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Councillors demand ‘secret documents’ are released about former Hornchurch children’s home rife with sexual abuse

PUBLISHED: 17:11 19 October 2017 | UPDATED: 17:26 19 October 2017

Former St Leonard's children's home in Hornchurch. Picture: Historic England

Former St Leonard's children's home in Hornchurch. Picture: Historic England

Historic England

Tower Hamlets councillors are calling for a raft of documents relating to sexual abuse at St Leonard’s Children’s Home to be released to the public.

The east London local authority ran the notorious Hornchurch home from 1965 until it closed in 1985.

Last week Paul Setchfield , 64, of Cromer, was jailed for nine years on 11 charges of indecently assaulting a girl and boy, both under 14, at the home in Hornchurch Road, between 1978 and 1981.

In 2001, the home’s superintendent Alan Prescott and a former house parent Bill Starling stood trial for abusing children.

Prescott admitted indecently assaulting four boys at the home between 1970 and 1980 and Starling was found guilty of 19 offences, including two rapes, over a period of 20 years.

“Everything must be open as much as possible,” demanded Tower Hamlets Tory group leader Cllr Peter Golds.

“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.

Paul Connolly was sent to St Leonard’s by Tower Hamlets when he was eight.

“On my first night I wet the bed, as lots of children in care do, and I was dragged out and put in a bath full of bleach,” he claims.

He also says he was beaten regularly and thrown off a balcony.

Paul received £16,000 in compensation from Tower Hamlets Council, in recognition that it had breached its duty of care.

He is now a core participant in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

A Tower Hamlets spokeswoman 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.”

“IICSA is also looking at the St Leonard’s children’s home as part of its wider investigation into how victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation were treated, and we are engaging fully with them.”

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