Children in the care of Lambeth Council were “drugged, tortured and sexually assaulted” by “very many paedophiles”, an inquiry has heard.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse heard carers acted with “impunity” for decades.
Shirley Oaks had up to 350 children aged two to 17 living there until its closure in 1983.
Barristers representing victims accused the council of knowing about the abuse, but doing nothing.
The inquiry hearing, which is due to last four weeks, will investigate whether there were child protection failures by public authorities, including the police and council.
In his opening statement, Iain O’Donnell said the inquiry will hear evidence indicating a paedophile ring “effectively infiltrated” Lambeth’s children’s homes from around the 1960s and “continued to prey upon the children for decades”.
“They either turned a blind eye or took back-handed payments to bury documentary evidence and ship many of those children off to far flung locations across the country so Lambeth could forget what it had done to them,” he added.
Barrister Imran Khan QC, who also represents some of the complainants, said authorities “knew of the abuse” but did “nothing about it”, suggesting it was “not the result of incompetence or individual neglect, but it was more likely than not corruption”.
Many of the incidents of racial, sexual and physical abuse date back to the 1960s through to the early 1990s at various council-run homes, including the South Vale Assessment Centre, Ivy House and Angell Road.
The inquiry continues.