Newcastle City Council, Brian Roycroft, and North Wales care homes
Written by a former social work professional who wishes to remain anonymous.
Local publicity about the connection between children and young people in the care and protection of Newcastle City Council and Bryn Alyn only became public in the 2000 with the publication of the Waterhouse Report following the prosecution of a number of individuals for crimes of physical and sexual violence in residential care in Wales
The Mail on Sunday Feb 13th 2000 reported that the £13 million inquiry stopped short of concluding that the abuse was orchestrated by a ring of paedophiles who helped each other to secure top jobs in in the Welsh Care system and which were said to include policemen, public servants and businessmen- this included a Welsh Office Inspector of Homes who was sentenced to 14 years.
12 former children in care were known to have committed suicide because of their experiences.
Locally the first reference to the Waterhouse Inquiry revelations occurred on Feb 15th when the Sunderland Echo commented on the report noting that two weeks beforehand Sunderland’s “longest running child abuse Inquiry collapsed.” The Echo paper appears to be making the point that the passage of time did not appear to have affected the successful prosecution in Wales and other situations.
The point made by the Sunderland Echo back in 2000 has been strengthened for on April 29th 2013, that is another decade after the third Witherwack trial ended, the Director General of the National Crime Agency issued a Public report on the progress of Operation Pallial covering 140 complainants reporting offences in 18 establishments in North Wales 1963-1992 against 84 named individuals. Operation Pallial continues. The 18 page progress report makes reference to the establishment of a review of the working of the Waterhouse Inquiry conducted for the Ministry of Justice by Lady Justice Macur DBE and which published an Issues Paper on January 8th 2013 which included a call of information.
In October 2013 Cathy Fox used an FOI request to ask the Ministry of Justice when the Macur report would be published. Further requests were made in December and May of this year. No date has been fixed.
On February 16th 2000 under the headline Suffer the Little Children the Newcastle Journal provided the story of one of the victims in Sunderland mentioning that the NSPCC report had referred to a web of institutional abuse and reported that 32 staff had been involved.
The Journal article also refers to the Pin Down regime in Staffordshire, to an investigation in Northumberland and the 300 complaints which has arisen to that date as part of Operation Rose.
On February 16th, the Journal also published an editorial covering the Waterhouse Inquiry and the 1998 Utting report
The Sunderland Echo also published an editorial Two Decades of Horrific Abuse and an article on the movement of staff suspects between local authorities. The Newcastle Spotlight on Abuse article is important drawing attention to the role of the Director of Social Services Roycroft in relation to the 1976 Hugh Bostock Scandal and his alleged opposition to the proposal for a register of dismissed staff. Cathy Fox’s request for Hugh Bostock inquiry info to be published was refused.
On Feb 17th the Newcastle-based Journal published the story of one victim who contacted them among the 28 who were said to have been assaulted after being placed in Bryn Alyn by the City of Newcastle.
NB A subsequent report indicated that only a small number had approached Newcastle Police with complaints.
The Feb 17th complainant mentioned that Director of Social Services Brian Roycroft visited the home to open an extension. “It was almost laughable he was singing the praises of the place yet what was going on there was evil.”
Roycroft was Director of Social Services for Newcastle 1971- 1993 and before then its Children’s officer, who also acted as Director of Education and Chief Executive for short periods, and was appointed a European Social Commissioner by Margaret Thatcher as well as having a controlling influence within the Association of Directors of Social Services and the advisors to the Association of Metropolitan local authorities.
He commented in what appeared to be a prepared statement “ It is fairly common place to send children with behavioural difficulties to homes around the country, here weren’t the facilities available in the North East. It is perfectly possible that some children from Newcastle and the North East did go to some of the homes in North Wales named in the Waterhouse report. I had 42,000 children in my care during my career and I cannot possible remember where they all went. It is also perfectly feasible that I did visit the Bryn Alyn Home “ It is noteworthy that although he left Newcastle a number of years before he knew the total number of children was over 42,000
“I would often visit homes where children from Newcastle were in care as would social service staff from the city” The article includes comments from the then current Director of Social Services for Newcastle.
In 1987, that is a year after the first complaints about the conduct of the owner of Bryn Alyn were made, Roycroft who was then President of the Association of Directors of Social Service recommended colleagues at the North East Region branch meeting the placement of children in care at Bryn Alyn, speaking warmly of the hospitality he had received. He rarely mentioned his national/internationally activities.
Roycroft also made a point of advising colleagues on another occasion that he sometimes invited children in care to his home.
It was then on morning of the 18th that the Journal posed the question Why were 69 of our Children sent to Bryn Alyn? The key sentence in the article (9) is the reference to a Labour MP Chris Ruane Vale of Clwyd (and still there) wanted Prime Minister Tony Blair to assure him that prominent people had not been left out.
Also regarded of significance is the accompanying piece about one former young man how he had been threatened at gun point by a staff member before insisting on sex. Was their proper investigations of residents reported missing from the home who were never found by their placing local authorities? The Editorial demanded the facts and the inquiry report to be published.
The importance of establishing a timeline database to include the various police investigations and other inquiries is reinforced by the Daily Mail front page headline article on the same morning – Even Worse– suggesting the potential of 11,000 victims based on the Lambeth-centred inquiry Operation Middleton and which also referred to Operation Care Merseyside and to an operation in Birmingham. The Newcastle Chronicle that evening asked for one victim placed at Bryn Alyn by North Tyneside – Why did no one listen to me?
On the 19th the Journal again asked the question Why did they keep sending children? The article refers to the 1988 devastating report of its Director on its Children’s Homes and which included Bryn Alyn.
The 19th saw the Journal report the story of Michelle Atkinson in relation to a Newcastle residential care home. On the same date the Journal reported that David Brushett, the Welsh Office Children’s Inspector who had worked at the former Approved School, Aycliffe County Durham joint secure remand centre and community home with education on he premises from 1967 to 1974 when he had become deputy Headmaster at the school part of the establishment.
The Chronicle then disclosed on February 25th that Peter Howarth who was convicted and sentenced to ten years for crimes at the notorious Bryn Estyn Establishment had worked at the former Axwell Park (renamed Clavering House) Newcastle establishment. The then current Director of Social Services called for any victims to come forward in a Journal article on the 26th.
In 1968 following the conviction of Mary Bell aged 11 years for the murder of two boys, Roycroft then Children’s Officer Newcastle became personally involved with her welfare and was widely praised by the author of two books on the murders and the life of Mary as “one of the finest social workers in the country” and referred to “his passion for “social justice.” quoted in the Guardian Obituary.
As already mentioned in 1976 Roycroft was at the centre of concern about the conviction of Newcastle Residential Home officer Hugh Bostock. The Council has refused to publish its internal report via a Cathy Fox FOI request.
Roycroft who died in 2002 during the libel action against the Council and the authors of the report on the Shielfield Nursery Scandal (the Chronicle settled out of court) was also the lead member of the team who investigated the conviction of the Calderdale Social Services Director in 1988 (when he was immediate past President of ADSS) for crimes against children in care and Calderdale director was reported to have links with Peter Righton)
In 1994 Roycroft was part of the part Inquiry into Oxenden House. A Cathy Fox FOI request for a copy of the report to be published has been refused.