'Release secret document' councillors demand after paedophile is jailed for sex abuse in Tower Hamlets children's home
PUBLISHED: 18:00 17 October 2017 | UPDATED: 07:19 19 October 2017
A paedophile has been jailed for historical child sexual abuse at a former Tower Hamlets children's home where youngsters were in council care in the 1970s and 80s.
Now furious councillors are accusing past town hall administrations of “a colossal cover-up” over the years and are calling for all documents on the St Leonard’s Home to be released in the public interest.
Paul Setchfield, 64, was jailed for nine years last week on 11 charges of indecently assaulting a girl and boy, both under 14, at the home in Hornchurch.
Tower Hamlets opposition Conservatives this week accused the town hall of having covered up the scandal over the years.
“Everything must be open as much as possible,” Tory group leader Peter Golds tells this week’s East London Advertiser.
“These are issues from many years ago, but council officers still don’t want anything published.
“The Rahman administration and other administrations have kept a lid on this scandal over the years and have refused to publish reports.”
A ‘Freedom of Information’ request for a 50-page document about St Leonard’s was refused in 2014, Cllr Golds claims.
Setchfield is the third staff member from the troubled care home to be jailed in the past 16 years for historical sexual abuse back in the 1970s and 80s.
The home’s superintendent Alan Prescott and former house parent Bill Starling stood trial in 2001 for abusing children.
Prescott, a former magistrate and one-time assistant director of Tower Hamlets social services, had admitted indecently assaulting four boys in the 1970s.
Starling was jailed on 19 charges, including two rapes.
The home, which closed down in 1984, has been subject of an independent inquiry following the Jimmy Savile revelations.
A statement given to the Advertiser by Tower Hamlets Council tonight said: “The abuse that went on at St Leonard’s home was dreadful and damaging.
“We are unable to release the reports into this historic case, as the information is too detailed and could lead to individuals being identified, even with names redacted.
“The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse is looking at St Leonard’s as part of its wider investigation into how child victims were treated.”
Setchfield’s sentencing last week relates to his time as a house parent between October, 1978, and November, 1981. He was found guilty by a jury after a week-long trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court.
A young girl at the home, now in her 40s, went to police in 2011 after being given access to her social services file. Setchfield took her into his bed in the staff “sleep over” room and to his friend’s flat, she told detectives.
The boy he abused, also now in his 40s, came forward in 2013.
Det Con Daniel Stevens said after Setchfield was sentenced: “He continued denying the abuse even after being confronted with the compelling testimony from the two victims, but has now been brought to account for his actions. It has taken 30 years for the victims to get justice.”
Around 3,000 children were sent to St Leonard’s by local authorities, including Tower Hamlets, between 1965 and 1984.
Detectives speaking in 2001 when Prescott was jailed feared up to 70 children could have been abused in what they said was “a harrowing tale of systematic child abuse”.
‘We were jealous of kids getting abused’ —former young resident of St Leonard’s Home speaks out