Richmond files reveal failure to pursue claim of child sex abuse

Archives show inaction by police and council over Richmond ‘paedophile ring’ in 1983

By David Hencke and Mark Conrad | 27 April 2013

Richmond files reveal failure to pursue claim of child sex abusePolice and council staff decided to take “no further action” after a boy in care alleged child sex abuse in Richmond 30 years ago.

Exaro today reveals how files held by the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames show that police formally interviewed a friend of the boy who supplied some corroborating evidence of the alleged sexual abuse.

Both boys had been in the care of Richmond council and were living at Grafton Close children’s home. Exaro is withholding their names for legal reasons.

The friend who was interviewed is now in his 40’s. He told Exaro that he was “not surprised” by the documents that show police inaction. “I had known that the police had forgotten about this, and were always on the fringe of what was happening,” he said.

“At the time, I knew that there was something wrong. But as a child, I was not sure what.”

The Richmond files also show that the council’s then director of social services, Louis Minster, twice called up the file on the boy interviewed by police. On the second occasion, the boy had left care two months before.

The Metropolitan Police Service’s paedophile unit in January mounted a full criminal investigation into allegations that boys in care in Richmond, south-west London, were sexually abused between 1977 and 1983 initially at Grafton Close children’s home and then at Elm Guest House nearby in Barnes.

The Met’s investigation, which turned into ‘Operation Fernbridge’, is also examining whether prominent people – including MPs – sexually abused boys at the guest house.

The Richmond files record that in 1983 police asked the council to supply a social worker to attend the interview with a 16-year-old boy who had been in care for four months at Grafton Close two years earlier.

A “referral form” archived by Richmond council records the social worker’s account of the case. Exaro is not publishing the name of either the social worker or the detective chief inspector who conducted the interview.

The social worker’s document says: “[Name redacted by Exaro] was to be interviewed by police at Twickenham in connection with allegation made by another boy (not against him). It was requested that a social worker attend.

“[Name redacted] was interviewed by the police in my presence and made a formal statement. No further action required.”

A box on the form marked “no action required” was ticked.

The other boy alleged that he was sexually abused at Elm Guest House and other locations.

The document is among a haul of files obtained by the Met from Richmond council. One element of the wide-ranging Operation Fernbridge is an examination of the role of the council.

The interview took place a year after police carried out a raid on Elm Guest House, requesting in advance a social worker from Richmond council to attend.

The documents suggest another missed opportunity to investigate allegations of a paedophile ring in Richmond. The Met is already investigating claims that its own officers failed to examine the case properly in 2003.

Last week, Exaro revealed that the Met is also investigating its own watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, over claims that it failed to pursue a complaint in 2004 about the handling of the case.

Meanwhile, the documents also show that Minster, then Richmond’s director of social services, called up the file of the boy interviewed by police, once soon after he was taken into care in January 1981, and a second time two months after he left.

Exaro showed the record to Terry Earland, Richmond’s then director of children’s services. He said that it was “pretty unusual” for the head of social services to pull a file on a boy after he had left the council’s care.

“In normal circumstances, I would say that it was unusual. As a director, you are more concerned with strategic decisions and you would only be involved in a file if it was a really serious case,” he said.

Minster declined to comment.

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