The report is concerned with the institutional responses of the council, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service into child sexual abuse in Rochdale between the early 1960s and the mid 1990s.
It highlights the vulnerability of the children at the council-run Knowl View School and how the institution failed to keep pupils safe from harm for 25 years. It finds staff complacent and arguably complicit.
Sexual exploitation of boys was also happening in the town centre, the bus station and the Smith Street public toilets which were across the road from the council’s offices. The report catalogues the total lack of urgency on the part of the authorities to treat the matters as serious sexual assaults; boys as young as 11 were not regarded by those in authority as victims but as authors of their own abuse.
The Inquiry heard evidence about sexual abuse at Cambridge House Boys’ Hostel. It outlines the lost opportunities to prosecute former Rochdale MP Cyril Smith (who was Honorary Secretary of Cambridge Boys’ Hostel) in relation to allegations of child sexual abuse, and the unwillingness of those at the highest level to recognise that a person of public prominence was capable of perpetrating child sexual abuse.
The report is also clear that the Inquiry did not believe the evidence of Richard Farnell, then leader of Rochdale Council, who resigned some weeks after giving evidence about child sexual abuse in council-run establishments. His refusal to accept responsibility for events is described by the Inquiry as shameful.