Lady Boateng denies council meeting discussing sexual abuser’s application to foster two children

Lady Boateng has denied attending a meeting where officials discussed a convicted sex abuser’s application to foster two children, telling an inquiry the claims are “quite absurd”.

Former chair of Lambeth Council’s social services committee Janet Boateng told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) she did not know about Michael John Carroll’s conviction when she worked at the local authority.

Earlier on Tuesday, a witness to the inquiry claimed that Lady Boateng had attended a meeting concerning an application made by Carroll to foster two children.

But this was disputed by the wife of Lord Boateng, who told the panel she “didn’t really know” Carroll (pictured), who was permitted to run a children’s home in the borough despite authorities being aware of his record.

The inquiry aims to establish whether there were failures by public authorities around the protection of children in homes operated by the south London council.

During the live evidence, lead counsel to the investigation Rachel Langdale QC referred to comments made by an earlier witness, who said that Lady Boateng had attended a meeting with Southwark Council.

Carroll’s application to foster two children was discussed according to Clive Walsh, who was assistant director of Southwark Social Services between 1978 and 1985.

This account was disputed by Lady Boateng, who told the panel she had never been part of any meeting regarding Carroll’s application, adding she found the allegations “quite absurd”.

“I have never been a part of any meeting which discussed Michael Carroll, or his wife, or any other application for fostering and adoption from any member of staff at Lambeth,” she said.

“I find it quite absurd because I would not drag the director of social services to Southwark, to discuss a member of staff’s application form to Southwark.

“It doesn’t make sense.”

Asked if she knew, whilst working for the council, that Carroll had a conviction of sexually assaulting a child, she said: “No, it was never, ever drawn to my attention.”

The inquiry previously heard how Lambeth Council’s Angell Road home, which opened in 1981, was run by Carroll, also known as John, for 10 years.

Authorities at the council had learnt of Carroll’s conviction of child abuse from Croydon Council, when he and his wife applied to be foster parents there.

Carroll was not dismissed by Lambeth Council for the conviction, nor for failing to disclose it when he applied to work there in 1978.

A disciplinary hearing regarding the disclosure was held in July 1986, while Lady Boateng left the council earlier than year, in March.

The panel heard live evidence from Mr Walsh, who said that Southwark Council had been asked to provide an agreement to a fostering application made by Carroll and his wife.

Mr Walsh claimed that authorities in Lambeth knew that Croydon Council, which was already assessing the Carrolls in relation to another child, was not intending to approve the application.

“If you want me to be brutally honest, this had all the hallmarks of a side movement to get an agreement, to get some degree of approval from somewhere, that would give a degree of validity to the Carrolls,” he added.

Social services were told not to be “too rigorous” with the application, Mr Walsh alleged, because Carroll was the head of a children’s home and a “long-serving, trusted” member of staff at Lambeth Council.

In his evidence, Mr Walsh claimed that Carroll’s conviction was not disclosed to Southwark Council, who were instead informed about it by authorities in Croydon.

Mr Walsh said that, due to his previous conviction, it was not an approval process that Southwark Council could pursue.

Mr Walsh said he was invited to a meeting with members of Lambeth Council, which he claims was attended by Lady Boateng, where he was “taken to task” by a senior officer after expressing doubts about Carroll being in charge of a children’s home.

Carroll was dismissed by Lambeth Council in 1991 because of “financial irregularities”, the inquiry heard.

He was jailed for 10 years at Liverpool Crown Court in 1999 after admitting a string of sexual assaults against children while working in residential care between 1966 and 1986.

The inquiry has previously heard that children as young as three experienced abuse in the council’s care system between the 1930s and the 1980s.

During her live evidence, Lady Boateng told the panel she was “shocked and horrified” by her experience at the Lambeth-run Shirley Oaks children’s home, where she worked as an assistant house mother.

“I was quite shocked and horrified, because I was expecting a different experience,” she said.

“I wasn’t expecting the one which I was subjected to.

“That was one where the children were, I would say, probably not treated properly, they were neglected, there were aspects of emotional distress.”

The inquiry, which is scheduled to last for four weeks, is expected to resume at 10.30am on Wednesday.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture – Michael John Carroll in July 1990 – (c) PA Wire.