Children who said they were abused simply not listened to, council boss admits

John Sinnott, Leicestershire County Council chief executive, said child protection measures in the past were ‘inadequate’, but had improved since.

Lord Janner
Lord Janner

Vulnerable children who said they were abused at residential care homes in Leicestershire in the 1970s and 1980s were “simply not listened to” by senior staff, who failed to “take a serious grip” of problems, an inquiry has heard.

Leicestershire County Council chief executive John Sinnott told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) that procedures for dealing with complaints were “inadequate”, but that improvements to child protection in the region meant the system was “unrecognisable” now compared with decades earlier.

Mr Sinnott was giving evidence into the strand of the long-running inquiry examining how council staff, the police and care home employees responded to allegations that the late Labour peer Lord Janner abused young boys in care.

Lord Janner
Lord Janner, the former Leicestershire MP, was accused of abusing children in care but died in 2015 while awaiting trial (PA)

He told the inquiry: “I formed the opinion … that the complaints were simply not listened to in the way you would expect them to be listened to.

“Senior management did not take a serious grip of, clearly, a problem.”

Allegations against the former Leicestershire MP first emerged publicly in the trial of disgraced care home boss Frank Beck in 1991, although the Sir Richard Henriques report in 2016 found that failures by police and prosecutors meant three chances were missed to charge Lord Janner, in 1991, 2002 and 2007.

Lord Janner, who had Alzheimer’s, died in December 2015 while awaiting trial for 22 counts of child sexual abuse offences, relating to nine different boys, dating back half a century.

He denied the allegations.

Lord Janner
Lord Janner was last seen in public in 2015, when he appeared in court on child abuse allegations (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The inquiry heard Mr Sinnott describe how the council, which stopped operating children’s homes in 2018, accepted that its procedures for detecting and responding to abuse within residential children’s homes in the period between the 1960s and 1980s were “inadequate”.

He said that complaints of abuse were “not properly dealt with, investigations were carried out on an ad-hoc basis and there was little oversight from senior management”.

But he cited a raft of improvements, such as Ofsted inspections, that meant the situation was “very, very different” now than in the 1970s and 1980s.

Tuesday’s hearing lasted less than 30 minutes before moving into a closed session, from which members of the public are banned.

Vast swathes of evidence have been heard behind closed doors since the “Janner responses” strand of the inquiry opened on October 12, amid concerns evidence could lead to the identification of sexual abuse complainants.

All complainants of sexual abuse are granted automatic anonymity, although some later waive that right.

The inquiry is due to conclude at the end of next week.

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