Council boss ‘not prepared’ to accept any responsibility
●●HERE are some key exchanges between Coun Farnell and Mr Altman:
BA: So what did she [council education chief Mary Moffat] tell you about Knowl View?
RF: I have no recollection of Mary Moffat raising Knowl View with me.
BA: So Mary Moffat was – for a short period of time during your leadership – your deputy, who was throughout the whole period of time of your leadership the education chair. You say you have got no recollection at all of her ever raising Knowl View with you?
RF: I have no recollection whatsoever.
BA: When you say, Mr Farnell, ‘I Richard Farnell have no recollection whatsoever’ what does that really mean?
RF: I do not recollect Mary Moffat mentioning to me any issue concerned with Knowl View. If she’d raised it I wouldn’t have forgotten.
BA: So what you are really telling us is she never did.
RF: Yes. Yes I’m saying that.
BA: So Mary Moffat, in all the years we know there were problems at Knowl View, not a word? RF: Not a word. BA: So she left you, your erstwhile deputy and education chair, completely and utterly exposed as Labour leader of the council, to a scandal at Knowl View? Is that what you are telling us?
RF: What I’m saying is Mary Moffat’s style wasn’t to come running to me every five minutes with problems within the department. She was a formidable politician in her own right. She got on with the job and she was confident in her own ability to deal with the issues that were put before her.
BA: But just think what you are saying, Mr Farnell. You are the leader. She was the education chair. And however formidable she was, any astute education chair would not leave the leader unsighted by the kind of issues this inquiry has heard about going on at Knowl View between 1989 and the time you lost your seat on the council in May 1992. Is that what you are seriously telling the inquiry? She never brought it to your attention?
RF: She never brought it to my attention. BA: Nor did anyone else? RF: No. ●●AT the end of Coun Farnell’s evidence Brian Altman asked whether the leader took any ‘personal responsibility’ for the failure to investigate abuse at Knowl View during the period of his leadership. Coun Farnell said the blame lay with senior officers for failing to brief him.
BA: Finally, this, Mr Farnell. You’ll presumably understand that several boys went through that school, vulnerable boys, and their lives were blighted by what happened to them. You understand that, don’t you? RF: Yes. BA: Presumably, you’re prepared to accept responsibility for that as leader during the period, aren’t you?
RF: The council should accept responsibility for what happened in Knowl View, and individuals must take responsibility for their own actions. BA: What about you? RF: Well, I bitterly regret that the senior officers of the council never once approached me to brief me about these matters. They had every opportunity to do so, and it was incumbent on them to give me those facts and they never did, and I bitterly regret that, because if they had done, I may have been able to help. I may have been able to challenge, as has already been said, the advice and the actions of the officers. ●●COUN Farnell said former director of education Diana Cavanagh, former director of social services Ian Davey and former chief executive John Pierce were all to blame.
BA: Just so we understand, because there will come a moment shortly when you leave this inquiry, Mr Farnell, but when you do, everybody should understand that you are not prepared to accept personal responsibility for this?
RF: I am not prepared to accept personal responsibility for failing to take action in this matter. For me to be able to take action in this matter, I would have had to be informed of the situation, and as clearly demonstrated, the key people – the people with the information, the people with the professional responsibility to inform me about these matters, failed to do so, and that’s a matter of record.
●●Knowl View school