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Shirley Oaks children’s home closed in 1983

Children as young as three were abused while in the care of Lambeth Council, while one girl was raped “500 times”, an investigation has heard.

Shirley Oaks children’s home had up to 350 residents under the age of 17 living there until its closure in 1983.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse heard it was a “frightening place” in the 1930s.

Barristers representing victims accused Lambeth Council of knowing about the abuse, but doing nothing.

The inquiry hearing, which is due to last four weeks, is investigating whether there were child protection failures by public authorities.

‘Forced to take tranquilisers’

On Monday, the panel heard evidence from those who experienced abuse in the council’s care system between the 1930s and the 1970s.

A statement by one former resident said Shirley Oaks was a “frightening place” in the 1930s, where children received violent punishments and were force-fed until they were sick.

Another former resident, who gave verbal evidence to the inquiry, said she was “always restrained” and locked into a single room or a cell at Cumberlow Lodge.

“I was quite boisterous, and so, eventually, they forced me to take tranquillisers,” she added.

Another witness, in a statement to the inquiry, said one girl was raped “500 times” by older boys at Shirley Oaks during the 1950s.

Reading the witness statement, Amelia Nice, counsel to the inquiry, said: “(She) was then raped by a group of older boys in the grounds of Shirley Oaks.

“One boy would put a sack over her head when he raped her. [She] estimates this happened 500 times.”

Another girl, also in the care of Lambeth council in the 1950s, was about eight years old when she began to be abused by a boy aged 17 at Shirley Oaks.

In a statement she said a staff member caught the boy naked in her room in the early days of the abuse.

Ms Rice told the inquiry: “However, she, the staff member, didn’t do anything, and no action was taken, and I wasn’t questioned about what had happened.

“[She] told her foster carers about what had happened later on. At first, they did not believe her, but did then take her to the police station where she made a statement.

“No follow-up action, investigation or prosecution is described.”

The inquiry continues.

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