Rochdale Inquiry: Councillor's abuse denial 'defies belief'

Richard Farnell giving evidence to the abuse inquiry. Credit: ::

A former leader of Rochdale council has been suspended by the Labour Party after an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse in the town concluded he lied during his evidence.

Richard Farnell told a panel last year he was unaware of issues of abuse involving a residential school in the town while he was leader of Rochdale Council between 1986 and 1992.

But now, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has concluded authorities showed a "total lack of urgency" to address the sexual exploitation of boys at council-run Knowl View School with victims regarded as "authors of their own abuse".

Addressing Mr Farnell's evidence last October, the panel said: "We concluded that Richard Farnell lied to the inquiry in the course of his evidence.

"It defies belief that Mr Farnell was unaware of the events involving Knowl View School."

Mr Farnell insisted today he did not lie to the inquiry and says there is 'clear evidence' he was not informed about abuse.

IICSA also criticised former Lib Dem MP for Rochdale, Paul Rowen, who was council leader from 1992 to 1996.

The panel said: "As with Richard Farnell, he was prepared to blame others without acknowledging his own failures of leadership.

"At best he was insufficiently inquisitive about Knowl View School despite having knowledge of the serious problems that persisted at the school.

"At worst, as council leader he turned a blind eye to these problems and chose to give them low priority."

Pupils at now-closed Knowl View were also sexually exploited in the town centre, the bus station and at public toilets across the road from the borough council's offices over a 20-year period.

IICSA concluded that from 1989 onwards the police, Rochdale Council's social services and education departments, as well as staff at Knowl View, knew youngsters were being subjected to sexual exploitation.