Town Hall leader ‘tried to coax through fostering bid by convicted child sex offender’

By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter

A Town Hall leader tried to coax through a fostering application by a man with a child sex conviction, an inquiry has heard.

An unprecedented public hearing into historic child sex abuse was told convicted offender Michael John Carroll was running a Lambeth children’s home when he and his wife applied to foster children in Croydon.

Croydon social workers in 1986 alerted Lambeth to his 1978 criminal record – but Lambeth only gave him a “final warning” after a disciplinary hearing, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) heard.

He was still allowed to run Angell Road children’s home, as he had done since it opened in 1981 and was only dismissed for “financial irregularities” in 1991.

In 1999, Carroll was convicted of a string of child abuse offences on boys in the north west and in Lambeth, at Liverpool Crown Court. He was jailed for 10 years.

But the IICSA was told Janet Boateng, then Lambeth social services chairwoman, allegedly pressured Southwark officials – who were not even involved in the two boys’ care – into allowing Carroll and his wife June to foster them.

Lambeth officials allegedly also told Southwark social services not to be “too rigorous” with the fostering application.

Someone claiming to be Janet Boateng’s husband, ex-MP and former cabinet minister Lord Paul Boateng, called a Southwark manager, Clive Charles Walsh, to convince him to rubber-stamp Carroll’s application.

Giving evidence at the inquiry on Tuesday, Mr Walsh, former probation officer and assistant director of Southwark social services from 1978-1985, said the reasons he blocked the Carrolls’ application had been “expunged” from the record.

Mr Walsh said Carroll’s conviction had been brought to his attention by the then principal officer responsible for southern Southwark.

Mr Walsh told the inquiry: “He came to see me on behalf of the staff at our area office because they had received a strange and troublesome request.

“They were being asked [by Lambeth] to provide agreement in short order to a fostering application in respect of Mr and Mrs Carroll.

“The request came in the terms of it wouldn’t be necessary to be too rigorous because Mr Carroll was already a head of a children’s home.

“He was a long-serving trusted member of staff. More to the point he and his wife were already defacto social aunt and uncle to the two boys they were asking to foster.”

Mr Walsh took the view that Mr Carroll was “statute barred from fostering” and he had “serious doubts about the appropriateness of him being in charge of a children’s home”.  He took the decision to refuse approval, which he says he communicated to Don Glen, the principal officer.

Counsel to the inquiry Clair Dobbin asked why Croydon, the local authority responsible for the children, wasn’t carrying out the assessment, when they were also assessing the Carrolls for another child in their care.

Mr Walsh said: “Transparency would indicate the approach should have been to Croydon. It was known in Lambeth that Croydon were not intending to approve the Carrolls’ foster parents’ application.

“If you want me to be brutally honest this had all the hallmarks of a side movement to get some degree of approval from somewhere that would give a degree of validity to the Carrolls.”

Ms Dobbin asked if “Lambeth was going behind the back of Croydon to arrange a foster placement for Croydon children with the Carrolls”.

Mr Walsh replied: “It had that appearance at the time.”

The inquiry heard when Mr Walsh decided against the agreement, which he put in writing, he was called into a meeting with Lambeth and Southwark officials and Lady Boateng – though she denies she was there.

Mr Walsh said his director “instructed” him to attend because “there was a problem with the decision” and added he was “taken to task” by a senior officer for his decision on Carroll.

“He took me to task for what he took to be my interference in Lambeth decision-making,” Mr Walsh said.

Mr Walsh said he “drew a parallel between” Mr Carroll’s failing to disclose his offence and Lambeth’s “failing to disclose his offence to us”, and the meeting “fell apart”.

He added: “At that point it became quite argumentative. At that point Southwark councillors started to grasp Mr Carroll’s offence was actually sexual assault on a child.

“They then became angry. They felt that they had been misled. They were outraged there was a man running a children’s home in Lambeth who had a conviction for sexually assaulting a significantly younger child.”

Mr Walsh said Lambeth’s preference was to have his decision overturned but their “demand was that the record of my view of the inappropriateness of Mr Carroll working as a head of home be expunged from the record”.

Mrs Boateng says she left Lambeth council in March 1986 and she left the borough in April 1987

Lady Boateng stated Michael Carroll’s conviction “was never, ever drawn to my attention,” and categorically denies ever having been part of any meeting which discussed his application for fostering and adoption from any member of staff at Lambeth.

She says she would “never lobby, because it would have been a conflict of interest, and therefore it would have been totally wrong for me to do that”.

Mr Walsh also told the inquiry that someone claiming to be Mr Boateng rang him asking if he could help resolve the situation.

“I received a telephone call from a male person who introduced himself as Paul Boateng and who asked whether or not he could be of assistance in resolving this troublesome matter. My position was that the matter was closed and dealt with so there was no help to be given.”

Mr Walsh told the inquiry he could not be sure it was actually Mr Boateng as it wouldn’t have been “uncommon” that people “purporting to be people whom they were not” would ring him.

Ms Rachel Langdale, QC, counsel to the inquiry said last month an ex Lambeth employee, who told the media she had seen Paul Boateng at Angell Road, has since died.

The Labour peer told police in 2019 he had never met and had no knowledge of Carroll.

The IICSA is examining how hundreds of children in Lambeth Council care were abused in care between the 1930s and 1990s. The inquiry continues.

Pictured top: Victims and families throwing roses into the sea at Brighton

 


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