Diocesan home ‘drugged hundreds’

08 April 2009

by Bill Bowder

STAFF at a children’s home run under Rochester diocesan auspices in Gravesend, Kent, who gave large amounts of tranquillisers and other drugs to teenage girls, were acting under the orders of a psychiatrist, a former member of staff told the BBC this week. The site is no longer a children’s home.

Claims that the drugs were ad­ministered to hundreds of girls at Kendall House in the 1970s and 1980s and may have caused birth defects emerged on Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday. The programme found ten former residents who had given birth to children with birth defects.

Teresa Cooper, who left the home in 1984 at the age of 16, subse­quently gave birth to three children. Her eldest son was born with respiratory problems, her second was born blind, and her daughter was born with a cleft palate.

Files on Ms Cooper show that she was given medication at least 1248 times over a 32-month period, in­clud­ing three powerful tranquillisers, and anti-depressants.

The programme quoted Professor Jeffrey Aronson, president of the British Pharmacological Society, who said such a cocktail of drugs could cause genetic abnormalities.

A former staff member contacted by the Today programme said that the home had been dedicated to helping the residents, but some disturbed children had been restrained for their own good. Although she had personally been unhappy at the use of drugs, staff had been acting under the direction of a consultant psychiatrist.

A spokeswoman for the diocese said: “We understand that Teresa Cooper has historically brought various allegations to the attention of the police and social services. To date, none of these bodies have sought to investigate matters with the diocese of Rochester.

“The diocese of Rochester is un­able to discuss individual circum­stances for legal reasons. It would be wrong for the diocese to speculate on how Ms Cooper may choose to take her allegations further, or what may come of them. However, if the police, social services, or an appro­priate legal body initiates an investigation, the diocese will co-operate fully with them.

“When Ms Cooper was accom­modated at Kendall House, it was run by a separate charitable trust under the auspices of the diocese of Rochester. It would be inappropriate for the diocese to initiate any internal enquiries, since we are not qualified to do this. In any event, it would be essential for any investigation to be conducted both professionally and impartially.”

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