Town hall chief: ‘Claims I knew of abuse are lies’

Rochdale Observer - - CHILD SEX ABUSE INQUIRY - Jen­nifer.williams@men-news.co.uk @jen­williams­men

ROCHDALE town hall’s leader has ac­cused a Labour col­league of ‘ly­ing’ and ‘smear­ing’ him amid claims he knew about sex­ual abuse at Knowl View school 25 years ago.

In an ex­tra­or­di­nary tes­ti­mony to the na­tional child abuse in­quiry, Coun Richard Far­nell blamed se­nior of­fi­cers for the scandal, which he said had only come to his at­ten­tion in 2014.

Coun Far­nell had also been leader be­tween 1986 and 1992, when boys in the coun­cil-run Knowl View school were be­ing sub­jected to hor­ren­dous sex­ual abuse, in­clud­ing rape.

He told the in­quiry – which is in­ves­ti­gat­ing in­sti­tu­tion­alised abuse across the coun­try – re­peat­edly that he had never heard of any al­le­ga­tions re­lat­ing to the school un­til re­cently, adding: “I am not pre­pared to ac­cept per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity for... fail­ing to take ac­tion in this mat­ter.”

Coun Far­nell was re­peat­edly chal­lenged by Brian Altman QC, who pointed out his direc­tor of ed­u­ca­tion, direc­tor of social ser­vices, ed­u­ca­tion chair and op­po­si­tion mem­bers were all on record as hav­ing been aware of the al­le­ga­tions.

But he in­sisted he had never been briefed.

Asked when he first learned about ‘se­ri­ous prob­lems’ at the school, Coun Far­nell said: “The very first time would be two to three years ago when Si­mon Danczuk, MP, raised th­ese mat­ters un­der priv­i­lege in the House of Com­mons and then went on to write a book de­tail­ing the fail­ures at Knowl View.”

In the hear­ing it emerged that one of his own Labour coun­cil­lors, Peter Join­son, had told po­lice that he had in fact known of the abuse.

The for­mer Labour chief whip – who is still coun­cil­lor for South Mid­dle­ton – tes­ti­fied that Coun Far­nell had ad­mit­ted to hav­ing been aware of al­le­ga­tions in the early 1990s, when an in­ter­nal re­port was be­ing pre­pared into abuse at the school.

Coun Far­nell in­sisted that tes­ti­mony was down to a ‘smear cam­paign’ that was part of an in­ter­nal ‘civil war’ within his own party.

“It’s cer­tainly my con­tention he’s ly­ing about it,” he said.

Cam­paign­ers have been push­ing for 25 years for a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion into abuse at Knowl View.

Greater Manch­ester Po­lice looked at the al­le­ga­tions as part of Op­er­a­tion Cleopa­tra in the 1990s, but no­body was ever charged.

●●Rochdale coun­cil leader Richard Far­nell

●●Coun Peter Join­son

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