Police should urgently investigate Lambeth Council’s “cover-up” of the death of a child who suffered abuse in its care, a lawyer representing the victim’s sister has said.

A report published on July 27 by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse found that for decades children in Lambeth’s care were subjected to levels of cruelty and sexual abuse that are “hard to comprehend”.

The Inquiry has called for a criminal investigation to be considered into the council’s handling of the case of a child who took his own life while in care. 

The child, known as LA-A2, was found dead in a bathroom at Shirley Oaks care home in 1977. 

The council did not inform the coroner that he had alleged he was sexually abused by Donald Hosegood, his ‘house father’.  

Richard Scorer represented LA-A2’s sister, who was also sexually abused by Hosegood. He has urged the police to do a full investigation into the council’s actions.  

He said: “It is clear from today’s report that Lambeth Council deliberately withheld information from the coroner in order to give the impression that our client’s brother was happy in care.  

“IICSA have now recommended that Lambeth Council’s cover up in this case is investigated by the police.  

“We urge the Metropolitan Police to act on that recommendation without delay and urgently establish a full investigation – anything less would be a betrayal of our client, of her deceased brother who took his own life in 1977, and of the generations of children who were let down by the litany of council and police failings set out in this report.”  Decades of abuse  

Over the course of several decades, hundreds of children in Lambeth’s care were subjected to prolonged sexual, racial, and physical abuse.  

The inquiry, which looked at abuse from the 1960s onwards, heard that already vulnerable children were targeted by paedophiles working at children’s homes controlled by the council.   

It heard that prominent politicians, police officers and businessmen are alleged to have been involved in the filming of sexual abuse against children.  Some of the abuse is alleged to have been filmed in council buildings, including the town hall. 

The inquiry heard that convicted sex offender Michael John Carroll was allowed to continue working with children even after his record was brought to light. He was dismissed years later for “financial irregularities”.   

Despite the widespread abuse, the authorities failed to look into allegations at the time.   

The four-week public hearing, which began on June 29, 2020, investigated the scale and nature of sexual abuse experienced by children in Lambeth and examined the extent of any institutional failures to protect children.  It looked at five of Lambeth’s children’s homes, including the notorious Shirley Oaks, the council’s oldest and largest residential care home, with up to 350 children aged two to 17 living there until its closure in 1983. 

The Inquiry found that Shirley Oaks received allegations of sexual abuse against 177 members of staff or individuals connected with the home, involving at least 529 former residents.  

By June 2020, the council had complaints of sexual abuse from 705 former residents.  

Despite this, over 40 years, the council only disciplined one senior employee for their part in the “catalogue of sexual abuse”.  

Professor Alexis Jay OBE, Inquiry chair said “bullying, intimidation, racism, nepotism and sexism” thrived within the council for many years, against a backdrop of corruption and financial mismanagement. 

She said: “We hope this report and our recommendations will ensure abuse on this scale never happens again.” 

The findings come after a seven-year investigation by the Shirley Oaks Survivors’ Association, led by Raymond Stevenson and Lucia Hinton. 

The scale of the abuse only began to emerge in 2014 when the group was set up to represent children who had been sent to live in Shirley Oaks. 

Lambeth has paid out £71.5million in compensation so far to victims and arranged to borrow £125 million to cover the potential final cost. 

On top of considering a criminal probe, the report has recommended that Lambeth makes an action plan on the issues raised in the report, starts mandatory training for elected councillors on safeguarding and corporate parenting, and reviews recruitment and vetting checks of current foster carers and children’s home staff.  The council welcomed the recommendations and reiterated a “sincere and heartfelt apology” to victims and survivors of the abuse in the wake of the report.  

It said it will “continue to strive to improve the care we provide to children and young people”. 

Lambeth Leader, Cllr Claire Holland, said: “The council was responsible for their care and protection but failed, with profound consequences.  

“The council is deeply sorry for their experiences. 

“As the IICSA Report sets out, the council of the past failed to protect many of its most vulnerable children.  

“A disproportionate number of those children were from Black, Asian and Multi-Ethnic backgrounds.  

“The extent and scale of the horrendous abuse, which took place over many decades, remains deeply shocking. 

“The council failed to acknowledge concerns when they arose, often failed to believe children when they disclosed abuse and then failed to take effective action.   

“That so many children and adults were not believed compounded their experiences and caused further pain and distress with lifelong impacts.    

“The council takes responsibility for contributing to conditions in which adults were able to abuse with apparent impunity.”  Opposition response to report Lambeth’s Green group said in a statement: “Our thoughts today are with all the survivors – and those who did not survive – the atrocious sexual abuse which took place over decades in Lambeth.  

“Over the last seven years, green councillors have met with survivors, listened to them and supported them, particularly as they have sought compensation through Lambeth Council’s redress scheme.  

“We will continue to do so.  

“It is vital that the council learns the lessons and acts on the recommendations in this report, and we will be holding the council to account to ensure that it does so.” 

Tim Briggs, sole Conservative councillor on Lambeth Council, the abuse of defenceless over decades is “stomach-churning”.  

He said: “The question is not just how this sexual and physical abuse could happen, but how it could happen for decades. 

“The Inquiry has confirmed a historic culture of inward-looking incompetence at our council, which developed in the 1980s into a politicised, far-Left Council culture of actively opposing mainstream values of scrutiny and good practice, and of turning a blind eye to underperforming staff because they appeared to be on the Labour councillors’ side in the ‘struggle’ against the Government.” 

Cllr Briggs recommended that the constitution for the council should incorporate the ‘Nolan Principles’ into its procedures.  

He said: “Councillors and council officers should be guided by the principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and Leadership, so that every decision they take on behalf of residents is justified according to the overriding objective, rather than for their own political ideology, or convenience.”