By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter
Former MP Lord Paul Boateng has strenuously denied going to social events hosted by a convicted child sex offender who was running a Lambeth children’s home.
From the 1930s to the early 1990s, hundreds of children in Lambeth council’s care were subjected to prolonged sexual, racial, and physical abuse.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), looking into the “horrifying national scandal,” heard allegations that vulnerable children were targeted by paedophiles working at children’s homes controlled by the council.
The Inquiry previously heard that the council told Southwark social services not to be “too rigorous” with a fostering application from convicted child sex offender Michael John Carroll, and was “misleading” about the extent of his offence.
Carroll, known as John, was allowed to run Angell Road children’s home in Lambeth from its opening in 1981, despite the council knowing about his conviction.
He initially failed to disclose his conviction before being hired by Lambeth in 1978, but even when the council found out, he was able to keep his job.
He was later jailed for a string of child sex offences.
The Inquiry previously heard that around the time he was elected as an MP for Brent South in 1987, someone claiming to be Lord Boateng, husband of Lady Janet Boateng, former chairwoman of Lambeth’s social services committee, tried to convince a Southwark officer to give an independent rubber stamp to a fostering application from Carroll and his wife.
Giving evidence to the Inquiry on Thursday of last week, Lord Boateng denied knowing Carroll and said he had “no recollection” of ever meeting him.
He said he did not ring Clive Walsh, the social services officer in Southwark, to convince him to change his mind about the fostering application. He “didn’t know Michael John Carroll” and had “no idea he was seeking to foster children”.
“I was in no position to phone or get involved in any way,” he said.
Lord Boateng formerly worked as a criminal lawyer in the youth justice system.
When asked if he was involved in any cover-up of the abuse of children he said there was “no way” in which he “would be complicit” in a cover-up.
“My whole life’s work as a lawyer and as a politician has been in giving young people a voice, as being an advocate for them,” he said.
“There’s no way in which I would be complicit in any cover-up of abuse and of harm done to young people.”
Lord Boateng said he had “no recollection” of ever visiting Angell Road, but he might have done in order to visit clients when he was in legal practice.
He also denied attending parties there.
“I didn’t know anyone at Angell Road, my wife didn’t know anyone at Angell Road. We had no connection of friendship or affinity with anyone there.
“So there is no way that I would be attending social events at Angell Road,” he said.
Lord Boateng said that although none of his young clients ever reported experiencing sexual abuse, they would often speak about suffering “racism and neglect” at the hands of police and social workers.
He said: “What they did disclose to me was a sense of deep alienation, a sense in some incidences of anger, a sense that they were being neglected and not heard. A sense that they weren’t really being cared for or looked after.”
Helen Kenward, an independent child protection consultant hired in 1998 to look into the abuse as part of the Children in Lambeth Homes Enquiry (CHILE), told the Inquiry earlier in the afternoon that Carroll was supported by senior management.
The Inquiry heard that Ms Kenward described Carroll in her statement as “part of a wider [national] network”.
“John Carroll was a charismatic person who could be either dominant and bullying or seductive and charming,” she said.
The Inquiry heard that during Ms Kenward’s and her team’s investigation, they “discovered evidence that (Carroll) was linked to other known paedophiles around the country who were also involved in the residential care of children”.
“If you’re a stamp collector and wanted a particular stamp you would go to a person in another authority who was a stamp collector. And paedophiles operate in that way,” Ms Kenward said.
In her statement she said: “Carroll groomed the community, the staff, and children. For some there was disbelief and anger that he had been allowed to practise.”
She told the Inquiry that internally there were staff saying “this isn’t right,” but when they made complaints “they were treated as whistleblowers in a very negative sort of way”.
She said: “So those people had a very negative view of John Carroll and that he shouldn’t have been allowed to practise.
“He was also supported by the organisation, senior managers supported him in his role as a manager of a children’s home.
“If you’re a paedophile and you have that kind of support you manipulate it,” Ms Kenward said.
She also said the council had bad practice of dealing with complaints, that Carroll was one of the investigators when someone made a complaint against him, that senior management was “dismissive of the whole process” of “uncovering any kind of abuse,” and that people actively hid evidence during the investigation.
“The fact that files went missing, people hid them, people didn’t come forward when they clearly had information.
“That was a symptom of the way the organisation had been allowed to deteriorate,” Ms Kenward said.
The Inquiry continues.
Pictured top: Relatives throw flowers into the sea at Brighton to remember abuse victims
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