Tribunal tried to suppress journalists from revealing care home abuse

Martin Shipton |

THE tribunal which investigated child abuse at care homes in North Wales threatened TV journalists with legal action if they screened allegations that the abuse was more extensive than believed at the time, it has been revealed.

HTV — now known as ITV Wales — was planning to run a programme at the time of the Waterhouse Tribunal in 1997 that included an interview with a care home’s deputy manager who raised concerns about his boss, John Allen, and said that many years before he had reported rumours about Allen to the police.

Allen was eventually jailed in 1995 for six years after being convicted of six sex offences against young boys resident at the Bryn Alyn Community homes he owned in North Wales.

Allen’s deputy Des Frost was interviewed for HTV’s Wales This Week programme, during which he referred to contemporary rumours that had circulated about Allen’s sexual activity with some of the residents in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In the interview, Mr Frost said: “I was approached by a member of staff who told me briefly of some rumours that were going around the organisation. And I explained it would be better not to talk about it at Bryn Alyn. So I went up to his house at a later stage and he told me some pretty hairy stories about allegations of child abuse by John.”

Mr Frost said he did not personally believe at the time that Allen was abusing boys: “Nevertheless, I was concerned about these rumours but the question is, what do you do about it? Because do you go to your boss and say ‘excuse me, are you assaulting these children?’ If he wasn’t, or rather if he was, he would have said ‘mind your own business’. And if he wasn’t, I would have been down the road without a job.”

Mr Frost told HTV he had gone to see a local magistrate about the concerns, who turned out to have suspicions of his own. He then decided to go to the police.

Worried that Allen would find out if he went to the local police station in Wrexham, he said he reported the matter to Chester CID. He claimed two detectives came to see him at his home and that he reported the rumours about Allen to them.

After recording the interview with Mr Frost, Wales This Week asked Cheshire Police if they had any record of contact with the former care home deputy manager. The force responded that all records would have been destroyed long before, but that Chester Police would have produced a report and passed it to North Wales Police.

In an article on his website,, journalist Paddy French — a member of the HTV team that investigated the North Wales child abuse scandal — writes that in October 1997 a representative of the Waterhouse Tribunal rang to say there was concern that a number of people, including Mr Frost, had been interviewed by Wales This Week. The following day, the representative rang again and warned the programme’s editor that running the interview could amount to contempt of the Tribunal. Shortly after, says Paddy French, the Tribunal’s lawyers threatened to refer the programme to the Attorney General for contempt if the programme contained any new allegations.

On that basis, says French, HTV decided not to include the interview with Mr Frost.

When the Waterhouse Tribunal published its report it effectively cleared North Wales Police of the charge that it had failed to investigate child abuse properly.

ITV Wales confirmed last night the veracity of the account given by Paddy French.

On Tuesday Newport West MP Paul Flynn raised the issue of the suppressed interview in the House of Commons with Home Secretary Theresa May.

Mr Flynn said: “I believe there was a cover-up and that powerful people were responsible for ensuring that allegations were not aired in public as they should have been.

“I know journalists who were deeply affected after persuading people to speak about the appalling abuse they were subjected to yet being unable to get the justice they were seeking. They came forward for nothing, and some of them took their own lives.”

Responding to Mr Flynn, Mrs May said: “The police investigation will look at the evidence that was available at the time in these historical abuse allegations, and at whether the evidence was properly investigated and whether avenues of inquiry were not pursued that should have been followed up and that could have led to prosecutions.

“I can therefore say to {Mr Flynn} that the police will indeed be looking at that historical evidence. That is part of the job they will be doing.”