Sheffield Council was 'complicit' in historic Roger Dodds sex abuse scandal, report reveals

Sheffield Council was 'complicit' in Roger Dodds' abuse
Sheffield Council was 'complicit' in Roger Dodds' abuse
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Sheffield Council was 'complicit' in allowing sex attacker Roger Dodds to groom teenagers and young men, according to a damning report into his abuse.

Dodds, who was jailed in February after admitting a series of sex attacks on five people dating back to the 1980s, created an environment 'within which he could exploit his position of authority to pursue his sexual satisfaction'.

The former Sheffield Council education department offices in Leopold Street.

The former Sheffield Council education department offices in Leopold Street.

His actions caused 'enormous distress' to his victims according to the findings of Operation Klosters, a review the council commissioned after police began investigating Dodds in 2008 - and released to The Star yesterday.

Dodds was a sex tourist, 'well known' for his use of sexual language at the education department building in Leopold Street, and was part of a club that shared hardcore pornography on the internal mail system.

The review found the authority was 'complicit in allowing Roger Dodds to operate apparently without sufficient challenge, accountability or consequence'.

"This, in my view, clearly constitutes a failure of duty of care to both staff and young people," wrote the report's author Brian Lawson.

Dodds was sentenced to 16 years in prison in February.

Dodds was sentenced to 16 years in prison in February.

'Difficult reading'

It was in the basement toilets of Sheffield Council’s education department that Roger Dodds abused teenagers and young men in the 1980s and 1990s.

His victims raised concerns but Dodds was first moved to another job and then granted early retirement.

The 81-year-old, of Cotswold Road, Hillsborough, is now serving the first of 16 years behind bars after admitting abusing five people, and on Wednesday the council was ordered to pay £91,000 to one of his victims, Richard Rowe, who agreed to waive his anonymity.

Today The Star can reveal for the first time the findings into a review of Dodds actions called Operation Klosters, which began in 2008 in response to a police investigation.

The internally-commissioned but independent review found the council was ‘complicit’ in Dodds’ abuse, failing to challenge him or hold him accountable.

Author Brian Lawson said Dodds was able to exploit his position, first in the education department and later giving grants to college students, to ‘pursue his sexual satisfaction’, partly through ‘substantial unregulated and unsupervised access to schools’.

Dodds was part of a pornography club, using the basement of the Leopold Street office and sharing material on the council’s internal mail system.

He was ‘careful and thoughtful’ about his choice of victim to minmise the risk of being found out, and boasted about his sexual exploits during his ‘extensive’ travlling abroad.

And his behaviour was tolerated while concerns were not addressed.

In his report, Mr Lawson said: “The actions of Roger Dodds have caused enormous distress to his victims and the city council has been complicit in allowing Roger Dodds to operate apparently without sufficient challenge, accountability or consequence.

“This, in my view, clearlly constitutes a failure of duty of care to both staff and young people.”

The council has said it would never defend Dodds’ actions. Director of children and families Carly Speechley said the Klosters report made for ‘difficult reading’.

“This is because the author, commissioned by us, left no stone unturned in attempting to uncover the reality of the circumstances at the time,” she added.

Changes made to prevent Dodds abuse

In the eight years since the publication of the Klosters report, Sheffield Council says it has done all it can to prevent a repeat of the Roger Dodds case.

The report found changes had already been made, from policies to deal with sexual behaviour to a move to open-plan offices and a new whistleblowing scheme.

Seven clear recommendations were also made, all of which have been implemented ‘fully’.

Director of children and families Carly Speechley said: “Of particular concern is the possibility identified in the report that Roger Dodds was part of a pornography club which distributed materials through the internal mail.

“This possibility is likely to have been identified as part of interviews with employees at that time.

“Despite extensive searches, we have not found any evidence to corroborate or contradict this possibility. What we can say for sure is that a number of the changes implemented since that time mean that activity of this nature by council employees on council premises would now be impossible.

“If this did happen, then it was appalling and abhorrent. But both the Klosters report, and the recent criminal and civil cases which have looked a wider range of available evidence, have been very clear that the likelihood is that in his abuse, Dodds acted alone.

“Despite the possible existence of a pornography club, there is no evidence that this means there were other abusers.

“To the very best of our knowledge, and taking into account all of the evidence, Roger Dodds acted alone.”

'Serious' concerns over lack of records

One of the difficulties in finding out exactly what Sheffield Council had done when allegations of Roger Dodds’ abuse came to light in the early 1980s was the almost total lack of records.

Operation Klosters found few documents relating to Dodds’ employment history. This was apparently due either to a flood in the Leopold Street office where records were kept, or routine destruction.

Brian Lawson, who was commissioned to investigate Dodds time at the council, said in his report that the lack of information - particularly from 1981 to 1983 - meants it was hard to know whether there were more victims from that period.

Mr Lawson wrote: “The fact that the (police) investigation and this review have had to rely almost entirely on witness statements given the absence of almost any documentation pertaining to Roger Dodds or any formal record of his employment is a matter of serious concern.

“None of the investigators involved feel reassured or confident that documentation has just been ‘lost in the flood’.

The council said best practice at the time was to destroy most records after six months - but that a loss on this scale was ‘clearly unacceptable’. Following the report an ‘extensive’ search was conducted and some historic documents were found, which were shared ‘in full’.

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