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Former resident at Hornchurch children’s home warns sex abuse probe comes too late

PUBLISHED: 07:00 01 July 2016

St Leonard's children's home, Hornchurch Road, Hornchurch. Credit: Historic England

St Leonard's children's home, Hornchurch Road, Hornchurch. Credit: Historic England

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A man who spent 12 years living in a care home where children were sexually abused, said a public inquiry launched 30 years after the events has come too late.

Paul ConnollyPaul Connolly

Paul Connolly, 53, of Brentwood, was eight years old when he entered St Leonard’s children’s home in Hornchurch.

He said he knew of peers who were sexually abused while living at the home in Hornchurch Road between 1970 and 1982.

“No-one really cares about what happens in care homes. This is really just lip service,” he said.

But, he added: “If this can help children in care today then that is something.”

His comments come after an appeal was launched asking people with links to the home to take part in an inquiry into the reporting of sexual abuse and the support offered to victims.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has launched 13 investigations, which aim to prevent the sexual abuse of children going unreported.

Former residents, members of staff, relatives and visitors to St Leonard’s children’s home have been called upon to share experiences of reporting sexual abuse as part of an investigation into how victims were treated.

The probe is the largest ever public inquiry and was set up following the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Mr Connolly will assist the inquiry and has urged others to do the same in a bid to stop the past from being repeated.

He said: “We need to learn the lessons to ensure the safeguarding of our children in the future.”

Between 1965 and the home’s closure in 1984, about 3,000 children are believed to have lived in its 13 cottages.

In 2001, the home’s superintendent Alan Prescott was jailed for two years after admitting he had indecently assaulted four boys at the home between 1970 and 1980.

A former house parent, William Starling, was found guilty of 19 offences relating to 11 children, including two rapes, over a period of 20 years and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Mr Connolly received £16,000 in compensation from Tower Hamlets Council, which ran the home, in recognition that it had breached its duty of care.

He said: “That’s all my life was worth. There was no apology, no physical support. Nothing. I woke up screaming at night.”

Anyone willing to come forward needs to register by today here.

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