VICTIMS of a paedophile children’s home manager are to be offered hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation after an independent inquiry uncovered a catastrophic series of failures by social workers, police and council officials.
The inquiry team yesterday put forward 41 recommendations, including the introduction of a system of whistle-blowing, to prevent a repeat of the circumstances which allowed David Murphy to conduct a 30-year campaign of sexual and physical abuse against children in his care.
The inquiry into Murphy’s activities in Fife painted a devastating picture of incompetence and maladministration which allowed the former police officer to continue working with children even after his activities had been exposed.
Fife Council has now offered 28 out-of-court settlements and is negotiating compensation deals with five other victims of the catalogue of abuse suffered by children living in St Margaret’s Children’s Home, in Elie, and at Linnwood Hall School, Leven, between 1959 and 1989.
Children in his care were subjected to an appalling regime of abuse. Some were forced to stand naked for hours, girls were spanked on their bare bottoms, boys were forced to shovel coal in their pyjamas. One practice, known as "shakey wakey", involved boys being dragged from assembly and their heads slammed against walls.
Yesterday Fife council’s chief executive, Douglas Sinclair, offered an unreserved apology to those who suffered at Murphy’s hands.
He said: "This has been a horrific experience for the victims of David Murphy. The previous care system failed these survivors and allowed a paedophile to exploit his position of trust to abuse children in his care. For that failure we offer an unreserved apology to everyone Mr Murphy abused.
"'We promised the survivors the opportunity to work with an independent inquiry to ensure that we can learn the lessons, not just of the past, but also for the future. This has been a thorough review, which has looked at past practice and also examined current policies in Fife to protect children from abuse. "
Fife police, which failed to follow up complaints which surfaced in 1970 and 1973, promised to look at the findings. Deputy chief constable David Mellor said: "We are still to study the report in depth so further comment would be inappropriate at this stage but Fife constabulary remain committed to taking on board any lessons which can be learnt."
Murphy was last year jailed for 15 years after he admitted 14 counts of lewd and libidinous conduct and 16 counts of sodomy. The 70-year-old has a terminal heart condition and is expected to die behind bars.
The 41 recommendations amount to a overhaul of the child care system in Fife, including encouraging care workers to blow the whistle on colleagues suspected of abusing the children in their care.
Among the most damaging revelations was the failure of social workers, police and council officials to prevent Murphy from working with children again after the first allegations surfaced in the early 1970s.
Even when Murphy was removed from one children’s home, he was allowed to take up a new job looking after children because social workers did not want to get involved and his records had been destroyed.
The report concluded that he exhibited classic paedophile behaviour which was not detected by social workers, who were described as, at best, shadowy figures who dropped in for a cup of tea and then left, never to return.
Those children who plucked up the courage to report the abuse were branded liars, and after Murphy was eventually removed from St Margaret’s his new boss was told the reasons for the transfer were "none of his business".
Investigators concluded the abuse was allowed to continue because of a series of failures by the bodies involved, a culture in which little credence was given to the word of children in care, and an assumption that those working with children had their best interests at heart.
The inquiry was carried out by Anne Black, who played a key role in the Orkney child abuse inquiry, and Ceri Williams, a Fife solicitor, who took evidence from 20 of Murphy’s victims.
Yesterday Ms Black praised them for their cooperation in compiling the report.
She said: "It clearly took a great deal of emotional bravery to discuss the abuse that happened so long ago - to stir up memories that the survivors would prefer lay dormant. We were both impressed that this was overcome, in order that children in care now could have the benefit of the survivors’ experiences."