Victims of sex abuse in care homes dating back to the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s have called for the re-opening of an inquiry into historic abuse.
Up to 50 people, some from as far afield as London, Nottingham and Darlington, joined the protest and helped hand out leaflets setting out their demands.
Karen, who has waived her right to anonymity, said a previous inquiry followed the jailing in 2001 of two Calderdale care workers who abused children at the Skircoat Lodge home in Halifax in the 1970s and 1980s had barely scratched the surface.
Malcolm Osric Phillips, then 68, and Andrew James Shalders, 54, were jailed for abusing young boys.
They were convicted after a three-year police investigation.
Karen, who attended three Calderdale homes in the late 1980s and early 1990s, claims she was abused and ‘trafficked’ to a children’s home in North Wales where she was raped.
She fell pregnant and was later returned to a children’s home in Calderdale aged 16 with her baby.
Karen said children and been physically abused and suffered “mental torture” and added: “We want Calderdale Council to acknowledge liability for crimes committed against vulnerable children in their care.
“We want the inquiry re-opened and a full and proper investigation to take place. The last inquiry was half-hearted. There has been a whole catalogue of failures and we want justice.”
Karen and other victims have compiled a dossier of allegations which include: the operation of a local paedophile ring with links around the country; the harbouring of a known paedophile at Skircoat Lodge; and instructions to a child psychologist not to diagnose mental health problems in Calderdale children.
Karen said many of the child abuse survivors were living with mental illness, some still without proper support.
Karen attended Skircoat Lodge and Farfield homes in Halifax and Close Lea in Rastrick. She was ‘trafficked’ to North Wales in 1991 where she was raped.
“When I went into care one of the first things they did was put me on the pill,” she said. “I was 14 but the youngest girl I knew of on the pill was 11.”
Karen said she believed there were people still working with children in the area who knew what had happened decades ago.
“We want everything out in the open and we need this inquiry,” she said. “While the events are historic the effects stay with the survivors for the rest of their lives.
“Calderdale survivors deserve justice no less than any other survivor of child sexual abuse.”
In a statement Stuart Smith, Calderdale Council’s director of children and young people’s services, said: “This demonstration was about historic cases of child abuse relating to Skircoat Lodge in the 1980s and 1990s, which, after a police investigation, led to a number of prosecutions and convictions.
“We fully supported the investigation at the time. This was an appalling case and we regret that children suffered when they were in the care of the local authority.
“We have been supporting Karen over the last 18 months and have met with her to address her concerns. We will continue to offer her support.
“I would like to reassure people that nobody involved in the historic cases works for the council, and in the intervening years our safeguarding practices have changed beyond recognition.
“As you’d expect, we check the details of all our staff thoroughly before they are employed by the council, so we can be confident that our children are only ever placed in the care of people we can trust.”
Chief Supt Dickie Whitehead, district commander of Calderdale police, said: “A thorough joint investigation was carried out by police and Calderdale Council between 1997 and 2002 following allegations made against a number of employees at Skircoat Lodge Assessment Centre and Dobroyd Castle.
“This led to number of arrests and prosecutions, resulting in a number of substantial prison sentences.
“The passage of time is no barrier to the police investigating allegations of sexual abuse against children and we would encourage any victims of abuse to come forward, and can promise that reports will be investigated and victims will be treated with the utmost sensitivity.”