Tony Blair’s minister accused of helping convicted paedophile to foster young boys
The latest allegations over the politician – later a minister in Tony Blair’s Government – have been declared ‘shocking’ by campaigning MP Tom Watson
He is claimed to have enquired about a Michael John Carroll’s failed application to foster two brothers who had been taken into care from a troubled family.
Carefully choosing his words the rising star in the Labour Party is alleged not to have put direct pressure on the officer but still made clear he was unhappy about the refusal.
Southwark had turned down the request because Carroll was a convicted paedophile, a new witness has claimed.
The Labour politician’s call was just one part of what appears to have been a concerted and involved effort by several influential people to secure permission for Carroll to be a foster carer.
He was employed by Lambeth council in South London as a children’s home manager despite him having a conviction for sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy twenty years earlier.
The offence had come to light in 1986 when the Carrolls made their original application to Croydon council, where they lived, to become foster parents. It was refused and Lambeth were made aware of the offence leading to a disciplinary hearing headed by their then assistant director of social services David Pope in May that year.
Carroll received just a written warning after insisting his conviction was a “boyish prank” and was allowed to remain in charge of the children’s home. Mr Pope did not respond when asked about the case last month.
Carroll and his wife wanted to foster the 12 and 14-year-old boys who had been on holidays with them to North Wales.
Lambeth had been considering the application but in summer 1986 they allegedly referred it to neighbouring Southwark council for an independent decision.
A new witness has told Labour MP Tom Watson that a Southwark social worker was given the case and advised it should be halted because of Carroll’s conviction. This was allegedly agreed by a senior official.
Southwark then made clear in writing to Lambeth that they were concerned that he was still in charge of a children’s home, the witness has said.
It is claimed that this decision led to intense pressure being applied on Southwark officials by Lambeth and a person close to the Labour politician allegedly contacted officers twice about the case before paying them a visit to demand they reverse the decision.
When they refused to budge, the Labour figure made the phone call.
Mr Watson said: “It appears that the understandable concern amongst Southwark officials was that Lambeth was employing a convicted paedophile to run a children’s home and while allegedly pushing for him to be allowed to foster two boys. The witness has told me that the Southwark vetting process was ended with a refusal which clearly went down badly with some.”
Despite being blocked by Southwark, Lambeth’s executives continued to back the couple’s application and took the case to another neighbouring borough, this time Wandsworth. A source who was close to the Wandsworth team has confirmed that they were never told about Southwark’s previous involvement.
An officer from Lambeth social services allegedly phoned a Wandsworth official and asked him to falsify documents relating to Carroll’s criminal conviction before they were put before the fostering committee.
But the boys’ social worker at Lambeth threatened to resign unless Carroll’s access to them was stopped.
Instead, four senior Lambeth officers recommended allowing Carroll and his wife June, also a residential social worker, to become the boys’ official “aunt and uncle”.
Though the fostering application was rejected by Wandsworth, in December 1990 Lambeth began paying the Carrolls £67.85 a week to look after one of the brothers at their home.
Carroll was finally dismissed in 1991 for squandering his home’s budget on alcohol and cigarettes while the children were often eating out-of-date food.
The scandal around Lambeth’s employment of Carroll and attempts to help him foster the boys resulted in an independent inquiry in 1993.
A report produced by Richard Clough, then general secretary of the Social Care Association, accused Lambeth officers of gross unprofessionalism.
But sources close to Mr Clough have said he was never told about Southwark’s involvement in the case and last night Mr Watson called for an investigation into the apparent cover up by Lambeth.
Mr Watson, who has passed the new witnesses information to Scotland Yard, said: ““The allegation that Lambeth failed to disclose their contact with Southwark to Mr Clough’s public inquiry is shocking.
“A fully independent investigation must now be set up to find out what exactly happened and who was responsible.
“It also appears that a politician put pressure on social services professionals to allow a convicted paedophile to foster two vulnerable boys.
“Lambeth were effectively shopping around for a council that would allow Carroll unrestricted access to these boys. As this was going on he was able to informally foster them and take them away on holiday.
“This dark chapter in the history of Lambeth must be fully investigated to get justice for the people whose lives have been destroyed by Carroll and all those who facilitated his offending.
“Carroll was able to sexually abuse children because Lambeth, who were responsible for their care, allowed him to do it. The question is who was protecting him and why?”
Anna Tapsell, whose campaigning sparked the Clough report when she was the the Labour chairwoman of Lambeth’s social services committee, said: “I thought I’d seen everything but these allegations are shocking. However, I am encouraged that the truth is now going to emerge despite the authorities efforts to keep things under wraps. It appears a lot of people are beginning to realise that the sexual abuse of children goes well beyond a few TV stars and deep into the political arena.”
Mr Clough questioned in his report why Lambeth went to “extraordinary lengths” to enable the Carrolls to officially, and unofficially, foster the children.
Carroll – whose wife died of breast cancer in 1993 – bought £500,000 hotel in Chirk, near Wrexham, after leaving Lambeth. He currently lives in another half a million pound house close to Wrexham.
Mr Watson was contacted by the new witness after he read our story in April that police were told in 1998 that the Labour politician made evening visits to Carroll’s flat in Angell Road children’s home in the 1980s.
Lambeth officials suspected a cover-up when detective Clive Driscoll was removed from the case and given other duties in November 1998.
Carroll was jailed in 1999 for 10 years over a string of child sex attacks dating back three decades.
The latest shock developments follow Labour MP Simon Danczuk’s claims Westminster politics is the “last refuge of child sex deniers”.
Mr Danczuk has called for a Hillsborough-style inquiry into historical abuse including the Daily Mirror’s revelations that an establishment cover-up blocked a police investigation into child sex claims against the Labour politician.
The Met police are currently examining new criminal allegations linked to Lambeth care homes but are refusing to investigate the cover up revelations. They have also failed to refer it to the police watchdog and the Home Office have also refused to investigate.
Lambeth council said in a statement last night: “ Documents in our archive from this time have not been digitised so they have to be scrutinised manually.
“When we are satisfied that a thorough search has been completed we will be able to answer these specific questions.
“Meanwhile, we would urge anyone with new information to contact Lambeth council or the police.”