Date published: 12 April 2018 by Rochdale online
Richard Farnell lied when giving evidence, a damning report publishing the findings of an inquiry into historic sex abuse in Rochdale has concluded.
Published on Thursday (12 April), the findings outline the result of a two-week inquiry last October, which was opened by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) into alleged abuse which took place in Rochdale at Cambridge House Hostel and Knowl View residential school, when Cyril Smith was a governor.
The Inquiry found that the leader of Rochdale Council from 1986 to 1992, Richard Farnell, lied to the Inquiry during his evidence. They preferred the evidence of former Labour Chief Whip Peter Joinson, who supported other evidence suggesting that Mr Farnell must have known at least in general about child sexual abuse at Knowl View.
The Inquiry report states: “It defies belief that Mr Farnell was unaware of the events involving Knowl View, especially given the Middleton cases. They also rejected the notion that Mr Farnell was not alerted by the then chair of education about a further potential risk to the reputation of the council, let alone its statutory duty of care towards abused children.
“Regarding Farnell’s final statements at the hearing, the Inquiry said it was shameful that he refused to accept any personal responsibility for the young lives blighted by what happened at Knowl View whilst he was leader. Instead, he blamed senior officials in education and social services council departments.
“The Inquiry also concluded that Paul Rowen, Farnell’s successor, bore considerable responsibility for the school As with Farnell, he was prepared to blame others without acknowledging his own failures of leadership. At best, he was insufficiently inquisitive about Knowl View, despite knowing about serious problems that persisted at the school; at worst, he turned a blind eye to these problems, and chose to give them low priority.
“The inquiry received letters of support for Farnell’s account and concluded they contained no relevance evidentially and were no more than opinion. The Inquiry had no hesitation in preferring the evidence of Mr Joinson over that of Mr Farnell, the former of whom came across as mild-mannered and meek, whereas the latter came across as bullish, self-opinionated and unyielding.”
Mr Farnell, who has been suspended from the Labour Party over the damning findings, said: “Failures by Rochdale Council, the police and other agencies in protecting children from abuse should never have happened”
He added: “The Inquiry covered events going back 60 years. For the period in which I was leader of Rochdale Council from 1986 to 1992, I am deeply sorry and I apologise to all those who suffered as a result of the grave mistakes made and the unacceptable failings of the Council in respect of the children being cared for at Knowl View.
“However, I am shocked at the findings of the Inquiry. I told the truth.
“There is clear evidence that I was not informed about Knowl View during my time as leader:
“The three most senior officers of the council responsible for informing and advising the Leader of the Council – the Chief Executive, the Director of Education and the Director of Social Services – all said in evidence they did not tell me about Knowl View.
“The Inquiry has examined 140,000 pages of documents relating to Knowl View. There is not one single letter, memo, report, council minute or briefing note addressed to me informing me about the events at Knowl View.
“A two-year police investigation found no evidence whatsoever that I was involved in a cover-up of events at Knowl View.
“I now need time to consider the report in full before commenting further.”