14 and 21.101. Back
293 See further in relation to this incident para 21.101. Back
294 See para 21.52. Back
295 See paras 21.63 and 21.64. Back
296 “Scrubs,” according to one witness, involved wearing a vest, shorts and black pumps, with no socks or shoe laces, and working at a variety of unpleasant menial tasks without gloves and often with inappropriate equipment such as a toothbrush. Back
297 See para 21.14. Back
298 See paras 21.69 to 21.72. Back
299 Letter from Devon Social Services Department to D Brushett SSI, Welsh Office, dated 29 May 1991. Back
300 See paras 21.52, 21.53 and 21.56. Back
301 See para 21.16. Back
302 See paras 21.63 to 21.66. Back
303 See paras 4.25 to 4.27. Back
304 See Appendix 6, paras 15 and 18 to 20. Back
305 Ibid, para 29. Back
306 See Appendix 6, paras 38 and 39. Back
307 The procedure was by then governed by section 347(5)(a) of the Education Act 1996. Back
308 See Appendix 6, para 40. Back
309 See Appendix 6, paras 15, 18 to 20 and 42. Back
310 Under section 63 of the Children Act 1989. Back
311 See Appendix 6, paras 18 and 19, where the definition of “children’s home” is explained. Back
312 See para 21.124. Back