Ancestry UK

The North Wales Child Abuse Scandal

What became known as the North Wales child abuse scandal began to surface in 1986 when allegations were made by Alison Taylor concerning the physical and sexual abuse of children by staff at a number of residential homes in the region. Taylor was then the Officer in Charge at the Ty Newydd children's home in Bangor, North Wales, run by the Gwynedd County Council. Her allegations were based on complaints from children coming to Ty Newydd from other establishments, both privately operated homes and ones run by Clywd and Gwynedd County Councils.

Taylor initially presented a dossier of the allegations to her council superiors but, after no action resulted, she went to the police, upon which the council suspended her. After an initial police investigation that also led to no proceedings being taken, Taylor was branded by the council as a 'blatant trouble maker' and 'a most unfit person to be in charge of a children's home'. Undaunted, she continued her campaign for a public inquiry, unearthing further cases of abuse, including some by staff at the Clwyd Council's Bryn Estyn home in Wrexham. Following a major investigation by the North Wales Police during 1991–3, six individuals, including a deputy principal and a housemaster at Bryn Estyn, were convicted of serious sexual offences.

In 1994, Clywd Council commissioned John Jillings to chair an internal investigation into allegations of abuse against residents of its children's homes in the 1970s and 1980s. His report was completed two years later but not published because of legal advice that it could expose the authority to compensation claims from those involved.

In 1996, with ongoing public concern about child care in North Wales, William Hague, the then Secretary of State for Wales, ordered a judicial inquiry into the abuse of children in care homes in former county council areas of Clwyd and Gwynedd (both authorities being abolished in 1996). A retired High Court judge, Sir Ronald Waterhouse, was appointed as its chair.

The Waterhouse Inquiry's findings, entitled Lost in Care, were published in February 2000. The report's major conclusion was that 'widespread sexual abuse of boys occurred in children's residential establishments in Clwyd between 1974 and 1990'. The report provided an extensive catalogue of the offenders and offences. As well as Bryn Estyn, considerable abuse had occurred at the council's Cartrefle home in Broughton. There were some incidents of sexual abuse of girl residents in these establishments but they were comparatively rare.

The report also found that widespread sexual abuse of boys had taken place in privately run children's homes in Clwyd throughout the same period, with sexual abuse of girls also occurring to an alarming extent. Prominent among these were the homes and hostels operated by the Bryn Alyn Community. In 1995, John Allen, the founder of the Community, was sentenced to six years' imprisonment for having sexually abused boys in his care during the 1970s. It also emerged that another member of the staff had been convicted in 1976 for sexual assaults on boys, and the deputy head teacher of the Community's school had been given six months' imprisonment in 1986 for unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl resident under 16 years of age.

As regards physical abuse, the Waterhouse Inquiry also revealed that unacceptable use of force in disciplining and restraining residents had occurred at not less than six local authority homes in Clwyd, despite Clwyd Council policy that no member of staff should inflict corporal punishment on any child or young person in any circumstances. The inquiry found that although some instances of abuse had taken place in Gwynedd, it had been on a very much smaller scale than in Clwyd.

Waterhouse concluded that no evidence had been presented to establish that there was a wide-ranging conspiracy involving prominent persons and others with the objective of sexual activity with children in care. It did accept, however, that a paedophile ring had operated in the Chester and Wrexham areas for much of the period under review. The inquiry's seventy-two recommendations covered changes and improvements in areas such as the detection of, and response to, abuse, the prevention of abuse, the regulation of private homes, inspection procedures, the structure and training of staff and the consideration of strategic issues.

In 2013, a redacted version of the Jillings Report was finally released. It recorded: 'Our investigations have led us to conclude that the abuse of children and young people in Clwyd residential units has been extensive, and has taken place over a substantial number of years … It is clear that, in a significant number of cases, the lives of young people who have been through the care system in Clwyd have been severely disrupted and disturbed. At least twelve young people are dead.' Jillings severely criticized the North Wales Police, and noted that 'the most striking fact to emerge is that five men who shared in common their employment as residential care workers at Bryn Estyn were convicted of serious offences involving at least twenty-four young people'.

Following the death of the television personality Jimmy Savile in 2011, a considerable number of allegations began to emerge about his abusive activities over a period of many years in a large number of institutions. These included a number of fresh complaints about abuse in homes in North Wales. In November 2012, the Prime Minister announced that a review would take place into the workings of the Waterhouse Inquiry, with Mrs Justice Julia Macur subsequently appointed to the task. At around the same time, a new investigation known as Operation Pallial was set up to examine the new and existing complaints. In August 2013, John Allen, now aged 71, appeared in court charged with thirty-two serious sexual offences relating to allegations of historic child abuse. He was later sentenced to life imprisonment.