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Notorious paedophile headed Scottish care home inquiry

CHILD protection experts and abuse survivors are demanding an inquiry into why one of Britain's most notorious paedophiles was put in charge of an investigation into a crimes against children at a Glasgow boys' home.

Peter Righton, below, one of Britain's leading care workers while living a double life as a paedophile, led an investigation into allegations of cruelty at Larchgrove in Glasgow, left, in the 1970s
Peter Righton, below, one of Britain's leading care workers while living a double life as a paedophile, led an investigation into allegations of cruelty at Larchgrove in Glasgow, left, in the 1970s

The Sunday Herald has learned that Peter Righton - one of Britain's leading care workers, and a man who lived a double life as a paedophile - headed an investigation into allegations of cruelty at the Larchgrove assessment centre for boys in Glasgow in the 1970s.

The inquiry resulted in no criminal proceedings being taken, despite 13 out of 30 allegations of violence and neglect being proved. The home, in Springboig, was under the control of Glasgow City Council, then Glasgow Corporation.

Glasgow City Council is now trying to trace all documentation in connection with the case. The council and the Scottish Government have both called on anyone who may have suffered abuse at Larchgrove to contact the police.

Although the inquiry in the 1970s focused solely on physical and emotional abuse, an investigation by the Sunday Herald in 2007 revealed that sexual abuse of children was also taking place in Larchgrove at the same time. A former director of social work said he had been aware of abuse at the home in the mid-1970s. There were claims that female as well as male members of staff were involved in the abuse of boys.

Righton, who co-led the Larchgrove inquiry in 1973, worked as a child protection expert and social care worker. However, he was also a founding member of the infamous Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) which campaigned for adults to be allowed to legally have sex with children.

In 1992, Righton was convicted of importing child abuse images when customs intercepted material en route from Holland. A police raid on his home turned up more paedophile material as well as numerous letters relating details of abuse.

He died in 2007, but last year the Metropolitan Police set up Operation Cayacos to investigate claims that Righton was part of an establishment paedophile network.

Claims have been made that Righton was connected to Cyril Smith, the late Liberal MP now exposed as a paedophile. Smith is known to have visited the Elm Guest House in London. Following claims that politicians and others abused boys in care at the Elm Guest House, the Met launched Operation Fernbridge. The late Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, a Conservative MP and solicitor-general for Scotland, has also been linked to the Elm Guest House.

Righton worked in a children's home and was a lecturer in child protection and residential care. He was director of education at the National Institute for Social Work, and a consultant to the National Children's Bureau. However, he is also now seen as one of the most determined and well-connected paedophile offenders in British criminal history.

The inquiry into Larchgrove ended in March 1973, when Righton was in his mid-40s. It came just a few years after Righton advised the Home Office on changes to the ­residential childcare system. As part of his research, Righton is alleged to have travelled extensively to carehomes across the UK.

There are claims he also visited Bryn Estyn approved school in Wrexham in Wales. Bryn Estyn was later at the centre of an abuse scandal which saw 140 former residents claim they were abused from 1974-84. An official report described "appalling" abuse, and former housemaster Peter Howarth was jailed for 10 years for sexually abusing boys as young as 12.

Peter McKelvie, a former head of child protection in England who helped convict Righton, told the Sunday Herald: "It is for me a no-brainer that Righton's 1973 Larchgrove inquiry has to be declared null and void for many reasons and a new inquiry needs to be requested which should take an in-depth look at who recommended Righton and appointed him.

"A new investigation must be sought and former residents of Larchgrove pre-1973 be encouraged to come forward."

Frank Doherty, founder of the Scottish charity Incas - In Care Abuse Survivors - yesterday also called for a new inquiry. Doherty was a resident at Larchgrove in the late 1960s and was subjected to regular physical abuse and violence.

He said Righton's role leading the Larchgrove inquiry was "disgraceful", adding that as well as a fresh inquiry into the care home, the Scottish Government should also institute a wide-ranging public inquiry into abuse, equivalent to Northern Ireland's Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse.

"There has been too much cover-up and protection of those in high places," Doherty said.

"We [Incas] have been calling for a public inquiry, similar to the one now going on in Northern Ireland, for the last 15 years. The Scottish Government is doing nothing to help us."

The Larchgrove inquiry was conducted by Ronald Bennett QC, Sheriff of Berwickshire, and Righton. They were appointed by Glasgow council to investigate allegations made by a former supervisor, Francis Corrigan, at the carehome. Their report stated: "We do not find that the staff at Larchgrove pursued a course of systematic violence or harshness towards the boys in their charge."

Some of the complaints of ill-treatment brought by the staff whistleblower were described as trivial, exaggerated and showing undue sensitivity. The report went on to praise staff for devotion to duty under "stress-producing conditions".

Larchgrove was formerly known as a remand home for boys aged 11 and up who had appeared before a Children's Panel or Sheriff Court.

The decision not to go for criminal proceedings in the Larchgrove case was taken in a statement issued on March 21, 1973 by Stanley Bowen, Crown Agent for Scotland, with the authority of Norman Wylie QC, the Lord Advocate - who was also a Conservative MP in Edinburgh. The statement said that the required standard of evidence was not available to justify criminal proceedings.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said yesterday: "It's understandable that people might have concerns. We are attempting to recover the report of the investigation and any surviving paperwork. While we will look afresh at any evidence of how the investigation was carried out, anyone who wishes to make an allegation of criminality should contact Police Scotland in the first instance."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "In terms of in-care historic abuse, independent inquiries in 2007 and 2009 explored how such abuses happened and addressed the particular challenges faced by the care system in Scotland.

"This systemic review and legislation on the management, cataloguing and retention of records delivered major improvements in the protection of young people in care. The Scottish Government will consider what further action is required in advance of our response to the Interaction Action Plan Recommendations in the autumn.

"We have also set up the National Confidential Forum which allows those who were placed in institutional care as children to recount their experiences of being in care in a confidential, non-judgmental and supportive setting."

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