THE woman who led a large-scale investigation into Jimmy Savile’s crimes is to head an independent review of a children’s home run by the Church of England.
It was announced last week that Dr Sue Proctor would chair an independent review of Kendall House — more than a year after the review had been announced. In a video interview published alongside the update, the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, responded to criticisms about the delay and the process so far.
Bishop Langstaff announced in January 2015 that the review would investigate reports that girls were drugged while living at the home in the 1970s and 1980s (News, 16 January 2015). The diocese had previously refused to conduct an internal investigation, saying in 2009 that it would be “inappropriate”.
In 2010, the Church reached an out-of-court financial settlement with Teresa Cooper, who had arrived at Kendall House, aged 14, in 1981. A forensic examination of her files, broadcast by BBC Radio 4, found that, over the course of 32 months she had been drugged at least 1248 times. The Church has not admitted liability.
Last month, Ms Cooper criticised the Church for “stalling” the investigation (News, 1 January). Terms of reference and the names of the review panel members were published last Thursday on a new website: www.kendallhousereview.org.
A statement from the diocese of Rochester last week said that the panel had begun its work last year. It confirmed that a number of former Kendall House residents had settled legal claims “regarding their personal treatment”. Bishop Langstaff said: “There has been a delay, and at one level I’m sorry about that. On the other hand, I think we now have got a better process than we would have done. Not least, we have been able to secure the services of this very high-quality panel.”
The “wider context” also had to be taken into account, he said, including the desire to not “cut across” the establishment of the national Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
He had made efforts to keep former residents informed about the progress of the review, the Bishop said; and he apologised to a number of them. He denied that any of them had been cut out of the process, and said that it had been difficult to contact all former residents. The police “had not thought it right” to investigate Kendall House, he said. The review would not include an investigation into birth defects: children of residents who felt they had been affected should take legal advice, and seek to make a claim, he said.
Professor Proctor, a former diocesan secretary of the now-dissolved Diocese of Ripon & Leeds, led the investigation into the abuse by Savile at Leeds General Infirmary, and also chaired the NHS Savile Unit. She will be assisted by a former Detective Superintendent, Ray Galloway, who was the director of the independent investigation into Savile’s activities, and by a part-time judge, Samantha Cohen, who specialises in cases involving allegations of sexual abuse and child cruelty.
Bishop Langstaff said that he would encourage all former residents to take part in the review: “The panel really want to hear from them.”
A free support helpline that former residents can contact should they need additional pastoral care is available (0845 120 4634).
It has not been announced when a report of the findings will be published.