Rochdale Borough Council announced a formal investigation into the council’s decision making in relation to Knowl View School back in January 2014. We instructed Andrew Warnock QC to carry out this review. Considerable progress has been made in terms of collating and analysing documentation and identifying potential witnesses.
However, in light of the serious allegations made in the last few weeks, we have decided, in consultation with Mr Warnock, that we now need to widen the scope of the review beyond the Council’s decision making. It is clear that to ensure there is public confidence in the thoroughness of the review we must widen its scope to include a review of all information available to the Council. We will therefore need to allocate substantially more resources and more time to enable a thorough review to be conducted. Of course, any evidence obtained which is relevant to allegations of criminal activity will be forwarded to Greater Manchester Police.
In the light of the scale of the enlarged review, we have decided to instruct external solicitors Hempsons and to second one of the Council’s Principal Solicitors to assist the review team. Due to his other commitments Mr Warnock is unavailable for the timescale which this new widened investigation will require. We have therefore appointed Neil Garnham QC to head the expanded review. Mr Garnham is a leading silk in public inquiry law, acted as Counsel to the Victoria Climbie Inquiry and sits as a deputy High Court Judge.
It is Mr Garnham’s intention to provide his report by the end of July 2014. The report may be final or interim depending on the conclusions he is able to reach. We have asked Mr Garnham to liaise with Greater Manchester Police to ensure that his review does not compromise any element of the current investigations being pursued by the police.
The Council will publish Mr Garnham’s report as soon as possible after he delivers it to us.
Notes to Editors
1. The Independent Review Team will include Neil Garnham QC, Alastair Henderson and Lois Williams, counsel, Principal Solicitor and Katherine Sheldrick of Hempsons Solicitors Manchester.
2. The terms of reference can be found in the attached PDF.
3. The Council will have no role in the conduct of the review beyond the supply of documents and will not comment further on the review until the report is published.
4. Some interviews may be carried out with key witnesses but that will be a matter for decision by the review team.
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