Shirley Oaks: Social services asked to be lenient with sex abuser

Archive picture of the site
Image caption Shirley Oaks children’s home closed in 1983

Social services were told not to be “too rigorous” with a convicted sex abuser’s application to be a foster parent, an investigation has heard.

The abuser ran parts of a Lambeth children’s home, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse heard.

Shirley Oaks children’s home had up to 350 residents under the age of 17 living there until its closure in 1983.

Barristers representing victims accused Lambeth Council of knowing about the abuse, but doing nothing.

The inquiry hearing, which is due to last four weeks, is investigating whether there were child protection failures by public authorities.

Authorities at Lambeth Council had learned of Michael Carroll’s conviction of child abuse from Croydon Council, which was made aware of it when he and his wife applied to be foster parents there.

Lambeth Council did not dismiss Carroll for the conviction, or for failing to disclose it when he applied to work there in 1978.

‘Troublesome request’

On Tuesday the panel heard evidence from Clive Walsh, a former probation officer and assistant director with Southwark Social Services between 1978 and 1985.

He recalled a member of staff approaching him with a “strange and troublesome request”.

He told the inquiry that Southwark Council had been asked to provide an independent agreement to a fostering application of two children made to Lambeth Council by Carroll and his wife.

“Seemingly, the request came in the terms of, it wouldn’t be necessary to be too rigorous, because Mr Carroll was already a head of establishment, a children’s home, he was a long-serving, trusted member of staff,” he told the panel.

“And more to the point, he and his wife were already de facto social aunt and uncle to the two boys that they were asking to foster.”

Carroll was dismissed in 1991 because of “financial irregularities”, the inquiry heard.

He was jailed for 10 years at Liverpool Crown Court in 1999 after admitting a string of sexual assaults against children while working in residential care between 1966 and 1986.

The inquiry also heard from Lady Boateng – former chair of Lambeth Council’s social services – who denied she had attended a meeting at which officials discussed Carroll’s application to foster two children.

Rachel Langdale QC referred to comments made by an earlier witness, who said that Lady Boateng had attended a meeting with Southwark Council.

Lady Boateng called claims she did so “quite absurd”, adding that she did not know about Carroll’s conviction when she worked at the local authority.

The inquiry continues.