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Minister's pledge after abuse inquiry

Welsh assembly members have been discussing the findings of a report into allegations of sexual abuse against the late drama teacher John Owen.

It comes after the Children's Commissioner for Wales was criticised by a group opposed to the Clywch inquiry.   It published a critique labelling it as "unfair" and "unjust".   But Peter Clarke said all parties involved in the inquiry were treated fairly and given legal representation.

In July this year, Mr Clarke published his report supporting claims that the late Mr Owen had sexually abused pupils at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen in Pontypridd.   Mr Clarke ordered the inquiry after the teacher killed himself in October 2001. It was the day before he was due to stand trial on five counts of indecent assault against former pupils.

Speaking on Tuesday, Welsh Education Minister Jane Davidson said she accepted "in principle" all of the report's recommendations.   She also added that there were lessons to be learnt from it.   She said: "There is a great deal in the Commissioner's report that applies to all child protection agencies and not just to education.   "There are lessons to be learned from this case which apply to social services, the police and Area Child Protection Committees in general. The Social Services Minister Jane Hutt and I are committed to taking these forward together."

Conservative education spokesperson, David Davies AM, expressed his sympathy to all of those who he said had suffered at the hands of John Owen.   "Peter Clarke needs to be applauded for what he has done," he said, adding that "nothing like this should ever happen again".   Plaid Cymru AM, Janet Ryder AM, said the Clywch report identified "bullying amongst professionals, the failure to take allegations seriously plus cover ups to protect institutions and individuals".   "The unique independent role of the Children's Commissioner allows investigations of this kind to take place," she said.   "It is only because of the Children's Commissioner's unique and independent role that he was able to carry out this inquiry.   "We need a system that allows allegations to be dealt with swiftly and independent of the institutions involved."

The leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats in the assembly, Mike German, had said it was "essential" that the assembly government acted upon the recommendations of this and other reports.   But as AMs debated the report's findings and recommendations on Tuesday, a group of people published a critique, claiming Mr Clarke stepped outside his own terms of reference - setting a worrying precedent.   They also claimed he exceeded his brief when it came to apportioning guilt.   Some of the group knew Mr Owen, or others implicated in the report.   But Olwen Anderson, who speaks for them, said that this did not make any difference.   "Many of the people involved are people who are genuinely concerned about the abusive power by the commissioner," she said.   "Most of them never met John Owen in their lives. What we'd like to stress is that it's not about John Owen, and it's regrettable that he was such a well known figure.   "It's the principles we're talking about.   "I think everyone has the right to justice, everyone has the right to have a view, whether they knew John Owen or not," she added.

In a statement, Mr Clarke said he had not seen the critique, but added that the representations made in their press release were "inaccurate and misleading and are totally rejected".   "All parties involved in the inquiry were treated fairly and the inquiry was conducted impartially," it read.   "Some may not be happy with the findings, particularly if they have been found to have abused or failed children in their care. The findings are, nevertheless, fairly based upon the evidence."

Source: BBC News


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