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Scandal of Kerelaw: 40 staff abused youngsters

By David Leask, Glasgow Herald 14th June 2007

FORTY care workers preyed either sexually or physically on Scottish children in what is one of Britain's biggest abuse scandals, a report will reveal today.

A three-year investigation has found “a significant core of staff” at Kerelaw residential unit in Ayrshire were directly involved. They preyed on some of the most troubled and troubling youngsters in the country, sometimes in the full knowledge of colleagues and superiors amid “a culture of fear and collusion”.

Glasgow City Council, which ran Kerelaw, will today publish its first full report on what happened at the school. It will also issue a chilling warning that some of the workers it believes were involved are still working in Scotland's care sector.

The report, a copy of which has been seen by The Herald, reveals that far more members of staff than ever before suggested were caught up in the abuse.

The report says: “The investigation shows that there was a significant core of staff, around 40 individuals, directly involved in the abuse of young people.

“However, a far larger number of staff had knowledge and information about abuse and potential abuse, and were unwilling or unable to address this abuse.”

Council investigators also found fault with senior social work and education managers in the authority.

The report says: “It is also clear that there have been deficiencies in the quantity, quality, visibility and assertiveness of external management.”

Kerelaw had generated complaints of abuse and neglect for decades; most went unheard, some uninvestigated. The report makes no attempt to quantify how many children were abused. Insiders suggest it was many hundreds, mostly victims of "rough" or violent restraining rather than sexual assaults or inappropriate sexual relationships.

Glasgow City Council shut Kerelaw last year after removing the school's entire management in June 2004 and after an initial tip-off from a whistleblower within the school. There is now nobody left working in the council who was responsible for the internal or external management of the school.

Today's report will also reveal that fully 20 members of staff have been reported to the procurator-fiscal. Two of those - art teacher Matt George and care manager John Muldoon - have been jailed, for 10 years and two and a half years respectively. Another has died and cases have been dropped against two others.

There are still outstanding cases being made or prosecuted against 15 members of staff, five for sexual offences and 10 for “multiple assaults”.

A council spokesman said: “The investigation found a significant core of staff, including some managers, were directly involved in the abuse of young people while many others were unable or unwilling to act against this abuse.

“Within a culture of fear and collusion, it is evident that allegations from young people went unheard. Deficiencies in the external management system contributed to this failing.

“A number of independent individuals and organisations with access to Kerelaw were also in a position to identify abuse but they too failed to do so.

“As a direct consequence of the investigation, the council has implemented a wide-ranging response to safeguard young people in our care system in future.

“Fourteen members of staff have been dismissed, a number of others have been disciplined.”

Many former members of staff claim they are the victims of false and malicious allegations made by former pupils, some seeking financial compensation. The council, which was initially due to publish a report on the investigation last year, is expected to face lawsuits worth at least GBP8m.

Glasgow took over the school, which was near Stevenston, after local government reorganisation in 1995. It had previously belonged to the old Strathclyde council, whose insurers have already entered into settlement talks on one claim for damages.

The school, at its height, had 165 care and teaching professionals and a maximum of 74 pupils, 24 of them in a secure unit. Residents came from across Scotland with the biggest single contingent from Glasgow. Most were boys aged over 13.

VIOLENT PAST: A three-year inquiry found there was “a culture of fear and collusion” at Kerelaw.

A three-year investigation has found “a significant core of staff” at Kerelaw residential unit in Ayrshire were directly involved. They preyed on some of the most troubled and troubling youngsters in the country, sometimes in the full knowledge of colleagues and superiors amid “a culture of fear and collusion”.

“However, a far larger number of staff had knowledge and information about abuse and potential abuse, and were unwilling or unable to address this abuse.”

Kerelaw had generated complaints of abuse and neglect for decades; most went unheard, some uninvestigated. The report makes no attempt to quantify how many children were abused. Insiders suggest it was many hundreds, mostly victims of "rough" or violent restraining rather than sexual assaults or inappropriate sexual relationships.

 

Copyright © 2007 Newsquest Media Group

 
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