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Knowl View files: ‘serious sexual incidents’ logged in report

Consultant psychologist found ‘chain of coercion’ from staff to boys at special school

By Nick Fielding | 11 September 2013

Up to one in four boys at Knowl View special school engaged in “serious sexual incidents”, a consultant clinical psychologist concluded in a confidential report.

In her report, dating from February 1992, Valerie Mellor said: “Since Knowl View was opened in 1969, several incidents have been logged involving sexual behaviour with the boys.”

The report is one of a confidential cache of official documents that detail abuse of boys at Knowl View school.

The directors of legal services and education at Rochdale metropolitan borough council commissioned Mellor in 1991 to investigate activities at the school that Cyril Smith, former Liberal MP, helped to establish.

“The sexual activity has been continuing over a very long period of time”
– Valerie Mellor, consultant clinical psychologist, writing in a report

They had just received a troubling report written by an AIDS specialist from Rochdale health authority, saying that “sexual activity” at Knowl View “will become a public scandal”.

Mellor’s report detailed a “history of sexualised behaviour” at the school. She said that incidents of abuse were recorded in 1981, 1987 and 1988. Smith was a governor there throughout this time.

She wrote: “As long ago as March 16, 1981, an incident is recorded involving behaviour rather more than experimentation between boys.

“There is simply a report of the incident in the log with no further reporting of what happened about that. This is not an isolated report.”

She recorded that in 1987 and 1988 there were reports of boys meeting in a copse on Knowl View grounds with Rodney Hilton, who lived nearby and was convicted in 1991 of sexually abusing boys at the school.

Mellor said that in 1988 a child psychiatrist “expressed concern about sexual behaviour involving boys attending the school.”

She continued: “It also appears from the log book that there has, at times, been quite an aggressive regime within the school. There appears to have been a chain of coercion and aggressive behaviour from staff to the older boys to the younger boys.”

“In all, 14 boys – some being residential, some day-boys at Knowl View school – have been involved in known incidents of sexualised behaviour, either between themselves or with other adults.

“This sexualised behaviour has occurred in various places, in school, within the school grounds outside, at Smith Street toilets in Rochdale and at a flat in the Rusholme area of Manchester.”

The report lists “allegations” of sexual incidents, identifying boys by initials.

She concluded: “There is no doubt that up to a quarter of the pupils resident at Knowl View school has been involved at some stage in serious sexual incidents. Boys have participated in gross sexual activity between one another, often involving coercion and violence.”

“Some boys have participated in gross sexual acts with an intruder, Rodney Hilton, both in the school grounds and within the school itself.”

There was no evidence, she said, that staff had sexually abused any of the pupils. However, unbeknown to her, one former teacher, David Higgins, would be convicted in 2002 of abusing two boys at the school in 1971.

Mellor’s conclusions continued: “The sexual activity has been continuing over a very long period of time, and there is no possibility that it should have been mistaken for normal horseplay between adolescents.

“It is very difficult to believe that this behaviour had not come to the attention of at least some members of staff.

“Rodney Hilton was known to be inappropriately attracted to boys, and he was known to be frequenting the school premises.

“The danger to pupils from him, therefore, must have been obvious to staff.

“Many incidents were not recorded either in the child’s notes or in the school log.

“Many incidents were not reported to relevant members of staff.”

“There is a high incidence of sexual abuse among boys prior to their entry to the school. In many instances, full detailed background information was not available to staff.”

“The attitude of some members of staff may well have hindered a proper response to the situation. Some members of staff had lost confidence in their own judgement and powers of discrimination. Individual members’ personal views with regard to sexuality might also have affected their own reactions to incidents.”

A report by Rochdale’s director of education accused teaching staff at Knowl View school of a “dereliction of duty”.

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